Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all other associated with the television series of the same name are owned by MCA/ Universal Pictures. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.
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.
Violence: Not yet.
Other: Part Seventy-five in the series "Raising Melosa". Takes place right after "Teamwork at its Best."
As if Things Werent Bad Enough
I glanced back to find Mel right behind me as we rode into the village. I left the saddle, handing my horse off to the first guard who came forth. "Give him a good rest."
"Yes Your Highness." She waited long enough to take Mels horse as well.
I turned to get a good look at Mel as she moved forward. It was then I noticed the blood on her shoulder. "Come here." I examined her, she had received a pretty good slice on the top of her shoulder. "Why didnt you say something."
"Its just a scratch."
"Un-huh. Mel its more than a scratch. Go let Delia look at it."
I held up my hand to silence her. "Hey maybe youll get lucky and Celia will be there."
She groaned as she nodded. "Ill go have it looked at. Please just dont tease me. Im too tired."
I watched as she stalked off. I grabbed the arm of a passing amazon. "Wheres the Queen?"
"Council chambers Your Highness."
I made my way across the village not wasting anytime. When I pulled the doors open I found several members of the tribe milling about. What concerned me was the group of amazons around Ris throne. Eph was kneeling next to it, holding Ris hand. Delia was on the other side checking her for fever. I bolted across the room, climbing over the table I knelt in front of her. "Ri? Whats wrong?"
She looked up and gave me a smile. "Good morning Warrior. Welcome home."
"Nothing. I got a little dizzy thats all. Im fine."
I looked up to Delia who nodded. "She seems to be fine Xena. I think she might need to eat."
"Then lets get her some food." I started to pick her up when she placed her hands on my arms.
"Xe I can walk. Im fine." She ran her hand over my cheek. "I promise Im fine. Now take me over for the morning meal and tell me what you found."
I helped her out of her chair, wrapping her arm through mine and we left the council chambers. "Ri its not good news."
"I didnt think it was."
We entered the hut and took our places. Eph joined us with two of her senior advisors. "Well what are we up against?"
"Looks like a thousand men. They are most definitely coming for us." I felt Ri grip my hand as I continued the briefing. "Eph send messengers to the other tribes and tell them to prepare defenses. Then to send any spare bodies they have down here. We need to prepare to move our front line defenses out. Hes less than three candle marks from here and unfortunately Mel and I didnt get in and out as quickly or as quietly as I would have liked."
Eph turned to one of the women and drew a deep breath. "Find Epinon and tell her to start gathering front line warriors. Then find Solari and tell her to get the second defense organized." The aide nodded and left to do Ephs bidding.
As they sat our food down in front of us I began eating quickly knowing I didnt have a lot of time. I glanced to Ri who was staring at her food. "Honey come on eat something."
She glanced up. "Were going to war arent we?"
"I hope not, but it may come to that yes."
"Weve got to get Kessa and Rosa to safety."
I nodded. "Ill have Mel take them to Tyldus."
"What about Kai and Bailus?"
"Im willing to let them choose Ri. What about you?"
"If you think thats best." She didnt look right to me. She was pale and tired.
I turned to her. "Ri? Honey are you feeling all right?"
"Im just a little sick at my stomach thats all. Ive been up all night. Im tired."
"Well after you eat please go lay down for a bit."
"I will if you will." She smiled at me as she took the first bite of her food. "Youve been up all night too. Eph can handle everything while you get a couple marks of rest."
"All right two marks." I looked to my friend. "Eph?"
"Hey I got it under control. We need the two of you in top form."
"Thanks." I continued to rub Ris hand as we both ate, very quickly then headed over to our house for a little rest.
As we approached the porch I saw Mel coming out of the healers hut. I waved her over she sprinted over wiping the smile off her face as she did. "Yes maam."
"Your Mom and I are going to get a little sleep. I want you to do the same then I want you to take a couple of guards and take your sisters over to Tyldus."
"Hows the shoulder?"
"Coupla stitches. No big deal."
I should have known better than to mention the injury in front of Ri. "Mel are you hurt?" She moved to her as she began her exam.
"Mom I swear," Mel caught Ris hands in her own. "Its just a scratch on my shoulder. Im fine. Just tired and a little saddle sore. Im going over to the barracks and get a little sleep."
Ri nodded as she caressed Mels face before placing a kiss on her forehead. "All right. Just take care of it."
I guided Ri into the house then closed the door behind us. She headed for the old bathing chamber without a word. I moved through the sleeping chamber to the door, which was closed between us. "Ri honey. Please talk to me." I heard her getting sick so I went in to find her leaning over a small basin. She was shaking as she continued to be sick. I gave her space until it looked like she needed me. I wrapped her up in my arms and led her back to our room. I poured a mug of water from a pitcher and handed it to her. She nodded silently accepting it, taking small sips.
"Im sorry." She said between sips.
I knelt down and began unlacing her boots. "Why because youre sick? Ri dont be silly. My only concern is that were getting ready for a fight and youre ill. When did this start?"
"Just last night and today. I swear Xe Im just tired. I worried about you all night long and there was so much to do."
I finished undressing her then put her to bed. I washed up quickly. Taking my gear off I slipped into bed and pulled her into my arms. She was already sound asleep by the time her head came to rest on my shoulder. As my lips grazed her forehead, I felt a slight fever. "Please not now. Dont let her get sick now." I closed my eyes and allowed myself to drift off holding her as close as I could get her.
"Xena! Gabrielle!" Ephs voice brought my out of my very heavy slumber. I extracted myself from Ri and tossed on a robe. Opening the door I ran my hands through my hair as I closed it behind me.
"The first line is set up a mark away from the village. The second is a half a mark behind that."
"Ill get dressed and ride out to the front line."
"Is Gabrielle going with you?"
"No. Eph shes sick. I want her to stay here in the village."
"Sick? Like really sick?"
"Yeah could be just a little cold but I want her to stay here."
"Oh shes not gonna like that."
"No I dont and Im not staying here." I turned to find her in the door tying off her robe. "I am your partner and their Queen and I will not hide in the village. Im going with you."
"Im fine. I got some sleep and Im fine. Now lets get dressed and get ready shall we?"
I looked to Eph, who lifted her brows and shrugged. I turned to her. "It wont do me any good to argue with you will it?"
"Youd just be wasting valuable time." She turned and went back into our room.
"Shit." I mumbled, as I looked back to Eph. "Why does she have to be so damned stubborn?"
"Could be because she has spent so many seasons learning from the best." She grinned at me.
"Ah gee thanks. Listen were going to need horses. I need a fresh horse. Mine is not going to be ready to travel."
"Consider it done."
She turned on her heals leaving me to deal with the challenge that awaited me in our room. When I entered she was on the bed lacing up her boots.
"It wont do me ." I started as I removed my robe and reached for my clothes
"Nope. Im going and thats all there is to it."
"Will you at least agree to stay with the second line?" I slipped into my trousers as I watched her trying to gage her reaction.
"Well see when we get there." She stood up, crossing to me and wrapping her arms around my waist. "Were in this together.
I nodded as I kissed her on the top of the head. "All right sweetheart. All right. Let me get dressed so we can get going."
As we left the house our horses were waiting for us. Mel rode across the square stopping beside us as we mounted our horses. "Kessa and Rosa are safely tucked away. Kai and Bailus are staying at the house. I left a couple of guards there with them. Is that okay?"
"The boys are old enough to decide for themselves. Im sure theyll be fine." I looked to Ri who settled into her saddle with an uncomfortable look on her face. "Ri are you sure ."
"Im sure Warrior, lets get going. You know I hate to ride, so lets get it over with."
"You could ride with me."
"No. I dont want to slow you down."
"All right, if you need to stop you tell me."
"Xe I swear by the Gods if you dont stop the mother hen bit Im gonna explode."
I heard Mel snicker something about warrior hen as she turned her horse to head out of the village. I waved my hand to allow Ri to fall in behind Mel then I brought up the rear. Mel gave a whistle, Rilex floated down landing smoothly on her shoulder. I moved up next to Ri.
"I love you bard. Im just worried about you."
"I know Xe. Im sorry I snapped at you. I just hate having a cold at a time like this."
"Ah ha so you admit youre sick."
"I admit that I have a cold. Nothing more."
"Youre not sneezing."
"Give me time."
We arrived on the second line quickly. I was pleased, very pleased Solari had done an incredible job of organizing everyone. I dismounted then helped Ri off her horse. We began walking and inspecting the work. Everyone seemed pleased that Ri had come out as well. Moral was very high and her presence was a big part of that. As we walked past one group a young warrior tentatively held up her hand to stop us.
Ri released my arm stepping toward the young woman. "Yes? Is everything all right?"
"Your Majesty," She dropped her head as she started to speak. I smiled as I watched Ri lift the young womans face gently. "My name is Serina. I came to your village from the north. I just wanted to say thank you for being here with us. In my old village the queen always stayed behind whenever we had trouble. She never ." Her words stopped short as her head dropped again. She finally lifted her head and smiled. "Just thank you."
"It is my duty Serina. I wont ask you do to anything Im not willing to do myself."
"You have no idea how much it means to a lot of us."
"Thank you." She gave the woman another smile and we continued on. "Shes not more than a girl." She whispered as we moved on.
"Shes probably the same age as Mel."
"And this makes me feel better, how?"
"Ri when I was Mels age I was ." I stopped. I shook my head. "Never mind."
"I know. Its a warrior thing."
"Yeah it really is." I laughed as I patted her hand.
We walked to the place that had been set up to care for the wounded. I grinned when I saw Mel unloading a wagon, moving crates into the tent. Standing close by watching her with her arms crossed, one redheaded healer.
I gave Ris hand a little tug, pulling her back into my arms. I leaned in and whispered. "Do you see the little redhead over there?" I gave a quick point to the wagon.
"Yeah. Celia shes a new healers assistant. She came from the north."
"Yeah well she came here and conquered your daughters heart too. Mel is in love."
"Oh Xe Mel cant be in love," She looked back at me. "Hmm I was only a couple of seasons older than Mel when we started traveling together huh?"
"Well that shoots that argument out of the air doesnt it?"
"Yup." I kissed her on the temple as I gave her a hug. "Ready for her to be in love?"
"No. Im barely willing to admit shes old enough to feed herself. This is my baby were talking about."
I couldnt help but laugh. When I did Mel turned to me and glared. She took a deep breath as she shifted the weight of the crate. "With all due respect My Queen," She shot me a look. "Your Highness, but dont you have a camp to inspect?"
Ri turned to face me, biting back the grin. She placed her hand in the middle of my chest and began walking, pushing me back as she did. "Yes, yes we do." She chuckled as she looked up at me. She mouthed, Not one damn word. As she continued to push me back.
When we were a safe distance away she moved her hand from my chest. "I wasnt going to say anything." I protested.
"Oh sure you werent. Xe if you think that Mel has feelings for this girl you shouldnt tease her."
"Hey thats one of the perks of raising her. I get all the teasing rights."
"Xe behave. Do you remember what it was like to be in love for the first time?"
I looked into her eyes and nodded. "Oh yeah." I said softly. "Definitely."
"Good. Then behave. Let her enjoy it too."
"Thank you." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she surveyed the camp. "So now what?"
"Well now I have to ride up to the front lines."
"Ri, honey can we compromise on this, please? Youre here with the troops but will you please stay back?" I ran my fingers through her hair as I coaxed her to look at me. "Please? For me?"
She nodded. "All right Xe, for you."
"Ill leave Mel back here too. Im sure shell be a big help."
"If everything centers around the healers tent."
I glanced over at Mel who was accepting a skin of water from Celia, who in turn took the time to check the bandage on Mels shoulder. I grinned. Well it looked like the start of a beautiful relationship. I remembered those first few moments of trying to impress Ri without realizing what I was doing. I chuckled. Yeah, me and my many skills.
"Xe did you hear me?" Her question brought me back.
I looked down at her annoyed face. "No. Sorry I didnt hear you. What did you say?"
She gave me a really irked look, then smiled at me. "I asked you if you would be able to come back here tonight?"
"Ill try, but I cant make any promises."
"Thats all I ask and of course, there is the order from Your Queen to be careful."
"Yes Your Majesty." With a soft kiss I said my good-byes and turned for my horse.
At the front line the first thing I noticed was a tent, it was a command tent. Ep came out after a scout had told her of my arrival.
"Well hello there. Nice of you to join the party." She glanced past me. "Wheres Gabrielle?"
"I managed to convince her to stay with the second line."
She gave me a look of total shock.
"Hey I do have a little power in the marriage you know?" I grinned as I gestured to the tent. "Do me a favor and take that down. Have it delivered for Ri. Shes not feeling well and I would much prefer she not sleep on the cold ground tonight."
"Consider it done." She issued the orders and in a matter of moments the tent was coming down.
"So what are our little friends up to?"
"Not much as of yet. It looks like theyre waiting for something."
"My guess would be more troops. The unrest in the nation is not a secret and my guess would be that theyre hoping to take advantage of it."
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