Chapter 3 ------------ The first thing I become aware of is sounds, there is a fire burning nearby and the mattress beneath me is much softer then the one in the caretaker's room. Even the blanket resting over me feels nicer. My eyes fight all efforts to open them. A strong, gentle hand strokes my cheek the touch is so familiar. "Xena." I whisper.

"I'm right here." Answers a husky voice I know so well. My heart skips a beat as I force my eyes open. There hovering over me is my lovely warrior. Crystal blue eyes, tear up as she smiles at me. "Welcome back."

Tears cloud my vision as I fight to speak. I try to reach for her I must know if she is real or another dream. Taking my shaking hand she kisses it before holding it to her tear stained cheek. "It's alright." she whispers. "I'm here now, you're safe."

Choking on my emotions I struggle to speak. "How?" I manage to whisper. She smiles. By the Gods that is the most beautiful sight I've ever seen.

"During the ambush I was knocked into the river, the current carried me downstream and somewhere along the way I must of passed out. Virgil fished me out and patched up my wounds." For the first time I notice the bandage beneath the edge of her shoulder armor. Her beautiful features grew serious. "I'm sorry I didn't get here sooner. By the time we found you they had already sent you to the arena.

"It's okay." I assure her. Suddenly my heart sinks. "Eve..."

"She's safe." Xena assures me. Leaning back she points across the room to another cot. There lies Eve though her back is to me I can tell she is sleeping. I breathe a sigh of relief. "Thank you." whispers Xena. My confusion must be visible on my face for she grins. "For keeping my daughter alive."

I smile. "Our daughter." I correct her teasingly. She laughs and leans forward placing a gentle kiss on my cheek. How wonderful her touch feels. Suddenly a twinge of fear grips me. "What about Caligula?" I ask.

Xena's jaw tightens as she speaks through clenched teeth. "He won't be bothering anyone, anymore."

There is no need to ask further, Caligula is dead. No doubt by Xena's hand. As much as I hate to admit it there is a part of me that hopes it wasn't too quick. Shaking the thought away I turn back to my warrior. I can't believe she is alive suddenly all of the pain, fear and guilt from the last few weeks rush forth and there is nothing I can do to hold back the flood. Sobbing, my body shakes with raw emotion and each shake brings a wave of pain from my wounds. Through my cries I can hear Xena trying to comfort me I reach for her but she is gone. My heart skips a beat as I wonder if the whole thing had been a dream. Then I feel the small bed sag slightly as she slips under the blanket beside me. Strong arms pull me close and I can hear her heartbeat as my head comes to rest on her chest. Her leather is surprisingly warm and soft as she holds me close. With reassuring whispers and gentle kisses she lulls me into calmness. This is no dream. It will take time for my wounds to heal and perhaps with time I'll learn to heal the damage to my soul. Either way I know Xena will be there to protect and watch over me. I find great comfort in that. Even though I'm no longer the native little farm girl from Poteidaia, I'm still grateful that she is my protector, teacher, family and above all else my friend. And I'll always be hers. There will be many battles to fight in the days to come but for the moment there is only me and my friend. I wouldn't have it any other way. With that thought I surrender to what I hope will be a peaceful sleep. --------- The End

Onora

Hope you enjoyed the journey.