Obsessions and Confessions
by Azurenon and Savanna Mac
Xena Warrior Princess and all the characters contained herein are the sole property of MCA/Universal Studios/Renaissance Pictures. No infringement upon these rites is intended. We’ve merely borrowed these characters, as well as, some scenes and lines, for the sole purpose of entertainment and storyline continuity.
This story contains rather graphic details of two consenting, adult females involved in sexually explicit situations with one another. If this is not something you’d like to read about, please do not read our story. I’m sure there are even better ones, more to your liking.
Be it known, that this story is number "8" in a series we have entitled: "Between the Episodes", which makes reference to the aired episodes below. And, if you haven’t read the other 7 stories by Azurenon and Savanna Mac, starting with "Dream of Choice" you may be a bit lost when reading this one, as we often make reference to things that have gone before.
This story takes place following our daring duo’s adventures in the MCA/Universal Studios/Renaissance Pictures copy written material entitled: "Locked Up and Tied Down" and leads through "Crusader". If you haven't seen these episodes, I would strongly suggest you do so before reading this. And even if you have, you may want to refresh your memory.
Thanks go to all our friends! No need to mention each of you by name, you know who you are.
This is for all the subtextors out there. We hope we have spun an enjoyable tale.
If not, then please accept our humble apology.
This story contains more than 30 pages.
After returning from Shark Island prison, Xena and Gabrielle had put as much distance between themselves and Thelassa’s hometown as they could before sundown. They were now in a small lake, Gabrielle thoroughly washing Xena’s hair.
"What’s wrong with your hair back here? Did you have rat’s nesting in here or somethin’?" the bard queried.
You don’t know the half of it, Xena thought. "Ow," she groaned when her lover’s fingers snagged in a tangled mass.
"Sorry," the bard murmured. "Guess I’m a bit... overzealous."
"I’ll say," the warrior grumbled.
"Well, we wouldn’t want you to be... harboring another infestation of those... bugs, now would we?" she said, referring to when the two of them went searching through a swampy area looking for Argo. During this time, lice had plagued Xena, while Gabrielle had contracted a very itchy fungus. "I thought I’d never get rid of your friends, the last time," she added.
"My friends? I’ll have you know those little buggers were no friends of mine," Xena retorted, as she turned her head and glared at Gabrielle over her shoulder.
"Umph. Yeah well. I just wanna be sure your... guests have not returned for another lengthy stay," the bard said, the smile that had been on her face before, was now being replaced by a look of concern she did not want Xena to see.
Nor did she want her lover to know that her previous glare had sent a chill up Gabrielle’s spine. For, although she had been traveling with Xena going on four years now and been lovers for nearly a whole year, knowing what the warrior had done and/or caused to happen to a young Thelassa had been a devastating blow. Gabrielle would have sworn on her life, before this, that Xena had never physically harmed any woman, except in self-defense or perhaps by accident. Now, however, she wasn’t quite so sure about that. And this doubt was eating way at her insides. She wanted desperately to discuss this incident with Xena, but after all the warrior had been through, Gabrielle knew she needed to wait until the appropriate moment. And this wasn’t it.
Xena was enjoying her lover’s ministrations, except for the occasional hair pulling, though she felt she didn’t deserve to be treated so well. The guilt she harbored over what she’d done to Thelassa was like the proverbial chickens that had finally come home to roost. And noisy, vengeful little chickens they were, pecking away at her heart and her very soul. She could not imagine what Gabrielle must be thinking of her now. The bard’s silence spoke volumes. For when Gabrielle didn’t talk openly about an issue, it usually meant she was not at all sure of her own feelings in the matter. That uncertainty frightened, as well as, deepened Xena’s own self-flagellation. How could she have been so cruel? she wondered now. Why had she done that to Thelassa, someone who’d never done anything to her and couldn’t have even if she wanted to? What made her leave her for...?
"I didn’t know crabs would... eat human flesh," she heard herself mumble aloud.
Gabrielle paused in her ministrations. Here was the chance she’d been waiting for. "I didn’t know that, either," she offered softly.
Xena swallowed audibly, trying to get rid of the lump rising in her throat. Not having known this at the time, however, did not change the outcome. Thelassa was still crippled and scarred for life. And that was Xena’s fault. "She was a... beautiful young woman," she muttered.
Gabrielle offered no comment. What could she say? Xena’s statement spoke for itself.
"I... I wish she hadn’t... offered herself in lieu of the rest," the warrior continued. "Not made it clear that... she knew what... I wanted. And intended to use it against me."
"What... do you mean by that?" Gabrielle asked softly, pausing once again in her ministrations.
"That look," Xena answered simply. "From the moment we took over that village... the first time our eyes met... she knew... and I knew, she knew."
"I still don’t..."
The warrior shook her head. "Doesn’t matter anyway. Nothing she could have done was... deserving of... what I did to her."
"Please Xena, tell me what you mean. I want to understand."
"How can you? I don’t even understand it," the warrior grumbled.
"What look, Xena?"
The warrior glanced over her shoulder. "The... same one you gave me, the first time we met." Gabrielle looked surprised. Xena turned back around. "You knew, Gabrielle. Whether you consciously recognized it or not... deep down, you sensed where my... preferences lay. Why else do you think I didn’t want you to follow me? And then... allowed it... against my better judgment?"
"Oh... I see," Gabrielle murmured, realizing she’d felt and seen something similar in Thelassa’s eyes, as well. It was the look of a "kindred spirit", of sorts.
"I believe that’s why she offered herself for the others," the warrior went on. "And why she acted... smug, as if she knew I wouldn’t hurt her." She sighed heavily, remembering Thelassa saying, "Take me and let the others go" then when Xena agreed with this offer, Thelassa had added, "Don’t tell her a thing!" "I proved her... wrong," Xena grumbled. "Dead wrong... almost." The warrior hung her head.
Gabrielle remained quiet, trying to put the pieces together. Xena seemed to be saying Thelassa knew that she was attracted to her and therefore assumed if she offered herself, the warrior would let the rest go. Thelassa must have felt Xena would not harm that which she desired. Realizing this, Xena had obviously been angered by the young woman’s assumption and subsequently slashed her face to prove this was not so. At least, that was the tale Thelassa’s face suggested. Gabrielle had never directly been told who wielded the knife that disfigured Thelassa’s features, but she could only assume it had been the Warrior Princess, herself.
The bard then recalled the tale Xena had related not too awfully long ago, about her first meeting with Alti and her young apprentice Anokin. Although expecting Borius’ child and assuming Alti to be a shamaness with no good intents, Xena had welcomed the two, seemingly "kindred spirits", into her band of murdering marauders; her lodge she had, up until that point, shared with Borius and even into her bed. Starved for "the touch, the feel... the taste of a woman", or so Xena had put it, she fell "deeply in lust" with the young blonde, who was in Xena’s words, "as malleable as putty in my hands". Although "not in love", Xena had felt Anokin to be a good friend. Someone she could trust.
When Anokin was killed -during Xena and Borius’ attack on a village- the warrior had even went on a spirit journey with Alti to the Amazon Land of the Dead, in order to see her lover one last time. That journey, however, had proved to be a fatal mistake; for, without Alti’s influence and hold over her mind any longer, Anokin had accused Xena of "poisoning" her very soul. And to the warrior princess, this had been a devastating blow, one that fed right into Alti’s hands. Believing love to be something that she would never feel for another, much less have returned in kind, the warrior princess had turned inward, building higher and thicker walls around her heart, intent that, in Xena’s own word, "no one, neither male nor female would ever breach those parapets again." And this had only served to make her even more susceptible to Alti’s manipulations. The shamaness had then convinced Xena that using her dark side to help Alti would lead her to greatness beyond her wildest dreams. Alti would make "The Warrior Princess" into "The Destroyer of Nations" and together they would rule the world.
"I think that should do," Xena stated, snapping Gabrielle out of her contemplation, as the warrior moved away. "I doubt any bug could survive all that soap," she added, then lay back, rinsing her hair in the water.
Gabrielle merely stood there watching. She loved Xena with all her heart and soul. But, at times like these, she found it very hard to make sense of who Xena had been and the person she loved so much. Had Xena lashed out at Thelassa because of Anokin? Xena said she had vowed never to let anyone get that close to her again, until Gabrielle, that is. If this were so, then was it possible that Xena might one day lash out at her, too, if she became angry enough? She’d struck the bard once, a long time ago, while in the heat of battle, could see do so again? Gabrielle shivered. Xena’s dark side frightened her still. And maybe even more so now that she knew the warrior was indeed capable of violence towards women.
Xena raised up and looked over at Gabrielle, who had her arms wrapped around herself and was merely staring down at the water, with a very concerned and almost frightened look on her face. The warrior had seen this look before, when Gabrielle heard what all she’d done to Thelassa. Xena felt ashamed and guilt-ridden and even a bit afraid her own self. Would this new knowledge cause Gabrielle’s feelings to change? If she moved over to comfort her lover now, would the bard flinch at her very touch?
Xena couldn’t bear the thought of finding out. "I... think I’ll go for a swim," she announced. "Need to... loosen up or... I’ll be stiff in the morning," she added, referring to all the bumps and bruises she’d sustained during her fight with the guards and the prisoners.
Gabrielle glanced up at her and nodded, the barest hint of a smile turning up the corners of her mouth. "I’m... a bit chilled. I’ll wait for you... by the fire."
Xena merely grunted. She could hear the hesitancy in the bard’s voice. She also thought she could see fear and disillusionment in the sea-green depths of her true love’s eyes. And this sight clawed at her heart like the paws of a frightened house cat. She could almost feel the razor sharp nails as they raked over that tender membrane. She quickly dove beneath the water, hoping to relieve and sooth the wounds through the concerted effort of swimming. Yet, she feared she might well have to push herself to near exhaustion to numb all the pain.
* * * *
The fire had burned low and Gabrielle had dozed off, while waiting for Xena within the confines of their bedroll. A half moon was high in the sky by the time the warrior crept into their camp, determined not to awaken the bard. The warrior laid her chakram down first, then her sword, breastplate and finally her boots, arranging these various items in their usual positions, within easy reach should any danger present itself during the night. This ritualistic habit had saved their lives more than once.
Seeing Gabrielle’s bare shoulder, the warrior’s first thought was to slip off her leathers and crawl beneath the blanket, fitting herself around the smaller nude form, as she usually did. And yet, these were not normal circumstances. At least, they didn’t feel normal to Xena. And so she hesitated, merely staring down at her true love and wishing her past had never happened; or at the very minimum, never come back to haunt them. But wishing, she knew, would not make it so. The facts remained, as did the enormous guilt.
Xena quietly moved over to the fire, finding the stick the bard had obviously used to manage the fire and began poking at it herself, slightly shifting the two logs left burning, to ensure they did not dislodge themselves during the night. It was not a chore she needed to perform, Gabrielle had more than likely taken care of it long before now, it was merely busy work for idle hands that craved something to do, while their owner contemplated what she should do.
I love you so much, Gabrielle, the warrior thought, her eyes roaming over to the bard’s covered form. But, I can not help but wonder if being with me, will one day cost you your life and me, mine... should anything ever happen to you. I would gladly give my life for you, my love. Death holds no fear for me. What scares me most is losing you to Death’s undeniable call; having your light and your love taken from my life... from my very soul. For, I know now, without a doubt, I could not survive the darkness that would follow. Especially, if it were my fault.
The memory of searching for Gabrielle in the Amazon Land of the Dead surfaced once again. And following closely on its heels was that vision of death Alti had caused Xena to bear witness to. The vision played out before her mind’s eye in full detail, as it had for several moons now.
"Gabrielle, you’re the best thing in my life," she heard herself say as she watched her true love being tied to a wooden cross. One not so dissimilar from the one Xena had been bound to many years ago and had used on more than one occasion for her own victims.
"I love you, Xena," a shorthaired Gabrielle of the future said simply.
Xena felt helpless to prevent their fate. She could do nothing; her body felt paralyzed. She groaned upon seeing the large spikes being hammered into her true love’s hand, while feeling the pain of one being driven into her own.
"Quite a long swim you took," her lover’s voice rang out into the silence.
Xena glanced up quickly, her gaze having fallen to the fire during her reverie. Gabrielle was sitting up now, her legs raised, arms resting upon her knees as she stared at the warrior. It was obvious she had been awake, for a short while, at least.
"What’s wrong?" the bard asked softly. She had already noticed the haunted expression on the warrior’s face. The same one she’d seen many times before here lately; the one Xena always seemed to have when she was thinking about the past.
Xena shook her head and turned back to the fire. "Nuthin’... just checking the fire." She poked at it one last time for emphasis.
Gabrielle grunted. It was obvious Xena was not the same person she had been back then. No, the woman with the haunted expression, poking at the fire, that was the Xena she knew and loved. "Come to bed," she said simply and softly, as she eased back on one elbow, while pulling the blanket back with her other hand.
Xena noticed the movement and saw her lover’s nude form out of her peripheral vision. The sight was very enticing, as always. She couldn’t resist a glance towards Gabrielle’s face. The green eyes were in shadow; the pupils, however, highlighted by the orange glow from the fire. She could not read the expression in their depths and without this visual cue to guide her, she hesitated.
"I need you... to hold me," Gabrielle continued, sensing the warrior’s reluctance to join her. And the only reason she could think of for this hesitancy was Xena’s possible uncertainty over how Gabrielle felt about what had happened in the past. Unless, of course, it was her comment about the lice, which she doubted very seriously. That hadn’t stopped them from being together even when they both had the bugs and the fungus. "I didn’t see any bugs in your hair," she added, hoping to lighten the mood.
Although Xena desired to jump up and run over to her lover, professing her love, her guilt and her shame, she couldn’t do so. Not now. She was still too fearful of any form of rejection from Gabrielle, despite how much it seemed the bard wanted her. And it did appear she was wanted. She could discern that much from her lover’s actions. She got up slowly and walked over to their bedroll. Green eyes watched as she undressed before them. Slowly, she dropped to her knees on the bedroll and turned, putting her back to Gabrielle, as she arranged her leathers within easy reach.
Slightly rough, yet familiar, short fingernails lightly scratched her bare back. "I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of admiring your body," Gabrielle commented, as fingernails gave way to fingertips, moving gently over the warrior’s muscular back. "Your skin is so beautiful. Especially in the firelight."
Xena heard and felt Gabrielle moving behind her. Two slim, muscular arms soon wrapped around her waist; long blonde hair grazed her back, as a chin, attached to a lovely visage, rested upon her shoulder.
"I love you, Xena," the bard said softly, then pressed a pair of moist lips to the warrior’s neck. Xena moaned at the exquisite feel. "Lay down with me... please." One hand moved up and caressed the warrior’s right breast. "I need you," she whispered.
Xena could not deny the desire, which flooded over and through her. Gabrielle always knew exactly what to say and do to turn the warrior’s resolve to mush and sooth her fears. But, unlike how she usually reacted to such prodding, the warrior merely laid back and opened her arms to her lover. She wanted Gabrielle to make the next few moves. No, not wanted, she needed her to. For she felt she must know her true love actually wanted her and was not just doing this because she thought it was what Xena wanted.
"Umm," the bard murmured, one hand roaming over the warrior’s naked torso. "Are you gonna led me lead tonight or... are you too tired and sore for...?" She left the rest unsaid, merely arching an eyebrow, her gaze riveted to Xena’s dark blue depths.
"Never too tired," the warrior murmured, reaching up and caressing her lover’s face, a slight smile turning up the corners of her lips. "A bit sore, but... I’m sure you’ll be gentle with me."
"Umm-hmm," Gabrielle purred, one leg crossing over Xena’s hips, as she raised herself up and subsequently straddled her lover. "I’ve missed you, Xena." She leaned in close. "And don’t you ever willingly go to prison again, you hear me? I want you right here with me, always." She then emphasized her point with a searing kiss. When she came up for air, she smiled and teasingly said, "I know you too well, Xena. All you wanted was to be locked up with all those other women. Act out one of your fantasies. Uh-huh."
Xena smiled despite herself. "Hmph," she grunted, playing along. "And you got there a bit late. I had hoped they’d lock us up together when you came to rescue me."
"Um-hm, I bet you did," the bard teased. "Two fantasies in one, hmm?" Xena looked a bit puzzled. "Being locked up and watched by all the other prisoners." Gabrielle cocked her eyebrow.
"Ooo, didn’t think about that," Xena smirked. "We could always go back there and..."
"Woah girl," Gabrielle warned, holding the warrior down. "You’ll just have to keep pretendin’ on that part. And I think you know how to do that quite well," she continued, raising up on all fours and slowly crawling up toward Xena’s face. "But, if the feeling of being tied down or... held down is what you want..." The bard suddenly placed one knee on each of Xena’s outstretched biceps and straightened up. "Just consider me your captor," she added, as she slid her hands languidly and erotically down her own body, then captured Xena’s face between them.
The warrior’s tongue flicked out and wet her lips. Her eyes riveted to the enticing site before them.
"See somethin’... you want?" the bard further teased, her hands moving from Xena’s face to her own inner thighs.
Before she knew what had happened, although she had expected as much, Gabrielle was flat of her back, her head lying at the foot of the bedroll. Xena was between her thighs, holding both of Gabrielle’s wrists in one large, strong, warrior paw.
"You should never tease a woman who’s been in prison and... been without," Xena warned. "You may get more than you bargained for." The warrior then attacked the bard’s lips, as if she sought to devour them.
Gabrielle sighed with relief and moaned with pleasure. It had taken some innovative maneuvers and creative thinking, but she thought things were back to normal now. The ice had been broken between them and was melting rapidly. That niggling of fear in the bard’s mind over Xena’s past was covered over now by the love she felt for this same woman. She often wondered, at moments like this, if she would even want Xena to be without this past of hers. For, if she were, would she still be the same person she’d fallen so head over heels in love with? The bard didn’t know the answer to this, nor did she dwell upon it overly long, because her concentration was soon centered on the pleasure she was receiving at the hands of her beloved warrior with the dark, troublesome past.
Xena whimpered as her fingers slowly eased between warm damp folds. She caressed the small protruding nub of her lover’s passion, knowing from experience just how sensitive this little bundle of nerves actually was. "Umm... I wanna be... inside you," she murmured against the bard’s lips, while her fingers continued to caress another pair of now equally wet lips much further down. "Do you truly... want me?" she inquired, then flicked her tongue across the luscious, delectable membranes beneath it.
"Ye-Yes!" Gabrielle hissed, one leg rising and bending at the knee, her foot stroking the back of Xena’s calf.
"Umm... then... show me." The warrior’s lips grazed Gabrielle’s with each uttered word; her fingers falling still; perched upon the precipice of the bard’s inner sanctuary. "Take me... inside you."
Gabrielle whimpered now, at the effect these words had on her already aroused senses. She arched her hips in response.
"Oh yes-s!" Xena breathed, her fingers being drawn inside the hot, wet cavern. "Umm-hmm... oh ye-eah." She sucked in a breath through her teeth, when the bard arched her hips again. "Yes love... show me just... how much you want me," she murmured.
Gabrielle’s tongue flicked across Xena’s lips; the warrior gently attacked these membranes, nibbling and sucking, while each successive arching of the bard’s hips pulled her deeper and deeper.
"Yea gods on Mt. Olympus!" Xena gasped, her appendages now engulfed up to their hilt. "How I love... being inside you!"
Gabrielle licked and sucked on the warrior’s chin, maintaining the steady slow rhythmic movements, while her hands wandered down, each squeezing a handful of firm, soft warrior flesh.
Xena moaned as her desire was pressed against the bard’s thigh. "Gab-brielle," she sighed, her questing appendages now coated with her lover’s juices and sliding easily in and out in sync with the arching hips. She planted soft kisses from the bard’s mouth to her ear; her own desire pressed close; its sensitive bundle of nerves receiving a gentle caressing from her lover’s thigh.
"Oh-h Xena!" the bard whimpered. "Oh yes-s... umm-hmm... oh-oh-oh Xe-e-e-e-na-a-a!!!" she then exclaimed, singing out her lover’s name as if it were a word in her favorite song.
"Yes," the warrior breathed in her one and only true love’s ear. "OH-H YE-ES!"
A few moments later, Gabrielle breathlessly said, "By the gods, I love you, Xena." She then wrapped her arms around the warrior’s waist, vowing in her heart never to let go.
"Gabrielle, I love you, too," Xena whispered in her ear. "So much more than... I can ever tell you. So far beyond... what I could ever... in one lifetime show you."
"Kiss me," Gabrielle pleaded. When Xena raised up to do just that, the bard added, "And never stop." Xena whimpered, then gently and slowly attacked her lover’s lips, as if she intended to do just as the bard requested.
"Uh-Umph!" He grunted and lifted his gaze from the scrying bowl. "Every time I think I have her right where I want her..." He dipped his hand into the bowl, shattering the images, then lifted it out, palm up. The liquid trickled through his fingers. "Damnation!" he roared, slapping the table top with both hands.
Xena had set her own self up so perfectly by going to prison. She would have been separated from Gabrielle, confined in one place and oh so much easier to work on, from Ares point of view. And then that brat had shown up and ruined everything!
"Never give up, do you, you little bitch?!" he grumbled, then glanced around rather quickly to make sure no one had popped in on him.
The major bright spot in this whole scenario had been that no one knew or even suspected his involvement. Ares had learned from experience to keep his affairs quiet and to himself. The last thing he needed now was "the family" on his back again. He was still "on the outs" with most of them over that Dahak situation anyway. He’d tried to convince them that someone had needed to go along with the evil good, in order to save the rest; someone needed to be on the outside to free them from their imprisonment. Few believed his tale, however, and he’d been shunned by "the family" ever since. Didn’t bother him too much, though.
He walked over to his throne and sat down, draping a leg over one skeletal arm, as usual. He’d just have to think of something else, that’s all; something just as quiet and far more clever. And he needed to act quickly. For, this opportunity with Xena -whatever that shamaness Alti had shown her about the future, which had the warrior "spooked" enough to leave Gabrielle- just didn’t come along every day. Xena had surprised even Ares by taking this atonement kick of hers far beyond what he’d expected from her. A few words in the right ear, suggesting where the Warrior Princess might be found had set the previous events in motion. But, he had planned only to remind her of who she had been and... watch her kick those villagers’ butts to stay out of prison. He had not counted on Xena giving up so easily. Nor had he foreseen or even had an inkling that she’d actually leave Gabrielle and go to prison. That had been an added bonus.
And it would have been so perfect, Xena. You in prison... no Gabrielle around. We could have talked... we could have... Umph! He shook his head and groaned, his thoughts interrupted by more loud whimpers and moans coming from the scrying bowl across the room. He pointed his finger at the offending object, then waved his hand in a circular motion, cutting off the audio. He didn’t need to see, nor hear anymore. And this was one reason the bowl was across the room, instead of by his right hand where it used to be, before Xena’d fallen head over heels for that irritating little blonde!
"Ar-r-rg!" He growled, then smoothed his beard with thumb and index finger. There had to be something he could do.
"God of War... hear me, please!" Ares cocked his head at the sound of his name. "It’s Trakus, your humble servant."
Trakus? Ares thought. What in Tartarus was he doing saying "please" and "humble servant"? Trakus was a conniving, evil, clever and often arrogant warlord, just the kind of man Ares deemed worthy of his attention and help.
The God of War slapped the arm of his throne. He’d been so caught up in Xena’s unforeseen reactions that he’d completely forgot about Trakus and his army. He’d meant to get back to them and make sure that female warrior he’d been hearing about -the one targeting warlord, slave traders and the like- did not trounce his army.
Ares reached over and picked up the scrying bowl reserved for Trakus. He groaned. The warlord was a mess! Trakus and close to twenty of his men were all tied up, moaning and groaning.
"You mean have one more chance to turn to the light..." said a female voice, in a syrupy sweet tone, the owner coming into focus as she approached Trakus and his warriors. "... of your own free will. Or... we will send you to look upon the light." The short blonde-headed warrior glanced around the group. "Life in the light, fighting for good or... death. The choice is yours."
"This is what I think of your light!" Trakus spat on her boot. "I serve the God of War and no other." The other men grumbled in agreement.
The woman glanced down at the spittle on her boot. "And where is your god now, hmm?" she asked, her tone still somewhat sweet. "Where was he when the light was defeating your army? Perhaps you should reconsider your vows." She paused and scanned the group again. "Does he speak for all of you? Is there not one among you willing to change your ways and join us in our fight against the darkness? To live within the peace and warmth of the light?"
A few mumbles were heard and several men spat upon the ground. "Very well then," she said, turning to the man on her left. "Doc, the rest of you... you know what to do."
Ares had crossed his arms merely watching, considering what he’d like to do to this little whippet of a woman, when the blonde warrior suddenly drew her sword. "In the name of the light, I smite the darkness!" she proclaimed and ran Trakus through. She then bent over and whispered in his ear, "Look upon the light," as she shoved the sword upward. "Can you see it now?" she asked, in that syrupy tone. She then backed up a step. "If not, you will soon," she added, then placed her foot against Trakus’ chest and withdrew her sword, covered in the warlord’s blood. Trakus fell over on his side. She removed the blood from her sword by wiping it on his pants. Then she jammed her foot between his legs and slowly removed the spittle from her boot.
"A-THE-NA!!!" Ares roared, the sound silently traveling across the heavens and straight to his sister’s ears.
The blonde goddess of war and wisdom suddenly lifted her head, irritated beyond belief at this intrusion. "Stay right here," she said to the dark haired mortal beneath her. "I’ll be back in just a moment of your time."
"Hurry," the brunette suggested, caressing the unblemished face of the goddess.
"Oh, I intend to, believe me," Athena assured. She then disappeared in a flash of golden tinged white light from one of her many temples on Earth and reappeared behind her brother, hands on hips. "Well, what do you want?" she grumbled.
Ares spun around to face her. His eyes roamed over her immortal body. "You’re my sister, Athena, that does not impress me."
The goddess glanced down at herself. "Umph!" she grunted, then snapped her fingers, clothing herself in her golden armored raiment. "Now... what in Tartarus do you want?"
"Oh, I think you know. This female warrior... Najama," he said, mispronouncing her name. "She’s yours, isn’t she?"
"You mean Najara?"
"Whatever..." He waved his hand as if this was of no consequence, then pointed at the scrying bowl and sneered. "What do you mean sending her against Trakus?"
Athena blinked. "Well, for your information, dear brother, she’s not mine." She paused and stared down into the bowl. "Although... I might like her to be," she mumbled, watching the warrior woman dispatch another of Ares’ followers. "Very pretty. But... I didn’t send her against anyone." She spun around. "You mean this is what you interrupted me for?" She glared at him.
"Yes, I thought surely she was yours. All that talk about goodness and light..."
"Well, she’s not, I assure you."
"Then how did you know her name?"
"I keep my ears open. And try not to get too... obsessed over any one thing. You should try it sometime."
He ignored the barb. "Then who does she belong to?"
Athena glanced back at the bowl. "Beats me. But then, she’s not my problem. Looks like she’s yours, brother dear. You figure it out." And with that the goddess vanished, only to reappear back in her temple on earth. "Now, where was I?" she asked, of the lovely brunette, she was once again astride.
"Awch! The armor..." her lover reminded.
"Umph! I keep forgetting." The goddess snapped her fingers. "Better?"
"Oh yeah... much," the brunette purred and reached out to caress an unblemished breast.
"Umm," Athena moaned. There’s just something about the touch and feel of a mortal woman, she thought. Art was so right about that. And this one’s especially fine. "How would you like to ride at the head of my army?" the goddess queried.
* * * *
"Not Athena’s... not Artemis’, or she’d be dyked up like an Amazon," Ares grumbled. "Who could she belong to? Not Hera, surely." His mother might condone Najara’s actions, but he couldn’t believe she’d be behind them. And Aphrodite? Nah, no way, love’s her bag, he thought.
His mind strayed back to Artemis. Could the goddess of the hunt be behind this? Her Amazons were dwindling in numbers after all. Had she chosen Najara to start a new cult of women warriors? Nawh, Najara had men in her army and that would not appeal to Artemis at all! he decided. Where did this woman come from? he wondered. Perhaps that was the key to learning who was guiding her. He’d just have to watch and find out more. What’s with all these female warriors nowadays? he wondered. Xena, Callisto, now Najara...
"Hmph!" he grunted. "Oh... oh-ho-ho, now that would be one meeting I’d love to witness" he said, thinking of Xena and Najara. Oh yeah... and I bet Najara’s preaching... ah ha-ha, yep, it would be right up that softhearted bard’s alley. His eyes lit up and he chuckled softly. "Oh I’m good," he commented, pulling down on his leather-studded vest. He chuckled again. Umph, now all I gotta do is find out where that Najara bitch is heading and... a few well placed words in the right ear, "send this message to Xena" and... sit back and enjoy the show! "Oh yeah, I’m good! I’m real good!"
* * * *
Gabrielle sat straight up in their bedroll, her hand to her face. Xena had backhanded her. The bard had fed the warrior some red berries that she didn’t know were obviously poisonous. The Warrior Princess had been down on the ground throwing up, and then she’d jumped up and backhanded Gabrielle across the face. "E-hm!" she whimpered, as a hand touched her shoulder.
"I didn’t know... they were... poisonous!" the bard exclaimed, shielding her head with her arms and struggling to rise.
"Gabrielle... poison, what...?" Strong hands grabbed the bard’s waist.
"Please, don’t hit me... again, please," the bard pleaded, now on her hands and knees, struggling to crawl away, though Xena would not let go.
"Gabrielle, what are... you talking about? Who... hit you?" Xena’s strong hands pulled the smaller woman upright and backward into a powerful embrace. Gabrielle whimpered. "Sh-h... sh-h," Xena soothed, placing kissed on the bard’s forehead. Fearful, tear-filled eyes glanced up at her. Then the bard’s gaze roamed down and the expression on her face changed from confusion to recognition.
"Oh Xena!" Gabrielle grabbed the warrior around the waist.
Xena grunted at the tightness of her lover’s grip, as well as, the feel of their naked bodies coming together. Yet, this was obviously not the time for savoring such things. Something was going on with Gabrielle. The bard had been having nightmares off and one since escaping from Dahak’s pit. And instead of becoming less frequent, as Xena assumed they should, they appeared to be coming more often and in greater detail. Gabrielle had not mentioned anything about anyone hitting her before, however. And Xena could only assume that her lover had been through far more, during her time in that pit, than she was letting on or could possibly remember. It was quite likely that these memories were just now surfacing in her dreams.
"Who hit you, Gabrielle?" the warrior queried. "Was it Hope?"
The bard gripped Xena’s waist tighter and shook her head. "No... not Hope," she sputtered.
"Did you... see who hit you then?" Gabrielle’s head moved up and down almost imperceptibly. "Who Gabrielle? What are these nightmares all about?"
The bard shook her head. "Not... not now, Xena. Just... please... hold me."
* * * *
It was several days later while on their journey to an area near the town of Zoras in Phoenicia -where Xena had been told a band of slave traders were working- that the subject of Gabrielle’s nightmares resurfaced. The warrior had not inquired about it since that previous morning, nor had Gabrielle brought it up, even though it was sometimes obvious she was still suffering with their occurrences. This particular day, however, when Xena walked up behind Gabrielle, who had just finished relieving herself and placed a hand on her shoulder, the bard nearly jumped out of her skin. The warrior now thought it was time to pursue the matter, whether Gabrielle wanted to or not.
Xena took a seat on a nearby boulder, refusing to move on, until the bard told her about the dream. Gabrielle had reluctantly joined her.
"Now, tell me about it," the warrior stated, putting her arm around the bard’s shoulders.
Gabrielle did not offer to reciprocate, as usual, by laying her head on Xena’s shoulder. Instead she stared off into the distance. "They’re just... dreams," she mumbled.
Xena grunted. "Gab-brielle, you’re as jumpy as a mother bird with a nest nearby. If you tell me about it... maybe it will help." The bard glanced over at her. "That’s what you’d tell me," the brunette added.
Gabrielle nodded and looked away. "But... you... you won’t like it, Xena. You’ll..." She paused and glanced back at the warrior. "Well... I’m not sure how you’ll feel, really."
Xena frowned slightly. "Just tell me, Gabrielle. Please..." the warrior added.
Gabrielle looked away again and sighed heavily. "You remember those... red berries you told me about... the ones I started to pick once and you... knocked them outta my hand saying... they caused people to see things or... something like that?"
"Um-hm, they cause hallucinations."
The bard grunted. "Yeah well, in my dream... I don’t know this and... I feed them to you." She glanced over at Xena.
The warrior smiled. "In real life I’d know better than to eat them though."
Gabrielle shook her head. "I... uh... I mashed them up with some tubers and... you didn’t know that’s what they were."
"Oh, I see. So... what happened?" the warrior asked, though she had a feeling she knew what was coming. She’d seen men kill their comrades and even themselves after digesting these berries and suffering the hallucinations.
"You... uh... you hit me," Gabrielle admitted, saying the last part as quickly as she could.
"Umph," Xena grunted. "Those hallucinations make people violent. But, I don’t remember telling you about that, did I?"
"No, you didn’t," the bard acknowledged. "And... you didn’t hit me because you were seeing things. You... you hit me because... I put them in your food." The bard grimaced at the memory.
"Gab-brielle," Xena said softly. "You know I would never, ever raise a hand to you. Especially not over something like that."
"But, you weren’t... yourself in my dream. I mean... you weren’t the person you are now, you were..." The bard paused and nibbled on her upper lip. "You were the... Xena that Thelassa met."
The warrior grunted and pursed her lips, then nibbled on both upper and lower in turn. The words were like a punch to the gut. One she hadn’t seen coming, but should have. The one she had feared would come, after Gabrielle found out about Thelassa. Obviously, deep inside, the bard did indeed fear Xena’s dark side on some level, she just wasn’t consciously showing or acknowledging it. The warrior’s arm suddenly felt like dead weight upon the bard’s shoulder. And Xena felt at a loss for anything to say. So, she merely removed her arm.
"I told you... you wouldn’t like it." Gabrielle was now holding onto Xena’s arm, afraid the warrior was going to get up and walk away. "Please... don’t pull away, Xena. You asked me to tell you." She paused. "It’s just... a dream, after all. And... it’s not the only one I’ve had, it’s just... the most painful, ya know."
Xena grunted. "So it’s not the same dream each time?"
"Uh-uh. I’ve even dreamed about us riding Argo together and... watching you bathe and..."
"I meant this kind of dream," Xena corrected. "Where I hurt you?"
"Well, no that’s the only one like that, but... what I’m trying to say is... I’ve had other dreams about you being... the way you used to be, ya know? And they weren’t bad. Actually, they were kinda nice." Xena merely grunted and turned away. "They’re just dreams, Xena, nothing to be so concerned about. You know me and my vivid imagination."
The warrior glanced over at her lover and tried to offer a smile, though it barely lifted the corners of her mouth. She grunted and placed her hand over the one on her arm. "Just dreams," she murmured, though turning her head as soon as she said it, her heart feeling as if a thousand tiny thorns were stabbing it.
If Gabrielle could have seen Xena’s face at that moment, she would have kicked herself a thousand times for revealing this dream. She would surely have made up something to tell the warrior instead. But, the bard was too caught up in her own thoughts, that nightmare seeming so very real, as did the rest of the dreams about Xena being who she used to be, that they felt more like memories than dreams. Of course, she knew this was impossible, but still the haunting feeling remained.
Had Gabrielle seen the tear that trickled from Xena’s eye, she would have offered the comfort and reassurance that may well have prevented some events that transpired over the ensuing few days. For it was the very next morning, when Xena and Gabrielle ran headlong into Najara.
* * * *
"Did you tell her about that vision?" Xena asked quietly, of the zealot, who was tied to a post, awaiting transport to prison.
Najara glanced towards Gabrielle. "No... that would hurt her," she answered. "And I don’t ever want to do that. That’s your job."
Xena wanted to slap the bitch down, but instead she merely turned away. She still felt there was some truth to the zealot’s statement. A truth she knew she would have to confront soon, when explaining to Gabrielle why she had left her in Najara’s care.
It had nearly killed the warrior to leave her lover. She had screamed out her rage, her grief and her love, once she was far enough from the camp, so that no one would hear, especially Gabrielle. Then she had wished her one and only true love a long and happy life, hoping that without her around the bard just might be able to have those things. Xena still feared that if Gabrielle stayed with her, that vision of death would come true. So, she had no other recourse now but to confess her feelings, along with the true vision and hope that Gabrielle would understand, forgive her and ultimately walk away, thereby avoiding that particular fate for herself in the future.
Gabrielle looked up now as Xena approached. It was evident from the expression on the bard’s face, as she handed Argo’s reins over, that it was gonna be a long night, filled with lots of talking.
* * * *
"Damnation!" Ares sent the scrying bowl containing Najara’s image flying across the room. "I forgive you, Gabrielle," he mimicked the zealot in a high-pitched voice. His plan had failed miserably. Good thing no one knew of his involvement.
Oh, but it had been going so well there for a while, he thought. Gabrielle seemed to be falling for Najara and her preaching, she’d even been initiated into the light. Najara had obviously fallen ass over tits for the bard. And Xena was leaving her with the zealot. "Goodbye, Gabrielle!" Then Marat, that stinking bastard, had to go and shoot off his big mouth!
"You deserve worse than prison, you big mouth bastard!" Ares spat into the bowl containing Marat’s image, then sent it flying, as well. He then straightened up and pulled down on his vest. "But, I won’t... give up on you, Xena. No, I’ll keep pursuing you... right to your grave." he vowed.
"Which is exactly where you’ll put her if you keep this up!" Artemis proclaimed, as she appeared before him, hands on hips. "Won’t you ever learn? Leave them ALONE!"
"I didn’t touch a hair on your precious bard’s head!" he fumed. "But look whose talking!"
"Whaddaya mean by that?"
"What do you mean by that," he grumbled. "Xena going to the Amazon Land of the Dead... you expect me to believe you didn’t have a hand in that one!"
"I didn’t send her there," Artemis retorted. "She went there of her own free will."
"Oh pl-lease! Spare me! Xena hearing Gabrielle’s voice when... the brat was safe and sound in a hospice. Gimme a break!"
"She owed me!" Artemis fumed. "And you know it! She helped enslave all those Amazon’s souls. It was only right that she be the one to free them. And besides... Daddy approved the whole thing."
"Daddy approved the whole thing," he mimicked, as he plopped down on his throne. "Okay, so you’ve come here for what, hmm? To bitch about your girl going to prison? Well, go on, get it over with. Then... get outta my realm!"
"Gabrielle’s with Xena, she’s not going to any prison," she corrected.
"No, the other one, Navara... Najara, whatever..."
Artemis frowned. "My girl? What are you talking about? She’s yours!"
"Mine?" he nearly screeched. "With all that babble about goodness and the light, you think she’s one of mine? Get real!"
"I’ll admit I did find that part... a bit odd. But, I know how clever you can be...."
Ares gave her a quick smile. "Well, if you’re not here to bitch, then... what are you here for?"
"Well, actually... I came to gloat. But, it seems I should be somewhere else. If she’s not yours, then she must be Athena’s, though I can’t imagine her keeping this such a secret from..."
"Not hers, either," Ares interrupted. "Already been there."
Artemis’ frown deepened. "Then... whose?"
"Know anything about these Jinn that she claims talk to her?"
Artemis shook her head. "Never heard of’em."
Ares shrugged. "Then maybe the bitch is just... crazy." He moved his finger in a circle near his forehead and glanced up at his half-sister. "Which reminds me, I thought you weren’t speaking to me."
Artemis shrugged slightly. "Gloating is not talking. Like I said, that’s why I came here, but now... you’ve got me a bit worried."
"Ha! Since when have you ever been worried about me?" He draped his leg over the arm of his throne and settled back, arms crossed over his chest. This I gotta hear, he thought.
"Not about you! About... all the... strange stuff that’s been going on here lately." She strolled over to the scrying bowl containing Xena and Gabrielle’s images. The two weren’t walking side by side anymore. Gabrielle was lagging behind Argo. Gonna be hell to pay, Artemis thought, then cleared her throat and continued, "That shamaness, Alti... Dahak... those Romans invading our territories to the west... now this Najara person and... you heard Xena talking about a vision of death, didn’t you?" She spun around to face him.
"Oh pul-lease!" He rolled his eyes. "Like you haven’t saved your precious bard before."
"Lucky for you she landed on a ledge in that pit," she grumbled, arching one eyebrow. "No, I haven’t forgotten about that deal you made with the Fates." Her upper lip quivered.
"Yeah, well... I didn’t invite you here. You know your way out." He turned away, seeming to find his fingernails far more interesting than her.
"Aren’t you listening to me?" she nearly screeched at him. "Aren’t you at all concerned about this vision of death?"
"Yes, of course I am!" he shot back. "I was just... on my way to see Celesta, before you popped...."
"Way ahead of you," Artemis admitted. "She won’t comment on it."
"You mean she wouldn’t make a deal with you?" he raised up slightly.
Artemis shook her head. "No, she... well... to be honest, Air, she acted as if she didn’t know what I was talking about." The goddess’ frown deepened.
Ares grunted. "Sometimes Death is a pretty hard sell. She didn’t even toss out any vague comments... give you any hints as to what she might want?"
"Nope. She just stared at me for a moment or two, ya know how she is. And then she got called away. Romans attacking a village in the west," she added in explanation.
He grunted and rubbed his hand over his beard. "Then maybe this vision of Xena’s.. isn’t real. That shamaness, Alti... she was ba-ad news."
"Tell me about it. And she wasn’t one of mine, either. My people tossed her out on her keester not long after she showed up."
"Then how’d she get so powerful?"
Artemis shrugged. "That’s part of what has me so worried, Air. Something’s going on down there. It’s... upsetting the balance of things. I can.... almost feel it." She paused and stared at him. "And I have a feeling... Xena and Gabrielle... they’re gonna be right in the middle of it."
"Hmph. Xena usually is," he murmured and smiled. "So... what... exactly are you proposing here?" he asked suspiciously.
"I’m not sure I am proposing anything," she responded, nibbling on her lower lip, as a deep frown furrowed her brow once again. "I came here to gloat, I wasn’t prepared for... this."
"And now?" he prodded, believing there was something on her mind or she wouldn’t still be standing there.
"I think... we both should keep a close eye on... our two lovers down there."
Ares’ upper lip quivered at the word "lovers". "Don’t worry, I will," he assured.
"And I don’t mean by interfering. Air, this could be another one of those Dahak things. We didn’t see it coming before, but now... I think we oughta be prepared. And you being obsessed with getting Xena back... it’s liable to get them both killed by some other god we have no control over."
He turned away and grunted. "I’ll think about it."
"You better do more than think, Air. We were all nearly history last time. Besides if you’re the one to warn everyone this time..." She left the rest unsaid. The implications being he’d be back in "the family’s" good graces again.
It took him a few moments, then he finally said, "You watch out for your own little bard queen and... I’ll watch out for, Xena. Good enough?"
"No interference. At least... not until we find out what’s going on. Deal?"
"Deal," Artemis agreed.
"Anything else?" he prodded, when she just stood there, seemingly deep in thought. She glanced up at him and shook her head. "Then, do you mind... I’ve got things to do."
Artemis arched one dark brown eyebrow. "You said deal, remember?" She pointed her finger at him.
"Yeah. I remember" he said, right before she disappeared in a gloriously radiant flash of golden light. Meddin’ ol’ dyke, he thought. Can’t trust a woman that thinks she doesn’t need a man. Although he was conveniently forgetting that Xena was one of those.
Distraction, that’s what I need right now. "Wonder what Lecto’s up to these days?" he mumbled, referring to the blonde leader of the Furies. See if she’ll have a little chat with Celesta and the Fates. Find out what’s really going on here. Maybe the old bag-a-bones was just playing mind games with Xena.
Fewer than ten words had passed between them by the time they stopped to make camp that evening. Having a general knowledge of the area, Xena had decided on -and led them to- a place along the river with a glorious waterfall. The river fell from a rather insubstantial height and into a slow moving pool-like crater below. Smooth flat boulders protruded from the surface, a few of them occupied by turtles soaking up the remaining warmth from the stones. The warrior chose their campsite in a sheltered area, not far from the waterfall. She had then gone off to hunt for their supper, while Gabrielle set up camp, as usual: building the fire and laying out their bedrolls.
At first, the bard was unsure whether to lay them side-by-side. After all, Xena had intended on leaving her with Najara. Of course, Gabrielle was plagued with her own guilt in that area. She’d fallen so easily for the zealot’s line about "light and goodness"; even being initiated into "the light". She had assumed that since Xena had been so amiable about everything up until that point, that she might be able to talk the warrior into staying there with her, working on the Hospice, at least until the enterprise was up and running. Then armed with more knowledge and a stronger belief in her convictions, they would move on together, carrying the message of the "light" wherever she and Xena traveled. She thought surely the warrior would be able to handle a few moons in one place, if they were working side by side towards a goal that could help so many. But, it seemed Xena had her own ideas. The warrior had left, intent upon never coming back and without even saying goodbye. Najara had filled the bard in on this little bit of information after thoroughly trouncing Xena and nearly killing her.
Gabrielle cringed now, remembering Najara’s upraised sword, the sharp bronze point aimed at Xena’s chest. "In the name of the light, I smite the darkness!" the zealot had said. Guilt washed over the bard now. How could she have ever believed in this person; this zealot so easily? Why had she not looked deeper? Followed Xena, as well as, Najara’s own warning not to trust her too soon.
She shook her head. Najara was a complex puzzle. And perhaps that was part of the attraction. The last thought stopped her cold. Had she been attracted to Najara? The woman was obviously smitten with her. Najara’s eyes had told that story, even before she had attempted a very close, face-to-face confrontation after beating Xena up. Had Najara been fighting for "the light against the darkness" or fighting for her? Xena had been fighting for Gabrielle; she’d made that quite plain in her taunting of Najara, right before she kicked the zealot’s arse in their final battle. Xena had wanted to kill Najara, too. Gabrielle could see that in her eyes.
A shiver went up the bard’s spine. She had often seen that desire to kill in the warrior’s eyes and it still frightened her. She hadn’t, however, been able to discern this from Najara. And it had thrown her for a loop. She’d barely had time to throw herself upon Xena’s prostrate form, in order to save her, although she hadn’t even been sure this would stop the zealot. Not able to read Najara’s eyes, now that had proved to be a very frightening feeling; far more so than Xena’s dark side. For, at least with Xena there was always that doubt Gabrielle could create, to derail that desire to kill, somewhat. With Najara, however, her convictions were so strong that she either couldn’t or wouldn’t see the possibility that she could be wrong. Her mission- her obsession- was to "smite the darkness", no matter where or in what form she discerned it and it didn’t seem to matter how many innocents -who might get in the way- would have to die for her to accomplish this task. "The gods will correct any mistakes I’ve made," the zealot had declared.
Xena’s mission on the other hand was... Gabrielle paused in her musing. Does Xena have a mission? she thought. Do I? Is that what I was searching for by falling for Najara’s rhetoric? she wondered. Is that what’s missing in our lives? Direction, purpose, beliefs? For, what did either one of them truly believe in besides the fact that wrongdoers should be brought to justice? They had no clear direction, seldom even a clear destination; they merely went from one place to the next - at the whim of Xena’s wanderlust- confronting and correcting injustice, as best they could, wherever they happened to find it. Was that what I was looking for in Najara? She seemed to have such purpose, such meaning in her life that...
Xena walked up, interrupting her thoughts. The warrior was carrying two skinned and gutted rabbits, ready for the spit. "Oughta make good eating," the brunette said, holding them out towards the bard.
Gabrielle glanced up. Their gazes met and held for the first time in several marks (hours). Xena’s eyes betrayed her emotions. Gabrielle saw sadness, guilt, pain and a seemingly desperate longing for understanding in those blue depths. As she took the rabbits from Xena, the warrior turned away. Gonna be a long night, the bard thought, noting Xena’s gaze taking in their separate bedrolls. Gabrielle had chosen to lay them out as if they had company: a gap between the two, no more than an arm’s length apart.
The silence between them was deafening. Xena’s left leg quivered slightly. Gabrielle had seen this enough times to recognize it as a sign of indecision. But, what could she say? She was still hurt and badly that Xena had chosen to leave her.
"I think I’ll..."
"Maybe you should..."
They both had spoke at once and then fell silent. Xena’s leg trembled again. "I’ll wash up," she said quickly.
Gabrielle breathed a sigh of relief. She’d been about to suggest the same exact thing; for, Xena’s hands were mottled with the rabbits’ dried blood.
* * * *
They ate in silence, each stealing glances at the other. The tension was so palpable Xena felt as if she could cut it with her sword. When they were finished, short remarks were made referring to the food; each briefly complimenting the other. Then Xena announced that she was going to take a bath. She hesitated, her left leg quivering again.
"I’ll be along shortly," Gabrielle offered. "That... waterfall looks... inviting."
"Yes, it’s... a beautiful spot. I... uh... I thought you’d like it."
Gabrielle glanced up to find Xena looking down at her. They both flashed a brief smile all that was left unsaid between them causing their intended expressions to be only half-hearted at best. Then Xena quickly turned and left.
We’ve gotta talk about it, Gabrielle thought. I’ve gotta know why she was leaving me. Xena has questions of her own, too, I can see them in her eyes. But, do I have the answers? she wondered. Were my actions towards Najara part of the reason she left?
The bard remembered quickly climbing up on the back of Najara’s horse. She could still see the expression on Xena’s face. Guilt washed over her. She’d wanted to see some reaction from the warrior, but this hadn’t been it. Did Xena really believe I was falling for Najara? she wondered. I was falling for her rhetoric, that’s for sure. And she could now see how Xena might have misinterpreted that, with a little help from Gabrielle, herself, of course. Because she had wanted to make her lover jealous and did things to prompt such a reaction.
Guilt settled into the corner of her heart now, as anger pushed it aside. All she had to do was ask me, she thought. Show a bit of jealousy and give me a chance to explain. But no, she takes off in the middle of the night without even saying goodbye. The latter thought brought the anger bubbling to the surface. She’s got a lot of explainin’ to do. And she’ll tell me, even if I have to... hem her up and hold her up under that waterfall! Because I’m not gonna give up on you without a fight, Xena! Even if that means you have to fight me! Armed with this conviction and carrying her guilt like a hidden confession, written upon one of her scrolls and safely tucked away from prying eyes, Gabrielle headed for the river.
Xena was already in the slow moving current by the time the bard got there. The water line came up just below the warrior’s behind, as she waded towards the waterfall. So taken was Gabrielle by this site, that she eased back into the cover of the trees, preferring to watch for a moment or two.
The warrior tilted her head back as she entered the falling water. Long, straight, raven tresses were instantly inundated and brushed back by the force of the river. Waves pounded upon dark bronze shoulders and cascaded over a lighter bronze back. A smile crept onto the bard’s face, noticing the unmistakable outline of Xena’s leathers, the sun unable to penetrate and darken this region. I should get her to lie naked with me on one of those flat rocks, Gabrielle thought. And yet, as Xena turned sideways, one light bronze breast coming into view, the bard had second thoughts on the matter. For, she realized she liked the contrast of light and dark. The part she shows the world, she mused, and the part she shows me. The mere thought was stimulating.
Gabrielle’s next thought was to strip off her own clothes as quickly as possible and join the wet, beautiful vision her eyes beheld. Another distracting thought, however, gave her pause. What if she doesn’t want me to join her? A twinge of anger and fear rippled through her system. What exactly had possessed Xena to leave me? She had come back for and even fought for Gabrielle, once she found out Najara’s true convictions. So why did she leave to begin with? Tired of me? What about those vows we made to one another in Artemis’ temple? What about the things we said to each other only a few days ago? The love we made?
Her thoughts were interrupted temporarily when she saw Xena’s hand roam over her own body, apparently attempting to wash herself without soap. Dreams from the previous few nights flashed through her mind’s eye. In one dream Xena had been doing something similar, although out of the water. Actually, she’d been rubbing mint over her body (something they both did when they ran out of soap and could find some of the scented herb). Only this hadn’t been Gabrielle’s Xena. No, this was "the Destroyer of Nations", the person Xena had been before they met. In this dream, the sight of watching that Xena rub her entire naked body with the scented herb had captivated Gabrielle. Then later, in this same dream, as well as, subsequent ones, they, the innocent bard of yesteryear and "the Destroyer of Nations" had been making love, in various and sundry positions.
Gabrielle shivered with delight now at the mere memory of these dreams. That Xena had been rough angles, severe stoicism (at first) and completely unpredictable; she had certainly not been the warrior she knew and loved. And yet, Gabrielle felt she had fallen in love in these dreams. For, after their intense lovemaking sessions (which were far more numerous than most of her dreams), "the Destroyer of Nations" had been as amiable and cuddly as a mere kitten, exposing its soft underbelly for a bit of soothing scratching. Suddenly a thought struck Gabrielle like a bolt from the blue. Could it be that these dreams were not about fearing Xena’s dark side, but more about embracing it? Could it be? "Has to be," she muttered aloud, bringing her own self out of her woolgathering.
Having removed her clothes whilst she pondered all these thoughts, she was now ready to take a bath. And bound and determined to do so, no matter what Xena might or might not feel about her. She snatched up the soap and headed for the crater-shaped pool.
The bard was wading into the water when Xena caught the movement out of the corner of her eye. Seeing her true love, in all her glory, the warrior paused in her bathing ritual. She wanted nothing more at that moment than for things to be the way they had been between them. Yet, she feared there could be no going back. They had to go their separate ways for Gabrielle’s sake. And she had to explain this so that her true love would understand. But watching the same woman now and feeling the love and desire bubble and churn within her, she wondered if it would be so wrong to make love one last time? She could pour out her tortured heart afterwards, couldn’t she?
But, what if she doesn’t want you? she questioned herself. Xena could not answer this. She knew Gabrielle was hurt and more than likely mad. And she couldn’t blame her. She hadn’t handled things very well, that was evident. Walking away like that had not been the proper way to do what had to be done. But Gabrielle seemed so taken with Najara, so bright-eyed and hopeful -more so than Xena had seen her in a long time- that jealousy had been the final motivating factor that spurred Xena’s feet into rapid motion. When Najara had said, "You know once she finds out you’re gone, she’ll try and follow you," Xena’s first thought was I sure hope you’re right; for, deep inside the warrior wanted Gabrielle to follow her; to prove Najara meant nothing to her.
Jealousy reared its ugly head once again, as Xena thought of Najara’s hands on her true love’s body. And she couldn’t help but wonder, from the way Najara had so quickly leaped to fight for Gabrielle, just what had passed between the two, in her voluntary absence. Had it happened that quickly? It was obvious the zealot was taken with Gabrielle. Had the feeling been mutual? Had Gabrielle possibly fallen for...?
Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted when the person she was thinking of, looked over at her. Love’s gaze locked and held, for both women.
Gabrielle was first to break the silence. "Looks like that... feels good," she said, her eyes breaking away, as well, to glance up at the waterfall.
"Wonderful," Xena responded. "Come and... see for yourself." The latter phrase had popped into her mind and straight out her mouth. She nibbled her body lip now, wondering if this had been a mistake. If her lover turned her down, how would she feel?
Their gazes locked again, for only a brief moment. Then Gabrielle glanced down at the soap in her hand, while her feet moved in Xena’s direction. Under normal circumstances, she would have found a place to put the soap down, knowing it would be lost in the river, forgotten amidst the preferences of more stimulating matters. Yet, these were not normal circumstances and in order to lay the soap aside on a boulder, would mean a detour, which Xena might take as being quite presumptuous on her part. Gabrielle tightened her grip on the soap and proceeded forward. If it was dropped in the river, so what? There would be far more gained than lost, if what she hoped for did indeed happen.
The warrior took a small step aside when Gabrielle neared the falling water. "Ummm," the bard hummed, the water inundating her head and blanketing the rest of her body in its cool freshness.
She turned around, facing towards the crater-like pool now, letting the water strike the back of her head, smoothing her hair down. Ah, this does feels wonderful, she thought and wondered what Xena was doing at that moment. Was she watching her, as she had so many times before? Did she like what she saw?
Gabrielle moved the bar of soap over her torso slowly, as she would have under normal circumstances. The cascading water instantly rinsing the slippery solution right back off. She took a step out from under the falls and then wiped the water out of her eyes with her free hand. Upon clearing her eyesight, she fully expected to catch a glimpse of Xena, in her peripheral vision, standing where she had previously been. And yet, she wasn’t there. Nor was she in front of her, either. Surely she could not have exited the river so soon, could she? Not unless she ran, Gabrielle thought, as the soap slipped from her hand, while her eyes scanned the riverbank. She did not even bother to look after it; for, there was a sinking feeling permeating her gut, not from the loss of the soap, but because her hopes had sank right along with it.
Suddenly there was pronounced splashing near her right side. Gabrielle’s heart jumped up in her throat and then her eyes beheld Xena reaching into the water near her feet.
The warrior raised up with the bar of soap in her hand. "Lookin’ for this?" she asked, rather softly.
Gabrielle was stunned and relieved. She gazed up into bright blue eyes thinking, No, actually I was looking for you. These words, however, did not make it to her lips, although she could only assume the warrior could read these thoughts in her eyes. For, she, herself, was reading something quite similar in the depths of Xena’s.
Their gazes locked once again, as the warrior held the soap out to her, palm up. Gabrielle caught the movement and reached out. Her fingers touched Xena’s palm. The sensation this caused inside the bard was like a lightening strike. She dared not move. Her hand remained on top of the soap in Xena’s palm, the expression in those blue depths changing by degrees with each passing moment: softening, deepening, filling with that unmistakable aspect of desire. The warrior’s thumb stroked slowly and gently over the back of Gabrielle’s. The latter took a step closer.
"Should I... Can I... finish that for you?" Xena asked, a bit hesitantly, her eyes darting back and forth searching Gabrielle’s, her voice soft and scratchy with that underlying needy tone.
"Uh-h-h-huh," the bard stammered, in agreement, although she forgot to take her hand off the bar of soap.
Without breaking eye contact, Xena’s left hand covered Gabrielle’s. "Would you rather bathe me first?" she asked, while taking hold of the bard’s hand with her left and removing her right palm from beneath the soap. She did not wait for an answer, however, as she led Gabrielle’s hand up to her chest. She moved the soap over her bosom with graceful strokes, her eyelids fluttering briefly.
Gabrielle knew without looking where her hand was. Her left now joined in the activity, trembling slightly as it touched the warrior’s bare right breast. Xena whimpered and Gabrielle moaned. Despite all that had happened, their desire was still a brightly burning flame.
After completely covering the warrior’s torso, the bard turned her right hand over, palm up, offering the soap to Xena. Gabrielle desired both hands to be in physical contact with the warrior’s body. The tall brunette sucked in air between her teeth, her eyelids fluttering as Gabrielle caressed both breasts; thumbs brushing back and forth over each rising nipple. The bard’s anger was shoved further and further aside with each deliberate stroke. The warrior’s arms then went around her waist, pulling her a bit closer. The soap was now roaming over Gabrielle’s back and then on down to her cheeks, Xena switching hands fluidly, covering each cheek with the slippery mixture.
"Xe-na," Gabrielle breathed, her lips trembling as the warrior leaned towards her.
The brunette placed a soft kiss on the bard’s cheek, very close to her mouth, as if she did not want to be too presumptuous. Or perhaps, as the warrior often did, for Gabrielle’s sake, to prolong the moment.
Slick bodies touched and moved against one another, when Xena pulled the bard closer; her cheek now pressed to the side of Gabrielle’s; lips planting soft, lingering kisses. No words were spoken as the two lover’s bodies commiserated. Soap soon found its way to the blonde’s mound. With her unencumbered right hand Xena bathed this area with slow, sure strokes. Gabrielle then took the slippery bar and did the same to her warrior.
Then suddenly, Xena was lifting one of the bard’s legs up to her hips. Instinctively, Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena’s neck. Both legs were soon lifted up and draped around the warrior’s hips. Xena held her this way, while moving back beneath the waterfall; the cascading water rinsing their bodies free and clean. Once that was accomplished, to her satisfaction, the warrior stepped out from beneath the deluge. Blue eyes met sea-green once again.
Gabrielle could see Xena’s lips tremble ever so slightly as the warrior leaned over. Her mouth opened in anticipation. When their lips met, it was like a million tee-niney bombs going off in the bard’s lower abdomen. Each woman moaned simultaneously. Their tongues fell into a very familiar rhythm, stroking and caressing; their lips sliding over one another’s with great ease.
Gabrielle was the first to come up for air. Breathlessly, she whispered, "Oh-h Xe-na."
"I love you, Gabrielle," the warrior murmured, the words coming to mind and falling from her lips with no hesitation.
"Oh, I love you, too!" Gabrielle proclaimed against her lover’s cheek. "Why, Xena... why?" she hissed, the emotions filling her up inside and bubbling over.
"Not now, love," Xena responded, her own voice quivering with emotion. "Please... not now," she further pleaded. "Just... just let me love you, Gabrielle. Please."
The bard placed a light kiss on the warrior’s cheek. "Later then... much later."
Xena carried Gabrielle over to a large flat boulder, lying just above the water’s surface and seemingly wide enough to hold them both. She lifted, then set the bard upon it. "Lay back," she requested.
When Gabrielle did so, propping herself up on her elbows, obviously expecting the warrior to climb up beside her, Xena’s gaze roamed over her body, coming to rest upon the center of her desire. The warrior leaned over, and starting with the bard’s breasts, placed warm wet kisses down her lover’s torso. Then she eased down to one knee and buried her face in the dripping wet blonde curls.
"Yea gods!" Gabrielle breathed. "Oh Xena... that feels so-o good." She swallowed audibly, still propped up on her elbows, her head thrown back. "Ah yes... take me, Xena... as only you can."
Xena growled deep in her throat, her tongue suddenly filling the bard’s cavernous desire. Gabrielle laid all the way back now, her arms too weak to hold her up at the moment, her legs rising to a bent knee position and spreading wide.
The warrior moaned and groaned, as she attacked the bard’s flaming desire. Her upper lip caressed the sensitive bundle of nerve endings, while her tongue moved in and out, probing the nectar-coated depths, as far as she could reach. The bard’s hips were arching to her strokes and Xena could discern from her lover’s moans, that she was ascending the heights of passion.
It was happening much too quickly. She wanted more time to slowly make love to this woman who had filled her life with so much joy and happiness and love. One last long stroke and she broke away, rising back to her feet. Green eyes popped open and stared up at her in confusion.
"Let’s take this... to dry land," Xena suggested. "It’ll be getting dark soon."
She reached out both hands to the bard. Gabrielle took them without comment, her expression changing to understanding, with only a hint of disappointment.
Xena knew Gabrielle seldom balked at waiting. If anything, she seemed to prefer long drawn out foreplay, especially when it came to pleasing the warrior. Tonight, Xena intended to extend the same courtesy, if she could hold herself back, that is.
They walked hand in hand to the shore. Once there, they each separately gathered up their clothes and proceeded naked to their campsite, their fingers interlaced once again. At the campsite, Xena’s eyes took in the separate bedrolls. She glanced up at Gabrielle, while laying down her weapons and clothes beside her sleeping skins.
The bard’s eyes darted back and forth. "I didn’t know if..." Xena cut her off with a gentle nod of her head.
A little while later, their bedrolls lying side by side now, their clothes and weapons within easy reach as usual, they each laid back. An uncomfortable silence fell between them as they both stared up at the darkening sky. The separate bedrolls had put a bit of a damper on the mood, which Xena hadn’t counted on, but she felt reasonably sure things would work themselves out. Yet, she wasn’t going to rush into anything. Knowing the bard’s passion for foreplay, she thought it best to ease back to where they’d left off.
"Wonder what those really are," Gabrielle mused, breaking the silence, still starring up at the sky. "I mean... look at that one..." She pointed towards the southeast where a bright star was visible. "...wonder why it twinkles red, while a few of the others are blue and green and... most are just white."
Xena slowly rolled over on her side to face her. "What do you think?"
The bard glanced over at her. "I don’t know... maybe they’re special or something?" She paused, gazing up again. "I’ve heard one legend that claims they are the separate homes of the gods. The brightest one in the north... that’s supposed to be Zeus, but... I’m not sure I believe that."
"How come?" the warrior asked, propped up on her elbow and gazing down at her true love.
"Too may stars, not enough gods," the bard replied, looking over at Xena now.
"I’ll agree with that," the warrior murmured, the look in her eyes suggesting the stars were of no real consequence to her at the moment; for, her attention was centered on Gabrielle. Those dark blue orbs were perusing the bard’s face as if it were some newly discovered object of immense interest.
Gabrielle blushed slightly beneath the scrutiny, though loving every moment of it. Xena inched closer, her eyes riveted to the bard’s lips. Gabrielle saw a slip of tongue wet the warrior’s own lips. When this intense blue gaze finally met her own, Gabrielle arched one light brown eyebrow and softly asked, "Are you gonna kiss me or... watch me die from longing?"
Xena smiled, the tip of her tongue wetting her upper lip. "I’d prefer to kiss you," she murmured, then leaned over, doing just that.
Their kiss was passionate and filled with longing. Gabrielle detected her own scent upon the warrior’s mouth, which only served to remind her of their time on the boulder. She instinctively wrapped her arms around Xena’s waist and urged the tall brunette over on top of her. One long leg settled between her thighs; her own left breast sliding into the valley between and being completely surrounded by two larger ones. She felt one of Xena’s already erect nipples against her own cleavage, as the warrior’s thigh pressed against her desire. She shuddered at this, as well as, the abundant dampness astride her own leg.
There were few words that passed between them, merely whimpers and moans of pleasure as Xena sought to slowly give her true love the pleasure she felt she so richly deserved. When her fingers were perched upon the precipice of the bard’s desire, she longed to ask the question: "Do you want me?" and upon hearing the answer "Yes" she would then say, "Show me." Yet, there was no need for either, because Gabrielle was already responding to the unvoiced question by arching her hips.
The warrior was so shocked and elated she broke away from their lip lock, breathlessly, an almost childlike whimper -she’d never heard before and could hardly believe she’d made- issuing forth from her throat and exiting her throbbing lips. With each successive arching, her lover’s desire pulled her appendages deeper and deeper into its hot, wet domain.
"Take me, Xena," the bard whispered near her ear. "Love me like only you can."
That childlike whimper burst forth from Xena’s lips once again and she attacked the bard’s neck in that sensitive area, while her fingers thrust in sync with the arching hips. Her whole hand was soon coated with a sweet, creamy, slick, nectar that only served to flood her system with a primal desire.
Suddenly, she found herself moving down the bard’s body. She latched onto one erect nipple and sucked greedily. Gabrielle cried out and pressed her hand to the back of Xena’s head, obviously desiring more of the same. The salty, tantalizing taste of the emissions emanating from her lover’s nipples, drove Xena wild with desire to seek out and savor more of the same delicacy in an area further down.
"Umm... turn around, p-lease!" Gabrielle requested, as Xena neared the heart of her desire. The warrior paused and then quickly reversed her position. "Oh-h yeah-h," the bard murmured, as one long leg crossed over in front of her eyes. She immediately wrapped her arms around Xena’s hips and pulled down, meeting the warrior’s soaked desire halfway.
The bard’s movements were so quick and deliberate, Xena flung back her head at the first delicious stroke. "Yea gods on Mt. Olympus!" she gasped. "Oh yes, Gabrielle!" She then buried her own face between her lover’s thighs.
Gabrielle was the first to cry out. Her concentration shot for the moment, she merely sucked on the warrior’s inner thigh, as wave after delicious wave washed over her body.
When Xena finally raised her head and started to move away, Gabrielle tightened her grip on her lover’s hips. "Where do you think you’re going?" she murmured. "I’m not through with you yet," she added, resuming her previous ministrations.
Xena cry was long, loud and guttural. Gabrielle’s name ringing out through the silence of the forest, sounding for all the world like the cry of a large animal in heat. Gabrielle felt her lover’s legs quiver and knew the warrior had crested those heights, yet she held on tightly as Xena tried to pull away.
"Gabrielle, I... I can’t... Oh-h-h, ah-h-h!" The bard thrust her tongue deep again and again.
Xena’s upper body literally collapsed, her arms trembling so much they would no longer hold her up. Her lower body, however, was firmly in the bard’s grasp, her lover plunging in and out, as if she sought to collect every single drop of the warrior’s love juices. Unwilling to fight against her true love, the warrior surrendered to the exquisite and overwhelming pleasure. She licked and sucked on the bard’s inner thigh, while her own legs quivered uncontrollably.
"Oh-h, sweet Hestia! Wh-at are you... do-o-ing to me?" she breathed, as a second orgasm, sweet, soothing and draining in its slow, drawn out intensity meandered through her body for the first time in her entire life. Xena’s legs went absolutely limp; they could no longer support her.
Obviously, not to be deprived, Gabrielle pulled her lover’s lower body back towards her and used her hands and elbows to prop it back up into position. "Ummm..." the bard hummed, and went right back to feasting upon the outpouring of her lover’s passion. The sweet nectar oozing forth with each pulsing of her lover’s desire.
Gabrielle would later admit to Xena that she had loved this far more than her favorite dessert of cherries and cream.
* * * *
Their discussion, which each assumed would make for a long night, was broached by neither woman until the next morning. And since Xena had put Gabrielle off, the bard waited for the warrior to break the ice in this matter. The issue finally came up when Gabrielle was packing up their belongings and Xena walked up beside her. The bard could see the warrior’s left leg wavering back and forth with indecision.
Then out of the clear blue, the tall brunette bluntly asked, "Did she touch you?"
Gabrielle paused and nibbled her upper lip. "No. Not... that way."
Xena merely grunted. Then suddenly both of them started talking at once, then fell abruptly silent.
Gabrielle gazed up at the warrior. "Let’s... take a walk down to the river, hmm?" she suggested. "This may take awhile and... it’ll be cooler there."
Xena nodded her acquiescence. Gabrielle reached up for her hand. The warrior slowly pulled the bard to her feet and into her arms. Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena’s waist. Their embrace seemed to suggest an unspoken agreement between them: Their love was still strong. And nothing could negate that, not even the painful words that might lie ahead.
They sat down on a log in the shade, side by side, their fingers still intertwined. A cool breeze was blowing off the river as Xena began her tale of the true vision of death she’d foreseen for them both. When she was finished, she noted that they were no longer holding hands. Gabrielle was also sitting on the edge of the log, as if she intended to get up at any moment. And yet, her elbows were still resting on her knees, her right hand scratching the left side of her face near her mouth. Xena had seen this enough to know that it was a sure sign of indecision. And the former position -on the edge of her seat- seemed to suggest a bit of anger mixed in, as well.
"And... how come you didn’t tell me this before?" the bard finally asked, hands now clasped together on top of her knees.
"I... well, I didn’t want you to worry."
"Uh-huh. And so... this is why you went to prison?"
"Well... not the only reason."
"But, it is why you left me with... Najara?"
Xena could heard the anger in her lover’s voice now. "That and... you... you seemed so happy, so... full of joy when she was around that..." Gabrielle glanced back at her, the look in those green eyes causing Xena to pause for a beat or two. "Your eyes, Gabrielle, they... they lit up when you discussed the hospice she was going to open," the warrior continued, in explanation. The bard grunted and turned away. "And I knew... I knew I could not... give you those things, love." Xena’s voice cracked on the last few words. "Don’t you see?"
Gabrielle quickly turned back around. "No, I don’t. Because you do give me those things, Xena and... so much more." One of the warrior’s eyebrows quivered, as if she were trying to raise it in disbelief. The bard’s tone softened considerably. "Well... maybe not the hospice, I grant you, but... you do bring me joy and happiness and..."
"Gabrielle, didn’t you hear a word I just said?" Xena interrupted, her voice rising an octave. "Death, Gabrielle... that’s what awaits you if you stay with me!"
"You don’t know that for sure," the bard countered, irritation evident in her tone, as she stood up rather abruptly.
"I hurt you, Gabrielle. I know I do. My dark side, it... it scares you. You said so yourself and..."
The bard spun around. "I told you I said that only to get her to believe I’d go with her," she hissed. "I said it to save your life!"
"But, it’s true," Xena added, glancing down. "And you know it."
"Xe-e-na, I don’t know any such..."
"Those nightmares you’ve been having lately, Gabrielle..." the warrior interrupted once again. "... maybe they’re trying to warn you." Xena slowly raised her gaze to meet her lover’s. "Warn you about this vision. They’re telling you to... get away from me, love, before I.... I get you killed!"
"Xena, no!" Gabrielle said adamantly and was back beside her lover in a blur of movement. "No, that’s not what those dreams are about." She grabbed the warrior’s forearm. "I told you they’re not all bad. We even... we’ve made love in these dreams, too, Xena and..."
"And far more times than I’ve dreamed you’ve hit me, I assure you." The warrior looked a bit surprised. "I... Xena, I don’t think they’re about your vision at all. I... I really believe they are... my way of... accepting and embracing your dark side, ya know."
"Gabrielle, you’re just saying that to..."
"No, Xena. No, I’m not. I’ve thought about this before and... I really think it’s true. It feels right in here." She pointed to her chest. "I admit I have been quite frightened by your dark side at times, but... I think I’m working that out in these dreams. I mean, they are so real, Xena, it’s... it’s almost as if they’re a memory and not..." The bard paused. "Well, I know they’re not real, but..." She paused again and cleared her throat . "Well, you know I’ve always had a problem with your past. All the lovers you’ve had." Xena started to object. "Sh-h, now let me have my say alright?
"I... well, I get pretty jealous sometimes when I find out about another one. I can’t help it, I just... I guess I just can’t stand the thought of you being with anyone else." She rubbed the warrior’s arm and cleared her throat again. "And I... I often wonder if... if you had met me back then would... would you have changed sooner? Could I have made a difference in your life and... yeah, I know that sounds pretty conceited, but... I think that’s part of these dreams, too. Me... naive little storyteller, turning the Destroyer of Nations around...." A slight smile turned up her lips briefly. "I mean, I know Hercules is the one who actually did this, but... I’d like to think that I could have done so, if... you’d met me first."
Xena placed her hand on top of Gabrielle’s and waited a beat to be sure the bard was finished. "Gab-brielle," she began softly. "You have changed my life in so very many ways. Hercules could never have touched me nearly as deeply as you have. Maybe he helped start the change... gave me something to think about, but... it’s been you, love... you’re the one that has kept me from falling back into that old life and those old ways. You have taught me the true meaning of the word love.
"I can’t begin to tell you how much joy and happiness you’ve brought into my life, Gabrielle. And that’s... that’s why when I saw you with Najara... how happy you seemed to be with someone who could appreciate the same things you do, share those things with you and... seemed to be believe the same things.... the light in your eyes when she mentioned that Hospice, Gabrielle, it..."
"By the gods I was so jealous when you hopped up on that horse behind her," the warrior continued, turning away slightly. "The way you looked at her when you were walking along the shore, I..."
"Xena, stop," the bard grumbled.
"I knew that’s what you needed. Someone like that in your life. Someone who made you hap...."
"Stop it!" Gabrielle scolded, squeezing Xena’s arm. "Just stop this, please. Xena... listen to me..."
"You have to get way from me, Gabrielle," the warrior continued, trying to gently pull her arm from the bard’s grasp. "I want you to be happy. I want you to live and..."
"What about what I want?!" the bard exclaimed. "What I need?!!" she shouted.
Xena was startled, her eyes registering this, as she blinked several times. "Listen to me, Xena, please," Gabrielle pleaded. "I... I wanted you to be jealous of Najara, okay?" she admitted, in a rush of words. "I wanted you to know how I felt about your... other lovers. That’s why I climbed up on that horse behind her so quickly. And Xena, I figured you were watching us when we were walking along the shore. I deliberately made it look as if..." The warrior arched one dark eyebrow. "...Okay, so I was interested in her Hospice idea, but... all the laughing... joking... smiling... I wanted to make you jealous, don’t you see?! I wanted you to...." The bard paused and bit her lower lip, then turned away.
"Wanted me to what?" Xena queried, when her lover did not offer to continue. "Gab-brielle?"
"By the gods, Xena, I wanted you to fight for me!" Tears welled up in the bard’s eyes, as she nibbled her lower lip again. "Not... physically against her, mind you," she added rather quickly. "Just... fight to keep me with you, ya know."
"Gabrielle, I can’t believe you don’t know that I love you and..."
"I do know you love me, Xena, I really do. I just... I am so jealous over you... all the men that flirt with you... and there was Marcus, Hercules, Ulysses’, Rafe and... gods forbid I should forget Ares, a god himself, no less. And who... who have you ever been jealous of, hmm? Joxer! Just Joxer!" she added sarcastically.
"Perdicus," Xena reminded. Gabrielle seemed about to object, when Xena added, "And.. Joxer is almost always around... somewhere." She glanced around for emphasis, as if she expected him to show up at any minute.
"So’s the god of war," the bard countered.
"But, Gabrielle, you know better than..."
"Do I, Xena? Do I?" The bard stood up again. "You’ve had so many lovers, male and female that... Well, take Rafe for instance..."
"He was not my lover," Xena countered very quickly.
"No, but you kissed him, Xena! And this was after we made those vows in Artemis’ temple!"
Xena nibbled on her upper lip and then pursed them as she glanced away. She had been quite flattered by Rafe’s attention ( "King Con" season three) she couldn’t deny that and she’d needed to make their con look realistic. She’d already explained this to Gabrielle, on more than one occasion, but it seemed to still be a pretty sore spot. And she wasn’t so sure that if the shoe were on the other foot, she wouldn’t feel the same way. After all, Gabrielle had answered her question concerning Najara with, "No, not that way" which meant exactly what? That she’d tried, but did get anywhere? Or that it just hadn’t progressed that far?
Xena shook her head to try and clear these thoughts. She could well see Gabrielle’s point of view. "I’m with you, now," she said softly to the bard’s back.
"Oh, are you really, Xena?" The bard spun around to face her. "You want me to leave you.... that doesn’t exactly sound like you’re with me. Sounds like you don’t wanna be with me anymore. So, tell me the truth, is this really about a vision or is there someone....?"
"Don’t say it!" Xena hissed. "There’s no one else, Gabrielle! I swear it!" she growled. "On my brother’s grave, I swear it!"
Both women fell silent. Gabrielle turned her back to Xena once again. She’d seldom heard Xena swear on her brother’s grave. And the few times she had it meant the warrior was dead serious and telling the unvarnished truth.
"You can’t make me leave you," Gabrielle finally said, adamantly.
"No... no, I can’t..."
"But, you can leave me, right? So...why didn’t you just keep going when you had a head start, huh?" The bard spun around on her heels again, hands on hips, arms akimbo, in stance of utter defiance. "Cuz unless there’s someone else, Xena... I swear I will follow you to Tartarus and back again. I’ll track you like a dog.... ‘Cuz I will not let you walk out of my life over some vision conjured up by some crazy, evil shamaness! You’re gonna have to do better than that, Warrior Princess, if you plan on getting rid of me!!" Xena nibbled her upper lip and glanced away, tears welling up in her eyes. "You say you want me to be hap-py...?" Gabrielle’s voice cracked on the last few words. "...that you don’t want to hu-urt me? Xena... it nearly broke my he-eart when I found out... you intended to le-eave me... it...." The bard buried her face in her hands.
Xena quickly got up and went over to her lover. "Gabrielle, I...."
The bard grabbed the warrior around the waist in a near death grip. "Don’t leave me!" she cried. "Ple-ease, Xena! I’d rather have... one day... in your arms than... a lifetime without you!"
"Gab-brielle, you can’t mean..."
"I do mean it, Xena... I do!!!" she wailed. "I... love you, Xena. Love you... more than... life itself!"
Tears streamed down the bard’s cheeks and onto the warrior’s bosom. Xena’s eyes were overflowing as well. She no longer had the strength to argue with Gabrielle. There was nothing else she could say. She’d confessed her lie, as well as, her fears, and the bard had done the same. What more was there to say except...
"I love you, Gabrielle," she whispered into the soft blonde locks.
"Then... don’t... leave me!" Gabrielle whimpered. "Don’t you... ev-ver leave me!"
Xena heaved a heavy sigh. "I’m not.... going anywhere," she murmured, placing a soft kiss upon her lover’s silky hair. At least, not right now, she thought.
Needless to say, the two lover’s went nowhere that day. By mid-afternoon they were unpacked again and carousing around in the river, splashing one another; chasing one another; teasing one another to utter distraction, via long extended foreplay, beneath the never-ending cascade of water; and finally making love upon the large flat rock Xena had picked out the day before.
* * * *
"Glad that’s over with for the time being," Artemis murmured, lifting her gaze from the scrying bowl.
"Um-hm," Iphegenia agreed, looking over her lover’s shoulder. "I had no doubt they’d make up. You and I always have." She circled the goddess’ ear with her index finger. "You don’t have to watch them every moment, do you?"
"I don’t trust Ares," Artemis grumbled.
"But, he did promise, didn’t he?" The blonde queried. "And so far, neither of you have been able to find out anything about that vision. So, perhaps... it’s just in Xena’s mind and... not real."
"Maybe," Artemis agreed. "But remember that shamaness was the one who trapped my Amazons’ souls."
"But, she’s dead now."
"True enough, but... I can’t find out where her soul went. Hades doesn’t have her, she can’t be up for being reborn so soon ... and she’s not in the Amazon Land of the Dead, that’s for sure, so... where did she go?" The immortal blonde shrugged. "Yes and that’s what has me worried," Artemis continued, "Her soul and Callisto’s... seems no one knows a thing about them. Something’s not right, Iph, I tell ya. Not right at all. I can feel it."
"Well, at least their world has righted itself... for the time being," Iphegenia noted, gazing down at Xena and Gabrielle. "And Ares doesn’t usually bother them, while their... commiserating, does he?"
Artemis shook her head. "Not that I know of. I don’t believe he cares to watch much anymore."
"Then, how about we do a little commiserating of our own, hmm? We’ll be through long before they will." The beautiful blonde arched her eyebrows suggestively. "Being immortal does have its advantages, ya know."
"How well, I know," Artemis agreed, allowing herself to be lead away by the young woman, who had not aged a day since she’d bestowed upon her the gift of immortality.
And oh, what a day that had been. All of Olympus had been in an uproar. Artemis had nearly been stripped of her powers, but she hadn’t been too concerned. She’d known this was more than likely the price she’d have to pay and was willing to do so. If not for Aphrodite, Athena and Hera taking her side, she might have found out what it was like to be merely immortal like her lover.
I wonder how Athena and her new conquest are working out? she mused, silently. I hope she finds true love, like I did. The goddess sighed, watching the swaying hips in front of her. At least, she’s on the right track now.
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