The stars looked on above, through the clear, cold air, through the black sky and through the trees that sheltered a small fire, a horse and a sleeping figure. They twinkled softly, giving a gentle light to the scene.
As the fire cracked unusually loudly, the figure stretched slightly tossing her in an attempt to erase the thoughts from her head. Her blue eyes opened for a short second, as her mouth screamed silently. Though her body was in this world, her soul was not... it was in a far away land, a land of memories, bitterness and dashed dreams. This land was dark, with danger at every turn, with people looking to capture lost spirits in its grasp should they display any sign of weakness. A land that you could easily lose yourself in, lose your soul, your essence, your being, never to get it back.
She moaned quietly, slapping at something on the near by ground, something that did not exist, yet still she beat at it savagely. She continued this way for several long minutes, occasionally crying out incoherently. The furs covering her were quickly rumpled as her body twisted and turned, trying to escape the invisible bindings, the bindings of her soul.
After a painful struggle, she eventually collapsed, defeated, to the ground again, her eyes still open, now crying softly, but still not enough to wake her.
"Help me, help me," she finally uttered, still fast asleep.
She had almost left the evil land, she was within sight of the exit... within reach... it was within her grasp to leave. She ran, desperately trying to get away, to lose herself in peaceful slumber once more. However the inhabitants of the land didn't want her to leave... they hadn't finished their game yet. They also began running, trying to capture her again, trying to stop her from ever leaving. She turned, looking behind to see if they were gaining on her. This was all they needed. Without warning, her faceless pursuers morphed effortlessly into the faces of those she loved... her mother... Hercules... Gabrielle. But these were not her friends. They snarled, running still, though she had stopped.
Her mind knew she could not win. Her body knew she shouldn't win. In her heart, she knew she didn't want to win. Kneeling, she silently said good bye to life, surrendered to the wicked creatures that forever haunted her.
"Ares... I'm sorry. I need you," were her last words, heartbreakingly whispered into the still air.
Through the flickering of the fire, another light appeared, this time of a soft blue colour. Momentarily after it died down to nothing, a man stepped out of the space it had created, quickly moving to the sleeping woman's side. He lay down next to her, putting and arm around her thrashing body.
"Xena... I'm here now. I'm here. I'm here. You're safe. You're here with me, you're safe. You're safe. I'll make sure you're all right. I'm here for you now... I'm here," he spoke words that no one who knew him could have imagined him uttering. Yet, they sounded strangely natural, coming from his lips, as he lay on the ground, rocking the woman gently, still whispering words of reassurance to her.
"You can beat this, I know you can. I believe in you, Xena. You can do it."
As the demons stood over her, laughing victoriously, weapons cast up high in readiness to sever her life thread, the light came back into her eyes and, somehow hearing the words in her mind, she leapt up into the air, startling her would-be murderers.
As she landed moments later, she stuck out both fists and pirouetted, arms outstretched in a deadly dance. Her assailants fell quickly around her, caught out by surprise and by her sheer skill. Seeing that there were no more opponents coming, and that all of the fallen ones had changed back into their true, vile forms, she ran through the gates, back to freedom.
He felt the change as she breathed heavily one last time and than fell back into a peaceful slumber, his arms never leaving her body. Sighing softly, she cuddled closer to him, needing support from somebody now. Still keeping her close to him, protecting her, he extricated one hand from their embrace and retrieved the heavy fur she had tossed off before, covering them both with it, then returning the hand to it's place. Just this once, he would sleep on the ground. He willed the fire to flare up and settled down, hugging the woman in his arms closer still.
"You're safe now, Xena. I'm here."