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"Mother! Hold on!"
Son of a Bachee! Damn it this hurts!
Xena teetered on the edge of the cliff after losing her footing on a loose rock.
"No!" Hercules shouted to Eve who was going to try to scale back down to get a grasp on Xena. "I’m immortal. You two stay here," he ordered.
Xena’s good arm that she used to hold onto the over hanging brush was getting tired. She knew she couldn’t use the other one in spite of the pain. Herc had to hurry or she was certainly going to lose her grasp and fall to the valley below.
"Did you break it?" Herc asked when he got close enough.
Xena knew just what he was talking about. She could feel the arm limp at her side. "Yeah I think so . . . Gods be damned!"
"Just calm down," Herc said sensing her distress. "We’ll get you up the hill."
"That’s great but how am I supposed to get back down again like this?" Xena jabbed.
"Let’s concentrate on one problem at a time shall we?" Herc teased. "First, we have to get you back on the hill," he grinned warmly. He got his footing and reached out grabbing Xena by the back of her battle dress. With a strong heave he picked her up, tossed her to the hillside.
"Arrgghhhhh!" Xena exclaimed as she landed, sending an even larger shooting pain up her arm. "For crying out loud! Did you have to THROW me?!"
Eve and Ares came over at that point to inspect her as Herc climbed back up to join the others.
"Looks broken," Ares said assessing Xena’s limb.
"No kidding Plato," Xena snapped back.
"We’ll have to reset it," the ex-god told her. "It’s gonna hurt like Hades Xena," he warned her.
"How would you know Ares? At no point in your mortal life have YOU gone through this," Xena taunted.
"Hey," Ares said getting short. "It’s not my fault you’re so distracted thinking about that irritating blonde that you take a header down the mountain."
"You son of a - arggh." Xena was going stand up to charge Ares but when she put weight on her arm to hoist herself up she realized that wasn’t going to happen. Besides he’s right Xena considered. I think about her more and more each day. One way or another I’ve gotta find her and get things settled once and for all.
"Are you ready?" Herc asked as he walked over to get a look at Xena’s injury.
Xena turned her head, biting into the shoulder strap of her breastplate. She gave a brief nod.
"Ares, find two of the straightest pieces of wood you can find. We’ll have to make a splint . . . Come here Eve," Herc instructed. "Feel the arm . . . feel how it’s out of place? Good. Keep touching it until you feel it together again okay?"
Eve nodded nervously to Herc as she held her mothers arm.
"Ready?" Herc asked Xena. Xena closed her eyes. She bit down and nodded.
Without wasting another moment, Herc gave a light twist, given his strength. He didn’t want to make it worse than it already was or snap her arm off entirely.
"It’s in!" Eve told him.
"Good hold it there in place. Ares, the splints?"
Without comment, Ares handed over the pieces of wood he managed to locate on the hill.
"Very good," Herc commended as he examined the wood. Ares only nodded his thanks as he watched Herc and Eve wrap up Xena’s arm with bandages.
"Can I do something else?" Ares asked Herc.
"Yeah. Go get my pack," he answered. As Ares left, Herc turned back to Xena. "Iolaus made me take some of his special ‘brew’ for pain relief."
"What’s in it?" Xena asked, her breathing labored in trying to fight the agony of her arm.
"I don’t know," Herc chuckled. "He won’t tell me his ‘secret’. He made me take it on the trip . . . just in case," Herc added.
"He’s a good man," Xena said managing a grin through her pain.
"Yeah he certainly is," Herc agreed.
Ares returned with bag in hand and Herc weeding through it until he found the blue bottle. "Lift her up Ares," he told the ex-god.
Ares knelt behind Xena and brought her to a sitting position as gently as possible, letting the warrior princess use him as a cushion.
"Here Xena, drink this," Herc told her lifting the vile to her lips.
Xena took a few sips and made the most hideous of faces.
"Yeah it tastes pretty terrible huh? But trust me it works," he grinned. "Eve get the water skin. Don’t drink the water," Herc instructed Xena as Eve retrieved the water pouch. "Just swish it around your mouth to get rid of the taste. If you drink you might dilute the potion."
When Eve handed Xena the water skin she did as he advised. "Thanks," she said as she wiped her lips. "Thanks to all of you," she sighed.
Ares fingers absently found their way to Xena’s hair stroking it as he held her. For the first time since their adventure began Herc noticed . . . Ares really did love Xena. But judging by the look of discomfort that was rising to Xena’s face at the affection gesture, he would never have her devotion.
Herc felt sorry for Ares in some regard. Yes they had their share of quarrels to say the least but still . . . unrequited love was one of the worst feelings in the world. He knew the feeling. He knew that feeling with the warrior princess herself. He wanted her to be a part of his life forever but Xena had matters to attend to and would never be able to love him the way he needed. He accepted that and wondered if Xena would ever find that love everyone needs. The first time he saw the way Xena looked at Gabrielle he realized . . . Xena had found her true match . . . It was a pity that Ares never saw it. He would always pine for something Xena could never give him – her heart. The warrior princess’ heart was Gabrielle’s and Gabrielle’s alone.
"Well, there it is," Herc said looking over the troop to the top of the hill, "The tree of Fieteus," he pointed.
CONTINUED IN PART XI: TRUTHS