Part Three

by Anita Louise

copyright 7/98

Chapter Twenty One

The God stood tall, his arms crossed as he contemplated the image that was before his eyes. A self-satisfied smile on his face as he remarked, "It's going exactly as I planned."

He was brought out of his cockiness at the cold voice that bellowed out behind him. "Ares, you have gone too far this time!"

Turning, he looked into the set eyes of Zeus. The God was seething as he neared. "This thing you seem to possess for Xena has got you doing things to others and it has now been brought to my attention."

Ares never flinched a muscle as he said, "Guess whiny Aphrodite has been telling tales out of school again."

Zeus managed to keep a set face as he answered, "Aphrodite, as well as others, have brought this to my attention. We both know I do not like to get mixed up in the mortal's problems, that is, unless it has something to do with us. Aphrodite has cast her spell on the mortals, and it is up to them which way they chose to go. You may be The God of War but she is The Goddess of Love and has every right to see her work left alone."

Ares fumed, "I knew it, she is such a baby."

Waving his right hand, Zeus said, "That is neither here nor there and by the way only your opinion. I find the woman very delightful, anyway back to them." He was pointing to Xena then to Gabrielle and Sea as he continued, "It is time you left them alone. What will be from now on is up to them. You knew Xena was having a hard time after her imprisonment and have fed on this, no more. I have told Aphrodite, it will be up to the mortals now. Do you understand?"

Ares face was full of fury as he answered, "I understand, it will make no difference anyway, they are too petty to change." He snapped his fingers and disappeared. Zeus gazed down on Sea and Gabrielle, shaking his head he pointed a finger toward them, sending a bolt of light careening down from the sky. It struck Sea then passed through her into Gabrielle. This knocked both women to the ground. The God smiled as he disappeared.

Sea felt an ache in her chest as she tried to sit up. At the same time, she thought she heard Gabrielle move. Fighting the stabbing pain, she got to her knees and crawled toward the woman. Gabrielle was moving and it didn't take Sea long to reach out and grasp the woman. Cradling her head on her right arm, Sea gazed down at the blue-green eyes that still seemed to be in a fog. The woman was alive and she couldn't have been happier.

Gabrielle felt like she was traveling in endless space. Her body cold and she couldn't move. She felt someone position her against them, the warmth from their body giving her needed comfort. The person was becoming clearer through the fog that had enveloped her eyes. The red hair, the emerald green eyes that sparkled down at her and a smile so full of love she felt herself
cry. "Se . . . Sea!"

Ann raised her eyes toward the sky as she exclaimed, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." Holding Gabrielle close, she whispered, "Yes, it's me. You scared me out of ten years of my life."

Fully awake by now, Gabrielle reached up and placed a hand on Sea's cheek as she murmured, "You got the message."
Sea nodded and Gabrielle continued, "If you got the message, what are you doing here?"

Grinning, the woman answered, "Couldn't let you take all of Xena's anger. It is my fault."

Sitting up, Gabrielle grasped her head. "What hit me? I feel like I have been struck by one of Zeus' bolts of lightening. And it takes two to make or break a relationship. I'm a big girl you know."

Sea sat back and gazed at the woman as she said, "Something hit us, I felt it too. If I had stayed away from you. this would not have happened. Tell me what occurred?"

Getting to her knees, Gabrielle crawled toward Sea. The look on her face was of a child lost, the woman looked like she might fall apart at any moment. Tears began to run down Gabrielle's face as she threw her arms around Sea. "It's so good to see you even if you shouldn't have come," her voice was shallow. Sea held her close whispering, "It will be all right, I promise." The two sat in the comfort of one another's arms, neither speaking their bodies spoke for them. At that moment, Sea was consumed with the love she had for this woman and feelings she had put aside were edging their way back into her life. Brushing a kiss on her forehead as she brushed strands of hair back from the woman's face she asked, "Tell me what happened? Your message was sketchy and after seeing the condition you are in--where is Xena?"

Pulling away from the woman, Gabrielle stared at her through eyes reddened by tears of sadness. She could see the woman had shed a few herself and uttered, "You have the look of someone that has seen a spirit. I don't want to talk about Xena's outburst. I want to look at you, remember every curve. I want to remember the woman who pledged her love to me on this spot." She brought her head close to Sea's and placed a light kiss on the woman's lips.

A startled look came over Sea's face as she said, "'Remember,' you are not going anywhere, I won't let that happen again."

This time it was Gabrielle's turn to seem surprised as she asked, "'Again,' now what are you talking about?"

Sea managed a smile and said, "When I found you, you had passed . . . passed out."

The two women stared at one another both transfixed in the moment. Reaching out, Sea touched the woman's lips with a finger. Slowly tracing a line over them and stopping at the cut. Gabrielle reached up and gripped Sea's hand as she said, "I know, it hurts a little but if I can keep from smiling and that shouldn't be too difficult the way things are going, it will heal."

Sea brought the woman's hand to her lips placed a tender kiss on it then said, "I will never forgive myself this happened to you."

Sitting beside the woman, Gabrielle sighed, "It would've sooner or later, I had let this slip to the back of my mind and things seem to always have a way of coming to the foreground one way or the other."

Sea placed her left arm over Gabrielle's shoulders and drew the woman close. "I am thankful, you are alive."

Gabrielle's head rested on Sea's shoulder as if it had always been there as she said, "I am happy to see you again. What brought you way up here?"

Sea kissed the top of her head as she answered, "Memories, the closer I got to the island, the more vivid they became."

Gabrielle raised her head as her eyes searched Sea's. "You too, I didn't think you would ever remember that day."

"A lot you know then, I think about us up here often. I remember how you risked everything to do this. It was a beautiful ceremony, though it wasn't real."

Sitting straight up, Gabrielle said, "There is something I need to tell you."

Sea raised an eyebrow as she asked, "What?"

Gabrielle told her what Melosa had said and when she had finished Sea thought for a few minutes then said, "Guess I know now why Xena was so upset. Tell the woman, it doesn't mean anything."

Gabrielle muttered, "Lot of good it would do, she wouldn't even listen to me, then she went and, and . . . "

Sea asked, "And what?"

"I found her and Ephiny in bed together, neither were clothed and there were empty bottles laying on the floor. They both seemed to be sleeping it off."

Shrugging her shoulders, Ann said, "She was hurt, you have always told me she and Ephiny liked one another."

Frowning, Gabrielle said, "Well, it hurt me to see them like that and that's when I came up here."

Sea stood gazing out at the water and said, "I finally gave up on the two of us ever being able to have a life together. But I will never forget the love we shared."

Gabrielle's eyes seemed far away as she said, "I have lost Xena and now you, I might as well be dead."

Sea stared at this woman, she looked so fragile at that moment, like a fine piece of porcelain. Handle with care or else it might break. She asked, "Did you mean anything you said to me, here?"

Gabrielle had a good hold of Sea's right hand as she squeezed it and said, "I meant it all. In another time and place, we would have been perfect."

"I know, but, I am talking about this time and place."

Swallowing, Gabrielle answered, "Gods help me, you already know the answer."

It might have been the moment or the place or anything else under the sky that brought the two women together at that moment. Gabrielle's split lip was tossed aside as their lips met in a warm meeting. She grimaced once and Sea started to pull back but Gabrielle pressed harder, her tongue searching. A low moan emitted from the woman's throat as Sea pulled Gabrielle to the ground with her. The women were oblivious to anything or anyone, they had stumbled on a moment in time and their bodies intertwined.

Sounds of seagulls, not far from the Summit's edge, was music to the women's ears. They were laying beside one another, Sea's left arm outstretched and Gabrielle's head nestled safely on the woman's chest. The expanse of the Summit with its cuts and slopes gave an endless vision of rugged beauty. Gabrielle placed her right hand on Sea's chest. Her fingers, slowly gliding across the woman's skin. Sea had closed her eyes, letting the warmth of the sun reach out and capture every pore. She loved the feeling of passion followed by the quiet time. Her body could relax and enjoy all the wondrous sensations that had been blessed upon it.

Feeling her body move slightly she whispered, "I never realized how much I missed your touch, it's different."

Gabrielle had placed her chin on Sea's chest, her eyes sparkling up at the woman as she said, "Oh, and just how many have touched you?"

Sea could feel the slight pressure of the woman's chin and said, "None, not like you."

Gabrielle had pulled herself up and was now staring at Sea as she said, "A fiery woman, ravishing, full of adventure and so much love to give, must have someone."

Sea brought her left hand to the woman's face, her fingers, touching as they moved tirelessly across her skin. Time stood still for that moment, the two women's eyes were lost in each others. Sea closed her eyes as she said, "Anyone ever tell you, you have a way of making a person forget everything?"

There wasn't any answer and she opened her eyes to see Gabrielle still gazing at her. Gabrielle sat up, as she said, "And you have a way of getting a person to forget things they shouldn't." Sitting as she gazed at the woman Sea smiled, "Then that makes us even." Her look changed as she continued, "When I saw you laying limp on this cliff, I thought I would die. Have you ever realized how important you are to me?"

Reaching up to touch her own lip, Gabrielle answered, "Yes, I know and we have talked about this before, you also know how I feel about Xena."

Nodding, Sea grumbled, "I know, but does she? For this woman to strike you, the person that has declared her undying love for her at every turn, she had to be consumed with guilt and rage."

Blue green eyes looked at her with awe as Gabrielle said, "You seem to know Xena well. She has not been the same since we returned from Tunis."

Sea laid back as she said, "We have to go back down soon, for now, come lay by me. Who knows what we both may face at the bottom of the cliff. We need to talk. There are things I need to tell you and things I want to know about you and Xena."

Nodding, she moved closer to the woman and placed her head on Sea's shoulder. "Who goes first?"

Sea whispered, "Since you carry the marks, you tell me what happened after Tunis and I will fill you in on . . ."

Gabrielle uttered, "The new person in your life?"

Raising her head, Sea gazed at the woman. "You are an Oracle now?"

Laughing, Gabrielle replied, "No, just pick up body language. We have been together before, remember, I sense a change. "

Laying her head back down, Sea said, "My love for you will never die, even after I am gone from this life, I feel a trace of you will follow. So, if you found out I have someone in my life, would you be angry?"

Sitting once more, the woman's blue green eyes beaming down at Sea, her smile enchantingly as she said, "I care about you enough to want to see you happy. I know I can never give you the true happiness you really deserve. Since we are speaking truth you might tell me why you have been walking around me like I might crack or something?"

Still laying, her hands resting on her stomach, Sea answered, "The condition you were in when I found you . . . "

Reaching down and touching the woman's nose, Gabrielle interjected, "Made you think I would crack if you weren't careful?"

Her green eyes gazed up at Gabrielle as she said, "I have to admit, I was afraid for you."

Standing, the woman's hands pressed the wrinkles from her skirt. Her eyes taking in the lengthy form of the woman she had grown to feel a strong bond with. Sea raised both eyebrows as she asked, "Your look is of a person who is doomed, tell me, what are you thinking?"

Walking away, Gabrielle stepped toward the altar. She stood, and quietly stared out at the ocean. The woman's strawberry blond hair moved slowly in the breeze. Getting to her feet, it didn't take Sea long to cover the distance between them. As she neared, she placed her left hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and said, "You are a strong woman, probably stronger than you are thinking at this moment. You have captained The Bounty, fought Calico Jack's people and challenged the Gods. Only a woman with true mettle could do these things and more. I didn't mean to make you think anything different."

Turning to face the woman, Gabrielle asked, "If I were to say I want to go with you, would you take me?"

Sea's eyes reached out to the woman as she said, "If you meant it. We both know it will never happen. Xena has such a strong hold on you, you will never leave her."

Gabrielle scoffed, "Yeah, well, I don't on her."

Bringing her head down, Sea placed a gentle kiss on Gabrielle's lips and said, "I think you underestimate yourself. Anyone who ever had the opportunity to get to know you, would fall under your charms. Look at me, a conniving pirate that would as soon send someone to the bottom of the ocean as not. You have turned me into putty in your hands."

Blue Green's roamed Sea's body in abandonment, finally stopping when they met the woman's. Gabrielle stammered as she said, "You, putty in my hands, It is I that cannot control myself when I am around you. I think that is how I got in this . . ."

Caressing Gabrielle's face with her right hand, Sea whispered, "Mess. I hate to think of myself as a mess, but, in this case if it were not for me, you and Xena would probably be doing fine."

Walking away from the woman, Gabrielle said, "Not necessarily true, Xena and I have our problems."

Sea had placed her left arm around the woman's shoulder and said, "Maybe, but you love her still don't you?"

Nodding she whispered, "Gods help me, yes."

Turning the woman as she stared into her eyes, Sea said, "Then, by all I stand for, I will not leave here until you and Xena are reunited."

Gabrielle reached up and touched Sea's left hand as she said, "I think you may be here for eternity then."

"I'll go find Xena, the woman and I need to talk and it has been a long time coming."

Fear in her eyes and a look of consternation on her face Gabrielle exclaimed, "No! You have seen what she has done to me and I will not stand and watch the two of you go at it. Because there will be no winner except maybe Ares."
Trying to change the subject, Gabrielle asked, "About this new person in your life, I hope she knows how special you are."

Her smile was soft with warm overtones as she replied, "Her name is Gina and we are not lovers if that is what you are thinking."

Walking away, Gabrielle teased, "Maybe not yet."

Starting after her Sea said, "I don't know if I want to see the two of you in close quarters or not."

Gabrielle stared up at her and said, "Melosa and the Amazons could show up and we might have to go through some other ritual again. After all, here we are at the altar once more."

Laughing, Sea said, "Then let's get down from here. I will always carry our union in my heart. You cared enough for me to do this and I care enough for you to see you have no more trouble over it. Let's go down, I have need of food and drink."

Smiling, Gabrielle said, "Words to live by, actually I am a little hungry myself."

Sea went first, followed by Gabrielle, they were thankful for the torches that had been set into the rock wall, they made the descent easier. They made the trip to the bottom without incident. Sea reached up and helped Gabrielle, her strong arms holding the woman and depositing her gently. The two had stayed up there all night and it was now beginning to get light. Without hesitation, Gabrielle pulled Sea into an embrace. Her body crying out for warmth and the woman reciprocated. She held her for several minutes then said, "It's time, I won't let anything happen to you."

Stepping back, she gazed at the concerned look on the woman's face and said, "I wish it made me feel better. I am more worried for your safety."

Smiling Sea said, "Don't be, I have led a good life and if it has to end here, my one regret would be not to have helped mother."

Gabrielle's eyes flew open as she gasped, "Kiera! I have been so centered on my problems when the one I should be worried about is her. Forgive me?"

Turning, Sea answered, "Nothing to forgive, you have been dealt a hurtful shock. Let's go, the sooner I meet with Xena the better."

By the time the two walked into the village, few people were standing around. Gabrielle thought this odd as there were usually many women in the square. Gabrielle grasped Sea's left hand and said, "Come, let's go to the hut, maybe Xena is there."

Holding back Sea said, "Might not be a good idea, you taking me there."

Seeming disgusted Gabrielle said, "Why can't people just let things be. Good friends can share the same room."

Smiling as her emerald green's sparkled at the woman, Sea whispered, "Yes, but we have a past, remember? A past that has put the two of us here today."

Pursing her lips, Gabrielle said, "You are right, then let's go talk to Melosa."

Nodding her head, Sea let the woman lead her through the square and toward the Queen's Chambers.

Chapter Twenty Two

The gray horse, Sea was riding was getting tired as the woman reined it in. Reaching down she patted its neck with her right hand. "We're almost there, shouldn't be too much farther." Dismounting, she tied the reins to a bush. Taking the water-skin, she held it high and let the water pour into her open mouth, then she let the liquid run down upon her head. She was tired, following Xena's trail had not been an easy thing. The woman was canny, she cut back many times then changed directions. It was evident she did not want to be followed.

Walking toward a fallen tree, she drew her cutlass and trimmed off several branches. Then sat, holding the water-skin in her left hand. Her eyes taking in the horse and the distant village. She knew she had to find the woman and set things right between her and Gabrielle. Slowly dropping to the ground, her back resting against the tree, she relaxed and let her legs stretch to their full length.

Laying her head against the tree, she closed her eyes. She could still see Gabrielle, standing by Queen Melosa when she left. It had been a difficult time, trying to explain the woman's whereabouts to the Queen. The images were still vivid in her mind.

By the time the two made it to Melosa's, the woman was just returning. Her smile was both happy and dissatisfied as she said, "Gabrielle, we have all been so worried about you." Her eyes darting from the woman to Sea she cajoled, "And Sea can't say it is a surprise. Now, tell me where have you been?"

Gabrielle had lost her voice at the woman's threatening demeanor and Sea stepped forward as she said, "On the Summit."

Melosa pointed toward her chambers and said, "Let's go in, there are too many eyes and ears out here."

Sea grasped Gabrielle's right hand in hers and whispered, "It will be fine, you haven't done anything wrong."

She squeezed it slightly and said, "Tell it to her, seems the woman can't wait to dole out her brand of punishment. I can only wonder what this time." Realizing what she had said, Gabrielle repeated, "I just meant . . . "

Smiling, Sea replied, "I know, let's get this over."

Looking up, Melosa had placed her spear against the wall and removed her cloak. Turning to the two women she said, "When I look at the two of you I see two children who have been in sweets once more. Don't worry, I will not slap your hands if that is what you are worrying about."

Relaxing Gabrielle said, "Sorry, it's just when I see you like that, it tends to put me on the defense."

Sea's eyes never moving, her face void of expression as she said, "Children we are not and if we have been doing anything, it is our business."

Smiling the Queen sat as she said, "Why don't you have a seat. I don't relish looking up at the two of you, especially one so cocky."

Gabrielle squeezed Sea's hand and gave her a cautious look. They sat as she said, "I was there way before Sea showed up. Went there after I left . . . " She paused, taking in a long breath then continued, "Ephinys."

Nodding, Melosa said, "I know what happened, I have already had Ephiny in here. I can tell you neither woman has any recollection from the table to the bed. I will not delve into this, you know Amazon custom by now. The two are old friends, I will not condone their behavior, but, so many things were in such confusion at the time."

Leaning back against the chair, the woman gazed at Sea and Gabrielle. Her look left little to be disclosed. Gabrielle found herself squirming as Sea held the woman's hand even tighter. Finally setting her gaze on Ann she said, "I ask you leave Ann and I, Gabrielle, I have need to speak to the woman."

Sea looked at her and said, "It's all right."

Standing, Gabrielle said, "I'll just be out there." She turned and left the room. Melosa watched the woman leave and when she was gone, she turned her attention to Sea and said, "Seems you and Gabrielle have enjoyed one another's company once more."

Standing, Sea replied, "When I found Gabrielle, I thought all hope was lost for her."

Pouring a goblet of port and offering it to the woman Melosa said, "Hope is never lost. Tell me, did the two of you settle anything while there?"

Taking the goblet, Sea replied, "Nothing of the matter you are thinking. I will always love her and she me. We both know it cannot be, now tell me where is Xena ?"

Holding up her left hand, Melosa said, "No more fighting, we do enough of that trying to protect our lands."

Sitting back down as she took a drink from the goblet, Sea said, "I promised Gabrielle I would not fight the woman unless she started it."

Melosa had poured herself some port as she said, "In the mood the woman is in, her mind full of all sorts of treasonous deeds, she is not the person you want to try and talk to at this time."

Finishing off the port in her goblet, Sea stood and said, "If there is nothing else you need to caution me about then tell me, where I can find Xena. Gabrielle needs her."

Standing, she walked toward Sea and as she neared she said, "It must be hard on you. I can see the deep caring in your eyes for Gabrielle. Yet, you are willing to find Xena and try to make things good between them. I can't say I understand you Ann Bounty, the two of you are pledged and it was a union that was promised with undying love for one another. I have to say if I loved a woman so, I would not go out of my way to lose her."

Sea smiled as she said, "The love Gabrielle and I share for one another will go on whether we are together or apart, that is just the way it is. I love her enough to see her happy. Now, where can I find Xena?"

Melosa told her that several Amazonian search parties were out looking for Gabrielle. Xena had told her she might go to the nearest village, saying, 'she hoped to find Gabrielle there.'

When she stepped from the chamber, Gabrielle was waiting for her and for an instant, she felt her heart jump into her throat. Sighing she realized the woman would always have a certain effect on her. Smiling she approached and said, "I'm going to go look for Xena. Go back to your hut, wait." She could see the rebellious look in the woman's eyes as she continued, "You are tired, this whole thing has been traumatic. So, rest, I'll bring Xena back."

Touching her arm, Gabrielle said, "Promise me you both will come back."

Patting her hand, she whispered, "Promise." Glancing around she looked to see if anyone was watching. There were only the two of them as she brought her head down and very slowly kissed the woman, lingering for a moment to taste the sweetness of her lips. As she pulled away, she said, "I love you, you know."

Nodding, Gabrielle smiled, "Be safe."

The horse had been nickering and it pulled her mind back to the present but not before she looked into those blue-green eyes that sparkled up at her with a warmth she knew so well. Though Gabrielle never said the words, she knew. And getting to her feet, brushing off her breeches, she whispered, "You love me I know it." Walking toward the horse she found herself muttering, "So what are you doing, give it up, go back." Shaking her head she mounted the horse and said, "The time for us never was, but there is still time for the two of them. Let's go horse, not much farther."

Leaving the horse tied next to the golden palomino, she moved her shoulders as to wake them and stepped into the building. It was already leaning toward dusk and the trip, along with every thing else, had played havoc on her body. There were a few people sitting at the tables but the place was not as busy as many Sea had been in. Her eyes roamed the room, searching for the tall woman. Xena would be easy to spot, Sea had never seen anyone dressed in leathers like the woman.

Her perusal of the room stopped when she saw the woman. Xena was leaning against the bar, her back to the door. An unusual stance for a Warrior. Though the room had been noisy, it was dead silent as the people turned their attention toward the statuesque woman that stood in the doorway. Their mouths dropped open as they stared in fascination at the black boots to the well-formed legs and leather pants that fit the woman with perfection. Sea had noticed the looks and tended to ignore them as she tossed her head sending her flaming hair gliding through the air emitting an ambiance of rampant sensuality.

A man stepped in front of her as he said, "Wa--there--no trouble in here."

Reaching out she pushed him out of the way and took several steps toward Xena.

Xena heard the whispers and knew someone had entered the room. Her eyes had shot toward the tavern keeper. The man had been mesmerized at whoever walked into the room, his mouth hung open, eyes so wide she thought they might pop out at any second. Heaving a sigh, she took a long drink from the mug of ale and said, "Took you long enough to find me, Ann Bounty."

The patrons had left their tables and scrambled toward the far walls. The atmosphere was one of fighting and they did not want to get caught in it.

Xena did not turn around, instead, she ordered another drink.

With hands on her hips and a set gaze on her face, Sea spoke, "We need to get back to the village. You and Gabrielle need to straighten out a few things."

Xena downed another mug of ale then turned slowly, her blue eyes seeming to burn a hole in the woman. Her words were like acid as they poured forth, "Had to run and hide behind you I see."

Sea's jaw was set in stone as she replied, "No, I actually found her. The woman loves you, you know."

Turning her back to the woman once more, Xena responded ruefully, "If anyone should know about her love life, it would be you."

"I won't go back without you. I don't know what you have contrived in your head about the two of us but it's not true. We are just friends, nothing more."

A deep growl emitted from Xena's throat as she said, "The union, your escapade in Tunis. Gods know how many times the two of you have had your little excursions."

Sea had pulled out a chair and sat, facing the woman's back as she said, "All in your mind. Don't get me wrong, I am not an angel. If it had been up to me, I would have taken her from you. Stop and think, where she wanted to stay, who she chose to be with. No, Xena this will not work. If you have grown tired of the woman then tell her, don't beat her. Even pirates have a code to live by and I would never interfere with your relationship as long as I felt you were treating her fairly."

Xena had turned back around, she stood gazing at the woman, then her eyes scanned the room as she said, "Looks like they all think we will fight."

Standing Sea said, "If that is what I have to do to get some sense in your head, then I will."

Xena threw her head back and laughed, "You and what army, maybe you don't know who you are talking to."

Nodding her head, Sea reiterated, "I do, and you have a very fragile woman waiting for you, maybe I didn't make that clear."

Stepping toward Ann, Xena scowled, "How do you want to do it, makes no difference to me."

Sea's eyes rested on Xena's, she was not going to let the woman pull her attention away. Always knowing that the eyes tell everything she said, "I don't want to fight you Xena, I promised Gabrielle I would not unless you started it."

Xena lashed out, her right arm knocking mugs and goblets from the bar as she scowled, "Then we don't want to see you break your promise do we." She was standing in front of Ann as she bellowed, "Get out of the way!"

"Only if you tell me you are going to the village."

Xena's face was pulsating, the veins in her forehead were very noticeable as she gritted her teeth and said, "No one tells me what to do or where to go!" Her right hand struck out landing a resounding blow across Ann's face, snapping the woman's head back. A shocked look crossed Xena's face as she stared at the woman. Her blow had been vicious and would have knocked anyone else off their feet, yet this woman didn't fall.

Ann knew it was coming and had braced herself for the blow. The woman packed a good wallop and it took all she had to stay in one place. Now, reaching up to touch her face she said, "That the best you can do, feel better now, first Gabrielle now me, who else are you going to blame, Xena? Open your eyes, the woman loves you, you not me." As her last words were spoken, she struck out with her left fist landing a solid blow to the woman's stomach. Xena lost her balance for an instant and as she doubled over Sea growled, "It's better to make love not war, go home be with her."

Straightening up, Xena pursed her lips and said, "Yeah, and she will take me back so easily, I don't think so." The woman dove forward burying her head into Sea's stomach sending the two of them plunging to the floor.

They rolled on the floor like two cats in heat, neither giving an inch. There was a catalytic feel to the atmosphere as people watched in fascination. The two had been battling with one another for sometime, both women showed the signs of brutal strikes about their face and were now on their knees. Their hands on one another's shoulders as they swayed. Sea's voice strained as she said, "Give it up, go back to the woman and make love."

Xena falling backward and Sea keeping her up. "Think you're so smart pirate, why don't you just go and take what it is you want." Her voice ragged as her left fist hit out at the woman glancing off her chin.

Sea's breathing was uneven as she gasped for air, she asserted, "Wanted to give you a running chance." Her right hand careened across the woman's face and knocked her backwards onto the floor. Sea had hold of Xena's left shoulder and went with the woman. Rolling off, she lay still and stared at the ceiling. Xena didn't move as she said, "I knew it would be like this. You and me, can't defeat yourself. I . . . "

Sea turned to stare at her as both women echoed, "Give."

They lay like that for quite awhile before they tried to get to their feet. It took the two of them to stand by wrapping an arm around the other's waist and leaning against one another. Standing, they swayed and stumbled toward a table. Sitting, Xena bellowed through gasps of uneven breathing, "Port, bring us some port!"

People in the room had gone back to their tables but still kept their eyes on the two women.

As the man set the goblets in front of them he trembled, "Who is going to pay for the damage?"

Looking at one another, they laughed and each handed the man dinars.

Taking a sip of the drink, Sea grimaced as she said, "Had to split the lip, seems you have a knack for that."

Grinning as her jaw shot pain through it, Xena said, "Well, my jaw will be out of commission for sometime. We look like a couple of . . . "

Saluting the woman, Sea interjected, "Beat up women. Gabrielle will hate this."

Shrugging her shoulders the woman said, "Least we are both alive. Though my anger and jealousy got the best of me, I have no doubt what would happen if the two of us faced off with weapons."

Trying to catch her breath, Sea said, "It would be disaster. Now, will you go home with me?"

Leaning back in the chair Xena answered, "Yeah, you telling me, you and Gabrielle . . ."

Holding up her right hand as she grimaced she said, "No more, it is past, Gabrielle is a free woman and can come and go as she wills. Her will is to be with you, forget all the little things that seem to haunt you and remember what has kept the two of you together. Love her, damn it!"

Smiling, Xena said, "I plan on doing just that. Maybe a few more drinks, ease the ache in my body before we go."

Sea looked at the tavern owner and said, "I think a room for the night would be in order. Neither one of us are in shape to take the long trip. We'll go first light."

Taking a long drink, Xena replied, "Fine by me, I don't relish facing Gabrielle after . . ."

Sea smiled, "It will be fine, take my word for it, the woman loves you. Now, let's go find a bed and rest."

Nearing the stairs, a large man stepped in front of them, he had a smug look on his face as he said, "Looks like the two of you could rest, how about my friend and I joining you?"

They looked at one another and grinned as they said, "No." Starting to move but the man not giving an inch as he scowled, "You two rolling around out there like that, got me all inspired. I want a little of the action, get my drift."

Sea looked disgusted and Xena's look was of revulsion as she said, "Go away little man."

He reached out and grabbed Xena shoving the woman with such force it threw her into the railing. In an instant, Sea had drawn her sword and as it cut through the air sinking into the man's stomach she said, "Never hit a woman." Walking over she looked at Xena and asked, "Are you all right?"

She nodded and at that time his friend looked up at them and said, "I don't understand it, the two of you fought with such furor, yet you killed him, why?"

Sea looked at Xena then the dead man on the floor as she said, "He's not a friend." Her arms around Xena's shoulders the two walked up the stairs leaving a roomful of people staring after them.



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