Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and all the other characters from the Xenaverse belong to MCA and company, I'm just playing in their sandbox for a while.

*Takes place after Amphipolis under Siege

A Bard's Nightmare

Darkness hugged the edges of the campsite with an unrelenting grip, yet within the light of the campfire there lingered the warmth of family. Leaning against Argo's saddle Xena leisurely perform her nightly ritual. The steady rasping of metal against stone brought a small smile to the young blond seated across the fire from her. Gabrielle looked up from her scroll to steal a glance of the resting warrior. The faint sound of humming left little doubt her friend was happy. With delight the younger woman watched as every few minutes the warrior would steal a sideways glance at the small bundle laying next to her. Satisfied all was well her attention turned back to the sword. The simple act touched Gabrielle's heart deeply. All was right with the world tonight, well almost.

Beside her Joxer scraped the last bits of food from the dinner pot.

"Satisfied?" asked the blond with a raised eyebrow.

Swallowing hard Joxer forced an answer pass the food in his mouth. "Hey I worked hard on this dinner and there is no reason to let it go to waste."

A soft cooing from the bundle silenced Gabrielle's reply. Quickly she rose to her feet moving toward the sound as Xena started to set aside her sword and stone.

"Xena let me." asked Gabrielle as she knelt beside the child.

With a slight shrug the warrior smiled crookedly at her friend. "Alright."

Gabrielle lifted the child held and her close. "Hey, little one. You're finally awake, huh?" Rocking the child gently she returned her spot near the fire.

Watching the bard Xena tried in vain to hide a grin. While the baby and the bard had gotten off to a rocky start they finally appeared to be bonding, much to the warrior's joy.

Sitting aside the empty dinner pot Joxer slipped closer to the petite blond. Reaching out he gently tickled Eve's chin and began making baby noises. Gabrielle's brow furrowed as she turned to him. "Joxer what are you doing?"

"What? She loves this. Watch." he made a silly face. In response Eve's blue eyes danced with delight and a smile crossed her face. "See, I told ya she loves it."

"She probably has gas." quipped the young woman.

"Huh." Joxer sniffed loudly and his face frowned up. "I think she's got more than gas."

"You think?" asked Gabrielle pulling the baby's diaper away for a quick look she and Joxer turned away at the offensive smell drifting up to greet them. "Oh..."

"Whoa..." gasped Joxer waving a hand in front of his face. "Definitely more than gas."

Gabrielle held the child at eye level. "Oh, Eve how can someone so small make such a mess?" The child simply grinned in response. "Xena you daughter needs you."

"Oh no, " quipped the warrior coyly. "You two wanted to play with her so you can clean her up while you're at it. Besides, you're closer to the supplies than I am."

Gabrielle knew from the warrior's wicked grin there would be no escaping the task. "Joxer would you..."

Before she could finish he jumped to his feet. "Hey, you know I really need to wash that dinner pot before that stuff hardens." Snatching up the pot he quickly backed away from the bard. "I'll be back shortly." Without a backwards glance he disappeared into the darkness.

Mumbling under her breath Gabrielle moved to retrieve the necessary items for the task at hand. Spreading out a small blanket near the fire, she laid Eve down and set to work. As she loosened the baby's diaper she spoke softly to the child, but loud enough so Xena could hear. "You know Eve your mother is a great warrior, she's fought giants, monsters and even Gods. She is the bravest woman I know, but..." leaning closer to the child and dropping her voice slightly as though sharing a secret. "She does have one little weakness."

From across the fire Xena continued to sharpen her sword though her attention was focused on the bard.

Knowing she had the warrior's attention Gabrielle continued. "Do you want to know what it is?" Eve smiled cooing loudly. Gabrielle smiled back, then she looked around as though checking to make sure no one was listening. "Well, her great weakness is dirty diapers." Eve laughed kicking her feet as though she had understood the joke. "Yes, I know it sad but true. The mighty Warrior Princess can be defeated with such a simply thing. Fighting monsters, giants and armies no problem. But, threaten her with a dirty diaper and she crumbles." The baby continued to laugh.

Xena cleared her throat loudly. "What type of foolishness are trying to corrupt my child with?" she asked with an eyebrow raised in a mock threat.

Without meeting the warrior's gaze Gabrielle fainted innocent. "Oh, nothing. I'm simply telling her the truth." Try as she might the blond could not keep a smile from creeping onto her face.

"Uh, huh." growled the warrior. "Well, maybe I should tell her about her Aunt Gabrielle's weakness for henbane nutbread."

Gabrielle's head turned quickly toward the warrior. "That was one time and besides I..."

She never finished the protest as Joxer came racing into the camp. "AMBUSH!!!" he screamed as an arrow struck him from behind knocking him face first into the dirt.

In an instant both women were on their feet with weapons in hand. Two men dressed in the black robes of the army of Hades leapt from the darkness charging Xena, she quickly dropped one with a thrust through the heart.

On the other side of the fire Gabrielle met her attacker head on and dispatched him in short order. The man barely struck the ground before two more appeared to take his place. From the corner of her eye Gabrielle could see Xena was now surrounded by nearly a half dozen men.

After a lengthy exchange of blows Gabrielle smashed the knee of one of the men who had moved in too close. As he cried out in pain she stabbed the sai deep into his exposed throat. She hated killing but it was obvious they were outnumbered and their attackers would show no mercy. Seeing an opening the other man attacked, but the young Amazon proved to fast for him, her blow sent him to Hades before his body struck the ground. Looking once more to the far side of the camp the young woman found she could not even see the warrior anymore for the small army surrounding her.

Gabrielle started to rush to her friend's aid but a soft cooing sound caught her attention. Joxer had managed to pull himself to the spot where Eve lay. Using his body as a shield he tried to cover the child. Unfortunately, one of the attackers had not been fooled. Straddling Joxer's body the man raised his sword for a deathblow. With a primal scream Gabrielle launched herself at the man, as her small, muscular frame crashed into him they both rolled to the ground. While Gabrielle's attack had taken the man off his feet, he quickly recovered. Rolling to her feet Gabrielle realized she had misjudged the distance between them. As she tried to back step the man threw himself forward, his sword glanced off the Amazon's exposed left side, leaving a trial of crimson. Gabrielle staring down at the wound and wondered at the lack of pain. Then a large boot crashed into her chest knocking her backwards. Air was forced from her lungs as she landed hard on her back. No longer did she wonder about pain as it spread through out her entire body. Gasping for air she saw the man dismiss her with a mocking sneer before turning once more to Eve. Fighting the pain she raised a sai and flung it at the man's back. Time seemed to stand still as she watched the weapon haul toward its target. There was a dull thud as the forked shaped weapon lodged itself deeply in the man's back. He staggered several steps before collapsing. Dragging herself to Joxer's side she checked for a pulse, tears welled up in her eyes when none was found. "Oh, Joxer." Beneath him Eve cooed softly. Gabrielle checked the child for injuries but found none.

On the other side of the campsite a familiar whooshing sound filled the air. Gabrielle watched as Xena's chakram split in two striking down the remaining attackers. As the last of the men fell, Gabrielle expected to find Xena standing, grim faced waiting to retrieve her weapon. Instead, as the last man fell there was no sign of the warrior, with it's mistress gone the chakram returned in the direction from which it had been released and buried itself in a nearby tree trunk.

With great effort Gabrielle forced herself to her feet. Half crawling, half stumbling she reached the other side of the camp. Among the fallen attackers, Xena lay on her side, her face covered by layers of black hair. Gabrielle pulled the large woman into her arms and cringed at the deep chest wound which no doubt had brought the warrior down. Slowly blue eyes flickered open and stared up at her. "Gab...rie..."

"Shhh." whispered the younger woman. "Save your strength."

"Eve..." gasped the warrior.

"She's fine."

"You...take...care...of...her...." begged Xena.

"Of course, I will." promised the bard.

"Good." smiled the warrior then she was gone.

"Xena." called Gabrielle staring down at the lifeless form in her arms. "Xena, wake up." tears began to well up in her eyes. "No, nooo...."

Gabrielle sat up her bedroll gasping her chest. Looking around the campsite she found Joxer in his usually spot by the fire near her feet and on the blanket beside her lay Xena with an arm gently wrapped around Eve's bundled form. As her heart rate began to slow, the young woman rose to hands and knees for a closer look. Both looked so peaceful. 'It was only a dream.' sighed the bard. Tracing a finger down the baby's cheek she leaned over and kissed Xena's forehead. The warrior stirred slightly but even in sleep she knew the bard's touch. Gabrielle smiled down at them. "I promise Xena, I will do whatever it takes to keep you and your daughter safe." Satisfied all was well she returned to her bedroll forcing away the last fragments of the dream. Watching the steady raise and fall of Xena's blanket she slowly slipped back into Moephous's realm, as her eyelids dipped closed one last time she whispered. "I promise."

The End

Onora

Hope you enjoyed the journey.