THE GREATEST FEAR
By J. Browning
Disclaimers: The characters in this story do not belong to me. They are property of RENAISSANCE/MCA. The story is mine however; it depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women and scenes of violence-if this is illegal where you live or it bothers you or you aren't over 18 years of age, please read no further.
This is my first attempt at alternative fiction, so let me know what you think at email@example.com
A warm fire was burning in the middle of the small camp. The warrior sat on one side, sharpening her sword. Her best friend, the bard, sat on the other wrapped in a wool skin to warm herself from the coolness in the night air. Gabrielle was making dinner, some trout Xena had caught from the nearby river. She knew something was on Xena's mind, and she was right. As she started a conversation trying to gain Xena's attention, the warrior was lost deep in thought. 'I have to tell her,' Xena thought to herself, ' . . . She has to know how I feel about her. I know I've seen love in her eyes before, but is it the same kind of love that I feel for her?' The warrior was so immersed in her own thoughts, she never heard Gabrielle ask her what was wrong.
"Xena, do you hear me?" Gabrielle asked with concern for her friend.
"What? Oh, I'm sorry Gabrielle, did you say something?" Xena looked up from her sword.
"I asked you if you were okay," Gabrielle said, a definite tone of irritation in her voice.
"Oh, it's nothing, Gabrielle. I'm fine." Xena said, hoping to reassure the bard. The outburst that followed was one not even Xena could have seen coming.
"Why do you do that? Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? I'm genuinely concerned about your well-being, and you just close yourself off to me. Did it ever occur to you that I might be able to help you? No, you just withdraw into yourself. Well, I'm through worrying about you. You want to be so damn independent, fine. Handle it on your own. I'm going for a walk!" Gabrielle grabbed her staff and stormed off into the woods.
Xena sat dumbfounded for a few moments, then rose to chase after Gabrielle. She suddenly stopped, and thought it better to let her friend blow off some steam before they talked. 'Besides,' Xena thought, ' . . . I need to get my thoughts and feelings together before I can explain anything.' She put her sword and sharpening stone away, then walked over to the fire to continue cooking the dinner Gabrielle had left in her hasty exit.
"By the Gods, that woman is so stubborn!" Gabrielle shouted into the forest. "Can't she see how much I love her, and want to protect her? All she thinks about is saving the world and atoning for her past; will she ever look to the future - to our future?" Gabrielle took a deep, calming breath. She stopped shouting and began smiling, "Oh Gabrielle, get a grip. You're standing here talking to a bunch of trees!" She knew this was getting her absolutely nowhere. She decided to go back to the camp and talk to the hardheaded warrior, even if it meant a fight. 'It's time to tell her,' Gabrielle decided. With her mind made up, she headed back toward the camp.
When she arrived, she noticed Xena was picking up the wool skin she had thrown off her shoulders when she stormed out of camp. The bard also noted Xena had finished making dinner, and had plates made, one for each of them with two goblets filled with wine. Gabrielle walked up behind Xena, who had heard her enter the camp, and put her arms around Xena's waist. The sudden contact made Xena's body shudder. She placed one hand over both of Gabrielle's and sighed. Gabrielle started to speak first, "Xena I'm . . . "
"No Gabrielle, let's not talk about it yet, okay? Let's eat dinner first. Then, I promise we'll talk." Xena asked, her icy blue eyes melted the bard's heart.
Gabrielle looked up into those loving eyes and agreed. "Only on one condition though," Xena's eyes narrowed slightly. Gabrielle continued, "You let me talk first," her voice was that of a shy child. Xena only nodded her acceptance to the bard's condition. Over dinner, a comfortable silence fell between the two women; their only contact, quick glances at each other from across the fire.
With dinner finished, Gabrielle walked over to Xena and sat close to her best friend. "Xena," she began quietly. "I want to apologize about earlier." The warrior started to interrupt. "No, please, let me finish before you say anything," Gabrielle continued. "Xena, I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you, it's just I see you struggling, and I want to help. But, I can't help you if you don't open up to me." Tears formed in Xena's eyes as Gabrielle placed her hands gently on the warrior's arm.
Xena decided it was time to bare what was in her heart. "Oh, Gabrielle, don't you see? You've already helped me so much. The first day we met, you saved my life, and every day since, you've saved my soul. Every time I feel myself slipping back toward my darker side, you reach out and pull me back. I'm not as good as you are at reaching out and showing emotion, but I know I love you. I've known I've loved you for a long time, but I didn't know how to tell you. I guess I was afraid. Afraid of what I felt and afraid that you would leave me. I just can't pretend any longer, and if you want to leave, it's okay. I will understand, but know that I will always love you." She looked into the bard's crisp, green eyes to see them filled with tears.
"Oh Xena, why would I leave you when I feel the same way about you?" Gabrielle asked, no longer shy. "I've loved you from the day we met, but I kept trying to deny it. That's why I married Perdicus, to forget about my love for you. I was afraid my feelings wouldn't be returned."
Xena smiled, still reeling from the confessions she had heard and said, "I thought you weren't keeping any secrets from me any longer."
Gabrielle retaliated, "Hey, I didn't hear you pouring your heart out either!" Xena smiled and looked into her bard's deep green eyes and pulled her into a tight embrace. Gabrielle pulled back first. "Kiss me, Xena," she sighed breathlessly.
"Gabrielle, are you sure?" Xena asked, her eyes pleading the answer would be yes. She could feel her desire building for the woman she loved more than life itself.
"Yes. Xena I have never wanted anything more." Gabrielle stated firmly. "Xena, I have dreamed of this moment. I want to make love to you, but . . . I . . . well . . . I don't know how." She said as she lowered her eyes in embarrassment.
Xena placed her hand under Gabrielle's chin and raised her head. "It's okay. I know." Xena said, her eyes dark with passion and desire. She bent her head down and kissed the bard with all the love and admiration she felt for this woman. Gabrielle moaned, deep in her throat, at the contact. She turned her head slightly sideways and parted her lips, inviting Xena to enter. As their tongues met, fires raged in each woman. Their tongues danced together like perfectly matched partners, as low groans of desire escaped both women.
Suddenly, Xena broke the intimate contact and drew her sword. Startled, Gabrielle whispered, "What is it Xena? What do you hear?"
With her voice so low, it was barely audible, Xena replied, "I don't know yet. I'm going to check it out. Stay here!" Just as she started to walk toward the rustling in the woods, a horse appeared through the trees. A tall, blonde warrior was slumped over in the saddle.
"Ephiny! Xena, it's Ephiny!" Gabrielle shouted.
The warrior knew immediately that something was terrible wrong. Xena ran over to the horse and eased Ephiny out of the saddle. The body went limp in her arms. As Xena carried Ephiny's lifeless body to the bedrolls lying next to the fire, Gabrielle began to heat some water, knowing Xena would do everything in her power to help the broken amazon. Xena checked the amazon over for injuries, but found no trace of any, except for a dark bruise on the side of her face.
Gabrielle was nearly hysterical with fright as she asked, "What's wrong with her Xena? Why isn't she awake?" Xena looked up into eyes filled with tears, placed a hand on her shoulder and said, "I'm not sure yet, Gabrielle, but I think she's simply exhausted and has passed out."
"Will she be okay Xena? Is she going to die?" Gabrielle asked, her voice pleading for reassurance for her regent and friend.
"No Gabrielle, I don't think so. She just needs to rest." Xena said, hoping to calm the bard's nerves. As Xena rose and offered her arms, the bard flew into them, no longer able to contain her tears. The warrior held her tight as her sobbing slowly quieted. "Are you all right?" Xena asked when the crying had subsided.
"I will be as long as you're with me." Gabrielle responded with a light kiss to Xena's cheek. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, but you don't have to thank me for that. There's nothing more I want than to be with you. Let's try and get some sleep, okay? I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a long day."
Gabrielle walked over to her bedroll and laid down, but sleep did not come for her. Xena had positioned herself against a rock to keep a watchful eye over the camp. Ephiny lay, sleeping restlessly on Xena's bedroll. "Xena, I can't sleep." Gabrielle said, the frustration evident in her voice. "Will you come over here and hold me until I fall asleep?" she asked lovingly.
"Of course," Xena was elated just to be near her bard. "Besides, it has to be more comfortable than this rock!" She rose and moved over to Gabrielle. When she laid down, the bard snuggled into the warrior. They both fell into sleep, though neither of them slept well because of their concerns for Ephiny.
Xena woke at first light. She extricated herself from Gabrielle and went to check on Ephiny. As she bent down and touched the amazon's forehead, Ephiny bolted upright, swinging her arms violently. "No," she screamed. "Take your hands off him! Noooo!" Xena grabbed Ephiny by her shoulders and held her down against the bedrolls, trying to wake her.
Gabrielle was awakened by the commotion; she jumped up and ran to see if she could help. "What do we do Xena?"
"I'm not sure, but we've got to wake her before she hurts herself or one of us!" Xena yelled, while forcing the amazon down.
Ephiny's body calmed as she slowly opened her eyes. They were bloodshot and her face was stained with tears. "By the Gods, Gabrielle, Xena, I finally found you!" she said as tears rolled down her cheeks. It was only the second time Gabrielle had seen this woman cry; the first was the day the father of her son had been killed. Ephiny was one of the strongest women she'd ever met, and she knew something bad had happened.
Gabrielle hugged the amazon to give her some comfort and quietly asked, "Ephiny, what's the matter?"
"He's gone!" Ephiny screamed out over her sobs.
"Who, who's gone?" Xena asked with compassion in her voice.
"Xenan! He's been taken from me!" the crushed amazon wailed.
Xena's face grew deathly serious. She knew what it felt like to be without your own child. "Who, Ephiny. Who took him from you and why?" she asked. The anger in her icy blue eyes was unmistakable.
Ephiny had managed to calm herself down enough to speak, but Gabrielle refused to release her hold on the regent. Ephiny lowered her head and said with great sorrow, "Velasca. She's the one that took him."
Gabrielle gasped in horror. "Velasca? That crazy amazon we trapped in the lava pit? The one that wants nothing more than to see me dead-that Velasca?" Gabrielle said in shock.
"Yes," Ephiny replied. "She must have escaped from the lava and returned to take her revenge on the amazon nation. We didn't have a chance against her. She destroyed most of the village and most of the people in it. Many of our sisters have fallen, and the ones that haven't are hiding from her until I return. We attempted to stand our ground, but she is just too strong. She captured me and wanted me to tell her where the two of you were, but I refused. She started to beat me, and that's when it happened. Xenan had been hiding in the back of the hut under some blankets, but when Velasca hit me, he came running at her to save me. She grabbed him and knocked me out cold. When I regained consciousness, she had left a note on the floor. It read:
'You have married a centaur and bore this child, Ephiny.
Now you and this child are the enemy.
If you ever want to see him alive again,
You will bring Gabrielle and Xena to me.'
I'm sorry, but I had to come here. I've been riding for three days nonstop to get here. I need your help. I'll die if I lose him, he's the most important thing in my life!" Ephiny's vision started to blur as she looked through more tears.
With tears in her own eyes for her friend, Gabrielle said, "No, don't apologize. You did the right thing. Don't worry, we'll get your son back for you." She hugged Ephiny tightly.
"Gabrielle's right," Xena said, as she rose to pack up the camp. "We will get him back, that's a promise." She gave the two amazons a convincing smile, hoping it hid the fear she felt. She had faced Velasca once, and it had not been easy. Velasca was a god. And now, Xena didn't have an immortal to aid them since she had killed Callisto. Thoughts of fear and anger flooded Xena's mind as the three of them packed up and headed for the amazon village.
The two amazons and the warrior traveled for two days, stopping briefly to rest, then, pushing on toward the village. "We'll make camp here for tonight," Xena said dryly, "we'll be in the amazon village by tomorrow afternoon."
Ephiny could sense a change in Gabrielle since she found out about Velasca. She walked over to Xena, who was unpacking Argo, and said, "Xena, I think you may need to speak to Gabrielle. I'm worried about her."
"Yes, Ephiny. I think you're right. Why don't you go hunt for dinner, and I'll speak to her?" Xena looked at her friend, who smiled and thanked her with only a nod of her head.
"Where's Ephiny going?" Gabrielle asked, trying to sound interested.
"She's going to find us dinner." Xena replied, never taking her eyes off the bard. She walked over to Gabrielle, put a strong arm around her waist, and pulled her close. Lost in the embrace, Gabrielle's defenses went down as she began to weep. Xena held her tightly, "Shhh, it's okay. I'm here, I'll always be here. Everything will be fine, you'll see. I love you, Gabrielle."
The bard nodded through her tears and sobbed, "I know. I love you too, but, you remember what it was like the last time we fought Velasca. Xena, I'm afraid. Afraid for Ephiny's family and the rest of the amazons, afraid for my own life, and I'm especially afraid of losing you."
Xena lifted Gabrielle's head, placed a hand under her chin, and kissed her softly. "Nothing will tear me away from you. We have so much lost time to make up for. Everything is going to be fine, I promise." Gabrielle's body eased slightly at the warrior's words of comfort.
As Ephiny returned with two rabbits, Gabrielle made stew. The three travelers ate in silence, each absorbed in their own thoughts and fears. Knowing tomorrow was the day of reckoning made it hard for any of them to find sleep. Ephiny finally dozed off, but Gabrielle lay wide awake on her bedroll. She was pleasantly surprised when Xena laid down behind her. The warrior placed tender arms around the bard. Even Gabrielle couldn't withstand the feeling of safety in her warrior's embrace; she and Xena drifted off into a restless sleep.
They awoke at sunrise, packed up their belongings, and headed to rest of the way to the village. No one knowing what to say, they traveled in silence. When they arrived, the village had been almost destroyed. A small number of huts were left standing, but there were no signs of life. Ephiny's eyes filled with tears, "I should have been here. I'm responsible for these women, and now many have died because I fled."
"No. Ephiny, I will not have you talking like that." Gabrielle stated firmly with new found strength. "I am the amazon queen, and I deserve to know what is happening to my people. I chose you to rule in my absence and I wouldn't have picked you if you couldn't do the job. You are a wonderful regent queen, and you had no other choice but to come find me. Besides, you need our help." Gabrielle ended the conversation quickly without leaving room for any retaliation from Ephiny, "Now, let's see if we can find anyone alive."
They searched through the bodies lying throughout the camp, but found none living. Just then, the trees rustled, and a small group of amazons swung down from above. "Epinon, Solari!" Ephiny shouted in awe, "I thought you were . . . "
As Solari landed, she fell to the ground clutching her left leg. "No, love. We're not dead, just some minor injuries." She tried to stand, but her leg wouldn't allow it. Ephiny and the others ran to her side. Xena examined the leg as Ephiny held Solari in a tight embrace.
"Your leg is broken." Xena said.
"I thought so." Solari countered, as pain-inflicted tears began to stream down her face.
"I'm going to set for you, okay?" After a slight nod from the amazon, Xena blocked off the feeling to her leg with one swift stroke. She pulled the bone until it looked straight, then braced it with some pieces of wood lying nearby. When she released the blockage, the pain overwhelmed the amazon warrior. The amazon attempted to suppress a cry of pain, and in an instant, Ephiny was there to hold her friend and life-mate. "Don't worry," Xena said with a compassionate smile, "I've seen grown men pass out from less."
The handful of broken warriors moved to a hut that had survived Velasca's onslaught. Once inside, Gabrielle helped Xena set up a healing area where the injured could be treated. After everyone had received the proper attention, Xena started to speak. "I'm going to find Velasca," she stated with little emotion. "Does anyone know where she is hiding?"
Epinon responded first, "I think she is held up in the caves to the north. It isn't but half a day's ride. I'd like to go with you, I have my own score to settle with that bitch."
"Thank you for the directions, but I'll be going alone." Xena said, then looked into Gabrielle's eyes that held a raging fury.
"No Xena! If anyone is going with you, it will be me." Gabrielle yelled, her emotions getting the better of her. Xena raised an eyebrow and started to argue, but Gabrielle interrupted. "I know she is here because she wants me dead. We fought her once, we'll just do it again. If we lose, then I'll probably die, but I won't let you throw your life away trying to protect me. If it's me she wants, it's me she'll get." The determination on the bard's face told Xena it was useless to argue, no matter how badly she wanted to.
"Okay Gabrielle, you're right. We'll do this together." Xena looked into those loving green eyes of her bard and felt the fear settle in the pit of her stomach.
"Wait!" Ephiny yelled, "my son's being held captive by that woman, and you expect me to stay here?"
"Ephiny," Xena began slowly, "I need you here to watch over the other amazons in case something happens to us. I promise you, I'll bring your son back to you or I'll die trying. I know what it feels like to be away from your children." Xena's eyes held nothing but compassion for the amazon.
"Okay," Ephiny replied a bit unwillingly, "Xena, please be careful. The lives of our queen and my son are in your hands."
Xena and Gabrielle set out just before sunset that night. They wanted to be at the caves by first light. As they prepared to leave the amazon camp, Gabrielle walked over to Ephiny. "I need you to do me a favor," she asked the regent quietly.
"Anything Gabrielle. What do you need me to do?" Ephiny asked, ready to do whatever her queen asked.
"In case this thing with Velasca goes bad, I want you to take my right of cast." Gabrielle said, her voice low and quiet.
"No," Ephiny stated bluntly. "I will not. I don't want you to give up hope Gabrielle. You know Xena will do everything in her power to . . . "
"I know, and I'm not giving up." Gabrielle said with a small, frightened smile on her face. "I just want to be prepared, you know?"
Ephiny knew her queen was right. Even with Xena's help, there was a good chance none of them would survive. "Okay, Gabrielle. I'll take it, but you make sure you come back to us. You're the kindest, most generous queen we've ever had, and I don't think the other amazons are ready to give you up just yet; neither am I."
They both smiled as they embraced. Xena mounted Argo, reached a hand down for Gabrielle, and swung her into the saddle. They rode off toward the northern caves in silence.
As they rode Argo over the rough terrain, Gabrielle broke the unbearable silence. "Xena," she began, "in case we don't make it out of this, I want to tell you . . . "
"No!" Xena shouted. "I don't want to hear that kind of talk from you. You and I will be fine. I'm not going to lose you, not after I just found you."
"But Xena, Velasca's a god. How do you destroy a god? There's only one way, and we don't have the Hind's Blood Dagger any longer."
"I don't need that cursed Dagger. I'll just think of something else." Xena said with determination in her voice.
"Xena, there is no other way to destroy her. Why don't we just give her what she wants? Maybe she'll leave you and the amazons alone." Gabrielle knew the warrior wouldn't like her proposal, but she could find no other way out of the situation.
Xena was so stunned as the bard's words, she could feel her heart stop beating. "Let's say, for a moment, we go along with your plan. Velasca will kill you. If that were to happen, I would willingly sacrifice my own life to her. I do not want to live without you, do you understand? We've been through so much together, how can you expect me to watch you walk to your death? If you give your life to her, Gabrielle, trust that I will not be far behind. Tatarus would be nothing compared to the torture of losing you." Xena's eyes filled with tears as she spoke.
"Xena, I can't lose you again. It nearly destroyed me when you left the first time. I couldn't bear it again, I won't. I'm just afraid." She said as her own tears streamed down her face.
"I know," Xena said calmly, "I'm afraid too."
Gabrielle hugged her arms around Xena's waist and began to relax slightly. Neither of them spoke, but both relished in the love they felt for one another. They rode o throughout the night; Gabrielle dozed off periodically.
She was brought out of her sleep by Xena gently caressing her face. "Gabrielle, wake up. We're here."
The bard's eyes opened slowly until she remembered where 'here' was. Her body stiffened when she saw the cave. "Is she in there?"
Xena replied, "I think so. I'm going to go check, but I want you to stay here." Gabrielle started to refute, but Xena silenced her by holding a finger up to her lips. "I will be back for you. I'm just checking things out, okay?" Gabrielle nodded and slid behind some trees for cover. With all her senses on full alert, the warrior eased her way toward the cave. Once inside, she moved to the larger area in the back. She could see Xenan bound to the wall by chains. Her blood boiled. She glanced around for Velasca, but found no trace of her.
Just then, Xena's sixth sense kicked in. She spun around to face Velasca. "Well well, look who's decided to join us!" Velasca grinned. "So glad you could come. Now, where's that precious little Gabrielle?!"
"Yi Yi Yi Yi Yi Yi!" Xena cried as she flipped over the amazon's head, sending a forceful kick to the back of the head. Velasca went down, but rose quickly, the kick having little effect. She sent bolts of energy in Xena's direction, but the warrior jumped out of the way swiftly. The bolts hit nearby rocks, sending them into Xena. On of the larger pieces hit her in the side of the head and knocked her to the ground.
Gabrielle could hear the sounds of battle inside the cave. Her feet wouldn't move fast enough to get her inside. She entered the cave and saw Velasca standing over her warrior, pointing a finger at her and grinning.
"VELASCA!" Gabrielle cried out, her love for Xena giving her courage.
"Oh, I see you've come to join the party too-good, I've been looking for you." Velasca hissed as her anger for the bard took over.
"You want me," Gabrielle taunted, "come get me!" The bard ran out into the woods.
Velasca grabbed the nearly unconscious Xena by the hair and drug her out into the open. "You won't run far Gabrielle, not while I have your beloved Xena."
The bard knew she was right. She stepped out from behind a tree and said, "Okay, Velasca. I'm here, put Xena down."
The amazon warrior was pleasantly surprised, "You mean, you're not going to put up a fight?"
"I never said that." Gabrielle stated calmly. "I have a proposition for you. You still believe I have no right to be the amazon queen, don't you?"
"I should have been the queen! I was born of royal amazon blood. Not you!"
"Yes, that's true." Gabrielle continued, "but, you've lost all your honor as an amazon. You destroyed Artemis' temple and killed many of your sisters. I know how you can get it all back."
Velasca released her hold on Xena. The warrior dropped to the ground, but looked up at the bard with great fear. "Go on." The amazon said.
"Well, I'm the queen, and you are still an amazon. So, why don't you just issue the royal challenge. If you win, I'll be dead and you can have whatever you want. But, it I win, you must swear on your life as a true amazon, that you will leave us alone, forever."
"You would take my word?" Velasca asked, a bit shocked by what the bard was implying.
"Only if you swear on your life. Oh, there is one more thing. An amazon prides herself on her skills and honor. If you really want to challenge me for your honor, you must promise to do so as a mortal-none of your godly powers." Xena was very proud and afraid of the courage her bard was showing. She got up and walked over to stand behind Gabrielle. The bard continued, "If you agree to that, I'll promise Xena won't interfere."
The warrior's eyes went wide with shock. "Gabrielle, you can't!" Xena pleaded.
"I don't have any other choice. Trust me love, I will come back to you." The bard was gone before Xena could protest.
"Okay," Velasca agreed, grinning at Gabrielle. The bard quickly readied her staff for the oncoming battle. Velasca drew her sword. As the two first met, Xena prayed to Artemis to watch over Gabrielle and give her the strength she needed to win. Velasca swung her sword at the bard's stomach, but Gabrielle side stepped the thrust and retaliated with a hard staff blow to the head. The two fighters went back and forth for what seemed like an eternity to Xena. Much to the warrior's delight, Gabrielle actually had the upper hand.
She had finally pinned Velasca to the ground and held her there with her staff across the throat. "Do you yield?" the bard screamed out. Velasca nodded in defeat. Gabrielle rose to her feet, her body aching from the physical exertion she had endured. Xena began to run toward her love only to be stopped in mid-stride from shock. Velasca jumped to her feet, and in one swift move, drove her sword deep into Gabrielle's side.
"NOOOO!" Xena screamed. Gabrielle's body slumped to the earth, blood spilling out onto the ground. With a raging fury, Xena leapt toward Velasca and kicked her squarely in the face. This sent the amazon flying into the air. A bright light shown in the sky as Artemis appeared. She struck quickly at Velasca. With one bolt of energy and a flash of light, the amazon warrior was gone. Artemis lowered herself to Gabrielle just as Xena rushed to the bard's side.
"Gabrielle, wake up. Can you hear me?" Xena sobbed. "Help me Artemis, please don't let her die. I can't lose her!"
Artemis placed her hands on Gabrielle's side. Bright light emitted from the bard's body. The bleeding slowed, but she still did not wake up. "Xena, I have done all I can. The rest is up to Gabrielle."
"Thank you for saving her. Why did you . . . ?" Xena questioned the moon goddess.
"Velasca wasn't a true god. She had no respect for the power given to her. She destroyed many of my amazons and tried to kill my chosen queen." Artemis placed her hand over Gabrielle's forehead. "Quickly Xena. You must take her back to the village to rest. She is strong, but the wounds are severe." Xena returned quickly to the cave, freed Xenan and found a blanket to wrap Gabrielle in. "Xenan, I need you to hurry. We have to get Gabrielle back home and you back to your mother." Xena wrapped the blanket tightly around the bard trying not to damage her further.
With Gabrielle laying in her arms, she mounted Argo and reached a hand down for Xenan. "It's okay, Xena. I can run with you. We will get there faster this way."
Xena was surprised at the young centaur's bravery. "Okay, but if you get tired, you let me know." Xenan nodded in compliance. They left the caves and made their way south to the amazon village.
Ephiny and Solari were standing beside each other waiting and watching toward the rolling hills hoping to see Xena's return. Solari turned to look at Ephiny, whose face was grief stricken. "How are you holding up my love?" Solari asked with concern.
"I'll be okay when I see my son come up over those hills." Ephiny responded truthfully.
"Everything will be fine, you'll see." Solari took the regent's hands in her own.
"Thank you," Ephiny said, trying hard to maintain her composure. "Just having you near me gives me strength I didn't know I had."
Solari smiled warmly and leaned down to kiss her soul mate gently. As they both turned back to the hills, two figures appeared. Ephiny held her breath until she could see it was Xenan. As she ran toward her son, tears flowed freely down her face.
"Mother!" Xenan cried out.
"Xenan, are you hurt, sweetheart?" Ephiny managed to choke out.
When she reached her son, they embraced tightly. The reunion of mother and son was one of such emotion, even Xena's eyes betrayed her as they filled with tears. "No mother, I'm okay." The young centaur said bravely.
Ephiny looked at Solari and smiled. "Please take Xenan back to the hut and have him checked for injuries."
Solari nodded in agreement and started off with Xenan as he began to speak his objection, "No mother. I don't want to go, please."
Ephiny smiled at her son, "Xenan, I need to speak with Xena alone. Please dear, go with Solari. I promise, I'll be there with you shortly." She placed a light kiss on his forehead as he reluctantly agreed. Ephiny looked at Xena, "I can't thank you enough for . . . " she then noticed her queen lying unconscious across Xena's lap. "Oh Gods! Xena what happened?"
Xena handed Gabrielle over to Ephiny's waiting arms and said, "We'll talk later. I want to get her somewhere that I can take care of her." Once down off Argo, Xena took the bard into her own arms as the two warriors made their way to the healing hut. Ephiny heated some water and prepared some clean bandages for the sword wound. "Xena, is she going to die?" she asked, readying herself for the worst.
Xena laid Gabrielle's lifeless body on the small bed. She washed the wound and used some herbs to make a salve and dressed the wound. The bard still had not woken. Fear crept into Xena's voice, "Ephiny, I just don't know. She's been beaten badly; she has a nasty gash in her side. I've done everything for her that I know to do. The rest is up to her." Xena's confidence and strength started to fade as she admitted, "She has to come back to me, Ephiny. I don't know what I'll do without her."
Ephiny could see Xena's heart was breaking. A small gash on the side of Xena's head was seeping blood into the warrior's hair. "Here," Ephiny said as she took Xena by the hand, "why don't you let me look at that cut on your head?"
"No," Xena said roughly as she removed her hands from the regent's. "I want to be here when she wakes up."
"Xena," the regent said tentatively, "you'll do her no good if you don't take care of yourself. You and I both know how she worries about you." Xena knew Ephiny was right. They sat beside a small table while Ephiny cleaned and bandaged the wound.
Finally being able to relax somewhat, Xena's emotions betrayed her once again. "Ephiny, I'm afraid." Xena said as tears formed in her blue eyes.
"I know you are," Ephiny answered, "I am too, but, you know how strong she is. Besides, she's too stubborn to just give up. We can't lose hope. We have to be strong-strong for each other and for Gabrielle."
"I don't know if I can. She's my heart and soul. I'll be lost if she dies." Xena's tears were now free flowing.
Ephiny hugged her friend. "It'll be okay Xena. You'll see. Gabrielle will return to you and to us." She hoped the queen wouldn't make a liar out of her.
"Thank you," Xena said as Ephiny released her hold on the warrior. "Could I have some time alone with her?"
"Of course, Xena," the regent replied, "why don't I find some food and have it brought to you, you must be starving."
Xena thought to herself, 'not really, but I do need to eat to keep my strength up.' "Thanks, that would be great." She told the regent.
As soon as Ephiny left the hut, Xena rose from the table, walked over to the bed, and knelt down beside her bard. "Gabrielle," she started to speak, "come on love, please wake up." She took one of Gabrielle's hands and placed it on her cheek. Tears of fear and love fell down the warrior's face. "Gabrielle, please don't leave me. Not again, I couldn't possibly go through it again. You told me you would come back to me, don't start going back on your word now. You are the source of my strength, I'd be lost without you. I'm so sorry, I should have done something more. This is all my fault. You are the most important thing in my life, and I keep putting in harm's way. You deserve better than that. Oh, Gabrielle, PLEASE COME BACK TO ME! I can't go on alone. I love you." Xena stood, brushed the hair back out of Gabrielle's face, and placed a gentle kiss on the bard's forehead. As she did so, a solitary tear dripped onto Gabrielle's eyelid. The bard gasped for air as she bolted upright in the bed.
Xena quickly took the bard into her arms, "Gabrielle, love, can you hear me?"
Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes as her breathing returned to normal. "Xena, I heard everything you said. I love you too." Her voice was raspy from disuse. "Xena, what happened? The last thing I remember is Velasca . . . her sword . . . "
"Shhh love, don't talk about it. We're back in the amazon village. You did it, Gabrielle. You defeated Velasca. Oh love, I'm so proud of you. I thought I was going to lose you. I love you so much." Xena said, sobbing as she fell into Gabrielle's outstretched arms.
"Oh Xena, I won't ever leave you. You are more important to me than anything in this world." Gabrielle said as she kissed Xena lightly, "what about Xenan, is he okay?"
Xena smiled lovingly at her bard. "Everybody's fine thanks to you. The amazons have even managed to salvage some of the huts in the village." Xena said, in awe to hear Gabrielle so concerned after a near death experience.
"Xena," Gabrielle asked, "would you do me a favor?"
"Anything Gabrielle, anything you want."
"Get me something to eat, I'm starving!" Gabrielle laughed as Xena smiled. She knew the warrior had worried herself sick, and she was glad to see a smile come to her lover's face.
"Actually, Ephiny's having some sent here as we speak. Come on, we'd better let the others know their beloved queen is doing well."
Gabrielle nodded. She winced slightly at the pain in her side when Xena helped her stand. They walked out into the village and were greeted with amazon cries of surprise and happiness. Ephiny walked over to her queen, bowed her head slightly, and said, "Gabrielle, we are so happy you are okay. I just wanted to thank you for saving my son. I owe you his life."
The queen embraced the regent, "You don't owe me anything, after all, he is my nephew!"
Despite the destruction of the village, a celebration was being prepared. One to welcome the return of Ephiny's son and Queen Gabrielle. At the ceremony, the amazons laughed and danced, simply elated that things were returning to normal. As the celebration began, Ephiny stood and said, "I couldn't think of a better reason to have a celebration than to honor our friends . . . " Ephiny looked at Xena and mouthed a 'thank you,' "our families . . . " the regent took the hands of Xenan and Solari, " . . . and our queen." Ephiny smiled at Gabrielle. "We are indeed a lucky group of amazons." The rest of the tribe agreed with cries of joy into the night air. Everyone sat around a huge bonfire, ate and laughed, and rejoiced in each other's company.
Xena, however, kept a watchful eye on her bard. Noticing a grimace on Gabrielle's face every time she moved, Xena walked over and sat behind her. She wrapped her strong arms around Gabrielle's chest and rocked gently. She leaned down and whispered into the bard's ear, "Have I told you how much I love you?"
"Yes, love. Why do you think I came back?" Gabrielle teased. "It's because I love you more than life itself, that's why I had to save you. I was sure Velasca would have killed you."
"I know why you did it. But, I don't want to think about it. I'm very grateful, but if I never have to go through that again, it will be too soon. Let's just enjoy our love tonight and every night from here on."
Gabrielle looked up into Xena's eyes, cupped her face in her hands, and kissed her passionately. As Gabrielle's lips started to part to allow Xena entrance, the warrior broke the contact. "No," she began slowly, "Gabrielle, I want nothing more than this right now, but you're not completely recovered. I won't do anything that might cause you harm. I want you so badly, I can taste it love, but if I don't stop now, I won't be able to. Trust me, it will be well worth the wait, okay?"
The bard knew the warrior was right. 'Besides,' she thought, 'my side is aching terribly.'
It was as though Xena could read the bard's mind. "Come on, you've had enough partying for tonight, you need to rest." The warrior and bard rose. Gabrielle excused herself, and they retreated to the royal hut. Once inside, Xena began to make herbal tea for Gabrielle's pain. The bard rummaged in the saddle bags and found two loose fitting,
white shirts. She took one, then handed the other to Xena. After they had both changed, Gabrielle drank her tea, and settled into bed. Without having to be asked, Xena snuggled in behind the bard, pulling her close, but being very careful not to strike the wound. They drifted off into a peaceful sleep, which was welcomed greatly by both warrior and bard.
Dusk was quickly approaching as Gabrielle ran toward a tall, raven-haired warrior, "Xena!" the overjoyed bard screamed. "I'm so glad to see you. I missed you so much."
"Oh Gabrielle, I've missed you too!" the warrior exclaimed. Gabrielle threw her arms around Xena's waist, but Xena was tentative in her embrace.
"Xena?" the amazon queen questioned, "what's the matter?"
"Nothing love. I don't want to hurt you, how's your side?" Xena asked with loving concern. Xena had been away for two moons. She and Epinon had traveled to one of the sister amazon villages to the north to gather much needed supplies for the extensive rebuilding.
"My side is fine, Xena. Do you always worry so much about me?" Gabrielle asked as she placed a quick kiss on the warrior's lips.
As the warrior leaned down to examine the wound for herself, she found it healing nicely. It would hardly even leave a scar. "Yes," Xena stated firmly, "you are the most important thing in my life. Of course I worry."
A soft moistness developed in the bard's eyes. "I love you Xena," she said with a smile that conveyed all of her love and emotion for the woman standing before her.
"I love you too, Gabrielle." Xena said, lowering her head to capture the bard's mouth. Their lips met with such passion, Gabrielle's legs went weak. As the kiss deepened, Xena parted her lips and lightly caressed Gabrielle's with her tongue, asking for entrance. The bard soon followed her lead and opened her mouth as well. As tongue met tongue, their passion and desire raised to new heights neither woman had ever felt before. Xena was the first to break the contact. When an irritated blonde bard looked questionably into the warrior's face, she simply replied, "Wait, love. Let's take things slow. Believe me, I want this, I want you, but . . . "
"NO!" Gabrielle stated forcefully, "Xena, I don't want to stop. I don't want to slow down. I know you think I'm this fragile little girl, but I'm not. I know what I want, and I want you . . . Now!" She leaned up and took the warrior's mouth once again. The passion that the kiss held surprised even Xena.
"All right love," Xena said as she swept the bard into her arms and carried her toward the queen's quarters, "you win." Gabrielle just smiled as she wrapped her arms around her warrior's neck and placed loving kisses on Xena's throat.
Once in the hut, Xena set Gabrielle down and turned to lock the door. Abruptly, she felt small, strong hands undoing her armor plate. "Here," Gabrielle said seductively, "let me help you out of your armor." Xena sighed heavily, but did not protest. She loved the feel of the bard's hands on her skin. Slowly, piece by piece, Gabrielle removed Xena's armor, then her leather tunic. Standing naked in front of her bard, Xena began to unlace Gabrielle's top. The bard could feel herself growing wetter every time the warrior's hands would brush against her skin. The contact of their naked bodies was driving both women mad with desire. "Oh Xena," Gabrielle moaned, " . . . I need to feel your hands on my body, please!"
"Anything you desire, my bard," Xena growled lustfully. She scooped the bard's body up in her arms and carried her over to the bed. "We'll go slow my love, just tell me what you want," the warrior said, looking deep into Gabrielle's green eyes. She laid her gently on the bed, being careful not to rest her entire weight on the small body beneath her.
"I want . . . " it was suddenly hard for the bard to formulate words as her overwhelming passion took over. She drew in a deep breath and said, "Xena, I want to feel your hands and tongue on me. I want to feel your fingers inside me. Please Xena, now!" the bard begged for the warrior's touch.
A very surprised warrior looked suspiciously at the young woman. She raised an eyebrow in question, "Gabrielle, how do you know . . . ?"
The bard answered shyly, "I've been talking to some of the other amazons about their love customs. Ephiny was especially helpful."
Xena grinned and nodded, "Oh, I see." She bent down and kissed Gabrielle, letting her tongue enter the bard's mouth with gently force. The amazon queen moaned deep in her throat. The warrior's tongue toyed with Gabrielle's earlobe as she rested her weight on one elbow. Her free hand traveled down the bard's body, every touch eliciting a shudder and moan from the smaller woman. She rubbed her palm over the nipple, feeling it harden at her touch. She lowered her head to take the other in her mouth, letting her tongue run over every inch of the delectable flesh. The bard arched her back into the contact. Both women sighed and pulled each other closer, trying to draw their very essence within one another. Xena let her hand move down the bard's stomach over firm muscles until it rested at the apex of hair just above the thighs. "Gabrielle, are you sure?"
She asked, wanting to know for certain this was what the bard wanted.
"Yes Xena, please! I need to feel you, please!" Gabrielle begged.
The warrior needed no more encouragement. She let her fingers slip inside the velvety folds of her bard. She was surprised at the dampness she found there. She slowly inserted one finger into Gabrielle's opening, being careful not to cause the bard pain. Gabrielle gasped, not in pain, but in pleasure. "Oh, Xena!" she screamed. The warrior inserted another finger and began pumping them in and out. Soon, the bard had found a rhythm thrusting her hips in time with Xena's fingers. No longer being able to contain herself, Xena trailed kisses down Gabrielle's stomach until her shoulders rested comfortably between the bard's thighs, and allowed herself to taste the flesh she had previously only dreamed about. As her tongue found the already swollen nub at Gabrielle's center, Xena sucked and licked until she could feel the bard's muscle tighten and loosen. She knew it wouldn't be long. Gabrielle's hands that had been buried deep in the warrior's long, dark tresses, now fell to the bed and grasped the blankets into tight fists. One final flick of the warrior's tongue and the bard screamed out senseless words of love and passion, "Ooohhhh, Xeeeenaaaaa!" she cried, as her climax took over. Waves of ecstacy washed over the bard, she collapsed onto the bed, trying desperately to control her breath.
Xena rose to cradle Gabrielle in her arms. "I love you, Gabrielle," was the only thing she said.
"By the Gods, Xena. I've never felt anything like that before. I love you too!" she managed to say. With the strength she had left, she turned toward her warrior and kissed her passionately, "Xena, I want to . . . "
"Shh, just rest now," the warrior whispered, "we have all the time in the world to be together."
"Mm" Gabrielle moaned as Morpheus consumed the young queen. Xena too, was quick to find sleep. She snuggled up behind the woman she loved and dreamed, not of war or her past, but of love and peace.
As the sun shown brightly through the window, the warrior awoke. She laid still, careful not to wake the snoring bard. She removed herself from the bed and set off to find something for breakfast. Ephiny watched in amusement as the warrior crossed the amazon compound. "Good morning, Xena." the regent said, a knowing smile on her lips, "I trust you slept well."
"Uh, fine. Thank you." Xena said shyly. "I want to bring Gabrielle breakfast in bed, can you help me? I'm afraid I don't know where anything is."
She smiled as the regent walked over and placed a soft hand on her shoulder. "Come on Xena, Gabrielle has told me about your cooking!" Ephiny laughed as the warrior broke into a wide grin.
"Yeah, I guess you're right!" Xena exclaimed with a joy on her face that Ephiny couldn't remember ever seeing there before.
"I'll have some food prepared and brought to your quarters, how's that?"
Xena leaned over and hugged her friend, "Thanks, that would be great."
Xena returned to the hut to wake her bard, but Gabrielle was no longer in the bed. In fact, Xena couldn't find her anywhere in the room. Panic started to overtake the warrior as desperation filled her voice, "Gabrielle, love, where are you?" Her eyes searched frantically for the young woman.
"In here, Xena." came the low reply.
Xena rushed to the other room, where Gabrielle sat on the edge of a tub, filled with steaming hot water, in her amazon queen leathers. The sight made Xena gasp. "What in Hades are you doing?" she asked, raising her eyebrow.
"Oh come now, surely you aren't complaining?" the bard replied seductively. She rose from where she sat and began to take her leather top off. Slowly, with the awe-struck warrior watching intently, she removed every piece of clothing. Once naked, she strode over to Xena, and began removing her clothes as well. As their bodies met, Xena moaned. She reached out for Gabrielle, but the bard took her hands forcefully. "No!" she said with authority, "I'm going to make love to you. You will give yourself to me, do you understand?" Xena could only whimper in acceptance. She never knew Gabrielle had such power and passion within her. A fact that was indeed, making her very wet with anticipation.
Gabrielle kissed Xena passionately. Without asking for entrance, the bard forced her tongue into the warrior's mouth. She grasped Xena's hands and led her to the steaming tub. "Would my warrior like a bath?" she asked, her eyes burning with desire.
"Oh, yes." the warrior replied breathlessly. She sat down into the tub and helped Gabrielle in. The bard straddled the warrior's lap and began rubbing herself against Xena. The warrior threw her head back, nearly climaxing at the contact. "Gabrielle," the warrior tried to formulate words, "I never knew you could . . . " her thoughts were interrupted as the bard took her nipple in her mouth. "Oh, Gabrielle, please, yes, oh please don't stop!"
'So, the power makes the big, strong warrior beg, huh? I'll have to keep this mind.' the bard thought to herself as she ran her tongue slowly over the erect nipple. She moved her mouth over the other breast, giving it the same attention as the other. Xena arched her back trying to deepen the contact. Gabrielle leaned up and claimed the warrior's mouth once more. Xena's eyes held nothing but love and desire. "Xena, wait. We have to slow down or I'll take you right here. I want this to be perfect for you."
"It is perfect Gabrielle. I'm with you."
"Thank you, but I . . . well, I kind of planned it out." she looked lovingly into Xena's eyes. "Please?"
Xena smiled, how could she deny her love anything? "Okay love. Whatever you say." she said as she gave Gabrielle total control.
Gabrielle soaped up her hands and washed the warrior, slowly and deliberately exploring every inch of Xena's body. Her touch was driving the raven-haired woman mad. The warrior's wetness was already dripping down her thigh, she was unsure just how much more of this loving torture she could take. Gabrielle stood and helped the warrior out of the tub. The bard kissed her hard while patting her dry, and led her to the bed. As Xena laid back, she pulled the bard over top of her, bringing her hands to the bard's breasts. "Oh," Gabrielle moaned, "Xena, I need you so much. Let me make love to you."
Xena complied without hesitation, dropping her hands to the blankets, giving herself completely to the bard. Gabrielle kissed her neck wildly as her hands moved over Xena's breasts. The nipples hardened instantly in her palm. The warrior moaned and grasped the bard's shoulders, pushing her down toward her need. Gabrielle answered with a soft nip with her teeth on the already erect nipple. Xena lost all coherent thought as she pleaded, "Please, I can't take much more. Please, Gabrielle, Now!"
The bard would deny her warrior nothing. "Yes, my love." was all she said as she lowered her body until her shoulders were between Xena's legs. As she slipped her fingers into Xena's sex, she was delighted at the moistness she found. She knew it was for her and her alone. Her own juices flowed unhindered. She stroked the length of the warrior's sex until finding the swollen nub. The bard lowered her mouth to the nub, sucking on it gently. Xena responded by thrusting her hips harder into the bard's mouth.
She placed two fingers inside Xena's opening, eliciting a cry of pleasure from the warrior.
"Oh Gods, Gabrielle!" She pumped her fingers in and out of the warrior, feeling the muscles constrict and loosen, then constrict again. The warrior was close to release. Gabrielle continued the onslaught with her fingers as she once again drew the swollen
nub into her mouth, sucking hard. Xena's body went rigid as waves of pleasure consumed her. "Gab . . . rie . . . lle," she managed to say, "Oh, how I love you." She pulled the bard up into a loving embrace as her breathing started to return to normal.
"I love you too, with all my heart and soul." Gabrielle said.
With a strength that was only hers, Xena rolled over on top of the bard. "I've never felt anything like that before. Thank you, but now, it's my turn." she said with a wicked grin.
They made love over and over again, until both women's energy was completely spent. As they laid entwined together, Gabrielle asked, "Xena, when I was stabbed, were you afraid?"
Xena took a deep breath, looked at the bard with tear-filled eyes, and said, "Of course. Gabrielle, losing you is my greatest fear. I love you."
The bard cried tears of her own as Xena confessed her deepest emotions. She held the warrior close, "You don't have to worry, you can't get rid of me that easily!" She reached up and kissed Xena tenderly as they drifted off to sleep, each planning the rest of their lives together.
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