The Characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, et al...belong to Studios USA and Renaissance Pictures and were used without permission. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made. The story, good or bad, is the product of my own twisted imagination.
This story contains explicit descriptions of female/female sexual relations, scenes of sexual violence and physical abuse. Do not read the story if this disturbs you.
This idea came to me after watching ADITL and rereading Katherine V. Forrest's 'Curious Wine' from which this story liberally borrows. I hope you all enjoy it, but please be patient as it looks like it is going to be a monster.
Warning: This story contains graphic scenes sexual violence. It hurt me to write it as much as it may hurt you to read it. Be forewarned.
You can find more stories by April at her site Calliope's Library
Send feedback to REDMSTHING@aol.com
Xena sat awake and watched the young woman sleep. I know I'm hurting her. She thought to herself, but what could she do. It had been almost two weeks since their beautiful night together and the distance between them grew every day.
She moved closer so she could gently caress the red gold hair but did so quietly so as not to wake her. I miss holding you in my arms..so much. She spread the soft silkiness of Gabrielle's hair over her knee as tears started to form in her sad blue eyes. Eyes that had seen many battles and many deaths but had never seen anything like the young bard who had so transformed her soul. How can I show you how very much I love you little one? She had asked herself this question many times and had yet to find an answer. Xena wanted to make love to Gabrielle every night as they had just a few moons ago but she knew that was not possible, not as long as the fear of losing control of her desire still overwhelmed her.
*Fear* It was something Xena had never had a problem with before. But this fear was different. It is a fear so black and hollow, it suffocates creation and refuses to allow rational thought in. What if she could not control herself? What if her desire for Gabrielle consumed her just as the desire for blood had not so long ago? Gabrielle brought so many feelings to the surface that Xena had never thought possible and sometimes they threatened to rob her of restraint, thought and , yes, control.
I cannot let that happen! The warrior thought to herself again as she looked at the woman she would gladly spend an eternity in Tartarus for. I could never forgive myself, if, in my lust for her I hurt her in any way.
The warrior studied the sleeping face beside her once more before slipping under the blankets to nestle herself against the bard. She would never hurt her. She would just have to learn to control herself and if that didn't work...well...hopefully that won't be an option. She would leave before she allowed another form of darkness to overtake her soul.
Gabrielle felt the warrior's strong arms tremble as they came around her waist and she tried to remain still so as not to alert the warrior to the fact that she was not asleep. She knew that Xena was struggling with something, had been, since their night of passion. I wish I knew what it was.
The young girl just laid in the peaceful protectiveness of her warrior's arms and as she felt Xena drifting finally to sleep she silently promised herself that no matter what, she would help Xena through this. Whatever it was.
"I love you, Xena." Gabrielle said simply as she drifted off to sleep trying to remember all of the events that led them to this.
Chapter One, Part One - A Demons Day in Madness Kissed
"Gabrielle, I didn't *let* you hit me."
"Yes, you did! I can't believe it!" Gabrielle said, pounding her fists against the bedroll in frustration.
"I didn't.", Xena said, "I was.....distracted. You got me fair and square." She looked at the bard and Gabrielle knew it was the truth.
"Ok, but..." Xena had turned away and Gabrielle was now talking to the back of her head.
"But what?" Xena asked, still with her back to Gabrielle.
"But what could distract you sooo much that I could pop you so *easily*?" Gabrielle asked, more than a little curious.
"I was thinking ok? Just leave it at that. Go to sleep."
"No!" Gabrielle said, irritated now, "I won't leave it at that. You always do that. Not this time!! What was it? You know you can tell me anything."
Xena thought for a moment. She's right. I need to tell her. We need to talk about this. It is time. "I was thinking how... nice...it was being here with you. Looking at the stars, feeling your body beside me and....." Xena struggled to find the courage to continue.
Gabrielle watched in silent fascination as the warrior wrestled with her thoughts. She wanted to say something but remained quiet, this show of emotion being so rare from Xena.
"And wondering why you haven't mentioned it" she said finally.
"Mentioned what? I don't know what you are talking about." Gabrielle said. It was a lie and they both knew it.
"When I was in Autolycus' body..." Xena said, her emotions bubbling to the surface, "I..."
"You kissed me." Gabrielle said, half to Xena and half to herself; totally overcome by feelings she had been holding back for so long.
"Yes, I did. So, you *do* remember."
"Remember?" Gabrielle said with a wry laugh, "I was wondering if you did."
"It's all I have been able to think about." Xena said. "Even when you were hanging over that lava pit, all I was thinking was that I didn't want to lose you before I could kiss you again...as me." And with this admission a single tear fell down Xena's beautiful face.
Gabrielle looked at Xena and held her gaze as she asked, quietly, "Would you do it again?"
"Of course I would do it again Gabrielle. It's not something that I regret. I just wish it hadn't been in *his* body." Xena said, the frustration very evident in her voice.
"Gods, Xena!! Sometimes you are so THICK!" Gabrielle said, giggling.
"That's not what I meant." The bard stopped laughing and reached out to trace a finger lightly over Xena's lips. Looking directly into the warrior's eyes she said, "I meant would you do it again...*now*?"
"Oh, Gabrielle", Xena sighed, "yes. Let me hold you."
Gabrielle's eyes closed as Xena's strong arms came around her body. Xena thought Gabrielle's body felt almost inconsequentially small in her arms. She held the bard's face against her throat and breathed a delicate fragrance from her hair and skin.
Gabrielle lay quietly feeling Xena's chest against her rising and falling with each breath. Lips touched her forehead, so gentle.
The bard tightened her grip on the warrior and turned her face into Xena's neck, brushing her lips over the silky skin, feeling the pulse beat.
Then it seemed so *natural*, so easy, to raise her face and feel the softness of Xena's lips with her own. Xena's mind vibrating with alarm, she pulled back but Gabrielle's mouth again came to hers with a boldness that surprised them both. Then Gabrielle's lips parted and she yielded to Xena's tongue.
"Sweet...you taste so sweet." Xena said as again and again she explored the bard's mouth. They kissed slowly, gently, unhurriedly; and as the moon hung brilliantly in the nighttime sky, they knew there would be time for more later. For now they would be content to drift off to sleep in the warmth of each other's arms.
They woke still in their last embrace.
"Hi." Xena said, smiling as she looked into pools of green that sparkled in the early morning sunshine.
"Hi, yourself." replied Gabrielle as her lips lightly brushed Xena's. "I love you." She continued as she wrapped her arms once again around *her* warrior.
It was a statement of fact, so blunt in its honesty, that it took Xena's breath away. She pushed down the dark thoughts that were beginning to creep up her spine as she quietly disentangled herself from the bard and started breaking camp.
"We need to get going if we are going to make the village before nightfall. The sky is low in the north and the clouds are mean. I don't want to get caught in a storm." She said trying to keep her mind off of the frightening waves of desire coursing through her blood.
"Xena..." Gabrielle said her name in such a way that it stopped the stoic warrior dead in her tracks. She closed her eyes as another wave crashed against the stone walls surrounding her heart.
"Yes, Gabrielle?" she said and as she turned around their eyes caught and held.
"Xena, did you hear what I said......"
There were other words said that Xena did not hear because Gabrielle was looking into her eyes with a slowly deepening smile the pierced her with its beauty and intimacy.
Gods, but she is *beautiful* Xena thought to herself as, despite the warning going off in her head, she wrapped her arms around this glorious woman.
"I heard you Gabrielle. But we really need to get going. "She kissed her on the forehead. "I'll go get Argo."
As Xena got to the edge of the trees the normally calm warrior turned, "and Gabrielle?"
"I love you too." she said trying to mask the trembling fear in her voice. She was rewarded with a smile she would gladly give her last dinar, indeed her very soul, to see every day.
You just might have to... it was a whisper on the wind that no one heard.
I do love you little one, Xena thought to herself as she took one last longing look at her bard.
That last thought made Xena very uncomfortable. Deep in her heart she knew that *love* didn't even begin to cover it and she was suddenly frightened to her very core.
Chapter One, Part Two - A Bard's Thoughts
As Xena had gone to get Argo that morning, Gabrielle sensed something was bothering the warrior. She hadn't thought much of it then but now, two weeks later, the distance between them had grown almost unbearable. Not even a single * I love you* had been uttered the entire time.
As she lay, wide awake, in the warrior's arms she wondered what had gone so terribly wrong.
It had become almost a nightly ritual. Xena would gently kiss her goodnight and then, despite the bard's playful protests, would sleep on her own bedroll across from Gabrielle on the other side of the fire. Gabrielle could hear Xena cry herself to sleep every night but felt helpless to do *anything*. If Xena couldn't tell her what was wrong...how could she help?
Then when Xena thought she was sleeping she would come sit next to the bard and fall asleep with her hands curled gently in Gabrielle's hair. It broke the storyteller's heart.
Sometimes during the long, quiet days Gabrielle would look up and Xena's gaze would just be leaving her. Several times she thought Xena had been looking at her breasts but decided she was mistaken. Xena had not touched them during their night together; she had held her in her arms, kissed her face, her hands; but that was all. Suddenly flushed with desire, Gabrielle remembered her own hands under Xena's shift caressing the warms softness of her back. But she had not touched Xena's breasts either. She felt them against her back now knowing that what she felt was regret.
The night had been so beautiful, almost like a dream. It had also been very emotional for them both as long hidden feelings had finally been expressed. In a flash of memory Gabrielle thought of Xena's mouth leaving hers to tenderly touch her eyes, her cheeks; her tongue warmly, gently, slowly washing the traces of tears from her face. Xena's mouth coming back to hers as Gabrielle tasted the salt on her lips, and as Xena's lips parted, the taste of salt on her tongue....
She looked at the bones of Xena's fingers and wrists now, remembering how she had kissed them and traced them with her tongue. The bard knew now that what she wanted more than anything in the world was to feel this woman of her heart shudder from passion in her arms.
"Xena, are you awake?" the bard asked, as the sun slowly warmed the Greek countryside.
"Yes," Xena said, as she gently ran her fingers along Gabrielle's arms.
I miss her *so* much Gabrielle thought. I have to try She turned in Xena's arms until she was facing the warrior. That was when she noticed Xena's tears.
"Xena, what's wrong?" Gabrielle asked, suddenly very concerned.
"I don't ever want to hurt you. EVER!" Xena sobbed, " But I will if...."
"Xena, if what? You would never..." Her words were stopped as Xena's mouth came to hers more meltingly tender than Gabrielle remembered, had *been* remembering for the last two weeks. Gabrielle held Xena's face in her hands and kissed across her forehead into her hair; her lips brushing the curving line of eyebrow.
She felt Xena's lips rest on her own, touching the corners with her tongue. Soft, tender lips. She did not answer the kiss, sensing Xena's wish just to feel the shape of Gabrielle's mouth. Gabrielle then captured Xena's mouth with a hunger that left them both gasping for air and thrown by the emotions they brought out in each other.
Xena laid her face against Gabrielle's throat, and with trembling fingertips touching the bard's face, she whispered, "Gods, why must you be so very beautiful?"
After a few moments, Gabrielle whispered back, "For you. Only for you." and kissed Xena's fingers.
The raw passion in Gabrielle's voice combined with the growing desire in her own heart ripped though Xena in a blinding flash of liquid fire. In that instant she could see herself ripping the bard's cloths off, biting into her flesh; could taste Gabrielle's fear...and her blood.
Xena let out a soul shattering scream and ran from the campsite, and from Gabrielle, as fast as her muscular legs would carry her. Her scream echoing to the very tops of the clouds.
Gabrielle was left to stare at the retreating woman in agony. She felt the pounding in her blood becoming a dull ache in her battered heart. What demon could possibly be torturing her beloved so? It didn't matter. She would be here when the warrior returned. She would be here for as long as Xena would have her. She is my life, my heart, my soul. I feel her as deeply inside me as I feel my own being. The bard thought to herself. She loves me too, I can feel it in her touch. As she waited for Xena to return and the sun rose higher and higher in the sky her desperation got the better of her and she collapsed to the ground and did the only thing left she could think to do. She pleaded with any God who would listen to please give her the strength to be what Xena needed. To help her understand, no matter what this demon was. *She had to.* Xena is her home.
Chapter Two - The Demon Wakes
Xena stood behind the tree half hidden by its massive trunk, watching Gabrielle put on her sleeping shift. This was one pleasure she would not deny herself. Stepping out from behind the tree she thought to herself tonight I will remember who I am and Gabrielle will come to know me also.
"I want you...NOW!" Xena spat as she walked closer to the fire.
The light in Gabrielle's eyes quickly faded when she saw the look on Xena's face. It was one she had *never* seen before. She backed up a step, then faced Xena squarely, eyes narrowed, body tense with fear.
Xena thought this fear delicious.
"You will deny me nothing!" Xena hissed.
"No..." Gabrielle said, shaking her head, "Not like this. You are not yourself."
"That's where you are wrong, " Xena said, " This *is* who I am." Xena's eyes raked over the bard's body as she said in a low, threatening voice, " Now come here."
"No," Gabrielle repeated, her voice timid and trembling, "I am not your whore."
Xena struck her then, knocking her to the ground with a fury. The power of the blow stunned the Amazon bard. She stared at the warrior, shocked, a trickle of blood on her lips; while Xena pinned her arms above her head and held her legs still with her own body.
"Submission is wise Gabrielle," Xena mocked, " It will be worse if you resist me."
There was no resistance now. Gabrielle lay immobilized, completely vulnerable to Xena's every sadistic whim.
Xena placed her hands on the trembling skin of Gabrielle's thighs, roughly pushing them apart, and ran them up to the red gold patch at the bard's center.
"Don't," Gabrielle pleaded.
Xena moved her fingers to the hidden nub. Gabrielle hid her face as best she could, teeth biting into her already swelling lip.
Rising above her Xena thrust down hard, driving first one, then two fingers into Gabrielle. The warrior shuddered, intense sensations threatening to overwhelm her control. She thrust fiercely, fighting her enjoyment of the bard's pain, to keep her dominance. Gabrielle refused to respond and cried out as Xena jerked herself off the girl.
She fought to pull away from the woman she thought she knew as painful sobs wracked her body. But Xena was too strong and filled with too much rage. She held Gabrielle in place as she rubbed her own slickness against the bard's leg, excited more by the fear in the young one beneath her. As she assaulted the body and mind of the young bard she felt a dark wave of triumph rising within her. On the edge of her release, she felt Gabrielle's body go still under her.
Gabrielle turned her face pleadingly to the woman she loved, eyes wide and desperate, face stained with tears...and blood.
"Xena," she whispered hoarsely, "Xena, please don't do this."
Xena woke with a start to see Gabrielle's face, filled with worry, above her. She rolled away from the bard, panting, fighting the nausea that swept through her. The dark wave, still unbroken, rolled back from her mind, leaving behind it the bitter aftertaste of utter despair. Xena felt no fury of passion now, only desolation.
"Xena, it was only a dream." Gabrielle said gently, her hand on Xena's shoulder, turning her to face her.
"Gabrielle it was so real." Xena said. Remembering her efforts to force Gabrielle, a vicious and joyless shudder coursed through her. She felt drained as if she had come to the end of herself only to find it was also the beginning. She only wanted to leave this brutal humiliation of them both behind. Even if it was a dream, even if Gabrielle didn't understand. Not looking at her love, she rose, as crossed the distance leading to Argo, not even bothering to get dressed. She just wanted to run...again.
"Stay with me Xena." Gabrielle had dropped to her knees now, her arms wrapped around Xena's legs.
So fiercely fighting in my dream..now she lovingly clings
Gabrielle lifts her face to look at Xena and with a tremulous smile and green eyes glistening with tears she says simply, "Stay"
Xena just stand there torn between what she wants so desperately to do and what she knows she *must* do. Tears form in those lapis eyes.
"Xena, the distance between us, your dreams...they all come to nothing. Nothing but a lie I will not have between us." Gabrielle says, " Let *my* touch, our love, be the truth. Even if only for tonight."
Xena looks down at the woman who stole her heart so long ago. One last night as lovers, she thinks to herself. Then strangers forever. She drops to her knees, slowly gathering Gabrielle's warm, soft hair into her hands. Pushing the darkness to the deepest corners of her soul she looks into gray-green eyes made dark with desire.
She thought: What I feel is *your* body. What I feel is *our* love. That realization vanquished the darkness for now and penetrated her whole being.
"Xena," Gabrielle said softly, " I'm so glad you came back. when you ran away this morning....I didn't know you were here until I heard you dreaming..."
"I know." Xena said, not wanting to remember, willing herself to stay in the moment.
"I want so much to ..." Gabrielle whispered, lost in beauty as she slid the shift from Xena's body. Gabrielle's hands explored Xena's skin with gently wonder. Inhaling the scent of her skin, Gabrielle kissed her throat, her shoulders; but Xena took her hands and guided Gabrielle's lips again to hers.
"You are so beautiful to me," whispered Xena when the kiss ended and backed away to watch as Gabrielle removed her own shift and came to lie on Xena. Inside her arms, down her lags, on every surface that pressed against the woman she held in her arms, Xena felt exquisite softness. This is real. This is *not* a dream. She thought as tears now fell freely down her face.
Gabrielle cradled Xena's face in her hands and asked gently, "Are you all right?"
Xena's hands moved over the slender shoulders. "Yes," she said hoarsely and strawberry blond hair was silk in her hands once more.
They kissed as they had that first night. Gabrielle thought she couldn't feel more bliss than this but soon realized she was wrong as Xena's hands moved down her body to her breasts. Xena's hands were slow on her and she kissed her body without pattern or direction, her lip just roaming, and Gabrielle heard the warrior's muffled whisper, "Gods...so wonderful," as her lips closed over first one nipple then the other.
Gabrielle succumbed to the tongue now sweetly stroking her breasts, sighing and murmuring in her pleasure. She heard gasps of excitement in her warrior's own breathing as the storyteller arched under her hands. Gabrielle held Xena tightly to her, kissing her in an intensity of desire. Drawing breath deeply, the bard gasped her own need as Xena's hands came to her thighs which she willingly opened to her lover.
Like silk, Gabrielle..." Xena said as her fingers gently, wetly moved along her swollen bud. Gabrielle gasped for air again as she felt Xena's hair fall over her legs, and then Xena's mouth was paralyzing softness at her center and Gabrielle dissolved into ecstasy; ecstasy finally so overwhelming that her voice was barely above a whisper as she asked, "Could you...be inside me?"
"Anything,", was the husky reply. Xena entered her with first one finger, then two but stopped as she looked into Gabrielle's eyes, questioning.
"Yes...Xena, please.."and the bard's hands tightened on her shoulders. She moved her fingers gently, then, in a more urgent rhythm as the woman clinging so tightly to her began to shudder. Then the delicate body began quivering and she dug her fingers convulsively into Xena's back as her hips began to thrust to meet Xena's hand. The beautiful woman then became still, rigid; she made tiny whimpering noises against the warrior's throat as she became incandescent with orgasm
Xena felt her own release come at the same time as she watched the woman she so desperately loved give her self up to pleasure *she* had given her.
Xena's heart thudded painfully as she held Gabrielle, now quietly sleeping, in her arms. She knew the bard would be filled with questions. Questions she would be either too proud...or too scared to answer. As the night faded to day Xena shut her eyes, silently putting away what they had just shared deep inside herself. She raised up to look at her bard. If only I did not love you too much. She gently got up to go wash.
At the rivers edge, she splashed water on her face and was knocked to the ground in an intense orgasm from the scent of Gabrielle on her fingers. She sat on the ground and cried bitter tears as her breathing came back to normal. She tried still to keep the darkness at bay, but she could not. She remember the dream, remembered Gabrielle's cries of pain and her own of triumph and she was overcome with desire once more. It would take all her strength just to be around the Amazon princess. She decided then and there that there were some pleasures you *had* to put a price on. and this one was too high.
I must escape, somehow, this dark passion that consumes me
"Oh, Gabrielle," Xena says to the wind, "Don't you see that this was the first *and* last time," she sobbed, " That this *must* be the last time?"
I want her too much. She thought, All that remains between us now is my own fear.
As she got back to camp, Gabrielle was just waking. Xena looked at her and smiled as she said, "Go get cleaned up, my love, we will be leaving soon" Trying not to let her utter sorrow show.
Gabrielle happily went to the stream not knowing that in the last few moments her life may have been changed forever.
Whatever you are now, you were a warrior once, Xena told herself. Your dark warrior spirit survived. And so, as she watched Gabrielle bathe from the safety of the bushes, she began to say good-bye in her heart...accepting...demanding...the parting she knows she will never be able to endure.
She doesn't want to hurt the woman she loves, ever. But I have spent too long in the darkness of myself... She admits ruefully, to herself as she readies for the long trip ahead.
Chapter Three - The Embrace of Imaginings
I had been hungry, all the Years
My Noon had Come-to dine
I trembling drew the Table near
And touched the Curious Wine-
They had been walking in silence for hours. As the sun cast its rays on the Greek countryside, Gabrielle didn't even notice the flora and fauna around her, all she could see was the subtle beauty of the woman walking in anguish in front of her. There was more beauty in front of her now than the bard could ever hope to see.
She watched as Xena looked skyward, gauging the time of day, and she found herself drowning in the beauty that is Xena. Somewhere deep inside she knew she would do anything for the warrior princess. Anything she asked. She is color, drama, brilliance.
What terrible anxiety the bard felt. She could feel the warrior's anguish, her pain. Gabrielle could feel Xena receding into death and she knew she would be willing to enter death to follow her, to embrace her. She is dying before my eyes The bard thought. Her tantalizing, somber beauty is dying.
They had had a cheerful lunch but spoke only of trivial things; emotions just below the surface but never spoken. Then they had continued on their journey in this deafening silence that was now threatening to drive the bard half mad.
Gabrielle watched Xena walk and knew that something was dreadfully wrong. It was even in the warrior's walk. She lacked the core of sureness. She does not dare to be herself. The young Amazon Princess knew it all stemmed from their new found closeness. She knew as she looked at her hero that there stood a very beautiful woman who took her cue last night from the young one's inexperience. Who tried to hide her struggle in that knowledge.
Their lovemaking had been tender. Too tender, the bard recognized now. Xena had been holding back; both for herself and for Gabrielle. she had not allowed Gabrielle to touch her and while the warrior's touch had enflamed Gabrielle, it still had been...well...not all of her.
The bard had been able to piece together some of what tormented the warrior from the nightmare she had last night. As Gabrielle had rocked her lover back to sleep the warrior had told her some of the dark imaginings of her soul. Gabrielle shuddered at what Xena had told her. No wonder she can't sleep. The bard thought. But I can' help her if she won't talk to me.
Does she know that I feel immobile and fixed, lost in her? Gabrielle questioned in her mind as she lovingly watched Xena guide Argo to the tiny village in the distance. My poor tormented warrior. I wish I could show you...Gabrielle stopped her introspection to stare openly at her lover. I am *not* ashamed of my adoration, she thought in all humility. Gods, is there no one to help me!! she cried in her mind.
Suddenly time and all her surroundings stood still and Gabrielle watched in amazement as a shimmering light appeared before her that gradually became a breathtakingly beautiful woman.
"Your call has not gone unanswered, young one." The Goddess said. her voice sounding like bells.
"I am humbled by your presence Aphrodite. Can you help me...us?" Gabrielle asked, tears forming in her hazel eyes.
"I cannot help you Gabrielle. Only you, *your love*, can save Xena's soul." the Goddess replied.
"But..." Gabrielle's words were cut short by Aphrodite's fingers on her lips.
"Xena's mind is tormented by perversities and tragedies she cannot live down. She believes she would consume you with this darkness as well." said The Goddess of Love
"But Xena turned from darkness..."Gabrielle started, but stopped when she realized it was *Xena's * mind she was dealing with.
"Yes, " replied the Goddess, " but it is still there. She has to work hard to control it. Her fear is that her desire for you..." Aphrodite waited for the bard to finish the sentence.
"Would bring the darkness back, just in a different form." Gabrielle finished, having at last caught the warrior's weakness.
Aphrodite smiled at the beautiful young woman. If she only knew how powerful her love really is, the Goddess thought. I am not the only one enamored of the bard. She is more favored than even she knows. "Is she afraid...her dreams...would she ever hurt me?" Gabrielle asked finally.
"She is your soul, Gabrielle, you tell me."
"NO." the bard said passionately. " It was her *power* , her aggressiveness that attracted me to her in the first place" She said more to herself than the Goddess, " I only came to know the tenderness later."
You have only touched the beginning of the tenderness Xena is capable of with you, Gabrielle," Aphrodite waited for the full understanding of the situation to come to the young Amazon, " But you must confront the demons and defeat them in order to save Xena from madness."
"I need her. I want to force her into reality. I want to grasp her hands and make her see that is it NOT a nightmare." the bard blushed as she continued, "I have to let her know that it is her dream *and* mine."
"A dream she had evaded facing all her life." said the Goddess of Love
"Her evil has never been directed at me. I have only seen glimpses of it." Gabrielle shuddered at the thought of confronting the evil that was Xena.
"You must bring it out, my beautiful Princess, Show her that love won't kill her." Aphrodite said. Wanting to end this so she could get away from the maddening temptation this sweet young woman was bringing out in her. "Xena cannot comprehend the depth of desire she feels for you. It both baffles and frightens her."
"I don't understand....she should know what I love about her. Why all the fear now?" Gabrielle asked.
Aphrodite knew there was only one way for Gabrielle to understand and a small smile came to her face. she would enjoy this much more than the bard she thought as she pulled Gabrielle to her and covered the amazon bard's lips with her own.
Gabrielle didn't know how long the embrace lasted. She fell from the Goddess's embrace gasping for breath. In that moment she knew *everything*. Everything Xena felt....the fear, the desire, and the depth of the warrior's love. She was stunned.
"You know now what you must do...." The voice blew away on the breeze as Aphrodite shimmered into nothingness and time resumed right where it had stopped.
Gabrielle looked at Xena as they approached the village. I am filled with our love. My love for her, she thought.
But at the same time she knew that if she failed, their love could also be death.
For both of them.
Chapter Four - Saturn's Child
Recognize what is before your eyes, and what is hidden will be revealed to you.
-from Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
The sun was beginning to set in the Grecian sky as the pair approached the tiny village. As they came over the last hill Gabrielle got her first glimpse of the place and immediately knew why Xena had wanted to bring her here. The rolling hillsides, the children playing, the soft glow of the buildings...it was beautiful. Xena was still in front of her and Gabrielle now gazed at her friend..still her *favorite* view.
"Come" Xena said and held out her hand to the bard, who stood smiling, then came down next to her.
"It is paradise," the bard said, her voice almost husky, "You weren't making that up."
"Especially now, with you here, it *is*." Xena said, regretting right away that she had said it. damn! Where this woman was concerned she had now defenses!
They held each other for a moment and Xena had to pull away, her breath catching as she looked at her beautiful bard. It was dusk and the light played on Gabrielle's face. Her face seemed to show so much all at once; soft with pleasure, scared, or suffused with passion-all looks feared by Xena as they mirrored the complexity of her own feelings. Dark thoughts again came to the warrior, briefly seeing the bard's face as it was in her dreams...tortured, bloody--dead... and from my own hand! Xena pushed the thoughts aside. She had waited two years to confess her feelings to the girl and it had been a mistake...or had it? Maybe she should be glad the demon was back now, when she still had the strength to leave the bard behind. She could, couldn't she?
Xena lead the way into the village pretending to be calm. Gabrielle, walking behind her, had wondered for a moment if Aphrodite had been wrong. Wondered, that is, until the clouds had returned to her friend's face; wondering now if Xena too was scared of what they were risking. The audacity of it. Dragging this fantasy by the hair from its dark corner to make it face reality, like the bard now knew she MUST do.
Gabrielle smiled wickedly to herself as she started to plan the evening in her mind...candles...a bath *together*...get relaxed, defenses down...
"WHAT?!?" Gabrielle asked a little louder than she intended to, sure she had not heard Xena right.
"I said, I'll go stable Argo. You go get us rooms, two rooms, and I'll meet you back here in a little while." Xena said, suddenly furious that Gabrielle had not been listening.
"Two rooms..." Gabrielle's words died in her throat at the look of barely contained fury on Xena's face.
"Yes, Princess," Xena said sarcastically, wishing the bard would not make this harder than it had to be, "Two rooms"
"DON'T ARGUE WITH ME, JUST DO IT!!!" Xena spat then headed off in the other direction, willing herself not to turn back and declare her undying love darkness and all. I won't let it rule me again! She thought as she walked away, tears streaming down her face.
Gabrielle had gotten the rooms, two of them but side by side, and was now sitting in the common room waiting for Xena. She had ordered port for Xena while their meals were being prepared and then decided that she needed it herself. It was as she was drinking her port, wondering how to modify her plans for the evening, that she felt rather than heard Xena enter the inn.
She looked up as Xena began to cross the room towards her. Gods, she is a magnificent! Gabrielle watched Xena move and began to tremble at the thought of this woman unleashing all her power. She could kill the bard easily, of that she was sure, but the trembling did not come from fear. No, that came from imagining that the power could do *so much* more. At these last thoughts she could feel the color start to rise in her cheeks and she was utterly red when she finally looked at Xena, who was now sitting across from her; back against the wall facing the door.
"What's gotten into you? Did someone try to.." She started to get up, furious.
"No, Xena. I was just thinking." the bard said.
"About what?" Xena asked, taking a long pull on her port.
Gabrielle started blushing again but before she could say anything the barmaid, thankfully, arrived with their food. For a what seemed like forever they ate in silence; Gabrielle wondering how to get to the warrior and the warrior wondering how she could ever find the strength to leave her bard. Both falling more in love with each other with each passing breath.
Just then the barmaid returned to refill their mugs.
"Do you have a bard tonight?" Gabrielle asked, a plan formulating in her head.
"No, I wish. We could use some entertainment around here...are YOU a bard?" the barmaid asked.
"Yes, I am."
Xena rolled her eyes as the barmaid and Gabrielle decided that Gabrielle should tell a few stories.
"I will be ready soon, I just have to talk to my friend first, ok?" said the bard.
This seemed to satisfy the barmaid who left them once again to their conversation, or lack thereof.
Xena gazed at Gabrielle for a moment, her face unreadable, unaware that the bard had said something.
"What?" Xena said finally.
"Is everything ok with you, Xena?" Gabrielle's voice was so quiet that Xena had to lean forward to hear her. "Yes, I'm fine." The bard said, struggling to get out her next words, "It was *beautiful* with you, Xena." It was almost a whisper.
"It was...a very emotional night." Xena replied.
"Yes, " Gabrielle sighed, " I've been concerned...you've been so quiet. You seem upset. I want to make sure you are ok about...everything." Gabrielle said.
"I appreciate that," Xena said, then with every ounce of courage she had, " I'm sorry I put all that on you. It *won't* happen again."
"Xena..." Gabrielle started but then the barmaid said they were ready for her and began to lead her to the stage.
Xena was grateful for the abrupt end to *that* conversation. Watching the bard walk to the little stage, all she wanted to do was get lost; lost in one of Gabrielle's stories, just for a little while.
As Gabrielle gathered her thoughts to begin, she went over Xena's comments in her mind. Xena was clearly trying to tell her that she assigned no special significance to their nights together. With an odd mixture of fear, relief, and depression she knew that was a lie; but it still hurt. Hurt that Xena was actually trying to push her away.
I know her better than she thinks. The bard thought and she knew just what web she would weave on stage this night to draw her warrior in.
There is a poem in this chapter that, for the purpose of the story, is attributed to Gabrielle. Its true author, however, is unknown.
Chapter Five - Love Hurts, Desire Bleeds
Gabrielle's voice dropped to a playful, husky tone..." And now, every time the sea meets the shore, the lovers come together!" She said with a flourish and the crowd responded with joyous applause. Gabrielle was thrilled but she was also watching Xena out of the corner of her eye.
The warrior loved that story and she could only hope that it was having the effect she longed for. Xena took a deep breath and tried to calm the beating of her heart. She always got caught up in the bard's stories and tonight was surely no exception, but something WAS different...despite her best effort she could feel her passion for the bard gaining strength, spreading slowly like molasses. As she had told of the lovers coming together it had been all Xena could do to stop herself from forgetting she was leaving.
Gabrielle couldn't possibly know what this was doing to her. How much Xena loved her, how much it was going to hurt to say good-bye after all they had shared. They even shared the bard's body for a time. Xena had thought that would be the most blissful moment of her life, finally knowing how Gabrielle felt.
Until the darkness came that is. The warrior knew how the bard felt but she only knew one Xena. She would never understand the darkness that would forever live in the farthest reaches of her soul, much less what it would mean to share that soul; and Xena didn't want her to know. EVER. I love her too much to ever be the cause of that light in her face fading, Xena thought to herself, I don't want her to ever look on me in fear. For her beautiful bard to look at her with eyes full of fear would be a pain worse than death and the warrior realized that, soon, the time would come, as tears of love and sorrow filled her eyes.
I'm sorry my love. She said to herself as she angrily wiped the tears from her face. Gabrielle saw Xena wipe away the tears, saw the love and passion in her eyes, and knew it was time for her last move. Her gift to Xena. She was betting her very soul that she could touch the warrior now. The bard had been waiting months to recite this and it was now or never.
Xena was fidgeting in her chair, ready to bolt. As Gabrielle took a moment to gather her thoughts, she looked directly at the warrior, eyes pleading for just one more story... " I will tell you the story now of a great love." the bard said, "A love born of friendship..." she was looking at Xena now, willing her not to look away, "A fusion of light and dark, sacrifice and redemption, forgiveness and love...a love that can know no death."
As Xena listened to her amazon bard she knew she should get up and leave, run as far and as fast as she could. But she could not tear herself away from Gabrielle's insistent gaze. Gods give me strength...
As Gabrielle began to tell the tale she had written for Xena, their eyes locked and held, after an eternal moment the bard began...
"Is it a sin to love thee?
Then my soul is deeply dyed,
For my lifeblood, as it gushes,
takes its crimson from love's tide;
And I feel its waves roll o'er me
and the blushes mount my brow
And my pulses quicken wildly,
as the love dreams come and go:
I feel my spirit's weakness;
I know your spirit's power;
I have felt your proud heart struggle
in temptation's trying hour;
Yet, amid the din of conflict,
bending o'er life's hallowed shrine,
Yielding all, my soul had murmured,
I am thine, forever thine!"
Xena felt her breath begin to quicken as she realized this was a poem Gabrielle had written for her and even though she had yet to meet the bard's gaze, she could feel green eyes blazing up and down her body as Gabrielle spoke.
"Is it a sin to love thee?
What were existence worth,
Bereft of all the heaven
that lingers still on earth!
Friendship's smiles, like gleams of sunlight,
shed their feeling o'er the heart,"
Gabrielle looked briefly at Xena to make sure she was listening, then continued,
"But my soul still cries for something *more*
than friendship can impart.
Frozen hearts, like ice-bound eyries,
that no summer ray can melt,
Vainly boast their power to conquer
what their hearts have never felt;
But envy not their glory,
'mid the rapture that is mine,
When with earnest soul I tell thee
I am thine, forever thine!"
Gabrielle was getting lost in the words now, and spread her arms wide as she became one with the poem and the people around her, warm as they were, began to fade away....
"Is it a sin to love thee?
Gentle voices round me fall,
And I press warm hearts around me-
but I've given thee my all.
What though stern Fates divide us,
and our hands, not hearts be riven--
My all of earth thou hast-wilt more?
I dare not offer heaven!
But in some blessed moment,
when our dark eyes flashing meet,
When I feel thy *power* so near me,
feel thy heart's quick pulses beat,
Then I know-may the Gods forgive me!-
I would *everything* resign
ALL I have, or ALL I hope for-
to be thine-forever thine."
AS the warrior listened to *her* bard, she too was becoming lost in the words. How could Gabrielle know what she was saying, how could she love this much? Could she still love Xena once she knew of the true nature of her soul, her guilt, her pain? Tears started to well up in the warrior's eyes...she could not let herself hope.
"Is it a sin to love thee?
I remember well the hour
When we tried our love to conquer,
resist temptation's power;
When I felt my heart was breaking
and my all of life was gone;
When I wept the hour I met thee,
and the hour that I was born;
But a hidden storm was raging,
and amid the muffled din
I flung my arms upon thy breast,
with warm hands clasped in mine,
I smiled through tears and murmured:
I am thine, forever thine."
Gabrielle saw the tears begin to fall down Xena's face and as if she could read the warrior's thoughts, her voice dropped to a low husky whisper, eyes locked with Xena's, speaking only to her...
"Is it a sin to love thee?
With guilt's signet on thy brow?
Though thy lot be dark as Hades
I'll cling to thee as now;
Not _mine_ the hearts to fail thee;
when other cheeks grew pale;
We have shared the storm *together*,
I'll stand by thee through the *gale*.
Though our bark may drift asunder,
yet, with true hearts beating high,
Let the golden sunlight cheer us,
or the angry storm clouds fly.
From our helms with steady brightness
our beacon lights shall shine,
And the watchword on our lips shall be-
thine, forever thine."
Tears were falling openly down the cheeks of both women as Gabrielle began the final verse.
"Is it a sin to love thee?
When I bend my knee in prayer,
And before Zeus on high eternal
my burdened heart lay bare,
On the breath of love to Olympus
ascends thy blessed name,
And I plead weak and erring nature,
if loving thee be shame.
Gods know tis no light sacrifice
I've offered up to thee,
No gilded dream of fancy,
but my beings *Destiny*.
Since our Fates we may not conquer here,
don't divide thy lot from mine--
In the starlit world above us,
call me thine--forever thine!"
The crowd dispersed quickly when the bard was finished sensing they had just watched a public display of a very *private* moment. Xena for one was glad. She wanted to go to the bard. And do what? It didn't mean anything did it? Gabrielle watched as the warrior struggled with her thoughts. She wanted nothing more than to run to Xena and throw her arms around her, but she knew that Xena had to *chose* this now. It was the only way. She could only hope the risk was worth it. With this last thought she looked once again at Xena then turned and fled to her room, silently begging the warrior to follow.
Gabrielle was standing by the window when Xena stepped into the room. Xena shut the door and undressed, then climbed into bed wearing only her shift, deciding firmly that she would not go to her. She got into bed and lay with an arm across her eyes, thinking she did not want to talk, or think, or feel. She had made a statement by coming to this room, she did not want to make herself more vulnerable by speaking of what she had heard from the bard downstairs. She only wanted Gabrielle to get into bed and go to sleep so that the warrior could twine her fingers in that red-gold hair.
Gabrielle turned from the window finally, and blew out the lamp. She got into bed, the silence between them stretching out with wire-drawn tension. Just as the bard was beginning to think she had failed, a gasping sound escaped the warrior's lips as hot tears cascaded down her face. Xena opened her eyes as Gabrielle bent to her. "Beautiful, Gabrielle, that was beautiful." whispered Xena.
"It was for you," Gabrielle answered, reaching for her, her hands, then her arms feeling the warmth of Xena's body through the cool fabric of her shift. "Xena," Gabrielle whispered again, holding the warrior's face in her hands," You know how very beautiful you are."
"Only if *you* tell me. I need to hear it from *you*."
Moved by the defenselessness of the words, swept by desire, Gabrielle said," I hope I can show you."
Every alarm was going off in the warrior's brain but for now all she could see was her bard. Sitting up, Gabrielle pulled the shift from Xena's body, and her hands held Xena's bare shoulders; then her fingers tentatively circled Xena's breasts. She brushed her hair across them, caressed them with her face, her fingers gentle, sensuous. Xena's hands found their way into the bard's hair as Gabrielle's mouth came to her breasts and kissed in warm, wet circles until with a moan of pleasure that blended with the warrior's soft "Oh," she took a nipple in her mouth.
Xena's throat tightened, ached from the sweetness of Gabrielle's mouth. Gabrielle's hands were like fire as she blazed a trail all over Xena's body. She explored every inch of the warrior's breasts, her shoulders, her neck. Her tongue tasting what her eyes had feasted on so many times. Gabrielle's own wetness was now running down her legs as she stripped off her own shift and stretched the full length of her body along Xena's; their soft moans mingling.
Gabrielle kissed her passionately as her hands began caressing down her hips, warm hands, hands that were connected to the woman the warrior loved. The bard had tears streaming down her face at the look of surrender in the warrior's, as she began slowly stroking Xena's legs. Pleasure surged through Xena with every touch of Gabrielle's lips and tongue until a searing thought crossed her mind. She saw Gabrielle beaten, bloody, spent...a play toy for the warrior..taken and then thrown away... "No," Xena said, her voice choked. Struggling , shaking with desire, her body like a flame, she tried to pull away from the bard.
Gabrielle was having none of it.
Xena gasped as Gabrielle's hands came to her again, not wanting to be denied, touching lightly, gently inside her thighs; and pleasure and desire came together and focused intensely, powerfully. Her body surged against Gabrielle, her breath coming quickly as the bard's hands began to push her legs apart. Suddenly a thousand tortured images began to flash across the warrior's heart and she knew this MUST stop before she lost what was left of her control and *took* the precious gift the bard was offering.
"NO," Xena said again. And then she pulled back, and seeing nothing but her own dark fear, she viciously struck the only person she had ever loved. Xena then pulled away and sat up, her face in her hands, breathing with effort, her heart pounding painfully. "I can't...I don't...I..." she said haltingly.
"Don't explain, Xena." Gabrielle said, in a tone the warrior had never heard. It scared her to her core. It was then that Xena looked at her bard and what she had done to her face. The warrior drew back in horror.
Gabrielle was looking at her through tear filled eyes, blood coming from her nose and mouth, a black eye already forming. "Gabrielle.." It was a question, a plea, a farewell...Xena knew it was too late.
"Don't explain, Xena."
"Gabrielle, I'm sorry." Xena said as she reached out to try and touch the bard's bloody lip. "Oh, Gods Gabrielle, are you all right?"
"Don't touch me Xena.." Gabrielle whispered," Just don't say another word."
Xena again put her face in her hands and sobbed for the loss of her love, her life, her soul. She felt Gabrielle get out of bed, moments later heard the door shut behind the bard as she went to the other room. Xena lay there quietly, hurting with every breath she drew. Gods, What have I done! she finally fell asleep, exhausted, hoping only to see the bard's face, full of love once again, in her dreams. Knowing she may never see it any other way again.
Chapter Six - Echoes of the Soul
It was the pounding in her head that woke Xena. The pounding of her heart came quickly though, and she jumped out of bed hoping it had all been a dream. She knew she had to go to Gabrielle's room and her heart sank as she realized that she knew already what she would find. Guilt washed over her with every heavy step to the other room. Anyone else who had struck the bard that way would have been dead in a matter of seconds. Did she herself deserve any less?
She burst into the room and found exactly what she had expected. Still the overwhelming pain she felt surprised even her as she realized that Gabrielle was indeed, gone. Why didn't I make her leave sooner?!?
As she looked around the now empty room her eyes fell on a piece of parchment that lay on the table. Walking over she picked it up, tears welling in her eyes as she read Gabrielle's words.
Xena, I am going home, to the place where I found you again. Maybe there I can heal my body and soul. I carry away with me a reflection of you. You are a part of me. I dreamed you, I wished for your existence. You will always be a part of my soul. I feel your heartbeat deep inside me, it must be because we have shared at some time the same imaginings, the same madness, the same fear. I hope you come to understand this. Please come to me Xena, when and if you do.
I love you, Gabrielle
Xena read the note again, then she flew into a rage and picked up the candlestick that had held the note down and hurled it against the mirror on the wall, shattering it into a million tiny shards. Just like her heart, She thought as she fell to the floor and cried bitter, angry tears. I am a monster!
"YOU ARE A FOOL, XENA!" The voice filled the room and vibrated the very walls.
"What?" Xena gasped, knowing full well who was speaking to her.
"I said you are a fool." Came the voice again as Artemis shimmered into view.
"You don't know what you are talking about." Xena said.
"Insolent mortal," Artemis spat, "Did you really think no one was watching your pathetic display over the last few weeks?"
Xena now rose to her full height and looked at Artemis full of anger and rage.
"I get it. This is some kind of game!. What? Did Ares do this to me?" Xena asked snidely, "Or did you? Are you in love with your precious Amazon Queen?"
"If I am or not does not concern you, Xena. This demon is of your own making. You have no one to blame but yourself," Artemis hissed, " Although I will warn you" The Goddess paused for effect, " I will NOT allow you to harm Gabrielle again."
"You think I *wanted* this? You think I *wanted* to lose her?" Xena screamed, "Oh no! Maybe I did! Maybe that is my true desire!"
"Don't be so thick Xena." Athena said," Your *fear* created this monster, but Gabrielle's love can save you from it."
"I can't love her. My love would end up killing her." Xena said, her voice now barely a whisper, "I could have done it last night. I *craved* her fear..."
"Well, you are partially right. Your love could kill her. But not like you think."
"Stop speaking in riddles!" Xena begged, "I don't have the strength."
"I will tell you one thing warrior. One thing and then you must come to the decision on your own." Artemis said as she knelt down and tenderly helped Xena to her feet.
"What is it?" Xena asked.
"The only power that keeps you together is your love for Gabrielle." Artemis paused, choosing her words carefully, not wanting to tell Xena too much. She had to figure it out for herself. "She integrates you. She lashes and whips you into occasional wholeness. But she also knows your demon, it is part of her too."
"How could she know?" Xena asked. "And even if she did, I can't allow her to be near me. I can't control...."
"It is HER decision to make Xena. She tried to let you know, your fear got in the way and Gabrielle lacked the core of sureness that it would have taken to convince you. She craves your love and admiration almost insatiably." Artemis let the full impact of the previous evening settle in on the warrior.
"What do I do now?" Xena asked, "Can I go to her? Should I even try?"
"That is up to you. I told you, ONE thing." Artemis started to fade away, "but remember this mortal, you are not the only one who loves the bard. She may never love another but she will eventually *settle*. You know as well as I do that *would* kill that light in her eyes."
As the Goddess disappeared from sight Xena heard one last warning...
"Choose wisely Xena, your soul depends on it."
The sun was setting in the Grecian sky as the young Amazons escorted their Queen into the village, adding a golden glow to the air. Gabrielle would have thought it beautiful if....No. She wouldn't allow herself to think of Xena anymore. She had failed. Her love for Xena was not strong enough and it was over now. That note had been a mistake. Xena would never come...would never believe that the bard ...knew, and still wanted her.
As she looked around her home she wondered why she hadn't cried since she left the village so early this morning. Probably in shock, the bard thought. Oh well...soon.
"Where is Ephiny?" Gabrielle asked the young Amazon who walked beside her.
"Hunting, but we sent word that you are here so she should be returning soon."
"Yes, I would imagine she would be." Gabrielle said, knowing that Ephiny would never miss the chance to spend time with her. Smiling wryly to herself she silently asked why she couldn't have fallen in love with Ephiny, who so obviously loved the bard unconditionally.
"Have her come to see me when she returns." Gabrielle stated flatly as she went into the Queen's hut to sleep. Sleep! Fat Chance. Her head was still throbbing and her lip had grown in size. Not to mention the fact that both her eyes were now black. But she needed the quite peace of this village. Needed it to decide what she would do now and try to figure out how she could go on without Xena in her life.
Xena rolled over on her back and studied the patch of light on the ceiling as she thought about what Artemis had said. Did Gabrielle really understand? Would it be right for Xena to expect the bard to share the darkness of her soul? She turned on her side, punching the pillow into a ball. Gabrielle had been doing that since the day they had met. Willingly.
Xena sat up and grabbed the note Gabrielle had left and read it again. Shared the same madness, the same fear She does know! Xena looked down again at the note. She had to go. Had to ride to clear her thoughts. The demon was strong. It might be too strong for either of them. Xena needed to know if she was willing to risk it. If she was willing to risk Gabrielle. Her fear of hurting Gabrielle had pushed the bard away before. Now it was her fear of losing her forever that was drawing Xena back.
As she climbed on Argo she knew that she would ride towards the Amazon village, but whether she would go to Gabrielle she did not yet know.
Ephiny was running. Running! All to get to Gabrielle. Gods, it would be good to see her!. Momentarily losing herself in memories as she approached her village, Ephiny thought of her favorite memory of Gabrielle, standing in the glistening sun like living, melted gold. And the face-oh, her face! It was flawless. The cute nose, perfect cheekbones, the mouth tenderly curved. Where the bard's cheek sloped in toward the corner of her mouth lent her an air of lost, childlike innocence. Her hair, eyebrows and lashes were the color of ripe wheat, magnificent with the sun pouring down on them, and the eyes...they were as intensely, vividly green as a bud of grass in springtime.
As Ephiny came into the village she noticed Gabrielle from a distance, standing in front of her hut watching her, smiling happily and the smile snatched Ephiny's breath from her body in an uncontrolled gasp. She had never gasped like that in her *whole* life; surprised to find herself spellbound by this extraordinary beauty, she made a mad dash to cover the last few yards to her Queen.
As Ephiny approached Gabrielle however she realized that something was terribly wrong.
"Gabrielle! Your face---what happened?" Ephiny touched the bruised lip and ran trembling fingers over the bard's face.
"Awful!" Gabrielle managed to gasp, as she moved into Ephiny's embrace, "Xena--it was Xena...I couldn't believe it...I failed her...I...just hold me please, hold me."
"The fear...I just left her sitting there. Then came here while she was still sleeping. I just left her..." Gabrielle voice cracked as the tears finally came and shock her body violently.
"I'll kill her--"
"No, Ephiny..it was my fault...yes, my fault. Not enough love, now it's all gone..." Sobbing uncontrollably Gabrielle could say no more.
"Shhhh. You need to rest, baby. Come, let me take care of you." Ephiny said, holding her close, and already choosing the weapon with which to kill Xena.
Gabrielle woke dimly aware that she was still in Ephiny's embrace. She needed to talk to....who? She knew who but did she really have the right to call on the Goddess of Love now that her own love for Xena had failed?
"Yes, My Queen?"
"I need to be alone. Can you..."
"Anything for you Gabrielle," Ephiny said. As she turned to leave she placed her palm on Gabrielle's cheek, "You know I love you."
"I know Ephiny, but my heart could never...it wouldn't be fair to you." the bard said in all honesty.
"I guess I've always known that. If you need anything..." and with that she left Gabrielle to fight her own demon.
Gabrielle stood in the middle of the room trying to summon the courage to do what she must. After Ephiny had left she had walked around the hut quietly talking to herself. the decision, when it came it seemed easy. Now she wasn't so sure. Taking a deep breath she spoke...
"If anyone is listening...I know I have no right to ask. I failed to help the woman I love and now I don't know what to do. I need wisdom, strength. Please." The bard then dropped to her knees, crying softly and waited.
Suddenly she felt a hand softly stroking her hair.
"Babe, you didn't fail." Aphrodite's voice was gentle, soothing.
"How can you say that? She..." Gabrielle looked at the Goddess, tears glistening in her eyes and for a moment Aphrodite's own heart stopped. She *is* beautiful
"I know what happened, my sweet bard. It was not your fault."
"Can you help me?" the bard begged.
"No precious one, I can do no more."
"But *I* can."
Gabrielle *knew* that voice. Although she had not expected to hear it, it comforted her nonetheless.
"Artemis" Gabrielle breathed.
The Goddess came and rested her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders.
"I see a fear of death in your eyes," she said, making Gabrielle understand, for the first time, what it meant to be emotionally naked. "A fear of death and sadness."
"It is more than sad," Gabrielle whispers, "It is utter despair, bleak desolation...I am afraid I will never see her again. That I have killed our love."
"Gabrielle, my chosen, My Queen. Lay your guilt down."
"How can I?"
"Love her." Artemis said, "It has already begun.".
"What has begun?" Gabrielle asked.
"She is coming. She will come with the entire history of her loves and heartbreak weighing heavily on her face. But you must be strong. You have a choice to make."
"What choice ?" Gabrielle asked, fearful of the answer.
"To believe in love again." Artemis said.
"I know I can..."
"You are so special, Gabrielle. I knew you were the right choice to lead my people." The Goddess' both smiled at the bard, but it was Artemis who spoke as they faded from view.
"Go then..get ready...."
Gabrielle came out of the hut like it was on fire Ephiny thought. What has come over her?
"Ephiny, Xena is coming. I want no one to hurt her in any way. If anyone so much as touches a hair on her head they will have to answer to me. Do_You_Understand?"
"Yes, my Queen." Ephiny bit the words off in frustration, " Where are you going?"
"To make camp on the north hunting land. Let Xena know where I am when she gets here." And with that Gabrielle left.
Xena had been riding for what seemed like days. Argo needed to rest for awhile. She decided to stop by the river and then realized the mistake in that. This was the river they had camped near the first and only time they had made love. Xena was drawn by the scent of jasmine on the early evening breeze. Memories came flooding back until she felt as if she were drowning in them.
Memories of watching the bard grow up over the last two years. Of the strength and passion of her. Her stories. Her laugh. Gods, her eyes. The overwhelming feeling she had when she was in the bard's body...coming to know how she felt, of the love in her heart. Memories of the afternoon they had camped *here*. Memories of Gabrielle and they way her lips brushed Xena's face. The taste of crushed mint on her lips mingled with the jasmine she used to wash her hair was indelibly etched into her senses, reminding her always of the day Gabrielle had first said she loved her. Being here again was like being in the bard's arms.
Xena jumped to her feet, quickly whistling for Argo. She had been wrong. She missed Gabrielle, wanted her. She had to find her, NOW. Before it was too late.
Chapter Seven - To Lay with The Beast
It was well past sunset when the small group of amazons met Xena on the outskirts of their village. As they took Argo's reins and began to escort her into the village Xena noticed that while their greeting had been friendly enough, there was none of the usual enthusiasm that was always present whenever she and Gabrielle came to visit.
Gabrielle. The very thought of the bard now took her breath away and sent a suffocating pain straight to her heart. That explains it, she thought to herself. The Amazons had probably put the pieces together by now and were not feeling very gracious towards the woman they now accompanied. The warrior knew she deserved much more than the silence that greeted her. Much worse.
The group entered the village to more of the same silence. It was an eerie silence and Xena suddenly grew very uncomfortable. But it didn't matter. she would endure whatever was in store for her as long as it meant she could see Gabrielle. Try to explain.
Xena came to a stop in the middle of the village and now stood face to face with Ephiny. the look on Ephiny's face was unmistakable.
"Ephiny" The warrior nodded.
"Xena." Ephiny spat the name with obvious contempt.
"Look," Xena said, "I am sure you know what happened. Please...just tell me where she is and I'll leave."
"You don't deserve her." Ephiny knew that she had promised Gabrielle that Xena would not be hurt, but she never promised she wouldn't have her say.
"No, " Xena whispered, "I don't. But I do love her, and it is time she knew it."
The admission shocked Ephiny. She had expected many things from Xena, but an admission of love was not one of them. The warrior looked awful and you could tell that she had been crying...yet she spoke with a determination that defied anyone to stand in her way.
"Tell me where she is Ephiny."
"She is camping not too far north of here...waiting for you." The defeat in those words was not lost on the warrior. The two women stared into each other's eyes, speaking volumes without making a sound.
"Thank-you." Xena said finally, turning to go.
Suddenly Ephiny grabbed her arm and whispered in Xena's ear, her voice full of the fury of contempt and loss, "Xena, if you EVER hurt her again. I'll kill you...or die trying."
Feeling that nothing else needed to be said, Xena started walking....walking into the complete unknown and scared to death.
Gabrielle had been staring into the fire for what seemed like an eternity. Suddenly she stood. Xena stepped into the light and they stood looking at each other. The impact of Xena's intense gaze stunned her. Actually she had been aware of the warrior even before the moment that their eyes met. Later she would try to identify that awareness--the kind that a mother experiences when she senses that her child is into some kind of mischief, that sort a wife feels when her husband's routine actions are subtly altered. But those weren't really good analogies at all. It was a primitive knowledge, as if her mind and body were connected to a powerful current that flows even though it can't be seen.
Armor that wasn't on quite right. Dark, disheveled hair that flew about her face with a will of its own. Smoldering eyes, dark circles under them, red-rimmed from crying, in a shadowed face--This was what Gabrielle saw. But the essence of the woman--*that* the bard felt like a blow to the senses. A raw, primeval sensuality that had nothing to do with the broken warrior who now stood before her.
Several moments passed before the bard realized she had forgotten to breathe.
"Xena," she exhaled, moving towards her.
"No," Xena held up her hands to stop Gabrielle, "I *have* to say...I need to tell you..."
"You're here, Xena," Gabrielle said, " that tells me enough." But she stood waiting as Hope sprung in her heart yet again. Hope like a tenacious plant the kept growing again and again no matter how many times it had been cut down.
Then silence settled around them...a silence think with unspoken words that beat around them like moths around the campfire. Words were supposed to build bridges between people but with Xena they formed walls instead. they're so clumsy, she thought. She had *never* been able to say how she felt with them..but this time she was determined to try.
"*I* created a demon. *I* let it rage. It is like an animal. And *I* let that crude animal do that to you," she gently touched the bard's broken lip, "But I wouldn't let a tender, sensitive woman, someone I love, do what both of us want. If I had taken you that night would it have made me less a person? Less a woman?"
"No, it wouldn't have Xena." Gabrielle said, "I should have realized how much you were dealing with. I tried to force you into it too soon. But I didn't understand how strong your fear was until..." Gabrielle's words trailed off as her own hand touched her lip. She continued softly, "There was nothing I could say or do. I had to leave. What a terrible, ghastly feeling. All I could do was hope that you wouldn't stay away and that would be the end." Gabrielle laughed nervously, "I guess you could do worse."
Xena stepped forward to rest trembling hands on the bard's shoulders, and said in a tearful voice, "You are a beautiful, extraordinary person. I not only *could* do worse, I *have* done worse."
Gabrielle tilted her face up to receive a kiss but Xena stepped slightly back.
"Wait," Xena said, "There is more. When you left, I had time to think." She continued, finding courage in the bard's eyes, "I cannot live without you. And yet I cannot live with this darkness either. When I accepted that, I knew there was only one thing left to do."
Xena then unsheathed her sword. She caressed the blade that had served her so well in the past, the blade blessed by Ares. This sword was her identity as a warrior. She then looked at Gabrielle and at that moment she knew she had made the right choice.
Xena brought the blade to her lips and kissed it. Then, in the ultimate act of surrender, threw it to the ground at Gabrielle's feet. A stunned Gabrielle, tears streaming down her cheeks, watched as the warrior followed the sword.
Xena looked up at Gabrielle. the warrior took a deep breath and with her voice husky and choked with emotion said, "My life, my heart, my soul...are yours...please, help me." and she dropped her head as sobs racked her body.
Gabrielle couldn't believe her eyes or ears. Her heart, on the other hand, was about to explode. The bard dropped to her knees to face Xena.
"Xena, look at me..."whispered Gabrielle, and reached for her. Then she was in Xena's arms, her body softening, yielding, seeking the tightness of the warrior's arms. Holding her closely, Xena said, "I can't look at you without wanting you."
"And I want you," The bard said, "very much."
Xena looked into eyes that were deep gray-green in the shadows and dim light from the fire. "yes," she whispered and red hair was silk in her hands, flowing through her fingers as her mouth met Gabrielle's. They kissed deeply, slowly, again and again until the bard broke contact. Gabrielle lay back on the pallet, mute, holding out her hands.
Xena quickly removed her armor and joined her Gabrielle. Inside her arms, down her legs, on every surface of her body that pressed against this woman, Xena felt exquisite softness. Trying to control herself for just a little longer, her hands touched, moved over Gabrielle's shoulders as they kissed, her hands exploring the bard with gentle wonder. She removed Gabrielle's shift, then her own, returning to lay in Gabrielle's arms struggling for breath, her body hammered by heartbeats.
At first Xena's movements were tentative. But she responded to the rising up of Gabrielle's hips to meet her, to flushing breasts beneath the warrior's lips, to the bard's hands which fondled her head, stroked her back, her buttocks. soon, nothing else in the world mattered. Not her fear, not her haunting past, not their uncertain future. Nor THIS was all that counted and Xena knew that she wanted to make this the most glorious experience of both their lives. She would hold back nothing...she would consume and possess this woman and in return be saved and redeemed...she hoped.
Xena sat up and pulled the bard with her. With trembling hands she held Gabrielle's face and looked deep into her eyes.
"Gabrielle...I" she choked, overcome with a blinding passion she knew she could no longer contain. "Gabrielle, I need to..." trembling hands now running through red-gold hair almost roughly.
"Tell me, Xena, "Gabrielle said, "I want to hear you say it."
"I want to...have you. Gods know I do. But..."
"But what, Xena please..." the bard said, her voice edged with fear. She needed to be taken fiercely by this woman. Gods! What was it going to take?!?!!
Xena cupped Gabrielle's chin, gently raising green eyes to meet her own.
"If I hurt you, if anything happened tonight that you *don't* want..." Hands on the bard's face, she waited.
Gabrielle looked directly into her eyes.
"There is *NOTHING*," she said carefully, "That could happen tonight that I wouldn't want. Please Xena, take me. I need..."
Her words were cut off as Xena's lips, no longer tentative, captured her own. Gabrielle's lips opened willingly as Xena thrust her tongue into her mouth. Never breaking the kiss, Xena's left hand held Gabrielle's arms above her head while her right moved down the bard's body leaving a trail of liquid fire in its wake. Gabrielle began to suck on Xena's tongue and with this one act, stripped away the last of the warrior's defenses.
Xena entered her swiftly, deeply--groaning into the bard's mouth at the wetness that now hugged her fingers. The warrior took the bard now with long, deep strokes. Gabrielle raised her knew to give Xena greater access and met the warrior's own wetness, drawing a ragged moan from her usually stoic warrior.
"Gods, Gabrielle." Xena whispered, the muscles in her arm flexing as she thrust into the bard with relentless force, again and again.
"Yessss, Xeennaaaa."Gabrielle cried, her orgasm gripping her very bones.
Xena's body crumpled, her breath leaving her. Gabrielle caressed Xena with her body, glided against her, but Xena's back arched, her hips thrust in their own urgent rhythm, her arm trembling above Gabrielle's head, breath ragged and gasping.
"Xena," Gabrielle whispered.
Xena's hips writhed on the bard's thigh in an increasingly frenzied dance, her breathing desperate sobs, her hand buried inside Gabrielle.
"Ohhhhhh....," the warrior gasped into Gabrielle's neck as her body suddenly tensed, "Gabrielle.." Her head jerked violently backwards, the sounds in her throat feral, as her body convulsed over and over.
At that moment, seeing *that* look on her warrior's face, Gabrielle reached another mind shattering climax.
"You are so beautiful," Gabrielle said, softly, "Sweet Athena, so very, very beautiful"
When it was over, Xena couldn't bring herself to take her hands from Gabrielle's body, but left her hand snuggled within the giving folds. It was some time before Xena spoke.
"Thank you for telling me I was still beautiful to you after that."
"You were. You are." Gabrielle said, stroking the warrior's back, "are you tired?"
Xena's eyes opened lazily. "I am not tired." The words were slurred sexily. " I'm just relishing the feel of you. It's wonderful."
The warrior princess was filled with a ferocious possessiveness. She buried her face in the curve of the bard's neck and languished in her after play. Gabrielle fiddled with her ears. Idly stroked the warrior's back, trailing her fingernails up and down Xena's spine from her shoulders to her buttocks...
Gabrielle's body, too, was caressing Xena from within, quick little contractions that robbed that warrior of rational thought, of her very breath....
Chapter Eight - The Afterglow of Passion
You desire to embrace it, to caress it, to possess it...
Life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire.... -
"By the Gods..." Gabrielle's words brought Xena back to earth from the clouds she had been floating on. It was then that she realized that her fingers were still cradled in the warm wetness of her Amazon Queen, just as her body was cradled in the same Amazon's arms.
"Gab..." Xena's voice faltered. She wanted to speak but the words just wouldn't come. Xena looked up into the face of her young companion and was struck dumb. She had never seen the bard look so beautiful and it took the warrior's breath away. The moon was high and bright in the sky and it reflected the pure sensuality of the bard's face in such a way that it pierced Xena's soul. As the warrior struggled to find the words, to find some way to tell this woman all she was feeling, it was Gabrielle who spoke...
"Xena...I love you...", Gabrielle sighed, and as she gently smoothed her warrior's hair back off her forehead, the bard could feel herself in the grip of a powerful orgasm yet again.
Xena could feel Gabrielle's intense contractions. In an effort to bring her new, young lover to the pinnacle of ecstasy, she began to thrust into the bard ...powerfully ... deeply...but as the body beneath her began to rise to meet her, as the bard began to moan; she had to stop for a moment for it was the warrior who could feel her grasp on consciousness slipping away.
She sat back, took a deep breath, and as the bard began to speak yet again Xena smothered her words with a kiss.
Gabrielle could not afterward remember what she had been saying when Xena's face had neared hers, filling her vision. Only that she had faded into silence, a brush fire of desire enveloping her. Xena allowed her only a moment to gaze at the long sweeping lines of the warrior's body, the strong thighs, the delicate black triangle in between. Then Xena covered the bard's body with her own and it felt to Gabrielle as if she were being touched by silk of such astonishing warmth and softness that she could scarcely breathe. How could such a strong woman, who had killed people and destroyed entire villages, touch her with such tenderness? Where did it come from? Could she possibly feel this way to Xena? Had any two people ever felt this way before?
Xena's unhurried, exploring hands added a new dimension to the bard's desire and intensified it. Holding Gabrielle's face, kissing her, she drew the Amazon bard's tongue into her mouth and gently sucked on the tip. Memories from earlier in the night returned with such force that Gabrielle surged into Xena, desire becoming passion, becoming a raging flame. She moaned her want but Xena pressed her backwards and the warrior's tongue then began another slow rhythm that brought another memory to the bard; fresh and paralyzing. On her hands and knees now, with her mouth still on the bard, Xena entered her again, with a tender force that again amazed Gabrielle. The bard's moan merged with Xena's groan of pleasure as the warrior's fingers filled Gabrielle's every sense, indeed filled her very soul. Wrapping her arms and legs around Xena, who was blinded by the nirvana of their passion, Gabrielle abandoned herself to Xena's will... to her desire...to her need...to an eroticism that became a mutual, bone-melting orgasm.
Sometime later, after her breathing had returned to normal, Xena stretched out next to her precious, almost sleeping, bard. The length of her body, the touch of her skin, is the answer to what I was missing, thought Xena. The warrior felt the odd sensation of having something in her arms and still yearning for it. Yet as she lay there Xena felt the yearning subside slowly as the essence of the actual woman rose along her legs, chest, and neck.
They were drifting together now. The afterglow of passion was the raft, but sleep the ocean, as the calm waves of Morpheus' realm came up to engulf them both. Xena ran her hands along the bard's bare back, along her ribs, felt the dimples in her hips and her only thought was the same thought that had repeated in her head a thousand times since falling on her knees in front of the Amazon bard (her bard, she thought with a grin) just a few hours ago: I don't remember ever feeling this--I don't think I have ever felt this way before.
Xena leaned down and whispered in the young one's ear, "I love you, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle smiled back at her and caught her own reflection in the clear blue of Xena's tear-filled eyes. She almost didn't recognize the woman she saw there. She had never looked happier.
Too happy to see the danger that lie ahead for them both.
----End of Chapter Eight