The first thing Alera noticed was their queen, Gabrielle, backing
into her hut. The second thing was the reason for her unusual entry: A
pallet borne by four strong Amazons, on which lay an obviously irritated
"This is ridiculous," Xena grumbled.
"Xena, please. We've been over this. You said you'd do this for
Xena rolled her eyes, but remained where she was.
Gabrielle kept her gaze fastened to the pallet and its occupant as
they were lowered carefully to the floor of the healer's establishment.
"Is Ephiny around?" she asked, tucking the blanket around
Her Amazon escorts shook their heads. "She's with a hunting
party," one offered. "They should be back in a few days."
"Rats." Gabrielle turned to the young women. "Thank
you for carrying her. You did a wonderful job." With a subtle hand
gesture, she dismissed the beaming helpers, leaving the queen and her
friend alone with the healer and her apprentice. Over the next long
watched as Xena was poked and prodded, grudgingly acceding to
requests to turn onto her side, raise her arm, take deep breaths--
"Xena, stop that!"
The warrior puffed out her cheeks and expelled the breath she had
"You were lucky," the healer announced. "I think
you'll be all right if you rest it for about a week. No running. No
riding. No sparring." She retied the small bag of pain-killing
herbs from which she had spiced her patient's tea. "No sex.
Xena's hand snaked out to Alera's wrist. "What?"
"Your back needs complete rest." Alera pried the warrior's
fingers from her wrist. "Maybe a slow walk once or twice a day,
"No sex?" Xena demanded.
"Look, Xena," Alera replied, "I'm sure an Amazon
village must seem like a smorgasbord to you, but you'll just have to
pass up the finger foods for a week. I'm sure you can manage it."
"She can," Gabrielle said firmly.
"This is ridiculous," Xena insisted again. She turned to
the Amazon queen. "I told you there's nothing--"
"It's not nothing," the healer's unwelcome voice
interjected. "Any significant strain before it heals and you could
have back problems the rest of your life."
Xena stared coldly at her.
"You'll be fine," Gabrielle said. "It's not like we
came here for that, or anything."
Alera snorted. "Maybe you didn't, but they've been lining up
three deep here since they heard the Warrior Princess was in the
Gabrielle frowned. "They have?" Her gaze shifted to Xena,
who shook her head.
"I'm sure they haven't, Gabrielle," Xena replied.
"They'd have no reason to think . . . ." She left the sentence
"Well, anyway, you're under house arrest," the Queen
declared. She turned to the healer's assistant. "Inform the guards
that Xena is not to be permitted physical activity for one week."
She looked over at the agitated patient. "Of any kind."
"Uh . . . ." The girl was trapped in the ominous glare
directed at her from the Warrior Princess's bed.
"Xena, stop that!" Gabrielle beckoned to the girl.
"Come on. I'll tell them." She stepped through the curtain,
followed closely by the nervous assistant.
Xena rolled onto her side, and caught Alera's attention. "When
she comes back, I want you to tell her you made a mistake," she
The healer drew back her head. "It's not a mistake."
"Yes, it is," Xena said with deceptive calmness. "I
think you meant to say 'limited' movement. Some riding, some sparring,
"None, none, and none."
Xena's eyes narrowed. "No riding, no sparring, some sex."
"I know my business, warrior," the healer muttered as she
leaned over to place some clean towels on a shelf. "I'm not
changing my opinion just because you don't like being in a candy store
with your hands tied."
She turned back around to find the Warrior Princess standing directly
behind her. Instinctively, the redhead backed up, until she felt the
counter behind her back cutting off further retreat.
"Look, Xena, I'm only a few years older than you. I know how it
"No, I don't think you do," Xena said in a low voice.
"Let me tell you a story." She leaned forward, but Alera
decided against reminding the warrior at the moment not to stress her
back muscles. "This isn't a true story, understand? Because if it
were, I'd be in big trouble with
your Queen for telling it to someone other than her Regent. Got
"Not a true story," the healer repeated.
"That's right," Xena said. "Now, imagine there was a
warrior who travelled the countryside with a beautiful companion."
She paused to ensure that she had her listener's full attention.
"This warrior was still young enough to enjoy . . . having a good
time." Xena's hands rested on the table, one on each side of the
healer, and she leaned in a bit closer. "Imagine this warrior went
a looooong time without 'having a good time', because she had a thing
for her companion. Are you with me?"
Alera nodded, wide-eyed.
"Now, imagine that, one night by the campfire, this warrior
found out that her companion had a thing for her, too." Blue steel
bore into the healer's eyes. "Then imagine that, right in the
middle of the most incredible experience of the warrior's life" --
she turned her head for a moment, and Alera realized she was trying to
calm herself -- "they heard shouting, and the warrior had to get up
and go rescue some stupid travellers from a bunch of moronic,
inconsiderate sons of--" She paused to take a deep breath.
"Thugs," she finished with visible restraint.
Alera suspected that 'deceased' was another adjective which might now
apply to said ruffians.
"Imagine that the warrior had to slide down a cliff to save one
of the travellers, and rammed her back against an outcropping, and her
companion insisted that they rush to a nearby Amazon village instead of
. . . doing what the warrior wanted to do."
Their bard queen wasn't the only one who could spin a vivid tale,
"Got all that?" Xena asked.
She nodded again.
"Now, imagine that some quack healer in this Amazon village told
the warrior she couldn't finish what she'd started with her companion,
the sexiest, most desirable woman who ever lived."
Alera realized that Xena hadn't blinked since launching into her
story. What was it she had heard about about psychopaths and blinking?
"Did I mention that this warrior has killed many . . . many . .
. people?" Xena asked.
Alera shook her head.
"Now, what do you suppose would happen under that sequence of
"The warrior would go insane?" the healer guessed.
"And start hacking up Amazons?"
Xena nodded slowly.
"Starting with the healer?"
The warrior's head spun around to see a pair of angry green eyes
"What are you doing out of bed?" Gabrielle demanded.
"My back feels fine," Xena replied. She straightened
slowly, and returned to lie on the pallet. "In fact, I think Alera
has a clarification to make about that," she added.
Gabrielle turned to the third woman in the hut. "What is
The healer hesitated, then edged along the edge of the counter until
she was near the Queen. "Xena will be able to walk comfortably in
less than a week," she said uneasily, avoiding the icy expression
that she knew was waiting for the right words. "But . . .
it'sreallynotsafeforhertorideorsparor . . . engage in any strenuous
physical activity." She stepped behind Gabrielle, placing the
blonde woman between her and her patient.
A low growl emanated from the pallet.
"Xena! Stop that!"
* * *
Gabrielle reclined against the counter with a rueful smile.
"Only four more days," she said wistfully, then sighed.
"I don't think I can take it. All I think about is . . . ."
She cocked her head self-consciously. "You know."
"You and me both," Xena replied. She sat up.
"Gabrielle, I really do feel a lot bet--"
"No," Gabrielle interrupted. "Alera said a week. She's
"She'll need a healer when I get out of here," Xena
"I said . . . ." Xena thought fast, and then a sly smile
began to form. "I want you to come over here."
The bard stared at her suspiciously. "Why? What are you
"I'm thinking about what I was doing to you before we were
interrupted last week. Do you remember?" She enjoyed the flush that
spread across Gabrielle's face. She remembered, all right.
"Yes," the bard said quietly.
"We can do that, Gabrielle," Xena coaxed. "I can lie
still on my back."
"Your back wasn't still at the time," Gabrielle said.
"As I recall, your whole body was into it."
"That's because you're so delicious, Gabrielle," Xena said
seductively. "Do you know what I want to do to you?"
Gabrielle hesitated for a long moment, then finally looked up.
* * *
"Oh, gods," Gabrielle moaned. Her fingers wandered
restlessly across her own thighs, which rested along the edge of the
counter on which she was perched. "Xena, you're driving me
"Come over here and let me drive you crazier," Xena urged.
Gabrielle focused on her with difficulty. "No," she said.
"Letting you tell me all those things--"
"All those things I'm going to do to you."
"--was a bad idea," Gabrielle finished. "It'll just
make the next four days that much harder." She took a ragged
breath. "We can't, Xena. We can't risk your health."
Her tactical skills remaining unimpaired, Xena recognized the
finality of the bard's decision, but her eyes followed the meandering of
Gabrielle's fingertips . . . .
"All right," she conceded. "But just because I'm out
of commission doesn't mean you can't have some fun."
"I'm not coming near that bed."
"You don't have to," Xena replied. "You can have fun
where you are."
The bard's brow furrowed for a moment, and then she reddened.
"You mean . . . ? Xena . . . . I can't do that . . . ."
"Sure you can," Xena purred. "It'll be fun." She
met Gabrielle's gaze. "For both of us."
Gabrielle fiddled with the cloth of her skirt. "Xena . . .
," she scolded.
"C'mon, Gabrielle. I'm going nuts here." The warrior
brought out the ultimate ammunition. "Please?"
Gabrielle glanced nervously toward the door.
"Alera just left for lunch," Xena assured her. "She'll
be gone at least an hour. The guards never come in here."
Gabrielle laid a palm on her thigh uncertainly, and Xena licked her
"You won't . . . do anything to strain yourself?" Gabrielle
Xena shook her head.
"You just want to . . . watch?" Gabrielle blushed again.
Catching her lower lip in her teeth, Xena nodded.
After another moment, Gabrielle slowly slid her hand beneath her
* * *
A resounding crash of metal and pottery brought two panicked guards
into the healer's hut, stopping in their tracks at the sight of their
Queen on the floor beside the counter, attempting to wriggle out from
beneath the Warrior Princess.
"My Queen?" the first guard questioned tentatively.
The women on the floor looked up, and Gabrielle took the opportunity
to slide out from under her partner, straightening various items of
clothing as she emerged. Xena reluctantly returned to her bed.
"What's going on?" The healer's angry shout carried over to
them from the doorway.
"Xena forgot her instructions," Gabrielle huffed. "She
wanted some exercise, but of course she CAN'T DO THAT that for another
four days," she directed loudly toward the pallet.
The guards glanced at each other at the sound of the Warrior
Princess's snarl, and carefully gathered up the sword and chakram from
the corner as they slipped outside.
* * *
"Yeah, it's been very hard on her," Gabrielle agreed.
"On both of you, from what you've told me." Ephiny laid a
hand on her friend's forearm. "Which is wonderful news, by the
Gabrielle smiled. "Well, I am anxious to, you know, spend some
private time with Xena, but I'm still a little worried about her
From over the bard's shoulder, Ephiny caught sight of an unmistakable
figure approaching them.
"I'm going to suggest a long walk," Gabrielle continued.
"Then maybe a light practice with staffs. We'll take it slo--oh!"
Xena tossed the smaller woman over her shoulder, and strode toward
the Queen's hut.
Ephiny watched the retreating figures. "Slow," she
repeated. "Uh huh."
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