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Disclaimer: Gabrielle, Xena, Rafe, Hercules and Iolaus all belong to MCA/Universal studios, no copyright infringement is intended.
This story is set after King Con, I wrote it because Rafe and Xena deserve to be together damn it! (and heís so cute).
Ther is violence, destruction and a very very tame explicit scene between a male and female.
As all bards do please email me with your comments on this story (good or bad) or just for a chat!!Vansen@thefree.net
Whatever the Cold Night Brings
By Jessica Short
It was cold, very cold, the night had suddenly seemed to capture the day and discard it into a far away land, and now, with the darkness came rain and a strong wind just short of a hurricane, it was unearthly weather guessed by mnay as a fight between the Gods above.
Xena shivered as she closed the rotted wooden shutters to rid the cold draft that swept into the small room, but even closed, a small trail of wind managed to creep into the rotted cracks of the badly mastered wood, the warrior sighed shaking her head, looking around all the pair had in the room was the bed, a small table with three legs, the chair she'd just pushed against the window and a small torche hanging off the wall, the room itself was about the size of two small wagons placed side by side.
"You certainly get your money's worth." She muttered placing a chair up against the window to hold the shutters shut.
"Hm? What did you say?" Her companion asked looking up from the small bed they had to share.
"Nothing." The warrior smiled as she watched the bard desperately scrape her long black feather across the scrumpled scroll that she held against her lap.
The light in the room was dull which made it harder for Gabrielle to see what she was writing but as long as she could here the satisfying scrape of feather to parchment she continued to write.
"What're you writing about?" The warrior's deep slightly interested tone made her jump in the dulled light.
"Our recent adventure."
"And what would that be?" The warrior asked giving up with trying to stop anymore drafts coming in and finally sitting beside the bard on the small bed.
"How you avenged Joxer's beating and managed, at the same time, to fall hopelessly in love with king con Rafe." Gabrielle smiled anticipating the warrior's next move - defensive.
"I did not!...Gabrielle!" The warrior tried to explain but couldn't find the right words.
"Oh come on, I saw you kiss him."
"That was acting." The warrior stated.
"Uh huh." The bard nodded trying to supress the laugh lingering at the back of her throat.
"Xena I saw it in your eyes, I know something went on." The bard interrupted producing a crooked grin from the warrior as she blushed ever-so slightly.
"I knew it!" Gabrielle laughed hitting Xena with the pillow she rested her head on, the warrior instantly struck back by tickling the bard until she fell off the bed.
The door to the room creaked open as it hung barely on one hinge, a tubby man appeared, his face covered in stubble, he wore little more than a night shift and had to restrain his eyes from closing, it was the barman.
"Sorry to intrude but would you mind keeping the noise down, my wife's trying to put our baby to bed, and believe me, that's kinda hard in a storm like this." The man smiled.
Gabrielle stood from the floor rubbing the shoulder she had landed on.
"Sorry, we didn't realise." The bard apologised supressing her laughter from the previous fall.
"That's okay missy."
"We'll be quiet now." Xena nodded from the bed. "Any idea how long the storm's gonna last?"
"Could be hours, could be days, that's up to the gods." The man sighed shaking his head and leaving.
Gabrielle burst into laughter sure that the man was out of earshot in case she thought she was laughing at him. The warrior raised an eyebrow at the bard's laughter. "What's so funny?"
"I have absolutley no idea!" The bard sunk down into the bed beside the warrior.
"Well we'd better keep quiet." The warrior nudged her companion as she took her breastplate off and prepared for sleep.
There was a deaf-defying crash from outside that made both women bolt into sitting position, they watched as the shutters imploded into the room, with a warrior instinct Xena threw herself over the bard as the rotted wood crashed into the wall sending out small but deadly splinters of daggered wood, the warrior grunted as she felt a few stick into her exposed skin unable to penetrate her leather.
There was silence as the whole building shook slightly, amazingly the torch still burned as though unaware of the commotion.
Xena lifted her head immediately aware of the pain in her arms and legs, the pain that felt like she was a pin cushion.
"You okay Gabrielle?" She asked as she carefully rolled off the bard, Gabrielle nodded in shock before seeing blood trickling from the warrior's legs and arms.
"It's nothing to worry about I'm just gonna need your help to get them out." The warrior smile referring to the small daggers of wood, about nine in all, that hideously stuck out from her skin, Gabrielle gently tugged one out followed by another noting that the warrior's face remained impassive, she began to wash the wounds with their drinking water.
"What in Hades do you think happened Xena?" The bard asked wiping the blood from her friend's body.
"I dunno but it has something to do with the..." Before Gabrielle could finish wiping the blood from the warrior's arm, Xena was on her feet staring in awe out of the now exposed window.
What she saw was undescribable, even to the bard who joined her. The houses that had once been standing opposite and adjacent to the tavern were in ruins with fire blazing amongst the wrecks.
"By the Gods." Gabrielle whispered shaking her head.
"They need our help." The warrior's voice was deep, strong and passive, the barman burst through the door to their room.
"You okay?" He asked, Xena nodded.
"Good, I know this is a bit...whatever, but the people outside need..."
"We're on our way." Xena nodded grabbing her sword and swinging it over her back, Gabrielle followed the rush as the barman led them outside.
"What happened?" Gabrielle asked.
"Hera happened." The mna muttered. "Something to do with a curse on the twon because of Hercules or something, I never read into it, didn't believe it until last year."
"What happened last year?" The warrior asked ascending the hall steps as quickly as her feet would carry her.
"Hera sent a hurricane, a flood, a monster, you name it, we got it." The man sighed. "Thought she'd left us alone and now this has happened."
"I've never heard of any of this."
"Well missy, if it got out, imagine how badly the town would suffer, how businesses would suffer."
"You have a point."
The three appeared in the main tavern room where Gabrielle and Xena had been drinking earlier that night, there were men with torches waiting for the barman.
"The name's Karl by the way." He turned to them then back to the people.
"Alright, let's go, bring the injured back here." Karl shouted, the men flooded out of the tavern to help their people, Xena and Gabrielle followed shortly.
It was chaos, the rain had began to beat down which meant the fires were being put out, there were terrified screams of the trapped and dying and the warrior had to steady herself as the past flooded to the present.
"You okay?" Gabrielle asked, the warrior nodded and they found their first patient, a small boy lay next to a younger girl, neither seemed seriously hurt but both were covered in smoke a crying, Gabrielle picked the small girl up while Xena carried the boy back to the tavern.
"They look alright." Xena observed as she sat them on a table. "We should leave them and help the others."
"We can't leave them on their own." The bard protested.
"I'll take care o'them, you just be goin' out to help the rest." A woman had entered obviously distraught by the recent events.
"Good, thanks." The warrior nodded as the woman began to chat to the two young children.
"Come on." Xena turned back to the chaos and was almost knocked over as a man ran into the tavern with a limp body slumped over his shoulder, she wished she could help him but there were so many more people out there needing her help, she tore her eyes from him and entered the scene of carnage once again, men began to appear with bodies carefully tucked into their own, helping the wounded and offering support, all were headed towards the tavern which would soon become the village's healing temple.
Xena could hear moans to her right where a small building had collapsed, she was quickly there to assess the damge of the situation.
"Gabrielle over here!" She shouted to the bard who was quickly by her side.
"Help me move this plank, there's people in that cellar beneath it." She told the bard who nodded and readied herself, the rain blurred their vision slightly and made the grip of the wood slightly slippery and heavier due to the water it absorbed, but slowly in unity they managed to lift the wide plank that covered half of a small hole where the screams were coming from, Xena guessed three maybe four people were in there. With the plank out of the way she realised that the main problem now was that the cellar was fast filling up with water, luckily a small fire had managed to stay alight despite the rain by hiding under all the carnage, this enabled Xena light she needed to see the people, she slid her body into the hole that opened into a room like the one Gabrielle and herself were staying in, the water had reached waist height.
"Is everyone okay?" She asked managing to make out the fear on the faces before her, it was a family, a husband and wife with two sons.
She looked at what they were standing in, it wasn't stable and could collapse any minute, she had to hurry without panicking anyone.
"We are now, please, can you get us out of here." The man begged. Xena nodded lifting one of the small boys.
"Gabrielle, coming up." She called.
"Okay I'm ready." The bard replied, Xena slid the boy through the hole and the bard took him and pulled him the rest of the way out, the process repeated with the other child, Xena then gently pulled the woman in position with the hole at her zenith, she cupped her hands together below her waist.
"Step into my hands, Gabrielle will help you through the hole." The warrior told her, she nodded and obliged and then came the man who repeated his wife's actions but was thrown to the floor by a rumbling sound, Xena landed beside him sitting up to her neck in water.
"We have to hurry, this thing's going to collapse very soon." Xena cried above all the noise.
"Xena!?" Gabrielle cried.
"I'm okay Gabrielle, help the man up." Xena called back as the man stepped once again into her hands and was lifted and pushed through the hole, as soon as the man had disappeared Xena's jumped for the hole's edge and managed to pull herself out of the hole, Gabrielle grabbed the warrior's forearm, another rumble and the cellar began to cave in, Xena managed to grab a strong plank of wood as she was dragged back into the cellar by the force of the cave in, rocks fell around her as she managed to dangle from the plank that slid across the hole.
"Xena!" Gabrielle cried in a desperate panic. The warrior once again pulled her now battered, soaking wet, dirty body form the collapsed room and was yanked clear form the hole by the man who she had previously saved.
"Thanks." She smiled.
"I should be thanking you warrior, you saved my family." He stuck out his arm and Xena grabbed it.
"Go into the tavern, you'll be safe there, you must change out of these clothes before you get to cold." She instructed.
"Will do, thanks again." He smiled and turned to hug his family.
"Xena are you okay?" The bard asked blinking out the rain from her eyes.
"Never been better." The warrior smiled.
"I was worried about you for a second, don't do that to me again." The bard gently stroked the warrior's bruised arm.
"Gabrielle, you shouldn't be out here, it's too dangerous, you have healing skills, I think it'd be better if you went into the tavern and helped there."
"That's what I was thinking."
"You can strut your stuff do your little cheering up thing they need you there." The warrior smiled watching as a beautiful smile sprang onto the bard's face.
"Okay, but you have to promise to be careful though." The bard pointed her finger accusingly at the warrior who tried her most innocent look on Gabrielle.
"Okay I promise." She smiled, the bard couldn'y help herself to a small hug from the warrior reaching around and pulling the warrior into the embrace, who, at first was taken back, but gladly accepted, pulling away the warrior looked down.
"I'll be fine Gabrielle, you just take care of yourself." The warrior's tone was serious as she cupped the bard's chin who smiled then turned and left.
"Xena!" Karl shouted as he ran towards her. "We need your help, there's a house with people trapped in it, it's still alight, nobody's managed to beat the flames, they're gonna burn alive."
"Show me the way." The warrior had given up trying to keep the rain out of her face and ran after the man trudging through the thick mud concentrating on keeping her balance.
They reached the house that looked more like a bonfire.
"Hoe mnay are in there?" The warrior asked.
"Two boys." Karl told her, Xena quickly examined the house, there was a small hole in the roof she could somersault into, she paced backwards in the mud and ran forwards. "iyiyiyiyiyiyiy." Her battle cry rang through the air as she jumped with precision landing exactly into the hole she had intended, her feet found a safe landing and her knees bent to impact it, near perfection.
Looking around all she could see was thick blak smoke.
"Hello? Is anybody here?" She shouted ducking low below the smoke and avoiding the flames that spat at her.
"Over here!" It was a child's voice, she made her way to where the voice came from, the fire threatened to burn her and the smoke blinded her, she let her warrior intincts take over and closed her eyes.
"Keep talking to me so I can find you." She cried.
"We're over here. please hurry I don't know how long we can hold on." The voice was slightly hoarse, she knew she was near and could make out the figures of two people huddled into the corner of the room bneath a table, she quickly joined them, they were young boys, fear covered their face along with the black soot.
"Are either of you hurt?" She asked.
"My brother's hurt his leg." The older one replied shuffling slightly to let the warrior see his younger brother's leg.
Xena scrutinised the wound, it was a large contussion that bled profusedly just above his knee, Xena nodded ripping the boys trousers creating a small bandage like holder which she quickly wrapped around his thigh and tightened it to try and stop the bleeding, the boy cried slightly as she did so.
"I'm sorry, that's the only thing I can do before I get you out of here." She sighed.
"You are going to get us out?" The younger boy asked.
"Of course I am."
There was a loud crash followed by an explosion beside them as a section of the roof caved-in, Xena wuickly covered the boys as best as she could while the flames spat angrily at her back also being pounded by the flying wood and stone from, the roof. The crackling of the fire seemed to get louder, which meant closer, Xena had to get them out, she turned to look at the room for any sign of an exit, the warrior was greeted by thick smoke that stung her eyes and quickly filled her lungs created a short coughing fit. Holding her breath and looking through slit eyes she watched where the smoke was escaping, out of the roof obviously, but some of it was being sucked out of a small window to their right, it was high up in the wall but was their only chance.
"Okay." She said turning back to the boys. "I know a way out." Turning to the older one. "I'll carry your brother, you hold onto my hand and do not let go, both of you need to try and hold your breath for as long as possible while I take you okay?" Both boys nodded. Xena didn't waste any time, she gently dragged the injured boy from beneath the table and scooped him up into her arms, cradling him like a baby, Xena could see he was trying desperately to hold his breath, she felt a hand wrap tightly around hers and, smiling slightly, began her journey towards the window, climbing over small pieces of rubble and trying as best as she could to avoid any contact with the furious flames that surrounded them they reached the window. The warrior gently lowered the boy and spoke to his brother.
"What's your name?" She asked.
The boy let out a small breath realising he could stop holding his breath as they were low and beneath the thickest smoke.
"My name's Cal, my brother is Del."
"Okay Cal, I'm gonna lift you through the window and then you have to help me get your brother through." She explained.
"What about you?" Cal asked.
"I'll be fine." The warrior smiled.
The boy nodded, Xena set Del down on the floor, the boy had began to lose consciousness from his wound. She grabbed Cal and lifted him towards the window, he managed to easily crawl through it, next she lifted Del, he was weary and managed to cling to the window and slowly pull himself through, his brother caught him safely on the other side. Now it was the warrior's turn, she jumped for the window feeling every muscle disagree with her action she slwoly pulled herself up the wall dragging her firmly battered body behind her and pushing herself through the window, grass broke her fall as she overtoppled out of the window landing on her elbow and managing to gracely wind herself. Standing she felt a small hand wrap around her upper arm and pull her arm, she turned to see cal.
"You are a brave warrior, thank you." He smiled, Xena ruffled through his hair. "Come on." She hadn't been called that in a long time but knew that they were still in danger form the whole collapsing, she picked Del up and the three of them ran around to the front of the building to face cheering villagers at their sight. Karl stepped forwards and hugged each boy individually then looked up at the battered warrior.
"Thank you Xena, they're my nephews." He explained.
"I'm glad I could help, you'd better take them back to the tavern, Del's leg is hurt badly."
"Will do." Karl smiled taking the boy from Xena's arms.
"And Karl." The warrior spoke as the man turned around. "Could you see if Gabrielle's okay, make sure she's not overworking herself." The warrior told him, he nodded not sure if he should be concerned that *she* may be overworking herself.
"Will do, thanks again."
Gabrielle still worked on her patients, she had been volunteered to take charge of the tavern, although flattered, wasn't sure if she could handle it, worrying about Xena, she finished bandaging a man's forearm, somebody tapped her on the shoulder, she turned in hope of seeing Xena's crooked smile looking down on her.
"Excuse me Miss, could you help my friend, he's bleeding quite badly."
Gabrielle nodded trying to hide her disappointment as she followed the woman over to her friend, the man sat up against the wall, his arm badly damaged, Gabrielle quickly set to work on it.
After finishing she wiped away the perspiration forming on her forehead.
"Gabrielle maybe you should slow down." Jared suggested from behind her, she turned to him and smiled.
"These people need my help."
"You look worried about someone, who?" He was good at defining expressions.
"A friend, she's out there helping bring people in."
Karl walked over to them having handed the boys over to someone who could take care of them.
"Gabrielle? Xena sent me to check on you, check you're not overworking yourself."
"Xena? How is she? Is she okay?" The bard asked quickly.
"She's pretty beaten up, but she's a strong woman and she's worried like Tartarus about you." The man explained, Gabrielle smiled, shaking her head, Xena was so selfless sometimes it had actually annoyed Gabrielle.
Xena wandered around trying to find people amongst the wreckages, the rain still beat down.
There was a large crash behind her and the last thing Xena saw was the huge explosion of a house as a lightning bolt hit it.
The tavern shook violently as the bolt shook the whole village.
"By the Gods what in Tartarus was that?" Jared cried. A man burst into the tavern, shocked by what he had seen.
"Zeus!" He cried. "A lightning bolt hit the town hall, it just collapsed." He shouted.
There was gasps and cries coming from around Gabrielle, the town hall was the biggest building, any people around it would be crushed, the helpers, Xena.
Gabrielle ran forwards and grabbed the man.
"Xena? Did you see Xena?" She asked trying to calm herself.
"I don't know, the thing fell everywhere, I couldn't see much, she was near it looking for more survivors, I couldn't see, I don't think she could have gotten out of the way in time, I'm sorry." The whole tavern had turned quiet as they watched the young bard shake her head, they all knew the warrior and the bard ahd been close, it was evident in their behaviour that they were bonded with a strong love like no other, each other's second half.
"She can't be d...she's not." Gabrielle pushed the man aside but was grabbed by the arm, looking around she saw Karl.
"What're you doing Gabrielle?"
"I'm going out to find her." The bard cried releasing a small sob.
"No Gabrielle it's too dangerous out there for you."
"Xena needs my help."
"And these people need yours, I'll go." Karl didn't mean to say it but it just slipped out seeing the young bard's distraught face.
"Please, just stay here Gabrielle, I'll go and find her." Karl told her. Gabrielle didn't realise it but she was shaking, tears were flowing down her dirty face, Jared quickly had his arm around her which she quickly shrugged away with a grunt, the man tried again resisting the small protest he got and led her to a chair.
"Let Karl go, he's stronger, he'll find her."
Karl turned to the tavern.
"Anybody who's fit to walk and lift then please help me, there are men and women still out there, trapped, they need our help." He shouted, there were mutters amongst the crowd.
More shouts came and soon a party of people had gathered up and prepared to go out into the darkness and stand under the relentless rain.
"Good luck." Jared told Karl then turned his attention back to the distraught bard.
"Gabrielle, your friend, I'm sure she's strong, it..."
"I know." The bard smiled slightly rising to her feet, her eyes had a far away look as though hypnotized, she returned to her work. Jared guessed it was to take her mind off the numbing pain, in fact, he knew it was.
Xena opened her eyes which forced a small groan from her lips, she couldn't move, the rain still pounded against her, with relief she realised she could feel the heavy droplets splash against her legs. She faced the night sky flat on her back, it was hard to open her eyes without them painfully filling with rain, looking down at her body she could see she was wedged under a large beam of wood which lay across her ribs making it hard to breath. "What in Hades had happened?"
Looking around she could see the carnage of a building having crumpled beneath the power of the Gods, it missed in with other fallen buildings and she assumed the house had just collapsed on her, a case of wrong time wrong place.
Moving her hand to wipe the rain off her face she felt the sticky touch of blood running down her cheek, in confirmation she looked at her hand to see it covered by thick crimson blood slowly being washed away by the rain.
"Hello! Is anybody here?!" It was a shout not far from Xena which immediately caught her attention.
"O..Over." Her cry came out as a hoarse whisper, she tried to remove the beam with her free hand but found that, along with her weakened condition, the pain was unbearable, she reached for her chakram which was luckily still there and threw it into the air, spinning against the rain it made a loud whooshing noise which caught the attention of helpers near her.
"Over there!" Karl cried pointing to the place where the chakram landed.
Three men scrambled over the fallen town hall towards the warrior, Karl got there first.
"Thank the Gods you're alive." Karl whispered, another man came to his side.
"Callen, help me lift this beam off her." He instructed. "Rafe, you slide her out form the beam once we lift it."
Rafe, Xena opened her eyes as the name spun through her mind, the con man who had managed to steal her heart, she looked around in confusion wondering if it was him.
The warrior felt the beam being lifted form her and tried as best as she could to supress the pain, hands slipped underneath her armpits and gently pulled her too safety, she looked up to see the same handsome man she had fallen for.
Yep, it was him, his tall figure leaning over her, his handsome features staring down into her face, he had blood on his face though, his clothers were ripped and soot refused to be washed away from his face by the rain.
"Are you okay? Are you hurting?" The con man asked.
"I'm fine, I need to get back to Gabrielle." The warrior grunted sitting up to the pain.
"Woh! Xena, what's the rush? You're hurt." Rafe observed.
"What're you doing here?" The warrior asked.
"Visiting my brother Callen." Rafe nodded his head to the man beside him, he returned his gaze to the beautiful woman who had stolen his heart. For a moment he was caught up in those deep blue mystical orbs that looked straight at him.
A man ran towards them out of breath, Xena managed to stand up with the help of Rafe.
"Please help, there's people stuck in a house near the river, they're going to be swept away if we don't hurry."
"Let's go." Xena said stepping into Rafe's hand.
"The only place you're going is back to the tavern to get checked up." He protested. "We can handle this.
"They need my..."
"Xena." Karl interrupted. "Gabrielle, she...she thinks you're dead." The barman watched the horror spread on the warrior's face.
"I've got to tell her..."
"Go back to the tavern Xena we'll be fine." Rafe reassured her, the warrior nodded.
"Take care Rafe."
Xena ran back to the tavern scrambling over carnage and other obstacles, the rain not stopping her she stood outside the tavern doors and took a deep breath, stepping in she could see how busy it was, there were so many injured people.
Jared saw the warrior first, he was on the other side of the room from Gabrielle who was bent down helping a small girl, the lost stare still in her eyes.
Xena's eyes fell on Gabrielle, she quietly walked over to the bard weaving through the injured people until she stood a metre from the bard, the tavern fell silent.
Gabrielle could feel someone stand behind her, she could feel the presence of someone staring into her back, standing slowly, she kept her face impassive, just in case it was someone else needing her help, the smallest hope that Xena was still alive was slowly falling away, but now, hands rested gently onto her shoulders she closed her eyes a tear fell down her dirt stained cheeks, the tavern watched in awe.
The bard turned around slowly hoping against hopes. Her eyes met deep blue and suddenly she found she couldn't stand the pain anymore, her body shook in wracking sobs as she realised it was Xena, she quickly dived into the warrior's body throwing her arms around Xena's mid-section hugging her as tightly as she could. Xena looked down at the bard's head that buried into her, kissing it gently, she stroked her fingers through Gabrielle's hair.
"It's alright Gabrielle, I'm here, I'm sorry I wasn't, I'm so sorry." She whispered leaning her cheek into the bard's head. It seemed like an eternity before Gabrielle stepped backwards. "Thank the Gods Xena." Was all she could say, at the same time it seemed the that all the people in the tavern had to remined themselves to breath again, for some, the reunion had brought tears, for others, it had brought hope.
Xena took Gabrielle's face into her two hands wiping a tear from the bard's face with her thumb.
"I'm sorry Gabrielle." She whispered hoarsely, checking over the bard's body for any injuries, there were none, just fatigue.
Gabrielel looked at Xena's face to see the blood dripping from a cut above her eyebrow, she looked over the warrior and saw horrible bruise covering all of her exposed skin.
"Xena you're hurt." She whispered touching the cut on the warrior's face.
"It's nothing Gabrielle." The warrior replied smiling at the concern, though she could feel the crushing pain in her ribs rise she didn't want to worry about the bard and would deal with it later, for some reason he mind was occupied with something else, Rafe.
"Xena you're not going out there again are you?" The bard asked seeing the far away look on the warrior's face.
"Gabrielle there may be other people out there that..."
"Please." It was the one word that broke the warrior's heart as she saw the hurt in her friend's eyes.
"I know it sounds selfish Xena, but I don't think I could bare losing you again."
"Okay." The warrior whispered. "I won't go out again, I'll stay here with you."
"Thank you." They wrapped into another embrace.
It had been at least half an hour since Xena had unexpectedly been reunited with Rafe, now she was beginning to worry.
The villagers, Xena and Gabrielle had began again to help the injured, there seemed so many, but that was too be expected, nearly the whole town had been destroyed. It, at first had reminded Xena of the Thessalian temple they had stopped by in and helped the injured, she had felt good about helping, until Gabrielle had become one of those injured, the warrior shuddered and pulled herself from the thought, she was wrapping a bandage around a man's leg the wariror herself had, with a small protest, let the bard bandage the contussion running across her left eyebrow, the man she was helping was unconscious so it wasn't necessary to talk to him, not that Xena would have been much good, not as good as Gabrielle, she turned to watch the bard tell a short story to a small girl who couldn't find her parents, the girl was encapsulated by the story and was urging Gabrielle to go on, Xena had to smile at her friend's gift.
The tavern was packed full of people, people helping, people injured, people desperately trying to find others, it was a big tavern and the bard was suprised how full it had gotten.
Jared sat beside her and watched her tell a story to a small story, after finishing he spoke to her.
"That was beautiful." He smiled.
"Thanks." Gabrielle hesistated. "Look, Jared, I'm sorry about before about pushing you away, I just, I was upset."
"Gabrielle you don't need to apologise, I know exactly what you were going through." He rested a hand onto the bard's.
"Did you nearly lose someone close?" The bard asked watching the change in the man's eyes as they seemed to drift off to another place.
"No." The man shook his head and looked up to the confused bard. "I did lose someone close." He sighed.
"I'm sorry." The bard offered. "You wanna talk about it?"
"Maybe later, we've got some people to fix." He smiled standing and offering a hand out to Gabrielle who took it with a smile.
Xena was just about to move to another patient when the door burst open, it was Karl, he was soaked to the bone carrying a limp form over his shoulder.
"Xena! I need your help, Rafe's not breathing." He cried running towards her, Xena looked around, there were not tables left, just the floor.
"Put him onto the floor." She said quicklier than intended as blood rushed furiously through her pounding heart, Gabrielle was beside Xena.
"Rafe?" She askedr quizzically.
"He found me, he went on to help some people trapped in a house." Xena told her easing the limp body to the floor, looking, Rafe's face was beyond pale and a slighty bluish colour had formed around his lips, his body was crenched with river water.
"He needs air." Xena whispered gently tilting Rafe's head back, holding his nose and breathing heavily into his mouth, villagers looked on with amazement at the warrior's actions.
Xena continued to do so then remembered again the Thessalian temple and she had banged on the bard's chest, and so she began between breathing intervals, to bang onto the man's chest.
"Come on Rafe."
Gabrielle looked up to the distraught barman.
"We were trying to get this woman and her child out from underneath her house which had collapsed near the river, with the rain an' all the river was overflowing and drowning her and her baby, we had them out but the current was too strong and they were carried away by it, Rafe ran after them and climbed onto a branch that hung over the rive, he caught them well, strong bloke he is, and swung them to safety, but the branch snapped under their weight and he fell into the water, he went so fast that we couldn't catch him until...he went over the waterfall, he must have been in the water for about five minutes, I dunno, is he gonna make it?"
Xena continued to breath into his mouth, anger that he wasn't responded she thumped his as hard as she could inot his ribs, Rafe shot up into sitting position coughing up mouthfuls of water, everyone sighed, Xena looked up to Gabrielle.
"He's got hypothermia, we need to get him warm." The warrior stated, Gabrielle nodded. "How about in our room, in our bed." She suggested, Xena nodded.
"Karl help me."Xena grabbed Rafe's arms as he swung from unconsciousness and back. He had little time if he didn't get warm soon.
"Where are the others?" Xena asked.
"They're coming, the woman with the baby won't leave her son whose still trapped."
"Damn it, she needs to get out of the cold."
Jared stepped forwards. "I'll go get her." He volunteered, Gabrielle turned to him. "It's okay, I can take care of myself." He smiled, Gabrielle smiled patting him on the upper arm. "You make sure you do."
He left quickly into the dark night.
Xena and Karl gently lay Rafe onto the bed the two women had previously occupied, Xena immediately set to work peeling his soaking clothes from his body.
"Is that necessary?" Karl asked.
"His clothes are wet, we have to get him dry, do you have anymroe torches so I can see a bit better?" The warrior asked, Karl nodded and left the room.
"Xena?" Rafe's voice was weak and, as he opened his eyes, his teeth began to chatter.
"Rafe, can you hear me?" Xena asked sitting beside him gently running the back of her hand down his cheek, he was so cold.
"Yeah." He replied. "I'm cold, so cold." He muttered.
Xena took the rest of his top to reveal a muscular torso she didn't know belonged to the owner, every tanned muscle was rippled with perfection, she moved down to his trousers.
"Xena...why are you taking my clothes off, shouldn't we..shouldn't we get to know each other a bit better?" He smiled through cold lips, Xena smiled back slightly raising an eyebrow with warning.
"Your clothes are wet, we need to get you dry." She explained peeling off his trousers, he lapsed back into blacknes, Gabrielle appeared, slightly shocked at the sight of Xena undressing Rafe, she stood in the doorway with a pile of blankets.
"I thought these would be of use."
"Great." The warrior smiled, Gabrielle handed her them and watched in amusement as she placed blankets in his armpits, groin, back of the knees, small of the back and neck.
"What are you doing?" The bard asked.
"I'm placing blankets where heat is lost most quickly throughout the body." She told her pulling the blanket over the whole of the con man's body, stepping back beside Gabrielle she looked at the exhausted bard.
"Gabrielle, you should get some rest." She suggested with concern.
"There's still people who need me in the tavern." She sighed.
"Gabrielle, you won't be much use as a walking zombie." Xena smiled slightly and was grateful for the returned smile from the bard, she looked like she would collapse at any moment.
"No Xena, I'd prefer to stay with the villagers." The bard protested.
"I don't know what this world would do without people like you Gabrielle." The warrior smiled palcing a hand onto her shoulder.
The bard blushed at the rare compliment from the warrior and, even as a bard, was lost for words.
"Thank you." She whispered. "How's your head?"
"It's fine, nothing to worry about."
"You hurting anywhere else?" The bard asked cautiously.
"No, I'm fine, how about you?"
"Don't change the subject Xena, I know you're hurt, I can tell you're trying to hide something, what is it?"
Xena had to admit Gabrielle was clever, she shrugged.
"I just got the wind knocked out of me, crushed my ribs a bit." The warrior explained, Gabrielle looked at the warrior with ehr hands on her hips demanding more.
"Alright, I think I've cracked two, but it's nothing that I can't handle, they're not puncturing the rib or anything."
"Why didn't you say?"
"I didn't want to worry you."
Karl entered with two torches and Xena was relieved by his presence and her dismissal.
"Got two more torches." He smiled placing them into holders on the wall.
"Y'know, somebody once told me, that the best way to heat somebody up, was using somebody elses body heat." The barman nodded, Xena raised an eyebrow to the suggestion.
"It's true." He shrugged his shoulders, Xena knew it was, she had seen people share a bed with an injured person like Rafe, she had done it with Gabrielle on cold nights.
"Well, then, there's only one thing to do." Xena sighed taking off her brass breastplates.
"Xena, you're not going to..."
"Strictly business Gabrielle, if it's what'll help Rafe pull through, then it's worth it." The warrior explained.
"Uh huh." The bard nodded crossing her arms, Xena shot a warning look at Gabrielle as she shrugged her leathers off and stood in her shift. She walked over to the bed as Rafe began to wake.
"Rafe?" Gabrielle was by the bed too.
"Hmm." He opened his eyes to the two women. "I'm cold." He muttered.
"Rafe, I'm going to get into the bed with you, it'll help you get warmer okay?" The warrior asked.
"Sure, I could use the company."
Xena shook her head and gently climbed into the bed taking away all the blankets from his skin, and replcing it with her own, he lay on his side, his teeth strongly chattering while she lay behind him hugging his body up into hers wrapping her storng arms across his naked body and placing her bent knees into the crook of his.
"It's better." Rafe muttered closing his eyes and hoping the coldness would go away, eventually Morpheus took him.
Xena rested her head on the pillow, inches from Rafe's, she loked over at Gabrielle who sat in the chair exhausted, 'maybe it should be Gabrielle sleeping instead of me' the warrior mused, she caught the bard's eye.
"Gabrielle, get some rest." She whispered.
Karl moved to stand beside the bard.
"She's right, you two, and Rafe, have saved many lives tonight, there's no patient now that needs immediate medical help, get some rest Gabrielle before you become a victim too." He whispered placing a gentle hand onto her shoulder, the bard's shoulders sagged as she gave in to the temptaion.
"Okay, but I'll be up at the crack of dawn."
Both the warrior and the bard shared their first laugh together in what seemed like a long time.
The village turned quiet as the wounded and healthy fell asleep, soon they would know the extent of the damage done by Hera.
Gabrielle collapsed into a bed Karl had put in the room next to Rafe and Xena's and instantly fell asleep.
As soon as the bard kleft, Xena slipped the bandage from around her head and discarded it onto the floor.
Rafe woke, his temperature had rised to almost normal due to the profound heat in the room, he felt the rhythmic touch of Xena's breath against his back and sighed, Xena woke.
"Rafe? You okay?" She asked with blatant concern in her voice.
"I'm fine." He whispered. "Just a bit cold." He smiled.
"You'll be fine in the morning."
"How far away's that?" He asked.
"About five hours, why?"
"Just wanted to know how long I have to enjoy this."
He felt the warrior tense slightly and turned to face her in her grip.
"Thank you for doing this Xena, for helping me get better, I know it's proabably awkward for you."
"Not at all." Xena had released her grip as she stared into the con man's face, she could just make him out, in the darkness her senses were twice as strong, she had practised for many weeks with a blindfold on, fighting, eating, riding, but now, this close to Rafe, they all failed her, and before she knew it, his lips had closed onto hers, his hand had moved onto her thigh gently stroking it. Her first intinct was to pull away, but she found she was enjoying it, and returned it. The kiss deepened, the warriors lid a hand onto his face and one onto the man's well-muscled chest, Rafe moved his hand onto her back, pulling her closer to him, he gently touched her face, neither breaking the kiss, Rafe slowly rolled himself onto the warrior and the night turned out to be very special for the both of them...
They had stopped occasionally on there journey, hearing that Hera's curse had once again struck, Hercules knew he had to be there to pick up the pieces, he regretted he had to be there but hearing Xena and Gabrielle were there made things seem better. But if they had been injured he would throttle Hera with his own hands.
They turned a croner and entered the devastated village, all that left standing was a tavern with a few buildings standing beside it, Iolaus gasped at the horror, villagers were picking through the carnage and Hercules approached someone, it was Karl.
"Excuse, what happened here?" He asked the man.
"Hera happened, sent a curse on our damn town, if it wasn't for the warrior princess and her friend most people would have died.
"Xena and Gabrielle are here?" He asked seeing the look of excitement appear on Iolaus' face.
"Yes, they're in the tavern, Xena was out saving people whole o'last night, the little one was tending the wounded, keepin' there spirits up an' all." Hercules nodded.
"Could you take me to them?"
"Er...okay, I guess, you're friends right?" He asked wearily.
"Right." Hercules smiled as the mna led them to the tavern, walking through the injured Hercules and Iolaus stopped a couple of times to help some of them.
Gabrielle woke to an unfamiliar scene, slowly, her memory came back to her and she suddenly sat up wiping the hair from her face. She had to help the villagers, see Xena and Rafe, pushing the blanket off her she quickly got dressed, grabbed her staff and left the room, she opened the door to see if anyone was in, to her suprise both were fast asleep, she approached quietly and smiled at the site. The tables had turned, Rafe was now the once huddling Xena who was snuggled tightly into him, she also noticed that her shift wasn't on her, the bard raised her eyebrows and quickly supressed a small laugh, glad that they had *finally* got together.
Karl entered behind her followed by Hercules and Iolaus, who in turn mirrored the same image of shock in their faces.
"Hercules! Iolaus!" Gabrielle cried in a soft whispeer throwing her arms around Iolaus.
"Hi Gabby." Iolaus chuckled.
Gabrielle turned to Hercules who was staring at Xena, she looked so peaceful lying there.
"That's Rafe, he had hypothermia, Xena was trying to warm him up with her body heat." The bard explained.
"Looks like she helped him with a lot more!!" The barman laughed slapping his thigh.
"I see." Hercules added.
"Gabrielle, are you okay? We heard you'd been through alot." Iolaus asked.
"I'm fine, Xena was the one with the injuries, but she's fine too, can we get something tooeat, let them sleep a little longer." The bard pleaded.
"Okay." Iolaus smiled taking the bard's arm and wlaking her too the main tavern.
"So who's this Rafe?" Hercules asked.
"Uh oh, someone's jealous." Iolaus laughed nudging his friend.
"No I'm not." Hercules replied quickly
Iolaus raised his eyebrow urging for his friend to tell the truth.
"Okay okay, I'm a little jealous, but I'm happy for her, what we had was a long time ago, and over now, what's left is mutual respect." The demigod explained.
"Who is he anyway?" Hercules repeated.
"He's a con man." The bard told them. "I mean a con man with a heart." She quiakly told them to their relief, she continued to tell the story of Xena and Rafe as they quickly had something to eat beofre moving on to help the injured.
Xena woke realising she was late getting up, she opened her eyes and adjusted them to the sunlight, turning slightly she saw Rafe's eyes slowly opening.
"Rafe?" She whispered.
"How're you feeling?"
"Very good." He smiled kissing the back of her head, the warrior smiled, tempted not to get up, but knowing there were people needing her help.
"I have to get up now, there's still people who need my help, I think it's be best if you stayed here." She suggested.
"No, I'm feeling okay, and I think you could do with a little help."
"Okay, but any weird feelings and you're going back to bed again." The warrior told him as she sat up in bed and grabbed her shift.
"You never told me you had a brother." The warrior inquired.
"You never asked." Rafe shrugged.
"What happened to you and Eldon?"
"Nothing, we're still...in business, he had to go home, some kind of personal emergency and I thought I'd visit my brother, I heard you were here and thought I could catch up with you and, well, talk." He told her putting his clothes back on.
"Callen, is that your brother?"
They were both dressed quickly, neither could keep there eyes off each other as they made their way down the stairs.
There was still quite a panic between the villagers, wounded were still sprawled across tables, nobody had been hurt seriously, a figure approached the two, it was Callen.
"Rafe! Thank the gods you're okay." He smiled hugging his brother.
"The gods had nothing to do with it." He replied smiling and nodded at Xena, Callen turned to her and held out his hand, the warrior gripped it.
"Thank you Xena."
"He did all the work." Xena pointed out.
"Have you eaten?" Callen asked.
"I'm not hungry." Rafe told him.
"I think you should eat something Rafe, you're still weak, food will build up your strength." Xena lectured.
"Yes ma'am." He saluted.
"These people still need help, you two go on and eat, I'll be along soon." The warrior told them, neither wanting to disagree with her, they both nodded and made their way to where Karl was handing out food.
Xena turned to the first injured person she saw, he was a young boy with a head injury, Xena quickly changed his bandages, he had a fever. The warrior placed a wet cloth over his forehead to cool him, it was all she could do for now. Looking around most of the villagers were taking care of the wounded, the warrior decided to take a lok at the ouside damage and find Gabrielle.
Then a thought came to her mind 'Argo!' She shot outside faster than lightning and ran around the back of the tavern, by the time she reached the stables her lungs were begging for breath, she walked in, relief quickly creating new features on her face as she heard the familiar snort of Argo.
"I know boy, you're hungry, sorry I couldn't get here earlier." She sighed as the horse nuzzled her shoulder while she fed him some oats.
"You'd think the horse was your best friend." Xena quickly whipped around to see the bard leaning on her staff and smiling at the warrior.
"Hello Gabrielle." She smiled as the bard walked towards her and began patting the mare.
"You okay?" The warrior asked.
"I'm fine Xena, it's your head I'm worried about." Gabrielle said touching the darkened tear of skin above the warrior's eyebrow.
"I'm fine Gabrielle." She replied brushing away the bard's tender touch. "I'm just glad we both made it through." The warrior squeezed Gabrielle's forearm.
"You sleep okay?" Xena asked.
"Oh fine, speaking of which...Rafe." A huge grin appeared on the bard's face. "I thought you'd be up early this morning, I went to check on Rafe, and you were still there, snuggled tightly together like..." The warrior nudged Gabrielle out of the story. "Gabrielle! I can explain."
"Yeah, well it's not me you should explain it to."
"Uh huh, and who should I then?"
"Me." It was a deep voice that sprang onto the wariror from behind who immediately recognised it, she turned to see the huge demigod, standing with his arms crossed smiling.
"Hercules." She smiled warmly as he joined them. "What're you doing here?" She asked.
"This is Hera's doing." He sighed throwing his arms into the air. "It's the least I can do to help them."
Iolaus appeared behind him.
"Hi Xena, would've caught up with you earlier but you were, well...busy." A crooked grin appeared on his face.
"I'm never gonna live this down am I?"
"Nope." The three of them replied in unity causing laughter.
"Gabrielle's told me about him, a con man?" Hercules asked.
"Yes a con man, he's not just a con man y'know, that's just his profession."
"Xena?" It was Rafe's voice, coming from the entrance of the stables.
"In here Rafe." She called, Hercules watched with interest to find out who was Xena's new companion, Gabrielle described him as 'tall dark and handsome', he seemed to live up to it. Rafe and Callen appeared.
"Hi." He smiled at Xena finding it hard to look away.
"Xena shook herself out of the daydream she and Rafe seemed to be in together.
"R..Rafe this is Hercules and Iolaus, and I'm sure you remember Gabrielle." Xena introduced him.
"Hi." He smiled shaking Hercules and Iolaus' hand.
"I'm glad your ankle's better Gabrielle." He smiled.
To be continued, yeah I know itís not exactly a cliffhanger!
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