Author: Dark Angel
Story Title: The Offering
Characters: Xena/Gabrielle
Rating: NC-17
Summary: For a long time Gabrielle has kept the truth about how she lost her virginity concealed. But when Xena's learns what the nightmares that have plagued her love for years actually mean, it may also mean the end of their relationship.
This rating is for explicit f/f sex, bdsm, sexual violence and rape.

Gabrielle and Xena belong to MCA/Universal Pictures/Studios USA.......are we surprised? No not at all, but hey, they're just on loan and I intend to hand them straight back after.

This story assumes that Xena and Gabrielle love each other and I'm not just talking about the sisterly holding hands type love. If that's beyond your imagination I suggest the Disney sites.

This story has a NC-17 rating. There is also the graphic depiction of a rape between two women as well as some explicit portrayals of consensual S & M taking place. If it's something you're not comfortable reading about, hit the back button now.

Italics are used throughout this story to signify dialogue as well as memories or dreams.

You can also find more fiction and poetry by Dark Angel at Dark Angel's Den

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The Offering
© 1999 Dark Angel

Part One: The Nightmare

Gabrielle muffled a frustrated groan and pressed her body closer to the warrior for warmth.

She didn't know exactly how many candle marks had passed since Xena finally succumbed to Morpheus' net, only that she had lay awake listening to the hollow sounds of the wind moving through the trees around their camp site for most of the night. During that time she had drifted in and out of an almost hypnotic state that threatened to hold her under in the horrifying, painful place of her own dreams. Each time she maintained a vigil strong enough to pull herself back just in time.

Her entire body ached through to the bone, the kind of ache that left her with less and less reserve. But if it was the choice of laying awake counting the moments to sun rise or being trapped in the nightmare one more time she told herself she would gladly bare the consequences of yet another sleep deprived night.

Gabrielle shivered from sheer exhaustion pulling the heavy fur skins higher to her neck. It felt like they had been traveling south for an eternity. Perhaps it was the direction that their journey drove them, or that Xena was pushing them harder than she could ever recall. She didn't know.

Perhaps it was that the weather was growing cooler and that their intimate nights under the stars would need to be traded for a soft bed and a roof. She knew she always felt a little depressed then. Xena would don her mask of ex-warlord and fierce protector whenever they needed to stay in a village. She simply wasn't as relaxed as when it was just the two of them, definitely not as affectionate.

Maybe it was a bit of both, or neither.

In the safety afforded by the night's natural sounds she raised fingers still thick with her lover's scent to her lips, seeking the comfort it would normally bring. A single tear escaped from an eyelid not quick enough to catch it and the young bard cursed herself for her own fragileness.

It had been nearly four winters since Xena had approached her, or she had approached the dark beauty. It didn't matter now who had started what, which ever one of them had finally said the words of love, only that it had occurred and their lives since then had reached a state of contentment neither would have ever believed possible without the other.

Their first night together as lovers had been filled with a passion borne of long repressed desire. Gabrielle had delighted the Warrior Princess with a knowledge that her somewhat older and more experienced lover had not imagined. In turn the reformed warlord had exercised such tenderness and accessibility of heart that would have rivaled Aphrodite herself. There had been something else unexpected that night too, one Xena was hard pressed to pretend didn't surprise her; that her young lover had been intimate with another before her. They had only scouted around the issue after, Xena because she didn't want to embarrass Gabrielle, she supposed and Gabrielle because she hadn't known what explanation to give.

Word of their union spread throughout the land quicker than either could have anticipated. Almost instantly after the announcement made harmlessly by Gabrielle to a group of passing Amazons, arrangements for a joining ceremony were being prepared whether they wished it or not. After considerable persuasion Xena agreed to have the actual event, 'if there truly had to be one' held in Gabrielle's home village. Cyrene and Xena's brother made the two day journey to attend. No one could have been happier for them than Xena's mother who quietly breathed a sigh of relief to her daughter's now seemingly assured future happiness. And though less than enthusiastic to start with, Gabrielle's own parents soon realised the level of devotion the two women held for each other, relented and actually arranged the joining ceremony's feast.

Congratulations abounded from the men of Poteidaia to the once most feared woman in all of Greece for finally claiming their beautiful town bard. Though joyous for her own reasons, Xena wanted to distance herself from the full implication of the assertion. Gabrielle remembered Xena looked so confused when she had actually encouraged her to take credit for the deed, that the bard thought her own heart may break from the shame of it. To protect whatever secret her betrothed was harboring Xena simply agreed and accepted the undeserved praise. Then the one time not long after their ceremony when she had attempted to bring the topic up directly with her, Gabrielle had burst into tears, telling her as little detail as possible.

"I was taken against my will, Xena. It was a long time ago, please don't make me talk about it now."

In her shock the warrior had unconditionally agreed, thus ensuring the exact topic would never be raised by her again. Although she had kept her promise, for each subsequent season as the anniversary of that harrowing night approached, she was forced to watch helplessly as Gabrielle's happy disposition would fade away until only a shadow of her love was visible. At first Xena would try her best to get her bard to talk about whatever it was that disturbed her so greatly, to share what it was that caused her pain, to at least halve the burden. But the anguish drafted on the face of her Warrior Princess only strengthened Gabrielle's conviction that the events related to that night, the loss of her virginity would forever be kept from her. She knew, even if Xena did not, if they were told, they could never be returned to that place where she held them so close and the two, in turn, would never ever be the same.

Xena rolled over in her slumber to face her bard. Her eyes remained shut and the gentle murmuring coming from her lips ensured she was still fast asleep. Gabrielle sighed, at least she could be thankful for that. Two nights before Xena had woken and found her young lover's face covered in tears from hours of silent lamentation. Gabrielle had almost weakened to the pleas from the older woman and told her. Now as she lay next to her listening to the soft tempo of undisturbed sleep, she gave thanks for what ounce of strength she still clutched on to. She would not take them there, it was hers alone to deal with.

Hers alone to find her way back from.


She had been barely a woman, still a child in many ways if she had let herself admit it, which she wouldn't. The fierce Warlord had passed through the tiny village, making claim to it's lands and goods, drinking it dry and taking what pleasures simple whim determined, then leaving what remained and moving on. There had been no hint that they would ever meet again and Gabrielle was thankful, at least in part, that they never had.

She had been staying in the tiny village, Matonia, at the depths of the coldest winter on record. Staying to visit family after assisting in the delivery of a healthy baby girl. Her uncle in his profound relief had named the tiny infant Gabrielle from gratitude. The labor had been extensive and if it hadn't been for the miracle of Gabrielle surmising that they could turn the baby while still inside its mother, than both mother and child would have surely perished. Fortunately her idea to reach in and assist the unborn resulted in a natural birth and two rescued souls. The village, poor and remote by it's very nature could ill afford it but were so astonished and thankful for the gift of renewed life had stretched winters stores and created a feast in the young girl's honor.

Dusk was approaching and their impromptu celebrations just underway when they appeared. A group of perhaps a dozen soldiers, heavily armored, led by the most imposing yet handsome creature Gabrielle had ever seen.

Standing easily six foot tall and cloaked in a heavy cape that draped around broad shoulders like caliginous downcast wings, she had watched in awe as the Warlord dismounted from a beast of equal unearthly spirit and entered the establishment of her uncle. It was the strides of unquestionable authority that had struck her at first, the hint of meticulously kept armor over leathered trousers and well donned militaristic boots flickering briefly with each gait.

It wasn't until a battle helmet was pulled back and locks of deep raven fell past the cloaked shoulders that Gabrielle realised the creature; the Warlord, was a woman. It made her shudder inwardly yet she was unable to look away. The image was powerful, almost frightening, but unmistakably drawing. There was something else too, though she had no language to explain it. A dull ache deep in her belly, remarkably subtle but undeniably present.

They called her "My Lord or Master" though the villages all knew it was not the name of her birth. Common people called her many things; Destroyer of Nations, Ares' Chosen, Murderer.

They demanded service at the modest inn, claiming rightly that it was the only one for several candle marks ride. There was hardly a choice of whether to serve them or not, they had come apparently peacefully, though dauntingly, to rest their bodies and spirit between raids. They required food, drink and in return maybe, just maybe, they would be passing Matonia over when they began their next assault. Food appeared and copious supplies of alcohol kept coming. Some of the younger available women, including the mildly besotted Gabrielle, stayed on as others hastily took their children to the safety of their homes.

Those that remained set about entertaining the Warlord and her troops, ensuring their cups were kept full, their stomachs satisfied, their ego's primed. In their minds, the villagers wanted to believe if the dark creature could be given what she wanted, then perhaps their village, occupied by generations of simple farmers would not be razed to the ground.

But as the night wore on Gabrielle became increasingly uncomfortable under the attention of these intruders and particularly their leader. She held position, initially by her uncles urging and then from her own good common sense, to serve behind the bar. Away from the direct line of the beautiful Warlord's gaze which had managed to stray back to her time and time again since she'd taken up position at the best table in the house. The difference in that gaze, Gabrielle realised acknowledging her own stolen glances, was she'd eventually averted her eyes to mind her own business, the Warlord had not. The feeling tugging deep in Gabrielle's belly had become one of dread, one that made her heed the words of an uncle barely five winters her senior without debate.

He had not managed to articulate it, too gentlemanly or embarrassed to discuss such things, but the intention was clear. In fact no one said the words outright when it became obvious the Warlord was equally as interested in the women, or one woman of Matonia as her lieutenants.

From her vantage point on the opposite side of the long wooden counter, Gabrielle was also still trying to fully understand why for all the Warlord's debauchery, merriment and foul language and the blatant intentions from her men pressed upon the other women and girls, why they were apparently leaving her in relative peace. She forced herself not to think about it too much. A mixture of relief and horror, or nightmare and fantasy kept revisited her over active imagination. She only knew she needed to stay busy, to keep her head down and her movements anything but enticing.

Then several of the Warlord's men retired to their lodgings for the night, some with each other or a girl they laid claim to. The port was passed off for whiskey and suddenly Gabrielle had been ordered to come away from her hiding place and serve at the main table. If she had held any doubts, even the slightest, of why the men had let her be before, they fell away as she was led to the Warlord.

Gabrielle's uncle did his best to refocus the Warlord's attention away from his charge, offering a challenge of knife throwing with the local iron smith for sport, more food, a story from their resident bard, but she would have none of it. She had drunk twice the quantity of alcohol of her men and under her own well broadcast recommendation had the sexual stamina of all of them put together.

'Was there someone foolish enough amongst them to question her?'

The head of the most feared army in Greece had come to town to eat and drink and have company in her bed that night. No one argued with the mighty Warrior Princess, no one that lived that is, but for the sake of her honor Gabrielle witnessed her uncle try.

She could still remember the tense interplay that transpired between the two.

"Please, she doesn't even work here." he had pleaded when she had unceremoniously pulled Gabrielle on her lap, apparently with little intention of letting go. Too shocked, Gabrielle tried not to show how truly terrified she was and stayed perched on the leathered knees, smiling nervously and trying to ignore the rank remarks about her developing figure.

At first the Warlord appeared to have ignored the pleas of Gabrielle's uncle, too busy with exploring the prize that sat so timidly upon her. Then without breaking her contact with the young body, her free hand pulled a dagger from an ample cleavage prominent even in the masculine disguise and plunged it up to it's hilt in the table top. Her stare told him to be thankful she had chosen not to include his hand in her target's site.

"She does tonight." she bellowed finally for all the room to hear. "Now unless you want to watch, you should leave us!"

Then and only then did Gabrielle see the hopelessness darkening her uncle's face. Defeated he bowed his head respectfully to the Warlord, backing away from the table amidst a flurry of lurid comments from her men. The Warlord seemed to speed up her attention on Gabrielle after that. Touching her possessively through the girl's modest garments as she continued to drink and banter with the others. Occasionally stopping to run her tongue along Gabrielle's jaw line or neck or to brush red blonde hair away from downcast eyes. Gabrielle stayed where she had been put, though she tried fruitlessly to convince her captor that she would be needed elsewhere. Anything that would release her from the position of Warlord's plaything in front of her kinsmen and neighbors who had after her uncles attempts become conspicuously quiet around their 'guest'.

When she thought she had drunk enough to fall the entire Athenian army and she'd long since usually have been asleep, the Warlord whispered something Gabrielle doubted was at all possible.

"Inn keeper." She had shouted so close to Gabrielle's ear that the girls head throbbed. "A room if you will." Her hand straying under a mid length skirt for the umpteenth time that evening as she added for an audience of only Gabrielle. "So we may know each other better."

With that she pushed Gabrielle off her lap and snapped her fingers at her first Lieutenant. Before Gabrielle had a chance to object a heavy leather satchel was shoved into her chest.

"Carry this." the soldier grunted.

"What is it?" she had asked struggling under the weight.

"It's your Master's saddle bags. Follow her now and be quick about it."

The 'Master' had strode off towards the stair case that would take them to the second floor of the establishment, in right her hand she held the mug she had been sculling from throughout the evening, in the other was a fresh wine skin she was handed from the bar. She paid no mind to the looks of barely disguised disgust coming from the towns people or for that matter, the open anticipation of her intentions with the girl from her own men. She stopped suddenly at the bottom, swaying a little, studying Gabrielle for several seconds who shifted uncomfortably under her gaze, then without thinking began to follow the path of the Warlord, she knew she had no other choice.

Those villagers that had remained through the night's events appeared regretful, even a little ashamed but took no action when the senseless groping had started. Then when she had been ordered to follow the Warlord to her sleeping quarters they all but looked the other way. She couldn't blame them, even so close to tears she told herself the Warrior seemed content with her prize and that meant she would retire to her bed to sleep it off,rather than a night of murder and pillaging. Gabrielle in a fashion had become their sacrificial lamb, their peace offering.


The Warlord was laying in the center of a rather robust looking bed holding a relaxed but still commanding position by the time Gabrielle had struggled up the stairs and closed the door behind her.

Out of the corner of her eye which she had kept downcast, Gabrielle tried to take in as much of the room's design as she could. She spotted a fire place well stoked off to her left. It threw much of the lighting the lodging's afforded and a surprising haze of warmth that made her body relax a little against the rising emotions within her. In front of it sat a huge tub filled with steaming water, fresh towels and soap resting beside it.

She was still clutching the Warlord's saddle bags when she finally allowed herself to look directly at the figure laying provocatively before her. The heavy cape had been removed and thrown over the back of the room's only chair, allowing full vision to the creature's intimidating appearance.

Without speaking the Warlord motioned for Gabrielle to place the saddle bag's at the foot of the bed which the young girl obliging did. After stowing the bags she turned to face her, trying to show a level of confidence, no matter how unnerved she felt. Perhaps Gabrielle thought lamely, she may simply wish my conversation skills to lull her to a peaceful sleep, or share something about herself. Her mouth was half open ready to break in to a veritable symphony of the best stretched tails she thought may entertain, when the Warlord's neutral expression returned to the same unbridled leering she had displayed in front of her men.

"I didn't bring you up here to entertain me with your infernal chatter, girl." she drooled, raising her hand in clear objection. "I have other plans for those beautiful lips."

Gabrielle felt certain her face had blushed red, not fully understanding the intention of her captor's words but enough to know they were carnal more than not.

"Take your clothes off." Came the unflinching instruction, Gabrielle's eyes widened.

"What do you want to do with me?"

The smirk shot a strike of panic up the young woman's back, immediately regretting the insolence of her words she feared the worst. But the Warlord remained lounging across the thickly cushioned bed moving her own hands down her body.

"For now I want to look at all of you, " she told her in a husky tone.

Gabrielle looked uncertainly at the Warlord, hoping against hope to see some sign of compassion there, some gentleness that she could feel safe in, but there was nothing. Only the raw hunger of a creature as dark as the god of war himself. The large splayed hand continued to stroke around the groin region of her body, as she stimulated herself through the thickness of the leather. Gabrielle turned away then, looking into the fire trying to steady nervous fingers as they worked her clothing loose, relying on the flames warmth to hide her fear. The last piece of clothing fell leaving her naked and facing the dancing lights.

"Turn around" the Warlord commanded evenly and Gabrielle obeyed, shyly trying to cover her nakedness with her hands. She'd never been naked in front of any one except her sister before and that definitely felt different. The dark Warlord rose from the bed and approached her silently. Almost cat like in her movements. When Gabrielle raised her eyes to meet hers finally she thought she may fall into inky depth. The face was cold, her lip starting to curl upward in a snarl like fashion.

Before she realised what the distinct expression meant, a hard authoritative slap had connected with her cheek bone, shunting her head sideways and sending her body almost crashing to the floor.

The Warlord gripped her chin in a vise like grip, stopping her from actually falling. Immediately Gabrielle's hands fell to her sides as she squeezed her eyes tight trying not to cry."Don't cover yourself in front of me girl. I like a clear view of what's mine." She growled pressing her lips harshly to the younger mouth.

The kiss was powerful, claiming, it forced Gabrielle's lips apart to take a thick exploratory tongue that darted in and out, filling her in a way that spoke of lustful hunger. A need to feed. Teeth bit, and gorged upon the youthful mouth, only to stop and take up that feeding about her face and neck. The Warlord's hands were everywhere as Gabrielle stood frozen to the spot; her shoulders, her breasts, roaming downward to touch the furry patch of hair between her legs, hesitating before moving around to her bottom. When she finally released her, Gabrielle was forced to swallow blood that had risen in her mouth and steady herself from crumpling into a heap at her feet.

The Warlord's body also swayed momentarily before shoulders raising back and she stretched up to her naturally elevated height.

"Get in the bath." she gestured dismissively, unsnapping the clasps on her breast armor and dropping the brass plating where she stood. Her wrist braces came next, discarded on the side table as she staggered towards and flopped back on the bed.

Though she was doing a convincing enough job of not being affected by the proportions of alcohol she had consumed, the Warlord was heavily inebriated, less in control than she would typically allow. Under normal circumstances she may simply have let her body succumb to the affects of this much alcohol, sleep it off in her tent alone. But the battle had been particularly bloody, she had gained even more ground then she had anticipated and driven her enemy further to the South. It had been a long time since she had allowed herself to give into the animal needs of her blood lust, too long. The girl in front of her was a sweet intoxicant all by herself. And for that she would have her, own her, if only for a few grains of time, to release the beast that tore at her belly.

"I'm waiting." she told her impatiently, pulling herself up on her elbows when she realised the girl hadn't moved.

Gabrielle hesitated, not knowing how to address her but definitely not wanting to anger her. She was still struggling with keeping her hands at her sides.

"I......I "

From her lounging position the Warlord looked through parted knees.


"I'm sorry, I don't know what I should call you."

The Warlord's lips twitched as she grazed her tongue slowly across the soft opening of her own mouth. The act was a bold demonstration of her intentions and her power, so sexual in its tone that it left Gabrielle speechless.

"They call me many things," her voice relaying mild amusement.

"Some not fit for your ears," pausing again to stroke the girl's body with her eyes. "....but you may address me as all my property does. As Master or my Lord."

Gabrielle nodded submissively and did as she was instructed, washing her body slowly and as sensually as she knew how, trying to show the parts of her flesh she assumed that would be most desired. She still wasn't completely sure what was going to happen, she knew women and men were built different and she was pretty certain she'd never heard of one woman ever forcing another. The dark haired beauty wasn't like other women though. She commanded an army of 200 hundred or more of Greece's most dangerous warrior's and had earned a reputation that sent grown men scurrying in doors. If her behavior downstairs was any indicator, she also liked her sexual needs gratified by females in a manner that left no doubt who was in charge.

As Gabrielle washed herself, her captor questioned her about her age, her interests, about her experience. She had chuckled lightly into her drink when Gabrielle confessed her ignorance of the matters she was alluding to.

"You have had your first blood, haven't you?" she asked doubtingly.

"Yes" Gabrielle told her more confidently than she had intended.

"And what about men. How many have dipped themselves into your loins?"

Gabrielle shook her head.

"No I haven't, I mean none, there hasn't been any."


Her face glowed red making the Warrior almost choke with laughter.

"You do realize, why you're here don't you?"

Gabrielle nodded shamefully, swallowing hard she answered.

"Yes, my lord, I understand."

By the time Gabrielle had risen from the tub and dried herself off the Warlord appeared to be dozing. Gabrielle wrapped the towel around herself at first then discarded it remembering the response when she had tried to cover herself before.

She peered over the apparently sleeping form as quietly as possible. If it hadn't been for the leather trousers and the pitch black corsair shirt her captor wore she would have looked almost peaceful, unmistakably beautiful. Then those brilliant blue eyes shot open sending Gabrielle's heat beat clamoring to her throat. A swift pull had Gabrielle taken totally off balance and on the bed face down beside her, squirming under the weight as she was mounted from behind. Leather trousers pressing into her buttocks.

"You're going to like this." The Warlord announced, "Or at least I am. I'm going to give you something to remember me by. No one will ever make you feel the way I'm about to."

She gripped Gabrielle's hair in a tight fist and pulled her backwards to her. Leaning down she licked along her neckline and shoulders in the most humiliating manner.

"I bet no one's ever touched you here." she moaned, digging between barely parted legs. When Gabrielle didn't answer she took her hand away and pressed the full force of her groin against the soft backside.

"Well I'm nothing if not thorough. We'll get to it soon enough."

Gabrielle felt tears well up again, but she bit her lip not to make a sound. Still fully dressed the Warlord moved back and forth harshly simulating the motion of anal intercourse against her. Groaning as she soaked up the sensation. Gabrielle remained paralyzed unsure what she should do, trying hopelessly to shut out the image of what was being done to her and what would be done. Abruptly the Warlord rose up behind her like a panther guarding its pray.

"Turn over." she commanded evenly.

Gabrielle compliantly rolled over to face her, continuing to stare in the Warlord's strong features looking for the beautiful woman she kept glimpsing in them. An open fist backhanded her eyes away as the Warlord quickly moved her own legs so they were between the girls and pushed them cruelly apart to display the developing curls of her belly.

"Undo my trousers." she ordered, apparently losing a grip on her loosely held control.

Gabrielle sensed it too and obediently reached out to the leather item of clothing and commenced undoing the hooks that kept the garment closed. While she was struggling with the tiny catches, the recipient pulled a thin strip of leather from her shirt sleeve and was wrapping it around the girls slight wrists.

"Something tells me we don't really need to tie you down, do we? " She told her when her trousers were sufficiently left gaping. Gabrielle again attempted to stifle a whimper as her wrists were pulled high above her causing her to strain back as she was anchored to the head board.

"You're here because you know I'll leave your precious village alone while I'm happy. " the Warlord pulled on the leather ties firmly to ensure its security.

"I'm right aren't I," she coaxed. "You're my offering, my 5000 dinar. How noble......" Her hands roved over a slight tort nipple then, ignoring the body trying to force itself harder against the mattress. She rubbed it till it swelled as she watched Gabrielle struggle. Her lips twitched lightly almost into a satisfying smile again before she claimed the other offered breast, sucking on it, first with the gentleness of an infant taking nourishment, then harder and harder until she was leaving ugly marks in her wake.

In her humiliation Gabrielle retreated into herself, as an array of hungry lips and invasive hands feasted on her upper body. If this was all the Warlord wanted from her Gabrielle told herself silently she could bare it. She wanted to be a bard after all, she would simply imagine herself away. Imagine a beautiful yet frightening woman wasn't laying upon her, pressing her sex against her. The woman wasn't moaning and filling her ears with things she wanted to do to her in the most graphic detail. It was almost working, she had separated her head from what was being done to her breasts, her neck, her mouth, when the Warlord extended her exploration further down between her parted legs. Coarse fingers snaring the soft layer of hair that covered her most private place, pulling and twisting.

"You like that, don't you?" the Warlord offered, convinced of her ability to excite.

Fingers not pulling at the auburn mass danced around the tiny folds of Gabrielle's center, parting them easily with the moisture that had formed there. To her shame and the Warlord's obvious delight the brutal foreplay had caused her body, if not Gabrielle's mind, to respond.

"Is that all for me?" she crooned, pressing her index and forefinger's against the girls cavern, she bathed in the wet silk, spreading it liberally. Tasting it and offering it to Gabrielle to sample.

Gabrielle turned her face away defeated and bitterly ashamed as the long dexterous fingers stroked up and down the swollen cleft of her sex, burning her, playing at her desire as the Warlord continued to watch her attempts to deny what was happening to her.

She took her time with her, alternating between using the tips of her fingers to graze around the nether lips, lightly stroking them and watching new amounts of moisture form and using both hands to part the virginal bush, delving a finger up to her first knuckle. The girl would try to pull her knees together then and she'd need to remind her with a slap she was wasting her time. Then when Gabrielle believed the humiliating touching could go no further and in succinct timing to the Warlord's breathing leveling out to a haunting calm, two fingers abruptly drove up into her exposed entrance, tearing through a barrier of flesh as it went.

Before Gabrielle could recover, try to deal with the unfathomable trauma caused by the breach, two more fingers followed in quick succession, wrenching at her insides. Her body jerked and convulsed with the hostility of the Warlord's thrust, crying out an endless howl, she pleaded for her to stop. So painful, so unbearably painful. Her words fell to the deaf, more and more was she pushed, wider and wider was she opened until eventually she had taken her whole fist into her.

"Remember this sweet one, always remember who you gave yourself to first." The Warlord slobbered sensually over her.

Gabrielle's screams for mercy continued as the beast rode them like the added ecstasy that they were. Goading her to beg louder. The Warlord's free hand was shoved down her own trousers, reaching for an unknown state of rapture as she gazed down at the sodden entrance, virginal blood and natural lubricate made her fist slide easily at first. Now the cavern was raw, starting to dry around her, she pushed harder, taking every last piece of the moment that she could.

When her climax struck, it was like a bolt of lightening clapping up from her core, sending her seemingly rocketing away from the girl on a solitary journey to the stars. Dark eyes locked on the ceiling, shuddering contra to its impact as her whole body trembled uncontrollably. Her final cry equaled Gabrielle's, long and hard like a wolf claiming its prey in the night. Then she seemed to be thrown against the rush so powerful that it crushed her body and left her collapsed on top of the girl.

Gabrielle listened as the sounds of the Warlord's respiration labored for a long time before counting into a steadied rhythm against her. Slowly she withdrew her fist from Gabrielle, then parting the fingers to gaze upon the dark liquid that had gathered there. She took them, one at a time into own her mouth, her tongue swirling and licking reminiscently.

Then she was holding the bloody digits in front of Gabrielle. "Taste it." she ordered through halting breath. Taste your gift to me."

"I didn't give it. You took it." Gabrielle swallowed hard trying to breath through her nose.

"Oh you gave it baby." The Warlord crooned. "You see it's all over me."

Gabrielle continued to keep her jaw and her lips tightly clamped shut, moving her head from side to side as the Warlord teased her with the bloody fingers. But patience, Gabrielle realised was not something the she possessed a great deal of and just as quickly she grabbed Gabrielle's throat with her unsoiled hand, squeezing until she had no choice but to bluster for air. Without delay she thrust her bloodstained fingers deep into the open mouth. Gabrielle gagged with the revolting invasion, fighting back the immediate urge to vomit. Instinctively the Warlord pulled out just enough to allow her to keep the digits on her tongue and breath.

Pulling at Gabrielle's hair, she tilted her head away from her.

"Suck them! Suck them clean bitch" Came the order that permitted no argument. Hopelessly Gabrielle began to lubricate the drying mass with her own saliva, swallowing the fowl smelling combination down, trying unsuccessfully not to taste it. Between the swallows she strained for air, sobbing incoherently.

The sight of the girl's utter despair only assisted in fueling the Warlord to a higher need. She began thrusting the fingers harshly into Gabrielle's mouth again, describing how it felt to take her between her legs with them so completely. It was too much, Gabrielle could bare it no longer, in her humiliation and hatred for the creature above her she bit down as hard as she could on the assaulting extremities, causing their owner to reel back and hastily yank them free. The response was so quick that she hardly had time to take her first unrestrained breath when the fingers had circled themselves into a tight fist, connecting with deadly accuracy between her nose and upper lip. Blind pain shot through her upper body and soft skin parted easily as blood spurted out, trickling into Gabrielle's mouth to mix with the bile that had risen immediately. Overflowing and forming into a red stream along the youthful face that was turned away.

Too shocked to fight she was roughly turned back over to face away from her attacker, her hands twisted and burned in the leather straps that held her in place. Within an instant the Warlord was behind her, squeezing her buttocks and pulling her defeated body to a semi kneeling position. A remarkably even motion separated her legs as she was pulled back against open trousers.

Blood continued to spill out of Gabrielle's nose and mouth and in her hazed state of being she thought distantly that perhaps it was broken. Her head spun unmercifully and the urge to vomit revisited her again. 'Resist it' she told herself firmly sensing the consequence for any such act would be more than she could stand.

Then she felt it, hard and stiff against her open legs. The Warlord had pulled it from her trousers though it still appeared to be attached to her some how. She was rubbing it against her, dragging it along the most intimate of places, the Warlords wrist slid past her torn entrance as it brushed another orifice.

"Damn sure no one's been here before have they?" she murmured against the girls ear. When Gabrielle didn't answer another blow slapped hard across the back of her head.

"Have they?" she shouted enraged.


"No what?"

"No my Lord"

The Warlord held the shaft snug against both the sequestered areas.

She told her,"This is a lesson I'm going to enjoy teaching you." pressing her forefinger into the previous unchartered territory.

The forced opening of her anus stung beyond description, she hadn't imagined anything could feel worse than the endless pounding of the Warlord's fist in her sex, yet here it was, so savage, so violating, pushing her towards even darker depths then before. Then suddenly the Warlord seemed to be showing her some warped kind of compassion. While still resting at the strained opening.

"Tell me you want me to teach you!" she whispered.

Gabrielle sobbed. "I want you to teach me, my Lord."

"And what exactly is it that you want to learn."

It was almost musical as the words danced with the same excitement being played behind her. Drawing back the Warlord eased out of her slowly, and slowly. slowly pushed back as far as the tight orifice would allow. Soothing her with gentle caressing along her spine as she manipulated the region to relax.


Gabrielle tried to move away but there was nowhere to go.

"Yes? Now don't go shy on me all of a sudden."

"I want......"


"I want to.... learn to....... serve you......"

Gabrielle's sorrowful, beaten reply was all the Warlord needed to send her totally over the edge in her brutal game of domination and submission. Fingers were withdrawn and replaced as eagerly by the stiff unyielding appendage that hung from her groin. She rammed into the girl with little thought other than for her own malevolent hunger.

At first she grunted softly as she thrust, seeming to reach a little deeper inside with every stroke as Gabrielle kneeled agonizingly open and bare to her. Words came spilling forth from her lips, incisive and unequivocally obscene, urging her captive to take her 'gift' harder and further until abruptly, she was matching Gabrielle's screams. She jerked and ground more definitely, digging her nails into the smooth youthful belly, clawing at her unmercifully as she spasmed and cried out again and again.

Gabrielle wanted to keep screaming, if only to shut out some of the pain. Though she knew no one, whether they heard her cries or not would come to help her. She had been given to the Warlord, not literally but in a fashion as an offering for the night. Insurance so their village would remain untouched. She was hers, what she did with or to the girl would not be challenged. Through the furious rape Gabrielle hoped strangely that those villagers who had been forced to occupy the other rooms could not hear her. As the reality that this night would eventually end and morning would come suddenly seemed possible she tried to quiet herself. If the Warlord let her live, she would need to face them, face them with the knowledge of being the one brutalized by Ares' chosen that night. She would never forget what was being done to her, the utter violation. But perhaps out of their own guilt or respect for her, without added reminders like cries in the night, the people of Matonia would. Against all her conditioning, all that she had been taught to believe, she forced herself to relax against the writhing motion of the Warlord's phallus as it thrust in and out of her.

She groaned and grunted upon her, oblivious to the fact the girl's screams had quietened, the struggle had ceased and the only sounds that pierced the winter's night now were the guttural tones of her own exhilaration.

Chapter Two: Disclosure

She just wanted it to be over; for the Warlord to sleep or knock her into unconsciousness again, anything if it would make the pain go away. It had been going on for candle marks, her 'Master' barely taking time to swill the whiskey she had brought to the room. Prodding and teasing which ever entrance her leather rod didn't command before she would pierce her again, rutting out a seemingly unquenchable appetite. Her greater mass thumped and ground itself against Gabrielle's bound frame with enough energy to power an entire regiment driven by Ares' poison. Never ending, never breaking the rhythm of darkness for even a blink to give respite. Death seemed so sweet. Each time Gabrielle sensed the shorter gasps and spasms tear at her rapist's body she prayed it would be the last.

Momentarily spent, the dark figure would slump forward, a dead weight, hot breath heaving. Full breasts dripping with sweat. Tendrils of thick raven cutting her as they whisked across beaten flesh and she would think, hope the silent plea had been answered. Then nipples that had been rubbed so furiously on her would harden once more, hands that had come to rest would start to pinch at skin and it would all start again.

Earlier, perhaps after the second time she'd entered her, the Warlord had disrobed from the waist up, displaying a toned battle-hardened form that moved majestically in the soft candle light. She had turned Gabrielle over to watch dark cloth be drawn off muscular shoulders, her own offering she claimed, before depositing the billowy sleeved garment close to avoiding eyes. It stayed there throughout what would transpire between them then, retrieved and used to sop up the pools of perspiration shimmering across the Warlord's own body. Once to clean the phallus of Gabrielle's first anal bleed before refilling her vagina. It had been pressed to the fullness of pouting lips, a sensually unconscious motion before being released again in a pile beside her. It had been one of the moments, Gabrielle would swear she was loving rather brutalizing her. Now no such care was taken and a thick stench of dry blood hung in the air as a reminder that this was not loving, not at all.

Just before dawn she had been released from her bindings to pay homage to the real center of 'Her Lord'. She thought it was really over as she knelt between powerful legs, thought perhaps the gods had taken pity on her....

It was fleeting.

She had smiled down at her seductively, eyes dancing with new spark, beaconing her back to lay beneath her once more. To serve how she was told she served best.

"Show your Lord how you please her."

Gabrielle wanted to be sick, she could barely stand, let alone walk. Had she not done all she had been asked, had she not done it without struggle now, indeed almost cooperation? Disbelieving her shame could bring her lower, Gabrielle's reserve fell to nothing then and cries of pleading, held tight all night came gushing out with no hope of restraint.


Gabrielle's eyes flew open though she remained trapped deep in the nightmare's web. She sat up and, sobbing heavily, took in deep gulps of air to catch her breath. Apparently free from the restraints she threw the coverings back, reaching to feel the blood she was certain would be between her legs. Realization registered that she was free and she moved her broken and bleeding frame as quickly as possible away from the dark figure leaning over her.

Xena had stirred immediately beside her lover, thrust from the comfort of a dreamless rest into a cold night filled with harrowing cries. Rising to her knees, the Warrior scanned the proximity of their camp for the unseen danger, reflexes pricked and eyes struggled to focus against a cloak of sleep. A long sword was drawn from the protection of it's scabbard and pressed battle ready between two outstretched arms.

Slowly her vision cleared and she could see the image before her.

Gabrielle was crouched just beyond the fire's light, shivering against the night's temperatures. Her body rocked back and forth as incoherent ranting spilled from trembling lips. It was the sound of a cornered animal whimpering.

Xena didn't know exactly what was going on but she could guess. She'd never wanted to go there in her own thoughts, too angered by Gabrielle's shame or her own. But she knew it wasn't just any bad dream the bard was having, it was the dream. She was dreaming of the rape. Of course Gabrielle didn't call it that and Xena had never said the words to anyone other than herself. But she'd been a Warlord for 10 years, had seen the signs, had been the cause of those signs on too many occasions to recall.

Xena re-sheathed her weapon and rose to her feet. With a gnawing feeling pulling at her gut, she approached the huddled and twitching figure of her lover. Not quite touching but making her presence known she lent towards her.

"Gabrielle, it's me." she whispered reassuringly. Needing to believe if anyone could make the younger woman feel safe in the midst of unmentionable horrors she was experiencing, it was her.

"Please no more, I hurt so bad." Gabrielle flinched, reeling her body back away from the looming figure without actually leaving the spot she appeared anchored to. An internal struggle tore at her as she battled the urge to flee while knowing there was no where to escape the Warlord's hands. Then pitifully, the contorted movements stopped and she was on her knees again, her hands held together in a stance like prayer.

"I beg you, let me pleasure you with my mouth."


The girl continued to sob, cowering in her presence.

"Talk to me, love. What's going on?"

Blue green eyes gazed upward, but vacant and unresponsive it passed right through Xena's own questioning expression. She could only watch as Gabrielle lowered her head to the space between them. Young lips brushed over invisible boots and moved up the Warrior's thigh.

"I'll do better this time. Please don't hurt me there anymore!"

Fear snaked it's way up the raven beauty's spine. Somehow this dream was different from the others. Gabrielle should have woken up by now, she wasn't just remembering the torment, she was reliving it. From deep in the recesses of Xena's subconscious a light went on briefly then flickered out.

"Gabrielle, you're dreaming, wake up now." Not knowing what else to do Xena pressed an unsteady hand down to stop the clearly sexual gesture from going any further.

"I promise, it'll be better." Gabrielle pleaded.

She couldn't see her lover's beautiful fingers reaching out to stroke her head, or feel the gentle touch of resistance. She could only see a drunken Warlord barely managing to keep her balance with her pants about her feet. Gabrielle's arms wrapped themselves around torte muscles of the Warlord's buttocks.

"Oh please, my Lord." she murmured as her lips leaned forward.

The fabric of time was left gaping as Xena's mind reeled for a crucial moment. That moment was no more than an instant yet it stripped away her armor and reached back into the depths of another life she had lived. The division between denial and truth fell away as Xena's past reached up and grabbed her by the throat.

She had captured the Warlord's interest and in return she had taken her, used her time and time again in the most sadistic of ways.

'God's no!'

Gabrielle wasn't speaking to a faceless, nameless savage, not a long dead degenerate, nor someone Xena could track down and make pay for their sins. She was speaking to her.

The realization was like something unto death, a final strike into her soul. All the restraint built up over the years, the emotions kept in check, all the penance for her past deeds came thundering down around her as the ultimate treachery of her existence stared back through Gabrielle's unseeing eyes.

Unable any longer to support her own weight, the invincible Warrior Princess, once Destroyer of Nations, collapsed into the dirt before her.

With her lover's much smaller hands nestled protectively between her own to stop the girl from performing an act she had no awareness of, Xena's heart shot from within her and pierced the night sky, shattering with the agony of every last one of her victims. It was grief incandescence that came scorching upon her flesh, tearing at her, each sinew, each muscle forcing her to succumb to her crimes. It felt like she was being ripped apart and if she just let herself go her body would fracture into infinity.

'Please, let this not be true. I will give you anything, anything! Gladly my life in exchange for hers.' She didn't know who she was talking to, bargaining with. Ares, possibly The Fates, anyone who was willing to listen to her pleas.

If she lived another fifty winters she could never repay the debt. There had been so many, so many unnamed faces, girls and women she had forced against their will, who she had raped, pushed up against tavern walls or in blood strewn battle fields and discarded, killed sometimes if they hadn't completely satisfied her warrior lust. But to know that she had added her life mate to that list, to have brutalized her as she had the others, without thought or compassion, without care whether she would have survived it or not. It was too much to bare.


When Gabrielle finally awoke to find them both on their knees, away from the fire and the first hints of daylight on the rise, her beloved's face was almost unrecognizable. Bereft of color and covered with immeasurable tears, Xena looked like she had seen a ghost. Her eyes were red instead of their usual brilliant blue and shoulders, always so proud, were hunched in defeat. Finally she let herself follow the down-turned gaze of the Warrior to the younger hands still resting in her lap. Her own.

There was no point denying what had taken place, no point pretending it had been some kind of a mistake. In the place between darkness and light, between sleep and awake, she had told her lover all that needed to be told. The tormentor of her dreams, the robber of her innocence was her own sweet Xena. Gabrielle weeped an uncontrollable lament like nothing she had experienced before.

It was too late, they couldn't go back.

For so long she had lived with the false knowledge of success, so much so that she had started to believe it herself. Their travels had taken them so far and they had encountered countless mortals and immortals, good and evil, but Gabrielle; bard of Poteidaia had never met the Warlord again. Sure sometimes Gabrielle sensed her, or at least her specter circling the outside of their camp. She would catch the briefest glimpse before her life's mate would excuse herself to check the 'perimeter'. Some times it wasn't even that obvious, just a look or a sigh.....something illusory. A glint or a whisper on the breezes.

The last time Gabrielle recalled sensing Xena; the Warlord was just after they had encountered the Horde.

She had immersed herself into a single minded haze to be able to lead a band of forsaken troops against them. After the month long battle that had left both of them emotionally sapped, they'd managed to return to relative known territory and Xena set them up in the best inn their money could afford. They stayed a week so that Gabrielle could recover from the whole ordeal and enjoy the spoils of shopping in a larger market square. But the bard knew that the colorful well populated city also meant the opportunity for Xena to rid herself of an ache that she knew instinctively would be clawing at the pit of her stomach. Not willing to trust herself in her heightened state of battle lust, she had kept her young lover at a safe distance long after the war had been won.

She'd tried not to cry the first night Xena had left her, feigning the need to take Argo on a long ride alone. She had kissed the top of her shorter lover's sun dyed hair, hardly allowing their bodies to touch while ensuring the bard she would be home before sun rise. They didn't need to touch, Gabrielle could feel the heat rising off the warrior's skin as she barely managed to contain herself. She knew too that Xena was lying to her, no matter what the reason. The greatest hurt was on this occasion she also knew why. She told herself the other times were different; they hadn't been mated then, she saw no right to object to whom Xena chose to bed. Now it just insulted her, drove her mad with the knowing.

It had never been discussed. Like her own violation several winters before, it was something each chose to carry in silence. And yet each day since then Gabrielle realized she carried two kinds of grief - her loss of innocence and the guilt that even after all the Warlord had done to her, all that they had endured together Xena - her Xena -would never truly allow her to see her in her entirety. Then the dreams had returned with a vengeance and she grew increasingly unable to suppress the bitterness.


Gabrielle swallowed hard and took in a deep breath to regain her composure. She had been sitting watching the clouds building up over head for more than a candle mark. A storm was approaching but she didn't care if the Heaven's themselves came down on her. The landscape around them was whitening with each flake of snow. If she could bring herself to, she knew she probably should get up and put a cloak on, but that too meant crossing the precipice before her.

"I never wanted you to know." she said finally. It came out sounding brittle, almost childishly defiant, not at all what she wanted to say.

Xena sat slumped in the bundle of furs at the opposite side of the camp site. For a long time she had not looked anywhere in her lover's direction, maintaining a glazed stare off into the distance as slowly the cuirass around her emotions locked back into place. But Gabrielle's words had slowed the painstaking process considerably. She stared at the seemingly untouched features of her lover in amazement. In the little time that allowed since the harrowing disclosure and the gut wrenching realization of her past misdeeds had come to light, nothing she could have predicted prepared her for the emptiness in the younger woman's tone.

"Is that all you can say?" she managed before her voice cracked.

"What else do you want me to say?" Gabrielle responded softly, attempting to make it sound a little more gentle, a way of reaching across the invisible gap that had risen up between them. The bard rose finally, moving closer to poke at the dyeing embers of their fire, still choosing to stay on the opposite side to the warrior.

"A lot, Gabrielle, I want you to say a lot. Like why you let me think......" She trailed off, either too ashamed or too furious to continue. "All this time, you kept that, that .... from me. Oh I've known what happened to you all along, but you never wanted to talk about it, never gave me the slightest hint that........"

And then it was as if she had lost her train of thought or she'd succumbed to the reality of this walking nightmare. "What are you doing?" She demanded after a couple of moments of more frigid silence from the bard who continued to move about the fire.

"Making breakfast." The young woman's body had not stopped even when she had finally moved close enough to communicate clearly with her. Gabrielle moved with the conviction but in her heart they were simply tasks that would allow her the dignity to move forward, away from the darkness that threatened to sweep them up. She would force herself to perform the rituals that had started their days and hopefully somehow it would bring some kind of answer, some new way that would permit them to go on together.

"We need to talk Gabrielle. You can't just get up from," Xena waved briefly at the spot at the edge of their camp where Gabrielle had regained consciousness. "........and act like nothing's happened. I won't let you!"

"What happened," Gabrielle said slowly. "Didn't happen last night." She returned to the water she'd set to boil, keeping her body moving against the words risking to betray her. "It happened almost five winters past. Whether we talk about it before we have our morning meal, or after really won't change any of it."

When Xena made no effort to take the cup she was offered, Gabrielle sighed inwardly and set it down on the rocks at the edge of the fire. With little effort she found a half empty wine skin under one of the saddle bags. So far her plan to keep moving on with her day was failing miserably.

Throwing the wine skin into Xena's lap, Gabrielle strode past on her way to attend Argo. It wasn't usually her responsibility to to care for the animal but her patience was growing thin. Anything that kept her moving, she thought aimlessly. She looked back briefly to see the beautiful warrior, seemingly unmoved by the aggressive gesture, struggle briefly with the cork holding the liquid secure in the skin, then tilt her head slightly to fill her mouth with its warmth. Gabrielle fought back a fresh stream of her own tears. She was angry but she wasn't sure who with; herself for her stupid stupid dreams, or at Xena for acting like the young bard's secret had mortally betrayed them. 'You've got your own secrets Princess, remember.' she scolded her lover in her mind. 'How about we talk about them?'

With Argo moved to a new patch of grass, Gabrielle finally dressed herself in one of the cloaks they kept buried at the bottom of Xena's saddle bags. Pulling it about herself tightly she sat down on the very edge of their bedding, facing her lover one more time.

"You should have told me." Xena demanded, her voice straining against the rising winds and her own remorse.

"It was a long time ago. What difference would it have made to talk about it?" Gabrielle offered weakly.

"I needed to know. Don't you think I needed to know?"

"No!" anger pushed it's way back into her voice, the answer so quick and definite that the warrior appeared at a loss of how to proceed. "Don't you see, what would have been the point to tell you? It wouldn't, I mean it doesn't change anything."

"Gabrielle. It changes everything."

"No, no, no."Gabrielle covered her ears. "You're wrong. If it changes anything then it's in your mind, Xena, not in mine. Just let it be, talking won't change it. Don't do this to us now after all this time, after all the love we've created."

"What am I doing, Gabrielle? You're the one who has lied to me for four full turn of the seasons."

The silence descended again, screaming emptiness with neither willing to move beyond their own self absorption.

Xena's eyes moved between studying her partner, trying to find answers to the thousands of questions running through her mind and watching the storm clouds above them. She swigged away at the wine skin until it was empty. She was stalling, hope to find a way to do what she knew she must. It could destroy her, rip her heart out but she was certain the alternative would destroy Gabrielle. Explanations, if there was going to be any, would have to wait, at least for the moment. Something more pressing and immediate needed to be dealt with.

"We need to find shelter." she announced finally, wiping the remains of the wine skin's contents from her lips. It took Gabrielle a few moments to realize her lover was speaking to her again.

"How far to the next village?" she stammered.

"Too far, we won't make it by the time the storm hits. " Dragging her boots on, the warrior stood towing down at her lover. She looked and sounded like Xena, but Gabrielle sensed the authoritative air she projected only served to shroud deeper thoughts she was considering. "We need to go back to the farm house we passed yesterday." She began dismantling their make shift site.

Gabrielle recalled the ramshackle structures they passed before stopping the previous night. A long-deserted farm house, barn and a large storage safe set just off the main path had promised a welcome respite from the road, but she had not managed to convince Xena that it would be a good place to stay the night. The ex-warlord had grumbled, Gabrielle thought a little too forcefully, that just because it looked deserted didn't mean it didn't belong to someone. Gabrielle had teased her lover unmercifully that what she really meant was she was still feeling edgy about their very recent encounter with Hope and her offspring. The dilapidated buildings had struck them both as remarkably similar to the layout of her own parents property in considerable disrepair and that sent shivers up the normally unshakable warrior's spine.

"All right, Xena. Whatever you think." Gabrielle responded evenly.

They gathered their belongings and smothered the fire as quickly as possible, moving about each other like strangers . Xena's words were few but courteous. It made Gabrielle feel like she was talking to a pleasant but distant stranger. When they were finally packed up and ready to leave, Xena mounted Argo and did what Gabrielle believed would have been one of the last things she wanted to.

Extending a hand the Warrior Princess lent down and reached for her, "We need to beat the weather." she said simply and forced a smile. Gabrielle stared at the beautiful features against the backdrop of green and white. She hesitated for just a moment as the image of a heavier cloak and another less loving smile fleeted across her mind. 'Gone', she thought 'but never really forgotten.' Then with little time to spare, she took the outstretched hand and allowed it to pull her upward.


They moved back over the familiar territory. Both now robed in their winter cloaks. Gabrielle took advantage of the restricted space to press against her lovers back, needing the connection even if Xena felt she did not. They could survive this, but only if Xena could forgive herself.

The distance seem to drag out forever as the Warrior guided them through the falling snow. Lightening flashed off in the mountains. Argo's footing was becoming increasingly unsteady. By the time what was visible of the sun had risen above their heads they were walking to save the horse from a fatal stumble. Lunch was brief and consisted of a portion of stores they already carried. It too was shared in steely reticence.

When they finally arrived at their destination, Xena spent what remained of the workable light clearing the small cottage of fallen tree branches that had collapsed half the roof and repairing it to a habitable state. Gabrielle, who had become increasingly unable to deal with her lover's sullen disposition, sorted their food supply and dry wood. What verbal exchanges there were between them remained brief and tinged with bitterness. By nightfall, they were still working to secure the buildings enough to keep them and Argo protected from the weather. Both were exhausted yet kept moving against the others uncompanionable silence.

When Xena disappeared to brush down and install Argo for the night, Gabrielle located the water source. They hadn't spoken to each other for well over a candle mark when the Warrior finally came indoors covered from head to toe in the thick white sleet that had been falling non stop since just after lunch. Gabrielle couldn't help but think how beautiful her lover looked dressed in the woolen full length cape. Her noble features framed in the dark fabric, sent a mixture of deep sadness and arousal over the younger woman's body. The image of the Warlord and her black draping wings flashed through Gabrielle's mind and she had to shake herself free of it once more. The Warlord was long gone and all that faced her now was a remorseful woman bent on making them both pay for the sins of her past.

"How bad do you think it will be?" asked Gabrielle referring the approaching storm.

"Bad." came the single syllable answer. The warrior undid her cape and threw it easily over the back of the kitchen chair with the other items of clothing Gabrielle had placed there to dry. While she had been searching for their water supply the young bard had come upon a healthy supply of wood, allowing her to discard the collection of half wet twigs and still green branches she had been making do with. A fire now blazed steadily against the far wall aiding the limited supply of candle light. Gabrielle wanted to tell her partner to get out of the boots she knew would be soaked through to her skin but stopped herself, fearing it would only be read as an intrusion into the dark woman's self erected solitude.

Xena sat down on one of the sturdier looking chairs. Spreading her legs sufficiently wide, she placed her sword hilt down and began her nightly ritual of sharpening its blade. For a time it was the only sound other than the ones coming from the torrential winds outside that could be heard. Gabrielle prepared half a rabbit Xena had snared into a soup and added a healthy portion of the vegetables she'd collected early, content to hear the familiar strokes filling the night. If they couldn't talk, she would settle for the sounds that were just as much a part of the warrior as her voice.

Carrying the pot with care she passed by the brooding woman to get her nutritional if not necessarily inspiring concoction simmering near the fire. Just as she had placed the pot on the cooking frame above the flames, the wind rocketed against the building outside and blew out one of the few candle points they'd been able to find. Placing her sword down hastily at her feet, Xena rose to secure the gap in the building materials to prevent further gusts turning their shelter to semi darkness. Then, the task complete, she returned to the methodical process of sharpen her weapon. Gabrielle's feelings which had fluctuated throughout the day from stony indifference to absolute infuriation with her partner, registered high on the infuriation scale once more. She loved the ex-warlord with all of her being but the events of the previous night and day had sapped what patience she had for Xena's tall, dark and stubborn persona.

With an exasperated sigh she left her partner with her own thoughts and went into the only other room in the house. A small windowless space not much wider than a typical outhouse offered at least moderate comfort for two weary travelers. It had not sustained any damage from the roof cave-in but still looked like it hadn't been inhabited for several moons. Dust lay heavy over the large pallet which served as a bed. The only other furniture was a bench and a lantern left hooked near the door. Under different circumstances she may have even found the compact arrangement romantic and pressed Xena to come take a look. But not this night, she realised. At least they'd be warm. Before returning to check on dinner she set about beating what remained of the pallet covering against the sturdy looking bench top and lay their bedrolls out across it to increase the thickness.


Dinner was eaten in not unexpected silence, both women pushing the quite tasty meal about their plates with little enthusiasm. When the warrior simply pushed her weight away from the table without hardly touching the food and returned to sharpening her weapon, Gabrielle told herself enough was enough. She cleared the remnants of the meal away and faced her sulking lover with fresh determination. The anger which she'd managed for the most part to keep at bay during the day had returned and there was no way in the known world that could rest tonight with it still pricking at her ribs.

"Okay, Xena." she told her. "You may be able to function with the fury of Ares on your shoulder, but I can't."

Xena continued to pull the sharpening stone along the ridge of her blade. From the corner of a lowered gaze she could see smaller, more delicate hands planted firmly on belted hips, knuckles whitening from pressure as the candle burned. She knew Gabrielle was angry and that there was no question that she had her reasons but nothing she could say could change the Warrior's mind about what she had to do. Gabrielle would thank her eventually she told herself.

"Yes I should have told you, no I had no right to let you think it was someone else. Yes it's important, no I can't make it go away either. Yes I love you, I always have."

The sound of metal against stone had ceased but Xena's face remained fixed on her blade. Gabrielle could see the partial reflection of bronzed hands as it turned slightly towards her. She stayed silent for a long time before she spoke again.

"It all happened so long ago, a life time away. None of what happened can be changed. I don't want your pity and I don't want your repentance." Then the muscles wrapped firmly around the mirrored object seemed to tense and before Xena realized what had happened, Gabrielle had placed her smaller hand over her own, preventing the sharpening stone from moving. "Stop it." She told her flatly, drawing back a little from the now stock-still hand. "Stop what your doing and listen to me. You wanted to talk; lets talk."

Xena placed her sword back in its scabbard and returned to her seat by the fire, unable to look at Gabrielle she stared deeply into the flames. "What happened to you was, is unforgivable." she said finally.

"'t change how I felt about you when I saw you again, how I feel about you now." Gabrielle offered.

"Don't you see Gabrielle, I would never have allowed you to follow me, I would never have allowed myself to fall in love with you......I.... I would never approached you if I had known." she told her in unsteady tones. "Never asked you."

The words allowed, allowed thundered in the younger woman's head, the whole conversation was totally out of control.

"Asked me what?" then it dawned on her. "Why not?" Gabrielle shot back.

That did it, all the rationalizing she had had to do, all the self blame, the honest searching of what it had made of her. And Xena, Ares chosen, the mighty destroyer of nations was feeling sorry for herself!

"The fact that I had shared no others bed before you didn't seem to bother you the first time, in fact if I recall correctly, it excited you beyond natural plans."

The words, almost screams by the time she had finished stung harder than any whip as they flew across the room. Gabrielle saw her life mate jolt back with the force of it, but she could find no pity in heart for her then. Had their lives together been reduced to that? Was that all that hung between them. She would not allow it, it could not be. Free now from her own prison of silence, she would say what she would and the Warrior Princess and the Warlord would have no argument but to listen.

"Is this what I am to you? All that I am? You're angry at me for not saying you had me before. So you'll excuse me now, Warrior Princess if I'm not just a little insulted that it bothered you I HAD the first time we made love. Tell me really what bothered you the most? The fact that you did it to me, or that you can't remember how good it had been to do it in the first place?"

This had to end here. The ex-warlord did not speak, only rose heavily in her boots, pulling her body tight to pass the much smaller woman blocking her path. She thought she could have stayed till morning, made sure Gabrielle was all right. But she couldn't bear it - she had to get away. Without looking back, Xena grabbed the two saddle bags and started sorting the contents from one to the other.

"What are you doing?"

"Separating our belongings, there's no saying how long I'll be gone with the storm, you may need every bit of your clothing for warmth."

Gabrielle stared at her lover's chiseled features. There was no emotion there, only the stony blockade she could call up at a snap of her fingers. It was her Warlord face, her stranger face, one used when she needed to get herself out of trouble. It foretold deception and ruthless single-minded determination.

"Xena its snowing outside, where do you think you're going?"

Gabrielle moved a little closer, though still well out of arms reach.

"You're not coming back are you?"

The warrior stopped what she was doing for a moment, apparently about to say something before changing her mind.

"Why are you doing this, Xena, why are you doing this to us?"

Xena restuffed a handful of clothes back into her saddle bag and fastened the catch.

"There can't be any us, not anymore, Gabrielle."

She couldn't take anymore of this, she'd tried everything reasonable. Why had she thought she would listen to her? Love, she told herself lamely. Because she hoped against hope that Xena would try to see this as more than just another reason to repent for her sins. Didn't she realize that every time she denied herself, every time she pushed the feelings down she was denying her too?

Now it was like she had nothing to lose. Gabrielle threw herself at the taller body with all her strength, slapping and punching at her in her rage, driving each blow while her lover stood solid and unwavering. Xena made no attempt to defend herself or retaliate. The younger woman was screaming incoherently now, tears rolling one after another as the image before her blurred into a mass of confusion and despair.

"I won't let you go!" But the words remained unanswered even as Xena finally lifted an arm to shield a closed fist propelling towards her jaw. Her eyes stayed locked on the smaller woman, expressionless.

"I can't stay."

"WHY can't you stay?"

"I can't be trusted around you. I,... don't you realize, those feelings that made me do what I did to you all those years ago.....They're still in me. I spend every waking moment keeping them at bay....." Then almost as a dismissive after thought she added. "You'll need provisions, I'll bring some back for you."

"NO!" Gabrielle doubled her attack on the woman who'd become a stranger to her. "Your not going for provisions. I know where you're going. If you come back it'll be after. After you've paid some whore to give you what you won't ask of me."

She was sobbing against the leathered chest, still pounding hopelessly at the taller woman to end this foolishness. Xena's hands hovered behind her, unsure whether she should embrace her or let the sorrow be. She so desperately wanted to touch her, if only for one more moment. Would the pain never end? When would she learn that her past would never bring anything but pain?

Gabrielle had ceased her furor of strikes against her and moved to another tact, attempting to melt the emotional shielding of her lover with wanting kisses and needful hands. Their love making over recent weeks had stilled to an almost fearful touch from the somber Warrior, she knew the Warlord was close at hand, if she couldn't have her mate, her soul mate, she would call for the beast. Anything was better than the emptiness that Xena walking through the door would bring.

"I can help you feel anything you need to feel Xena, you know that. You know I please you. Don't think that this has to be the end for us."

Gabrielle wrapped her hands around her lovers neck, coaxing her to lean into her desperate kisses. Stroking her broad shoulders, her hands moved to cup gently at one of Xena's breasts.

"I can be anything you want me to be. Anything."

Xena's hands had finally come to rest on the smaller contained shoulders and was holding her lover stiffly away from her. Gabrielle continued to touch and stroke her warriors body, ignoring the apparent resistance, trying to entice her with her voice and hands. She reached lower to her waste band, pressing an open palm into her belly.

"I can feel you're heart beat, Princess. It tells me you need me. You need this, DON'T GO!"

Gabrielle's hand reached under the leather skirt and up to the thin cotton layer that hid the Xena's patch of ebony. But before she could reach her mark, her wrist had been stopped and wrenched away. Not content to release the offending limb once it was clearly no more threat, Xena stretched it high above her young lovers head. With her free hand she grabbed a thick handful of Gabrielle's blond tresses and pulled them back hard.

For a moment, they were locked in the stance. Then Xena released the the arm and let her hair fall free. Gabrielle watched, stunned, as Xena turned away, brittle but determined to collect the saddle bag she'd repacked.


In an instant, she had thrown it over her shoulder and was turning away from her, turning her back on them. Through her tears, Gabrielle lunged her full weight forward towards her beautiful Warrior again, claiming a clay pot from a shelf at as she went. Without thought or care, she propelled the object to the place where she thought it would do most damage, the base of Xena's neck.

"You're a coward. Warrior Princess." Gabrielle screamed. "A shadow of the master that you were!" The pot struck it's mark and she watched, riveted, as Xena's head snapped forwards.

The crockery shattered on impact forcing the taller woman to stumble a little closer towards the door. Silence rung out alarmingly as Gabrielle stood holding one small slither of the assault weapon. Her heart thumped around her ears as the full force of what she had done hit her. Xena turned, apparently unscathed.

Shapes and colors ran into themselves then as the Warrior came at her, eyes dark, Xena pushed back, forcing Gabrielle against the hard surface of the table top, pinning her there with her own weight. One fierce hand held flaying arms away as the other tore at her top to expose milky nipple. But the hand didn't stay there long - only enough to free the luscious symbols of her womanly form for her black vision. Quickly, she was up under her skirt and separating the hem of her underwear before Gabrielle could register the action. She entered her without resistance, gloating at the thick heady warmth that greeted her. Then suddenly the struggling hands were free and caressing her face, kissing her gently, coaxing Xena to move with the rhythm her heart was dictating. And she stopped. Gabrielle lay there motionless, Xena's fingers still fully inside her. Stunned eye's met the limp body laying passively beneath her.

"Is this what you want, Gabrielle?"

The warrior roared backing away repulsed.


Then before she could protest, the cabin lighting had been snuffed down to just the shadows thrown by the fire. Xena had fled, leaving the door swinging in her wake.

Gabrielle lay across the table top for a long time after she left, her body a mix of arousal and nausea. Bitterly she fought the threat of tears rising within her. But it was a futile game she was playing then and she had no ability to fight anymore. Numbly she rose to shut out the freezing winds. As she leaned her weight against the door, knowing she was locking Xena out, she sobbed furiously to her absent lover.

"Yes, Xena. It's what I really want."

Part Three: The Goddess

Xena stooped her body against the gales and pushed into the darkness. Unable to see beyond her own hand, she thundered blindly in the direction her memory positioned the barn. So repulsed by what her earlier rage had released, she had fled the cabin without the protection of either her weapons or cape. But even with the freezing currents nipping mercilessly at her skin, she would not permit herself to turn back. The winds howled and whistled around her ears, carrying Gabrielle's words upon them. Images of herself forcing her love back on the table top, of starting to......

'Gods, no!' her mind reeled.

The warrior's feet labored through the snow, struggling to keep her upright. She only knew she had to keep moving. Away from the cabin, away from the dark creature still uncoiling within her. She stumbled finally, falling on all fours, sinking till her boots and wrist bands disappeared. Like a wounded animal, she thrust her head towards the heavens, screaming at Ares that he had won and that he could take his prize where she lay. But there was no answer, only the heavy currents swirling indiscriminately around her fallen body. It seemed like she laid there for a life time, sinking into a darker place than the night itself. Her mind slowed, fragmenting into snatched memories as consciousness began to elude her.

Then, suddenly, a stream of muted light came from behind her and with it, the sensation of being kicked hard. She was being covered with something warm. Hands upon her, guiding her to her feet.

"Come on, Xena, get up," the dark figure bellowed over the wind. The blizzard seemed to build new strength then, pelting the two figures who instinctively clung to one another to maintain their footing. Xena tried to focus. She knew the voice - a woman's voice, distant but familiar.

"Who are you?" she questioned, struggling to make out the being standing toe to toe with her.

"No time for that now," the voice told her. "We need to get you someplace warm."

With that the shadow scooped Xena up, carrying her the few remaining steps to the barn. The door creaked open as a gentle light saturated each corner of the shelter, allowing the warrior to see the warmth draped around her shoulders was actually Argo's saddle blanket. Then before she could say a word of thanks to her rescuer, or try her own feet, she was dropped, rear first into a pile of low packed hay.

Xena rubbed her eyes, studying the figure before her. Her rescuer had turned away just as the barn was illuminating, but the pitch, emblem embellished cape was unmistakable. The helmet and the motion used to remove it all tied it together enough for the exhausted warrior to know she was either hallucinating or she'd actually died out in the snow and this was some kind of sick after life joke.

Hair the color of midnight poured over squarely held shoulders as the rescuer turned back to inspect her catch.

Xena's eyes adjusted slowly as she followed heavy toe capped boots as they climbed the length of the dark woman's hovering stance, ending just above the knee and molding into snug fitting leather trousers. She hesitated, frowning at the cushioned juncture of crotch line then skimmed up higher to a buttoned shirt, clasped at its brim by a gold choker nestling close to the strong jaw. Pouting lips twitched under her scrutiny before curling up to the telltale snarl.

It couldn't be, yet some how....

"Who are you?" Xena demanded still not willing to trust her own eyes.

"You know who I am." The striking figure scoffed, clearly insulted. "Or has the last few years ruined your sight as well as your stomach for an easy lay?"

Xena glared wide eyed into the menacing face, unable to deny the resemblance was as simple as some uncanny similarity or even impersonation.

"You're me!" she spat finally.

"Very good, Princess." The warlord gave the prostrate warrior a patronizing once over. "But by the look of you, I'd say I'm the one with the clothes sense."

Xena ignored the blustered tone. "How and what are you doing here?" she asked incensed.

Air hissed through the Warlord's teeth as she exhaled, discarding her battle helmet at Xena's feet. Then in an almost fluid movement she brushed the sides of her travel cape back over either side of her shoulders, taking up a crouched position in front of her twin.

"Why is simple, " she replied drawing an invisible line down the centre of warrior's leathers. " just a little more complicated."

Xena pulled back from the all too familiar hand, forcing down a laugh at what seemed like a preposterous attempt at one of her oldest interrogation techniques. But she was also just as aware the beast that had sent her storming into the night still lay in wait itching to be let free. She couldn't afford to let her guard down, no matter how inept the Warlord's approach may seem. 'I'm the one who should be interrogating you, idiot.'

"I'm all ears," she prodded irritably.

The warlord lost her smirk, somehow sensing Xena's amusement at her. Capturing Xena's chin firmly, she tilted it to meet her own brilliant blue eyes.

"One minute I'm playing horizontal with some peasant girl," she growled. "....and the next I have this God reefing me out into nowhere, telling me if I don't come get you, I'll never know the true riches that await me." Her upper lip curled in barely hidden disgust. "So far all I see is a poor excuse of myself."

It really was her, Xena realised. Or at least the her from five or six winters past. She smelt heavily of liquor, but of hardly any real surprise her reflexes showed little of its effects. The young hand grazed Xena's cheek a little more sensually.

"I suppose I should be thankful you maintained your rugged good looks." she mused.

Xena let her continue this time, looking past her and making a quick search of the barn for any other surprises. After several carefully scrutinized looks around, Xena finally gave up on the notion of being studied by anyone other than Argo. The Palomino snickered gently in the far stall apparently unconcerned that she could see two of her mistress.

Lowering her own voice to the similar gravely snarl of her young twin, Xena tried once more to get to the bottom of this.

"Who promised you?"

"All in good time, Princess." The warlord cooed, refusing to be distracted from her sensual exploration of full cleavage. Xena watched the action intently. On one hand the young warlord seemed totally engrossed in what she referred to as her 'catch'. On the other, she remained heavily agitated and ready to explode at the slighted provocation. Xena guessed she was reacting to the same thing she was - unquenched battle lust. The more Xena concentrated on the feelings still gnawing at herself, the more obvious it became they were shared. It was also clear her younger self held considerably less mastery over the malevolent feelings. 'You really are a piece of work' Xena told the woman wordlessly.

Then before Xena knew exactly what had caused it, the warlord interpreted her thoughts again, this time rising up just high enough to deliver a solid kick to Xena's crotch. Xena rolled reflexively into a semi fetal position against the assault.

"Are you suicidal?" she groaned through clenched teeth.

"Are you?" echoed her counterpart, offering up a humorless smile.

Xena's lower body spasmed painfully as she fought to compose herself. It took a few seconds before she could stretch back out between the Warlord's aggressively placed legs.

"Maybe I am dead." Xena asked herself.

"You're not dead, Princess. Mind you if you'd stayed out there much longer " The warlord motioned toward the barn door "...who knows."

"How encouraging." Xena muttered. Pointedly aware she had no weapon other than her wits against this dangerous and highly unpredictable version of herself. "You can read my thoughts, can't you?" she asked keeping a rein on her temper.

The warlord was silent for a moment then grinned a little too pleased with herself. "Appears so. Must be part of the time travel thingy."

'How does Gabrielle put up with me?'

"You got a better explanation, than I'm listening."

Xena shook her head. No she didn't, only it felt.....

It was so fleeting that she could very well have missed the slight shift in barn temperature again. The lightening speed flicker of brightness. Anyone else would have. The warrior stiffened, feeling the familiar prickling of her skin that usually meant one of the Gods was somewhere close. She hadn't been imagining it, she realised. Ever since her look alike had picked her up from what could have easily have been her last resting place and dropped her in the shelter that also should have been as cold as death, she'd had the sickening feeling at the pit of her stomach.

"Ok Ares." Xena demanded, her state of confusion quickly replaced with infuriation. "This smells like your handy work. Show yourself." She tried to stand up, but her younger self slapped her down hard.

"Not Ares," the Warlord taunted.

A concentrated volume of light formed in the center of the barn. When it dissipated into soft sparkles moments later, both warlord and warrior stared at the statuesque woman appearing in its place.

She stood a little taller in height to Xena. Dressed in richly woven garments the color of earth and sun that tapered around an athletic yet clearly feminine frame. A quiver of arrows rested on her back and a bow slung low over an armored shoulder. Xena hesitated wondering whether her eyes were again playing tricks on her.

The Goddess registered the warrior's uncertainty and raised her hand in simple confirmation. "Many of my chosen bear features similar to my own, Warrior Princess." Then bowing reverently she added. "After all, they are made in my likeness."

"Artemis?" Xena breathed.

Of all the Greek Gods, the Goddess of the hunt and moon and hallowed symbol of the Amazons was known rarely to appear to mortals. And not surprisingly, never to Xena.

The Goddess lowered her arm, stepping closer to the Xenas of past and present. Xena's younger self appeared unperturbed by the appearance of the most illusive of gods, leaving her captive unguarded finally.

"Well I upheld my part of the bargain," she announced gamely as she approached the Goddess.

"Where's the treasure?"

In her heightened state of battle lust the warlord reached behind her readying her sword. Xena scrambled quickly to her feet and stepped in front of the drunken youngster.

Pressing a commanding hand against her, Xena ordered, "Hang on a minute, fool." Xena's younger self sent a questioning trail over the deadpan warrior for a moment then released her sword handle. Stepping back she folded her arms in clear objection across her chest.

"I don't see any treasure, Goddess." the warlord courted, looking about. Xena assessed the beautiful Goddess contemplatively, realizing that the sculptures carved as tribute did little to convey her unqualified beauty or power. She had expected Ares to be behind all this subterfuge, maybe even Aphrodite in some bizarre fashion. But not Artemis.

"What brings you here on a night like this." Xena finally asked by way of cautious introduction.

"As your young friend says, Xena." Artemis replied without actually physically acknowledging the warlord. "I am here to deliver her treasure."

"No tricks now," Xena's younger self bolstered. "I kept my end of the bargain."

Xena sent a succinct 'be quiet' without moving her lips.

"Greedy isn't she?" The Goddess commented, not altering her focus. "In fact she's not only greedy, she's devious, calculating and commonly cruel. Does she remind you of anyone, Xena?"

"I've had all I can pretty much take in one day, Artemis." Xena offered realizing the path the Goddess seem to be taking. "I have no fight with you. I know she's me," She motioned toward the surprisingly silent warlord. "Or at least a younger me, before I turned away from Ares' poison."

The Goddess raised her eye brow quizzically. 'So after all these years, she has finally broken free of you brother.' She thought pleased with herself.

Still, there wasn't much time. She had only managed to pursued the Fates enough marks of a candle that would bring about the ending of this day and the commencement of the next. With a single wave of her hand, Artemis conjured the one scene from the warrior's past she knew would hold her attention long enough to deliver her message.


"No!" Xena entreated loudly moving toward the vision. Somewhere in her reasoning she thought she could stop it - stop what was about to happen. Her hands continued to reach out as she approached and then passed partly through the bed base. Back and forth she alternated her attempts to sooth her, to prevent the blow, to restrain the woman...... But her strength and her heart breaking cries were useless. Appalled by what she bore witness to, but could do nothing to prevent, Xena stood stock still, clenching her jaw and fists in sheer agony as she shut her eyes against the vision. "No." she cried again, resisting the impulse to projectile vomit her dinner.

Appearing from no where sat a huge four poster bed occupied by apparitions of Xena the warlord and a young girl, naked and bound. The girl, though a few winters younger than the woman she had fled from a candle mark or so before, was unmistakenly Gabrielle of Poteidaia.

"Shutting your eyes won't make it go away, Xena." Artemis offered from where she observed the warrior's earnest attempts. "The act is already and forever sewn into the fabric of your life."

"Then why are you showing it to me," Xena demanded. "If it's already apart of me?"

"So you'll know." Artemis said lightly, turning to the two souls oblivious to any kind of audience.

"What do you mean, 'so I'll know'." Xena continued, outraged. "Don't you think I already know? Why do you think I was out in the storm?"

Artemis ignored the warrior's combative tone. It made no difference to her whether the magic of bringing images from the past bothered Xena or not.

"You think you know, Warrior Princess. But you only know what Gabrielle has told you. You don't actually remember what happened that night, do you?"

The Warlord struck the girl's face hard with the back of her hand. Pulling a fistful of hair, she raise blooded lips to her own. She sucked and groaned into the tortured mouth as her hand returned to the place between the girl's legs.....

Xena shook her head, looking briefly about her at the specters of herself and Gabrielle moving against one another. Then realizing repulsively that it was too late. She barely had time to exit the vision and cover her mouth before she found herself on her knees retasting her supper.

The young warlord bent over her laughing heartily.

"No stomach, Princess." she taunted. "No stomach at all."

"Shut up." Xena threw back. "You're what caused all this."

"Me?" The warlord rejected. "We're one in the same, don't fool yourself."

Again Xena was on her feet and moving back to the Goddess. "If you can cut through time, to bring these images, to bring a younger me here? Why can't you go back and stop it?" she asked wiping her mouth dry. The Goddess waved her hand again, using her power to conjure up a mug of water for the warrior to swill. If Xena was grateful, she didn't show it.

"Well, can't you?" Xena repeated acrimoniously.

"I can't do that now anymore than I could prevent it the first time, Xena." Artemis told her bristling under the bombardment of anger. "Ares was and is a formable opponent. At first I thought the best I would be able to manage was to ensure your mug was kept full. Ares' hold on you was strong - always was strong until you met Gabrielle." Then gentler, she added. "When Gabrielle's image was finally revealed to Ares as your soul mate - he naturally wanted her permanently out of the equation."

"He knew before I did?" Xena asked skeptically.

Artemis shrugged. "Of course he knew, we're Gods. He wasn't allowed to kill her, which was his first choice. But knowing your particular weakness when it comes to expelling battle lust, he set a plan in place he believed would prevent you two from ever becoming...." and she looked for a more diplomatic term than the first that entered her mind. "intimates." she ended on.

"Well that back fired on him, didn't it?" The hovering warlord offered with little attempt to disguise her pleasure. Xena wanted to snap her neck where she stood.

'Animal,' she said silently, watching as an eyebrow wiggled in acknowledgement.

"Not completely." Artemis interjected.

Then seeing that the younger Xena had long since passed her usefulness to her, she raised her bow arm once more, sending her back to her time. Xena watched silently as the vision before her of the Warlord and Gabrielle rippled slightly. But it was only a second, and before long she seemed to catch her rhythm and was defiling her captive with added drive.

Artemis too watched the time shift reassert itself before turning her full attention back to the remaining warrior.

"You took her first woman's blood, Xena. Raped and savaged her. Certainly Ares put you in the vicinity of the village, ensured a battle to boil your blood. But you can't blame him entirely. He spurred you on, he even applauded. But it was you, the you then that chose to take the girl, to take Gabrielle to your bed that night. It was you who violated her. Just as Ares knew you would. A prelude, if you like, to what he believed was the next best thing to killing her himself. "

"He thought I would kill her afterward." Xena answered gravely. "But I didn't."

"No," The Goddess agreed. "With the alcohol and what little flickers of infinite memory, you couldn't bring yourself to kill her. I can only tell you the stink it caused on Mt. Olympus. You did something that night that many believed impossible. You spared a life. Ares had to console himself with the belief that your treatment of her would be enough. That your actions destroyed any hope she would ever have of loving you. Ares believed for two full summers that he had succeeded, but he didn't count on her tie with you being as powerful as it was." She trailed off, averting her eyes away from the warrior to the point that her final words were almost no higher than a whisper. "There was something else happening that night between you that he never could work out."

Xena wasn't sure if she wanted to hear the answer to such a cryptic statement. " And what was that?"

"You saw a hint of it tonight , Xena. Gabrielle was trying to tell you before you went off and almost spoilt everything."

"What are you talking about?" the warrior demanded.

Artemis calmed herself before continuing on. Xena may be Ares' chosen but she certainly had no idea about how to speak to a God, especially one worshiped by entire nations of woman warriors.

The Goddess sighed. "When I thought all would be lost, I went to Aphrodite and called in a favor which she gladly paid. The favor was the capability of both participants... to enjoy it. To find a sense of peace in their merging. Ares was so cocky that he never considered the possibility of Gabrielle responding to your savagery - But she did."

Xena braved another glance at the apparition of herself and Gabrielle from winters past.

The girl's body arched in her younger selves arms, eyelids flickering, mouth gaping. Fingers clutched leather as the tremble traveled through her.

Xena looked back defiantly, not wanting to understand. "You mean to tell me that she shares the curse of battle lust?"

"...Yes." Artemis smiled sadly.

"Take it away!" Xena hissed.

"...I can't."

Xena was mortified. First learning that it was she who was the low life that had actually raped and brutalized her love, then to be told it was all part of some twisted preordained script by the Gods. Now this, this horror.

"How could you do that?" she shot.

The Goddess sighed. She could sympathize with Warrior Princess' sense of betrayal, but truly she had willed most of it on herself.

"There was no other way." Artemis explained.

"The only other option was to let her die and die after experiencing the worst sexual violation. Was that what you would have chosen? An eternal reminder of dying at your hand?"

As expected, Artemis watched the warrior shake her head. Shame enveloped the exquisite features, tearing at her muscle by muscle until the last piece of light disappeared from her face. The Goddess could only imagine the torment she must be feeling. But she wasn't quite finished with Xena of Amphipolis, yet.

"But that IS what you chose wasn't it, Xena. You chose to quench your thirst on the flesh of an innocent. Like you had countless times before, only that night," and she stepped aside fully so Xena could not deny the vision before her.

" took the woman who was supposed to be your life mate to Tartarus........ You remind me of the soldier who falls on his own sword and with his dying breath, still blames the sword." she injected furiously. "I had very little to work with, you forget, I was gambling with the God of war and his chosen."

Xena sat stunned as the Goddess' words fell like fire balls from the heavens. Each one burning her with anger and condemnation. It was so painfully ironic she could almost laugh, but there was nothing truly funny about this insanity that was her truth.

"So what am I supposed to do?" She asked quietly. "Your being here makes it plain you don't want me to die in a snow storm?"

Artemis paused, choosing her words with absolute care. "You must do what you need, when you need it..." she managed simply. "Knowing full well that Gabrielle will be rewarded in her own way for her gift to you."

"Why do all Gods talk in riddles?" Xena mumbled, still feigning at least partial ignorance as her only protection.

Artemis ignored the comment. "Without the shared release of the blood lust, you will never allow Gabrielle to move on from the first time you were together. She knows you have the need and......." and again she hesitated, summoning calm. "And she knows you have taken that need to others. In some ways it tortures her more than the memories ever could. Her role in your retribution was sealed that night, Xena. In a way that can not be changed."

The warrior felt the bile rise again in her throat.

"I don't go to whores to hurt her, I do it to protect her." Xena defended, finally able to steady herself. "If I had another way than I would gladly take it. I lay next to her every night and listen to the dreams. How can I believe what you're telling me when all I see and hear is her agony. I would do anything to rid her of them, anything. But to take her to a place that is as dark as my soul willingly is not what I am prepared to do."

"Then you will lose her." The Goddess stated firmly and before Xena could argue back, the scene in front of them of Gabrielle and herself shifted again.

Gabrielle emptied the bucket into the tub and stepped tentatively into the lukewarm water. Instinctively a hand rose to her mouth to muffle a groan as her ravished body made contact the cooling temperatures. It didn't matter she told herself, water was water, she couldn't put her clothes on and leave without first stripping away at least a little of what the Warlord had done.

Pulling her knees up to her chest she sat quietly, numbed from the final and most brutal assault. Sitting was uncomfortable but standing would have been unbearable. The fireplace was still producing a glow and at least marginal heat to prevent her freezing. Perhaps a little too much light she realized as she gingerly inspected the various marks that coursed across her battered limbs and torso. Her wrists bore dark red welts from the leather burns, her nose and mouth swollen from the many strikes she had received, her belly still bleeding from the continued onslaught of the Warlord's phallus.

A piece of wood from the fire broke in two, falling to the base and sending sparks high into the flute. Protectively she wrapped her arms around her torso before realizing the Warlords heavy snores assured her she was at least safe for the moment. Laying face down and half covered by what remained of her uniform and the bed sheets she grunted and murmured in her sleep.

"What's happening?" Xena asked, moving closer to Gabrielle's younger self. Artemis maintained her position, watching the warrior carefully.

"It is done." She told her with a sigh. "You have taken your fill and dismissed her."

"Then why is she still there? Why doesn't she get out?"

"Where would you have her go, Xena?"

"Anywhere, away!"

Heart struck, Xena turned briefly to meet the blonde Goddess' gaze. Then refocusing, she reached hopelessly to touch the translucent image of her love. Finger tips stroked through the bruised skin as the young girl continued to move a wash cloth carefully over her own body. A tear fell from the warrior's cheek, disappearing into the bath water.

"Why do the dreams haunt her so strongly again?" She asked still trying to touch Gabrielle's vision.

Artemis stepped a little closer aware Xena couldn't take much more and time was growing short.

"You know the answer to that too, Xena. You've killed, killed protecting Gabrielle. With the battle, especially one with so much at risk, so comes the battle lust. With every fiber of your being you know it must be vanquished and you know how. Gabrielle knows it too, she knows that once your dark self is forged in combat, it can not be re-sheathed without being acted out. While you deny yourself, you deny her. I'm afraid the dreams will never leave her while you continue suppressing something that simply must be."

"There has to be another way."

Artemis approached the crouched warrior.

"There isn't." she told Xena, patting the distraught woman's shoulder in a rare display of empathy. "I wish I could tell you that there was, but there isn't."

She hesitated again before confronting the truth that had been so obvious when she watched the highly charged interplay between the two lovers earlier on.

"You know you want to, you know also that the whores aren't quite enough for you anymore. It's Gabrielle you love. It's Gabrielle that you want to share the battle lust with. If you turn away from her now, go to another or simply continue to deny it, you run the risk of killing yourself or her. You may have the blessing of eternal soul mates, Xena, but you two have much more you still have to accomplish in your present forms."

Xena knew the Goddess spoke the truth. Even with the knowledge of Gabrielle's dreams, she knew she had wanted Gabrielle in every way possible from the very beginning. She just hadn't let herself admit it.

She had not trusted herself to initiate love making since they had left Poteidaia. She had made excuses that she was tired or she was happy for her love to simply hold her. It had been almost a week since they had bid Gabrielle's family farewell and disposed of both Hope and the Destroyer's remains. The night before, Xena had finally yielded to Gabrielle pleas after so many weeks apart. Having no real explanation other than her own fears, she had submitted. But she had not allowed herself to return the touches of her beloved and she had not allowed her heart to rise above any beat she could not count back in a single breath. She knew Gabrielle's body as well as she knew her own, had made love to her blissfully since their pledge, but she also knew she wanted her, had fantasied dangerously of wanting more.

Tears slid down the warrior's cheeks unguarded. "Make the dreams go away."

"I can't." The Goddess told her softly. "I can't interfere anymore than I have Xena. Even coming to you now will be viewed by the other Gods as unwarranted interference. This is a road you two must travel together."

Xena gestured to the now sleeping Warlord of the vision.

"Will she remember any of this?"

The Goddess shook her head. "No, she'll wake up the next morning and continue on her way. If she remembers anything, she'll remember the girl's hands holding her, that's all."

"I suppose I should thank you." Xena offered as Artemis turned, this time apparently readying to leave.

The Goddess hesitated before turning back only slightly to meet the Warrior's gaze.

"I'm bound by my promise to whom ever of my chosen calls my name, Xena. I didn't do it for you." Her own sparkling pupils shifted to rest one last time of the girl sitting naked in the bath tub.

"I did it for her."

And then she was gone, taking the apparitions with her and leaving only a soft glow of light to guide Xena back to where she knew she would eventually return.


Gabrielle stood in front of the fireplace, quiescent, allowing the dance of the flames to soften the stark reality of her surroundings.

After she had secured the door she picked up broken pieces of crockery as she discovered them. Deposing of them she came to stand in front of the heat. She hadn't bothered relighting the candles, instead preferring the soft glow emanating from the hearth to light as well as insulate against the nights events. With mechanical movements, she straightened her skirt and pulled her blouse up to cover exposed breasts. Without thinking, fingers grazed an erect nipple through the cloth. She accepted the sensation it sent through her like a spring shower after a long dry.

The arousal was acute and undeniable.

The argument had turned in a breath to sexual conquering on Xena's part. So quick that it had almost caught Gabrielle, as its initiator, totally off guard. Almost cheating her of that rare opportunity to witness the fire burning unshielded in her lover's eyes. She had succeeded in her intention to free Xena of the battle lust billowing in her loins. Only to have her iron will snap back into place before Gabrielle could convince her the desire was shared.

Now in the stillness of the cabin she realised that that one brief act, that unrestricted uncovering of Xena's dark side, may very well also herald the last time that the ex-warlord would ever touch her, gentle or otherwise.

... The memory came, first just as a flash....and she tried to shake it off. 'This is hard enough ' she berated inwardly, thinking it would send the thought back where it belonged.

The warlord's hand ceased as Gabrielle's body shook violently, arching towards her. Strong arms wrapped around her as the feeling crashed down.

"I....I" she couldn't speak, all the sensations accompanied with a powerful first orgasm still drawing back from her.

"Shuu,..." the warlord whispered, panting from her own release. "It's just..."

"I've never felt anything like that before." Gabrielle sensed the woman half cradling her pause as if realizing the full magnitude of her statement.

The warlord murmured. "....Something to remember me by."

Gabrielle's hand stilled and fell away from her body. She wasn't really sure why she was thinking of that particular moment right now, only that it something about the way the fire was burning itself down - the design of the actual fire place. It didn't matter, she decided. She just knew that moment was when she first realized. When she admitted to herself that with all that the dark woman had done, the acts she'd been forced to participate in, her life changed irrevocably and forever in that one action.

Self consciously, the bard smoothed over her clothes again and sat down at the fire's base, tucking her legs up under her comfortably to study the flames. She waited perhaps two more full candle marks in the solitude, listening to the winds dying down to an occasional whistle through the structures before she could allow herself some hope. Patiently she waited as the sounds of the cabin door opening and closing reached her ears. An eternity passing before she felt the gentle pressure of her warrior's boots and stays pressing against her back. She watched through hooded eyes as Xena's hands stretched out overhead, seeking heat from the fire and casting gentle shadows in the rooms tranquility.

For the longest time, Xena stood silently soaking in the fire, the heat afforded by it and the sensation of her lover resting at her feet. It had taken all of the Goddess' powers to convince her that as much as she wanted to run and keep running. She could no more turn away from Gabrielle than she could intentionally bring her harm.

Gabrielle finally felt her step away. Soft movements telling her her love had retreated to one of the chairs. She imagined Xena's legs parting generously as she sat, allowing the strips of her skirt leather to fall between them. Pronounced shoulder muscles slackening a little to take in the full support offered her weight. Eyes caressing her lovingly as she scooted her body around to lean up against the wall just next to the fire place.

Pulling her knees up to her chin Gabrielle wrapped her arms around them, more out of protection for her emotions than any additional warmth.

"You're taking us to Corinth," she whispered finally. Amazed her voice appeared to able to disguise the rapid pounding in her heart.

"Yes." Xena admitted.

"To expel the blood lust caused by killing Hope and the Destroyer?"


Gabrielle nodded, acknowledging the honesty her lover showed in the face of such a powerful and potentially devastating disclosure. They weren't trying to hurt each other now, but the words were still pain. For the first time since Xena had returned Gabrielle looked directly into her lover's eyes.

"I don't want you to." she said plainly, swallowing hard.

Xena bowed her head, understanding more was being said between them, than could be adequately measured in five simple words.

But there were no other words that followed for a long time after that, only the constant crackle of flames hitting the crest to prevent them from slipping back into their own self imposed isolations. 'That's what really caused all of this,' Gabrielle thought pensively. 'All the foolish silences.'

"She was the most beautiful creature I 'd ever seen....." she offered, not wanting to let go. She paused just long enough to allow Xena time to adjust to the new direction of where her words were leading.

"I could feel her heat on my skin the minute she entered the inn.....but when she looked me over, I thought the Gods had given me a second chance at life. In that moment when she first laid eyes on me in my peasant skirt and borrowed blouse, I knew what desire was - what want was. .... I didn't know women could look at each other that way before. You know, undress you with their eyes kind of look...... I was flattered that she wanted me for herself......."

"You have no need to feel shame, my love." Xena told her intently. "Nothing that happened to you - nothing that I did, was your fault."

Gabrielle looked up and smiled faintly, hoping her expression could relay the unconditional depth of her next sentence.

"I have no shame in knowing that pain is like heaven to me.... No shame in knowing that I long to experience that pain in loving now, as much as I know your desire to give it."

Xena's eyes stayed fixed on the place where Gabrielle's words had landed before her. Slowly she shook her head. Gabrielle watched her patiently, not wishing to hurry her, but unable this time to allow her lover the victory of her stubbornness.

"Much of who the warlord was, is - still scares me beyond any real explanation. I want to run as far as I can from it some times. I look into her eyes and feel like I'm falling into the pit in Dahak's temple all over again. But I also know that sometimes I just have to let myself fall. I don't know why, only that the pain is heaven and the heaven is pain...... Would you deny me the freedom to leave the things from that night that I do not wish to remember behind, Xena and in turn grant me the right of our vows to be all things to you?"

"No, of course not, only....."

Gabrielle rose steadily to her feet, extending Xena a smile that spoke deeply of love but equally of determination, she inhaled softly.

"Well then...."

She stood perfectly still and squared her shoulders to show the gentle rise of her breasts. Arms held comfortably at her sides, feet parted slightly. She let the warrior study her as she was highlighted by the fires light. It was almost mesmerizing, neither one of them able to draw their gaze away from the other. Without shifting her attention from the deep blue pools upon her, Gabrielle removed each piece of clothing with the greatest of care, knowing that while her lover may still wish to resist, the warlord's blood that still pumped unquestioningly within her, could not. The warlord's desire would be increasing with every move, every gesture, each time she pulled a layer away she could smell the rising heat from the almost forgotten lover.

Xena had not moved from the chair, but Gabrielle knew that there was no need for her to, they both knew what was about to happen.

No words were necessary.

Fully naked Gabrielle walked past her lover to the saddlebags that had been dropped near the cabin door. She found what she'd been looking for with little effort. Backing away and coming to stand proud before the warrior, she held the items out in clear view, offering them to the warrior, silently asking her to take them to seal the new pledge.

In her left hand, she held a thin piece of leather. Age and use had caused the material to come apart somewhere along the way, forcing its owner to fasten two ends together to maintain the length. In her right hand, and held with a certain level of awe, she presented the thick leather harness and phallus Xena had kept tucked at the very bottom of the satchel. Both women's eyes focused on the harness. Xena hadn't been sure up until then that Gabrielle knew she even carried it. It had never been part of their love making and like so many things, it had just never come up. Nor had the fact that she still carried one set of Warlord attire, or that she would change into them to exercise Argo in the middle of Athens or Corinth or any city large enough to host a whore house.

"Do you know what you're asking?" Came the husky response of her lover.

Still with her hands outstretched, Gabrielle dropped elegantly to one knee, her eyes lowering to rest on the hidden place between Xena's legs.

"Yes, my Lord." she whispered.

Part Four: Surrender

From shadows cast by a thin stream of moonlight along the cabin's exterior, Artemis watched intently as the two women embarked on the long journey of rediscovering themselves and each other.

She had remained in the general vicinity of the deserted structures, invisible and undetectable even to the keen senses of the warrior princess herself long after she had witnessed Xena return safely inside. She had stayed more to assure herself, she realized, than any further debt she owed them. Assurance that to reveal herself as she had and to disclose the full implication of Gabrielle's dreams was the right decision to make. For with her knowledge, she knew undoubtedly the warrior had no reason not to act. Xena would expel the battle lust that coursed through her veins as needful as her own life blood and Gabrielle as her chosen would indeed face her Warlord again.

The Goddess suppressed an inward shudder, needing again to remind herself that truly there was no other way.

For a long time she listened as the younger woman, true to her title, eloquently lay out her case for the still hesitant, though barely controlled warrior. Xena, in turn, sat speechless and spellbound as the slow seductive dance, meant only for her eyes, followed. Gabrielle had knelt before her when she was done, proud in her nakedness, one hand stretched out perfectly offering up symbols of her subservience to her lover. The exchange between them after that had been too softly spoken for even the Goddess' ears and she had to be content of either staying outside and presuming their dialogue or entering the confines of the cabin under the veil of invisibility and risk being 'felt' by the warrior.

Artemis shifted cautiously, feeling the light touch of another being moving in close behind her. Momentarily startled until she recognized the owner of the familiar fragrance and heavenly choice of 'night' wear being intentionally pressed lovingly into her back.

"I suspected I'd still find you here," the feminine arrival whispered.

Artemis nodded, forcing a half smile at the predictability of her movements. But she didn't, couldn't bring herself to shift her gaze from the small portal that allowed view of the two mortals. The two celestial beings stood comfortably silent for a time watching as the women rose from their original positions, the bard searching for something then guiding her lover to take up a commanding presence in front of the hearth.

"You can't change it," the voice told her. "You couldn't change it then and you can't change it now."

"I know," she breathed, glancing back at her companion. "I just want to stay a little longer, to see that..."

The pressure on her shoulder intensified, relaying an intimate assurance as well as a hint of resistance. "She will be all right," the voice stressed. "You don't need to be here to know that the warrior will not do any more than is necessary. She loves Gabrielle, I feel it with all my heart." The other goddess cast her eyes upward for a moment, allowing her omnipotent vision to cut through the dense night sky. Dawn was still a considerable way off and, though she had no need of replenishment of her physical form like mortals, her body ached for the touch of her own warrior. They had exhausted themselves over the last few seasons, leaving little time for their own cherished union. She chanced her own look past Artemis, watching as the ex-warlord was slowly being transformed in front of their eyes.


Xena stood squared shouldered in front of the hearth, jaw and eyes fixed as she held herself steady, inwardly shivering with each new sensation generated by her lover's touch. How she was managing to contain her need under such attention was beyond her.

Gabrielle's hands remained graceful, even at their most aroused state she kept them focused as she worked to secure the last piece of her warrior's reselected attire. Though smaller and more slender than Xena's hands, they were powerful intoxicants in their own right, moving with an aura of eroticism that eventually would become a ritualistic prelude to this new dance they performed. With each layer of clothing being removed and replaced, Gabrielle allowed her hands to stroke the two lover's shared desire. Xena's standard battle leathers replaced were with britches; tight and form fitting against the perfectly sculptured shape of her thighs and crotch. A sleeved shirt made of silk and billowing long on her, tucked but left gaping, hiding none of her own womanhood. Accessories too; bracers, stays and wrist guards, all kept separate and hidden until now. All it seemed laying in wait for this moment of renewal.

Almost complete in her task, Gabrielle secured the end of a tight plait she had modeled Xena's usually free flowing mane into and moved back around to face her.

She kneeled down between immodestly parted legs to finish lacing her boots back up, her own needs barely held at bay. She had made the process of redressing her warrior slow and sensual, allowing herself to touch the revealed skin liberally as she moved, knowing soon her hands would not be permitted such freedom. From her position, she realized the level of arousal Xena was feeling must have been agony. Her lover's scent sung from its cave, a rich heady odor, overpowering as its warmth permeated the senses and extinguished all else. Finally, certain everything including the object not utilized since that fateful night was neatly secured under the warrior's britches, Gabrielle stood back up keeping her eyes lowered to the hint of cleavage at Xena's chest. She felt the stronger hand stroke her cheek, tilting her head back before the approaching warmth of Xena's lips tested her desire. Gabrielle opened her mouth and the kiss intensified, Xena's tongue probing deeper as the hand firmed about Gabrielle's jaw. She let her teeth graze along the outside of her mouth, her cheeks, until she was biting roughly, trying to devour the fire emanating from her lover's tender skin.

"How much of what I was like do you remember?" Xena asked, breaking off.

The memories and sensations of being ripped open and violated for the first time by a warlord's fist swept through the bard's consciousness. Other thoughts of being dragged from a bed stained with her own blood and essence to the floor, of being beaten till she couldn't stand or cry anymore enveloped her, leaving her caught between a dream and waking state.

"Everything." Gabrielle whispered succinctly and she shivered. "I remember everything, Xena."

The fingers around her jaw released, falling the short distance to her throat, grasping it firmly.

"Then I don't need to remind you how I like it?" she questioned and Gabrielle shook her head.

"No, you don't," Gabrielle answered. A wave of dizziness threatened to overcome her as the true power of Xena's desire drew strength. She watched as a raw energy rose from nowhere, curling around her warrior, watched as Xena breathed it to life and set it free. She pulled her near again but this time her furor drove her beyond control and she growled, clutching at her, marking her skin. Gabrielle moaned loudly into Xena’s mouth, squirming, needing, accepting the sweet torture and where ever it would lead. Moments became an eternity and she let herself fall into the place she needed to be to receive it.

Xena tore the ravenous lips away, pushing her downward. Gabrielle crashed to the floor between her legs.

"Serve me, Gabrielle." Xena ordered, her voice heavy with arousal.

Another memory swept over her - trousers down around those same thighs, of harsh hands guiding her. Gabrielle moved herself from her crumpled position, instinctively leaning forward, fingers working nervously to accomplish what was required. Pulling and tugging, she worked to reveal Xena's device. When it was finally free, she leaned in to kiss the length's tip, moistening her own lips to soften the leather. Xena drew back, watching her. The bard had swept her hair aside giving full view to how her mouth and hands were moving. A silent message making itself clear to Xena -what she did, she did for both of them. What was happening was what she wanted to happen.

Artemis' words to Xena of taking what she needed, knowing Gabrielle would be equally rewarded for her part coursed through the warrior's brain. 'Do it, take her,' her mind shouted.

Xena stepped wider, allowing back muscles to slacken, to accept the right. She thrust forward, feeling her lover's mouth widening to accommodate more of what she drove. The woman in her so wanted to reach down and stroke the golden locks below, to tell Gabrielle wordlessly that what she was doing would slowly and assuredly send her insane. But an insanity she would welcome, dying blissfully from the honesty. However, the warlord remained firm. This was an act of subservience, a sign of consent. Rewarding, encouraging through weak gestures was not what either needed or wanted, not this time.

The bard maintained her gentle stroking, fingers tracing up and down the shaft as her mouth moved sensually on the leather. With her other hand, she trailed along the warrior's inner thigh. Xena stood stoic, jaw slightly jutting as she allowed even more of the battle lust to surface. Heat and scent rose as her body wavered.

Gabrielle paused briefly, she looked upward to the sight of her lover, so proud, so magnificent above her. "Allow me the pleasure of your need," she whispered, a final signal for Xena to let go, to take what was hers.

Gabrielle hung on, allowing the grounding motion Xena made to smother her mouth and nose. But the warrior's hips pushed harder until Gabrielle was forced back into a hold half lying and half kneeling beneath the crouched figure. Her Xena disappeared before her eyes. In her place, the animal stretching and clamoring to the surface and the woman was gone. She pushed Gabrielle the remaining distance till the younger woman lay completely on her back, shoulders bumping against the coarseness of the floorboards, her legs caught up uncomfortably behind her. The bard tried unsuccessfully to pull them free, to reposition herself to cope better with the sudden change in tempo.

But it was too late, her hands were pulled high above her head. Xena was claiming the hunger within her with piston like thrusts. Gabrielle closed her eyes succumbing to the sensations of being a willing recipient. With her free hand, Xena reached behind them, finding the bard's honey curls, twisting and pulling until she was entering her. She dug at the slickness, continuing to force Gabrielle to widen her legs even though there was little the bard could do to assist.

"Are you denying me?" She flared, using the hopelessness of the bard's trapped position against her. Fingers refused access to the tight opening continued to twist the thick auburn bush. Gabrielle struggled to shift both their weight enough to provide access to her groin. But the mass of her lover and the clear resistance Xena showed from pulling away from her quest of raping her mouth made it impossible. She could not speak even to attempt to convince her that she was not withholding anything. She would not be so foolish, now of all times, to resist or deny her a thing. The warrior's movements convulsed as she rose a little higher off her chest. Shouting down at her all her anger, all her resentments.

"You lied to me all our marriage."

Gabrielle lay pinned, unable to answer. She forced her back muscles harder, allowing the oral intrusion to continue unobstructed. Yes, she had lied through omission to her mate for reasons she believed worthy at the time. How was she to know that this dream, this fantasy would ever breathe a life of its own. How could she have told her that she loved the cruelty as much as her courage, her force as much as her uncertainty.

Xena held on, her voice forced down into a throaty sigh, thighs clamped tight around Gabrielle's head until she let the world around her splinter. Then, finally she was pulling the phallus out of her mouth, just enough to tilt the straps to allow Gabrielle to experience her release. Xena's free hand clamped around her throat forcing her reflexes to swallow the hot heady stream pouring into her mouth.

Xena stayed across the trapped shoulders willing her head to clear just a margin. Her fingers remaining rigid inside of Gabrielle. Even though it was entirely possible for the bard to come and though she desperately needed to, she held back, knowing not to give herself the pleasure of climaxing this way. Xena would expect her to wait, to go completely without if need be. The anger had risen so easily, the fire blazing in her eyes with the certainty that this needed to be more than a simple rejoining. She knew in this role the warlord would need to punish as well as reclaim.

The first strike to her head shocked her, but only momentarily. The following, just as harsh, rocked her sideways. Her ears burned and her mouth bled but she lay passive.. The sight was beautiful and welcome. The fingers bore deeper into her and she tried to widen her legs.

"Whore," Xena called and struck her again.

Gabrielle cried out, not loudly but did not attempt to stifle it or stop the flow of tears. Xena continued to rage.

"You want to feel me in you, don't you? Fucking you, hurting you?"

"Yes," Gabrielle whimpered, unashamed.

"Well, it won't be like this," Xena spat, tearing her fingers from the honey forest. She dragged Gabrielle along, pulling her to her feet by her hair. Gabrielle stood trembling in awe of the sight of Xena in full warlord haze. "Not so easy. Do you think I'd let you cum like this, squirming under a warlord's touch? You don't even deserve to be my whore."

Xena hit her again. "Not till I've taught you a lesson." The strength of the blow sent Gabrielle off to the side, barely missing a chair. Gabrielle knelt beside it, wiping her mouth free of another droplet of blood. Her head throbbed as she eyed her lover warily. 'You wanted this. You wanted her to take you this way' she reminded herself as she knelt, retrieving the fallen items of clothing and climbing as quickly as possible to her feet. Xena strode over to her, wrenching her up till her feet dangled in mid air.

"Don't fuck with me Gabrielle," Xena shouted into her lover's face. "You know you deserve it, deserve and want everything you are about to receive."

With unprecedented fury, Xena drew the slighter woman backward to the table, depositing her on top with an ungracious thud.

"Now, where were we?" She growled dangerously. Gabrielle lay passive trying to keep her wits about her. She raised her eyes enough to look directly into her lover's. slowly settling on the rich color and full lips twitching in the total persona of her darker self.

"I was preparing to give you what you need, my Lord?" Gabrielle whispered in a mixture of seduction and fear. Goading the potential danger to flourish.

Xena's teeth shown brilliant white. "What I need?" she snarled fully immersed. What do you know of my need? You haven't even learned the most basic requirements!"

And Gabrielle realized her cue. Nodding a silent understanding.

"Obedience." She answered evenly. "No, you're right, Lord. I need to learn that first."

Xena glared approvingly. Then without interest in anything other than teaching that requirement she shunted the full mass of wood and body forward, sliding them both until it impacted the closest wall.

Gabrielle gulped feeling the cease of motion. The thought of her lover raping her with the stiff leather was expected. Xena was in the grips of no less a fury than that generated by the most recent of her kills, her apparent loss to the fiery depth of Dahak's temple. All brought about because the bard had lied to her last year. Gabrielle wiggled forward till her feet touched the floorboards. Then as expected she widened her legs, positioning them to rest either side of the V shaped edge, allowing the coolness of the night to kiss along her upturned breasts and sex. Xena moved closer casting a shadow between the fire place and the bard's prostrate form. Gabrielle heard the distinctive sound of her whip dragging along behind her and tried to calm herself.

Xena stood between the bard's open legs, inspecting her center as the property that it was. Gabrielle's hips pushed up undulating against the coarse hand promising passage. Xena held back another snarl. She was teasing, ensuring the bard was as ready as she was but she had no intention of filling her lover's particular ache quite yet. The moistened hand pulled away and roamed across her bare skin, needing to feel every inch of heat from her lower regions. She cast her vision upward eyeing the quick rise and fall of her Gabrielle's breast and the stiff darker shape of nipples inflamed.

"When I'm ready. Not before," the warrior whispered gruffly and she stepped back, disappearing into a dark space. The bard's heart rate doubled, fearful. The night was suddenly very still, allowing each shift of her lover's weight to provide signals of her intent. For the first time since Xena's rampage on her had started, she fought the urge to beg for an end to it all. Xena had been successful in creating just the right balance of arousal and fear but right at that moment she was testing Gabrielle's limits. Gabrielle heard the light shuffle of silk sliding across leather, a hand raised and the quick snap of it being released fully with expert skill.

The sound of flying leather cut through, quick, light to start, hardly touching strokes alternating either side of the bard's inner thighs. Gabrielle clamped her buttocks against the wooden surface. She exhaled quietly, knowing the licks against her, almost caresses really, would not last long. Trust was being taught with each carefully delivered strike and once it was assured, a sign given, the real assault would begin. Another dozen blows, barely coloring her inner thighs and belly descended until Xena could see her shoulders relax fully, easing down.

It was time.

The next blow was hard, the warrior's full weight behind it; cutting her flesh like a knife. Gabrielle cried out, hips trying to pull back again, away from the pain. Knees instinctively wanting to be raised to block the weapon.

It didn't help.

Xena's movements bore down. Blow after blow, her whip arm becoming weightless as she succumbed to the rhythm, her mind focusing, heat of her exertions and excitement forcing sweat to shimmer off her brow. She heard nothing but the whistle of leather releasing into the air and the crack as it impacted on the reddened flesh of her lover.

She shifted her weight on the floor, boots stepping a margin wider as she watched. Gabrielle was hurting; her body shuddering, fighting reflexive attempts to raise her legs. Her skin was striped, pulsating. But somehow body and mind held on, expecting more, not much, perhaps just one more strike placed in the right place. The warrior smiled. Narrowing her sight she drew back, waiting but a breath mid air, then flicking the full length to the place she had purposely avoided.

Leather snapped and fell.

Gabrielle's upper body flew upwards, legs separating even wider as she wrestled the impending peak, hands shot between the burning to lift her further, digging down into wood as her eyes strapped her lover, demanding audience. Her mouth gaped, her cry projected, savage and raw along a invisible ribbon, sending the surge electrically through Xena's own body.

A fallen hand released the whip at the warrior's feet as she watched Gabrielle's bliss, entranced. She had dreamed of this moment, had lain awake listening to the bard slumber, wrapped in private agony.....She had whispered her name into the ears of whores, had moaned it under her own hand. Paying homage to the vision before her, the warrior ran her hand down her own front, over soaked silk and erect nipples, willing it hard against the junction of her trousers. Her breathing came rapidly, spawned by both the exertions of the flogging and her own need. Even through the fabric of her clothing, the touch of her fingers was tantalizing, pressing, squeezing.

She was close again.

Gabrielle sat perched before her, wide-eyed and panting . Xena wrestled the impending flood back in her self allowing them both time to appreciate the gift a few seconds longer. Then, stepping forward she grabbed a fistful of sweat drenched hair and jerked her forward, feasting a little on the mouth that still hung open, salivating.

"My turn," Xena informed her, bringing Gabrielle toppling down from the table. Then thrust her back again, eyeing her impatiently as the bard knowingly turned away.

"Bend over!"

Gabrielle leaned forward still trembling from the aftershocks of climax, stretching out until her upper body lay pressed against the flat surface again. She parted her thighs to the exact measurement bringing them in line and gaining support from the two sturdier table legs. Then pushing back just a little, she arched her back and thrust her buttocks, tensing as the memory of herself, kneeling and splayed for the first time struck hard. Instead of retreating from it as she usually did, she allowed it life, remembering the stab of her 'Lord's' tool owning her time and time again. The bard bit down on the fear. It always would be her most vivid memory, her most painful yet exhilarating secret from their first night. A secret she had mourned for in its absence, laying dormant and unused like the piece of her it had invaded so long ago. The room somehow shrank in around them and Gabrielle smothered a gasp feeling Xena press closer.

Xena looked down at her, handling her length expectantly. She would fill her with it, pierce the emptiness, leaving no space untouched. She would give to her the pain she needed, she would revel in it and she would feed them both.

Slowly Xena traced the outline of Gabrielle's upturned body, steadying her position at the opening.

"Mine?" She said coolly.


"Mine to use?"

"Oh yes."

"And do you welcome that use?"

"Yes," the bard whispered, barely audible. It was almost but not quite shame. She knew she was producing copious amounts of fluid from her orgasm and the continued pressure being applied to the welts along her front. She imagined Xena's steel blue inspection following the trail of substance escaping from her with satisfaction. In her mind she could see the firm hand wrapped about the phallus, massaging it and drawing her own pleasure out.

"Then ask," Xena said evenly, managing to maintain perfect control even now.

Gabrielle turned her head breathing deep.

"Please," she murmured trying to make eye contact.

Xena leaned forward just enough for Gabrielle to feel the phallus graze her rear entrance and slide easily along her cleft. She moaned quietly realizing just how ready her lover was again, how close she herself was.

"Not good enough, whore." Xena breathed, dragging the torment out a little more."Ask nicely," she coaxed, prodding harder along the bard's sex.

Gabrielle bit her lip, remembering the words from long ago when she had been instructed how to visually display what was on offer. Knowingly she focused her attention straight ahead, squaring her own shoulders and allowing her weight to rest on her stomach. Then she reached back sliding splayed fingers along spine and buttocks till she had covered the two perfect shapes with each hand. With little hesitation she sunk short nails into the duel fullness and pulled up on each cheek, forcing herself gaping as her final gift.

"It's yours, master. Please, I beg you, use it as you wish."

Xena reached out, one hand possessively clutching her lover by the waist, locking her in and molding the succulent and tender tissue as again she dragged the phallus back through Gabrielle's outer core. She soaked the leather and rubbed the plentiful juices about and up its shaft, watching as the body laying in wait, stayed stiff, holding.

With the other hand, Xena drew leather and body back to pause at the opening. And then inch by inch, she used it to fill, to claim. Ignoring suggestion of rejection or recourse, ignoring the sounds stumbling out that were without a doubt, pain - undisguised, unashamed pain.

Gabrielle's body arched as she thrust herself back fully against the warlord's penetration. Her back slammed into the slick, sweat covered frame, hard nipples scorching her back. The pain of strained flesh shot down the insides of her thighs and she welcomed the penance, feeling Xena's rigid power deep within her. Without thinking, her hands sought out the connection with her deliverer. She reached upward, wrapping her arms around the warlord's neck, fingers reaching up and threading through the tightly bound hair, leaning back to expose her neck to her. Xena let her hands hold her for longer than she would have thought. Both women joined by the phallus and the scorching fire that its mastery commanded. Slowly the warlord's hands slid up her belly, over firm pointed nipples, claiming and kneading them as her hips moved slowly back and forth. Gabrielle whimpered turning her head hoping for a taste of Xena's lips on her own. There was no kiss, only the briefest gesture of a released breast to allow salty fingers to be sucked into her waiting mouth. Then they were gone, pulled free of the tiny nips and tongue. Returning to squeeze the fullness of her mounds before unchaining them and tapering up to snare two slighter wrists. Pulling them away from the braid without struggle, wordlessly instructing them and their owner to return to their position of service.

Gabrielle settled herself, calming her breathing to a more manageable state. She bent forward, feeling the phallus start to withdraw. Xena pushed her the remaining distance, guiding the still trapped arms out to touch the edge of the table, till her nipples scraped along the wood and all but the very tip of her lover's length lay between them. True to her word, Xena was pacing herself, no pleasure would be taken that was not sanctioned, not even her own. Gabrielle tried to concentrate on the fullness threatening to pull completely from her.

Xena's hips ground deeper and the plunder resumed.

The bard's first orgasm took her so quickly that she barely had time to catch its wave. It washed over her in a blanket of primordial heat, leaving her legs weak and uncoordinated. Her entire body felt like water and she feared for a moment she would collapse in a fleshly puddle at the Warlord's feet. Xena's hand snaked around the width of her constricted abdominal muscles, lifting her easily back to the position her needs required. She held her lover's entire weight for a moment as the bard struggled to regain her composure and footing. Sweat beaded between purposely focused brows. Her breasts heaved. But the arm stayed there now, still for a time, nestling her body in an almost compassionate and protected manner. Then the shoulder muscles gripped tighter and the arm began a slow pattern of lifting and releasing the slighter frame against her along the generously coated phallus, using Gabrielle's own body weight to stroke it, to stoke the flame.

"Teach me," Gabrielle cried into the fire feeling her growing peak. "Teach me to serve your need."

"You are mine," Xena ordered almost hoarse, her entire weight slamming her member into her.


"Tell me," Xena demanded as the pounding continued.

"I am yours."

The trusts became short, harsh, stabbing. Fingers dug into the plentiful flesh, gouging at her and reveling in the newer marks left in their wake. A white fire engulfing them, burning flesh and leaving them bare to their need.

"No one else's. You've always been mine."

"Always and forever, only you."

The final bitterness being counted, questioned, paid for.

"You allowed Dahak to possess you, didn't you? You had him in you, allowed him here." She stabbed her again, a new jealous pain, unhidden, uncaring. Gabrielle screamed feeling her body and heart tear.

"No, Xena I didn't want to, I would never want anyone but you."

"You took it." She hammered.

"I couldn't stop it." Gabrielle managed through clenched teeth.

"And his child, the creature I pulled from your body. You lied and put it first, before me - before this."

The pounding continued, unmerciful, harder, faster. Holding Gabrielle wedged, letting her scream and cry and claw her own torment out as if it was death they were approaching.

"Can you stop this?" Xena drilled, grinding the column till it was pulling her open to one side.


She twisted sharply in the other direction.

"Do you want to stop this?"

"NO!" Gabrielle sobbed.

Xena released it, one final tortuous stream, felt it burn her as it shot from her loins.

"All that I am......"the Warrior howled, mind and body blinding only to the particles of light lifting her through the invisible ceiling - higher and higher. Simultaneously and efficiently her free hand dove upon Gabrielle's swollen center, assaulting the erect nodule as she pierced her from behind. Feelings escalating as the bard stiffened, shuddering, her own explosion of molten flame suddenly spewing forth in torrential spurts, coating the hand that held her, spilling down their thighs to glisten at her ankles. If this was death, Gabrielle thought, then so be it. Let them go this way together. Let this be all and everything that would call her life complete. She could not, would not turn away from this - she would never go willing into the darkness alone again. If it was her destiny to be a willing companion of this the warrior's path than she would nail herself to any passing cross. Just let this feeling never end.

Just let them always have this.

"All that I have," Xena managed, gritting her teeth, "I give to you. Know me, Gabrielllllllllle...."

What sounds came then next held no shape, no substance. They were unintelligible, simply cries of her own arrival, as she came again and again.


Xena fought for air, releasing Gabrielle face down on the table surface, maintaining her grip until she was certain the younger woman wouldn't topple sideways or slink to the floor between her legs. Slowly Xena relaxed over her, spent but capable enough to continue to support the majority of their weight by spreading her arms and legs protectively about the fallen exhausted form. Their breathing continued in ragged pants, interspersed with the occasional still peaking sob. Hands, certain fully of their strength once more rose slowly to stroke mattered hair, to sooth prominent muscles along Gabrielle's spine. They stayed there for a long time, joined by the phallus and collection of pulsing limbs, neither yet willing to break the spell.

To the side, a low fire crackled, darkness about them slowly giving way to light. Xena frowned a little realizing that daylight waited for no one. The heart beat below her had returned to the rhythm of her bard in her most relaxed state, a sigh away from being wrapped comfortingly in Morpheus' embrace.

The stiffly held young companion who had accompanied her out of Poteidaia was gone. Her lover had finally returned to her. She looked exquisite and Xena thought briefly of her Goddess and the words Gabrielle must have called out to bring the usually elusive Artemis to them that night. 'For loving her as much as I do, I thank you', Xena offered humbly to the Goddess.

But they couldn't stay sprawled across the table if they were truly going to rest. With effort after the drain from such a powerful release, Xena pulled back, moving away and drawing out of her beloved's body carefully. Her hand trailed reminiscently over the still open flesh. Without speaking she released the straps of her member, dropping the phallus where they stood. Her hands snaked around Gabrielle's collapsed form, checking again that none of the strikes she had delivered would leave permanent marks. Xena lifted her up and cradled her as she walked through the doorway to the waiting pallet. She kneeled, placing Gabrielle at the edge so she could pull down the covers and place Gabrielle's languid form in the center of the bed. With her remaining strength she stripped completely and joined her spouse, wrapping her larger frame, still slick with their loving around her.

Through the darkness Gabrielle reached behind her, guiding the warrior's arm around her waist and down to her center, still hot and pulsing from the brutal attention.

Xena leaned in closer, nuzzling her neck, "Is there still something I can do for you, my bard?" she asked a little disbelieving.

Gabrielle squirmed seductively but without any real intent, content to lay comfortably in the powerful arms.

"Just never take your hand away," she murmured.

Xena smiled. "I've missed you," she told her, kissing the perfect neck muscles.

"As I have missed you, my lord." Gabrielle whispered at sleep's doorway. "As I have missed you."


And as the two mortal women finally slept, safe and satiated in the comfort of each other's arms, free from dreams of any kind, two others turned silently away. Walking undetected toward the sun's approaching rays that promised to warm the earth anew.

The End

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