- Part 12
by Hunter Ash
Ownership: I don’t own Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, etc etc etc. I’m borrowing them for my pleasure and, hopefully, the pleasure of others for entertainment. Don’t bother suing me, even the government agrees that I don’t have anything of value.
Subtext/Alt Sex: You bet. This story concerns people having sex with the same gender. Also some light bondage and graphic sex. If this bugs you or is illegal where you are, leave. Come back when you’re older, have changed your laws, moved or opened your mind.
Violence: It is Xena and Gabrielle we’re working with here.
Storyline: Xena and Gabrielle are struggling to settle down and deal with Solan’s injuries and darkness from their own past.
This is part of the Awakening Series. I hope that it can stand on it’s own as an individual story but you might want to catch some of the rest of the stories before this to have some background.
A Visit Home, An Awakening
Gabrielle’s Awakening - from Gabrielle’s Point of View
An Awakening, Discovery
Gabrielle’s Discovery - Gabrielle’s POV
Gabrielle, Amazon Bonding - Gabrielle’s POV
Trial of a Roman
Gladiator, Bard, Warrior, Mother
Ides of March
Children of Gods
Even with Ares
Amazons of the North - coming
Feedback: always welcome and will be responded to.
“Solan?” Xena spoke softly, not wanting to startle the young man lying on the cot in her Mother’s backroom.
Xena was across the floor and holding the young teen in an instant. She held the young man while he cried.
“Are you okay?” he finally asked, wiping the tears from his face.
Xena thought her heart was going to break, her son was lying there with a bandage over his shattered eyes and he was asking about her.
“I’m fine, so is Gabrielle and Sasha.” she choked out.
“Really?” he insisted.
“Really. We got Sasha back and Brutus is dead. I was there when he died.” Xena explained simply.
Her son merely nodded at the information. It was on orders of the Roman General that Sasha had been kidnapped and Solan was blinded for trying to protect his sister and his mom.
“Is Sasha okay?” he asked about his younger half sister.
“You bet. Gabrielle went in and took her right out of the Roman camp while Brutus was busy fighting Antony and I.” Xena knew he couldn’t see her grin but she hoped he could hear it.
“Great! The healer says the pain should be gone in a couple of weeks.”
“Good, good.” Xena suddenly didn’t know what to say or do. How to handle your son being blinded protecting you? A born hunter and tracker, now blinded. “Listen, I want to go see Joxer, I’ll be back in a little while, okay?”
“Sure, Grandma has me putting in a half day helping in the kitchen but she lets me rest during the afternoons, the headache gets bad by then.” Solan said easily, laying back down.
Xena squeezed his hand and left the room quickly. She bit back a sob as she dashed across the tavern and out the door.
Cyrene, her mother, watched her daughter rush out the door and turned to Gabrielle. The bard was holding Sasha and looking after her mate. Neither of them were surprised by the warrior’s reaction.
“Some tree is really going to pay for Solan’s injuries,” Gabrielle muttered.
“Mum?” Sasha asked.
“Yes, little one?” Gabrielle asked the small child in her arms.
“Is Mom okay?”
“She will be. Your brother was hurt, remember me telling you about that?” the youngster nodded. “Well, your mom is really upset because he was hurt bad. We’re going to have to help him a lot now and teach him how to do things a little different.”
“How come?” Sasha asked.
“His eyes were hurt and he can’t see anymore.” Cyrene noticed the tears filling the bard’s eyes as she tried to explain a crippling injury to a small child.
“Oh,” the child said simply, eyes wide, trying to comprehend what Gabby Mum was telling her.
Gabrielle empathized, she didn’t understand it herself.
“Can you keep an eye on her, Cyrene? I want to see Joxer.”
“Of course, she can help me fix dinner. Come on, little one.” Cyrene took Sasha’s hand and headed for the back.
Gabrielle climbed the stairs towards the rooms of the inn.
Joxer grinned and tried to pull himself up but Gabrielle quickly crossed the room and sat next to the soldier, placing a hand on his chest, stopping him.
“Gabrielle, good to see you! Cyrene told me that you and Xena went after Sasha. Everything okay?”
“Yes, Brutus and Cassius are dead and we got Sasha back.” Gabrielle smiled.
“You’re beautiful,” he muttered.
“Thanks, you’re probably looking good if you didn’t have several holes in your body.” Gabrielle grinned and Joxer blushed. “Thank you for protecting Solan and Sasha.”
“It was nothing,” he muttered.
“It was more than nothing, Joxer.” Gabrielle insisted and reached out to hold his hand.
The soldier began blushing again.
“Xena told me about your wedding, I’m sorry I couldn’t be there. I bet you were beautiful.”
“Thank you. Joxer, we didn’t want to hurt you.” Gabrielle said softly.
“I know.” Joxer shrugged. “Gabrielle, are you happy with Xena? Is this what you want?”
“I know the last few years have been rough and Xena and I have been to Tartarus and back, but the answer is ‘yes,’ I’m very happy with Xena.” Gabrielle moved closer to the soldier, noticing the tears welling up in his eyes. “Joxer, I love you and I always will but not like with Xena.”
“I’ve been trying to understand, I mean, she slept with Ares!” Joxer growled, struggling to a sitting position.
Gabrielle moved his pillows behind him to help him sit up better and easier.
“I know. I’ve forgiven Xena for that because she didn’t know what she was doing. Living with it wasn’t as easy as it sounds, I’ll admit that. I don’t doubt that she loves me, Joxer. Even with her memories missing she couldn’t hurt me and came back to me.”
Joxer was quiet for a few moments.
“Sasha is cute,” he conceded.
Gabrielle grinned. “I’m glad she looks more like her mom than her father,” the bard confessed and Joxer smiled.
“Xena told me about the gladiator stuff,” the soldier said softly.
Gabrielle sighed and drew off her leather bracers and held up her wrists. Joxer turned pale at the sight of the scars.
“Caesar’s dead, Brutus is dead, the Amazons and Centaurs are dead. So much loss, Joxer.” Gabrielle’s eyes filled with tears and tiredness. Both were surprised when Gabrielle laid down next to the soldier and curled into his arms, surprised by the action and by the fact it didn’t feel awkward.
Joxer frowned as he felt something shift in his heart and soul and held the small woman as she cried for all the loss and her exhaustion. He fell asleep puzzling over the change, he couldn’t work it out. Something happened it felt different.
“Gabrielle,” a soft voice caused the bard to open her eyes, the bard blinking several times as she tried to focus. As she raised up on her elbow she realized the shadows in the room had lengthened a bit and that she had fallen asleep.
Asleep. Joxer. What? With a startled expression she sat up on the edge of the bed, looking up in the blue eyes of her warrior.
“Easy, don’t startle him.” Xena said with a smile in a soft voice.
“What? We were talking,” Gabrielle muttered.
“You both fell asleep while he held you,” Xena concluded for her confused bard.
“Xena,” Gabrielle began but Xena held up a finger on the bard’s lips.
“No big deal.” the warrior reassured her. “I know how you feel about Joxer.”
“We were talking about the crucifixion and the Amazons,” Gabrielle whispered.
“Help me wake him up for dinner. The healer says that he’ll be all right eventually but it’ll take time. Lucky for him, he’s got a hard head and that was the worst blow.” Xena grinned.
Gabrielle also grinned. “Good thing he upgraded that armor of his.”
“Yup, and improved on his skills. Come on, Joxer, time for dinner.” Xena grinned and lightly shook the soldier’s shoulder, bringing his head up from where it had fallen on his chest while holding Gabrielle.
He began blushing when he realized Xena was in the room with him and Gabrielle.
“Time for dinner, hero.” Xena grinned, going to the table and retrieving the tray she had brought up.
“I, uh, hi, Xena,” he muttered.
“Eat your dinner,” Xena grinned and led her bard out the door for a much needed hug. Gabrielle took in the rough condition of her warrior. Xena was covered with dust and had been working out, hard. The bard frowned, her warrior’s eyes were still haunted.
“Mom offered us a room for the night, complete with a bath. She knew we’d be too tired to go home.” Xena said, leaning into Gabrielle’s hand as the bard stroked her cheek.
“Great, we can face all of this in the morning. Let’s get you in a tub, my love.”
Later that evening Gabrielle held an emotionally worn out warrior in her arms, gently exploring Xena’s body with soft touches of her tongue and fingers. Tonight was one of those nights when they both surprised each other with how gentle they could be in their lovemaking.
“Hey, Mom,” Solan said with a wide grin when the warrior walked into the kitchen the next morning.
The warrior was stunned speechless and Gabrielle ran right into Xena’s back when the warrior suddenly stopped.
“How did you know it was me?” she asked, moving further into the kitchen, standing back to watch her son.
“I heard the chakram against your leathers,” Solan answered as he began chopping carrots, using the side of his finger to guide the knife.
“You must have inherited my hearing,” Xena grinned.
The boy grinned.
“He’s got a talent for cooking, would you believe it?” Cyrene said as she walked into the kitchen with an armful of a basket of fish.
“THAT he didn’t inherit from you,” Gabrielle muttered and got a playful whack on the arm from her warrior and a grin from both Cyrene and Solan.
“We’ve only been gone a few days,” Xena commented, watching the teen move around the kitchen with an ease that was reassuring to the warrior.
“He catches on quick,” Cyrene commented as she began chopping the fish up and handing the pieces to Solan who quickly seasoned them and prepared the pieces.
“I can’t be a hunter any more so Grandma, Joxer and I talked a lot about different jobs and how easy or difficult they could be for a blind man. I kept coming back to cooking. I like it.” Solan explained with a shrug, once again reminding Gabrielle of her warrior and his mother, Xena.
“He’s already improved one of my recipes,” Cyrene bragged.
“No way!” Xena’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
Solan blushed and grinned.
“Yup, a natural,” Cyrene confirmed.
“Now we get Joxer healed and maybe we can get back to settling down,” Xena muttered.
A week later, Gabrielle grinned at the progress that both Solan and Joxer were making in their individual recoveries. Solan’s headaches had diminished enough to where he could work a full day in the inn’s kitchen and not require any pain herbs in his tea at night.
Gabrielle had thought of teaching him to find his way around with a staff and soon he had memorized the route between their home and the inn and several buildings around the village. Everyone in village were more than eager to help the boy out, giving him space to work it out and quick to give information about what was where.
Joxer had recovered enough to start working out with the militia, slowly regaining his strength and skills. Xena was pleased to find he had improved on his skills over the couple of years she hadn’t seen him and was now an adequate soldier. She also grinned at how he blushed under her praise and encouragement.
Xena had also noticed something about Joxer and had a suspicion that he had noticed it about himself and was confused as she was. Joxer no longer had that puppy dog look around Gabrielle. Xena had frowned when Joxer had shown up in the village, especially because Gabrielle had been away and Xena was the one that had to break the news to Joxer, that his beloved bard had married someone else while he was gone. The news that Gabrielle had married Xena.
Xena stood next to the training area and watched as he lightly sparred with sword and shield against one of the villager militia volunteers and reflected that the would-be warrior had taken the news well. He had shouted, cried, gotten drunk, threw up when he heard about Gabrielle’s assaults by the Romans and slavers, dry heaved his guts up at the description of her crucifixion and then passed out when his mind couldn’t process anymore.
Now Joxer seemed more at ease than he ever had with Gabrielle and Xena. Both Gabrielle and Xena were at a loss to explain it, they had even caught Joxer looking confused when he was with them.
It was like he had turned into Gabrielle’s brother or best friend.
Xena decided that it was definitely a weird change but maybe not unwelcome.
The warrior grinned when she spotted Gabrielle and Sasha walking towards her, the bard carrying a basket and holding Sasha’s hand. Both were chattering back and forth rapidly, probably sharing a story, Xena thought with her heart overflowing.
Given the circumstances of Sasha’s conception, Xena had worried slightly that Gabrielle might hold some resentment. The bard had forgiven Xena for sleeping with Ares, pointing out that Xena wasn’t exactly in her right mind and had no memory of her life with Gabrielle, but still, it was a fear the warrior had. Especially since Gabrielle hadn’t been with her for Sasha’s birth and first few months of life.
Xena needn’t have worried, the bard’s anger was still at Ares. Even after confronting him, fighting him to a draw, wounding him badly, and basically getting in his face, Gabrielle still growled deep in her chest whenever his name was mentioned and her green eyes flashed with anger. With Sasha, Gabrielle was a wonder and both Solan and Sasha were both delighted that Gabrielle was in their lives.
Xena was beyond delighted, she had no idea what she would do without her warrior bard. Watching Gabrielle walk across the common made Xena’s breath quicken. The bard was dressed as any other village woman these days, it was the way she moved that caught the eye of most everyone, men and women. She still moved like a dangerous wild cat.
Xena grinned to herself, what always amazed her was that Gabrielle wasn’t aware of it. She really didn’t realize how cute and irresistible she was.
The night they spent waiting to enter the Arena of Rome and fight for their lives, the night before Gabrielle had been crucified by the Romans, they had spent the time talking. Gabrielle had surprised the warrior by thanking her for the life they had led together. Xena had shaken her head in amazement. How could Gabrielle thank her for leading her into constant danger, slavery, assault and death? The bard had tried to explain that before she had met Xena she had felt invisible and that no one but Xena saw what she could be, no one but Xena had given her that chance.
Once again the bard had amazed Xena. If it hadn’t been for Gabrielle, Xena knew that she never would have managed to stay on the path towards the right side of things. The warrior had tried to tell Gabrielle that, how the bard was her light, her source. Many people thought Xena was the stronger one but the warrior knew they were wrong. She had given into the darkness for ten years, darkness that had consumed everything about her. Gabrielle had faced darkness and hadn’t given in, even when fighting for her life in the Arena as a gladiator and she never let Xena fall too far either.
Gabrielle smiled as she looked up and spotted Xena watching her, her face blushing at the adoring look on her lover’s face, feeling heat spread throughout her body. They had been lovers for awhile and married, and still, just one look from the warrior could cause her body to tremble with desire.
Sasha grinned and rushed into her mom’s arms. Xena grinned back and picked up the child and placed her on the fence to watch the militia practice, including Joxer. Gabrielle walked up and placed an arm around her warrior’s waist while Xena placed an arm comfortably around her shoulders.
“Joxer’s doing well,” Gabrielle commented after watching for a few minutes.
“Yes, he’s recovering nicely,” Xena agreed. “What’s in the basket?”
“Lunch, Sasha and I thought we’d surprise our hard working warrior with a picnic. Your mom says things are slow enough that she and Solan can handle the lunch crowd.”
“I love you,” Xena answered, placing a kiss on the top of Gabrielle’s head.
“I love you, Xena,” Gabrielle answered back, leaning her head into Xena’s chest.
“Let’s go. Come on, Sasha, let’s find a nice tree by the creek for your surprise picnic.” Xena smiled, helping the child down from the fence.
Gabrielle sat with her back against a tree with Xena’s head in her lap while they watched Sasha splashing in the water at the edge of the creek, both watching closely. Sasha knew how to swim but both women were also protective moms. Xena looked down at the bards hand that was interlaced with hers, looking at their bonding bracelets and the scars on both their wrists. Scars from Gabrielle being crucified and Xena’s from fighting against chains on that day, watching her mate being tortured.
Gabrielle looked down and took in Xena’s glance and frown. She squeezed her hand with Xena’s and smiled as the warrior’s blue eyes met hers.
“I love you,” Gabrielle said simply.
“I’ve been thinking,” Xena hesitated and Gabrielle’s eyebrows furrowed in question. “I’d like to travel north for a visit.” the warrior said softly.
“To visit Axel and the clan?”
“Yes, and to the Northern Amazons.”
Gabrielle was stunned.
“Xena, when Ephiny suggested we go to the Northern Amazons for protection from Ares and Caesar you said that you couldn’t go because of what you did to them in the past.”
“I know, but you’re the one that keeps reminding me that I’ve been different for a long time now and that others will accept that. I know that the Amazons are important to you and I want you to reconnect with them, even if it is a different tribe.”
“Xena, if there’s a chance that they wouldn’t accept you, then I can live without that.” Gabrielle said softly, stroking her warrior’s jawline tenderly.
“I know that before our Amazons were killed that you wanted to present Sasha as your adopted daughter and for her to be accepted into the tribe. I know that was important to you, to both of us.”
Gabrielle felt tears coming to her eyes as Xena opened hers and looked into the bard’s green eyes.
“It’s not necessary, Xena. I feel like she’s my daughter, I don’t need a ceremony to feel that way.” Gabrielle said softly.
“I know and I love you for it, but as your daughter it is part of her heritage and her right. I know you want to help keep the Amazon soul alive and maybe it’s time I make some amends up north.” Xena looked away from her bard, watching Sasha cashing a frog across the watergrass next to the creek.
“Xena, do you need to talk about it?”
The warrior sat up and pulled herself next to the bard, still keeping her eyes on her daughter.
“I’ve told you a little bit about Alti,” Xena began and Gabrielle nodded. “She came to me as a shaman and offered me power, more power than I had ever seen. I was ruthless and power was like a drug to me, I couldn’t get enough of it. She promised to make me the Destroyer of Nations.” a tear escaped the blue eyes and Gabrielle resisted reaching over to wipe it away, giving her warrior space. “Gods, you think you’ve seen darkness with Ares, it was nothing compared to Alti. Ares is power and madness but it’s power, that’s all. With Alti it’s evil, she wanted the power to destroy someone’s very soul, not just their bodies. I think she sensed my inherited powers from Hecate, my natural gift for shamanism and wanted to tap that power.”
“Ares wants your natural fighting ability, Alti wants your natural shamanism, and Callisto just wants your blood.” Gabrielle complained.
“And you, little one?” Xena suddenly teased.
“Your body, your soul, your heart, and your love,” Gabrielle answered back, intertwining her fingers with Xena’s and bringing the warrior’s hand up to her lips.
“You’ve got all of them,” Xena answered.
“Alti,” Gabrielle prompted.
“You know what happened, Alti threatened to show you when we crossed over.”
“Yes, when you claimed your goddess gifts from Hecate and we found that Apollo had gifted me as well. She said that you had killed the Northern Amazons and had been brutal about it.”
“That’s an understatement, most of them were impaled on sharpened tree branches. I used their own reliance on the trees to trap them. I sharpened tree branches and had spike traps all through the trees. Some were impaled, others fell. I killed the leaders for her.” Xena closed her eyes, her body beginning to tremble with the memories.
“Xena,” Gabrielle didn’t know what to say or how to comfort her mate. “Do you need to face them?” she finally asked.
“I know you’ve forgiven me and I’ve mostly forgiven myself. That spiritual journey we took and when we fought Alti, that took a lot of it away for me, but not all of it. I don’t think I’ll ever finish paying for those years.” Xena looked down at her hands, almost expecting them to be covered in blood.
“Xena, you can’t go on killing yourself with guilt for the rest of our lives!” Gabrielle urged, watching her warrior and also keeping an eye on the small child nearby. “Look at the last few years! All the good you’ve done throughout the land. Look at the kids. Solan is becoming a fine young man, some of the local girls are beginning to hang around your mother’s inn, you know.”
Xena’s eyebrows went up at that piece of news. Solan? Girls? Well, he was very handsome, gentle, intelligent and going to be a good man. When did he grow up, the warrior suddenly asked herself. Hades, he’s almost old enough to think of shaving - what fourteen, fifteen summers?
Xena shook her head in wonderment and looked over at Sasha. The small child was already four Spring seasons old. She was a bright and cheerful child who made everyone she came in contact with smile.
“I know you’re right but I never made any kind of retribution to the Northern ones,” Xena said simply.
“Then we’ll go and present Sasha as an Amazon Princess and you will be accepted as well,” Gabrielle said firmly.
“They may want revenge,” Xena ventured slowly.
“You are the Consort and Champion of an Amazon Queen, they won’t have a choice. We will however, try to make amends and find a way to make peace with you and them.” Gabrielle said.
“Might not be easy, little one.”
Gabrielle laughed, “When is anything easy with us, lover?” she grinned as she stood up and trotted over to where Sasha was picking wildflowers and grabbed the child in her arms and began tickling the little girl.
Xena smiled at the hug fest that ensued between two of the most important people in her life.
She definitely didn’t deserve the bard, she thought.
That night over dinner at her mother’s inn, Xena talked with Joxer.
“Sure, I’ve had some blacksmith training, not much but enough to help Dex out while you’re gone. You are coming back, right?” he asked quickly.
“Yes, our home is here now. I’m going to ask Solan if he wants to come or not, he’s definitely of an age to make up his own mind about things.” Xena grinned. Everyone was pleased at the rapid recovery the boy had made and how well he had adjusted to losing his eyesight. Cyrene took such an immense pride in his accomplishments in the kitchen that she took every opportunity to praise him and tease Xena about her lack of cooking skills. A constant joke between Gabrielle and the warrior.
Gabrielle came out from behind the bar and approached the two warriors with a pitcher to refill their mugs. Joxer smiled and Gabrielle grinned back. For her warrior, Xena was met with a look that could melt ice.
Gods, would they ever get enough of each other, she demanded of herself and then decided probably not, and she hoped not.
“You looked good today, Joxer,” Gabrielle commented and smiled as Joxer blushed, looking much like his old self.
“Uh, thanks. Xena was telling me about your trip. I’m going to help Dex out at the blacksmith shop while you guys are gone.” Joxer grinned, pleased to be helpful.
“Great! Listen, I’m getting ready to tell some stories, I’ll meet you at home.”
“Okay,” Xena leaned up for a quick kiss from her bard and blushed as Joxer grinned at her.
“Xena,” Joxer frowned and ducked his eyes. Xena waited for him to continue, curious. “I’ve watched Gabrielle with you since you two have been back and I just want to say..... that is.... I, uh, thanks,” he stammered.
“For what, Joxer?”
“Making her happy,” his face turned very red.
“My pleasure,” Xena grinned and laughed as he blushed even more and looked at her with that old goofy grin of his.
“I still love her but....., it’s not like it was. It doesn’t feel like an ache that will never end.”
“I’m glad you stuck around to rediscover your friendship with her,” Xena said simply.
“Both of you, I hope.”
“Yes, both of us. I just wasn’t sure if you were mad at me for marrying her,” Xena smiled.
“Nah, not anymore. Laying in that bed with blood everywhere kinda put some things in perspective, I guess. I love her and if I love her then I can’t be mad at her being happy.” Joxer tried to explain.
“I actually followed that.”
“You’ll keep her safe on the trip?” he demanded suddenly.
“Or she’ll keep me safe. That’s something I’m still getting used to, Joxer,” the warrior admitted. “she’s more than a good warrior. She was always astounding with that staff of hers, with those sais, she’s amazing.”
“We’ve all grown a little, I guess,” Joxer commented.
“Yeah,” Xena agreed, watching Gabrielle approach the raised platform at the end of the room and everyone quieted down. Gabrielle’s reputation was known throughout Greece and several other countries and Amphipolis counted itself fortunate that such a talented bard had settled in their town. Xena also knew that Potedaia inhabitants would probably never forgive the warrior for luring their own bard away from her home village. Not that they paid attention to her when she was there, Xena thought.
Both warriors settled in for an evening of Gabrielle’s bardic talent.
“You know something funny, though?” Joxer commented, watching Gabrielle.
“What’s that, Joxer?”
“The hair makes her look a little older but there’s no gray in yours or hers. My mom starting complaining about gray hair at 28,” he muttered and then went quiet as Gabrielle began her tale.
Gabrielle walked along the road towards home with a confident gait. The story telling had gone well, with several merchants in the audience who showed their appreciation in coin, always pleasing both Gabrielle and Cyrene.
The bard instinctively ducked, reaching down to her boot and pulling up one of her sais as a body landed behind her from a tree. A strong arm went around her waist and another grabbed her wrist as she started to bring the sai back in defense.
“It’s me, little one,” a familiar voice whispered in her ear.
“Gods! Woman!” Gabrielle squeaked, attempting to turn around but found Xena holding her firmly in an embrace. “You scared the Hades out of me!”
“Sorry, guess I was feeling a little playful.”
Gabrielle could just imagine the lopsided grin on her warrior’s face and leaned back into Xena’s strong arms, lowering the sai back to her boot.
“Found dead on the road in Amphipolis, one bard of a heart attack,” Gabrielle complained with a smile.
“I wanted to walk you home,” Xena grinned, releasing her bard so Gabrielle could turn around in her arms. She was rewarded with an embrace and kiss that took her breath away and weakened her knees.
“To walk me home you have to hide in the trees and leap out at me like some stalking tiger?” Gabrielle demanded when they could both breathe again.
“Sorry,” Xena grinned and bent to kiss her mate again, running her hands up Gabrielle’s back under the cloak the bard was wearing.
“Oh you might be sorry later, warrior mine,” Gabrielle threatened, fire dancing in her eyes.
“Really?” Xena’s voice dropped a notch, signaling to her mate that the thought was intriguing to the warrior.
Gabrielle laughed and began walking along, holding Xena’s hand.
“Where are the kids?” she asked.
“Joxer claimed Uncle rights with Solan and Mom is watching Sasha tonight. Seems we wore her out with the picnic and Solan didn’t want to wake her to bring her home.”
“Then I’ve got you to myself tonight, eh?” Gabrielle questioned, eyes dancing.
Xena felt a shiver run over her body at the husky tone in the bard’s voice.
“It has been awhile,” Xena mentioned.
“You are insatiable!” Gabrielle teased.
“Since we got back,” Xena countered.
“I know, with both of us catching up on missed work and teaching Solan how to do things differently, I guess we haven’t taken the time for each other.”
Xena stopped her bard and lifted Gabrielle’s chin until green eyes were looking into her blue ones.
“Don’t apologize, little one, no one’s fault. Just life, I love how much time we’ve been spending with the kids.” she bent forward for another kiss that weakened Gabrielle’s legs in turn. “Now, let’s take advantage of an empty house,” the warrior suggested.
Gabrielle laughed and dragged the warrior the rest of the way, both women grinning.
Once inside the door of their home Gabrielle turned and pinned Xena against the door, holding the warrior’s wrists against the door at shoulder level and attacked the warrior’s neck with an intensity that surprised the warrior and buckled her knees.
“You seem to like me falling against doors, my bard,” Xena commented.
“Hmmmm,” was the only verbal response she got for several moments as Gabrielle’s teeth found one of Xena’s most erotic spots on her neck. Gabrielle brought a leg up between her warrior’s, pinning Xena totally to the door as the warrior whimpered, unsure whether she’d go over that edge right there.
Gabrielle pulled back slightly to look into Xena’s eyes, still keeping her body against the warrior’s and her hands on Xena’s wrists. “I think you should get some special attention after scaring me half to death!”
Xena felt a shiver run over her body, this was a new side to her bard and the warrior was finding it exciting. From the beginning the bard had surprised Xena with her energy and ferocity in bed but after her return from slavery Gabrielle had held back somewhat. That hadn’t surprised Xena. It had taken Gabrielle a bit of time and persuasion to let more and more of Xena’s lusts come out in their lovemaking. The warrior had been terrified of hurting Gabrielle and that the bard would be afraid or disgusted and turn from Xena. Instead the bard had drawn more and more of her warrior out until Xena was comfortable and more trusting with her bard than with anyone she had ever known.
Xena had tried to get Gabrielle to face the lust that could hit after a fight or battle and had succeeded once, just after Gabrielle the gladiator had returned to her. Since then, the bard had held back and Xena knew that the bard was afraid of giving into those feelings again, no matter how much Xena tried to reassure Gabrielle that she would welcome and accept that side of Gabrielle.
Gabrielle hadn’t been ready to accept that in herself yet.
Now the bard was attacking Xena with an intensity that was exciting and surprising.
Xena refocused on her bard as Gabrielle snapped her fingers in front of Xena’s face. “You haven’t answered me,” Gabrielle demanded, her eyes dancing.
“Uh, what did you have in mind, little one?” Xena asked with a smile as Gabrielle’s hand began to lightly play over Xena’s nipples through her tunic top. The bard shoved Xena back against the door when the warrior tried to lean forward into Gabrielle’s body.
Xena’s eyebrows shot up but she stayed against the door.
“I love you so much, I need you so much!” Gabrielle hissed and showed Xena her trembling hand. The bard leaned her forehead against Xena’s chest.
“What is it, Gabrielle?” Xena asked softly, wanting to take the bard into her arms but one hand had a wrist pinned to the wall and the bard’s leg kept her body back.
“It’s like there’s a building hunger in me, an energy,” Gabrielle whispered.
“Then give into it, my love. I’m here, I trust you and I love you,” Xena whispered back.
“It’s nothing like I’ve ever felt, Xena,” Gabrielle dropped the hand holding Xena’s wrists and wrapped her arms around the warrior, suddenly holding herself close to her warrior.
Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle and held her, feeling the bard trembling in her arms. After a moment Xena lifted the bard into her arms and carried Gabrielle through the house to their bedroom and surprised Gabrielle by dumping her onto the bed instead of gently placing her there. Gabrielle lay on the bed, on her elbows, looking at the warrior in surprise.
“Nothing you could do, say, or want would make me love you any less,” Xena promised, noting the fire still in the bard’s eyes.
Gabrielle turned and sat on the edge of the bed, watching Xena warily. Xena approached her mate slowly and knelt down at Gabrielle’s knees.
“Close your eyes,” the bard obeyed, hands still shaking. “What do you want from me? What do you want to do?”
“I, uh, don’t know,” Gabrielle whispered.
“Yes, you do. Keep your eyes closed and tell me what you see,” Xena encouraged.
“You,” Gabrielle’s breath quickened. “under me, begging for release.”
“Go on,” Xena said softly.
“Begging me to take you harder and deeper,” the bard’s face was flushed.
“Go on, am I tied up?”
“What? Uh, I don’t....,” the bard hesitated, her face turning very red. “yes,” she admitted.
“Okay, what are you doing to me?” Xena asked softly.
“Xena, I can’t!” Gabrielle protested, but kept her eyes closed, the warrior noted.
“Yes, you can. I love you.”
Gabrielle grew quiet as her hands gripped the blanket under her.
Xena got up quietly and went to one of cabinets and pulled a couple of things out of her bags and walked back to the bard and knelt down again.
“Gabrielle, open your eyes,” Xena ordered.
The bard opened her eyes and was shocked to find Xena hold a long strap of leather, Gabrielle’s eyes went wide.
The warrior stood up, went to a chair, and removed her boots and then knelt in front of Gabrielle again. Gabrielle looked dumbly at the dagger Xena placed in her hands.
“I’m yours, totally, my bard. Any way you want me,” Xena said simply and held out the leather strip.
“I can’t!” Gabrielle protested.
“Really, don’t think you can handle it?” Xena suddenly taunted and wasn’t surprised when Gabrielle growled and pulled her up onto the bed and on top of the bard, silencing Xena’s taunts with her lips. Xena moaned, her leg coming up between Gabrielle’s and discovering how wet the bard was already.
Gabrielle growled and flipped Xena over onto her back attacking the warrior’s neck again with a vengeance and grabbing Xena’s wrists again. The warrior didn’t resist when the bard pulled back and wordlessly tied the wrists together and then tied the strap to one of the bedposts.
Gabrielle stopped, looking confused and looked into Xena’s blue eyes.
“It’s okay, I trust you,” she whispered.
The bard looked almost like she was in pain.
“Gabrielle, part of you is still Dancer, the gladiator. Let it out.” Xena encouraged. Still the bard hesitated, eyes closed. “I want you, very badly. I want your teeth in my neck, I want your hand inside of me, your lips everywhere, your teeth biting my nipples, your tongue inside of me and stroking me. I want to feel my body trembling and bucking under you, I want to scream your name.”
Gabrielle growled and grabbed up the knife from the bed and quickly cut the tunic from Xena’s body with a swiftness that surprised the warrior. Next her trousers were off and she was tied to her own bed, naked. Gabrielle removed her own clothing and knelt between Xena’s feet and began slowly working her way up the warrior’s legs with her lips and teeth.
“Oh gods,” Xena said softly, pulling against the leather in reflex. The sight of her bard, eyes blazing, nibbling her way up the inside of Xena’s legs was enough to set her body trembling right away.
Gabrielle continued working her way up the warrior’s body but skipped Xena’s sexual area, bringing a frustrated moan out of Xena. Gabrielle continued nibbling, kissing and licking her way up Xena’s abdomen and then breasts.
The warrior arched her back as Gabrielle lightly flicked her tongue over the nipples, lightly teasing and offering no release. The bard kept her body just hovering over the warrior, not quite touching except an occasional brush of skin.
Xena resisted bringing her legs up around the bard’s hips, not wanting to give Gabrielle any ideas about tying her legs at this point, thank you.
Gabrielle moved up Xena’s chest to her shoulders and lightly nibbled, hitting pressure points that Xena had shown her over the years, making the warrior’s body begin to squirm under her. The bard surprised Xena by not attacking her neck again, instead only lightly kissing both sides and then leaning on her arms to look down into Xena’s face. This confused the warrior, she knew how much Gabrielle loved to bite, remnants of Bacchus’ touch on her life and soul, the warrior. To resist that pleasure probably meant the bard planned on dragging this out.
Xena moaned as Gabrielle straddled her hips, feeling how wet the bard was against her skin. Her hips jerked up, trying to meet the bard but Gabrielle moved up on her knees slightly, denying Xena the contact, making the warrior whimper.
“Wanting something, lover?” Gabrielle whispered, a dangerous edge in her voice.
“You, always you and only you!”
How long Gabrielle tortured her, Xena didn’t know.
Gabrielle kissed, licked, nipped and teased every inch of her warrior until Xena was mass of writhing muscles under her. Again and again the bard’s hands or tongue would take Xena almost to the point of release and then back away, at first bringing moans of frustration and then cries and whimpers.
All Xena knew was that she was begging for release, begging for her bard’s body.
She was almost in tears when the bard’s fingers finally entered her again and stayed there, beginning a rhythm that the warrior’s hips began rocking to meet the bard’s hand, begging for more. Slowly the bard’s hand claimed Xena totally, both women stopping for a moment with the wonderment of the feeling of it. When Gabrielle began moving her fist slowly, Xena bit into her lip at the sensations, already on overload. Then Gabrielle’s tongue began to stroke Xena’s clit and the warrior screamed, her back arching. The bard placed her arm across Xena’s abdomen, trying to maintain control of her warrior as Xena trembled uncontrollably, tears streaming down her face as her body shook with wave after wave.
Xena opened her eyes to find herself in Gabrielle’s arms, being rocked softly, the leather strap still tied to one of her wrists. Gabrielle’s face was one of worry.
“Are you okay, I didn’t mean to hurt you.” she whispered.
“Shhhh,” Xena managed to whisper. “Wonderful, no apologies.”
Gabrielle got up and came back into the bedroom carrying a mug and a towel. She crawled back into the bed and took Xena back into her arms, raising the warrior up until Xena could drink the wine being offered her. Then the bard began toweling Xena’s hair and face dry and then her own.
Xena wasn’t surprised at how wet their hair and faces were. After that workout they were both covered in sweat and their own juices. Xena laid her head against the bard’s chest as Gabrielle held her close.
“You sure you’re okay?” Gabrielle asked softly.
“Woman, you just sent my body into total melt down, had me screaming your name and begging on my knees. I have no energy left, my muscles have turned to jelly and I have no voice left. Of course, I’m okay. More than okay.” Xena smiled as Gabrielle blushed.
“What came over me? I had to possess you totally until you were helpless because of me.”
“You’ve been fighting battle lust ever since you came back to me, you just finally snapped.”
“But I didn’t feel like that after that mess with the Romans kidnapping Sasha, it wasn’t like the battle lust that hit after a match in the Arena,” Gabrielle said thoughtfully, snuggling down into the bed, keeping her arms around her exhausted warrior.
“It’s been under the surface all this time,” Xena said simply, nuzzling Gabrielle’s neck. “Just like the Warlord is always in me and sometimes comes out sexually. You now have Dancer and Dancer’s anger and fury.”
“You’ve never let anyone tie you up like that, have you?” Gabrielle whispered, a tear escaping her eyes, Xena softly wiped them away with her lips.
“No,” she answered easily, “I told you, I’m yours always and I trust you.”
“I’m not sure I totally trust myself,” Gabrielle answered.
“I know that, that’s how I feel when that hits and you always reassure me that you trust me and love me,” Xena said sleepily.
“When we go north, can we avoid the Bacchae forest?” Gabrielle asked, her voice becoming small, surprising the warrior.
Instantly, Xena was awake, senses alert. Her bard was disturbed and worried about something and the warrior came to life. She quickly turned the situation around and reached out to hold her bard.
“Of course, my love.” she answered, pulling Gabrielle close. “What is it?” she asked.
“There’s more darkness, it hurts,” Gabrielle whispered, voice growing faint and small.
“Tell me, Gabrielle,” Xena insisted.
“I’m afraid I’m close to losing it with you sometimes.”
“What is frightening you?”
“My teeth,” the bard confessed, curling almost into a ball next to her warrior.
“You’ve drawn blood before,” Xena confessed and wasn’t surprised when Gabrielle’s eyes snapped open in fear, suddenly very awake. Xena held on tight and wouldn’t let Gabrielle back out of the embrace. “I didn’t say anything because, one - we were busy with other life crisis, two - I don’t care if you nip me, and three - I love you and trust you.”
“I thought I had tasted blood,” Gabrielle frowned.
“We knew this was there as well as the battle lust. It doesn’t worry me, little one.”
“It worries me,” Gabrielle muttered.
“Why, is it getting worse?” Xena frowned.
“Yes, it’s like it’s building up, like water behind a dam that has nowhere to go,” the bard snuggled back into Xena’s arms, her panic momentarily eased.
“Rare meat?” Xena suggested.
“Been there, done that,” the bard said weakly.
“Shhh, go to sleep, little one. We’ll deal with it, and we won’t go near the forest,” Xena promised as she felt sleep overcoming both of them.
Gabrielle had taken the day off from the inn to help Torris inventory some of the goods he was thinking of buying from a merchant passing through town. At first the bard had been surprised by the request but had accepted readily, knowing that it was probably a first step for Torris in making amends in how he had treated her and Xena.
The bard had taken advantage of the slow business day at the inn and had dressed in her familiar travel clothes to spend some time running through the woods and practicing with her sais and warrior moves when she had finished with Torris. Dressed in a leather top that held everything in place without covering much skin and a leather skirt-like wrap with knee high boots, sais in place alongside those boots.
After a good run through the forest and time spent in the woods that Artemis, her patron goddess loved, Gabrielle felt much better than she had in days.
It had been difficult to tell her warrior about the fears, the dark desires starting to plague her but she had also remembered the promise she had made Xena make: no secrets between them. Letting her instincts take over in the forest and connecting with everything around her had helped calm those down a little.
The bard was still worried, the craving was still there. Ever since the crucifixion it had been there.
Gabrielle was deep in thought but her eyes scanned the town common square quickly as she left the edge of the forest. The bard stopped, eyes going wide as her hands instinctively began reaching for her sais.
In the common was a small band of Roman cavalry soldiers, all off of their horses and hanging around outside of the inn, their horses taking water at the fountain in the center of town.
The bard attempted to calm her rapidly beating heart back to normal. The soldiers were laughing among themselves and lounging around, none of them on alert, most of them barely looking around at the villagers or the village. Gabrielle realized that they were probably just passing through and weren’t looking for her or Xena.
Gabrielle took a deep breath and tried to calm her expression as she slowly began walking across the common towards the inn.
The bard walked past the soldiers without catching any of their eyes even though she could feel their attention on her the moment they had caught sight of her. The bard fought against blushing, knowing that her outfit tended to attract attention, usually not the kind she wanted.
Gabrielle opened the door and was about to step through when a voice cut through the good-natured talk among the soldiers and low muttered cat calls.
Gabrielle frowned and turned to see a Roman soldier getting up from one of the benches outside of the tavern, a sergeant.
“Were you talking to me, soldier?” she asked.
“Yeah, what is a slave wearing weapons and where’s your collar?” he demanded. The rest of the soldiers had gone quiet, serious looks on their faces.
“You’ve made a mistake, Sergeant, I’m not slave,” Gabrielle stated flatly and turned to enter the inn when the soldier thrust his arm in front of her across the door.
“That brand says you’re a slave and it’s illegal for a slave to carry weapons. I know lash marks when I see them!”
A couple of the soldiers had also gotten to their feet and moved around the smaller woman. Gabrielle began to feel a sense of panic and fought it down.
“I am free and a citizen of Rome herself, let me by,” she demanded calmly.
“I know that brand, no one gets out of that school alive,” he growled, leaning over Gabrielle.
The bard’s hands ached to grab her sais and shove at least one end of one of them either in his face or another part of his anatomy but Gabrielle fought to stay calm. The other soldiers had moved in closer.
“I am no longer a slave,” she hissed, eyes beginning to flash in anger.
The Roman laughed and Gabrielle felt rough hands grab her as she started to reach for her weapons. The bard reacted without thought, bringing an elbow back into the ribs of whoever was holding her and yelping when she encountered a Roman breastplate. Before she could stomp on his foot the soldier had twisted her arms behind her and held her tightly.
“Rewards for runaway slaves are high,” the Sergeant commented, stroking her face and quickly withdrawing the hand as the bard snapped at his fingers with her teeth. The Roman drew his hand back to strike Gabrielle as she bared her teeth angrily.
“Touch her again and you die, Roman,” a voice said calmly.
The Romans turned to see a very tall female standing near the fountain. Dressed in simple trousers and cotton tunic with leather bracers, she normally wouldn’t have looked imposing, but something about the woman caused the soldiers to hesitate. Especially the sword in one hand and a round strange looking thing in the other.
“Who are you to interfere with business of Rome?” the Sergeant demanded.
“You are assaulting a citizen of Rome, one that has the favor of Octavian and Antony. Want to continue on this track, Roman?” Xena demanded.
The Roman frowned. The names of Octavian and Antony were enough to cause doubt in any soldier. They were the most powerful Generals in the Empire.
“She bears the mark of a slave!” he protested, trying to regain the advantage of the situation.
“Let her go, now!” Xena demanded. “She earned her freedom from your damned Arena!”
Several of the soldiers shifted uneasily on their feet. Freedom won in the Arena meant gladiator and that meant a fighter and usually a favored one of the Empire.
“Arena? This female?” the Sergeant demanded.
Gabrielle shook herself loose from the soldier holding her, feeling his grip loosen on her arms as he began to lose his enthusiasm and doubts plagued all of them.
A sai was suddenly at the Sergeant’s throat and green eyes were blazing into his hazel ones.
“I am Dancer,” she hissed, “Citizen Brie of Rome and gladiator of Caesar’s games. Want me to demonstrate how I won that wooden sword?” she demanded.
The Roman hesitated and saw doubt in his men’s eyes.
was the female who won the sword in the Arena of Rome, Sergeant.”
one of them muttered. “She ran off North with one of the Senator’s wives after winning her freedom.”
Gabrielle’s eyebrows rose but she kept the sai in the throat of the Roman.
“I have made a mistake, citizen. I apologize.” he muttered and she removed the steel from his jaw. She glanced around, eyes still blazing and the soldiers backed off and went back to their benches or towards their horses.
Xena walked slowly past the soldiers, glaring at them and satisfied when they wouldn’t meet her eyes. She slowly sheathed her sword but kept the chakram in her hand as she approached the inn and her bard. The Roman sergeant mumbled something and moved away from the door as the two women glared at him. Xena gently encouraged her bard through the door and then shut it behind her.
Xena wasn’t surprised when she found Gabrielle trembling from head to toe, hands shaking badly. The warrior slowly took the sai from the bard’s hand and led Gabrielle towards the kitchen. Torris and Cyrene looked up, both suddenly concerned at the trembling bard as Gabrielle turned and hugged Xena tightly, tears beginning to fall.
“Xena, what’s going on?” Cyrene asked, quickly crossing over to the couple.
“Gabrielle just had a run-in with the soldiers outside. They mistook her for a slave.” Xena said softly.
Torris swore a curse Xena wasn’t sure she had ever heard before and threw down the ledger he was working on.
“You didn’t kill any of them did you?” Cyrene whispered as Xena moved her bard towards a chair.
“No, just threatened them a little,” Xena grinned.
“Torris, I would like your help in serving tonight. That bunch is staying the night and I don’t want Gabrielle near them again,” Cyrene said simply.
“Okay, Mom,” he agreed quickly.
“Xena, you take Gabrielle out back and take some time. Then I’d like you to hang around tonight, drunken Roman soldiers can get out of hand.” Cyrene continued.
“Any drunken soldier can be a problem,” Xena commented, sitting Gabrielle down in a chair and kneeling between her mate’s knees and holding her bard tightly. “Is that okay, little one?”
“Yeah, I don’t think I can do any bard stuff tonight,” Gabrielle wiped at the tears on her face. “Damnit! I cannot let the sight of a Roman soldier paralyze me all the time!”
“It won’t, you were still thinking on your feet. It’s just going to take time,” Xena said softly.
“Xena, I can’t ever go back to that!” Gabrielle whispered and buried her head on the warrior’s shoulder.
“I know, little one, I couldn’t take it either.”
After Gabrielle’s tears had finally ran out, the couple took Cyrene’s advice and went down to the creek running behind the inn to their favorite tree. Gabrielle settling into Xena’s arms with a sigh of contentment.
“One thing guaranteed to always make me feel safe, your arms,” she muttered, laying her head on Xena’s chest.
The warrior smiled and hugged the bard close.
“What set them off?” Xena questioned after a few minutes of watching the creek stream by.
“That damned brand on my shoulder! And the scars from the lashings!” Gabrielle snapped, eyes blazing once again.
“Maybe we need to find something that covers your shoulders,” Xena suggested.
Gabrielle merely growled and snuggled back into her warrior’s arms.
After a moment she raised her head and looked into Xena’s blue eyes. “Wait a minute, aren’t you supposed to be working?”
“I saw the soldiers come into town and Dex and I grabbed weapons. When they didn’t make any threatening moves I figured they weren’t after us but I was keeping an eye on them while I worked. I saw them starting to hassle you and decided to see what was up.”
“Thanks, I wasn’t reacting quickly enough,” Gabrielle whispered with a frown.
“Hey, it’s normal after all you’ve been through. The first time I faced Cortese after he killed Lycius and raped me, I froze. Then I snapped.”
“I could get you killed if I freeze like that,” Gabrielle complained.
“Or yourself,” Xena agreed. “Gabrielle, you’ve faced it and gotten through it. It’ll get easier.” The warrior hugged Gabrielle close. “By the way,” she began slowly, causing Gabrielle to look up at her warrior. “what’s this about a Senator’s wife?” Xena grinned.
“Oh Gods, Brutus told Caesar I was leaving his celebration party to be with the wife of a Senator when we were really getting out of Rome, but I had no idea that would spark a rumor like that!” Gabrielle growled.
“A Senator’s wife, eh?” Xena grinned.
“Seems that as the top gladiator in Rome I could have had my pick of anyone, male or female,” Gabrielle grinned back.
“I still can’t believe how good you are sometimes,” Xena admitted.
The bard simply shrugged and then grinned an evil grin, “In bed or in the Arena?” she questioned.
The bard laughed as Xena blushed and then blushed herself as Xena joined her laughter. “Both, woman!” Xena stated. “I love you, little one,” Xena whispered.
“I love you too, warrior mine,” Gabrielle responded back by leaning up and meeting Xena’s lips. She was finally smiling when she snuggled back into Xena’s arms.
Xena had just finished helping her mom shut down the common room of the inn for the night when she felt a familiar raising of her hackles at the back of her neck. She went behind the bar and picked up her sword and started for the door.
“Xena?” Cyrene called out, suddenly concerned about the weapon in her daughter’s hands and the narrowing of Xena’s eyes.
“It’s okay, Mom, just going to take a look around outside before closing up,” Xena answered, going out the door.
Xena moved into the common area near the fountain, spinning her sword over her hand a couple of times, eyes taking in everything about the village.
“All right, Ares, I know you’re there. Show yourself,” she demanded and wasn’t surprised when he appeared in front of her, out of reach of her sword.
“I hate how you can do that!” he complained.
“What do you want?” she demanded, sword at the ready.
“Xena, do we have to go down the laundry list every time I visit?”
“Sure, passes the time,” she countered. “You want me back as Warlord and in your bed. You want Sasha as your daughter and heir and you want Gabrielle dead. Does that cover it?”
“I don’t care if Gabrielle lives or dies, although I do admit that I owe her for that little stunt in my temple,” he growled.
“Oh, you mean when she stabbed you twice and almost killed you?” Xena grinned and was pleased when he grumbled. “You already know that none of the above is going to happen, so what do you want?”
“Xena, let’s put our differences aside. We have a child together, I am her father. I’d like to get to know her,” he said easily.
“Never! Just because you happen to be the seed donor doesn’t mean a thing to me!” Xena snapped. “Besides, you all ready have more children with mortal women than you can count! Even the bards can’t keep up with you and Apollo!”
“Xena, I’m hurt. Besides, none of those women are you. Just think, you never really knew your father. Think of Sasha growing up not knowing her father. Is that fair?”
“Having you for a father isn’t fair,” Xena grumbled.
“Don’t push me, Xena,” Ares warned. “I’m trying to be civil about this.”
“She’ll know me eventually, Xena,” he stated.
“Hopefully before then she’ll be old enough to know what a lying, deceitful, power hungry bastard you are.”
Ares took a step forward as his eyes flashed with anger and stopped as Xena’s sword was pointed at his chest.
“Remember, I can hurt you now,” Xena grinned.
“Don’t turn your back to me, Xena,” Ares warned. “I don’t have a lot of patience.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just go away, Ares.”
With a flash he was gone and Xena sighed with relief.
“Will he ever leave us alone,” she grumbled to herself as she walked back towards the inn to gather Solan up and head home to her bard and daughter.
Xena was surprised to find Gabrielle awake and sitting at the kitchen table, a mug of tea in her hands. Solan gave his “Gabby Mom” a hug and headed for bed and Xena sat down at the table with her mate. Gabrielle pushed the mug towards Xena who took a sip of the warm liquid. The bard’s eyes were troubled.
“What’s up, little one?” Xena asked softly.
“I went to the woods today after helping Torris. I was hoping to work off some of whatever is pent up inside,” Gabrielle started and Xena nodded, understanding. The warrior had often found herself running just to work off pent up energy, anger or confusion.
“Did it help?” she asked simply.
“Yes, until those damned Romans,” Gabrielle frowned.
“Now you’ve got all kinds of pent up energy. You know that’s common after an encounter, Gabrielle. Especially since you didn’t get to bash heads. That flight or fight energy is suddenly pumping through your veins and there’s nowhere for it to go since things calmed down.”
“I know that, we deal with that all the time on the road. This is the other thing,” Gabrielle said softly, dropping her eyes.
Xena reached across the table and lifted Gabrielle’s chin until the bard’s eyes met hers.
“Damnit, Gabrielle, there is nothing to be ashamed of! It’s part of you and we’ll deal with it. Whatever it takes,” Xena said simply.
A tear escaped out of her bard’s eye and the warrior softly wiped it away and smiled at her mate.
“You accepted my past, including how I hurt others,” she reminded the bard.
“How can I accept it about myself?!” Gabrielle demanded. “We fought against the bacchae! What if Alti was right and Bacchus now has a hold on me again?”
“No! You are not a bacchae and you have control over your will. This isn’t a whole lot different than my dark side that comes out occasionally. Ares doesn’t have me and Bacchus doesn’t have you!”
Gabrielle merely nodded, looking very tired.
“Come on, my love, let’s go to bed. Those damned Romans should be gone tomorrow.” Xena suggested.
The warrior wasn’t surprised when the bard thrashed most of the night, held in nightmares. Xena held her mate and soothed her as best as she could.
As much as she tried to reassure Gabrielle, Xena was worried. This was really tearing at her bard and beginning to affect her mate.
The warrior thought that a trip just might be good for them. Give them some time on the road again and some bonding time with Sasha.
“Xena, can I talk to you?”
“Sure, Mom, what’s up?” Xena was surprised when her Mom had come up to her at the blacksmith shop just before quitting time. Dex grinned and waved Xena off. The warrior grinned her thanks and pulled the leather apron off and grabbed her sword and sheathed it, walking with her Mom. The warrior was even more surprised when her mom turned their direction away from the inn, towards the stream behind the inn.
Xena was quiet, letting her Mom gather her thoughts and pick the moment to begin whatever was on her mind.
Cyrene sat down on a rock next to the stream and Xena sat down on the grass beside the rocks, both watching the water fall as the sun began to set.
“You know I’m the Priestess of Hecate for this area,” Cyrene began.
“Yes,” Xena nodded.
“I have some shaman training and insight. I usually don’t say anything to anyone about it other than those in my worship group. Prophets, oracles, and seers aren’t exactly welcome in most villages.”
Xena nodded, she had seen followers of Hecate stoned or hanged as workers of evil, something Xena knew wasn’t true of the dark Goddess but it didn’t change a lot of people’s opinions. Most weren’t brave enough to face the darkness and feared it and they feared those who dealt with it.
“Xena, has Gabrielle talked to you?” Cyrene looked troubled.
Xena sighed. The warrior suddenly felt very tired and nodded.
“Are you talking about that darkness she’s feeling?” Xena asked, suddenly getting very worried for her bard.
“Yes, I was hoping that she had noticed it and talked to you about it. I can feel it falling and rising in her and it’s getting worse. It’s a good sign that she’s talking to you about it. What has she said?”
“You mean instead of keeping it inside and brooding about it, like I do?” Xena smiled a rueful smile. “She feels a craving for blood,” Xena was surprised at how simple that sounded when it didn’t feel simple at all. How could such simple words describe something that was beginning to eat away at her mate?
“How does she describe it?” Cyrene asked softly, watching the play of emotions on her daughter’s face, trying to gauge how it was affecting both Xena and Gabrielle.
“Like a buildup of water behind a dam, to use her words. She’s afraid of the craving overwhelming her during, uh, intimate moments and hurting me.” Xena was surprised to find herself blushing and then scolded herself. Talking about sex with your mom was guaranteed to make even a brothel worker blush, she kidded herself.
“That’s probably a good description. Has she come close to biting you?”
Xena found her blush turning even more red, she could feel it.
“Uh, yes,” she whispered, watching the water flow, not meeting her mother’s eyes. She could sense they had gotten wider.
“Xena, how bad?”
“Bad? It’s not like she grows fangs and drains me dry!” Xena protested. “She’s always been attached to my neck and she’s drawn blood a couple of times.” the warrior frowned.
“Was it intentional?” Cyrene asked.
“No, she wasn’t even aware it had happened. I found some blood on my neck and sometimes on her lips.” Xena muttered.
“What is she doing about the cravings on a conscious level?”
“Rare meat and reconnecting with the forest, trying to work off the energy.”
“That explains the bit yesterday and her forest clothes.” Cyrene nodded, putting pieces together. “It also explains the heightened energy I’m getting from her with the darkness.”
“Mom, explain, please,” Xena asked. “we’ve dealt with my darkness and learned to handle it mostly, what do we need to do for Gabrielle?”
“I’m not sure. I think it’s going to get worse when Fall begins to come around because of the harvest time. The bacchae get worse during that time because of all the harvest, especially the grape harvest. Bacchus is in full power.”
“Bacchus is dead,” Xena said flatly.
“No, daughter,” Cyrene said softly.
“What? I drove the dryad bone into his heart myself, as a bacchae.” Xena protested and wasn’t surprised when Cyrene went very pale.
It wasn’t something that Xena and Gabrielle talked about a lot, especially to others. Xena sighed.
“Bacchus had injured Orpheus so he couldn’t play and keep the bacchae calm. Orpheus came to me for help and Gabrielle was bitten and turned into a fledgling bacchae. You know this.” Xena began explaining, leaving out the part that the only thing left of Orpheus was his living head. The warrior didn’t think her mom needed to hear that image.
“Yes, from your shaman journey together but I don’t know the story,” Cyrene encouraged.
“Joxer, Orpheus and I went into Bacchus’ lair to stop him from turning the fledgling bacchae he had been gathering into coming full bacchae when they drank his blood, Gabrielle included. I fought Bacchus and thought I had kept Gabrielle from tasting his blood. I beat him and stabbed him with a dryad bone only for him to pop up again and tell us that only a bacchae could kill him.”
“I can see how that could be a problem, bacchae are mentally under his control so they wouldn’t turn against him but only one of them can kill him. What happened?”
“I let Gabrielle bite me and turn me,” Xena whispered.
“Oh my gods!” Cyrene whispered, clutching at her skirt.
“I changed and there was just enough of me and Gabrielle left for us to attack Bacchus and ram a dryad bone into his chest. He exploded and everyone changed back. He died.” Xena finished.
“He didn’t stay dead, Xena.”
“What?” Xena felt her breath quicken.
“He’s the God of wine, celebration, harvest, and all that stuff. He regained enough power to come back into the world. He hasn’t gathered bacchae around him yet but he probably will someday. That’s why I’m worried about the Fall season, his power is at it’s height and Gabrielle might be more sensitive to the darkness during that time.”
“Then we’ll deal with it,” the warrior said simply.
“I’ll try and find some answers on my end,” Cyrene reached down and squeezed her daughter’s shoulder reassuringly.
“I’m not sure what to tell you, Xena. Rare meat, even drinking animal blood might not be enough at times.” Cyrene frowned.
Xena felt a shudder. “You mean she might need human blood?”
“I don’t know. You know the bacchae need blood to survive but it’s not just the blood. If it were they would feed on animals.” Cyrene noted.
“It’s the sexual energy that goes with the blood, the arousal and fear of a bacchae feeding.” Xena whispered.
“What do you remember about it?”
Xena began blushing again, suddenly embarrassed to be talking to her mom about it. This was something she shared with Gabrielle, something they shared as fantasy during sex.
“I, uh...,” she stammered.
“I understand, Xena, but I need to know what to expect and what Gabrielle is going through. I’m not sure how serious this could be. I don’t want any of us to lose Gabrielle to Bacchus on any level.” Cyrene stated, letting Xena see the concern in her eyes and face as her daughter looked up at her.
Xena closed her eyes and sighed.
“I realized I would either have to kill Gabrielle to save her or risk being able to kill Bacchus as a bacchae myself. Bacchus sent Gabrielle after me, knowing I couldn’t kill her. I lowered the dryad bone and.... and told her to do it.” Xena hesitated, “I was so afraid, Mom. If we lost it meant Gabrielle’s soul would be lost.” Xena whispered.
“And yours,” Cyrene noted, taking in the tears falling from Xena’s closed eyes.
Xena opened her eyes and grinned a lopsided grin. “That never really meant a lot to me, you know.” Then her face grew serious again. “I felt her at my neck. I was so scared and I felt her body behind me, her hands pulling my head to one side,” Xena closed her eyes again, feeling her face blushing. “Fear and arousal are a lot alike and sometimes go together. They’re hard to separate and define. Her fangs pierced my neck.”
Cyrene watched Xena struggle to put into words the incident, taking in Xena’s shaking hands.
“I..., it was incredible. Part of the bacchae magic, I know. When it’s happening, all you want is for it to continue. It’s such a sexual rush that not much compares. Well, except Gabrielle.” Xena muttered the last part and blushed even more, causing Cyrene to grin at her daughter’s discomfort.
“Yes, that’s part of the dark magic they have. Their victims will come back for more and more, even to the point of death if the bacchae don’t turn them.” Cyrene agreed.
“I couldn’t believe it, how it felt, especially that it was Gabrielle. I already knew I was so head over heels in love with her that it hurt, having her at my neck as a bacchae was beyond belief.” Xena stated.
“Yet you fought against the bacchae magic enough to attack Bacchus,” Cyrene reminded her.
“Yes, I thought of losing Gabrielle to that darkness and turned and dived at Bacchus and Gabrielle found the strength to join me.”
“Gabrielle couldn’t fight Bacchus alone, though?”
“No, she hesitated when he ordered her to drink his blood but she almost followed through twice. I stopped her with my chakram the first time and then Joxer began playing the lyre and Orpheus began singing the second time, causing her to drop the chalice. She was his though.”
“That’s when she tasted some of the blood, even though none of you realized it at the time,” Cyrene said thoughtfully.
“When Bacchus calls the Bacchanalia, Gabrielle might not be able to resist and he might try and claim her as bacchae again,” Cyrene warned.
“Damn, when will the gods leave us alone!?” Xena growled.
Cyrene smiled. “I have a feeling that’s not going to happen in your lifetime, Xena.”
“Yeah, well, I’m tired of it. Maybe the trip up north will do us some good and get her away from Bacchus’ influence.”
“I think that might be a good idea, even though I’m going to miss all of you terribly.”
“We’ll be back, this is home now, Mom.” Xena grinned.
Cyrene brushed a tear away as Xena leaned on her mom’s leg. “I’m glad you’re home.”
“Me too. Mom, we’ve got to find a way to help Gabrielle face this. She’s everything to me.”
Cyrene knew that this was a difficult admission for her warrior daughter to make and stroked her daughter’s hair gently.
“I know, Xena. We’ll figure it out.”
Cyrene watched the water flow by in the river, pondering how to help her daughter and daughter-in-law.