Illuminations of the Soul part 4
by Cousin Liz

July 30, 1997


The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA Pictures and used here without permission. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this story.

This story shows the loving relationship between two women. You may even consider it explicit at times. If this type of story offends you, or you are not old enough to read it, please stop reading now.


Part 14a

Gabrielle knelt there for what seemed like an eternity, staring into two
azure pools of liquid. Trembling slightly, she finally gathered enough
courage and hesitantly placed her hands on Xena's shoulders, bent
down and gave the startled warrior a soft kiss. Xena wrapped her
arms around the bard and pulled her in, returning the kiss. Her body
quickly responded to Gabrielle's tender lips, the feel of her breasts
lightly brushing hers, the touch of her hands as they caressed the
back of her neck... Xena quickly realized where this was leading and
brought her hands up between them. "Don't... start something... you

Gabrielle studied the warrior's face, and was now more certain than
ever of what she wanted. She bent forward and reclaimed the
warrior's lips. "Xena, sometimes you talk too much," she admonished,
as she came up for air. She trailed kisses to Xena's left ear and down
her neck to her collar bone, where she nipped at the flesh.

"Gabrielle... Your mother... Lila..." Xena fought to maintain rational

"... will be gone all morning." She grinned at the warrior and playfully
licked the tip of her nose. "We have the house to ourselves."

Xena halfheartedly tried to push the advancing bard away. "But what if
they come back early?"

"I..." she kissed Xena's right eye, "don't..." she kissed the other,
"care." She straddled Xena and looked directly into her eyes. "I love
you." Gabrielle leaned forward and brushed a strand of hair out of
Xena's eyes and let her hand trail down the warrior's cheek, over her
jaw and down her long neck to the top of her chest. At this point she
stopped her hand, becoming very self-conscious of the fact that she
really didn't know how to love another woman.

'To hell with her family.' Xena took a deep breath and let the air out
slowly, trying to reign in her quickly growing passion. She pulled
Gabrielle into her arms and kissed her tenderly. Xena took her time
with Gabrielle, allowing them to become comfortable with their new
intimacy. Both women continued to exchange soft kisses, while their
hands slowly continued to explore each other's bodies. Ever so gently,
Xena ran the back of her hand down the front of Gabrielle's tunic.
When the tips of her fingers lightly brushed over one of the bard's
nipples, Gabrielle let out a whimpered moan and pulled Xena's mouth
to hers. The warrior returned Gabrielle's passionate kiss, and then
gently pushed her away and looked directly into her eyes. She smiled
as she reached forward to untie the lace to Gabrielle's tunic.

"No." Gabrielle grasped her hands and firmly pushed them away.
She sat up and began to blush as she slowly undid the lace while
Xena watched, fixated on the creamy flesh that was beginning to
reveal itself to her.

"Oh, yes. Please, Gabrielle. I want... I need... your breasts are so
beautiful." Grasping the bottom of the tunic, Gabrielle slowly worked it
up over her body. She was surprised that the simple cotton material
felt like rough muslin against her now swollen, tender nipples. Their
need to be taken drove her, and she quickly freed herself from her
tunic and tossed it aside. Gabrielle bent forward and Xena scooted
down a little, grasping her with both hands just above her waist and
capturing a breast in her mouth.

"Ohhh... Xena!," Gabrielle grabbed the back of the warrior's head and
ground her breast into Xena's mouth. "More..."

Gabrielle slid her hips forward and Xena could feel the hot wet trail she
left on her thigh. " hot... ummm... so wet..." Xena
slipped her arms around Gabrielle and pulled her in further, using the
bed's headboard to brace herself. She rolled her tongue around the
nipple, marveling at how quickly it became hard. Xena slowly pulled
the breast out between her teeth and Gabrielle shrieked at the
exquisite pain that simple procedure produced. Startled, Xena pushed
Gabrielle away, afraid she had been too rough. "Are you OK? I didn't
mean to hurt you."

"No Xena, no. You didn't hurt me. I need you... please..." She tried
to push herself back into the warrior's mouth, but Xena had a firm hold
around her upper ribcage and held her at bay. She leaned forward
and placed feather light kisses in the valley of the bard's breasts, and
slowly licked her way to the other breast. She flicked the tip of her
tongue over it a couple of times, as Gabrielle groaned and tried to
push herself into the warrior's mouth. Xena's hands held her back.

"Xena... please!" implored a frustrated bard. She wanted to feel
herself inside her lover's mouth, and if she had her way, would have
delighted in feeling her nipple on the back of Xena's throat.

"There's plenty of time for that. Like you said, we have all morning,"
Xena grinned as she returned to the task at hand, and continued to
trail light kisses over Gabrielle's chest. Her companion whimpered as
she felt shudder after shudder ripple through her unsatisfied flesh.
"So sweet..." murmured Xena, as she slowly licked her way up the
bard, where she sucked and nipped at the soft flesh of her neck.
While never faltering from her ministrations, Xena rolled the young
woman to her left and placed her gently on the bed beside her. She
gave Gabrielle a quick kiss on the lips, before sitting up and releasing
her body from the confines of her tunic.

Gabrielle watched as Xena's large breasts fell free and swayed before
her eyes. Xena looked over and followed the bard's gaze to her chest
and waved her hand in front of her lover's face, trying to break the
spell her bosom held on her. "Gabrielle, snap out of it." Xena grinned
at the surprised look on the bard's face when she realized she was
caught staring.

"I'm sorry," Gabrielle sheepishly replied. "I guess I still can't get over
the fact that this is real. I've dreamed... about us... together. I never
thought my dreams would come true."

"I told you, you can do anything you want..."

"...if I put my mind to it."

Xena smiled broadly and bent down placing a soft kiss on Gabrielle's
lips. As the kiss deepened, she slowly moved her body over the
bard's, until she was completely covering the young woman. A low
satisfying groan escaped the warrior's throat as she settled herself
onto Gabrielle; the exquisite feel of the bard's naked body under hers.

As Xena's body enveloped her, Gabrielle was overwhelmed by a
connection with Xena that was much more than physical. Instead of
feeling trapped, she felt free and content. And it was more than
physical contentment, it was somehow spiritual. For the first time in
her life, she felt whole. Her soul was at peace. She brought her arms
around Xena's back, and sliding her left arm down to Xena's hips,
pulled the warrior into her. She returned Xena's kisses with a new
urgency. Her entire body wanted, no needed, to feel possessed by
this woman, who had already captured her heart and soul.

When Xena felt herself being pulled in she gave up trying to hold
herself up on her elbows, and allowed her full weight to settle on the
bard. She buried her left hand behind Gabrielle's neck and ran her
right hand along the length of her love's side, wanting to memorize
every inch of her body. When their mouths separated for a much
needed moment of breath, Xena whispered, "I love you," over and
over, even after Gabrielle reclaimed her mouth.

Many minutes later, Xena relunctantly rolled off Gabrielle and propped
herself up on her left elbow. She allowed her gaze to take in all of her
love, admiring the beauty of this lovely young woman. She bent over
and allowed her lips to lightly graze across the bard's lips, while her
right hand slowly explored the soft skin of her neck and left arm.
Gabrielle buried her right hand in Xena's hair, twirling the long black
mane between her fingers. Xena flicked her tongue across Gabrielle's
lips and kissed her with more passion, while her hand worked its way
over the bard's stomach and idly played with her belly button. She
trailed her hand out to Gabrielle's hip and around back to firmly grasp
her cheek and pull her love slightly towards her. Capturing Gabrielle's
mouth, she could taste the soft moans as they escaped the bard as
her hand worked its way down her outer thigh. Her tongue won
entrance to Gabrielle's mouth as her hand caressed the soft skin of
her thigh and moved in to separate her legs. Xena felt the bard's body
tense and she stopped immediately, removing her hand from
Gabrielle. She cupped the bard's face with her well callused hand and
stroked her lips with her thumb. "I promise to take it slowly. If you are
uncomfortable and you want me to stop at any time, just say the word."

Gabrielle looked confidently into her eyes. "I've never made love to a
woman. Before I met the Amazons, I didn't even know two women
could make love to each other. I... I still don't know what to expect...
but I love you Xena, and I want you. I want you to love me fully."

Xena smiled and kissed her lightly on the lips, reassuring her that
everything was going to be OK. She moved her hand back down to
Gabrielle's thigh and slowly moved it between her legs. The bard
tentatively allowed Xena access and the warrior caressed her friend's
inner thigh, being careful to avoid her center. Gabrielle concentrated
on Xena's hand as it left trails of burning flesh wherever it passed.
Xena bent lower and suckled a breast, as her hand slid up the front of
Gabrielle's right thigh and massaged her abdomen. Xena looked up
from her feast to intently watch her lover's face as she allowed her
hand to slowly move down and come to rest on the bard's center.

Gabrielle jumped a little but quickly recovered herself, smiling into the
blue eyes that captured hers. "Ummm..." She caressed Xena's cheek
with her hand.

Using the palm of her hand, Xena gently massaged her, allowing her
time to adjust to somebody touching her there. She moved her finger
to lightly cover Gabrielle's folds and felt how wet she was. "Is that for
me?" she asked. Gabrielle gave her a quizzical look as Xena held up
her finger and examined the glistening liquid. She moved back up to
Gabrielle's head and applied feather light kisses to her face, while at
the same time her hand returned to the bard's center and cupped her
mound. She captured Gabrielle's mouth and her tongue began a
thorough exploration as she slowly moved her middle finger between
Gabrielle's hot wet folds and rested it on her love's clitoris. Gabrielle's
body stiffened momentarily at this new sensation, before instinctively
beginning to move against Xena's finger in a natural rhythm as old as
time. Xena quickened her pace as Gabrielle began to thrust faster
and faster against the warrior's hand. When Xena could tell that
Gabrielle would not last much longer, she backed her off from the

"XENA!" Gabrielle screamed, as she frantically grabbed at the
warrior's arm, trying to force it back to her. "Wha -- what are you
doing? Please!" she begged, looking bewildered as she tried to
comprehend why Xena had stopped.

Xena silently moved her hand back in place, but just as Gabrielle was
about to try to pick up from where they left off, the warrior slid her
hand down a little further and rested the tip of her middle finger at
Gabrielle's opening. She squeezed the bard's clitoris between her
thumb and forefinger and then began to massage it with her thumb as
she slowly inserted her finger deep inside.

Gabrielle's body arched and she found herself staring wide-eyed at the
ceiling of her bedroom. 'My bedroom. I'm in my old bed... in my old
room... in my parent's house... and Xena is...' All of Gabrielle's
thoughts were swept away as her eyes widened and she gasped at the
feeling of having Xena inside her. She never imagined she could feel
her love in such an intimate way, filling her, possessing her. "Oh
gods, Xena! Where have you been my whole life?" Xena grinned at
this last statement, and at the prospect of things to come. Gabrielle's
eyes glistened at this newfound revelation of what love with Xena
could be like.

At first, Xena rested her finger within Gabrielle and then slowly slid it
out and back in, and picked up the rhythm of Gabrielle's body as she
began to thrust her hips to meet the warrior's embrace. Xena locked
eyes with the bard, and watched intently as the frenzied motions of
their connection burst forth and washed over her face. Her climax
started as a low, guttural groan, and finally escaped the bard's lips as
she screamed Xena's name, her body convulsing uncontrollably as
she held the bed clothes in a death grip.

Xena covered Gabrielle with her body and held her close for a long
time, keeping her hand between Gabrielle's legs and slowly
massaging the aftermaths of her convulsions. She waited patiently as
her young friend worked at recovering her composure. When
Gabrielle's eyes opened again, the bard was greeted with a delighted
twinkle of blue and an "I love you." Xena brought her right hand to her
mouth and sensuously licked her fingers clean while gazing at a
startled bard. She leaned down and with her tongue fully extended,
licked Gabrielle's lips. Gabrielle could taste herself and marveled at
the realization that she actually liked it, though none of her bardic skills
would allow her to give voice to what it compared to. Gabrielle opened
her mouth and captured Xena's tongue, sucking on it and wondering if
Xena would taste the same.

Part 14b

Gabrielle remembered back to the night at the inn, and the fleeting
chance she had to have one of Xena's breasts in her mouth. She
chuckled to herself, remembering that at the time she had little choice
in the matter seeing how she had been thwapped upside the head with
it. She realized this was her chance and released Xena's tongue and
looked her straight in the... chin. She could feel her throat muscles
constricting and a lump forming in the back of her throat. Gabrielle
opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. 'Why is this so
difficult for me? Why can't I tell her what I want? I'm a bard!'
Gabrielle suddenly started to feel very claustrophobic and put her
hands on Xena's shoulders trying to push the warrior off her.

Xena saw the look of panic in Gabrielle's eyes and added to that the
fact that the bard couldn't look her in the eye. 'Oh gods. What's the
matter?' Xena cried to herself. 'I thought she wanted this... wanted
me...' The warrior fought the urge to run and instead hurriedly rolled
off Gabrielle and tried to give her some space.


"I'm sorry. I thought you wanted... I'm so sorry." Xena felt her whole
world collapsing around her as she realized she had just lost the one
true friend she ever had. She sat up and swung her feet to the

"Xena!" Gabrielle's arm shot out and grasped the warrior's upper arm,
forcing Xena to turn around and look at her. "Where do you think
you're going?" Xena just stared at her. She had no answer to give.
Gabrielle slid her hand down Xena's arm and clasped the warrior's
hand. "Please. Come back to bed."

Xena saw the love and desire in her friend's eyes and a spark of hope
flickered in her heart. "I thought you were having second thoughts...
regretted what we -"

"No!" she stated emphatically. "Never." It's just that I..." Gabrielle
started to blush deeply. She continued to hold Xena's hand and
forced herself to meet her eyes. "Damn Xena. After what we just did;
why am I still so embarrassed? She looked intently into her lover's
eyes and pulled courage from the love she saw. "I want to make love
to you, but I'm not sure how."

A long held breath escaped the warrior as Xena's mind registered the
false alarm. She brought the bard's small hand to her lips kissing the
palm gently. Xena slowly lay down on her back, giving her friend free
access to her body. Gabrielle sat up and marveled at the beautiful
woman before her. The bard brushed an errant lock of hair from
Xena's face, allowing her hand to linger on the warrior's cheek. "By
the gods, you're beautiful." She leaned over and kissed her tenderly
on the lips, before sitting back up to admire her some more. Gabrielle
worked at trying to grasp the concept that Xena was all hers, to do with
as she pleased. She never saw the warrior in a position of such
vulnerability, but when their eyes met, all she saw was the love that
Xena held for her, and she was elated.

Placing her hand carefully on Xena's abdomen, she felt the muscles
under her fingers ripple with her touch. Gabrielle slowly moved her
hand over the soft skin, pausing to study her belly button. She looked
to the warrior's face for any signs of disapproval, and was rewarded
with a huge smile and a soft chuckle. Gabrielle trailed the back of her
left index finger up from Xena's belly button, and could see as well as
feel the shudder that her simple touch produced as she hesitantly
encircled one of the warrior's large breasts.

Xena let out a ragged moan as she pulled the bard's free hand to her
waiting mouth and licked and sucked on each finger with reckless
abandon. She moaned into Gabrielle's palm as her friend found the
nerve to roll and squeeze the tender nipple of Xena's right breast
between her fingers. The warrior arched into the bard's inquisitive
ministrations, while placing her hand behind Gabrielle's neck and
coaxing her down to take the other breast in her mouth. "Gabrielle...

The bard paused as she poised herself above the now swollen and
erect nipple and glanced into Xena's face. What she saw was a need
that only she could fulfill. She turned back to the breast in question
and experimentally touched it with her lips. She licked slowly around
the outside of the nipple, and discovered she liked; no, relished the
salty taste of Xena's flesh. While never losing track of what she was
doing to the other breast, Gabrielle took her right hand and cupped the
breast she had been licking, squeezing and kneading it between her
fingers. With a firm hold, she brought the nipple up to meet her
mouth. The bard raked her teeth over the now hard and puckered
flesh and was rewarded for her actions as Xena convulsively arched
herself up and used the hand she had behind the bard's head to drive
her mouth firmly into her breast.

Gabrielle was soon applying herself fully to the enjoyable task at hand.
She filled her mouth with the ripe flesh, struggling to get as much of it
as she possibly could past her lips. Forgetting about the other breast,
she used both hands to knead and work what little bit of flesh
remained beyond her physical limitations to devour. Her eyes sparkled
greedily as she realized that she was truly enjoying herself. She
almost felt self-conscious that she was doing it more for herself than
for Xena, until she stole a glance the warrior's way. Xena's eyes had
just about rolled back in their sockets, and her right hand was planted
firmly in her mouth while her left still held Gabrielle's head to her chest
in a vice grip.

Gabrielle almost regrettably disengaged herself from the breast, until
she spied the other neglected twin. "Umm... yummy!" She pounced
on it with no hesitation.

"Oh gods," groaned the warrior from around the fist she was gnawing
on. "I think I've created a monster!"

"Um hmm. Mmm..." mumbled a very busy bard, as she licked her
newfound friend clean before claiming it as her own. She squeezed
the breast with both hands, making the erect nipple stand up at
attention. Next she flicked her tongue over the tip a few times before
baring her teeth and capturing it tightly between her teeth. She bit
down roughly, and was surprised to hear the warrior cry out for more.
The bard alternated between biting and sucking until she could stand
it no longer and attempted to consume the whole thing right there on
the spot.

As much as she was enjoying herself, Gabrielle knew there were still
new lands to conquer. She reluctantly pulled herself from her repast,
confident that they would still be there if she decided to come back
and play. She looked inquisitively into Xena's eyes. "Umm... how am I
doing?" she quirked, as she licked her lips.

"I uh...uh..." Xena stammered, as she fought to regain control, "... not
bad. For your first time."

Gabrielle started to frown until she caught the corner of Xena's mouth
twitch and watched as her lip turned up slightly in the first hint of a
grin. "Xena!" The bard hauled off and smacked the warrior in the
stomach, which was practically useless, since it was like hitting a brick

"Hey!" Xena broke out in laughter. "C'mere. I'll show you how well
you've been doing." She wrapped her left hand around Gabrielle's
head and pulled her to her waiting mouth, showering her lips, chin and
neck with soft kisses. Her right hand sought out the bard's breast as
the kisses quickly became deeper and urgent. Xena fought her rising
need to flip the bard on her back and ravish her unmercifully, and
broke her hold of the sensitive breast and breathed, "Give me your
hand." She grasped the back of her friend's hand and placed it on her
chest, covering it completely with her right hand.

Xena guided the bard's hand down and together they explored the
warrior's body. They moved past her breasts to her abdomen, where
Xena slowly moved Gabrielle's hand over each ripple of her taut
stomach. She guided their hands to her right hip and around back,
where Gabrielle took control and grabbed a handful of butt and began
to pliantly knead. She dug her fingers into Xena's muscled backside,
pulling the warrior to her and feeling their breasts collide and rub into
each other.

The bard wrestled her mouth from the warrior's control and began to
sensuously lick her way down Xena's neck. She paused at the small
hollow, nipping at the soft flesh. She then proceeded to bite her way
across Xena's right collarbone and down her arm as Xena took control
of her hand and guided it down her thigh. Gabrielle could feel the well-
honed muscle that resided just below the surface as she moved her
hand with Xena's.

The warrior leaned over and raked her teeth over Gabrielle's earlobe,
bringing the bard's mouth back up to meet hers. Xena's kisses were
now more urgent, as she felt the heat from her molten juices
scorching her thighs. She manipulated Gabrielle's hand over her thigh
to the center of her heat source. Once there, she pushed the small
hand against her mound, massaging the ache that was threatening to

The bard tore herself from Xena's devouring mouth and sat up. The
warrior used what little reserve she had left and released her grip of
her friend's hand, allowing her the freedom to explore for herself.
Gabrielle ran her fingers through the thick kinky hair of Xena's center,
perplexed at how it contrasted to the hair on top of her head. Xena
saw the bard's brows knit together as she worked on this new puzzle.
Gabrielle reached over and fondled a lock of Xena's long hair, still
continuing to lightly twirl her finger in the warrior's mound. "Xena?
They're so different. Why?"

Xena wasn't sure how long she could hold an intelligent conversation
with her friend, but knew the inquisitive nature of the bard. "I ah... I
really don't know why. Some people are just that way."

Gabrielle pondered the response while still absently playing with
Xena's center. "I just can't get over how different it feels."

"I -- hope -- you're having a -- good -- time," Xena said, through gritted
teeth. Gabrielle turned and realized that Xena was sweating profusely
and her eyes were glazed over. It was then she realized that what she
was doing was having a profound effect on the warrior. Gabrielle
immediately removed her hand and was surprised at the speed with
which the warrior captured it and returned it to her center, trapping it
under her hand.

Xena let out a long ragged breath as she implored, "Please. I don't
think I can take much more." She moved Gabrielle's hand down
between her legs, and the bard was astonished with how wet the
warrior was. With Xena's guidance, Gabrielle worked her fingers into
the warrior's folds and marveled at the texture and feel of Xena's slick
center. Xena guided the bard's finger over her clitoris and her hips
involuntarily bucked as she felt the soft skin of her lover's touch brush
lightly over her nub. It was such a different feeling from the callused
skin of her own fingers that she was used to. Using two fingers,
Gabrielle hesitantly began to massage the warrior, eventually
becoming bold enough to pinch and squeeze the swollen nub. Xena
knew she couldn't take much more of this exquisite torture and needed
to feel Gabrielle possess her. "Gabrielle... move your hand down -"
Xena pushed the bard's hand further down, and positioned one of her
fingers at her opening. "I... need to feel you... inside of me." Gabrielle
slowly inserted her finger inside, very apprehensive of what she was
doing. A loud moan escaped the warrior's mouth and her hips
involuntarily lurched as she realized her young friend was touching the
most private part of her body.

"Oh Xena, I'm sorry," Gabrielle cried as she quickly removed her
finger. "Did I hurt you?"

"G -- Gab, eh -- everything's fine," Xena stammered as she tried her
best to reassure her as she guided the bard's hand back to her need.

"Umm, you're so hot," murmured Gabrielle as she reinserted her
finger deep within. She slowly brought her finger up and almost out
and pushed it back down, curling the tip and exploring in all directions.

Xena hadn't expected what this naturally inquisitive nature of the bard
would do to her, as her breath started to come in short ragged pants.
"Gabrielle... put your thumb -- no -- over a little... AHHH!... YES!...
right there..." Xena reached down and guided Gabrielle's thumb over
her clitoris and the bard began to earnestly massage the now swollen
nub as she continued to thrust her finger deep inside the warrior.

Release should have been imminent, but Xena fought it with every
fiber of her being. This moment, feeling Gabrielle inside her, was one
she had dreamed of for so long. A dream that up until a few days ago,
she was certain would never be answered. Should never be
answered. She knew she didn't deserve the love of this beautiful
woman, but here they were, consummating their love for each other.
And there could be no going back. Gabrielle was hers -- freely given,
and she to her bard. Xena wanted this moment to last forever.

The tendons and cords of her arms rippled and popped as she dug
her clenched fists into the blankets and used her forearms to hold her
body aloft. Gabrielle could feel her own need rising anew, and laid her
body along the length of the warrior, straddling her left thigh. She
thrust her sex again and again against the warrior, keeping time with
her strokes deep inside her partner. Xena's head flew back and she
found herself staring at the ceiling, the feel of the bard's slick center
coating her thigh almost too much to bear. Gabrielle dug the fingers
of her free hand into the flesh of the warrior's upper back, and sunk
her teeth into the flesh of Xena's left shoulder. She continued to pump
her left hand harder and faster, determined to bring her lover over the

"Please... another... ," the warrior begged between breathes.

Gabrielle paused in mid-stroke. "I -- don't know what you want," she
said frantically, looking at Xena for help.

Xena was no longer able to focus clearly. "Your finger... insert a
second finger... PLEASE!"

"Ohhh..." Gabrielle was amazed at how easily Xena's body accepted
so much of her. She quickly picked up on the rhythm of the warrior's
bucking hips, and met them thrust for thrust as she continued to bury
herself inside her love. "I wonder..." While never breaking contact with
Xena's enlarged clitoris, Gabrielle brought both finger tips just to the
opening of the warrior and deftly added a third before she plunged her
hand down as far as it would go.

Xena's entire body thrust itself upward to meet this final assault on her
senses. There was no holding back this time. Her body and Gabrielle
had finally won out, as she knew they ultimately would. She stiffened
as her inner muscles constricted tightly around the bard's fingers, not
allowing her to reclaim them. With just a couple more frantic thrusts
of her hips, the bard joined her lover. Gabrielle rolled completely on
top of Xena's body, holding her close with her free hand and they rode
this final wave together as a terrific orgasm rocked Xena to her core.

Xena's body finally went limp, and Gabrielle gently wrapped her arms
around her love. Tranquility washed over her. Nothing could have
prepared her for what she was feeling. She had known for some time
that her feelings for Xena ran much deeper than friend, but she never
knew she would be able to express these feelings in such an intimate
way. To be able to give herself fully to Xena, and Xena to her.

Part 15

Xena rose with a start and pulled Gabrielle to her feet. "They're
home." Even though the bard had sworn earlier that she didn't care if
her family had walked in on them, she dove for her tunic and frantically
scrambled to put it on as Xena did the same.

Lila entered the room moments later. "Brie, haven't you finished
making the beds yet?" she asked. The blanket, quilt and pillow of
Gabrielle's bed were in a heap on the floor, and Xena and Gabrielle
were standing on opposite sides of the bed, straightening the sheet.

"Well sure... that is... it was made, but I decided to give Xena a
lesson... on making a proper bed." Gabrielle glanced up from the bed
to her sister, wondering if she was buying any of it. "Xena asked me
what Mother meant by making a proper bed. I thought it would be
easier to show her."

Lila glanced at Xena but gave her sister a quizzical look before silently
leaving the room. Gabrielle looked to Xena, the same quizzical look
mirrored on her face. "Your tunic is on inside-out," Xena whispered.

Gabrielle looked down disbelievingly and shot a look at the door her
sister just exited. "Do you think she noticed?"



Xena and Gabrielle emerged from the bedroom a few minutes later;
the bard's tunic magically right-side out now. Hecuba and Lila were in
the kitchen putting groceries away and Gabrielle offered to help while
Xena took a seat on one of the benches. "Do you have the nuts?"
asked Hecuba, who was gathering ingredients off to one side.

"No... they're not in my bags," Lila said as she reexamined the items
before her. "I thought you had them." Both women rechecked their
bags and looked at each other. "I thought you bought them," they said
in unison. They turned and looked dejectedly to Gabrielle who realized
no nuts, no nutbread.

"How could you have forgotten the nuts?! If I had gone with you, we'd
have nuts," Gabrielle said a bit indignantly as she looked at her
mother, though secretly she knew she would not have traded the
morning she spent with Xena for all the nutbread in Greece. She was
still unwilling to look her sister in the eye, remembering the bedroom
scene. "Now what're we gonna do?"

"You could always make it without nuts," Xena replied, wondering why
such a simple answer to such an overblown problem needed to be

The three women from Poteidaia turned and looked at Xena as if she
had just dropped in from a foreign land. "Nutbread without nuts?"
Gabrielle looked at Xena absurdly. "Then it wouldn't be nutbread!"

The three women turned from Xena and began to banter amongst
themselves for a possible solution, while Xena resumed idly jabbing a
long wooden splinter she had pulled from the kitchen table under the
nails of her fingers, finding it a might sight less painful than having to
sit and listen to them.

"C'mon Xena."


"You're coming with me," the bard said, as she grabbed the warrior's
hand and pulled her from the table. "We need nuts." The three
women, well really Hecuba, decided that the most expedient thing to
do was for Gabrielle to go back to town for the nuts, while Hecuba
started mixing the ingredients and Lila got her chores out of the way.

The storm had passed and a few rays of sunlight found the strength to
push past the retreating clouds and fall to the earth. Gabrielle paused
as they stepped through the doorway, stretching her head up and
closing her eyes to greet the radiating warmth. "So, what's this *we*
stuff?" Xena asked.

"Well... uh... I didn't think you wanted to be left there with them."


"And what?" Gabrielle felt the warmth of the sun disappear as it was
lost behind a cloud. She opened her eyes to be greeted by the face of
the cloud. Xena.

"There's more Gabrielle. I can see it in your eyes," Xena said softly,
as she hovered over the bard.

"It's Lila... I didn't want her to have a chance to question you about
me... about us."

"What do you think I'd tell her?"

"I... I know you wouldn't say anything on purpose." The bard brushed
her finger over the back of Xena's hand, being very self- conscious of
where they were standing. "It's just that she can be very persuasive
when she wants to be. I could never keep a secret from her as a

Xena closed her eyes to her love's slight contact, marveling how the
simplest of touches could affect her thoughts. She shook her head to
clear her mind and looked directly into Gabrielle's eyes, hoping to get
her next point across. "You are *not* a child. And up 'til now you've
done a fine job of keeping your personal life just that. You're sister
isn't dumb though... she knows something is up.

"You don't think she suspects..."

"I don't know what to think. I don't know if she knows two women
can... feel the way we do... about each other."

"What am I gonna do?"

"If and when the time comes... you'll deal with it. Right now, let's get
those nuts." They walked off in companionable silence. Gabrielle was
preoccupied with thoughts of Lila, and didn't notice the slight tensing
coming from the warrior. Xena could feel the hairs on the nape of her
neck do a little dance. Without taking her eyes from the road, she
carefully surveyed their surroundings. They were being watched.
This wasn't something new, but the feeling left Xena with a bad taste
in her mouth. She didn't feel threatened, but noticed a rather
conspiratorial and consciously organized buzz coming from their
secretive onlookers. Xena found her hand moving up protectively to
linger a hair breadth's away from the bard's lower back as they
continued to town.

The weird feeling that Xena had abated as they got closer to town.
Oh, they were still being watched. That was something that seemed
to dog the warrior wherever she went. But this was the regular kind of
staring that she'd almost grown accustomed to. As usual, Xena had
decided not to trouble the bard with her thoughts, and soon Gabrielle
had pushed aside her own contemplations of a future conversation
with her sister, and cheerfully chatted away about town gossip.

As Xena had surmised, it wasn't going to turn out to be a quick trip.
There were plenty of shops that Gabrielle just couldn't pass up, and
she dragged the warrior into each and every one of them. Xena quietly
obliged. How could she not? Her bard's eyes sparkled and her voice
sang as she engaged the different shop owners in conversation. 'How
can she put up with me? Sometimes I'm the only person she sees for
days on end; and I can barely string two words together.' Xena fought
to push these dark thoughts down. 'She obviously sees something
she likes.' Xena's mind traveled momentarily back to the time spent in
the bard's bed. 'I've done my best to send her away on more than one
occasion, and each time she fought tooth and nail to stay.

Gabrielle saw the resigned look in Xena's eyes and realized the torture
she must have endured all afternoon being dragged all over the market
place. 'I must be driving her crazy!' Gabrielle quickly finished her
conversation with the merchant and guiltily headed to Xena.

"So," Xena said, as she bent over and picked up the large bag of nuts
that was laying at her feet. "Where to now?"

"Home." She gave a sheepish grin as she reached for the nuts.

Xena cradled them in the crook of her arm and shooed the bard's
hands away. "C'mon. Your mother is going to kill us for taking so


Those strange feelings Xena had on the trip to town were absent on
the trip home. This should have relieved the warrior, but it didn't. The
opposite was true. The closer to home they got, the quieter it became.
Too quiet. Within a mile from home, not a soul was visible. No one in
the fields, or out tending the animals, or chopping wood. 'Where is
everybody?' Xena could feel the emptiness. It permeated her body.
She wasn't sure how she knew, but she was certain she would find
the houses empty if she'd had a mind to take a look.

Gabrielle stole a look at Xena. She could feel the warrior's body tense
and knew that Xena sensed something that she had not picked up on.

"Where is everybody?" she asked, as she kept her gaze straight

"What do you..." Gabrielle's eyes darted left, and then right. The
silence was deafening.

Xena shifted the bag of nuts into her right arm and placed her leftarm
down protectively in front of Gabrielle. "Keep close. And stay alert."
Cautiously, they covered the rest of the distance to the house in

Xena placed herself between the front door of the house and
Gabrielle. She mentally berated herself for allowing Gabrielle to lead
her away earlier without a thought to her leathers or weapons. 'I must
be getting soft. This has got to stop. It could cost us our lives.' Xena
gave the bag of nuts in her right hand a couple of practice swings.
'Well, I've made use of worse things as weapons...' The feel of
Gabrielle's hands lightly resting on her waist and her hot breath
tickling the nape of her neck momentarily distracted the warrior. Xena
reached behind herself with her left hand and gently pushed the bard
away. "I said stay close, but not that close," she whispered. "Give me
room to maneuver." Xena reached for the door with her left hand and
with a sudden push, swung it open completely, giving her full access
to the entire room.

Part 16

"!!SURPRISE!!..." The loud chorus from the crowd of people in the
house was the last thing the warrior suspected. She was so caught
off guard, that she backed up and nearly stumbled over Gabrielle.
The bard caught her by the waist and stuck her head out from under
the warrior's raised right arm; still poised to strike.

"...!!HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!" Gabrielle's eyes lit up at the number of
people gathered before her. She pushed herself past Xena and the
crowd of well-wishers immediately enveloped her.

Xena just stood there in the doorway, grasping the frame for support.
She slowly became conscious of still holding the bag of nuts in the air,
and let it drop to her side. She scanned the room and found Hecuba's
eyes, successfully holding her gaze for a moment before she too
disappeared amongst the crowd.

"Uncle Cosmo!" Gabrielle exclaimed, as a slight man in his early fifties
threw his arms around her and gave her a big hug.

"Hey! You sure have grown since the last time I saw you." He winced
at the strength of Gabrielle's return hug.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..." Gabrielle had to remind herself she
wasn't hugging Xena.

"So, how's the birthday girl? You sure looked surprised!"

"I'm fine. And yeah, this is quite a surprise." 'Especially since it's not
my birthday. Not for another full moon that is.' Gabrielle continued to
work her way through the crowd of relatives and neighbors, trying to
find her mother.


"Well, I see you remembered the nuts," Hecuba replied, as she turned
to find Xena standing before her. "Would you take them into the
kitchen for me?" Xena nodded in agreement and headed for the
kitchen, not surprised to feel Hecuba following her.

Lila was in the kitchen filling a tray with meat and cheese when the two
women entered. "Lila. Will you please go help your Aunt Effie serve
the food. I'll take care of that." Hecuba quickly ushered her out of the
kitchen and turned to meet the warrior's cool gaze.


"I wanted to thank you for bringing her home. I miss her, and I worry
about her. After Perdicus... she blamed herself, you know."

Xena knew all too well. She had to repeatedly tell Gabrielle that it was
not her fault. Callisto was the one with the sword. She killed him.
Even if deep down inside Xena still wondered if there wasn't
something she could have done to prevent it. 'If inaction is a crime,
then his blood is on my hands.'

Hecuba had not noticed the momentary flinch by the warrior and
continued. "She said she'd never allow herself to get that close again,
but I know time heals all... and I've made sure to invite a number of
nice young men to this party."

Xena slumped onto one of the benches at the kitchen table. 'This is
my punishment? To actually have my dream fulfilled, only to have
someone try to take it all away?'

"I'm hoping my daughter will take to one of them. It's about time she
settles down and has children. The road is no place for a young
woman. I'm sure you would agree with me."

The door to the kitchen swung open and Gabrielle entered. "Mother?
I -" Gabrielle stopped cold when she realized what she had walked in
on. Gabrielle knew it would come to this. She could tell by the look on
her mother's face that they were talking about her. And she knew she
was going to have to pick sides. Gabrielle silently walked over and
took a seat next to Xena, feeling her childhood slipping away for good.
She took comfort in the physical contact that their bodies made and
looked up at her mother. "It's not my birthday."

"I know. It's not for another full moon, but I wanted to throw you a
party. And you know how your father feels about Xena. He would not
have allowed her to stay here, and I was afraid because of that you
wouldn't stay either. When he informed me that he would be out of
town, I decided to have the party now." Hecuba turned and started to
busy herself with finishing up the tray that Lila had started. "You
should be out there. People are going to start wondering where you
got to." Hecuba picked up the tray and left the kitchen, never looking

"Soo, what did you two talk about?"

"Oh... just girl talk."

"Yeah. and I bet I know who the *girl* was."

Strong fingers worked their magic on the knot of pain at the back of
Gabrielle's neck as the bard allowed her body to slump forward and
rest on her folded arms. "Umm... that feels soo good." Gabrielle
closed her eyes and let the tension flow from her body. She wasn't
sure how Xena knew what she needed, but she was grateful.

After a few minutes, the warrior ran her hand down Gabrielle's back
and gave her a couple of light pats. "C'mon, sleepy head. You've got
a party waiting for you."

The bard raised her head, blinking the sleep from her eyes. "Do you
think they'd notice if we snuck out the back door?" Gabrielle laid her
hand on Xena's thigh and quickly snaked her fingers under the
warrior's short tunic and slid them between her legs. "I can think of a
lot more interesting things I'd rather be doing," the bard grinned, as
her fingers found their mark.

"Gabrielle!" Xena extricated the roaming hand and raised an eyebrow
at the dejected pout on the bard's face. When Gabrielle's questing
mouth found the sensitive pulse point on Xena's neck, the warrior's
thighs clenched tight, attempting to quell her quickly growing passion.
"You're gonna be the death of me yet! C'mon, let's get this over with."
Xena gave her a little bump with her hip to get the bard moving.

"OK, OK. If you insist." Gabrielle paused as she reached to open the
door and turned to Xena. "But Mother's up to something. I'm just not
sure what yet."

"She loves you, and only wants what's best for you. So do I." Xena
reached past Gabrielle and placed her hand against the door,
effectively stopping anyone from entering. Bending down, she placed
a quick kiss on her cheek. "But you need to decide what that is."
Xena pulled the door open while spinning the bard around and gave
her a push back out into the party.

Xena would have been content to stay on the fringes and just observe,
but Gabrielle had other plans. She tugged on the warrior's arm, and
Xena glanced down and caught the look on her friend's face. It was
the one that told her she would not only dislike what the bard had in
mind, but that she was destined to endure it. "Where do you think
you're going?" she whispered into Xena's ear as the warrior tried
unsuccessfully to slip away. "I think it's about time I showed you off."
Xena quickly found herself being pulled through the crowd by a very
animated bard, as she was introduced to *every* relative and friend

"Well, I think that went rather well," Gabrielle stated triumphantly.

"You mean there isn't anybody else to say hello to?" Xena asked
sarcastically, as she downed the mug of port she had procured earlier.

"Nope. I just wanted to make sure that everybody knows who you're
with," the bard replied, as she swallowed the last of her punch.
"Especially that group of young men over in the corner. They can't
keep their eyes off you!"

"Me?! I think they're simply jealous of the fact that I'm monopolizing all
of your time."

"Sure... and that clinging tunic you're wearing that leaves nothing to
the imagination has nothing to do with it," Gabrielle replied, as she
inadvertently licked her lips.

"Hey, you better watch yourself now."

"I think I could use some more punch," Gabrielle said as she looked
down into her empty cup. "I'm suddenly very thirsty." They made their
way over to the tables, where Uncle Cosmo had set himself up as

"What will it be ladies?"

"Two cups of punch, please."

"Make that one cup of punch and another port," the warrior corrected.

"Xena, you really should try the punch," Gabrielle said as she
accepted a refill from her Uncle. "Here." She held the cup up to
Xena's lips, and the warrior very self-consciously took a sip. "I told
you you'd like it. It's Uncle Cosmo's secret recipe." Gabrielle brought
the cup to her lips and started to drink.

"Gabrielle." Xena took the cup from the bard and took another sip.
"Secret recipe, huh?" she said as she turned to Uncle Cosmo.
"Seems like your still must be working overtime."

"You mean there's booze in there?"

"Oh yeah," replied the warrior as she downed the rest of it.

"And all that fruit does a great job of smoothing out the taste," Uncle
Cosmo beamed proudly. It took a number of tries before I got the
proportions right."

"And how many of these have you had so far?"

"Only two," the bard answered too quickly.

"Gabrielle... you know how you get when you drink."

"OK, OK. I had a half a cup earlier when I was looking for Mother, but
I put the cup down for a moment, and then I couldn't find it."

"I think you've had enough then; more than enough." Turning to Uncle
Cosmo Xena continued, "Do you have anything non- alcoholic?"

"Well, I've got cider... and some extra fruit juice that I didn't use in the

"Make it a cider," the bard decided. Xena guided Gabrielle over
towards the front door; away from most of the guests. "I think I'm
going to step out for some fresh air... maybe check up on Argo."

"No. Don't leave," Gabrielle implored, as a look of anger and
frustration clouded her features. Xena was glad she had positioned
the bard with her back to her guests.

"I'm not leaving you. Just this party."

"Then I'm coming too."

"You can't. You're the guest of honor. Besides, they're your family
and friends. And who knows how long it will be before you see them
again." Xena reached down and grasped the bard's forearm. "Stay.
Enjoy yourself. And keep away from that punch!" Smiling broadly at
Gabrielle, she turned and quickly slipped outside.


"But Mother," Lila began to whine. "I've spent the last three candle
marks introducing every eligible man here to her. It's not my fault she
doesn't even give them a second look." Lila's eyes drifted over to two
of the prospective candidates that she felt were especially dreamy.
"Each one tried to strike up a conversation with her, but in no time flat
Garielle had them disheartenly listening to a tale of Xena."

"I just don't understand her. You'd think the world revolves around that
warrior." Hecuba glanced over to where her older daughter was busy
restocking her plate. "I don't think she realizes just how lucky she is.
After having already been married and *with* a man, it was a miracle I
could find these many men still interested in her." Hecuba continued
to stare at Gabrielle, her fingers unconciously thrumming her hips as a
look of quiet defeat began to overtake her features. 'I'm glad Xena saw
fit to leave the party, but what did that accomplish? It's like she never

left my daughter's side.'

Part 17

Strains of music drifted through the night air. Xena paused from
polishing her armor and turned toward the house, listening. The
warrior sat motionless on a bale of hay as a vision of Gabrielle and
herself dancing played itself out in her mind. 'There won't be too many
opportunities like that again,' she sighed. Xena was relieved that she
was not at the party. She realized it would have taken more willpower
than she possessed not to take Gabrielle in her arms when the music
began. Xena's vision abruptly changed to one of her love in the arms
of one of the young men Hecuba invited; and then another and then
another. 'Just stop it -- stop it! You know damn well she loves you.
She'll make the right decision.' Xena laid her armor aside and got out
her bedroll. 'I might as well try to get some sleep. It's gonna be a long

The warrior had one boot successfully removed when a loud crashing
noise rang out just outside the barn door. "Ow! Dammit, dammit,
dammit!" Gabrielle whipped her head from side to side. "Shush,
you're gonna wake 'er." The bard picked herself up off the ground.
Whispering past the finger she held to her lips she called,
"Shxeeena... Shxenaaa... they're playing our song!" Gabrielle pulled
on the handle of the barn door. "Hey! Let me in... I wanna dance."
The bard lost her balance again and fell forward, tumbling into the
door and falling in a heap on the barn floor.

"Ooph!" When Gabrielle eventually righted herself, she found her
booted foot cradled in her arm. She worked unsuccessfully for a few
moments at the laces and finally giving up, gave a yank and pulled her
foot free, sending the boot sailing. After two false starts, she
managed to stand. Xena watched silently as the bard took a few
halting steps, her height changing with each step. "Oh Gods... I think
I'm seasick," mumbled Gabrielle as she watched the world in front of
her rise and fall. Looking down, she noticed that it was her one booted
foot that was making her steps so uneven. With slow determination

she brought it up in front of herself, balancing on her other foot. She
grasped the boot with both hands, and when she gave a tug, her body
did a slow pirouette and she spiraled to the ground. "C'mon Xeena... I
know yer in 'ere." The bard forgot about her boot and with great
perseverance she stood and continued on.

Her hands found their way to the laces of her tunic, but all that criss-
crossed lace was too much for her to comprehend. After a few
frustrated attempts, she decided instead to wiggle out of it. Somehow
she worked one arm free, but her other arm became hopelessly
entangled and pinned to the side of her head with the tunic wrapped
tightly around her head and arm. "Hey! Who turned out the lights?"
Gabrielle exclaimed as she stumbled forward, falling onto Xena's

Groping around in the 'dark', Gabrielle came across Xena's boot. She
lovingly ran her hand up the leather only to be surprised and very
disappointed when she didn't come across the soft flesh of the warrior
who owned it. "Hey! Where'd ya go?!"

"I'm right behind you," Xena said, as she stood there holding
Gabrielle's tossed boot. Kneeling next to the bard, Xena worked at
getting the young woman back into her clothes. "What do you think
you're doing? Xena said, as she managed to get Gabrielle's head
uncovered. The warrior could smell the alcohol on her breath. "You're
drunk. I told you to stay away from the punch," she scolded. "I did, I
swear. I never touched the stuff." The moment Xena had Gabrielle's
arm free, the bard lunged at her, throwing herself on top of Xena and
knocking her back. "Ummm, where've ya been all evening? They're
playin' our song." Gabrielle started to move her body against the
warrior's, settling her lips on the soft skin of Xena's neck.

Gabrielle's hand began a slow descent over the warrior's supple
leathered form. Xena knew this had to stop, even though her body
gave her emotions away as it arched into the bard's hand, which was
cupping her left breast. "Ga-bri-elle." Xena rolled her amorous
partner off and managed to sit her up. She tried reasoning with her as
she held her at arms length. "What if Lila or one of your guests were
to walk in?"

"They'll just 'ave to get their own warrior," she grinned, as the feisty
young woman squirmed her way into Xena's lap. "Cause I'm not
sharing." Gabrielle wrapped her legs around Xena's waist and headed
for the nearest ear.

"GABRIELLE." Xena pried the bard from the front of her body.
"C'mon. Let's get you back in the house and get you to bed." She
stood and pulled Gabrielle to her feet.

"Yes, thatsa lovely idea," the bard replied, as she collapsed into Xena's
arms, no longer capable of standing on her own. "You can tuck me in
-- and then I'll tuck you in," Gabrielle mused, as her hands began to
dance over the warrior's body.

Xena quickly scratched the idea of carrying Gabrielle back to the
house. Her partner was much too openly amorous for her to take any
chances. 'But I've got to do something. Somebody's bound to come
looking for her eventually.' Xena lowered Gabrielle onto her bedroll
and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. "You wait right here and I'll
be right back. I want to get you something."

Rummaging through one of the saddle bags, Xena pulled out their
medicinal pouch. She carefully selected a couple of herbs and a small
tin of off-white powder. Into a small bowl, she placed the herbs that
she ground with her fingers and a small pinch of powder. The next
step was to add hot water and make a strong 'tea', but Xena knew she
would have a difficult time getting Gabrielle to drink the evil-tasting
mixture. Instead, she dug through their food supply and found the tin
of honey Gabrielle had purchased at the last town. Xena added just
enough water to the cup to dissolve the powder, added honey to the
mixture, and mixed it well with her finger.

"Here. I made you something sweet." Xena lowered herself onto the
bedroll next to Gabrielle, who had been waiting impatiently for her to

"Ooo, what is it?" the bard asked, as she crawled into Xena's lap.
Xena had decided to not even try to maneuver a spoon into Gabrielle's
mouth, and simply scooped some of the mixture up with her finger and
offered it to her friend. Gabrielle happily accepted the offer, enjoying
the feel of Xena's finger in her mouth as she caressed it with her
tongue. In a matter of minutes the mixture took effect, and Gabrielle
was sound asleep in the warrior's arms.

Xena cradled the young woman in her arms, enjoying the peaceful
breathing and soft mewing sounds that tickled her neck. Even in
sleep, Gabrielle had managed to snuggle into her love, her arms
wrapped loosely around Xena's waist. Xena carefully put the bard's
discarded boot back on trying not to disturb her sleep, even though
she knew the mixture she fed her contained a powerful sleeping drug.

With Gabrielle still nestled in her arms, Xena lifted herself with her
powerful legs and carefully carried her to the house. The music had
since stopped, and Xena could hear the muffled movements of people
straightening up through the door. She quietly entered, and paused
when Hecuba and Lila looked up from their cleaning. Hecuba had a
large armload of dirty plates in her hands and simply nodded towards
the back of the house, and Xena continued through and into the
bedroom. She lowered the sleeping bard onto her bed, and was
beginning to remove one of her boots when she paused and said
quietly without turning, "Hello Lila."

Lila moved hesitantly into the room and silently perched herself on the
side of her bed. She watched as Xena finished taking Gabrielle's
boots off and covered her with a blanket. Xena instinctively reached
down and brushed a lock of hair from the bard's face before turning to
Lila. Lila noted the tenderness of the warrior's touch and mentally
added it to the growing number of inconsistencies she was finding
with the previous assumptions she had about the warrior.

"What happened here?" Xena asked, as she grasped Lila's forearm
and steered her to a corner of the room away from Gabrielle. Lila
found herself pinned, the warrior whispering intently into her ear. "She
was blind drunk and could have easily wandered off into the woods.
We're lucky she stumbled into the barn looking for me."

"All I saw her drinking the entire evening was cider -- I swear. I even
refilled her mug a few times myself. She was a bit quiet after you left,"
Lila paused when she saw a momentary flash of hurt invade the
warrior's face, and quickly continued, "but after she opened her
presents she appeared to brighten. She kept commenting about how
good Aunt Effie's fruit cocktail was -- seemed like she couldn't get
enough of it. Afterwards, she spent the better part of the evening
regaling anyone who would listen with stories." Lila looked up and met
the warrior's eyes. "All of the stories were about you." An uneasy
silence fell between them, broken only by Gabrielle's soft snoring and
the loud beating of Lila's heart. She had never seen Xena so angry
before, yet somehow knew it wasn't directed specifically at her.

"You said she really liked the fruit cocktail. Did you have any of it?"
Lila shook her head no. "Neither did I." Xena and Lila made their way
back out to where Hecuba was still cleaning up. "Show me where it
is." Lila pointed out the bowl and Xena tasted the fruit. "Aunt Effie.
She's Uncle Cosmo's wife, isn't she?" Lila nodded yes. "I thought so.
It seems she uses her husband's punch to soak the fruit in." This
stuff packs a wallop." Xena left Lila to help her mother clean up, and
returned to check on Gabrielle. "What am I gonna to do with you?"
she whispered, smoothing the blanket that covered the bard.

With the majority of the aftermath of the party cleaned up, Lila bade
goodnight to her mother and headed for bed. When she entered her
bedroom, she was surprised to find Xena slumped in a chair beside
her sister's bed, her head resting on the wall behind her.



"It's late. Why don't you try and get some sleep. I'll keep an eye on
Brie. Besides, you said she'd probably sleep right through the night

The warrior reluctantly agreed and paused to smooth nonexistent
wrinkles from the bard's covers before silently leaving.

Continue to parts 18-end


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