The majority of the characters in this story belong to Renaissance Pictures and USA Studios. I have only borrowed them to write this story. No infringement was intended.
Warning: This story contains a romantic and eventually SEXUAL relationship between two women. If this offend you or if you aren't yet 18, then I would recommend you don't read any further. This is your basic plotless sex story, so you have been warned! There isn't much violence or bloodshed, so there are no worries about that. Comments are welcome, provided they are constructive and not hurtful.
THIS STORY CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS EPISODE "THE FURIES".
You can find stories and poetry by GabTBard at Mary D's The Bard's Corner.
Let me know what you think! Comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any hate mail can be sent to GoToHell@aol.com
The Heart's Furies
by Lisa S
Gabrielle couldn't help but look at her friend's magnificent body, uncovered now in all its glory, the fire playing off the smooth contours of her skin. Shaking off her desire to continue to stare, Gabrielle tried to focus on what the naked warrior was saying. "I'm here to avenge your heinous crimes. I've come to take retribution!"
"Xena?" Gabrielle whispered. Looking at the faces illuminated by the torch in Xena's hand she could see the fear the villagers felt. Slowly, she made her way to where the warrior stood, not wanting to startle her.
"I've come to take retribution in flames!"
Softly, the younger tried to understand exactly what was going on in her friend's head. "What are you doing?"
Without looking at Gabrielle, she answered the question in a firm voice. "Delivering the wrath of justice. These people are evil incarnate, they must burn!"
"Xena, what have they done?" She didn't understand the warrior's reasoning, but she did know that Xena wasn't seeing what was really in front of her.
Indignantly, Xena sputtered. "What have they done?? Can't you see?" She looked out into the dark night, starring at something that only she could see. "The women and children! They've crucified the women and children!"
Gently shaking Xena's arm, Gabrielle tried to get the warrior to focus on her, as though Xena could use her as a rock in this storm of madness. "Xena! Xena, the only people here are women and children." Once again taking a look at the people around her, she tried a different approach. "Xena, they're afraid of you."
Xena's shoulders fell as she started to comprehend what she was doing there. It had all been so clear minutes before, but now, there was only a haze in her mind. Whimpering, she desperately tried to keep a grasp on reality.
"Xena, give me the torch." Gabrielle's voice came from beside her. Something familiar, something close to her heart -- Gabrielle.
"I'm in trouble aren't I Gabrielle?" Frightened, she tried to speak calmly.
In a firm voice, Gabrielle answered with a shake of her head. "No. We'll get through this." Seeing a blanket nearby, the bard grabbed it. Carefully, she covered her shamed friend, feeling the sorrow at such a blow to the warrior's pride. "Xena, we have to go to the temple of the Furies."
Confused, Xena mumbled. "The Furies?" Then, she caught the eye of a small boy looking at her with wide, frightened eyes. "I'm sorry," she whispered to him, a tremor in her voice as she realized what she had done.
With her arms around her best friend, Gabrielle led the mumbling warrior back to their campsite.
"Xena?" Gabrielle put her hands up to Xena's face, trying to get her attention. "Xena? You sit here on the log while I get your bedroll ready, okay?" Uncertain if the tall woman heard her, she backed away slowly, breathing a sigh when she saw that the warrior didn't attempt to move from her seat in front of the fire. Quickly, she gathered both their bedrolls, and laid them together. Going to Xena, she put her hand on the older woman's shoulder. The look that the other woman gave her nearly broke her heart. Confusion had set in and for a minute, she wasn't sure if Xena even recognized her.
"Yup, Xena, you haven't gotten rid of me yet."
"Glad you're here," Xena mumbled this as she looked off into the darkness beyond the fire. "Don't want to be alone."
"Shh...it's okay Xena. Come, lay down with me and I promise I won't go anywhere if you don't."
The warrior seemed to hesitate at laying down that close to her. "Come on, I don't bite."
Gabrielle settled herself in and held her arm out for Xena to join her. Shyly, she knelt down and laid her body out next to Gabrielle's, her back to the bard. Turning her body to face the warrior's back, Gabrielle propped herself up on one elbow and put an arm around the other woman's waist. Morpheus wasn't going to be claiming her anytime soon.
"Thank you." Xena's voice trembled as she said the words that didn't come easily to the proud woman. She had seemed to calm down after the incident with the women and children, and Gabrielle could almost imagine that everything was as it should be. Laying that close to Xena, she wished she could enjoy the sensations that were causing her body to warm on its own.
Tightening her grip on her friend, Gabrielle used her other hand to stroke the woman's hair, kissing the back of her head lightly. "Please try to get some sleep Xena."
Trying hard to control the madness she could feel coursing through her veins, Xena tried not to snort in reply. A part of her mind was still rational, and it recognized the irony of the situation. Her dreams of being this close to Gabrielle were only realized with her madness. 'Oh Zeus,' Xena told herself, 'might as well tell her now.'
Turning under Gabrielle's arm, Xena looked into her friend's face. She could see the fear in Gabrielle's face and felt her own face mirroring the emotion. "We'll go to the temple in the morning Xena, and we'll work to set everything right. I promise I won't let you give up."
A tear escaped from one of Xena's magnificent blue eyes. "Hey, don't cry!" Gabrielle couldn't believe that her tough and stoic warrior was so emotional. Feeling helpless herself, Gabrielle brushed the tear away, biting her lip when she felt the soft skin of Xena's face. If only it were another time, another place...laughing bitterly to herself, Gabrielle realized that if this were another time and another place, they wouldn't be lying here like this.
Taking a deep breath, trying to clear her cluttered thoughts, Xena grabbed Gabrielle's hand as it passed over her face, bringing it to her lips. "Gabrielle, I love you."
Closing her eyes, Gabrielle fought off the urge to kiss the woman in her arms. She couldn't, it wasn't right. It would be taking advantage of Xena. She's going insane and that's what's driving her now. She didn't mean what she was saying. She wasn't in control of her emotions. Gabrielle repeated these words over and over until she felt them sink in. With a touch of sadness, Gabrielle gently pulled her hand away from Xena's mouth. "You love me as a friend, I know that, and I love you too because you're my best friend."
"No, that's not what I mean!" Xena's eyes grew large and her voice raised in pitch. Leaning forward, she reached for the bard's lips with her own. Gently she kissed the other woman, trying to make her see what was in her heart.
Pulling away, Gabrielle felt her head spin. Breathing deeply, trying to control the need rushing through her body, she put her hand on Xena's shoulder and forced her slightly away. "Xena, you can't...we can't do this right now. This isn't the time or the place and I don't think this is going to help either one of us." Seeing her friend's eyes fill with sadness, Gabrielle hugged her. "We need to get some sleep, okay?"
Forgetting what had just happened, the madness consuming her memory, Xena smiled up at Gabrielle, replying with "Okie dokie!" and laid her head back down on the ground. Soon the warrior was breathing deeply and her body relaxed. Gabrielle gave a sigh and watched her friend's slumber while softly stroking her face. "Sleep my friend. I'll keep you safe."
(A few days later...)
Gabrielle walked away from Xena and Cyrene, quickly deciding that they just couldn't have too much firewood. A small sigh passed through her lips. 'Another close one to write up in the scrolls,' she thought. This would make a wonderful tale, but she wasn't sure that she would ever be able to tell it. Taking a deep breath, Gabrielle attempted to empty her mind of the picture of Xena sitting in a sanitarium talking to herself in a language only she understood, forever cursed by The Furies.
This whole affair affected Gabrielle more than she cared to admit. She had lost her best friend -- again. Only this time, Xena hadn't died or left her behind. This time Xena had been standing right in front of her when she lost her. That scared Gabrielle.
So deep in thought was the bard that she was startled when a hand clamped down on her shoulder. Her first thought was for her staff, forgotten by the fire. Letting out a howl, Gabrielle pivoted on one foot, bringing her arm up, hoping to catch her attacker off guard.
"Whoa! Gabrielle! It's me! Relax!" Xena held her arms over her face to ward off the on coming blow.
Attempting to change the direction of her swing, Gabrielle stumbled forward, hitting the ground with a thump. Breathing hard, Gabrielle gave Xena a perplexed look. "Gods Xena! Why'd you do that?"
"I called to you, but you didn't seem to hear me," the dark woman explained as she offered Gabrielle a hand.
A slight blush came over the bard's fair features as she took Xena's hand and help in standing. "Sorry, I was just doing some thinking."
One hand still holding Gabrielle's, Xena put the other one under her friend's chin, lifting her face until she could see into her eyes. "I know. You looked like you had lost your best friend --...."
"...again," they said together. Xena gave Gabrielle a small grin and one side of Gabrielle's mouth turned up in return.
Wiping her eyes to catch the unshed tears the smaller woman quietly sniffed. "It was...well, it wasn't fun."
Xena looked at her friend with sad eyes. Slowly, uncertainly, Xena moved closer, putting both arms around the smaller woman, bringing her closer in a gentle embrace. Gabrielle was quick to wrap her arms around the older woman's waist, holding her tightly, burying her face in the warrior's leather. Cradling the bard's head, Xena murmured soft words to her, attempting to ease the pain she felt.
As they stood there, arms around each other, they both relaxed against the other's body. Neither wanted to let go of the reassurance they gained from the other's touch. The tears had stopped, but Gabrielle wasn't willing to let the warrior go just yet. Before she could stop herself, Gabrielle's mind wandered back to the night that she had been the one doing the comforting. She hadn't slept at all that night, but had just lain there watching Xena sleep. 'I wonder if she remembers anything that happened,' the bard mused. Sighing, she realized that it didn't matter if Xena did remember -- anything she had said was said out of madness, not out of truth. Taking it to heart would only leave her wishing for something that would never happen.
"What's that for?" Xena murmured into the smaller woman's golden hair.
"What?" Gabrielle's words were muffled against leather.
"Oh, nothing. Just a sigh I guess."
Not convinced, Xena decided to let it go. Her friend was being unusually quiet. Usually, Gabrielle bounced back sooner from their adventures. It wasn't the first time that one of them had almost been killed. 'Tartarus,' Xena thought, 'it wasn't the first time my personality changed.' But, ever since Xena had died, Gabrielle had been taking things more seriously. The bard probably wasn't even aware of it, but Xena saw the slight change in her friend. She was more attentive to the warrior, more concerned. Rubbing the bard's back with her hands, Xena tightened her grip around her friend. 'At least she isn't afraid that I'll send her home anymore,' Xena thought. 'She knows I want her by my side.' She wished she could tell Gabrielle what else she wanted. She loved the young girl she had saved in Poteidaia, and had for sometime. She suspected the bard would be receptive to the idea, but Xena was too afraid -- afraid of getting hurt, afraid of hurting Gabrielle. She knew that keeping her feelings from Gabrielle wasn't the best plan, but so far hadn't found the time or the opportunity to tell Gabrielle how she felt. Bitterly, Xena laughed to herself. She had told Gabrielle, but she had chosen to do it at a time when her mind was betraying her. Rather ironic that her heart chose that time to open up.
Gabrielle was absorbing the feeling of being close to her warrior when a thought popped into her mind. "Xena, where's your mom?"
Sighing, Xena pulled away from the bard. "Back at the campsite. I guess we should get back before she gets herself into trouble. You know, she's worse than you sometimes," Xena grinned at Gabrielle.
"Ha, ha. You know, you're getting good at that yourself lately. I liked it better in the good old days when you were rescuing me, not the other way around!" Glad for the light conversation that took the edge off, Gabrielle took a deep breath to calm her racing heart.
Walking side by side back toward their camp, Xena felt a small hand take hers tentatively. Giving it a gentle squeeze, she smiled to herself.
Cyrene looked up from the campfire at the sound of footsteps. She allowed herself a small smile when she saw her tall daughter's confident gait. Xena still amazed her. After all the years of thinking, sometimes hoping she wouldn't see her middle child again, Cyrene was now glad that she was given the chance to know her daughter again. Her gaze traveled to the shorter woman who walked with Xena, and a special smile lit her face. She knew whom she had to thank for getting her daughter back. Funny to think about it, the dark, hardened warlord, and the young, innocent, bard. But, it was the right combination to succeed in pulling Xena away from the dark that was still so much a part of her and into the growing light. Cyrene blinked back a few tears and got up to greet the pair. Noticing for the first time that they were holding hands, Cyrene pretended not to notice when Xena suddenly let go of the bard's hand.
"Glad you two are back, I'm getting rather hungry. What do you usually do for food when you're out here?" Cyrene made conversation to cover for her daughter's obvious discomfort.
Smiling, Gabrielle stepped forward. "If we talk really nice to her, Xena might be convinced to go and find some poor little animal to kill."
With a roll of her eyes at her mother, Xena turned back around, checking her chakram and sword on her way. "I'll be back in a minute."
Cyrene laughed. "You certainly have a way with my daughter."
"Only if she's in the right mood," Gabrielle laughed along with the other woman. "We'd better prepare a spit for whatever Xena manages to find out there. One nice thing, Xena can find food anywhere, we never go hungry. Sometimes I get a little tired of the meat and nuts diet, but I really shouldn't complain." Gabrielle blabbed on, not really sure what to say to Cyrene. It wasn't that she felt uncomfortable with her, after all it was her best friend's mother, but Gabrielle was very much aware of the fact that Cyrene didn't know her daughter the way that she did and didn't want to tell her anything that might upset Xena.
As Gabrielle began to go through saddlebags, taking stock of their things, Cyrene asked her tell her a story. "I was told by a reliable source that you're quite good. I'd love to hear one of your stories."
Surprised, but able to cover, Gabrielle agreed and began to tell a tale about her and Xena's encounter with Bacchus.
Carrying two rabbits, easy prey to Xena's hunting skills, the warrior came upon the camp. Hiding a small grin, Xena quietly cleaned the rabbits, allowing Gabrielle to continue her story. Listening to the sound of Gabrielle's voice, Xena was soon lost in thoughts of her own. She didn't hear the bard end the story, or her mother's questions to her. It wasn't until Gabrielle took one of the prepared rabbits out of her hands that she remembered where she was.
"You okay?" Gabrielle asked quietly so that only Xena could hear. Watching the smaller woman put the rabbits on the spit, Xena asked herself the same question. Was she okay? Sure, for a woman who was in love with her best and only friend, yeah, she was okay. Shaking her head, Xena remembered that Gabrielle had spoken to her.
"Huh? Oh, I'm fine Gabrielle, just a lot on my mind." It was a gentle smile that appeared on Xena's face and touched Gabrielle's heart.
With a small grin in return, Gabrielle tried to quiet the beating of her heart, "Okay, if you say so. Maybe you could share with me later?" The last was asked as a question. She knew better than to pry too much. The warrior would let her know when she had gone too far, but it never hurt to push a little.
"Sure, if we get a chance, we'll talk -- privately." They both heard the emphasis on the last word, and in their hearts, they both knew what it meant.
Cyrene watched the scene with interest. Both women stood close as they positioned the raw meat over the flames. Gentle touches, almost caresses were used instead of words. She had never seen her daughter so gentle with anyone or anything. It was obvious what was happening. Cyrene wasn't blind. But she did wonder if her daughter was.
"Xena, would you like to go for a walk with me while the meat cooks? I need to stretch my legs a bit." Cyrene hoped the bard wouldn't feel too left behind. 'That is, if you don't mind watching the food, Gabrielle."
"Sure, you two go ahead and I'll make sure nothing eats our dinner before we do!"
Raising an eyebrow at her mother, Xena silently followed her mother into the woods.
They walked a while before either one of them spoke. Cyrene enjoyed the sounds of the forest, letting the calm help her organize her thoughts before she said what she was meaning to say.
Xena, on the other hand, was going crazy with wonder. She didn't have a lot of patience, but because it was her mother, she tried to wait, but it wasn't easy for her.
"You love her, don't you?" Cyrene spoke quietly, not looking at her daughter.
Xena didn't need to ask who it was Cyrene meant, it was the person who was most on her heart and mind.
"Oh yes, quiet plainly. I can see it in your eyes when you talk to her, look at her."
"I didn't know I was that easy to read," the warrior said simply, a fact stated.
"Maybe it's just because I'm your mother and you've never been able to keep much from me. I can see your feelings in your face, but that doesn't mean that everyone can. It might just be a mother thing." Cyrene finally stopped and looked her tall daughter in the eyes. "You know she loves you too, don't you?"
Avoiding her mother's gaze, Xena kicked at a rock by her feet. "I know she feels something for me, whether it's love, or just friendship, or maybe the love grown from friendship. I just don't know."
"Why don't you ask her what she feels? That's the only way you'll find out for sure." Pausing, Cyrene gently took Xena's chin in her hand, forcing the warrior to look her mother in the eyes. "You know I'm right about this."
"I know that by asking Gabrielle I'll find out how she feels, yes. But, what if all she feels is friendship? I could scare her away by letting her know I feel more. I don't want to lose her!" To Xena's horror, she could feel tears welling up in her eyes.
"Daughter, you have to give Gabrielle some credit. She's not a child, and she's not stupid. I've seen the same love in her face that I see in yours. She loves you, but you're both too afraid to do anything about it. Ask her, Xena. Trust me?"
Sighing, Xena relented. "I do trust you, mother."
"All right then, let's go eat! I'm tired of walking around everywhere!"
Laughing, Xena and Cyrene headed back to camp.
Feeling more confident than she had in a long time, Xena was determined to talk to Gabrielle the first minute they had alone. As they ate, then settled in for the night, Xena paid even more attention to the bard, brushing her hair after dinner, helping her lay out her bedroll, right next to hers.
After the others had gone to sleep, Xena looked at the bard lying next to her. The moonlight cast a wondrous glow on Gabrielle's fair face, making her more beautiful. Xena scooted closer to the sleeping woman, putting a protective arm around the smaller body. The comfort she acquired from that contact gave Xena allowed her to fall into a peaceful sleep, her dreams full of a certain strawberry blonde with piercing green eyes.
"Gabrielle!" A familiar voice hissed into Gabrielle's ear, bringing her closer to waking. "Gabrielle, wake up NOW!" A hand covered the bard's mouth and she struggled, trying to free herself. "Don't move, it's me. Just wake up and be quiet." Slightly opening one green eye, Gabrielle tried to focus on the voice's owner. Sharp blue eyes stared back at her. Slowly she opened the other eye, giving Xena a questioning look.
"Someone's here, I don't want them to see that we're awake. I'm going to take my hand off your mouth -- promise you'll stay quiet?"
Nodding her head, Gabrielle took a deep breath of morning air. Without moving her body, Gabrielle could see Xena lying next to her, as if asleep. The only thing that indicated that the woman was awake were two alert eyes set against tan skin. Closing her eyes, Gabrielle tried to calm her heartbeat so that she could listen for any movement around them. The sounds of shuffling feet and whispered words came into focus. Quietly she reached one hand out, searching for her staff. Gripping the staff tightly, Gabrielle tensed, ready for whatever Xena had in mind.
"They've only been in camp a few minutes. I wanted to see what they were gong to do, but so far all they have done is loot through our bags." Xena managed to speak without moving her lips. "I'm going to try to do something, but I need you to stay put for this to work, okay?" Gabrielle nodded her consent.
Slowly taking the blanket off herself, Xena watched the three men that had come into the camp. Having their backs to the warrior was a mistake, but they were too busy looting through Argo's saddlebags to notice that Xena was awake. With cautious movements, Xena rose into a crouch and then into a standing position. Looking toward where Cyrene was asleep, Xena moved with a slinky movement until she was in arm's reach of the bandits.
"Excuse me boys, can I help you?" Her tone was silky, almost a caress. As the men turned in surprise, Xena's arm swung around and made contact with one of the men. He cried out as the momentum of the blow caused him to fall to the ground. The other two men quickly moved out of the way of the angry warrior, circling her.
"If you aren't going to tell me why you're here, then I'll ask you once to leave. I recommend leaving as fast as you can, otherwise I can't guarantee your safety."
"And if you don't leave my men alone, I can't guarantee her safety." Xena whirled at the sound of another voice behind her, her sword at the ready.
A horrible picture came into Xena's vision. A large hairy man had a thick arm around Cyrene's throat, holding her against him, a knife on her throat just above his arm.
"Gangrius," Xena's eyes became slits as she recognized the man holding her mother.
A mirthful laugh came from the man's throat and he threw his head back. "So nice of you to remember me Xena! It's been a long time!"
"I take it that you're still angry at me?" Though her voice was playful and innocent, her eyes were cold and menacing.
"Angry? Why should I be angry with the Warrior Princess? You didn't do anything. But than, that was the problem wasn't it? You didn't do anything to stop what happened." Snarling, Gangrius tightened his hold on Cyrene, causing her to gasp.
Cautiously walking closer to the man and his hostage, Xena's mind took in everything about the picture before her. Gangrius stood at least 6 feet tall, just slightly taller than Xena. His long blond hair was dirty, curling around the collar of his armor, which looked like it had been pieced together patchwork style. Tattoos covered the burly arm that held Cyrene, muscles bulging from his biceps. Eyeing the knife that was at her mother's throat, Xena was surprised that she recognized it.
"Nice knife," her voice drawled, trying to make him talk more about why he was there.
"Surprised that I kept it after all this time?" Removing it from Cyrene's throat, he turned the knife in his hand, looking at it. "I was saving it for the day I got my revenge. Fitting, don't you think?"
"Gangrius, they may have used my knife, but I wasn't involved in the decision. The men decided that you didn't belong. They were the ones who chose to scare you off."
"Scare me off? Are you joking?" Holding out his other arm, he revealed the horrendous scars that covered it from wrist to shoulder. "They were going to carve me up until I bled to death! You could've stopped them, they were your men! But, you didn't do anything. Why? What excuse could you have?"
"We had lost a battle because of your carelessness. You're lucky I didn't kill you myself! You could've gotten us all killed! And because it was their lives on the line, I told my men they could decide how to punish you. I washed my hands of the situation and of you after that." Xena could feel anger welling up inside of her, anger of a time long ago, of a time that she still was trying to outlive.
"Well, I didn't forget you. You should've killed me. Instead, you let them torture me and they left me for dead. But, I wasn't dead! They should've checked, but they didn't! They left me alive, half the man I had been! I vowed that day, the day that I crawled bleeding until I found someone to help me, I vowed that I would find you one day and destroy your life the way that you destroyed mine!" Spittle flew from his mouth in his rage, spraying Cyrene who tried to turn her head away in disgust.
Looking at the woman struggling within his grasp, Gangrius smiled. "I was going to kill your little friend there," he pointed a crooked finger to where Gabrielle lay, "but I think that mommy here will do just fine!"
"It's me you want to hurt, why don't you just take me?"
"No Xena, I think that this will hurt more! I suggest that you drop your weapons, otherwise mommy here might feel how sharp this blade is."
Snarling, Xena realized she didn't have a choice. Dropping her sword in the dust she felt naked without her weapon.
With a smile, Gangrius shook his head. "Now Xena, don't play me for a fool." He pointed at round metal device hanging at her side. "I meant all your weapons!" Looking to where Gabrielle had gotten to her feet, he grinned at her as well. "You too blondie. Drop the staff."
Glancing at Xena, Gabrielle silently complied.
Gangrius looked beyond Xena to his men. "Forget looting, let's go!"
The three men hurried towards Gangrius, careful to avoid the angry warrior. Handing one of the men a coil of rope he pointed at Xena. "Tie her up -- tight! I don't want her running after us until we have the time to kill this bitch."
Carefully, the man advanced on Xena, eyeing her warily. "Put your hands behind your back," he instructed in a rough voice. She complied, not taking her eyes off of Cyrene. After he had finished with her hands he ordered her to kneel and then tied her feet together.
"What about the other girl?" The man asked after he stood up again.
"Well Kirnan, what do you think?" Gangrius grinned at the other man.
Rubbing his hand over the crotch of his pants, Kirnan licked his lips. "I know what I would like to do with her!"
Xena tried not to react. If Gangrius knew how much Xena cared for Gabrielle then he would use that to his advantage. She knew that she couldn't keep her rage in check if they hurt Gabrielle.
"There will plenty of time for that kind of thing later Kirnan. Just tie the girl up too, and let's go."
As Kirnan grabbed at Gabrielle, she tried to duck out of his reach. He growled and slapped her hard across her face. While she was reacting from the blow, Kirnan roughly grabbed her arm and pinned it behind her. Xena made eye contact with Gabrielle, trying to convey that the girl shouldn't fight back. The bard seemed to understand what Xena was trying to tell her because she let the man tie her arms behind her back and kneeled to let him tie her feet. Her green eyes never left Xena's, not wanting to break the connection.
Grinning wildly to himself, Gangrius motioned his men to head back into the forest. They filed into the wood away from the campsite, Gangrius going last, dragging Cyrene with him. One last smirk at Xena and he disappeared from site.
Taking deep breaths to try to quiet the anger she felt welling up within her, Xena looked around her attempting to find something sharp that would cut through the ropes. There was nothing in sight that could do the job. Feeling helpless, Xena let her head hang forward. She looked down at her chest and caught a glimpse of something shiny. 'Of course!' She thought. But how to get it out? Glancing at Gabrielle, Xena almost grinned at the thought.
"Gabrielle, I think I know how we can cut these ropes. But, I am going to need your help."
Crawling on her knees, Gabrielle inched closer to where Xena was. "Anything Xena, just tell me what to do."
"Anything?" Xena gave Gabrielle a wicked grin.
Attempting to raise an eyebrow, Gabrielle looked back at her without smiling. "Anything."
That caught Xena off guard as she tried to remember what it was that she was talking about in the first place. Gabrielle was right in front of her, and Xena could feel her presence without looking. As her eyes traveled to her friend's chest, she remembered what it was she was getting at before.
"The breast dagger, it's the only thing around that is sharp enough to cut these ropes."
"Can you just pop it out like you did before?"
A slight blush came over Xena's features. "Um, I'm a little too sweaty to do that." Gabrielle understood what Xena meant.
"Sit still and let me get it, but don't move, I don't want to cut your....uh, you." Gabrielle's face took on a look of concentration as she leaned forward. Carefully, she brought her mouth to the valley between Xena's breast, and cautiously she gripped the breast dagger in her teeth, slowly lifting her head and bringing it out. Despite the situation they were in, Xena still felt warmth between her legs at the sight of Gabrielle being that close to her breasts.
"'Ow wat?" Gabrielle spoke with the dagger still in her mouth.
"Um, go ahead and drop it. Then I can get it with my hands and cut through the rope." Gabrielle did as she was told, dropping the dagger to the ground. Taking deep breaths, Gabrielle felt a little bit dizzy. For a long time she had wondered what it would be like to lay her head on Xena's ample chest, just taking in the site of the two orbs and the smell of Xena. But more than that, she wanted to taste them. Being that close and not being able to let her tongue touch the magnificent skin that rested there made Gabrielle light headed.
All business now, Xena scooted to turn herself around, and carefully picked up the dagger with her hands. "Okay, now turn around Gabrielle so that your hands are facing mine." The bard complied. "Gabrielle, please don't move. This is going to be hard enough as it is, I don't want to cut you." With careful precision, she brought the blade down on the rope, cutting through the fibers with slow and deliberate strokes. Her hands were sweaty and as the blade made its way through the rope, Xena felt it slip out of her hand once. Catching it before it fell, she knew that the knife had cut Gabrielle because of the bard's quick intake of breath. "Gabrielle, I'm so sorry."
"I know, it's okay. Just finish up so that I can get you untied."
Quickly Xena cut through the rest of the rope. Gabrielle sighed in relief when her hands came free, then turned and took the dagger out of Xena's hands, and cut through the rope. They took turns getting their feet untied, and then Xena grabbed the younger woman's hand to look at where she had cut her.
"It doesn't look too bad, but I want to bandage it to keep the dirt out." Xena strode over to their saddlebags and took out clean bandages. Gabrielle was quiet as Xena wrapped her hand. "Are you okay?"
"Xena, we need to find your mom, that's most important." Gabrielle spoke with her head down. She enjoyed the attention from Xena, but she felt guilty because Cyrene was out there alone with those men.
"Hey, look at me." Green eyes meet blue. "We will find her, but we need to take care of ourselves too, okay?" The blonde head nodded in consent. "Let's gather up the rest of the stuff. We'll need to leave most of our stuff and Argo here. She won't be of much use in that thick bush. There should be a cave over there if I remember correctly. We can leave the stuff in there and only take what we'll need."
Having something specific to do, Gabrielle and Xena gathered everything, packing the things that the bandits had thrown out, back into the saddlebags. Surprisingly, they had left both Xena's sword and chakram, as well as Gabrielle's staff.
"Gangrius was too excited at the thought of getting back at me, he must have forgotten about this stuff." Xena noted as she slid her sword back into its scabbard.
They quickly moved everything to the cave that was where Xena said it should be. Taking Argo's bridal and saddle off, Xena took them into the large cave as well.
After it was all cleared away, the two women headed off into the woods, one pack between them.
When the men returned to the camp and an almost invisible woman with dark, violet eyes watched as the men dragged a dark-haired woman into the supply tent. The newly arrived woman wasn't moving. Behind the violet eyes, there was a silent thought. 'I hope she isn't dead.' Then again, if the woman wasn't dead yet, she would wish she were come tomorrow.
Waiting till the men left the large tent, the silent woman carefully went to the back of the tent and stepped through a slit in the fabric. She had made this trip before for other prisoners the men had brought into the camp. All the new people brought into the camp held fascination for this woman. She liked to watch them with her violet eyes, trying to understand more about them by the way they behaved. Not that she needed their actions to reveal that information to her. No, she had other ways.
Cautiously, she moved through the tent filled with boxes and trunks. In the center of the tent was a pole that created the sloping roof of the tent. Tied to the pole was the dark-haired woman. As the silent woman got closer she realized that the woman wasn't dead, she was just unconscious. She moved forward until she was right in front of the other woman.
Sitting down on the ground in front of the pole, she would wait until the other woman woke up.
"Xena! A footprint!" Gabrielle was excited at her find. Since they had left the campsite, the thick underbrush had made it impossible to find any footprints left by Gangrius and his men. They had had to painstakingly look for broken branches and trampled plants to find out where they had gone. Even so, Xena still moved at a pace that left Gabrielle almost running to catch up.
Realizing that the bard was breathing heavily, Xena decided that they needed to rest. "Why don't we stop for a minute. Now that the forest floor has cleared a bit, we'll be able to catch them more easily."
Not about to argue, Gabrielle flopped down onto the ground. Xena handed her their water skin, watching as Gabrielle threw her head back and poured water into her mouth. Catching herself starring at the other woman's smooth, creamy throat, Xena realized that she needed something to drink too. But, somehow, she didn't think water was going to quench the thirst that she felt.
Seeing a rock that could act as a bench, Xena sat down with her back to Gabrielle. She needed to get her mind off her friend. Now was not the time to indulge her fantasies. Caught up in her thoughts, Xena didn't hear Gabrielle come up behind her. She felt a hand on her shoulder and she jumped.
"Hey, relax, it's just me. Thought you might like some of this water." Gabrielle handed Xena the waterskin.
Gabrielle looked at Xena, concern evident in her face. She was probably the only person who really knew how much it hurt Xena to see her family used against her. Putting an arm around the warrior, Gabrielle sat down on the rock next to her. It was one of those times where she figured words weren't needed, so she just sat there holding the warrior, leaning her own head against Xena's shoulder. It was nice to be that close to the stoic woman without having her back off.
"We should probably get going again," Xena's voice broke her out of her musings.
"Sounds good to me," Gabrielle gave her friend a glowing smile. Looking into green eyes, Xena momentarily got lost in their depths, then, without warning, leaned over and placed her lips on Gabrielle's. She softly kissed the other woman before backing away.
"I really appreciate you being here Gabrielle. It means a lot to me." Xena didn't look at the other woman as she spoke.
Gabrielle quietly replied, "I know." And she did.
The two women set out following the now evident footprints.
Cyrene slowly became more aware of her surroundings. The last thing she remembered was being held by that awful man. He must have hit her over the head she deduced because of the pounding sensations that came from that area of her body. Without opening her eyes, Cyrene tried to move her arms but found it impossible then realized they were tied behind her back. She became aware of the fact that she was tied to a pole, feeling the pole against her back. A moan escaped her lips without her realizing it. Cautiously she opened her eyes and found a pair of violet eyes starring back at her.
"Seems pretty quiet over there." Gabrielle whispered to Xena.
The warrior's eyes were still darting about the camp in front of them, taking in all that she saw. The camp wasn't too large, but there were a few dozen men seen walking within the perimeter. Tents and fires were scattered about, not seeming to have any particular pattern. The largest tent was set off to one side, and from the inactivity around it, Xena figured it was the supply tent. If Gangrius had brought her mother here, then she would most likely be in the supply tent. Providing that she was alive. Xena to growled at the thought.
Gabrielle cautiously put her hand on Xena's arm, hearing the growl and knowing that she was angry. She didn't say anything, she just wanted to let the woman know that she was still there and that they were in this together. The muscles of Xena's arm were tense and Gabrielle imagined that the rest of the warrior's body was the same way. The bard decided that when this was all over she would give Xena a massage. A good excuse for her to be able to touch Xena's body, and these days, any excuse would do.
Xena felt the hand on her arm and let herself relax somewhat. She knew what Gabrielle was trying to show her and she really did value the other woman's presence. It made her hope that she would never have to do without it.
The two women were standing in a grove of trees, using the large trunks to shield them from wandering eyes. The line of trees extended to the supply tent. Gangrius was never very smart, he had given them the perfect cover to get to the tent and get Xena's mother out.
"I want to wait a little bit longer before we approach the camp." Pointing at the supply tent, Xena told Gabrielle her plan to enter and exit the tent from behind where the trees were. Understanding, Gabrielle sat down at the base of a tree and waited until Xena was ready to go.
Eyes widening in shock, Cyrene stuttered. "Wh....wh....who...are you?"
The woman was slightly taller then Cyrene, with violet eyes that almost glowed in the dark tent and soft brown hair which fell around her face. Her face was rather ordinary and plain, even with the smile.
"My name is Syrilla. And, who are you?" Syrilla's smile widened.
"I'm Cyrene. Why am I here? What happened to that...that man?" She hesitated at calling him a man. A beast was more like it.
"You're here because you were captured. As for Gangrius, he is probably gloating to the men and drinking himself to sleep." Knowing what Cyrene was thinking, she continued. "You'll be safe until morning. After that, I'm not sure what they have planned."
Her shoulders dropping, Cyrene hung her head. She wished to the gods that Xena were there with her. Xena always seemed to know what to do in these situations. Really, in any situation.
"You know Xena?"
Cyrene's head jerked up in surprise. "How did you know that?"
Waving her hand, Syrilla answered nonchalantly, "I can read thoughts. But tell me, do you really know Xena?"
"I suppose you could say that. She's my daughter." Cyrene immediately realized that it was a mistake to tell this woman that she was Xena's mother. For a long time, Cyrene was so ashamed to tell anyone who her daughter was, that she pretended that Xena didn't even exist. When asked, Cyrene would say that she only had one child, a boy. However, more recently, Cyrene had begun to feel proud of her reformed daughter, and would often boast the fact, though not usually in front of strangers.
Laughing, the other woman shook her head. "Don't worry, I don't hold any grudge against your daughter. I haven't seen her in a long time, but she always treated me well."
"You know my daughter?"
"I used to travel with her army."
With great stealth, Gabrielle and Xena crept through the trees until they were directly behind the supply tent. Xena again took out her breast dagger and got ready to cut a slit in the back of the tent, when all of a sudden, a hand reached out from the tent and grabbed Xena's wrist.
Caught off guard, Xena got ready to flip whomever it was that had grabbed her. Then a familiar head popped out of the tent.
"There's no need to cut another hole in this tent. You can just come through this one." Syrilla grinned at Xena's angry look. She knew that the warrior hated being surprised, but she just couldn't help herself.
"Xena, what's going on?" Gabrielle looked uncertainly at Xena, coming in closer.
Noticing the other woman for the first time, Syrilla motioned with her arm for both women to enter the tent. Seeing that the younger woman was still unsure, Syrilla tried to reassure her. "It's okay, I just surprised Xena, that's all. I'm sure she wasn't expecting to be grabbed like that, and I know she didn't think she'd be seeing me." Turning to the warrior, she could read the skepticism in her mind. "Don't worry Xena, I'm not going to try anything." Realizing that Xena's concern was mostly for the other woman with her, Syrilla added, "Both of you are safe around me."
Nodding, Xena moved the slit a bit wider so that Gabrielle could get through, and then she followed. Keeping an eye on Syrilla, she wanted to make sure the woman wasn't lying. There was a time when she would have trusted the other woman, but it had been a long time ago, and people change. Xena herself was evidence of that.
"Why are you here Syrilla?" Xena was curious as to why this woman was with Gangrius.
"You mean, why am I with Gangrius?" The woman knew the real question without having to hear it in Xena's thoughts. "Because, he's my husband."
"You're married to that man?" Gabrielle's voice didn't hide her surprise.
"Why would you marry him Syrilla?" The warrior was surprised as well. But, she didn't get the chance to get an answer. The sound of a familiar voice whispering her name floated through the air. "Mother?"
"Yes, she's here Xena." Stopping Xena's next question, Syrilla continued. "She's not hurt, but you'd better get her out of here before she is."
Xena found her mother tied to the pole. Cyrene's eyes lit up when she saw her daughter. "That didn't take you too long!" Grinning, Cyrene was relieved to see her daughter looked unharmed.
"Sorry, we had to leave Argo behind and follow on foot, otherwise we could've gotten here sooner." Xena handed her breast dagger to Gabrielle. She didn't want to turn her back to Syrilla in case the woman tried something.
"Stop being so suspicious Xena. I am not going to try anything!"
"I have to be, especially knowing who your husband is."
"I didn't have much choice Xena! After you left, I was alone. Your army had disbanded, scattering like the wind. You know I couldn't just go to any village and make a life. Gangrius had formed a band of men, not really organized enough to be an army, but they got into enough trouble. So, I asked if I could travel with them as their healer, and Gangrius said I could as long as I married him. So, I did. Like I said, I didn't have much of a choice."
"You were in Xena's army?" Gabrielle was surprised and at the same time intrigued. Xena didn't talk too much about her life before they met, and Gabrielle always wanted to know about her warlord side. She had glimpsed it once or twice, like when they fought the Horde, but Gabrielle still wanted to know more without having to experience it.
"Yes. She rescued me when I was younger, although she thought she was kidnapping me. Xena found out that I had some skill at healing, so she let me stay and she taught me all that she knew about healing." Syrilla smiled at Xena. "I will always be grateful to that warlord."
Grunting, Xena was quick to reply. "Well, if I'd known that the villagers had planned on killing you anyway, I wouldn't have used you as my hostage!"
Laughing, Syrilla bobbed her head. "I know, but you didn't have to keep me around."
"You said something about not being able to have a life in a village, what did you mean by that?" This woman captivated Gabrielle. Xena had unknowingly saved her, but then she kept her in her army although she didn't appear to be a warrior.
"No, I was never a warrior. I was raised to be a healer. But, I couldn't ever do that in a village because the people would try to kill me." Raising a hand to stop the woman's next question, Syrilla continued. "Gabrielle, I can read people's thoughts. That scares people and they instinctually try to remove that which is scaring them. In other words, me."
To Gabrielle that didn't hold a lot of logic. To kill someone just because they were afraid of that person wasn't a solution.
"I know it doesn't make sense Gabrielle, but that's the way people are. I'm the only one left in my family for that reason. "
Xena watched the exchange in silence. She knew that Gabrielle was probably feeling bad for Syrilla, but she didn't want the bard getting too attached to the woman. Walking further away from where her mother was tied, she moved toward the front of the tent not wanting to be caught off guard by any of Gangrius's men.
Syrilla watched as the warrior walked away and followed her. She needed to talk to the warrior about something but didn't want the younger woman to hear.
"Have you told her that you love her?" Xena turned around quickly, not realizing that the woman had followed her.
Annoyed, Xena snapped at Syrilla, "What in Hades' name do you mean?"
"Gabrielle? Have you told her that you love her yet?" Syrilla was patient with the reserved woman.
"What business is that of yours?"
With a small grin, Syrilla answered. "I know how you feel about her, your thoughts are filled with her. I just wanted to know whether or not you've told her. Knowing you, you probably haven't said a word to her."
"I don't see what difference it makes to you!" Xena was fuming. How dare this woman invade her personal thoughts like that! And why should she care? It just didn't make any sense to Xena.
Facing an angry Xena, Syrilla kept going. "It first surprised me that you could care so much about this girl. But," she shrugged, "I can tell that you've changed -- at least your thoughts have -- and I respect that. Why haven't you told her?"
'Because I don't want to lose her,' Xena's mind screamed, but she wasn't about to share that with Syrilla. 'Oh Hades…' she winced, remembering who she was talking to. Xena had just given the woman an answer without saying a word. Furious with herself and with Syrilla, Xena's body tensed as she attempted to contain her rage.
The warrior's thoughts were loud, Syrilla didn't even have to try to try to hear them. "I can understand your fear, but have you ever considered that you might lose her if you don't tell her?" She pushed despite the warrior's obvious anger.
Never had Xena thought she could lose the bard by not telling her that she was in love with her. But, she very well could. Earlier she had decided she would tell Gabrielle sometime in the future, but now she knew it had to be soon. But she had no idea how to bring it up. If she did it the wrong way, she could scare the bard. No, she would have to work this through carefully before she could say anything to Gabrielle.
Gabrielle eased the last bit of rope off Cyrene's hands. Rubbing her wrists, trying to bring the circulation back to her hands, Cyrene gave the younger woman a smile.
"Thanks, I was beginning to forget what freedom felt like. That's twice in two days!"
Patting the woman on the back, Gabrielle smiled an impish grin. "Trust me, you get used to it!" Her smile ended when she turned toward the front of the tent where her favorite warrior was.
Xena was still facing Syrilla, her face held a guarded expression, and she held her body tense as though ready for a physical confrontation.
Quietly walking toward the two women, Gabrielle reached out to touch the warrior's arm, but stopped, unsure if she would startle the woman. "Xena, is everything okay?" She looked from one woman to the other. She noticed that Syrilla had an amused expression on her face.
Looking out of the corner of her eye at her friend, Xena made a conscious effort to relax herself. Gabrielle rested her hand on Xena's arm. The soft warmth from the bard allowed Xena to focus on her emotions, calming them. Taking deep breaths, she patted Gabrielle's hand. "It's fine. But we should get moving before we get caught."
"They won't be back in here till morning." Syrilla spoke up at last.
"How do you know that?" Gabrielle's natural curiosity won over her effort to keep quiet.
"They always leave their wo..." Syrilla saw a pair of icy eyes stare at her menacingly, "...er, prisoners here over night before they do anything. Gangrius thinks it helps instill fear in them."
Still glaring at Syrilla, the warrior used her arms to herd Gabrielle toward where Cyrene was waiting. Motioning for Cyrene and Gabrielle to move toward the back of the tent, Xena stopped them when they reached the exit. Noticing that Syrilla had followed, Xena narrowed her eyes, but ignored the woman. "Let me look outside before you two leave."
Looking at the bard, Xena raised an eyebrow in question.
"Can I talk to you for just a minute?"
Nodding, Xena followed her away from the other two women.
"We can't leave her here."
"Why not?" Xena knew exactly whom she was talking about.
"If they find out that she helped us she could be killed. I don't want to be responsible for that."
Seeing that Xena still wasn't going to budge, Gabrielle made one last plea. "Okay, why don't you ask her what she wants. Please? For me?"
Looking into pleading green eyes, Xena found she couldn't say no to this woman. Leaning toward the smaller woman, she quickly kissed the bard's forehead. "Okay, for you my bard."
Having closed her eyes when she felt soft lips on her skin, Gabrielle didn't see the warmth in Xena's eyes, but felt it nonetheless.
Remembering the other women were in the tent with them, Gabrielle forced her eyes open. Stealing a glance at Syrilla and Cyrene she saw they were busily studying Cyrene's wrists. Taking Xena's hand in her own, Gabrielle led her over to where the other two women were standing. Expecting Xena to ask Syrilla, she was surprised when she felt an elbow in her side. Looking at Xena, she saw the warrior nod her head toward Syrilla and widen her eyes at Gabrielle. 'I should have realized...well, I am the bard, I guess.'
"Ah, Syrilla? Xena and I were talking and we wanted to ask you to come with us, that is, if you want to." She said it quickly, wanting to make it sound right.
With a small grin, Syrilla agreed and the four women made their way to the back of the tent and taking turns, they slipped through the slit in the fabric of the tent.
The four women set out away from Gangrius' camp. It was easier to find their way back than it had been to get there in the first place. Stopping where the three women had camped the night before, Xena kept them there just long enough to pick up Argo and their gear, and then they were moving again. She wanted to put as much distance between themselves and Gangrius as she could.
The sun had already made its descent from the sky by the time they stopped. Xena finally decided to make camp when she noticed even Gabrielle was dragging her feet. Settling on a secluded glen far away from the road, the women began to set up camp.
Xena and Gabrielle worked with the efficiency of a well-rehearsed dance. Cyrene and Syrilla helped where they could, mostly gathering wood and staying out of the experienced traveler's ways.
Carrying a blanket, Gabrielle walked over to where Syrilla was stacking wood.
"I'm afraid we don't carry extra bedrolls with us, although we should seeing how many times we end up having people travel with us! Anyway, we do have extra blankets." Handing the other woman the blanket, Gabrielle continued, "Cyrene is already using one of the extra blankets, so this is all that's left. I'm sorry we can't offer you more." This woman really fascinated her. She had never meet someone who could read thoughts, although she had heard of them. She had always assumed there wasn't anyone left with the gift. Shocked, she realized Syrilla might indeed be the last one alive with the gift. 'What a loss,' Gabrielle acknowledged.
Laying her blanket on the ground, Syrilla sat on it and then motioned for Gabrielle to join her. After she sat down, Syrilla spoke. "You would like to hear my story, wouldn't you?"
Blushing, Gabrielle nodded. "I would, but only if it's something you can share with me. I'd understand if the memories are too painful."
Looking over to where Cyrene was spreading her own blanket, Syrilla caught her eye. "Cyrene, you might want to come here and listen to this as well."
Xena watched as the women all sat together on Syrilla's blanket. She had heard the story once before so she didn't ask her to join them, which was just as well. Stocking the fire she had built when they first reached camp, Xena sauntered over to the group. "I'm going to check the perimeter and get some dinner. I'll be back soon, but yell if you need anything." Nodding at Gabrielle, receiving a warm smile in return, Xena went off to hunt their dinner, as well as to think about her sweet friend.
Syrilla watched the warrior leave without saying anything. Waiting until Xena was out of their line of vision, Syrilla looked at both Cyrene and Gabrielle. "I haven't told this story many times, but I'll try not to make it too long."
"I was born about 25 summers ago in a small village close to Athens, but still far enough away to be unknown to most travelers. The youngest of 12 children, I grew up spoiled by my brothers and sisters, and even my parents. All of my family were healers. Some worked with animals, some with plants, but most worked with people. And the gods bestowed the ability upon them to hear people's thoughts. It was a wonderful environment to grow up in, surrounded by my family. I had the benefits of everyone's knowledge and talents. My mother taught me about my gift and how to use it and how not to abuse it. My sisters taught me how to hide it from those around me. Everyone knew the importance of keeping it a secret, using it without letting anyone know you were using it. Mostly, I had a normal childhood, learning all the things that every other child learns. It got harder when I got to be about 13 summers old. Hearing the thoughts of some of my friends was rather hurtful. It was a lesson my mother said I had to learn. Well, I had plenty of chances to do so."
"Children can be the most cruel sometimes," Gabrielle almost whispered, remembering her own difficulty with the other girls in her village.
"Yes they can Gabrielle, but from what I've experienced, I'd have to say that children's attitudes are often reflections of their parents' attitudes. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I eventually learned it. I thought that life was good. My oldest sister was our village's healer. She worked hard and everyone really liked her, knowing that she could be counted on when a loved one was sick. Often, she would use her talents to find the source of a patient's problem. Nevertheless, there were occasions when even her talents couldn't save someone. It was hardest on her when that person was a child. Once, when I had reached my 17th summer, she had a particularly trying case. A young boy was terribly sick and no one could determine why the child was sick. He finally succumbed, my sister tending him until the moment he died. His parents, both young themselves, were just stricken with grief. They cried and nothing seemed to bring any relief to them. In desperation, my sister told them that their child's last thoughts were of them. The mother started screaming, 'How can you say such things? You don't know that!' And my sister admitted that she could read thoughts, and she knew that the boy had been thinking about his parents. It was a mistake, she admitted that to us that night when we all gathered at my parents' house. But, there was nothing we could do to take back what she had told those parents. We could only keep doing what we had been doing and hope that they didn't tell anyone else. "
Syrilla paused to take a drink from the waterskin laying nearby. "The next morning, we found my sister hanging from a tree in the center of the village. No one saw anything, or so they claimed. The next day, my brother was dragged out of his house in the middle of the night and killed. This continued, sometimes at night when no one could see and other times in the middle of the day, when the village could watch. My parents, worried for me, paid a passing peddler to take me with him. When I left, there were only a few members of my family still alive, my mother was already dead." Syrilla spoke in a quiet calm, without any emotion evident in her voice. But Gabrielle reached out and put her arm around her. Syrilla was surprised by the other woman's actions. "You sense my pain, don't you? You feel what I feel."
Blushing, with a serious look on her face, Gabrielle looked at the ground before answering. "Yes."
"You're gifted as well! How long have you had this gift?"
"For as long as I can remember. I don't really feel it, I just get a sense." She shrugged, "For a long time I thought it was normal, and then I realized that I was the only one who could sense these things. I never told anyone."
"Gabrielle, you shouldn't be ashamed of your gift! It's something that makes you special, not different!" Cyrene exclaimed, her arm around the bard.
It was then that Xena returned to the camp. Overhearing her mother's comment, Xena wondered what they were talking about. Dropping the fish she had caught from the lake, Xena strode over to where the women were sitting. "What makes Gabrielle special?"
Cyrene and Syrilla both knew that Gabrielle should answer the question, so they kept quiet.
Not able to look Xena in the eye, she focused on her hands as she answered. "I guess I have...well, Syrilla thinks it's a gift..."
Concerned, Xena kneeled in front of Gabrielle, looking into her green eyes. "What kind of gift?" Her voice was without emotion but for an instant her shield dropped and Gabrielle could see the worry in Xena's face.
Touched by the warrior's show of emotion, Gabrielle smiled at her. "I can feel things. When people's emotions are extreme, I can feel those emotions almost like I'm experiencing the emotion myself."
With a gentle touch, Xena brought her hand to Gabrielle's cheek, gently cupping the bard's face. "Why didn't you ever say anything?" she thought back to all the times she had been angry or sad and Gabrielle had been able to sense her emotions without her doing anything. She had just assumed it was a result of their being together so much.
"I never told anyone," Gabrielle said simply. "I wasn't trying to keep it from you, I just never thought to tell you."
"Well, I would have to disagree with mother," Xena spoke seriously. "That doesn't make you special."
Cyrene was surprised. "Xena, what..."
Only having eyes for Gabrielle, Xena finished. "You are special with or without the gift."
"Thank you, Xena." Gabrielle was without words. Her warrior had taken them all away with one simple statement. Reaching for Gabrielle's hands, Xena helped the bard to her feet.
"I think I'm going to go and take a quick bath before dinner. I feel filthy!" Cyrene stood and brushed off her skirt with her hands.
"If you don't mind, I think I'll join you," Syrilla stood as well and the two women grabbed their blankets to use as towels and walked away from the camp toward the lake.
"Yell if you two need anything!" Xena shouted at them. She wasn't too concerned, Syrilla's gift would keep anyone from sneaking up on them. Turning to Gabrielle, she spoke in a lower tone. "We should probably wait until they get back before we put these fish on the fire. I don't want to risk burning them."
Walking over to where their bedrolls were rolled out, next to each other, Xena started to unhook her armor. "I can do that," Gabrielle said as she came up behind the warrior.
Quickly removing the armor, Gabrielle could see without touching her that Xena was tense. "Lay down on the bedroll, you need a massage." It was a command, and Xena obeyed. As soon as she felt the bard's hands on her back, she gave an involuntary sigh. Straddling the warrior's hips to be able to reach all of Xena's back, her arms worked the tired muscles. "Feel good?" Gabrielle's mouth was right next to her ear.
Xena could feel herself heating at the feel of Gabrielle on top of her, electric shocks every time the bard's hands touched her. It was difficult for her not to turn over, take the bard in her arms, and kiss her.
Gabrielle concentrated on the wonderful feeling of being able to touch Xena without worrying about the warrior's reaction. She became so caught up in the feeling of the other woman's body against hers that she didn't even realize she had begun to roll her hips against the warrior. But, Xena did. When Gabrielle' began to move her hips rhythmically against her, Xena thought she was dreaming, but the rhythm was unmistakable.
When Gabrielle understood what she was doing, she stopped immediately, mortified. Xena moaned in disappointment, turning her body underneath Gabrielle. Putting her hands on Gabrielle's hips, she encouraged the woman to continue her movements. Understanding what the warrior wanted her to do, Gabrielle again started to roll her hips against Xena. Meeting the bard's hips with her own, Xena meshed them together, softly at first, and then harder and harder as they both became more heated. Both of them moaning, their thrusts against each other became more frantic as they both reached the peak of their excitement. Sighing, Gabrielle allowed herself to fall forward against Xena, laying her head on the other woman's shoulder, trying to catch her breath.
Before either one of them could speak, they heard the sound of someone approaching the camp. "Hades!" Xena mumbled under her breath as she lifted Gabrielle up and got them both to their feet. Taking the bard in her arms, she kissed the other woman passionately, trying to let her know how she felt in that one kiss. Under her breath, just before she let go, she whispered, "We'll talk about this later, I promise."
Gabrielle nodded her head, just a bit dazed by all she was feeling, all that she was experiencing at that moment. Seeing Cyrene and Syrilla coming back into camp, she went to help Xena get dinner going.
Together, they skinned the fish, creating a spit to put them on so they could roast them evenly. Gabrielle got a few herbs out of one of their saddlebags and sprinkled them on the fish as they cooked over the fire. "I'll watch them, Xena, if you want to go and feed Argo."
Nodding, Xena moved off towards her large horse. Syrilla and Cyrene had hung their blankets near the fire to let them dry, then sat down waiting for dinner to be ready.
"You should try that water down there, it's wonderful! Not too cold at all!" Cyrene smiled at the bard. "Do you always do all the cooking?"
Grinning, Gabrielle carefully turned the fish. "Unless you want your food crunchy! Xena's idea of food being done is cooking it until it's black. I learned very quickly that if I wanted decent food, I'd have to cook it myself!"
Laughing, Cyrene nodded. "She never could cook, but I thought maybe that had gotten better over the years. Her brother Lyceus was much better at cooking than she was."
Coming towards them, Xena heard the last bit of the conversation. "No, I just don't like cooking, so I purposely burn the food so that everyone else will cook for me!"
Gabrielle stuck out her tongue at Xena and Xena gave her a wicked grin in return. "I'll go get rid of these, be right back," Xena said as she picked up the fish heads and scales.
Looking amused, Syrilla spoke to Gabrielle. "You two make a good team."
"Yeah, we do don't we?" Gabrielle smiled at the compliment. Lately, Xena had been treating her more as an equal, a partner. Letting her mind wander as she turned the spit, she had hopes that one day they would be partners in every sense of the word. She wondered what it would be like to be Xena's lover. The thought caused pleasant chills to run up and down her spine. It was a wonderful thought!
"Are they ready yet?" Xena asked when she returned. Seeing that Gabrielle was off in her own world, she put a hand on the girl's shoulder. Gabrielle jumped, quickly coming out of her daydream. She gave Xena a quizzical look. "I asked, are they ready yet?" Seeing that Gabrielle still didn't understand, she pointed. "The fish, are they done cooking yet?"
"Oh! Yeah, I think we can go ahead and eat." Gabrielle blushed when she realized she had been caught. But, she was thankful that Xena didn't make a big deal out of it. She just gave the bard a raised eyebrow as she went and grabbed plates from their saddlebags.
"The fish were great, Gabrielle. Thanks for cooking them." Cyrene stood up and stretched.
"My pleasure. It isn't often that I get to cook for more then just Xena. It's nice to have someone who appreciates what I make!" She elbowed Xena who was sitting behind her.
"Hey! I appreciate it. I appreciate that I don't have to cook." Xena got up quickly to avoid the bard's sharp elbow again.
"Grrr..." Gabrielle pretended to growl at the warrior.
Laughing, Xena gathered up everyone's plates. "I guess I'll go do the dishes. Gabrielle, I suggest you come too if you want to get a bath tonight."
Gabrielle's eyes lit up when she realized that would mean she got to be alone with Xena. It was amazing, she and Xena were often alone for days at a time, but she never truly appreciated it until now. She couldn't wait until it was just her and Xena again.
"Let me grab some soap and some clean shifts!" Rummaging through their saddlebags, Gabrielle found what she needed.
"We won't be gone long."
Cyrene watched as her daughter and Gabrielle headed toward the lake. Sighing silently, Cyrene turned back toward the fire and sat on a nearby log. She felt Syrilla join her, both of them gazing into the fire.
Syrilla broke the silence. "They love each other very much."
"Yes, they do, but..."
"You worry they'll never be honest with one another," Syrilla finished for Cyrene. "They both know the other loves her, but they're just discovering that love, and they're both afraid to express just how deep that love goes."
Sighing again, Cyrene put her elbow on her knee and her hand under her chin. "I like Gabrielle a lot. I just hope that Xena doesn't lose her because she won't open herself up."
"It's always a possibility, " Syrilla said ominously.
They didn't talk on the way to the lake. Neither one knew how to bring up what had happened between them, yet that was all either one could think about.
"Gabrielle, I..." Xena stopped, unsure what to say. She felt in a way that she should be the one to broach the subject, but she had no idea how.
Anxious to hear what Xena would say, Gabrielle tried to prompt her to finish. "Yes? You what?"
"I....uh...think we're almost to the lake." Berating herself for not being able to handle the situation, Xena scowled.
Disappointed, Gabrielle frowned.
The lake appeared before them, the setting sun giving it a golden glow.
Quickly, the two friends deposited the things they were carrying on the ground. With efficiency, Xena and Gabrielle washed the dishes in silence.
Because she didn't know where to start the conversation they needed to have, Gabrielle decided to bring up another subject that she needed to discuss with the warrior.
"I've been thinking about Syrilla. I think I have an idea," Gabrielle spoke as they set the dishes out to dry.
Xena stood and took off her leathers and white shift. Standing there without her clothes, she stretched her tired muscles as she replied. "What's your idea?"
Mesmerized by the vision in front of her, Gabrielle felt her mouth go dry. Muscles rippled under Xena's golden skin. The bard's eyes traveled the smooth, well defined planes of Xena's body, trying to take her eyes away from the warrior's full breasts.
"Uhh....Amazons!" Gabrielle's voice cracked and her cheeks grew warm. Forcing her eyes off Xena she concentrated on getting her own clothes off.
Not noticing Gabrielle's reaction, Xena stepped into the lake. "Amazons, huh? That might work, especially if the Queen herself is the one who brings her into the tribe." Thinking as she watched the woman before her undress, Xena knew that they would have to talk about what happened, and soon. She realized that the warm sensation that hard started between her legs grew as she watched the other woman gracefully enter the water.
"I think if we talked to Ephiny about Syrilla's gift she'd be welcomed." Gabrielle spoke as she made her way through the water toward Xena.
"It's a great solution. Syrilla deserves to be happy." Xena couldn't tear her eyes off of Gabrielle.
"So do you Xena," nothing more than a whisper, the words spoke to Xena's heart.
Gabrielle motioned for Xena to turn around so she could wash the warrior's hair
As the younger woman caressed soap into her hair, Xena felt her body respond. While her body urged her to give into the wonderful sensations, her mind couldn't let go of what Gabrielle had said.
"What do you mean?"
"Hmmm?" Gabrielle knew full well what Xena was asking, but she wanted to hear the warrior say it. That and she loved the sound of Xena's sultry voice.
"You said 'so do you'." What did you mean?" Xena's mouth was all of the sudden dry. Gabrielle's hands didn't stop as she further explained herself.
"You spend so much time making sure that others are happy, what about you?" Cupping water in her hands, Gabrielle started to rinse the soap out of Xena's dark hair. In the twilight, her hair gleamed luminously. Gabrielle wanted to bury her face in it.
"What about me?"
"You deserve to be happy too." Holding her hand in front of Xena's face, Gabrielle continued. "I know, you think you don't deserve happiness because of your past. But you're wrong Xena. You do deserve happiness." Then in a soft voice, she continued, "and so do I."
Turning around, Xena avoided Gabrielle's eyes as she motioned for the bard to turn so that she could return the hair washing.
Xena thought carefully before she responded to what Gabrielle had said. In her heart, she hoped she knew the answer to the question she was about to pose. But, her mind told her to look at this in a more logical manner.
Carefully soaping Gabrielle's hair, Xena weighed the different events from their two summers together. On one hand, what had happened earlier weighed strongly in her favor. On the other hand, Perdicus weighed strongly against her. There were dozens of supporting points for both sides; the kiss they shared when Xena was dead, Gabrielle leaving her to go to Poteidaia. The way Gabrielle's eyes lit up when she saw Xena; the various starry eyed boys Gabrielle had befriended during their travels.
The list went on and on.
Gabrielle respected the silence, knowing Xena needed room to think.
Finally, Xena responded as she rinsed the strawberry blonde hair. "You're right," she spoke in a quiet voice, full of unshed emotion. "You do deserve happiness. Tell me Gabrielle, what would make you happy?"
Swallowing hard, Xena closed her eyes. Gabrielle wasn't stupid, she knew what Xena was asking.
Slowly turning around, Gabrielle moved closer to Xena until their bodies were almost touching. Xena steeled her body, willing herself not to take the bard into her arms. It was driving her crazy to know the woman she loved was so close. Her eyes still closed, Xena dropped her head, waiting for Gabrielle's response.
Putting her hand under Xena's chin, Gabrielle lifted the warrior's chin until their eyes were lined up.
"You would make me happy. You, Xena of Amphipolis." Slowly, she leaned forward and brought her lips to Xena's.
At first shocked, Xena didn't respond. Soon, her lips began moving in response to Gabrielle's. Slowly at first, they simply relished the feeling of the other woman's lips. Softness meeting softness, although not for the first time, still an exquisite sensation. Mouths opened and tongues intertwined as the heat and passion between them started to build.
Gabrielle pressed her body into Xena's, getting as close as she could, wishing she could be even closer. The feel of the other woman's body against her own sent amazing jolts of electricity through Xena's body. She moaned into Gabrielle's mouth, the bard returning the sound with a moan of her own. Wrapping her arms around the supple body pressing into her, Xena rubbed her hands across her back. Gabrielle shivered at each touch brought her hand up to caress Xena's face.
Finally, Xena pulled back, realizing they couldn't continue this. Hugging Gabrielle to herself, she whispered in her ear. "We can't do this now. Remember we aren't travelling alone. I don't want to start something we can't finish."
Panting, Gabrielle's mouth curled into a smile. "Too late, I think we already started."
Smiling back, Xena kissed Gabrielle's jaw, planting a row of little kisses from her ear, finally coming to rest on soft, full lips. "I promise it will be well worth the wait." Pulling back, she lowered and raised her eyebrows suggestively.
Capturing Xena's lips with her own, Gabrielle languidly treated the warrior to the most sensuous, passion filled kiss she had ever had. Moaning, Xena was helpless against the onslaught, just hoping she would be able to withstand this wonderful torture.
Finally releasing Xena's lips, the bard gave her a suggestive look of her own. "Just understand that I won't wait forever! It's taken me this long to get your attention and I don't want to have to start over again, got it?"
"Gabrielle, you've always had my attention. You certainly aren't going to lose it now."
Gabrielle gave Xena a full smile. It wasn't often that the warrior admitted her feelings, even to the bard. It had taken her a long time to come to terms in her mind with what her body already knew. Gabrielle had the ability to create new emotions, new sensations in Xena, and that scared her. But, after fighting her body's responses for this long, Xena was finally able to admit to them both that she loved the bard completely, and there was no one else who even came close to competing.
Pretending to grumble, Gabrielle relented. "I guess I've waited this long, I can wait a little bit longer!" She reached for the other woman's hand. Bringing Xena's hand to her face, she softly kissed the tip of each finger and then the palm of her hand. "I love you, Xena."
Squeezing the hand that held hers, Xena whispered back. "I love you, too." Then looking at their hands together, she brought the other woman's small hand closer. "You starting to get all wrinkly. We'd better head to shore, I don't want a pruny bard on my hands."
They walked hand in hand to the shore, carefully putting on their fresh shifts and gathering what they had brought with them.
By the time they got back to the camp, Cyrene and Syrilla were asleep. Mindful of the sleeping women, Xena and Gabrielle silently put things away. Gabrielle had placed their bedrolls a foot a part, but Xena was quick to move hers until she was right next to Gabrielle. Lying down on her side, she patted to the spot in front of her. Gabrielle laid herself down where Xena had indicated and the warrior spooned her long body against her. Snuggling closer, Gabrielle sighed with contentment as Xena put an arm around her waist, tucking her tightly against the other woman's body.
"Xena?" Whispering, not sure if the other woman was asleep, Gabrielle remembered something.
"You didn't answer my question."
Yawning, Xena asked, "What question?"
Turning carefully, Gabrielle faced Xena, putting her head on the other woman's chest. "What would make you happy?"
Cradling the younger woman against her, Xena kissed her golden hair. "You Gabrielle. You are all that I have ever wanted and you are what will make me happy."
Tilting her head, Gabrielle's lips found Xena's. A soft kiss to begin with, it became more enflamed, both women pressing harder against each other. Breathless, she pulled away, needing to breathe. "I think we started again."
Placing short, light kisses on the bard's mouth, Xena spoke between each kiss. "We...need...to...stop...that.." She ended her sentence with one more long kiss, brushing Gabrielle's lips with her tongue.
Delicately moaning, Gabrielle replied her voice husky. "But we are soooo good at it!"
Laughing softly, Xena pressed her lips to Gabrielle's forehead before she pressed the woman against her. "Good night my Gabrielle."
Settling her arms around Xena, Gabrielle burrowed further into her embracing. "Good night," floated back up to Xena's ears as she shut her eyes and let herself be lulled to sleep by the feeling of Gabrielle's heartbeat.
The cool morning air on her face contrasted sharply with the feeling of warmth coming from her body. 'That's what happens when you have a bard on top of you!' Xena grinned to herself, then felt embarrassed by her giddy feelings. It was true, Gabrielle, during the night had moved so that she was on top of Xena, who was lying on her back. But, the weight was a pleasant reminder to her of the fact that she and Gabrielle had finally gotten past their fears. Opening her eyes and looking down her body at the golden hair that lay fanned out on her chest, Xena gave a blissful sigh. She couldn't resist the urge to touch the hair, feeling its softness as it slipped through her fingers. In her sleep, Gabrielle sighed, her hand moving and covering Xena's breast. The hand didn't squeeze, it just rested there, as if it were a natural place to keep a hand. Stifling a laugh, Xena put her arms around the sleeping woman and clasped her tightly against her. 'Gods, this is nice.' It was almost a source of strength to have Gabrielle that close, as though she derived strength from just having contact with the other woman. 'That just might be possible,' Xena remarked to herself.
As comfortable and warm as she was, Xena knew they would have to get moving soon. The sun had started its glide through the sky and she wanted them to get to Amphipolis before it got too late. Then, the next stop would be the Amazon village, and then, finally, she and Gabrielle would be alone once again. Funny, it took her a long time to feel that she could be alone with her love. Before, she had craved being totally alone, not a soul in the world bothering her. That way she didn't have to worry about anyone other then herself. When Gabrielle first started traveling with her, she would sometimes leave the other woman behind and go off just so that she could have that time alone. Eventually that changed. When it was just the two of them, she felt more at peace than at any other time in her life. In fact, she didn't like to be without the bard these days.
Looking again at the bard, Xena tried to discern how she could get out from under the woman without waking her. As she was figuring, she heard a branch break and saw a shadow replace the sunlight. She managed to grab her sword, which she had placed beside her bedroll the night before.
"Xena, it's just me. Sorry, I didn't want to wake Gabrielle." Hearing her mother's voice, Xena relaxed and put her sword back down.
"You should know better then to sneak up on me," Xena whispered.
"Yes, I probably should." Xena heard her mother begin to laugh. "How are you doing to get up without waking her up?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out. I seem to be pretty well pinned."
Smiling, Cyrene commented. "She looks so peaceful and sweet."
"Peaceful? That's because she's not sleeping on the ground, she's sleeping on me!' Xena snorted in reply.
"So, how are you going to do it?"
"I'm not." Putting her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders, Xena started to gently shake her, talking to her at the same time. "Come on, Gabrielle, it's time to get up. Wake up, Gabrielle..."
A huge yawn came from the sleeping woman. One green eye popped halfway open. "It can't be time to get up yet, I haven't finished sleeping!"
Laughing at the bard, Xena ruffled her hair. "If you had it your way, you'd sleep all day long."
Both eyes open now, Gabrielle gave her a mischievous sneer. "I can think of something else I might have us doing all day..."
Clearing her throat, Xena used her eyes to point out that Cyrene was standing not a few feet away from them.
"...eating is something I'm always in the mood for!" Gabrielle rushed on. She didn't know how Cyrene would react to what was going on, but she didn't intend to find out now, when they still had a day of travel ahead of them.
Sitting up, Gabrielle finally noticed where she had been sleeping. Blushing, she hurried to get off Xena, getting her leg tangled in the blanket in the process. Tumbling forward, she felt strong arms catching her from behind, keeping her from meeting the ground with her face. Xena turned her so that smaller woman was cradled in her arms.
"Are you okay?" Cyrene asked, concerned the bard might have twisted an ankle.
"I think she's fine mother, she just isn't very coordinated when she first gets up." Xena set the bard upright, making sure the blanket was out of her way.
"Ha, you should talk! At least I don't destroy cookware when I get up!"
"Oooo...yeah, that hurt!" Xena stood up and glared down at the bard with mock ferocity.
"Well, maybe that didn't, but this will!" Gabrielle swung her leg up to kick Xena in the shin, but the warrior was ready for her. Grabbing her leg in both hands, Xena pulled causing the bard to lose her footing. With a shriek, Gabrielle landed on their bedrolls, but as she fell, she grabbed Xena's hands, forcing the bigger woman down with her. They landed in a moving heap, both trying to pin down the other woman. In the end, strength won out as Xena managed to pin both of Gabrielle's shoulders against the ground.
Breathing hard, Gabrielle surrendered. "Okay...okay...I give up! You win!"
With a wicked grin, Xena began to tickle her. "Say it! Go ahead, say it!"
Writhing around, trying to escape the warrior's nimble fingers which were attacking her ticklish sides, Gabrielle gasped. "The Warrior Princess wins again....she's the best in the land!!!!" Xena ceased her tickling and grinned at the bard, who glared back at her.
"Hey! Some people are still trying to sleep around here!"
Three heads turned in the direction of the voice. Syrilla was sitting up in her makeshift bed, hair standing up in all directions. "It's bad enough you three think loud in the morning, but you didn't have to start yelling!" She mumbled. Looking at the three women, Syrilla asked, "What are you guys laughing at? What's so funny?"
After they broke camp, the four women headed toward Amphipolis. About half way there, Xena decided to scout ahead to see if there would be any trouble on the road, but as she rode ahead of the other women, she had a strange feeling that made her anxious to return. 'It's like I don't want to let her out of my sight,' the warrior thought. After seeing that everything looked fine, she turned around and headed back. Stopping Argo, she waited for the others to come into sight. When they did, her vision focused on Gabrielle and she was amazed at how powerful the vision in front of her was.
Tears formed in her eyes as she watched Gabrielle. Letting her eyes travel the figure in front of her, she took in the well muscled legs, the lean hips and tight stomach, the firm, full breasts which tempted her, the long smooth pale neck, beautiful soft golden-red hair and a face that could melt anyone's heart. She knew she didn't deserve this beautiful woman, but rather than focus on that, she chose to find joy in the fact that this woman had picked her. Gabrielle loved her, and that was the best thing she had in her life.
Catching Gabrielle's eyes, Xena smiled warmly and then grinned when she saw a slight flush come into the woman's fair face. It was certainly a beautiful site, the warrior siting with her back straight in the saddle, her dark hair being picked up by occasional bursts of wind. The first word that came to Gabrielle's mind was regal, and she realized that in many ways that described Xena. Dismounting from Argo, Xena waited for them to catch up to her.
Gabrielle was just starting to talk to Syrilla about the Amazons when they caught up to Xena. "I don't think you'll have any problems there, the Amazons are pretty accepting," she assured Syrilla.
"Plus, it helps to know the Amazon Queen," quipped Xena as she took her place by Gabrielle's side, leading Argo. "The Amazons adore Gabrielle."
Playfully whacking Xena in the stomach with her hand, Gabrielle blushed. "I know there are Amazons who would disagree with that statement! Velasca is a prime example, showing that not everyone likes me."
"Ah, but they know better than to say anything," Xena replied seriously. "They wouldn't dare speak against Gabrielle."
"That's only 'cause you bash heads when they do!" Gabrielle stuck her tongue out at the warrior walking next to her.
"Hey, you better be careful with that tongue!" Then leaning in to whisper into the young woman's ear, Xena spoke in a low, sexy voice. "I have plans for it later."
Gabrielle closed her eyes as she felt a wave of desire roll over her. Taking a deep breath, she vaguely heard Syrilla and Xena continue to talk about the Amazons, but she could only concentrate on the wonderful sensations washing over her body. Opening her eyes again, Gabrielle noticed she was walking alone with the warrior.
"Where'd Syrilla go?" Confusion was evident on her face.
Chuckling, Xena smiled down at the other woman. "She decided to wait for mother to catch up with us. They're just behind us."
Turning to look, Gabrielle saw that indeed, Cyrene and Syrilla were walking a few yards back, talking to each other.
"Something wrong?" There was a bit of mischievousness in Xena's voice.
"I think you know what's wrong, the question should be what are you going to do about it?" The bard turned her best evil grin on Xena. "And when!"
"Patience, my little bard. Tonight we'll probably end up staying in Amphipolis at mother's inn, and then tomorrow we'll head to the Amazons and privacy."
"Two more days?" Obviously, the woman was frustrated.
"'fraid so. At least once we reach the Amazon village, we'll have our own hut. Then we can finish what we started last night." Just as frustrated as Gabrielle, Xena tried to reason with herself that two days wasn't forever. But, each time she looked at the beautiful woman next to her, she realized that it wasn't soon enough. Actually, she had held feelings for Gabrielle for so long she still wasn't sure that this wasn't all a dream. In her dreams, she and Gabrielle finally admitted their feelings and decided to take their relationship to a higher level. But, she would wake up before they got the chance to make love to one another. If this weren't a dream, she would wake up forever in Gabrielle's arms. To her, that was all that mattered.
Beside the warrior, Gabrielle was muttering "Two more days, two more days," over and over again.
They reached Amphipolis a little after nightfall. Cyrene's staff was very glad to see her. They had been running the inn in her absence and they now all realized it wasn't an easy job. They were very grateful to be able to return to their regular duties around the inn.
As word of the innkeeper's return circulated, more and more people came into the inn wanting to hear about what had happened. Soon, it seemed that the entire village was gathered within the main room of the inn, all waiting anxiously to hear about her adventures.
Cyrene was quick to announce that they had a real bard there that would tell the story, putting her arm around Gabrielle and leading her to a small stage set up in the corner of the room. Everyone faced Gabrielle, waiting anxiously to hear her. Xena sat at the bar, her eyes on the woman she loved watching the bard's every move. Usually, Xena didn't like to hear stories that involved her, but she was going to make an exception this time. She didn't want to let the other woman out of her sight, almost afraid that the woman would disappear if she did.
Waiting for the crowd to quiet down, Gabrielle started the story from where Cyrene and Xena had left town.
Leaning against the bar near Xena, Cyrene watched her daughter watching Gabrielle. Quietly, she spoke to her daughter. "I like Gabrielle a lot, and I'm very happy for you both."
Not bothering to pretend not to understand, Xena let one side of her mouth turn up in a smile. "Thank you mother."
They both listened to the rest of Gabrielle's tale in silence.
There was tremendous applause when Gabrielle finished and many of the town's people were asking for another story. But, Xena was quick to move towards Gabrielle, telling the crowd that they were all tired and were going to get some sleep. The people were understanding enough, with only a few drunken men making comments, and they were quickly shut up by a pair of steely blue eyes glaring their way.
Finding Cyrene and Syrilla in the kitchen, Xena told them that she wanted to get an early start the next morning.
"Can you show Syrilla the guest room that's next to your room, Xena? I think that's where we'll put her up for the night. There should be clean sheets on the bed, if not, let me know and I'll take care of it right away." She didn't mention where Gabrielle was going to sleep, she figured she knew the answer so it didn't make much sense to mention it.
Nodding, Xena started to lead Syrilla up the back stairs.
Syrilla stopped to take Cyrene's hands in her own. "Thank you for your kindness, Cyrene. I have never in my life been treated as well as I have been in the last two days. I'll always be grateful for the day that Gangrius brought you into camp."
Patting the other woman's hands, Cyrene smiled. "You're welcome, Syrilla. I'm...sorry about what happened to your family, but I have faith that there are people in this world who will be kind to you and won't persecute you because you're different."
A loud yawn came from the stairs, and both women turned to look. They saw a surprised Gabrielle, her cheeks red. "Sorry, I didn't realize just how tired I am!" She gave the two women a sheepish grin and elbowed Xena when she heard the warrior beginning to laugh.
"I'm coming. Good night Cyrene." Syrilla headed toward the stairs.
"Thanks Cyrene, and we'll see you in the morning!" Gabrielle called out with a little wave.
"Good night, everyone. Let me know if you need anything!"
Gabrielle sat alone on the bed in Xena's old room while the other woman got ready for bed. Very interested in where the warrior used to live, she looked around the room taking in everything she saw. Overall, the room was rather bare, nothing like the bard's own room back in Poteidaia which was crammed full of childhood momentos.
On one shelf over the bed were a few old wooden toys. Some shifts and dresses still hung in the open closet and a hairbrush and pins sat on the dresser. A few drawings done in a child's hand hung on the wall, mostly just pictures of people and weapons.
Getting out of the bed, Gabrielle walked over to one of the pictures. There was a stick figure with long dark hair, and another stick figure with blonde hair. They were holding hands in the picture, both of them wearing huge smiles.
"That's me and Lyceus." Gabrielle hadn't heard the warrior come in but wasn't surprised to hear Xena's voice behind her. She felt two arms encircle her from behind and draw her in, then felt herself pressed up against a muscular body.
Leaning back further against Xena, taking in the smell of leather that was so much a part of Xena Gabrielle spoke in a soft voice. "Who drew the picture?"
"Lyceus did, when he was 6 summers old. He loved to draw and would make pictures of just about anything he saw. Unfortunately, he didn't have any real talent for it, but it made him happy." Resting her chin on the smaller woman's head, Xena absorbed the feeling of finally being able to hold her love.
Still facing the picture, Gabrielle whispered, "I wish I had known him."
"I wish you had too. So long as I didn't have to compete with him."
Turning in Xena's arms, Gabrielle gave her a puzzled look. "Compete with him? For what?"
"For you," Xena said softly as she kissed Gabrielle's nose.
"Xena, there isn't anyone on earth, Tartarus, or even the Elysian Fields that could change the fact that you are the one I love and you are the one I want."
Xena immediately thought about Perdicus. Perdicus had taken Gabrielle away. Losing Gabrielle to him had broken her heart. Maybe if she had spoken up at the time, told Gabrielle how she felt, maybe she wouldn't have lost her. Or maybe, Gabrielle had simply loved Perdicus more than she had loved Xena. The thought saddened her immensely.
Feeling Xena's sadness, Gabrielle took her chin between her thumb and forefinger, forcing the warrior to look at her. "Hey, what's wrong? That should make you happy?"
Pulling the bard closer, Xena hugged her tightly. "It does make me very happy."
"I sense a 'but' there. What is it that's keeping you from being happy?" She saw Xena take a shaky breath and let it out. Then it dawned on her. "Perdicus."
Nodding her head, Xena let go of the bard and sat down on the bed.
Now understanding what was upsetting the warrior, Gabrielle quickly put her thoughts together, trying to figure out how to explain.
Kneeling on the floor in front of the warrior, Gabrielle put a hand on each of Xena's knees. "I know I hurt you when I got married. I am so sorry that I did."
"Why did you marry him?" It came out in a soft whisper. A question Xena had been dying to ask for some time, but was always afraid to.
"The reason I married him was because he needed me, Xena. I thought at the time you didn't, at least not the way that I needed you. I wanted and needed so much more than I thought you were willing to give me. Perdicus needed me in that way and I thought that he would be able to quench my need for you. Almost as though I could transfer my feelings for you to him." Giving a small bitter laugh, she continued. "I realized immediately after the wedding that I was wrong. Do you remember how you kissed me after the service? Well, that kiss was all I could think about all night. I knew at that moment what love was, and that the love in my life was all found in you. I didn't let Perdicus touch me that night, " Gabrielle said this hesitantly, for some reason wanting Xena to know this. She saw Xena's eyes widen in surprise. "I was too numb. I thought that I had really lost you forever and it was my own fault for running away from you. By morning, I had resigned myself to a life with Perdicus, a life without you. I was miserable, but realized that I had created my own fate and that I to live with the mistake I had made. You taught me that. You can't take back your mistakes, but you can live your life trying to deal with those mistakes. What I didn't know is that Callisto had other plans for us."
Xena pulled the woman up and set her on her lap, cradling the bard in her arms. "I thought that I had lost you forever. I didn't want to face life without you in it, but I didn't want to share you with Perdicus either. It was then that I realized that I was in love with you."
Tears started to fall from Gabrielle's eyes, realizing the depth of emotion that this woman felt for her. "I love you, Xena."
Gently kissing away Gabrielle tears, Xena let her mouth move until she was touching her lips to the bard's lips. They kissed tenderly for a few moments, both knowing they couldn't take this kiss very far, especially with Syrilla in the next room.
Breaking away, Xena smiled ruefully at the bard. "Tomorrow night....that is...I mean, I don't want to rush you. If you need time..." She hadn't thought about that, but Gabrielle might not be ready to steam ahead just yet.
"No, no, I don't want to wait any longer than I have to, Xena!" They both grinned at the forcefulness of Gabrielle's protest. "I didn't let Perdicus touch me the night we were married because I had always wanted you to be my first. I couldn't imagine anyone else making me happy. I have waited for a long time, please don't make me wait any longer."
Leaning back and shifting her body Xena pulled Gabrielle on top of her. The bard rested her head on Xena's shoulders, snuggling closer to the warm body underneath her.
"I promise Gabrielle, as of tomorrow night your waiting will be over." Rubbing her hands in a pattern on Gabrielle's back, Xena smiled when she heard Gabrielle's breath deepen as sleep overcame her.
"I never break a promise," Xena whispered into Gabrielle's silky hair as she fell asleep herself.
Soft lips met, tongues meshed together, heat rose as two women's bodies met in passion. Gabrielle moaned when she felt Xena pull away.
"Shhh, it's okay, my bard, we're not done yet." Opening her eyes, Gabrielle saw the sexy smile on her love's face. "I just want to feel your skin on mine, to touch your body, not your clothes."
Swiftly, Xena undid the laces of Gabrielle's green top, sliding her hands under the loosened garment, both women groaning at the contact.
All thoughts of slowly discovering each other's body left as Gabrielle felt a fervent heat wash over her.
Quickly taking off her skirt, she pushed the warrior back, sliding her hands under Xena's shift. Her passion requiring speed, she swiftly slid her hands up the hard body she so admired, taking the shift with her.
Grinning at her passionate partner, Xena moaned when she felt Gabrielle lay down on top of her.
Lining herself up so that they were breast to breast, Gabrielle lowered her mouth onto Xena's forcing her tongue into the warrior's hot mouth. Small hands covered large breasts as the bard tried to convey her passion without words.
Xena's head thrashed from side to side as she felt Gabrielle kiss her way up her jawbone and take an earlobe into her mouth.
"Gods, Gabrielle!" Xena moaned loudly. Feeling lips move down her throat, biting and sucking along the way, her body became more responsive.
A pair of large callused hands found soft silky hair as Gabrielle's mouth hovered over a luscious nipple.
"Please, please Gabrielle!" Xena's hands pressed Gabrielle's head to her chest, urging the woman to continue.
She didn't have to wait long as Gabrielle's tongue reached out and connected with a dark nipple. Xena's body arched into Gabrielle as the woman took the entire nipple into her mouth. Suckling Xena's breast, Gabrielle's hand reached for the other breast, kneading it. Xena started to thrust her hips against the body covering her.
Eyes tightly closed, Xena voiced her needs. "Please Gabrielle, please make love to me!"
Gabrielle stopped. She looked at the glistening body under her, a feeling of helplessness overwhelming her.
Raising her head Xena tried to see why the bard had stopped. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Unable to meet the blue eyes of her best friend, Gabrielle closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I don't know what to do," her voice low, not hiding the despair and embarrassment she felt.
"Huh? What don't you know how to do?"
Clenching her hands, Gabrielle tried to explain. "I don't know how to make love to you Xena." A blush moved into her cheeks as she admitted her inadequacy.
Suddenly, a laugh broke the silence. "You don't know how to make love to me?"
Gabrielle's head snapped up as she realized she was being mocked. Looking at Xena's face, she was hurt by the mirthful and pitying look she saw in her friend's eyes. But, Xena was still laughing, a mean laugh that left her cold.
Rising off Xena, Gabrielle grabbed the sheet to cover herself, suddenly feeling very vulnerable without her clothes on. She slowly backed away from the bed. "Xena..."
"No, don't talk, you innocent child!" Xena's words were harsh and Gabrielle had to blink back tears. "If you can't satisfy me, then I guess we're done here!" Xena got up and put her shift back on, moving toward the door.
"Xena! Don't leave me! I love you!" Gabrielle was crying in earnest now. The warrior walked out the door without looking back. "No!"
Suddenly Gabrielle opened her eyes, disoriented. It was dark all around her and she was lying on her side. Feeling something around her waist, she looked down and realized that an arm was encircling her stomach, holding her tightly.
Her senses finally awakening, Gabrielle was aware of the sound of deep breathing in her ear. Her nose picked up the scent of leather and soap.
'It was just a dream,' she told herself. Taking a deep breath, she tried to slow the beating of her heart.
Her dreams were always full of her warrior, but this was the first nightmare about the warrior since they began traveling together. In her dreams her gentle warrior had been gone and in replace was a harsh woman, mocking and laughing at her.
In reality, she was in Xena's arms, held gently, but firmly against the warrior's muscular body. Gulping back a scream of frustration, Gabrielle let out a sigh instead. The movement of her chest caused Xena to tighten her hold on the young woman.
Turning in the protective circle of the warrior's arms, she took the opportunity to study Xena. Silently watching the other woman, Gabrielle admired the beautiful face that looked so peaceful in sleep. But, her dreams haunted her musings. She didn't know how to make love to someone. That was a fact that she couldn't ignore and it bothered her because the desire to love Xena physically was so strong. She wanted to be able to make Xena happy. She hadn't thought about that before -- what if she couldn't satisfy Xena? Would this ruin their relationship? Scared at this thought, she nestled closer to the other woman, taking some comfort in the arms around her.
Maybe she was worrying about this too much. After all, she had told Xena about the fact that she had never been with Perdicus. Surely the warrior would realize that meant she didn't have any experience of that nature.
Gabrielle absently ran her fingers over Xena's cheeks as she thought about how to rectify this situation. Being afraid wasn't going to help, she had to do something about it, and quick!
"Morning," the sound of Xena's sultry voice startled Gabrielle.
"Hi there," Gabrielle leaned in and softly kissed Xena's lips. She was going to make love to this woman tonight, she just needed to find a way to get a quick education in how to pleasure a woman.
Pulling the bard closer, Xena hugged her tightly, not wanting to let go of the wonderful sensations of having her love in her arms. Gabrielle snuggled in, hearing Xena's steady heartbeat under her.
Sighing, Xena released her hold on the bard. "I suppose we should get up and get breakfast so that we can head out to the Amazon village. We should be there by mid-day."
"Great, that means we can eat there!" Gabrielle gave Xena a huge smile.
"Yes, that means that you can eat as much as you want." The two women had found that because of Gabrielle's status as Queen, she could eat as much as she wanted at every meal without having to worry about running out. The Amazons made sure their Queen had enough to fill her never-ending stomach anytime she was hungry. They found the Queen's favorite foods and kept them in stock for her to enjoy when she was there.
"In that case, let's go!" Hopping out of bed, Gabrielle stretched her muscles, trying to get rid of that stiff morning feeling.
Xena watched as the bard stretched, appreciating the view of Gabrielle's supple body. She couldn't wait until tonight, when the bard would be all hers. Before she could voice the thought, there was a knock at the door.
Cyrene popped her head in, hoping she wasn't interrupting anything that would embarrass them all. "Are you two awake?"
"Yup, come on in mother." Xena smiled when she saw her mother take notice of what she and the bard were wearing and that they weren't in bed together.
"Just wanted to let you both know breakfast is available now if you want it before you leave. We have a little bit of everything, but it won't last too long, so I suggest getting down there fairly soon."
"Thanks Cyrene, breakfast sounds wonderful! Xena hardly lets me eat when we're traveling! I swear, she doesn't give a girl enough time to swallow!"
Rolling her eyes at the exaggerations of the bard, Xena spoke to her mother. "We'll be down as soon as we get dressed and get our stuff together."
Cyrene left, closing the door behind her.
Rising from the bed with the graceful ease of a panther, sleek as she stretched her muscles, Xena watched her friend's reaction. Watching with open admiration, Gabrielle didn't realize the woman had moved until she felt arms around her. Picking the bard up, Xena tossed her gently onto the bed, using her body to pin Gabrielle down. Growling, Xena spoke with a menacing look on her face.
"Don't let you swallow, huh?"
After the dreams she had had the night before, Gabrielle felt a bit of fear well up inside of her. Then she saw the playful gleam in Xena's eyes. "Well, maybe that was stretching it a bit..." Gabrielle began to defend herself.
A well-formed eyebrow went up, as did one side of a mouth. "A bit?"
Gabrielle was squirming now, trying to get out of Xena's grip.
"I don't think that was very nice, Gabrielle. Maybe I should teach you a lesson..." Xena brought her mouth down to Gabrielle's. When Gabrielle tried to bring her head up to meet the warrior's lips, she pulled back, just out of Gabrielle's reach. "Now, now..."
Gabrielle settled back down, realizing she wasn't going to get anywhere, Xena outweighed her and was definitely stronger then she was.
Once again, Xena moved in to kiss Gabrielle. She stopped just short of their lips meeting and her tongue snaked out, licking the bard's lips. Gabrielle moaned at the contact, closing her eyes as she anticipated Xena's kiss.
Seeing the look on Gabrielle's face, Xena smiled. One last swipe of her tongue across the younger woman's lips, and she got up off the bard.
"Xena!" Disappointed, Gabrielle tried to call the warrior back.
"Lesson learned, I think." Xena grinned, satisfied the lesson wouldn't be forgotten. Turning to get her leathers on, she didn't see the bard come flying at her until it was too late.
Tackling Xena around the waist, Gabrielle let out a cry of triumph as she and the warrior fell to the floor.
"What took you two so long?" Cyrene demanded when she finally saw her daughter come into the kitchen. She and Syrilla had been sitting in the kitchen, waiting for them to come down the stairs.
Carrying their saddlebags, Xena took them out the back door, setting them by the step leading in. Looking sheepishly at her mother, she tried to think of something to say. "We..."
"It's my fault, I fell back to sleep." Gabrielle filled in as she came into the room. With an innocent grin, she continued. "I am not an easy person to wake up!" Noticing the knowing look she was receiving from Syrilla, she blushed. "Morning, Syrilla."
"Good morning, Gabrielle."
Cyrene gave them both a suspicious look, but said no more. "Well, there isn't much left, but I can fix you two some eggs if you want."
Gabrielle's stomach growled in response.
"I guess that would be a yes," Cyrene noted dryly.
"Gods, your mother packs a mean table." A huge smile on her face, Gabrielle burped softly. "Excuse me!"
Walking on the road from Amphipolis, the three women were loaded down with food that Cyrene had insisted they take. It was enough food to last for days, despite the fact that they had told Cyrene that they would be within Amazon territory in time for the mid-day meal. Even though they had only been walking for a short bit, Gabrielle could already see signs that they were getting closer.
Fondly stroking the bard's silken hair, Xena gave her a soft smile. "I am glad that we were able to fill you up before we left."
The three women were quiet as they walked. Xena was beginning to get worried about the bard, knowing it was unusual for her not to at least make some effort toward a conversation. Syrilla never really spoke much, but Xena assumed that was because she had so much going on in her head. Being able to hear other people's thoughts had to get annoying.
Wanting to talk to Gabrielle, but not wanting to push her, Xena became frustrated. Mounting Argo, she looked at the bard. "I'm going to scout ahead, I'll be back in a few minutes." Argo took off, her master leaning forward in the saddle, pushing her hard.
The other two women walked on in silence.
"She's frustrated." Syrilla finally spoke up.
"What?" Confused, Gabrielle looked at the other woman with a frown on her face.
"She's frustrated." Syrilla repeated.
"Why is she frustrated?"
Trying to get Gabrielle to understand without hurting her, Syrilla asked another question. "Why are you so nervous?"
Turning red, Gabrielle stuttered. "I...I...well, I...see, I had this dream last night...and I...well, I'm afraid if it coming true." Her voice got softer as she finished until it was almost a whisper.
"She loves you and nothing will change that." Syrilla spoke firmly, knowing what Gabrielle was afraid of.
Feeling tears in her eyes, Gabrielle admitted her biggest fear. "I just don't want to lose her."
Feeling compassion for the bard, Syrilla tried to think of a way to explain Xena's love. She smiled as she realized the answer. "Gabrielle, do you love Xena?"
"With all my heart." A soft, yet firm voice answered.
"What if she did something to disappoint you? Would you love her less? Would you leave her?"
"Of course not! It doesn't matter what she does, I love her for..." Gabrielle hesitated as she saw what Syrilla was trying to do. "...who she is."
"I think you understand now, don't you? Give her a chance, don't assume that she's going to run away just because you disappoint her. Her love is as strong as yours, just give it a chance and you'll see. " Stopping, Syrilla studied the bard. Turning to see why the woman had stopped, Gabrielle caught her twinkling eyes. "Besides, I don't think that you'll be a disappointment to her."
Blushing profusely, Gabrielle didn't know what to say.
Syrilla continued to walk, smiling to herself in victory.
When Xena returned she noticed a change in the bard. Gabrielle began telling a story as soon as Xena was in hearing distance and kept telling stories to the two women until they reached the edge of Amazon territory. Every now and again, she would reach up and emphasize a point by touching the warrior's knee. Secretly pleased that the bard was a physical person, Xena relished the brief contact, smiling down at Gabrielle often and seeing that smile returned.
When they entered Amazon territory, they slowed a bit, listening to the noises around them. When they finally heard a shrill bird call from the trees, Gabrielle stopped. Putting her staff down, she returned the call with one of her own.
Three Amazon warriors jumped down from the trees above them. Looking at the visitors, it didn't take more then a few minutes for the three Amazons to fall to their knees. One of them rose after a few seconds. Taking her mask off, she smiled at her queen.
"Gabrielle! We didn't know you were coming!"
"Eponin!" Gabrielle pulled the dark-haired woman into an embrace. "We didn't know we were coming until a few days ago, so we figured we'd just surprise everyone."
"You're always welcome here, you know that." Eponin pulled away and glanced at Xena. "See you're still traveling with this old lady."
"You're just jealous because I can knock you on your butt before the count of three." Xena replied stoically.
"Hey, that only happened once, and I happened to be drunk at time!" Grinning, Eponin grasped Xena's forearm in a warrior's handshake.
"It's good to see you too, Eponin." Xena really did like the Amazon warrior, they were a like in many ways.
"Eponin, this is our friend Syrilla. Syrilla, this is Eponin, head of the Amazon guard." Gabrielle made the formal introductions and the two women smiled at each other in acknowledgement.
"Any friend of Gabrielle's is welcome." Eponin gave a sly grin. "But, friends of Xena usually don't make it this far!"
"Ha, ha, glad to see that you didn't lose your sense of humor when I knocked you down on it."
"Ouch, that hurt! " Eponin was glad to see the warrior again. Maybe this time they could have a real sparring contest. Looking at her queen, she was also glad to see her. Maybe she would get the chance to flirt some more with the young woman. It was an understatement to say that most of the women in the village would love to trade places with Xena for a day.
"I should probably get you guys to Ephiny." Hearing Gabrielle's stomach growl, Eponin smiled. "Ah, yes, it's about time for a meal too, isn't it."
They were all laughing as they headed toward the village.
After it had been announced that the queen was back for a visit, the food hut was crowded with women who wanted to welcome the young queen. Many of the Amazons had doubted the bard's abilities at first. But, after what happened with Velasca, all had come to respect and even like Gabrielle. She may not have been born of Amazon blood, but in their hearts, it didn't matter.
Sitting back, watching the onset of flirting Amazons, Xena carefully studied her young friend. Radiating energy, Gabrielle was a natural with the crowd, talking to everyone she could, remembering all their names and even something about them. 'She's good at doing that,' Xena realized. 'She knows just what to say to make you feel you are important.'
After everyone had eaten and gone back to their daily duties, Gabrielle told Ephiny she needed to talk to her. Xena had gone off to the practice field with Eponin, and Gabrielle could only imagine the challenges they would find for one another.
"Sure, we can go back to my hut, if that's okay with you?" Ephiny smiled at Gabrielle, very glad to see her again. She included Syrilla in her smile, figuring that the quiet woman had something to do with what Gabrielle wanted to talk to her about.
They headed toward Ephiny's hut, Gabrielle catching Ephiny up on what had been happening since they had last seen each other.
The three women settled down in the tent before Gabrielle spoke.
"Ephiny, I have a request of the village. I would like for Syrilla to live here, providing that the council approves."
"It is unusual that we take in outsiders. Maybe you could tell me why you want her to live here." Glancing at Syrilla, Ephiny smiled. "No offense intended, but we do have rules and laws to live by. It's nothing personal."
"I understand," Syrilla spoke simply.
Taking a deep breath, Gabrielle launched into Syrilla's story. Syrilla was surprised to hear that the young woman had remembered everything she had told her a few days before.
Ephiny listened to the story without interrupting, but her empathy showed clearly on her face. It reminded her much of how she and Phantes were treated after they were married. Just because her husband was a Centaur, they were ostracized and condemned by people they didn't even know.
"I know that it's not customary for outsiders to live here. This case, however, is different. Just as the Amazons are outsiders outside of this village, Syrilla is considered an outsider too. She deserves a place to live, somewhere where she'll be safe. For someone like her, I couldn't think of any place safer then here." Gabrielle finished up, waiting for Ephiny's reaction.
After listening to Syrilla's story, Ephiny knew that the council would approve, but she still needed to present it to them. "I agree to take the matter before the council." Then, she remembered who she was talking to. "Unless you would rather do it Gabrielle."
Thinking about it, Gabrielle shook her head. "No, that's okay, I would rather you present it to the council. You're much better versed on protocol than I am."
"Okay then. I will call for a meeting in two hours." Turing to Syrilla, Ephiny gave her a soft smile. "In the meantime, how about a tour of the village?"
Nodding, Syrilla agreed.
Calling in one of the guards outside her hut, Ephiny instructed the guard to give Syrilla a tour, tell her as much about the Amazon way of living as possible.
After they had left, Gabrielle turned to Ephiny. "Thank you Ephiny. I can't tell you how much that means to both Xena and myself."
"Speaking of Xena, how are you two doing?"
"No, I don't mean how are each of you, I mean the two of you, together."
"Huh?" Gabrielle was surprised.
"Come on Gabrielle, we all think you two are a great couple."
Blushing, the younger woman grinned. "How did you know?"
"I know because we've been betting on how long it would take the two of you to get together and Eponin handed me two dinars at lunch!"
Gabrielle laughed. "Betting on us? Wait till Xena hears that one..."
"Do me a favor and wait until after you leave before telling her. I don't want to be around when she find out!" Pretending to be scared at the thought of an angry Xena, Ephiny realized that it was really something to be afraid of!
"So, how are you two doing?"
Adverting her eyes from Ephiny's Gabrielle looked around the woman's hut. "Um, we're doing fine. It's still pretty new to us."
Raising her eyebrows, Ephiny asked, "How new?"
Blushing a deeper shade of red, Gabrielle tried to answer. "Um, if you mean...have we consummated the relationship...."
"Uh - huh...." Ephiny confirmed.
"Why not?" This surprised Ephiny. With the amount of sexual energy that comes off the two women when they're together, she would have thought that would have happened a long time ago.
"We've been rather busy, the opportunity just hasn't come up. I mean, we haven't been alone since we admitted how we felt."
Ephiny sensed there was something the bard wasn't telling her. "Gabrielle, what is it?"
Sighing, Gabrielle realized that she needed help in this area. "I'm a bit nervous. I mean, I've never....been with anyone."
"Never?" The Amazon was obviously surprised.
"No, never," the bard said unhappily. "I mean, I'm not exactly sure what to do. Gods, this is embarrassing!"
Ephiny moved closer to Gabrielle, putting her arm around her. "Don't be embarrassed. I mean, everyone has to start somewhere. You have to learn sometime, right?"
"I guess so. I'm just afraid of letting Xena down." Gabrielle sniffed as she felt tears rolling down her face.
Ephiny's heart went out to the younger women. She remembered her first time. She had been scared to death, but passion over rode her fear. There had to be something she could do to help her friend out. Suddenly, an idea hit her.
"Gabrielle, come with me. " Grabbing the bard's hand, she pulled her out of the chair she was sitting in.
"Where are we going?" Gabrielle asked as she was dragged out of the hut.
Gabrielle was surprised when Ephiny led her to the Amazons' scroll library. She had spent a good amount of time in the hut, studying Amazon culture and just enjoying reading what was in the various scrolls. But she didn't see how anything in there was going to help her out.
"Ephiny, I've been here several times! I don't think there is anything in here that's going to help!"
The Amazon grinned as she led the bard to the back of the hut. "I know you've been here before, but I bet you've never been in here!" She brushed back a wall hanging, revealing another room.
"What the...?" Gabrielle had never seen this room before.
"We keep these hidden because they are our most treasured stories." The four walls of the additional room was covered floor to ceiling in scrolls.
Stopping in front of one of the walls, Ephiny scanned the shelves. "Ah, here," she reached for one of the scrolls. "I think that this should help."
Reading the title on the scroll, Gabrielle's eyes widened. "You mean all these scrolls..."
"Yup, they are all about how to please a woman. Over here," Ephiny pointed," are the scrolls that are educational. And these," she pointed again, "are scrolls of fictional stories. But, all the scrolls have to do with a woman pleasuring another woman."
Gabrielle was already immersed in the first scroll as Ephiny left her alone in the hut.
As the sun was setting, Ephiny announced to the village that they would have a welcoming ceremony for the newest addition to the Amazon nation.
The council had agreed with Ephiny that Syrilla would be able to stay with the Amazon nation. There were two stipulations. First, everyone would be told about Syrilla's gift. Syrilla was expected to help educate the Amazons about her gift so that they could better understand it. Second, Syrilla was asked to work with the healers of the village. Everyone in the village contributed to the livelihood of the Amazon nation in some fashion, and Syrilla was expected to do her part. Syrilla agreed. So tonight would be a time where everyone would meet Syrilla and hear her story. They would then party until the sun came up.
Xena came back from the practicing fields dirty and sweaty. Eponin was with her, limping. With a laugh, Ephiny head toward them. "Should I guess who won?"
Grinning, Xena answered for both of them. "I did, of course, but I'm not the reason for Eponin's limp."
Giving the Amazon warrior a questioning look that clearly expected an answer, Ephiny innocently asked. "Do tell, Eponin."
Grumbling, Eponin mumbled.
"What, I didn't hear that?" Ephiny asked.
"I said, I fell into a rabbit hole." Eponin turned red as she spoke louder this time. Several women stopped and snickered when they heard the raised voice. "Great, now the whole village will know!"
Laughing, Ephiny patted the Amazon on the back. "Humility does a girl good, Eponin." Sniffing the air, she crinkled her nose. "You two had better take a bath before the party tonight. You stink! I won't let either one of you at my table smelling that way!"
Eponin turned and limped toward the baths.
Xena stopped Ephiny before she left. "Have you seen Gabrielle? I haven't seen her all day." There was quiet concern in her voice.
"When I looked for her to tell her about the council's decision she was in the library, reading up on Amazon tradition." It was sort of true.
"Could you ask her to meet me at her hut before the party?"
"Sure, I'll ask her."
"Thanks Ephiny." Xena flashed her a grin before she headed off toward Eponin.
Ephiny barely heard Xena say "Race you!" to Eponin as she walked away.
The hut was quiet when Gabrielle got there. One of the things left to her by Terreis when she died, the hut was neat and actually larger than most of the huts in the village. Gabrielle loved being able to have her own place when she visited and the bed was big enough for both her and Xena. Grinning to herself, she felt more confident then she had earlier. Reading those scrolls really helped her to understand. She was still nervous, but she was now convinced that she would be able to make love to Xena without worrying about how to do it.
"You look happy," A sultry voice floated out of the shadows.
Moving toward the voice, Gabrielle saw the outline of a familiar figure in the shadows around the dark bed area. As she got closer, she saw that her warrior was lying there, wrapped in a towel, a alluring smile on her face. The towel just barely covered Xena's long body, revealing a good amount of tan skin. "Why shouldn't I be happy? I'm here with you."
Gabrielle gazed into warm blue eyes, feeling herself moving closer to the warrior. The pull was almost magnetic, her feet moving without her consciously thinking about it. She stopped in front of the bed, moving her eyes over Xena's body. Feeling a rush of warm heat, she closed her eyes. Without thinking, Gabrielle blurted out what was on her mind. "You are so beautiful."
Taking the bard's hand and pulling her onto the bed, Xena wrapped long arms around her love, holding her close against her. "No, YOU are the one who is beautiful. You take my breath away." Then she brought her lips to Gabrielle's, lightly pressing against her mouth.
Gabrielle opened her mouth in response, inviting Xena's tongue to explore. Leisurely, passionate kisses were exchanged. Gabrielle became lost in the sensations she was feeling. Reading all those stories had affected her and she felt her passion rising fast.
Pulling away, Gabrielle looked into Xena's eyes, seeing the need there. Slowly, she raised onto her knees. With deft fingers, she unlaced her top, pulling it off and flinging it into the air, not taking her eyes off Xena. She wanted to see the warrior's reaction. She wasn't disappointed as she saw blue eyes grow larger at the sight of Gabrielle's freed breasts. Quickly, she took off her skirt and breeches, not sure if she could wait any longer.
Kneeling next to the warrior, Gabrielle's hands reached down and undid the knot keeping Xena's towel fastened around her. As she opened the towel, she watched as Xena's breasts were revealed. A soft moan escaped her lips.
Not being able to stand the distance between them, Xena reached up and pulled Gabrielle to her. Both women felt a shock of electricity when their bodies met. Running her hands over the bard's back, Xena brought her mouth to Gabrielle's, kissing her more forcefully this time, needing to feel the bard's passion.
As she returned the kiss, Gabrielle's hands explored Xena's body, running over every inch of skin within their reach. Finally, they came to rest on large full breasts. Each hand cupped one and Gabrielle pulled away from Xena to watch. She lightly ran a finger over one of Xena's nipples and saw it stiffen in response.
Smiling, Xena watched as the bard explored her breasts with light touches. "You like that?" She asked as she brushed a hand through silky golden hair.
"I like the fact that you react to my touch." Gabrielle's fingers were playing with Xena's nipples, never ceasing their pleasurable torment.
"Trust me, my body loves it when you touch me." Xena moaned softly as she felt currents running from her breasts to her center.
Gabrielle couldn't resist any longer. She brought her mouth to Xena's breast. With slow licks, she slid her tongue across the breast, not touching the erect nipple.
"Gods, Gabrielle!" Cried Xena, entwining her hands in Gabrielle's hair.
Lavishing the same attention on the other breast, Gabrielle suddenly sucked Xena's nipple into her mouth.
Moaning loudly at the contact, Xena arched towards Gabrielle.
Suckling one of Xena's nipples while tugging at the other one with her fingers, Gabrielle began to immerse herself in the task.
"Gods, Gabrielle! That feels so good!"
Lifting her head, Gabrielle looked at Xena. "I have always wanted to do this." Xena moaned in response.
Xena was already floating at the feeling of Gabrielle's hot, wet mouth on her breast. She hadn't expect the bard to take control like this. It was unusual for her to give in; she was usually the one who controlled things. But Gabrielle was different.
Feeling Gabrielle's mouth lift off her breasts once more, Xena struggled to open her eyes to see what was going on. Heavy lidded, she saw Gabrielle start to kiss down her rib cage, then her stomach. Gabrielle moved down, sticking a tongue in Xena's belly button, causing her hips to rise off the bed. As she realized where Gabrielle was headed, she rolled her head from side to side, feeling a desperate need for release rise from inside of her.
Enjoying the reactions she was getting from Xena, Gabrielle continued her path downward. Opening Xena's legs wider, she slid her body between strong legs. Grinning at the sight of the patch of dark hair between Xena's legs, Gabrielle could smell her partner's arousal. Intoxicated by both the smell and the sight of what she was doing to Xena, she brought her mouth to the curly thatch and kissed it gently, drawing a moan from the other woman.
With a wicked grin, Gabrielle slid her tongue between Xena's folds. Tentatively at first, her tongue began stroking Xena with more energy as she found the sensations meeting her tongue enjoyable. Some parts were smooth against her tongue, others were rough, and they all were wet.
Xena's hips were thrusting against Gabrielle with each stroke of her tongue. Ragged moans and cries of pleasure were coming from her, unable to control her body's reactions. Her hands had grabbed the sides of the bed as she tried to cling to some degree of control, but the more the bard's tongue lashed, the less control Xena had.
Finding a hard knot and knowing that was her goal, Gabrielle sucked Xena's clitoris into her mouth, occasionally sliding it through her teeth. Xena began thrashing around, and the bard desperately tried to keep her grip on the warrior. Finally, with a loud cry, the warrior's body went rigid as she went over the edge.
Gabrielle stilled her tongue, just resting it inside of her lover. As she saw Xena relax, she pulled out, licking her lips as she crawled back up Xena's body into her waiting arms. She snuggled next to the panting warrior, listening to her shallow breaths.
Flying on a cloud of pleasure, Xena felt completely happy and contented, the first time in a long time, she realized. Never before had she had a sexual partner that could make her feel so much. Putting her long arms around the small bard, she squeezed her tightly against her. "I love, you," she whispered, her eyes still clenched tightly.
Hoping she had managed to satisfy the warrior, Gabrielle softly kissed Xena's face, brushing her lips over eyelids, cheeks, nose. "I love you, too," she whispered into Xena's ear.
Without opening her eyes, Xena rolled herself and the bard over until she was on top. Planting one knee firmly between Gabrielle's legs, she opened her eyes and stared into the beautiful, desire filled green eyes of her love.
"Do you have any idea what you do to me?" Xena purred.
"Nnno," Gabrielle managed to get out, overwhelmed by her own desire for Xena.
"Hmm...then I guess I'm going to have to show you, aren't I?" Grinning evilly, Xena brought her mouth down, capturing the bard's lips with her own. In sensuous motions, she kissed Gabrielle, using her tongue to excite the bard.
Pulling away, Xena watched Gabrielle's face as she brought one hand up, cupping a firm breast. Moaning at the contact, Gabrielle threw her head back when Xena's skilled fingers pinched her nipple. "Mmmm...so responsive. I like that," Xena told her lover.
Again bringing her lips to Gabrielle's, Xena gently kissed the bard then began kissing a searing path to her chest. Stopping on Gabrielle's neck, Xena sucked a spot at the base of her neck until a purplish spot appeared. "That shows that you are mine," Xena told the bard, who just whimpered in response.
Kissing across Gabrielle's collarbone, Xena's mouth rested at the top of the swell of Gabrielle's breast. Using her tongue, she painted circles, making each circle smaller and smaller, until she reached the waiting nipple. She slowly licked the nipple, feeling it stiffen at the contact. Keeping her tongue there she began licking faster and faster, finally taking the nipple into her mouth.
Gabrielle had surrendered all thoughts of watching Xena make love to her. The sensations she was feeling were too intense to do anything but feel them. She was moaning constantly now, her body writhing in response to what Xena was doing.
One hand fondling one breast, her mouth on the other, Xena was lost in her own world of sensations. The soft skin in her mouth felt so good, so right. She had imagined so many times what it would be like to suckle Gabrielle's perfect breasts, and she found the reality was better than her imagination.
Xena's knee began to press against Gabrielle's center, gently at first and then harder and with more pressure as the bard responded. Moaning when she felt Gabrielle's sweet juices cover her thigh, Xena knew the bard wouldn't be able to handle too much more before she went over the edge.
Her hand left Gabrielle's breast and traveled over a firm stomach, finally finding the soft thatch of hair. She cupped Gabrielle's sex, firmly pressing on it, then moved her hand and caressed the inside of firm thighs.
Thrashing around wildly now, Gabrielle couldn't believe the fire she felt between her legs. She could feel her own juices soaking the insides of her thighs, and a tight sensation between her legs. She jolted with she felt one finger slide between her nether lips.
"Gods, Xena!!!" Gabrielle was barely able to get the words out.
"I'm right here, Gabrielle." Xena lifted her head from Gabrielle's breast to reassure her. Her hand was coated in Gabrielle's juices, and the feeling was making her light headed. Gods, she loved this woman! She rested her fingers at Gabrielle's opening, wanting to make sure the bard wanted this before she did it. "Gabrielle, it might hurt a little…."
With a growl, Gabrielle yelled out, "Do it! I NEED you Xena, please!!!"
Xena carefully pushed her index finger into the tight hole, moaning at the sweet sensation. She stopped when she reached the thin layer that separated her from her bard's ultimate pleasure. Wrapping her other arm around Gabrielle, holding her tightly, Xena pushed through.
Gabrielle gasped, then moaned. The pain subsided as Xena's finger began to move in and out of her. Thrusting against Xena's hand, Gabrielle felt a tremor start from her center and then consume her whole body. She yelled out Xena's name as she went stiff, feeling incredible waves of pleasure wash over her entire body.
Carefully pulling out of the tight tunnel, Xena wrapped her arms around the trembling woman, cradling her against her body. As Gabrielle returned to earth, Xena whispered words of love into her ear, letting her know that she was there and that she loved the bard.
"Gods…" Gabrielle said in a breathless voice a few moments later. She was having difficulty forming whole sentences.
With a soft laugh, Xena kissed the girl's forehead. "Now you can understand how you make me feel. I love you so very much."
"Love…you…too…" Gabrielle said, still not completely conscious.
"Why don't you rest? Get some sleep." Xena tenderly brushed her fingers through the bard, sending little shock waves down the bard's body.
Curling up in Xena's embrace, Gabrielle gave a soft, contented sigh. "Okay…"
Watching the sleeping bard, Xena herself felt tired, but completely at peace. Soon, she was asleep as well.
"Hey you two!" Ephiny pounded on the outside of Gabrielle's hut next to the cloth-covered entrance. 'And Xena's now, I guess.' The regent thought to herself.
The party had started around her, Amazons dancing and socializing as the drums pounded out an exciting rhythm.
When Gabrielle and Xena hadn't shown up at the beginning, Ephiny decided to go looking for them. Pounding once more on the hut, she was about to yell again when a hand snuck out and firmly grasped her wrist.
"What?" Xena growled from the doorway.
Gulping at the sight of the naked, angry warrior, Ephiny tried to remember why she had been pounding on their hut. Then her ears focused on the drums. "Oh yeah, the party. Are you two coming, or not?" Trying to be casual, it was hard when there was a mortal in the body of a goddess standing before her.
"Sweet Zeus, I forgot about the party!" Gabrielle shouted from somewhere behind Xena. "Give us a few minutes, we'll be right there!"
Xena narrowed her eyes at Ephiny as she let the cloth cover the doorway again.
Handing Xena her shift, Gabrielle already had her skirt on. She had awakened in Xena's arms, feeling complete. Waking up the warrior with a kiss, she had been trying to concentrate on her friend's beautiful body when Ephiny knocked.
Growling, Xena put her shift on and reached for her leathers.
Turning with her back to Xena, Gabrielle looked around the hut for her green top. Suddenly, she felt two arms encircle her, one hand covering a breast, the other around her waist, and a mouth on her ear. "Don't think that we're done here!"
Pushing her body back into the warrior's firm body, Gabrielle moaned softly. "As far as I'm concerned, we'll never be done."
Turning the bard around, Xena kissed soft lips.
"I was hoping you would say that," she hugged the bard against her, stroking the woman's back.
Laughing softly, Gabrielle put her arms around the taller woman, looking up into amazing blue eyes. "I don't think I could ever get tired of that! I just wish we didn't have to go to this party, then we could continue what we started!"
"Agreed, but you know we can't, so let's get out there so we can get back and continue. "
"I would, but I can't find my top. Have you seen it?"
Xena tried to keep from smiling as she pointed to where she had seen the bard throw her green top.
Gabrielle followed the direction of Xena's finger and looked up. Hanging off one of the candle holders on the wall was her green top. "Oops, guess I was a little too zealous."
"Nah, I like you that way," Xena assured her as she reached up and unhooked the top.
"I hope you always feel that way!" Gabrielle's tone was serious, still a little worried about whether or not she had pleased her warrior.
Grabbing Gabrielle's wrists and leading her over to the bed, Xena sat down on the edge of the bed, pulling the bard in between her legs. Taking Gabrielle's chin in her hand, she tilted her head up. Looking into green eyes, Xena spoke with passion in her voice. "Gabrielle, I love you no matter what you're like in bed. I would love you even if we didn't do what we did today. That doesn't change how I feel." Grinning, she went on. "Sure, it helps, but that's not why I fell in love with you, okay?"
Unable to answer, Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena's neck, pulling her closer for a soul-searching kiss.
Breaking apart a few moments later, Xena helped Gabrielle into her top. And after Gabrielle had helped Xena get her armor on, the two of them left hand in hand for the party, both wearing smiles on their faces.