by JayBird (Jay Markle)

Chapter One

The hill was a lonely outcropping of dirt and rock not far from the city. Cold and inhospitable in every respect, the hill seemed to have only one purpose in this world, as a place of execution for the thieves and murderers of the city.

The hill was not a place to crucify the Son of God. But that had not stopped the Roman soldiers from taking Him up there that day, where before a fairly large crowd of the idle curious, they had nailed Him to a wooden cross and raised Him up between two petty criminals who had met their fate earlier that same day.

Now as the sun touched the western sky, a burly Roman centurion lit a bonfire as five of his soldiers sat in a circle and rolled dice for the cut-up remnants of His clothing. After all, if he truly was the Messiah, his clothes might be worth something someday.

"Com'n!" One soldier said as he rolled the bones. "Daddy needs a new pair of sandals!"

The others were silent until the dice landed.

"Serpent eyes!"

The others howled in laughter as they divided up their comrade's losses. Above them, the Son Of God tried leaning back, but the weight of his body continued to pull at the iron spikes driven through his shattered wrists. There would be no deliverance from the pain except the deliverance of death. And eventual resurrection. He knew this to be his fate. His Father had told him so.

The soldiers looked up from their game as a horse and wagon came clattering up the hill from the city. They went back to their bets when they saw it was only the old crone who drove the dead wagon. The centurion approached as she pulled her horse to a halt. He was glad she was wearing a hooded cloak, for the Gods had hit her hard with the ugly stick.

"You're early, old woman!" he called. "Two of 'em are still alive! Come back in the morning!"

"Sorry, soldier boy," the old woman cackled. "But I ain't pickin' up! I'm deliverin'!"

And with that Xena leaped out of the rear of the wagon, her keening war cry splitting the air as she somersaulted into the startled group of Romans.

The first soldier barely had time to comprehend that a tall raven-haired woman in battle-leathers was suddenly standing in front of him before she drove the heel of her hand into his nose, killing him instantly. She then kicked back, cracking the kneecap of the soldier coming at her from behind with a drawn sword. He tumbled to the ground, screaming from his broken leg.

The centurion turned his back on the old crone to bring his sword to bear on the warrior woman. Bad move. He got swacked in the back of the head with an Amazon war staff so hard that his helmet went sailing off his head to land a good twenty paces away.

As he hit the dirt, Gabrielle pulled off the cloak she had been wearing and vaulted off the wagon to help Xena.

Not that she needed any.

Xena was laying into the remaining Romans with a joyful abandon. Gracefully sidestepping a sword thrust as she hammered her forearm through an elbow joint and then a punch to the throat that left the soldier gargling away his life.

She ducked down, letting a thrown javelin take out another soldier behind her, before killing the soldier who threw the weapon with a vicious kick to the face that almost snapped his head off his shoulders.

Only the soldier with the broken leg was left, and he was hobbling along, trying to reach his sword lying on the ground before him.

He froze as Xena faced him down with an evil grin on her face.

She bent down, retrieving his sword and tossing it to him. He snatched it from the air and charged her the best he could, but she still managed to slip behind him and snap his neck so fast that for a brief instant he got to look her in the eyes before falling belly-first into the dirt.

Xena looked about, trying to catch her breath as a cold wind dried the sweat on her body, the five dead Romans scattered about her.

Gabrielle studied her friend. She knew in the three years since Xena had renounced her Old Ways that she had grown reluctant to take a life except when necessary. But when dealing with the Romans, no quarter was given. Or asked.

Xena approached the unconscious centurion.

"Xena!" Gabrielle stood before her, blocking her way. Xena looked at her with bemused indifference as she slowly came off her battle persona.

"Gabrielle," Xena whispered. "Get the rope."

Xena shimmied up the tall wooden cross, knowing that every shiver and creak of wood brought more pain to the crucified Messiah. She reached the cross-piece and eased the rope about the Messiah's shoulders, tying it off and securing the rope to the wood behind him.

The Messiah turned and looked at her, His face bloody and bruised. His eyes wide with disbelief.

"Xeeee... nah..."

"Don't talk," Xena said quietly. She reached over and applied two pressure points to His chest. "That should help with the pain."

He shook his head. "Don't... Please... This is my... Destiny. W-What was meant to be..."

"Tough," Xena replied as she straddled the crossbeam and eased out with hammer in hand. "I'm not gonna just stand around and watch these Roman bastards crucify anybody... even if you are the Son of God. Sorry, Briearos."

Briearos sagged into the ropes, weeping not with pain, but with the knowledge that He had failed, Failed His Father. Failed His people. Failed the world.

Xena gently tapped out the iron nail that impaled His right wrist. When she finally pried it loose, His right arm fell limp to His side. She eased over to His other arm and repeated the procedure while Gabrielle worked on the nail that held his feet together, staked through the tendons just below the ankles.

Using the rope, Xena carefully eased Briearos down into Gabrielle's arms. She looked at Him tenderly as Xena checked the other two crucified men.

"Briearos," Gabrielle whispered. She had only known Him a few days, and yet there was something about Him that made her feel like she had known Him forever.

"So... sorry..." He croaked.

"Why?" Gabrielle smiled at him. "You're safe now."

He shook His head. She doesn't understand. No one understands.

"I... would've died for you," Briearos whispered. "Washed away all your sins..."

He slipped into unconsciousness as Xena approached.

"One was dead. The other was too far gone." Xena sighed. "I... helped him on his way."

Another gust of wind howled about them, fanning the flames of the bonfire. They were losing their light fast.

"Do you think He's telling the truth?" Gabrielle asked as she looked up at her friend.

"I think... that He thinks He's telling the truth.," Xena replied. She looked about, eyes narrowing at the growing darkness. "I also think we'd better get outta here."

They loaded Him up on the wagon, and while Gabrielle tried to make him comfortable Xena walked over to the fallen centurion and pulled her chakram off her belt. She kicked him in the groin hard enough to bring him out of unconsciousness. He sat up, gasping in pain as she brought the curved edge of her chakram tight against his neck.

"Now lissen up," Xena hissed in his ear. "I just killed all five of your men with my bare hands, because I wouldn't dirty my blades on a piece of Roman scum." He felt the razor sharp iron of the chakram dig deep into his throat. "But then again, I might make an exception in your case."

"Puh... Puhlease..." he whimpered. "Have mercy, barbarian!"

"Barbarian?" Xena chuckled. "You nail a young man up on that cross to watch him die and I'm the barbarian?" She smirked. "So be it. Now listen closely, and you might live. Run back to your Legatus and tell him what happened. Also tell him that he has till dawn for every one of his Roman dogs to be on their ships heading back for home... or there will be some serious hell to pay." She grabbed his greasy hair and pulled his head back so he could meet her eyes. "And one last thing... when you see your Legatus, tell him that Xena's been thinking of him."

And with that she sucker-punched him on the jaw hard enough to slam him back onto the ground. She then hopped into the wagon and urged the horse into a full gallop as they headed back to the city.

Chapter Two

His dagger gently traced the route on the map, cutting across the Great Sea from Rome, under the Greek islands to the underbelly of Asia Minor.

"Here we are," Caesar said. "The Kingdom of Celicia. And from here, the world belongs to me!"

The Praetor looked askance at young Caesar. He had arrived from the Republic this very afternoon aboard a supply ship. He knew that this proud young warrior was bitterly disappointed. Ceasar had been expecting at least a Legion of troops to augment the three hundred men of his Cohort that he already had at his command. Instead he had received an old man fresh from the political intrigues of the Senate.

Caesar tried smiling kindly at the old man. He was a friend of the family and had helped him smooth over certain... improprieties of the past. In fact, years ago the Praetor had even come up with a hefty ransom after he had been kidnapped by some pirates. But that was another story.

"Here at Celicia we have a perfect harbor, and a prosperous city," Caesar continued. "Plus, several city-states to the north willing to trade Roman gold for supplies and timber. Here we can build a base of operations and even my own fleet."

"Wouldn't it be Rome's fleet, young Caesar?" the Praetor said softly.

"Of course." He smiled. "I misspoke."

"And what would we do with this fleet?" the Praetor asked. "Attack the Greeks? Or conquer the Assyrians?"

"Neither," Caesar replied. "The Greeks may be fractured between a dozen kingdoms --all allied either to the Spartans or the Athenians-- but they would unite against a common enemy..."


"Just so. And the Assyrians are much too strong a presence in the east. I have no desire to fight a long desert campaign I can't possibly win."

"So what is your plan?"

Caesar smiled. "We'll move from Celicia to take the Israelite Kingdom of Judea and exterminate the Jews as a race. That should put us on good terms with Damascus. And then once we're allied with the Assyrians, we take Egypt..."

"Egypt!" The Praetor spoke in shock and wonderment as Caesar's boldness.

"Yes, Egypt. Even after all these years, the people of Egypt still haven't gotten over the loss of their Jewish slaves. They have lost faith in both their Gods and their Pharaoh. Egypt is ripe for the picking."

Caesar's eyes seemed to glow like a wolf's as he looked over the map. "And from that moment on... the Greek Homeland is mine!" He picked up a blade and pounded it through the map and into the table underneath. "First there is Rome." Another blade. "Then Celicia." Yet another blade. "Then Judea." A last blade. "And then Egypt." He took a step back to admire his handiwork. "Look at it, Praetor! The mighty Greeks now surrounded by the might of Rome!"

"An audacious plan," the Praetor replied with grudging admiration. "But then I expected nothing less from you, my son."

"Then you'll support me in the Senate?"

The old man smiled enigmatically and instead of answering, began to walk about Caesar's rather opulent cabin on his flagship anchored in the harbor of Celicia.

"Tell me of this... Messiah," the Praetor said finally.

Caesar laughed. "Really, old friend! I'm surprised your spies even bothered to tell you of him!"

"Indulge me."

"Very well," Caesar sniffed. "He is a local boy named... Briearos, I believe. A goat herder whose unmarried mother told him he was immaculately conceived by the supposed 'One True God' rather than admitting a more unpleasant truth. I've heard tales of some hocus-pocus and magiks..."

"'Miracles', they're called."

"Whatever. Since then he's preached before some of the locals and gained some followers..."

"Among them the rulers of some of the city-states you wish to use to supply 'your' fleet," the Praetor said. "Not to mention the people who make up the anti-Roman resistance movement her in Celicia."

"Rabble," Caesar said dismissively. "None of this matters anyway. Briearos is dying as we speak." He smiled at his old friend. "Today, in honor or your arrival, I had him crucified."

The Praetor frowned. "Are you sure that was wise?"

"Why not? This demonstrates the power of the Republic. The power of Caesar. The city-states will fall into line, as will the people of Celicia when they see how easily I can remove their Savior from their existence."

"Only if Briearos dies on that cross."

Caesar laughed. "And who would dare to defy me!"

He was still chuckling over that one when he heard shouts from up on deck. Moments later there was a frantic pounding on the door.


"Legatus Caesar!" It was one of his Tribuni, Labenius, looking wide-eyed and almost scared. "T-There's trouble in the city!"

Caesar elbowed his way past him and headed for the upper deck with the Praetor close on his heels.

The crew was massed on the port side. They silently let their commander pass as he moved through their ranks.

The night sky was bright with flames as the entire waterfront of Celicia blazed before them.

"What has happened?" the Praetor asked.

"Those bastards," Caesar muttered. "They've destroyed the storehouses that held our foodstuffs and supplies. Also the Cohort's barracks from the look of it."

"That's not all, Legatus," Labenius said quietly.

"What else?"

"The boy Briearos was rescued from crucifixion..."

"I want to see the soldiers assigned to guard him immediately!" Caesar barked.

"There is only one survivor, Legatus," he replied. "I have him for you now."

The crew scattered, trying to find somewhere else to be as the battered centurion was brought before Caesar.

"Explain yourself," Caesar said, ignoring the man's salute.

"M-My men were all killed, Legatus," the centurion said with downcast eyes. "Almost instantly, by a... barbarian warrior woman... and a friend of hers. Another woman, I think."

"Well, it's a good thing she brought her friend along!" Caesar replied sarcastically. "Continue."

"She rescued the boy Briearos and gave me a message. To give to you."

"Tell me," Caesar said. "Word for word. Exactly as you remember."

"S-She said that you have till dawn for every Roman... dog to be on a ship heading back for home. If not, there will be serious hell to pay." He took a breath. "She also said that... Xena's been thinking of you."

"Xena," Caesar whispered.

"What's wrong, Caesar?" the Praetor asked. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Indeed," Caesar whispered. He turned to Labenius. "Assemble the troops."

"At once, Legatus!" Labenius saluted and left.

"A word, Caesar," the Praetor said softly. He and Caesar moved to a more secluded spot near the bow of the ship.


"What are your plans?"

"Simple. To take this city back or burn it to the ground."

"Unwise. Your power over this city, as well as the nearby city-states disappeared with Briearos. If you had executed him through the spectacle of a public crucifixion, then you would have the fear and respect you desire. Now, you have nothing."

Caesar looked at his old friend in anger and surprise.

"If you think I'm going to just raise anchor and leave with my tail between my legs, you've..."

"You have little choice," the Praetor replied. "And don't expect the Senate to support a return here, either." He sighed. "You'll be needed at home. Perhaps in time you can resurrect your career. If the Gods are with you."

The Praetor left Caesar to himself, standing by the bow of his mighty flagship, looking at the flames consuming his dreams of glory.

"I'll be thinking of you as well, Xena," Caesar whispered to the wind. "And one fine day... we will settle this once and for all!"

Chapter 3

"It's glorious!"

Young Prince Krisperos of Celicia was almost dancing a jig on the bluff overlooking the harbor, as he watched the longboats ferrying Roman soldiers back to their ships by the light of the raging fires consuming their supplies and barracks.

His counselors smiled to themselves and looked to the tall warrior woman standing beside him.

"We owe it all to you, Xena," the senior counselor said.

"Indeed! And now we finish the job!"

Everyone turned at the excited shout as Raven jumped off her horse and ran to the group on the bluff.

Raven was the leader of Celicia's resistance movement and was also a rather excitable young woman who reminded Xena of herself in her wilder days. She wore skintight battle leathers, two swords, at least three daggers and short spikey hair that couldn't hide the fact she was a rather attractive young woman.

"Hello, Uh... Raven," Prince Krisperos said shyly.

"Your Highness," Raven bowed. She turned to Xena. "Now, Warrior Princess, we can strike back at the Romans!"

"Not so fast, Raven," Xena replied.

"B-But the barges are ready!" Raven exclaimed. "We'll sink 'em at the mouth of the harbor and trap the sons o' bitches like rats! They'll have to fight us!"

"A fight they might win," Xena said. She turned to the Prince. "And even if they don't, your city will be in flames and many innocents will be dead."

Prince Krisperos looked to her. "What is your recommendation, Xena?"

"Let the Romans escape..."

"Xena! Nooooo!!!" Raven cried.

"Look, I know how these bastards think," Xena said. "Give them a defeat they can live with and they'll leave you alone. Rub their noses in it and one morning you'll wake up to find a fleet of their ships sitting in your harbor." She locked eyes with the Prince. "If you let them escape, and then strengthen your alliances with the neighboring city-states, your kingdom will be at peace and your people safe. What more do you want?"

The Prince nodded. "I trust your judgement, Xena. We'll do as you say."

Raven gave a short scream of exasperation before stalking off, kicking at the dirt. Prince Krisperos started after her but was brought up short by Xena.

"Let her go," Xena whispered. "I know you're sweet on her, but you'll do better with her type if you play hard to get."

The Prince looked at Xena in surprise. "I, uh... didn't know it was... so obvious."

"Afraid so, your Highness," one of the counselors whispered as all the others nodded in agreement.

"Alright already!" the Prince growled. He sighed and turned to Xena. "May I have a word with you in private, Xena?"

Xena nodded. Together they walked to a cliff side.

"What of Briearos?" the Prince whispered.

"I was wondering when you'd ask," Xena replied. "He'll live. But he is seriously injured and it's going to take months for him to recover, and even then he'll be crippled for life."

The Prince shook his head. "And to think I believed in him. Had faith in who he was... in what he claimed to be. I feel like such a fool!"

"Now wait up," Xena said. "I never said Briearos wasn't who he said he was..."

"He said he was the Messiah," Prince Krisperos said bitterly. "He said we should have faith in him. That he would wash away our sins and deliver us from evil. Instead he allows himself to be captured and crucified by the bloody Romans! Some Messiah!"

"That's not fair to Briearos," Xena said quietly. "I saw his suffering when I took him down from that cross."

"Exactly," the Prince replied. "Would the real Son of the One True God need a Warrior Princess to rescue him?" He laughed. "I think not! Tell me, Xena, did you believe in Briearos?"

"I've only known Briearos for a few days,"Xena said. "And belief... like faith, is earned. Right now I believe in what I can see. What touches me. But I do have faith... in someone."

"Who? One of your Olympian Gods?"

"No. Right now my faith is in a Bard from Poteidaia." Xena smiled. "Gabrielle is my conscience, as well as the gentle soul who will guide me to do what's right."

"I understand," the Prince said with a gentle smile of his own. "But what will become of Briearos?"

"After the Romans leave, I'll take him and his mother out of this Kingdom. Perhaps they can start a new life. Elsewhere." She looked at him. "Is that all? I am needed."

"One final thing," Prince Krisperos said. "I've... only known you but a few days... and already you've saved my Kingdom." He looked down, unable to meet her steady gaze. "I-I would be honored if you would consent to accept the post of Minister of Defense for the Kingdom Of Celicia." He looked up at her. "You are needed here. And I can think of no finer a Minster of Defense than a Warrior Princess!"

"You honor me, Prince Krisperos," Xena said sincerely. "But I am also needed elsewhere. You see, my Quest is one of Redemption. And for all I know it might take the rest of my life."

"As you wish, Xena." the Prince nodded.

"However," Xena grinned. "If you really want someone like me to be your Minister of Defense... Well, I can think of another Warrior Princess who might fit the bill."

"Raven? Do you think she'd accept?"

"Ask her," Xena replied.

The Prince nodded. "I shall! Thanks again, Xena. For everything!"

"I'll see you in the morning," Xena said. They shook hands and then Xena was mounting up on Argo and riding back to the city at full gallop.

Chapter Four

Monteaus was a Greek merchant and one of the richest men in Celicia. He had made friends with the Romans when they had first arrived, while all the time feeding information to Raven's underground movement. He had been one of Xena's first contacts when she and Gabrielle had arrived three days ago.

As befitted the richest man in town, Monteaus' house was a virtual palace. Now hidden away behind a walled garden of verdant greenery, Briearos sat quietly, his arms and feet wrapped in bandages and splints while Gabrielle tried to feed him a delicious stew that he didn't seem interested in.

Watching from a darkened alcove was Xena and Briearos' mother, Althea. Xena saw that despite his bruises and cuts that Briearos was still quite a handsome dark-skinned boy with long curly black hair framing a gentle face and the kindest eyes Xena had ever seen in her life.

"I lied to you, Xena," Althea said, looking at her son with sad eyes. "About Briearos..."

"What's done is done," Xena replied. "All that's important now is getting the two of you on a ship out of here."

"No, you don't understand," Althea continued. "I lied when I told you yesterday that his father was really a farmer, and the stories I told him of being the Son of God weren't true." Her eyes filled with tears. "You see, I'm a selfish woman, Xena. Briearos is all I have. All I'll ever have. And I didn't want to lose him. Not to the Romans... and not to his Father. His True Father."

"It doesn't matter, Althea," Xena said, hugging her. "I would've rescued him no matter what. No matter whose kid he is." She sighed. "And now, you should go to him."

"Go with me, please?"

"If you want."

The two women walked together into the cool green of the garden. When Gabrielle spotted them she ran to her best friend.

"Xena!" She hugged her tight and kissed her. " Gods I was worried!" She sniffed. "Whew! Smells like you've been to a barbeque!"

"I have," Xena replied. "A Roman one."

"Oh, Briearos!" Althea knelt by her son, wanting to hold him, but knowing also that any touch would be incredibly painful.

"It's alright, Mother," Briearos croaked. "It wasn't your fault." His eyes shifted to Xena. "Yours either, Xena. This is my failure."

"How is staying alive a failure?" Xena asked. "By failing to crucify you, the Romans have lost the upper hand and are leaving Celicia. We've won, Briearos!"

"In a way," Briearos whispered. "By saving me you have done what I could not. Namely, save my people and countless others from Roman domination." He shook his head. "All I could have offered this world was... eternal life."

"How, Briearos?" Gabrielle asked.

"If I had died on that cross... I would have been resurrected as the True Spirit of God. And then the Old Ways would have fallen by the wayside, as a new spirit of peace and love would have spread throughout the world."

"Who told you this?" Gabrielle whispered.

Briearos smiled and slowly raised his bandaged hand to a point just over Gabrielle's right shoulder.

"He did."

Xena felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand straight up as she slowly turned to look at a silent column of flame that was burning brightly in the garden beside them. She felt no heat and saw no smoke, as even the foliage under the flames seemed untouched. Gabrielle stared in open-mouthed surprise as Althea wept and knelt before the flames.

Rise, Althea.

The Voice was everywhere and nowhere. Neither male or female. To Xena, it almost seemed to come from within her own soul.

Althea stood before the pillar of fire.

Know that you did not fail your son, the Voice said. It was your love for him that spoke to Xena's heart.

Althea nodded, still crying, but also smiling.

The flame moved towards Briearos.

"Father!" Briearos cried.

My Son. You did not fail me either. You did all that was asked of you. I know you have suffered greatly in My Name... and now you will suffer no more.

Briearos groaned and fell back as Xena saw all the cuts and bruises on his body instantly heal up. When Briearos looked up again, there wasn't a mark on his body.

Go now, my Son. Find a place to call your own and live out the rest of your natural life as you wish.

"But... what about my Destiny, Father?"

Your Destiny now lies on a different path than mine.


Go in peace, my Son.

Briearos started to weep as Xena knealt beside him and pulled her chakram from her belt. She cut away the bandages about his left arm and gasped when she saw that the shattered bone, muscle and tissue that she had dressed herself not long ago was now totally healed.

Xena turned as she saw the pillar of flame begin to fade.

"Wait!" Xena now stood before the fire herself, feeling the divine glow radiating over her very soul. "Please. Whoever you are. Tell me. D-Did I do wrong... when I saved Briearos?"

Xena, the Voice said. You did what you had to do. There is no wrong in that.

"Please..." Xena stepped forward, trying to find the words for the yearning in her heart. "Tell me. Who are you... and how can I come to know you?"

You already know in your heart who I am, Xena. And you are already coming to know me... through another.

Xena gasped, looking at Gabrielle.

Fear not, Xena. For you are on the path of Redemption. Perhaps one day, that path will lead to Me...

And in the blink of an eye, the pillar of flame was gone, leaving only the peace and green quiet of the garden. Xena felt her legs give out beneath her as she realized Briearos was hugging his weeping mother, as he told her that everything was going to be just fine.

She then felt a gentle, familiar presence behind her. Xena leaned back into Gabrielle and let her rock her gently in her arms. At that moment the Great Warrior Princess felt at peace, because she knew now that no matter where she journeyed or what became of her... as long as her Gabrielle stayed by her side, all would be right with her world.

She had it on the best authority.

Chapter Five

The next day dawned crisp and clear, as cheering masses of people filled the streets of Celicia to celebrate the sight of a harbor empty of Roman ships.

In all the hub-bub, few noticed one of Monteaus' ships weighing anchor and setting sail.

Aboard her, Xena sat on the bow, lost in her thoughts. Gabrielle came up behind her and slapped her on the back, startling her.

"Got Briearos and Althea squared away," Gabrielle said. "Where are we headed anyway, Corinth?"

"Eventually," Xena answered. "We're dropping Briearos and Althea off on Ithaca. Ulysses will see to their safety."

"They'll find a good life there," Gabrielle said as she hopped up on a railing. "Hey! Notice anything? Nooooo seasickness!"

"I notice we're not out of the harbor yet, either."

"Hah! A mere technicality!" Gabrielle looked at her closely. "Is something wrong?"

"Ahhh... I'm just considering the possibilities that I might have made a big mistake doing what I did."

"Saving Briearos? Com'n, even the Flame-Guy said you did what you hadda do. Besides, it's a done deal. No use crying over a saved Messiah!"

"Yeah, but what if because of me, the world is saddled with Ares and those jokers on Olympus for another four or five hundred years?"

"Maybe it was meant to be. Maybe it was more important to kick the Romans out than let Briearos die for our sins or whatever. Maybe that's the way the Flame-Guy wanted it, at least this time around. Ever think of that?"

Xena looked at her. "You think?"

Gabrielle nodded.

"I dunno," Xena sighed as she started to walk along the deck. "All these years I've wondered if there was something better to this world. Last night in that garden, I felt it."

"I know," Gabrielle said. "I felt it too."

Xena smiled wistfully. "I just wish it could exist now. Be part of my life..."

"Maybe it does," Gabrielle said softly. "Maybe it exists now... within each of us."

Xena looked at her and grinned. She bent down and gave her a hug and a kiss.

"I knew there was a reason I keep you around," Xena said as she strode across the deck.

"Hah! You just try to get rid of me!" Gabrielle answered as the ship rolled with a sudden swell of the sea. Xena turned back to answer her and found Gabrielle with her head over the side, retching uncontrollably.

"Gabrielle," Xena said kindly as she held the back of her head. "In this sometimes topsy-turvy --oh, excuse me-- world we live in, it's nice to know that some things will always remain the same!"


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