See part 1 for disclaimer
There is violence, and some sex,(more than my usual) and a loving relationship between two consenting adults...oh yeah and they're the same gender. If any of this bothers you, or is illegal where you are, or you're not 18 yet then please delete this now and find something else to read. Angst Warning: Some pretty intense emotions here so I was told a tissue alert was in order.
Dedication: For Niki, my inspiration, and the keeper of my soul, my angel. If not for her belief in me this story wouldn't exist. Thanks chér!
Also, a big thanks to my beta, Diva, you're the best, babe, but you already knew that.
The Keeper of My Soul--Alway 23
by: Alex P.
Several hours later, a very happy, very relaxed, well rested and sated, Gabrielle rolled over in the huge bed she shared with her wife. She reached for the warm body she knew should be there, but found only cool sheets.
A frown line appeared between her eyebrows as she visually searched the dimly lit room, still failing to locate the object of her heart's desire.
Now fully awake and wondering about where her lover might be, the Queen threw her legs over the edge of the bed and sat up. Looking out the window, Gabrielle noticed the sun had risen, and judging by the rumbling of her stomach, the very hungry bard realized she'd slept through dinner and it must be past time for breakfast.
Realizing too that she was naked, Gabrielle looked down at the floor trying to locate her robe apparently well hidden by the shadows covering the floor. With a shrug, the young bard wrapped herself in one of the blankets and went in search of her warrior and food in that order.
As she began her search, the ever vigilant warrior-bard noticed the faint scent of her lover's favorite herbal tea.
Following the scent, the
"hunter" found herself on the back porch. The Amazons had built it for them in honor of their joining,it was one of their favorite places to relax or to talk with friends.
Xena, wearing a long flowing robe, was sitting on the long swing, sipping her tea from a large mug. She was talking to Nikippa and Thetis, the master healer, about the wounded Amazon scout. Interested in the subject of their conversation, Gabrielle sat down next to her wife, took the steaming mug of tea from Xena's hands, and took a sip.
Letting the warmth of the beverage seep into her system, the concerned
Queen listened intently to these highly educated women speak.
In spite of the way her lover teased her about her constant babbling, Gabrielle's other skill, what made her a great bard, was knowing when to sit back and listen when those wiser than herself were talking. Knowing the talent sitting on her porch right now could do everything it took to run any country in the known world, she sat back and absorbed their views on
the current situation.
Once again she was awed by the fact that these capable and powerful women called her Queen and happily served her cause. Gabrielle's musings were interrupted when she heard Nikippa ask her a question, and noticed everyone was focused on her waiting for her answer. So, she gave the most
intelligent one she could at that moment.
"Huh?" Gabrielle asked unaware of what had been said. "I'm sorry, Niki, did you ask me something?"
"Probably couldn't hear me over the belly beast," Niki told her as the bard's legendary stomach monster roared on cue, causing a hardy round of laughter, lightening the somber mood. "I brought a tray from the kitchen for you since you missed dinner and breakfast."
The Regent indicated a large tray piled high with still warm pastries, cheese, and fruit sitting next to a loaf of nut bread and a full pot of tea. Gabrielle's eyes grew large and a smile going from ear to ear took over her face. Without a word, the Queen dug into the meal.
"I think you can relay the Queen's thanks to the cooks," Xena said chuckling and watching the way her lover threw her entire self into eating. "That is if she slows down long enough to say it."
"Ou cam mell vem fanks," the little blonde said with her mouth full. "iz fenaz mau efer."
As the air rang with their laughter, Xena gave her beloved a one-armed hug
so she wouldn't interrupt her eating. Xena loved the way her bard made eating into an intense, almost an orgasmic event.
It was that way with everything Gabrielle did. Everything she had went into it. Which is why she was so good at what she chose to do.
As Gabrielle continued to eat, Xena turned to Thetis and went back to discussing the matter that concerned her most right now, the wounded young Amazon laying in the infirmary delirious with fever and about to lose her leg.
"Really, Thetis, there has got to be something we can do," Xena said emphatically. "I cannot believe that with all the accumulated knowledge we have access to, the Amazons are incapable of saving this brave young girl's life and her leg."
"Xena, please," the healer spoke up in defense of herself and her colleagues. "We've done everything we know. This kind of thing requires a
healer with specialized knowledge. Any one of our sisters can handle regular wounds and any other medicinal need you have, but this wound involves not only a serious life threatening wound, but there is shattered bone and now an infection on top of that. By the gods Champion, we're lucky if we save her life let alone her leg."
"Xena," Gabrielle spoke as she finished her meal. "Is there nothing we can do for Larisa, after she's done so much for us?"
"I just don't think so, Brie," the warrior said, hanging her head in ashamed frustration. "I know the knowledge is out there it's just that we can't seem to locate the woman that I believe has it."
"I know you all will do your best for the woman," the Queen said as she gave her wife a light kiss on her cheek. "I'm going in and get dressed before I lose this blanket and give the entire village a show."
They all laughed a little at the Queen's joke. As Gabrielle went into their hut she heard the three women begin their discussion again. =====================
Gabrielle was just finished dressing for the day and was getting ready to rejoin her wife and their guests on their back porch when she heard a knock at their front door.
"Enter," Gabrielle called as she finished brushing out her hair.
One of her personal guards came through the door accompanied by one of the women from Ciros. Both women bowed deeply and a familiar looking stranger stood behind the guard letting her speak first. She was not sure what to say to a person of royal rank and didn't want to offend the Queen.
"Your Highness," the Amazon began, "this woman wishes to speak with you. She says that it is of great import and that it had to be now. I am sorry if we have disturbed you."
"Not at all," Gabrielle said as she sat down at the communal table.
"Please, miss, sit down, and tell me what is this important that you must
speak to me. I can tell you really wish to be anywhere but here talking to me but I think I know you."
"Well...I...ah...it's...I...need..." the poor woman couldn't seem to get a complete sentence out so Gabrielle held out her hand to stop the woman from embarrassing herself further.
"Please, sit down and relax," Gabrielle said indicating the chair on the other side of the small table as the young Queen poured herself a mug of tea. "Would you like some tea, it's really very good? One of my wife's few kitchen skills."
The woman smiled at the royal's remark on her mate's lack of domestic skills and nodded shyly, accepting the Queen's offer. Gabrielle poured a second cup of the fragrant liquid and handed it to the woman across the table from her. The bard took the opportunity to look over her guest. As she did, a bell went off in her head. This was the woman Xena was searching for.
She was a little taller than Gabrielle and a little more heavily set. There was an air about the woman that spoke of quiet strength and confidence, that showed even through her current nervous state. The woman had shoulder-length brown hair, dark brown eyes that shone with good humor, and one of those full lipped mouths that seemed to be ready to smile at any minute.
There was also a sense of the hearth and comfort about this stranger, her compassion showed in her eyes. It all combined to give Gabrielle a feeling that she was going to like this woman even before she spoke.
"What is your name?" Gabrielle asked, her voice conveying her friendly intentions as she handed the steaming mug of tea to the woman. "I recognise you from the fortress but it was so hectic I can't recall your name."
"M-my n-name is P-Portia, your H-Highness," she sputtered out nervously. "A-a-and I-I..."
Gabrielle reached over and took one of the woman's work calloused hands and patted it gently, effectively rendering the woman speechless.
"Okay now, Portia, my name is Gabrielle," the Queen said. "This isn't a formal occasion, and we are in my home, so I really wish you'd drop all the Queen and your Highness stuff and simply call me by name, okay?"
Portia nodded her head amazed at this Queen's attitude. Every other royal she'd ever seen was at a distance and they were all so aloof and snooty, but this Amazon Queen didn't act that way at all. She acted like one of the younger girls at the public well.
Portia was surprised before, when she found out that Gabrielle was a Queen, she was learning a whole new respect for royalty, especially knowing what this woman had done for the children of Ciros, even though she had no connection with anyone of the port town.
As far as Portia was concerned, if there was ever anyone that deserved to be a Queen, it was the little blonde pouring her a mug of tea, and talking to her like they were old friends.
She had no problems understanding why every Amazon she'd met since coming to the village was totally devoted to their Queen.
"Yes, your Hig...Gabrielle," Portia answered, a little embarrassed by her
slip and a little afraid that it would anger this unusual woman.
"Much better, Portia," Gabrielle said as if the slip never occurred. "Did
you know we've been looking all over for you?"
"Well, Gabrielle," Portia began, being careful to correctly pronounce each
syllable of the Queen's name. "I know you have some seriously wounded warriors here and I wanted to help. I have experience working on the wounded."
"We had already figured that, Portia," Gabrielle asked knowing she'd just
come upon that miracle that Xena and everyone was looking for. "May I ask how you got this experience?"
"Certainly, I was a servant to the captain of the guard," Portia stated now that she was on well known territory. "Before he retired to that post, he was a commander in the Athenian army and I served him as personal healer. When he came to Ciros, I came with him and that's where I met my late husband, he was killed in the raid. Believe me I know battle injuries well."
There was something about his woman, something she wasn't saying and the Queen wasn't going to stop until she knew Portia's secret.
"Why did you wait so long to come to us, Portia?" Gabrielle asked softly hoping the woman would tell the truth. "Is it something any of us did or did you not know of our need?"
Portia hung her head for a moment, and Gabrielle could tell the older woman was struggling with some personal issues that effected her answer.
"It's one of the wounded," Portia said barely above a whisper, the rest of the statement was going to challenge every thing she'd been taught since her childhood. "It's the girl, Larisa, I took care of her after she
was wounded and continued until we arrived here."
"What about her, why did you stop taking care of her?" Gabrielle asked. "I thought the two of you had begun to care for each other very much. You even expressed a desire to join us. What happened?"
"Well I thought she would be alright, that there would be someone here that could take care of her," the nervous woman said, her voice quivering.
"I thought it would be best if one of her own took over. For the girl's sake, I thought it would be better if I never saw her again."
"Why would you think that, Portia, is there something about Amazons you don't like?" Gabrielle's voice had an edge to it, it was the only hint at what she was afraid the woman was about to say. "Perhaps you don't approve of the way we live here."
Gabrielle had no tolerance for ignorant prejudice and she was preparing to hear this otherwise friendly woman spew some hate filled rhetoric or the like, but nothing prepared her for what came next. The woman turned her eyes away from Gabrielle ashamed of what she was about to say.
"I'll be honest with you, your Highness," Portia sobbed, reverting back to
formalities. "As I was taking care of the little one, I did began to have
feelings for her. At first I put them off as just feeling sorry for the child
she'd have a limp the rest of her life and all. I could handle that, but the more time I spent with her talking to her and getting to know her, I realized what I was feeling for this girl was much deeper than that. It wasn't too bad, I was capable of hiding my feelings. I've been hiding my feelings for women for years, but the night before we got here she told me she felt the same way about me.
For a while I was just about the happiest woman in the world, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured what good I would be to that little thing and I didn't want to trade on the gratitude of any of you. Figured sooner or later she'd come to resent me and I'd be a burden.
"Well I couldn't let a pretty little thing like her ruin her life for the
likes of me, and I told her so. I told her it was probably just a crush on account of me nursing her and all. She was having none of that, no matter how I tried to show her how wrong it was. Cause I wasn't no Amazon, I'm nothing more than a common peasant, I figured we'd have no place here, and you know how the people in the villages are so we couldn't go there,but that young hard-head just wouldn't listen.
So when we got here, I figured to stay away from her knowing she'd forget
me sooner or later and live a happy life with someone more suitable."
"It would have worked too. I was going to leave for one of the other outside villages in the morning.
Then I asked that Rapa girl that was with us how she was doing, and she told me that little Larisa was real sick and was going to lose her leg and maybe even her life on account of the Amazons not having anybody that knew how to treat her wound."
The sturdy woman began to weep quietly as her story progressed, her emotions still raw from the recent events.
"Then I knew I couldn't leave and let that child suffer cause I can't control my hormones, but I wanted to ask permission before I went to her. I asked one of the guards and that was her that brought me here to you." Portia sighed resigned to her fate. "To be honest, I figured you'd
turn me away seeing as how I might hurt that sweet little girl"
Portia was weeping openly with guilt and shame by the time she finished her tale and Gabrielle was too overwhelmed to speak for a moment.
"I just want you to know I didn't mean to do nobody no harm," Portia continued. "I really did figure one of your own healers would take care of her. Then when she was better, she'd forget all about old Portia and find herself a proper Amazon to be with. That it would be better for her if I just kind of faded away."
Gabrielle's heart was breaking as she listened to the woman's story and the purity of her intentions, no matter how wrong. She watched as the tortured woman broke down and let long hidden tears flow freely.
She resolved to see that this woman and the young Amazon were given every chance to explore their feelings for each other, but first there was some healing to attend to.
After a few heart beats, the Queen rose from her chair and took Portia's work calloused hand in hers, helping the woman to her feet.
"From what you say, my dear Portia, you, Larisa, my Consort, and I, all four, need to sit down and have a long talk about deciding what's best for other people," Gabrielle said, smiling at the nervous woman. "But right now I need to get you with Thetis, our master healer, so that the two if you can get an Amazon hero the treatment she needs."
She led the stunned woman through her home and out the back door to the porch where hero Consort, the Regent, and the master healer were still debating how to best care for the wounded Amazon.
Gabrielle burst through the door with a shy looking woman that looked to be around Xena's age being pulled behind her, interrupting their talk and becoming the center of attention.
There was something about the woman that seemed familiar to Xena but the warrior couldn't quite put her finger on it. Hating a mystery, Xena scrutinized the stranger carefully while her breathless wife made the introductions. By the time it was Xena's turn, she had made the connection.
"You're the one!" Xena said as she shook hands with Portia. "This is her Thetis, the one I told you about."
She then turned back to the waiting and a little overwhelmed woman and with a huge grin on her face, clapped the woman on the back.
"You're the one that took care of Larisa right after she was wounded," Xena exclaimed happily, the woman nodded a little frightened by the warrior's greeting. "We've been looking all over for you. Your skills with her wounds were phenomenal. You're the reason she hasn't lost her leg before this or worse. Why did you disappear like that? I was afraid you'd already left with one of the other groups."
Gabrielle was pleased that she had helped take the burden from her wife's shoulders, but knew if she didn't intervene that her beloved would be interrogating this woman all day, and Gabrielle could see the poor woman was about to bolt like a scared rabbit, scared witless by Xena's over-zealous yet friendly questioning.
"Xena, my love," Gabrielle said softly laying a calming hand on the excited warrior's arm. "We have discussed getting together at another time to clear up the matter of Portia's "disappearance", but for now, shouldn't we let her and Thetis go to the infirmary and do what is necessary to help Larisa recover? That is why she's here after all."
Looking like an over-exuberant little girl, Xena put on her "Pouting" face and released Portia's hand and let Gabrielle take the extremely nervous woman to the waiting master healer.
Thetis immediately took
charge of her newly discovered miracle, turned, and walked away with her towards the infirmary.
They could be heard discussing different treatments for different ailments as they strode along the path, each gaining respect and confidence in the other as they went on.
As the two healers left, Xena turned and swept her lover into her arms and captured the blonde's soft, moist lips with her own. They both were so
absorbed in their own passion and depth of feelings that they both totally forgot that Nikippa was still there.
"Well I can see my work is done here for the day," the Regent said, standing then giving an exaggerated yawn and stretch. "I suppose I should go back to my own business before I learn far more about you two than I care to."
All three women broke out in laughter and the two lovers bid their friend good day with an apology for ignoring her. Then they retired for for the third time to their hut. Leaving instructions not to be disturbed, they left a trail of clothing behind them that led straight to their bed.
Screams of desire and delight were heard throughout the village for the next few candlemarks, bringing smiles to the faces of the villagers, along with adding much to the legend of Xena and Gabrielle.
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