TOUGH LOVE

by Joseph Anderson
JAnder65@hotmail.com

Xena, Gabrielle and Tara belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. Jilly and Langland belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended with this fanfiction which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must contain all notices of copyright.

This is a sort of sequel to the episode Forgiven. Jilly and Langland are characters of mine and appear in several stories. This story contains references to extreme graphic violence.


Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other when they heard the story. Tara had helped some more people attacked by a few bandits. This was the second incident they had heard of in three weeks.

"You don't think she's getting in over her head do you, Xena?" the bard asked apprehensively.

The warrior princess answered with irritation "Of course, she's getting in over her head, Gabrielle! If she just sticks to small time robbers maybe she can handle it, though, from the sound of it. I need to talk to her."

They were at a scarred table in an inn. A young woman approached them and said, "Excuse me. Do you know Tara? I couldn't help overhearing you."

"Yeah, we know her," Xena said, sensing something was wrong. Gabrielle frowned and indicated for her to have a seat.

The woman sat down and said, " Tara has been staying with me. She loves helping people and wants to be a hero. Like Xena, she says. That's you, right?" The warrior princess nodded but looked away. She didn't want to be anybody's role model.

"What's wrong? What's she done?" the bard asked.

"She told me since she was handling these robbers so well, she could do a lot more."

Xena got a bad feeling. "What's she doing?"

The woman continued, "Tara heard about a warlord traveling without his army. She said she was going to capture him."

"By the gods!" Gabrielle exclaimed and looked at Xena whose face was stone.

"What else did she say?" Xena asked.

"She said, she'd gotten a look at him in a tavern and he looked like a wimp. She was sure she could beat him. He has a girl with him, a little blonde."

"Oh no!" Gabrielle said.

Xena wanted to make sure. "Did Tara say his name?"

"Langley or something...no, Langland. That's it. Can you see if she's all right? Please!"

"We'll look into it," Xena said quietly. The young woman thanked them and left their table.

Gabrielle looked at her friend. "Xena, if Jilly is with him, maybe she stopped him from killing her. They'd see Tara coming a mile away."

Xena answered, "I just hope he didn't have some new poison he wanted to try out."

"Oh gods, oh gods," Gabrielle said sadly.

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The warrior princess and the bard had just made camp. They both knew they were being followed and were relieved when a voice rang out, "Hi!" and Tara came walking in grinning. The wind was knocked out of her by the hug Gabrielle gave her. "Hey whatsa matter?"

Xena was studying the slight, darkhaired girl in homemade black leathers. "Tara, we heard you went after Langland."

The teenager smiled, "Yeah! It was great! I put him in his place for sure! And that pastyfaced blonde with him!"

Gabrielle looked at Xena who had an amused relieved expression. "You put Langland and Jilly in their place, huh? Mind telling me how? I wouldn't wanna try that without an army the size of Sparta's behind me."

"Really? They aren't so tough. Anyway, I caught 'em by surprise in their camp." Xena and Gabrielle caught each other's eyes. "Then I pulled a sword and told 'em that being bad was wrong--just like I learned from you--and I was gonna take Langland in. I decided to let the bimbo go though."

The warrior princess smiled. "And what did they say?"

Tara continued, "Well, Langland was real nice; it's hard to believe he's a warlord, ya ask me. He said, 'Tara, I've learned my lesson. Please give me another chance.'"

"How did he know your name?" Xena asked.

"I dunno. Why? Anyway, then this Jilly chick started to make real loud scared sounds and that made me feel bad. And she thanked me for showing her mercy and asked me please to give Langland another chance."

"Jilly made scared sounds," Xena said with a smile.

"Uh huh. Anyway, I realized that I didn't know where to take Langland. I hadn't thought that far ahead. So I told him I was gonna give him a second chance, like you gave me, Xena! Did I do good?"

The warrior princess put an arm around the girl's shoulders. "Yeah, you did good. But I've gotta talk to you about it more later."

The girl caught something in her voice and said, "Why later? Tell me now. C'mon tell me whatever you have to say now!"

The big woman sighed and said, "Tara, you didn't catch them unawares and they certainly weren't afraid of you. They were the ones being merciful."

The girl's face fell. "No! That can't be. They were scared of me!"

Gabrielle said, "Tara, remember what happened when you tried to fight me?"

The girl, red faced, nodded.

"Well, Jilly is about a thousand times better than me."

"More like ten thousand," Xena commented helpfully.

The bard gave her a look. "Thank you for clarifying that, Xena. Understand, Tara? And Langland is even worse but in a sneaky kinda way. Langland and Jilly are dangerous...probably more dangerous than I can even imagine, right Xena?" The warrior princess nodded her head. Gabrielle said, "Thank the gods you're alive!"

The girl exclaimed, "I don't believe it! You're just jealous because I did what you were scared to do!" She turned and ran out of camp.

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The slight blonde figure, in black fighting leathers decorated with gems, scratched her head as she looked out at the night. "You sure, Langland? About that kid coming back?"

The handsome young man sitting near the fire, looked up from the equations he was working on in a small volume. "Yeah, she'll be back unless somebody else kills her in the meantime. As soon as she realizes we let her go, she'll be back."

Jilly drew her sword and examined it while she said, "I don't wanna hurt her. And I don't want YOU hurting her either."

Langland shrugged, "I told you before I wouldn't."

"Just making sure. I know how bored you get sometimes," she said.

The long haired man said, "One of us will probably need to kick her around a little next time. You wanna do it or should I?"

Jilly looked at him. "I'll do it."

"I won't kill her, Jilly. Trust me."

"Okay, you do it. That'd be best since she's after you. I'm just your bimbo girlfriend." She said the last with a smile.

Langland said, "Xena's taken an interest in Tara, anyway. If I killed her then that would open up a can of worms with Xena. It's not worth it. I would like to try out something I've been working on though."

Jilly began sharpening her sword. "You're a real sweetheart, Langland. When we rejoin the army there will be plenty of meat for you to experiment on. Maybe I can find you somebody before that though. I'll just go fishing naked. Some jerk might try to jump me."

"That's how you caught me after all," Langland said with a smile, remembering how they first met as teenagers younger than Tara. Jilly was already the lieutenant of the Sword of Ares then. Kimberly's killing arm, some people called her.

Jilly looked at him ironically. "I caught you...that's a laugh. Save it for somebody who doesn't know you."

"Ah, babe! How can you say that?" he said hurt.

Jilly was shaking her head then stopped. Langland looked at her, knowing she would hear anything before he would. She nodded to him. He said, "She probably talked to Xena; that would explain her finding out so quick."

Jilly just melted into the woods soundlessly.

Tara was angry at what Xena and Gabrielle had told her. She couldn't have been that wrong could she? And what they'd said about the blonde bimbo. Tara had thought she was just Langland's girlfriend, but they said Jilly was the fighter of the two. She didn't believe it. She'd catch 'em and bring 'em back to Xena and show 'em. She'd show 'em.

"Honey. Don't be stupid."

Tara turned around and a figure seemed to just materialize out of the woods. It was the bimbo. When she'd seen her before she was in regular clothes. Now she was in black fighting leathers that had a rich deep quality like the ocean at night. Jewels winked here and there. Tara glanced down at her own crude leathers she'd made from scraps. She licked her lips and drew her sword. The blonde said, "Don't Tara. There's stuff I feel bad about and killing you would be right up there."

"I don't believe you! You aren't much older than me! I'm gonna kick your ass, then I'm gonna kick the ass of your wimp boyfriend."

Jilly smiled, "You might have potential. But for now go home. "

The girl rushed Jilly who stepped aside and didn't even bother parrying the cheap blade. She heard steps and knew Langland had found them. That'd be better. Langland was just a fine swordsman, not a prodigy like Jilly was. The handsome babyfaced man took her place and parried Tara's blow.

"Oh, scared, huh, blondie?" Tara cursed at Jilly who rolled her eyes as she sheathed her sword. Langland disarmed her and Jilly caught the flying blade nonchalantly and drove it into the ground. Tara looked fearfully at the armed man, but he sheathed his sword and just smiled at her. The girl rushed him and he used her weight to send her face first into the dirt. She came back at him and managed to land a punch to his face. Jilly laughed but stopped as Langland got serious and gave her a backhand blow that sent the girl reeling. He walked over and picked her up and just slapped her sending her falling back again. Langland glanced at Jilly. She frowned but nodded at the girl. He shrugged, walked over and kicked her as she tried to get to her feet. She collapsed back down in a fetal position.

"Tara," he said. "Most people wouldn't let you off this easy. I wouldn't under normal circumstances."

Jilly came up and squatted next to the girl who had begun crying. She took the girl's hair and lifted her face up and held a dagger to her throat, "Don't come after us again." She let the girl's face fall back in the dirt and stood up. "Let's go, Langland."

Back at their camp Langland and Jilly had visitors. "Hello Xena, Gabrielle." Langland said pleasantly.

Before Jilly could say anything, the warrior princess said, "Tara better not be dead!"

"Or what?" Jilly said dangerously.

Gabrielle was looking from one to the other nervously. She said, "Now everybody calm down. Jilly, is Tara all right?"

The slender blonde who was baring her teeth as she looked at Xena glanced over. "Yeah, bardy, she's all right. A little bruised is all. She shoulda known better. What have you been filling her head with?"

Langland hadn't spoken. Jilly could tell he was amused by the situation. He was a real sweetheart.

Xena said, "Where is she?"

"About 15 minutes that way," Langland said easily.

"Come on," Xena ordered brusquely to Gabrielle and headed the direction indicated, then stopped as if she didn't really want to. "Some bounty hunters are after you. Real bounty hunters." The bard looked at her in surprise.

Jilly said, "Which direction?"

"West. About twenty of 'em. Some are Cortese's old men. Messene has a price on both your heads."

Langland ran a hand through his long hair. "Why, thank you, Xena! That is most kind of you," he said earnestly.

Gabrielle tried to control her shudder.

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Tara had been quiet for hours. The two friends had found the girl sitting and sulking, looking angry. Xena looked her over, relieved she was only bruised like Jilly had said. She'd looked worse after the beating Gabrielle had given her. Thank Zeus she hadn't run into Langland alone. He wasn't cruel but he wasn't merciful either and would probably have killed her just to be rid of an annoyance.

"Xena, why are we heading this way?" Gabrielle asked. "This is west. We weren't going this way before."

The warrior princess answered, "There's something I wanna see." The bard looked at her then at Tara. She came closer to the horsewoman and touched her leg. "Isn't there another way?" she said in low whisper.

The big woman glanced back at Tara who was following them, still sulking and angry looking. "I don't think so, Gabrielle. She's got to understand or she's gonna get herself killed."

The bard sighed and nodded her head.

Tara finally began talking again and the next day gotten as animated as ever. Xena and Gabrielle were subdued though, and the girl couldn't understand why. It was nearing dusk when Xena pulled Argo up short and looked at Gabrielle and nodded. Then she looked at the girl, "Tara, listen. Do you hear anything?"

The girl ran up next to Xena eagerly and strained her ears. "Yeah, I do."

Xena nodded and looked away. She said, "Why don't you see what it is. Just cut off the trail there and follow the sounds."

Tara was thrilled. "You want me to check it out? Okay!" and she was gone. Xena looked at Gabrielle whose face was red. They followed slowly the same direction.

They came out into the clearing and saw the girl holding onto a tree to support herself. The bard leaned a moment on her staff for the same reason. She glanced up at Xena whose face was expressionless as she took in the scene. The warrior dismounted and walked over to Tara, and the girl grabbed hold of her.

The bard was walking around. "Xena, here are the ones that were moaning." Her voice sounded dead. Xena came over with Tara still holding onto her and studied the skinless stumps.

"Gabrielle, take Tara over by Argo," she said. When they had obeyed Xena pulled her sword and it flashed down seven times ending the moans. Three were women or what was left of them. Renegade Amazons most likely, Xena surmised. This was a poor way for an Amazon to end. She studied the rest of the dead. Gabrielle thought Langland was worse than Jilly but Xena knew that wasn't true. Langland would never have done anything like that. Jilly would though. She'd want to punish anyone daring to hunt her, just as Callisto or Xena herself in the old days would. Six lucky warriors looked like they had died fighting. The remaining six were without obvious wounds but some were frothing at the mouth, others bleeding from their ears, and some seemed to have smoke seeping out of them in different places. Jilly and Langland had divided them up. The ones who died fighting, they most likely had killed together. Then Jilly had carved up hers to make an example of what happened to anyone who crossed her. Langland killed his share with poison. From the variety, Xena guessed he was experimenting.

The warrior returned to Gabrielle and Tara, both white faced. She looked at the girl. "Tara, do you know who did this?'

The horrified girl looked at her and shook her head.

Xena said, "Jilly and Langland. They were hunting them, just like you were."

The girl began to shake and Gabrielle helped the girl to the ground. The bard looked up at her friend. "It's too much, Xena," she said quietly.

Xena looked at the circling birds in the sky. The wild dogs would be coming soon, she knew.

THE END