Xena made substantial improvement over the next few days. She was still weak, and slept for long periods of time, but it was obvious that she was well on her way to recovery. She continued to suffer from a considerable amount of pain, though, and even at the best of times it often hurt just to breathe. This, however, paled in comparison to the times when Gabrielle and Cor had to move her in order to care for the whip marks and other injuries on her back. It was on those occasions that Xena relearned the true meaning of suffering, as excruciating pain shot through her body with every breath she took.
After one particularly agonizing session, Xena was clenching her jaw to keep from crying out. As she fought to regain control, tears began to form in her eyes and, while Gabrielle watched, one escaped to roll down her cheek. Seeing the beads of sweat on Xena's brow and her white face, Gabrielle reached out to wipe the tear from her cheek and took her friend's hand. "Xena, if you want to yell, then yell. There's no one around to hear you. Make all the noise you want," she said with a smile.
Hearing the words she herself had said to Gabrielle a couple of weeks before, Xena smiled involuntarily and began to relax as the pain subsided. Easing the tension in her jaw, she swallowed several times and then opened her eyes to look at her friend. "Next time I may just do that," she said with a wry grin. "But let's not make next time any time soon, okay?" she asked in a tired voice.
As her recovery progressed, Cor spent less time with Xena, knowing that she didn't need or want him hovering around her all the time. He mainly came by during the early mornings and evenings, so she was rather surprised one day when he showed up in the afternoon while she was waiting for Gabrielle to return. She watched him curiously, as he quickly and efficiently checked all her injuries. "What are you doing here so early Cor?" she finally asked.
"Well, a couple of reasons actually. I'm going to be busy later and I won't be able to come by and check on you until late tomorrow...and I'm still a little concerned about this wound here," he said, indicating the one made by the arrow. "Second, you need a bath. You're beginning to smell pretty rank my friend," he said with a grin. Grabbing some clean cloths and a large bowl of water he went to work, carefully avoiding her many injuries as he did so.
Xena glared at him momentarily, before breaking down into a smile. "And how come you got picked for bath duty?"
"Well...that would be for three reasons. For one thing, Gabrielle is taking care of Argo. I would do it but Argo doesn't like me, even though I was the one who went and found her in Traymon's stables."
"Well, Argo always has had good taste," Xena said with a smirk.
Cor rolled his eyes. "Uh huh. As for the second reason....," he looked up from his ministrations and grinned at her devilishly. "Frankly, I'm afraid you'd enjoy a bath from Gabrielle a little too much and, in your condition, it could be fatal!"
Xena glared at him again but he simply laughed. "Cor, I thought we agreed to forget about that issue."
"Forget, never. But in deference to your weakened condition, I'll agree to let it go for now."
"Thanks...and the third reason?"
"Ahh, the third reason is that I figured Gabrielle could use a little fresh air and time to relax." Cor grew serious, as he looked at his friend. "She barely left your side, let alone this room, while you were recovering and she only went when I forced her to."
"I know," Xena said softly, as she watched Cor gently clean her arm.
"You do?" he asked, looking at her in surprise.
Xena nodded. "Don't ask me how but I know she was here with me the whole time."
Xena watched while Cor finished up, enjoying not only the feel of the water and his hands massaging her muscles, but also the fact that she finally felt clean for the first time in ages. Looking at him curiously, she suddenly asked, "So why won't you be around Cor...and where have you been recently anyway?"
To her amazement, she saw Cor shift uncomfortably. "I've uh...been helping out the new leader, you know, the new government. They're trying to get things organized, trying to get the right people in the right jobs and I've been...uh...helping them out with that. Plus, some people got hurt during the attack on Traymon's men, so I've been taking care of them too. But don't worry, you're still my number one patient," he finished in a rush.
Xena stared at Cor as if he had grown two more heads and sprouted wings. What in Hades is wrong with him?' she asked herself. "So," she said slowly, "You've been helping the new leader...."
"And taking care of the people who were injured," he said as he stood up, finished with his task. Returning to her side, he ignored her stares and changed the subject. "So, about this arrow wound, how did you get it? It was after you were captured wasn't it?"
"Mmmhmm," Xena answered distractedly. "Traymon's idea of a joke. Last time we fought he tried to shoot me, but I caught the arrows. This time he shot me while I was chained up so that I couldn't catch them. So Cor...."
"Ahh, that explains it. I assume he probably put something on the arrows first?" he asked, as he deliberately focused on the wound that was healing rather slowly.
"Yeah, he did. Just dirt and such, not poison. Cor, who is actually in the new government?" she demanded, determined not to let him change the subject again.
"A lot of people Xena. People you don't know," he answered evasively.
"Anyone you would know Cor? Anyone you would know particularly well? Who is the new leader anyway?" she asked with a grin.
"Kieros," he admitted.
"Ahh, the one who helped you and Gabrielle and got all my stuff back for me from Traymon's fortress. Sounds like a nice guy," she said, laughing at his discomfort.
"Yeah, I guess. Anyway, I've been serving as a sort of military advisor for him while they reorganize the city's defenses." Cor paused for a second before continuing. "Actually, I've been offered a permanent position."
"As military advisor...or did Kieros have something else in mind for you?" she asked grinning widely.
To her continued amusement, she saw Cor actually blush. "Yes as military advisor. They want me to be the leader of the militia or the army, whatever they end up deciding to go with."
"And this would be permanent, huh? You wouldn't be traveling with Gabrielle and me anymore?"
Cor shrugged. "I haven't decided on anything yet."
Xena reached out and touched his arm. "We both know you never intended to travel with us forever...and I think Sairen would approve," she said with a gentle smile.
"You think so?" he asked.
"I know so. Sairen would have approved of you working to bring a better life to people like this and, from what Gabrielle has told me about Kieros, I think Sairen would approve of him too."
Cor looked away for a moment. "Yeah, I think they would have been friends," he said quietly. "Anyway, I want you to stay off your feet for awhile yet." Seeing the expression on her face, he shook his head sternly. "No arguments. If it was just your legs or just your ribs or just your shoulder it wouldn't be such a big deal, but we both know you have no sense of balance right now. You get up and you'll be on the floor before you know it, and I've gone to way too much trouble putting you back together already...I'm not doing it again."
Xena's wounds continued to heal during the next week. Although the whip marks on her back were healing rather slowly, the cuts and abrasions had nearly disappeared. The arrow wound on her leg continued to trouble her somewhat, but she knew it was only a matter of time before it was fully healed. She was also bothered by both her ribs and shoulder, and she was weak from her enforced inactivity but, on the whole, she felt and looked healthy and, with some assistance from Gabrielle, she was finally able to make a trip or two outside. Cor continued to check in on her and, even though he had not "officially" made a decision, it was obvious to Xena, as well as to Gabrielle, that he intended to stay in Uthranis when the two of them moved on. Xena was happy for her friend. He had finally found what he was looking for, even if he was still a bit cautious about accepting it.
Eventually Cor went to talk to Xena about his decision, knowing that she would probably be trying to leave Uthranis fairly soon, whether she was fully recovered or not. Xena reassured him that she understood and that, despite the fact she would miss him when she and Gabrielle finally moved on, she knew that ultimately it was for the best. He would never have been happy, certainly not as happy as he was here in Uthranis, and she could see that he already considered this town to be his home.
Finally, after several hours of conversation, Cor rose to leave so that his patient could get some much needed rest. "Oh...one more thing," he said casually. "I was thinking the other day about what you said back in Trezine...that you owed' me...do you remember that?"
"Of course, and I meant it. Anything you ask...it's yours."
"Anything?" he asked curiously.
"You saved Gabrielle's life. Whatever you want is yours."
"All right...then what I want from you is for you to do me a favor. I want you to ask Gabrielle why she married Perdicus...and I want you to answer any question she asks you about it...and do it before you leave Uthranis."
Xena's face went white when she heard what Cor asked. "Cor...Cor I can't do that," she protested.
"You said anything. Are you telling me that Gabrielle's life isn't worth that much?"
"Cor, ask for something else!" she demanded angrily.
"Nope, this is what I want. You don't have to ask her right away, but you do have to ask before you leave the city. Remember, you owe me Xena, and you always pay me back."
Cor avoided Xena completely for the next few days, knowing that she was angrier with him than she had ever been before. Gabrielle could tell that her friend was upset about something, and knew that it had something to do with Cor, but she had no idea what it could be. The strange thing was that she knew that Cor not only wasn't mad at Xena, but that he even seemed to be amused by the fact that Xena was furious with him. She tried to get him to tell her what was going on but he steadfastly refused. All he would say was that Xena would get over it soon enough and that she shouldn't worry about it. He did, however, show her a few things that needed to be done for the warrior while she was recovering since, for the moment, he was out of the picture. He also provided her with several different medicines that Xena would be needing, explaining how each was to be used.
Unable to get an answer from Cor, Gabrielle was left with two choices. She could either ask Xena directly or try to guess what the problem was. Asking Xena about what was bothering her rarely worked and Gabrielle had a feeling that, in this case, it would be foolish to even try. She knew that it had nothing to do with Cor's decision to stay behind. Xena had been happy that he had found someone to love and a place he felt comfortable in. No, whatever the problem was between them, it was about something completely different and, considering the fiasco the last time she had tried to guess what was upsetting Xena, she was in no mood to speculate about the cause this time.
As for Xena's relationship with her...well everything seemed all right between them. Deep down, though, she knew that nothing had really been resolved. Neither one of them was willing to bring up the events that had led to Xena's capture and Gabrielle knew that, until they did, those events would continue to rear their ugly heads in the future. Unfortunately, she couldn't bring herself to make the first move. She loved Xena but she didn't know how the warrior felt about her, and the thought of saying the wrong thing and losing her forever terrified Gabrielle now more than ever.
As they sat around their room one night, Gabrielle noticed that her friend had definitely gotten much stronger. Except for the wound caused by the arrow, her injuries had more or less healed completely and it was only a matter of time before that one healed as well. She knew, though, that Xena's ribs and shoulder occasionally still caused her mild pain, and walking remained difficult for her. Still, considering the condition she'd been in a few weeks before, it was an amazing recovery. As she watched the other woman, she could see that she was growing agitated about something, and she wished she had the courage to ask Xena what was bothering her. She tried to recall what they had been talking about when she'd first noticed Xena getting upset, but all she could remember were a few offhand comments about where they might be headed to when they finally left Uthranis. Maybe the warrior was just annoyed that she still wasn't able to handle traveling yet.
Xena had been growing more and more frustrated over the past week. Ever since Cor had tricked her into promising to ask Gabrielle about Perdicus, she'd been wracking her brain to come up with a loophole that would let her avoid the question. Barring that, she was trying to figure out the best way to kill Cor; bare hands would be the most satisfying but, in her weakened condition, she didn't think she'd be able to accomplish much.
She tried pacing but it simply took too much effort to stay upright. She felt infinitely better whenever she got off her feet so, with a sigh of resignation, she eased herself down onto the edge of the bed, cursing her body's weakness as she lay back on the mattress. She tried to figure out the best way to start this conversation but, unfortunately, there was no good way to start this discussion.
"Gabrielle?" she asked without moving, keeping her eyes closed.
"Are you busy?"
"No, I'm not busy Xena. Did you need something?"
"No...I just wanted to talk to you about something...but if you're busy...."
"I'm not busy Xena. Is something wrong?" Gabrielle asked, a note of concern creeping into her voice.
Xena sat up to face the bard then bowed her head, realizing that there was no way she could ask Gabrielle this question while looking at her. "I just wanted to ask you something...It's personal...."
Gabrielle rose from her chair and went to sit beside the warrior. "Go on. Ask me anything you want."
Swallowing hard, Xena finally asked the question that had been on her mind for months. "Gabrielle, why did you marry Perdicus?"
Gabrielle froze when she heard Xena's question. Deep down, she'd known that Xena would eventually ask her about that, but she'd never figured out an appropriate answer. Sighing softly, she rocked back slightly and closed her eyes as she marshaled her thoughts. Taking a deep breath to gather her courage, she opened her eyes to look at her friend. "I married Perdicus because I loved him...." She saw Xena's shoulders sag and she hurriedly continued, "And even though I knew that I would never love him as more than a friend, I convinced myself that I was in love with him too."
"Why?" Xena asked simply, the ache in her heart echoing in her voice, as she finally looked at Gabrielle.
"Partly because I felt guilty. If I hadn't run out on him in the first place, he never would have left Poteidaia, never would have become a soldier, a killer." She closed her eyes again, as the painful memories crowded in upon her. "He was such a gentle man Xena. He should have lived the quiet, peaceful life of a farmer in Poteidaia, not the life of a warrior." She opened her eyes again but deliberately looked away from her friend, unable to meet her gaze. "And when I saw how his guilt was destroying him and he told me how much he needed me...my...my own guilt over what I had done to him just took over. I felt sorry for him and I thought that I could help him."
Gabrielle felt a lump in her throat, as she struggled with all the emotions and feelings surrounding her decision to marry Perdicus, and had to swallow several times before she could continue. "I guess that part of the reason I married him was that I thought that it would be for the best if I left. Perdicus wanted to be with me so much and...and it felt good to know that someone wanted to be with me like that," she admitted quietly. "For awhile I thought that you might try to convince me to stay, but when you told me that you'd be fine without me, I assumed it didn't really matter to you, one way or the other, whether I stayed or left...."
"It mattered Gabrielle," Xena interrupted. "It mattered then and it matters now. I wanted you with me more than you'll ever know."
Gabrielle turned to look at her. "Then why did you let me marry Perdicus without saying a word to stop me?"
"What could I have said?" Xena sighed with frustration. "Gabrielle...I know things have been awkward between us for a long time now, and a lot of that is my fault. I've been so afraid of losing you that I either hold you too close or try to push you away before one of us gets hurt." Xena took a steadying breath before continuing. "Gabrielle, when we first met, I was a lot like Perdicus. I'd given up, literally buried my sword. You gave me the strength to go on fighting, to go on living and, even though I never admitted it to you, I know that if it hadn't been for you there at my side, I never would have made it. But now...." Xena looked directly into Gabrielle's eyes, willing the young woman to understand what she was trying to say. "Now I don't need you like that anymore. If you left tomorrow to go to the Academy or to Poteidaia, I'd still be able to go on with my life. I'd still be able to stay on this path because, with your help, I've been able to find the strength within myself. I don't need you to be able to survive anymore...I...I just need you to be complete."
"Why didn't you just tell me that then?" Gabrielle whispered, captured by the intensity of Xena's gaze.
Xena laughed harshly and looked away. "What would have been the point? Perdicus offered you a home, peace, security. All I could give you was the hard ground and the chance to be a constant target for my enemies. What could I have possibly offered you that would have made you want to stay?"
"You...It's all I've ever wanted, all I've ever needed."
Xena's breath caught in her throat when she heard Gabrielle's words. She turned back to face her and, as their eyes met, Xena felt herself trapped, unable and unwilling to look away, desperately wanting to finally close the gap that existed between them.
Feeling self-conscious, Gabrielle lowered her head, unable to hold Xena's gaze any longer. Slowly, the warrior reached out her hand and traced a trembling finger lightly down Gabrielle's cheek, until she reached her chin. Tenderly lifting the young woman's face, she hesitated for several seconds before pulling the bard to her and covering her mouth with a gentle kiss. Gabrielle's eyelids drifted shut as Xena's lips coaxed hers to respond and she hesitantly parted her lips. Xena shuddered when she felt Gabrielle's mouth open beneath hers, and the gentle kiss turned into a deep, sensuous assault.
Gabrielle felt as if her world was spinning out of control. Xena's kiss was slowly destroying her ability to think; never in her life had she imagined that anything could make her feel this way. An agonizing hunger began to build within her and she pressed herself closer to the warrior, moaning low in her throat when she felt Xena's strong arms wrap around her to hold her tight.
Xena frantically struggled to regain control. Tearing her mouth away from Gabrielle, she tried to breathe normally, but it was a futile effort at best. Placing her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders, she held the young woman at arm's length and looked directly into her eyes. "Gabrielle, are you sure? I need you to be sure. I don't want to force...."
Gabrielle silenced her, as she framed Xena's face in her hands and softly brushed her lips over her friend's. Pulling back slightly, she looked deeply into Xena's amazing blue eyes. "I've never been more sure of anything in my entire life," she said, her voice husky and low. "I love you Xena. You're not forcing me into anything I don't want to do." Gabrielle hesitated before continuing. "I was actually more concerned about you. You've barely recovered from your injuries...maybe we should wait...."
Xena smiled with relief. Placing her palm against the bard's cheek, she chuckled softly. "Don't worry about that Gabrielle. I'm fine," she said, as she leaned towards her friend, only to be stopped by Gabrielle's hands against her chest.
"Xena, you may be a lot of things, but you're not fine. You can barely even walk."
"Trust me Gabrielle. Walking is not what I have in mind right now."
Sliding her hand around to the back of Gabrielle's neck, Xena pulled the bard closer to press her lips against her own. Lightly at first and then with increasing pressure when she felt her respond, Xena moved her mouth hungrily over Gabrielle's, fanning a fire that obliterated rational thought and awakened feelings that neither of them had the strength to deny.
Slowly, Xena's lips began to place soft, feathery kisses across Gabrielle's cheek, as they moved towards her ear. "Gods I've wanted you...wanted this...for so long," she murmured softly, before darting her tongue into the crevices, licking and probing until Gabrielle gave a low moan of pleasure. Moving back to her lips, Xena covered them with a soul searching kiss, sliding her tongue past Gabrielle's lips to explore her mouth and taste the sweetness within, groaning as their tongues met, circled, entwined.
Abandoning her lover's mouth, Xena trailed her lips down Gabrielle's chin and throat to reach the hollow of her neck, smiling when Gabrielle moaned and arched her head back to allow her greater access. Nipping lightly at Gabrielle's tender flesh, Xena's mouth moved across the bard's neck and shoulders, before making its way down to the top of her shirt, pressing gentle kisses along the edge.
Xena moved her hand upward to cup Gabrielle's breast, before tugging gently on her top as she tried to remove it. The young woman quickly reached down to untie her shirt. She shrugged it off and tossed it to the floor, her skirt following closely behind. Seeing Xena struggling to remove her shift, she moved to help, being careful not to hurt the warrior's sore shoulder and ribs. Once she had tossed the shift aside, she began pressing soft kisses to the warrior's shoulders and neck, loving the small whimpers of pleasure that came from her lover's throat as she did so.
Leaning towards her friend, Xena slowly lowered her to the bed and then carefully stretched out beside her, delighting in the feel of Gabrielle's skin against her own. Running trembling hands along the bard's sides, Xena's breath caught in her throat as she gazed down at the young woman's naked form. "By the gods, you are beautiful," she managed to say in a choked whisper, as she began to lightly caress Gabrielle's breast, causing the bard to gasp with pleasure when she felt her lover's fingertips graze her sensitive nipple. Using her thumb and forefinger, Xena teased the nipple until Gabrielle began to writhe with ecstasy beneath her. Moving down, she replaced her hand with her mouth and kissed the bard's soft breast, tormenting her by allowing her lips to roam everywhere except the tip, smiling when Gabrielle groaned softly. The warrior continued to tease her lover until Gabrielle finally caught the back of her head and arched against her, pulling her friend's mouth tightly to her breast as she buried her fingers in the warrior's thick hair. Capturing the nipple in her mouth, Xena suckled greedily, before gently biting down, causing Gabrielle to shiver with delight.
Tracing her fingers across Gabrielle's flat stomach, Xena moved her hand lower still. Gabrielle's breathing was becoming ragged and labored and waves of heat radiated from everywhere that Xena touched and kissed. As Xena moved her hand to Gabrielle's thighs, the young woman parted them willingly, whimpering when she felt Xena's fingers brush lightly across the inside of them as the warrior moved to straddle her thigh.
Xena clenched her jaw when she felt Gabrielle's wetness and she had to fight desperately to resist the impulse to grind herself against her friend's leg. Slipping her fingers between Gabrielle's warm folds, Xena shuddered with pleasure as she dipped her fingers into the slickness she found there. Stroking the bard lightly, she lifted her head to briefly cover Gabrielle's lips with her own, before bringing her fingers up to taste them, staring deeply into her lover's eyes while she did so. Trembling with passion, Gabrielle reached up and placed her hand on the back of Xena's head to pull her down for a kiss, slipping her tongue past Xena's lips to probe the depths of her mouth, shivering slightly when she tasted herself deep within.
Unable to deny herself any longer, Xena slid down her lover's body. Gabrielle moaned and shook when she felt Xena's lips brushing against her skin, burning like brands of fire. Pressing kisses across Gabrielle's stomach, Xena dipped her tongue into her navel, determined to learn every part of the young woman's body. Parting her friend's legs once more, Xena settled between them and began to place soft kisses on Gabrielle's thighs, as she nibbled and tasted every inch of her. Moving her head forward, she hesitated for a moment as she inhaled deeply, luxuriating in the heady aroma, before dipping her tongue into the bard's cleft to take a long, loving taste.
Gabrielle's head slammed back against the bed and her hands curled into the blankets when she felt the touch of Xena's tongue. Shifting slightly, the warrior used her hands to spread Gabrielle's labia and probed even deeper, plunging her tongue into the sweet wetness, before moving to the small hard bud and sucking on it gently. She heard Gabrielle's choked moans and, looking up, she saw her friend biting her lip, as she struggled to hold back her cries of ecstasy. Unable to resist, Xena smiled and in a throaty voice said, "Gabrielle, if you want to yell, then yell. There's no one around to hear you. Make all the noise you want," she said with a cheeky grin
Gabrielle groaned and twisted, as she felt the warrior's tongue pressing against her center once more. "Gods Xena...please...I need you...so much....," she finally managed to gasp.
Watching her friend closely, Xena slowly slipped first one, then two fingers inside her opening, her breathing growing labored when she saw the expression of wonder on the young bard's face. Crying out with delight, Gabrielle began to thrust her hips against her lover. Xena responded by burying her face deeper in the bard's soft mound, as she licked, sucked and nibbled Gabrielle's sensitive clit. Keeping time with Gabrielle, Xena plunged her fingers in deeper and deeper, twisting them as she searched for the spot that would drive the young woman over the edge. Finally, Gabrielle thrust one last time against Xena's hand and mouth, as her back arched and her body went rigid, sobs of pleasure catching in her throat.
As sanity slowly returned, Gabrielle caught Xena's face and brought it up to hers, kissing her passionately. "Tell me....," she begged in a husky voice. "What do you want me to do?"
Xena hesitated for a moment. "Bend your knee," she finally said, her voice thick with need. Straddling Gabrielle's thigh once more, Xena began to rock against her, smearing her wetness against the young woman's thigh, while Gabrielle ran her hands across the warrior's body, stroking and caressing every place she could reach. Feeling Xena's slickness on her leg, the bard reached down to trail her finger over her thigh and then brought her hand back up to her lover's breasts. Tracing her fingers over the other woman's chest, Gabrielle used Xena's own juices to paint the warrior's breasts, smiling when she heard her lover gasping with pleasure. Glancing up one last time at the warrior straining against her, Gabrielle leaned up and began licking the wetness from her lover's skin. When her lips finally closed over a nipple and she began sucking gently, Xena groaned loudly, as she felt her senses begin to overload. Feeling one of Gabrielle's hands stroking her breast firmly, while the other gently caressed her hip, Xena looked down on the face of her lover. The look of pleasure on Gabrielle's face as she savored the sweetness of the warrior's breasts was too much for Xena and, with a hoarse moan, she arched her back and began to shudder violently, as wave after wave of pleasure coursed through her body.
Completely drained, Xena lay across Gabrielle until her breathing returned to normal. Pressing gentle kisses across her lover's brow, Xena brushed her fingers lightly across the young woman's cheek, as she gazed down at her friend. Gabrielle smiled up at her, feeling happier and more complete than she ever had before, wondering how she had managed without Xena in her life. "I love you," she whispered, as she leaned up to kiss the warrior, her lips soft, gentle, and loving.
Xena hugged her tightly and kissed her back, before she started to move away from Gabrielle. "No," Gabrielle said softly, as she held Xena tighter. "Don't go. I want to hold you...to know this is real."
Xena lightly brushed back a wisp of hair that was clinging to Gabrielle's cheek. "Gabrielle, I'm too heavy for you," she said, as she smiled and started to ease away again.
"No you're not," Gabrielle said with a smile, while she caressed Xena's back with long soothing strokes. "Stay where you are. Please."
Xena nodded, unable to deny Gabrielle anything at the moment. Shifting her weight slightly, she rested her head on Gabrielle's shoulder and closed her eyes, content to fall asleep in her lover's arms.
Gabrielle woke several hours later, well before sunrise. Reaching out for Xena, she was surprised to find the bed empty. Confused, she sat up and looked around the room. Finally she saw her friend, sitting in a chair with a blanket wrapped around her, staring out the window into darkness.
Silently getting up, she crossed the room and came up behind Xena, wrapping her arms around her neck and leaning over her. Xena brought up her hand to caress Gabrielle's arms but remained silent. The bard stayed in that position for several seconds, before she moved to the right side of the chair, where she knelt down and looked up at her friend. Seeing the tortured look on the warrior's face, Gabrielle grew worried. "Xena? Is everything okay?"
Xena nodded, but the expression on her face remained unchanged.
Gabrielle felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Xena what's wrong? Do you....," Gabrielle swallowed hard. "Do you regret last night?"
The shocked expression on Xena's face told her better than any words, the answer to that question. "No Gabrielle...I could never regret that."
Sighing with relief, Gabrielle tried again. Reaching forward, she caught Xena's hand, squeezing it gently. "Xena, don't shut me out...If something's wrong, tell me."
The warrior closed her eyes, fighting with herself. Finally, she looked at Gabrielle, with an expression that took the bard's breath away. Xena's throat moved convulsively for several seconds, as she struggled to speak. "By the gods Gabrielle, I do love you," she whispered hoarsely.
Xena's emotional declaration moved Gabrielle more than she ever could have said, knowing how difficult it was for someone like Xena, someone who had spent years hiding her emotions, to make that admission. Rising slowly, she carefully slid into the chair next to her lover and leaned in to kiss her, her mouth warm and gentle against Xena's. Pulling back slightly, Gabrielle rubbed her thumb across the warrior's lower lip as she softly whispered, "I love you too." Xena drew in a ragged breath and pulled the young woman to her tightly. Turning Gabrielle slightly in her arms, she pulled the bard back against her chest and wrapped her arms around her.
They sat that way for what seemed like hours, both basking in the love they shared. Gabrielle sighed with pleasure when Xena lightly moved her hands over the bard's body, stroking and caressing everywhere she could reach. Slowly, the drift of Xena's hands over her body grew more purposeful and, as Gabrielle turned to face her, Xena leaned down to cover her mouth with her own. Gabrielle moaned softly as moist, parted lips brushed against hers, and she returned the kiss with a passion that momentarily took Xena's breath away.
As Xena pulled her closer, Gabrielle realized the direction they were headed and pulled back, remembering a promise that she had made. Rising from the chair, she struggled to control her passions, which were threatening to rage out of control. Seeing her friend's confused expression, she chuckled ruefully. "I almost forgot about something I was supposed to do. I figured I'd better stop now before I forget completely."
"Gabrielle, what are you talking about?"
"I promised Cor I would take a look at your leg for him, seeing as how you two aren't speaking."
Xena stared at Gabrielle as if she had completely lost her mind. "And you have to do that now?"
"Yeah. I was supposed to do it last night before you went to bed, but I got a little distracted," she said with a smile.
Xena shook her head. "Gabrielle, you can do it later. It won't make any difference," she said, as she reached to pull the young woman back to her.
"And how exactly will it hurt you to let me take care of this now?" she asked logically, as she remained out of Xena's range.
"Fine, let's do this now then," Xena said, rolling her eyes in exasperation.
Hiding a smile, Gabrielle helped her back to the bed, laughing at the warrior's obvious irritation. As she lay back on the bed, Xena watched while Gabrielle knelt beside her and then carefully examined her leg, before applying the medicine that Cor had given her. "Done?" Xena asked sarcastically.
Gabrielle shook her head. "Roll over and let me check the other side."
Glaring at her momentarily, Xena obeyed, muttering about foolish bards and idiot warrior/healers. She felt Gabrielle put medicine on the back of her leg and started to turn over again. "Of all the...."
Gabrielle stopped her. "I have to check your shoulder too," she said.
Gritting her teeth, Xena lay back down. She felt Gabrielle move her hair to the side and then begin to rub something into the lash wounds on her back that had finally begun to heal. As she waited for Gabrielle to finish, she suddenly realized that the nature of the hands on her back had changed. Gabrielle's hands were pressing into the tight muscles of her back and shoulders, gently soothing the pain and tension, while she slowly stroked Xena's body. "Gabrielle?" Xena asked hesitantly, her voice tight.
"Shhhh," Gabrielle whispered, as she used her thumbs to massage Xena's neck, moving to the base of her skull, before slowly working her way back down again. Smiling when she heard Xena's sigh of contentment, Gabrielle continued her assault, as she massaged and probed every inch of Xena's back, shoulders, arms, and neck, taking special care not to press too hard against Xena's still recovering shoulder.
Xena moaned in protest when she felt Gabrielle's hands leave her body, then gasped in shock as she felt her lover's lips trailing hot kisses along her spine, down to her waist and then back up again to nip at her neck and shoulders. She tried to roll over, but was gently forced back down onto her stomach. "Not yet, Warrior," Gabrielle purred, before moving to settle near Xena's feet.
Resuming the massage, Gabrielle's hands traveled down Xena's legs, pressing her fingers into the calves before softly rubbing the bottoms of her feet. Shifting positions once again, she leaned over and placed her lips on the warrior's smooth calves, licking and biting at the tender flesh, before moving upward to the back of her knees and thighs. Nipping gently at her friend's hips and buttocks, Gabrielle smiled against her skin when she heard the small moans of pleasure that escaped from the warrior's throat. Slowly she trailed her hand up the inside of Xena's legs, until she parted the warrior's thighs to slip her hand in between them. Xena groaned loudly when Gabrielle began to stroke her, shuddering from the intensity of the sensations that the bard's touch was causing to build within her.
Gabrielle slid up alongside her lover to kiss her shoulders softly. Lifting Xena's hair, Gabrielle lightly kissed the back of her neck, before moving to her ear, where she bit down gently, feeling the warrior shiver beneath her. Pulling Xena onto her side, Gabrielle reached around to caress her lover's breasts, as she pressed her body as closely as she could to Xena's back, moving against her sensuously while she continued to feast on her neck and shoulders. When the warrior moaned and arched back against her, Gabrielle realized that her friend was nearing the limits of her control. Carefully pulling her lover onto her back, Gabrielle held her body just above the warrior's, while she allowed her eyes to travel over Xena's naked, trembling body. Leaning down to capture her lover's lips, she kissed her passionately, moving her mouth against Xena's with a thoroughness that surprised them both. Continuing to hold her weight off Xena, she reached down to cup her lover's breast, stroking it softly before moving to trace the outline of the nipple with her tongue, shifting her hand to the warrior's other breast to tease and torment it as well.
"Gabrielle," Xena groaned thickly. "Please...."
Smiling to herself, Gabrielle closed her mouth over Xena's nipple, as the warrior arched towards her, clutching the bard's head tightly to her chest. Sucking and biting, Gabrielle lavished all her love on her lover's breast, before slowly moving to the other to give it the same level of attention.
Feeling Xena trying to roll her over onto her back, Gabrielle lifted her head and gazed into the warrior's eyes. "Not this time," she said huskily, as she shook her head. Sliding down Xena's body, she parted her thighs and settled between them, pressing soft kisses to her lover's damp curls and breathing in her sweet scent. Slowly, Gabrielle parted Xena's folds and dipped her tongue lightly into the cleft. Xena's body went rigid when she felt the bard's tongue on her, and her hips jerked upward helplessly as she lost all sense of everything but the desire that consumed her.
Feeling more confident, Gabrielle plunged her tongue into her lover, reveling in her sweet taste, while her fingers found Xena's swollen clit and began rubbing it. As she felt the warrior begin to shake violently against her, she slid two fingers inside her friend. Slowly at first, and then faster when she saw the effect it was having on Xena, Gabrielle thrust her fingers deeper and deeper, as the warrior began to move her hips against her hand. The young woman watched in wonder as her lover twisted and shook, a film of perspiration covering her skin, as low moans were torn from her throat. Finally, Xena cried out. She arched her back and thrust her hips against the bard's hand one last time, as wave upon wave of ecstasy rolled over her.
For what seemed like an eternity, Xena clutched Gabrielle to her tightly and struggled to breathe normally. Finally, her erratic breathing calmed somewhat and she looked up to see Gabrielle looking down at her with a satisfied expression on face. "I love you," Gabrielle whispered.
Xena reached up to caress Gabrielle's cheek with her fingertips. "I love you too," she said, and then pulled Gabrielle to her so that the bard's head was resting on her shoulder. "Cor was right...I should have taught you how to give massages a long time ago," she said, as she smiled and placed her cheek against the top of the young woman's head. "When did you learn how to do that?"
"Well, I learned the massage part a week or two ago. I had to have something to do to pass the time while I kept waiting around for you to wake up. Cor mentioned that you were a sucker' for a good backrub and he thought I might like to learn how to give them. As for the rest...well that I just improvised," she said with a grin.
"Mmmm, well improvisation has always been your strong suit hasn't it?" Xena murmured, as she pressed her lips to Gabrielle's forehead "I guess I'm going to have to thank Cor."
"You are going to thank Cor?" Gabrielle asked incredulously. "Does this mean you aren't mad at him anymore?"
Xena smiled slightly. "No, I'm not mad at him anymore."
Gabrielle raised herself up on her elbows to look down at Xena. "So? What was the fight about anyway?"
Xena chuckled. "We had a disagreement' about the best way to handle a situation."
"Oh...so who won?"
Xena thought for a few seconds before answering. "Actually, we both did," she said, before pulling Gabrielle down to capture her lips once more.
Xena smiled contentedly as she felt the sun beating down on her, warming her skin while she sat in the large garden behind the house. She could feel her earlier tensions slowly draining from her body as she relaxed in her chair. It had been a long morning for both her and Gabrielle, as they talked through the problems and misunderstandings they'd had over the past several months. Things had become particularly strained when they had discussed the difficulties that had surrounded Perdicus and Cor, and they both knew that there were still some issues to work out between the two of them. At least now, though, they were talking about what was bothering them, instead of keeping everything bottled up and hidden from the other.
Opening her eyes to find Gabrielle watching her, Xena smiled lazily. "What are you doing?"
Gabrielle grinned and looked embarrassed at having been caught staring. "Actually, I was just wondering if you were asleep or not."
"Well I'm not...so come here," Xena said in a husky voice, as she sat up in her chair.
Gabrielle moved to sit beside her friend and then leaned in for a kiss, sighing with pleasure when Xena's lips moved against her own. She felt the warrior's hand reach up to cradle the back of her head as the kiss deepened and she knew she had loved this woman from the first moment she'd laid eyes on her.
"Is this a private conversation or can anyone join in?"
Xena pulled away from her lover when she heard Cor's voice but, to Gabrielle's delight, she allowed her hand to fall to the bard's shoulder and rest there while she turned to speak to him. "Definitely a private conversation," she replied with a smile. "What can I do for you Cor?"
Cor grinned widely as he approached. "Nothing much. Kieros just wanted me to tell you that his friend will be back in about a week and he figured you'd be more comfortable moving to his place."
Xena glanced at Gabrielle and then nodded. "Okay, that'll be fine. Was he wanting us there today?"
Cor shrugged. "If you want. Anytime in the next couple of days is fine." Cor moved to sit down beside them and then looked at Gabrielle. "Did you finish that scroll for me yet?"
Gabrielle nodded. "Yeah, I'll go get it," she said, as she rose from her chair, smiling at Xena before she turned and went into the house.
Cor turned to see Xena looking at him, her left eyebrow arched perfectly. "Yeah, I asked her to write down one of the poems I heard her tell you while you were sleeping. I thought Kieros would like it." He grinned evilly at her. "Everything seems to be going well between the two of you. Did you work it all out?"
"Not everything, but we're getting there."
"Hmmm. Seems like somebody should be thanking someone else for what he did for them," Cor said with a smug expression.
Xena rolled her eyes. "Thank you Cor. I guess you weren't wrong about Gabrielle and me."
Cor gasped in mock astonishment. "You mean I was actually right?"
Xena shook her head. "I didn't say that. I just said you weren't wrong."
Cor laughed out loud. "Well it's good to see some things never change." Looking up, he saw Gabrielle returning with the scroll. He smiled as he took it from her. "Thanks. Kieros will really like this."
"So how is Kieros?" Xena asked, as Gabrielle sat down next to her once again.
"Fine. He's going to make a good leader," Cor replied.
"Well, you're certainly an impartial judge," Xena said with a smirk. "But I'm glad to see you happy."
"Thanks. I'm glad to see me happy too." He smiled broadly as he rose to leave. "I'll see you two later," he said, before pausing to look carefully at Xena.
"What?" she demanded suspiciously.
"Nothing, I was just going to recommend that you get some rest. You don't look like you got much sleep last night," he replied, grinning when he saw Gabrielle blush and Xena's eyes narrow. Placing a hand on the bard's shoulder, he gave it a friendly squeeze. "Take care of her, Gabrielle. Don't forget about the two-headed people...and don't let her forget either," he said, before turning to leave.
"I won't," Gabrielle said softly, as they watched him walk away.
Xena watched Cor leave and then turned back to look at Gabrielle. Reaching out to lightly caress her cheek, she drew the young woman's attention back to her and started to move closer. She hesitated, as Cor's words played through her mind. "What did Cor mean by that comment about people with two heads?" she asked Gabrielle curiously.
"Oh, he was just talking about the story, that says that everyone used to have two heads and four legs."
"Oh...a story," Xena said, shrugging her shoulders dismissively, as she pulled Gabrielle closer and leaned in to kiss her.
Gabrielle stopped her. "You know this story don't you?"
Xena shook her head. "Not sure...maybe," she said, and then tried once again to pull Gabrielle into her arms.
Gabrielle looked at her in surprise, before sitting back and settling down into her chair. "Oh, well a long, long time ago, all people had four legs...."
"Gabrielle...do you have to tell this story now?" Xena asked in disbelief.
"It's a very important story Xena," she replied in complete seriousness, before continuing with the tale.
Xena rolled her eyes, as she sat back and listened to Gabrielle weave her story. She tried to look exasperated, but wasn't quite able to hide her grin. One thing was certain. They were definitely going to have to straighten out what things were important and what could wait until later.
Once, a long long time ago, all people had four legs and two heads. Then the gods threw down thunderbolts and split everyone into two. Each half then had two legs and one head, but the separation left both sides with a desperate yearning to be reunited, because they each shared the same soul. Ever since then, all people have spent their lives searching for the other half of their soul.
(appeared in the episode Prometheus)
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