See part 1 for disclaimer

There is violence, and some sex, 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--Always 24

by: Alex


It was almost sunset when Xena reached the hot springs. She as tired and her muscles ached. It was a good aching... aw Hades, who was she kidding it was a fabulous ache.

After being confined to 'Take is easy' as Portia put it for nearly two months, the warrior had finally been released to do some sword drills and have a minor workout with Rapa.

Xena reminded herself to commend Gabrielle on her choice of Rapa to fill the position of weapons master, she was the perfect person to fill the very large boots of Eponin. The position had been left open since their old friend had disappeared after the death of her much beloved Ephiny.

Xena had doubted they would ever find someone as good and as talented as Poni, but Rapa seemed to take to the job as if born to it. She just hoped that she hadn't gotten her new friend in too much with Gabrielle.

The Queen had seemed less than pleased when she caught them sparing. Although she did seem to be "warming up" when Xena had left to follow her Queen and wife's orders, and Rapa seemed less than hurt by her punishment when she left.

The new weapons master started out trying to follow the healer and Queen Gabrielle's orders and force Xena to just have an easy workout, but Xena had other ideas.

The Amazon turned down several challenges from the Champion and really was doing her best to pay attention to the young trainees she was teaching some fighting moves, but her warrior's temper had taken just about all it could take of Xena's sarcastic remarks and cat calls about her speed and technique.

<>I know I've sworn obedience to my Queen and I know that Xena is only taunting me for a reaction.<> Rapa thought grumbling to herself <>but one more remark and I swear by Artemis' bow I'm going to give her a "private" lesson.<>

Rapa just finished showing three of her pupils a defensive lower sweep with her sword while hamstringing her opponent with her dagger and was enjoying the looks of admiration from the younger Amazons, when she was struck with the final straw.

"Oh yeah, great move, 'weapons master'," Xena taunted from the sidelines. "Oh yeah it's great if you want your head handed to you on a platter. Geez Rapa, I thought you were teaching these youngsters how survive on a battle field not how to become fertilizer for it."

Although the Warrior Princess had nothing but admiration for the Amazon as both a warrior and an instructor, she was bored and couldn't get anyone to spar with her. She had not known that Gabrielle had sent word that anyone caught giving her Consort more than a light workout would answer to her.

While everyone respected and revered Xena, Champion of Queen of the Amazons,

none more than Rapa. She was nowhere near as feared as Gabrielle, overprotective wife of Xena. Most would rather face death at he end of Xena's sword than a tongue lashing from the bard when she thought they'd recklessly endangered her beloved wife's health.

Now however, a determined Xena was a force to be reckoned with and she was determined to have a decent workout. The only warrior that could provide it that was now in camp was Rapa, and Xena was bound and determined to get the newly appointed weapons master to cross swords with her.

The poor woman never had a chance. Being a warrior herself, Xena knew exactly what buttons to push to make the weapons master forget all about any other consideration. All she had to do was push them enough times and she'd get her workout at last.

Judging by how red Rapa's face was and the angry scowl that had taken up residence there as well, it wouldn't be long.

"That will be all for today," Rapa told her students through clenched teeth.

She waited for the younger Amazons to be out of sight then turned to face her heckler. Her eyes were dark brown fires as she glared at the tall warrior.

"So you're looking for a challenge, 'Champion'," the weapons master snarled angrily. "Well I think it's time the mighty Warrior Princess was taken down a notch or two, and I think I'm just the one to do it."

"Oooo, now I'm all a tremble oh, great weapons master," Xena quipped. "You

know what they say 'Those that can do, Those that can't...teach. So, what

do you say, 'teach', want to give me some lessons?"

Something in the back of her mind was warning Rapa to stop this before it got out of hand. Something in her was telling her to walk away, but her ego wasn't buying it.

"You got it, Champion," Rapa growled, a grimace etched on her stony face.

"Step into the circle and lets see what you got."

The bored look on Xena's face disappeared only to be replaced by the feral grin of a consummate predator.

Rapa looked into the face of a two-legged, sword-wielding panther and suddenly, silently questioned the wisdom of entering into this challenge.

<>Tomorrow's lesson will be 'when to challenge'<> Rapa thought as she began to regret her decision to challenge her friend <>and 'when to just laugh it off'.<>

Being an Amazon warrior, it never occurred to the weapons master to maybe call off the duel that was about to happen, but her survival instincts

did force her to make one concession.

"Alright warrior, here are the rules," Rapa said seriously. "First one down and unconscious or first blood ends the duel. This is *not* a matter of honor, is that clear?"

"As you wish weapons master," her dark prowling opponent purred dangerously. "Set your own limits I will abide by them."

With a nod from Rapa, the two approached and began their lesson. There were a series of opening slashes and blocks as each fighter gauged her opponent's weaknesses and strengths.

The clanging of steel striking steel attracted an audience, and the gathering crowd was treated to one of the finest demonstrations of skill and fighting prowess that any of them could remember. It was a graceful deadly dance performed by two past masters of the game. Sparks flew as their swords clashed in a blur of motion that the human eye was incapable of following.

The duo was smiling at each other but the smiles failed to reached their eyes. It was clear that the two women were fairly evenly matched, but it was quickly obvious as Xena's muscles stretched and loosened from the weeks of inactivity that the Amazon weapons master was overmatched, at least it was to Rapa. Slowly, Xena gained the upper hand and was toying with her opponent. She wasn't being mean or vicious she was just trying to prolong the workout.

Unfortunately, it was a small village and word soon reached the ears of a

certain overprotective, green-eyed, golden-haired Queen, that her beloved

warrior and one of her best friends were fighting a duel on the training grounds.

As soon as she heard, Gabrielle burst out of the council chambers and was

stomping toward the training grounds furious at both her lover and her friend. As she approached the crowd surrounding the duelling circle, her dark green eyes burned with anger. When they saw the look in her eyes, and

the 'someone's gonna die' look on her face, her Amazons quickly stepped out of her way, bowed, saluted and as the fuming little Queen passed they

suddenly remembered somewhere else they had to be right then.

Both combatants noticed the commotion coming from the crowd and had a good idea what was causing it, but they were too absorbed in their duel to stop. That is until they were given a good reason to.

"ALRIGHT YOU TWO," Gabrielle shouted at them like she would two misbehaving children. "THAT IS ENOUGH!"

Both fighters ceased immediately and dropped their weapons. Rapa fell instantly to one knee and placed her fist over her heart, while Xena stood there looking down sheepishly and scuffing the toe of her boot in the dirt.

It was all Gabrielle could do not to laugh at them. To her, they looked like two little girls that had just been caught stealing sweets from the kitchen. She waited until all the spectators were gone before she said anything, not wanting to embarrassed the two women.

"Would either of you like to explain this to me?" the bard asked, biting her lip to hide her amassment. "I was sure that both of you understood the limits on Xena's workout, the healers were very specific about this. Rapa, I had thought better of you. As our new weapons master, you are expected to set an example for our youngest warriors, and I hardly think that duelling with someone just out of her sickbed is considered proper behavior for an Amazon warrior, now is it?"

When she saw Rapa was still kneeling she added, "Oh for Goddess sake, get

up woman!"

"I...I'm s-sorry, your Highness," the Amazon began. "I should have controlled myself better, b-but the Champion started it. She was making sport of me in front of the trainees!"

"I was just trying to point out some weaknesses in the lesson you were teaching," Xena said sounding for all the world like a spoiled child and glaring at her partner in crime. "I was only trying to help really!"

"Uh huh,"Gabrielle said turning to look at her wife, trying to detect any

signs of fatigue or any return of her dizziness or disorientation. "Just what form did this 'help' take? Quietly telling Rapa what you thought or harassing her in the middle of her lessons so that she would be embarrassed and challenge you?"

Being caught so completely was bad enough but looking over Gabrielle's shoulder and seeing Rapa sticking her tongue out at her was all Xena could take without losing it. Holding her sides, the stoic warrior began laughing so hard she fell to the ground at Gabrielle's feet, soon to be joined by Rapa.

"That will be quite enough out of you two," Gabrielle said trying to look stern but failing miserably. "Rapa you need to get cleaned up and report to Mallika for your punishment. I imagine my closest advisor can find a way to use up some of that excess energy you seem to have."

A playful smirk appeared on the Queen's face as she pronounced the weapons master's sentence. A slow, relieved grin drifted across Rapa's face as the type of 'punishment' she was being sentenced to.

"Yes, your Majesty," she said when Gabrielle finished speaking and with a

mischievous sparkle in her eyes, the weapons master bowed and finished. "It shall be done as you wish."

The happy woman spun and ran off toward the hot springs caves wanting not

to waste a single moment of her time with the Queen's newest advisor.

Xena was watching her friend running off, smiling at the enthusiasm with which she approached her 'punishment'. She was roughly turned around and pulled down by her shirt to look into the dark green shining eyes of her lover.

"Now for you, my dear," the Queen growled her lust deepening her voice an

octave. "You will also go to the hot springs and get into our pool, then you will await me there."

With that, she began nuzzling and nibbling on the beautiful neck in front

of her.

"As you w-wish." Xena tried to answer but the attack on her neck drove all rational thought out of her head. "By the gods, Brie, you're killing me, ohhh goddess."

Unable to take any more, the warrior swept her petite little bard into her arms and gave her a long fierce kiss that forced the woman to groan with lust into her lover's mouth.

Finally regaining some semblance of control, Xena released her now panting wife and looked into her smoldering eyes.

"I shall follow your orders to the letter, my Queen," the warrior said solemnly then leaned over and whispered into Gabrielle's ear. "Please don't make me wait too long, my love. I've been a very bad girl."

Gabrielle felt a shiver run down her spine as her warrior's hot breath washed over her ear. A loud hiss and groan escaped her throat when Xena's teeth closed on her ear lobe and she began gently sucking on the tender flesh.

Then without warning, Xena let her go and strolled off toward their hut to gather her bathing gear before heading to the hot springs. Gabrielle watched as her long-legged lover walked away and smiled at the confident swagger that had returned to her walk. A slow easy smile spread across the bard's lips while the heat in her groin rose to inferno status.

<>By the gods, she is beautiful<> the Queen thought lecherously<>and she's all mine!<>

Gabrielle stopped by the council hut and told her newest advisor, Mallika, all about what had taken place on the training grounds and the 'punishment' she had given Rapa. She advised Mallika to hurry home and take care of her errant lover.

With a huge, beaming smile on her face, the young advisor rushed out of the hut and do her Queen's bidding. With a satisfied smirk on her face and a mischievous sparkle in her quickly darkening green eyes, the pleased-with-herself little bard strolled off to join her loving wife in a nice hot bath and whatever else she had in mind. ==============

Much later that night the two contented lovers lay wrapped in each others

arms, basking in the comforting afterglow of their lovemaking.

Xena was sitting up,her back against the beautifully carved headboard, Gabrielle leaning back against her chest, her powerful arms holding her bard protectively. The young Queen sighed contentedly, and let her

finger lightly trace the outline of the muscles of her warriors hardened forearms.

"Xena?" she asked quietly.

"Yes, my heart?" the happy warrior sighed.

"Can I ah... well, can I ask you something kind of personal?" she asked, feeling a little apprehensive about the question her mind demanded to ask.

"Of course, sweetheart," Xena said shifting so that see could look her lover in the eyes. "To the one that keeps my soul safe from the darkness I have no secrets, you know that."

"Yeah...ok," Gabrielle whispered, gulping a little, she took a deep breath and continued. "Are you alright with everything that's happened since Ciros?"

"I'm fine, love," Xena answered wondering where her perceptive wife was headed with this line of conversation. "You're not still worried about me

being upset are you? You know I am past all that and just happy to have you back healthy and at my side, right?"

"Yeah, I know that and I love you even more if that's possible." She smiled up at her lover's beautifully chiselled features. "That wasn't what I wanted to know though."

"Oh...ah I think I know what it is," Xena said, a light going on in her mind. "You mean about the thing about Athena and my mother and all that."

"Uh-huh," Gabrielle answered, hoping her lover wouldn't think she was prying too much. "It's just I know how you feel about the Gods and how hard it was for you to accept it when Artemis declared me her chosen. Now all of a sudden you're the daughter of the Goddess of wisdom. I mean how do you feel about that."

"I'm not sure," the warrior said, chewing on her bottom lip, thinking. "You're right, it's been a rough adjustment. I know I've said that I was tired of the Gods interfering with our lives but this is kind of different and in a way it can be a good thing as long as Athena keeps her word and stays out of our marriage.

"For one thing, it means that Ares has to back off and leave us alone now that Artemis guards you and I know he will worry about making all Olympus mad if he interferes with the child of another Goddess."

"Especially Athena, she's *so* much smarter than him," Gabrielle laughed.

"I bet it really put a crimp in his ego when he found out. All this time he was taking credit for creating such a fantastically talented warrior, when all along you could have done it without him. Like I always said, I knew you were naturally talented."

The little blonde waggled her pale eyebrows at her lover who immediately cracked up laughing as Gabrielle blushed at her own bravado.

"Goddess, I can't believe I said that," Gabrielle moaned, trying to hide her face in her hands. "This is what happens when an innocent country girl from Poteidaia marries the child of a Goddess."

She swatted Xena's abdomen making her 'oof' then laugh even harder. Gabrielle waited until her lover settled down before asking her next question.

"Honey, I know these last few weeks have been hard on you," Gabrielle said, knowing her lover needed to hear how she felt. "I just wanted you to

know that I'm always here for you and that I love you more than words could ever say."

"Thanks, Brie," the warrior whispered, her voice tight with barely controlled emotions. "I know it but it's always good to hear."

Gabrielle lifted her head toward her wife and Xena's lips met her's half way. Their soft lips joined. Gabrielle's parted, begging her lover's tongue to enter and explore, an invitation Xena gladly accepted. A lust- filled moan escaped the bard only to be caught by her beloved wife who answered with an equally lustful growl from deep in her chest.

The two lovers shifted around so that they were laying facing each other so that both their hands were free to seek out the places that they knew would drive their lover's passions even higher.

"You know, my love," Gabrielle said looking into the fathomless light- blue pools of her lover's eyes. "I have given you my heart to hold safe from harm, forever."

"I know, Brie," Xena answered, forcing her voice past the emotional lump in her throat. "And you know you are you the keeper of my soul, to hold safe

from the darkness that would destroy it."

"Will you trust me forever?" Gabrielle asked, her emerald eyes shining with unshed tears.

Xena looked at her partner and soulmate and, with a look of complete love

and total trust, softly gave her answer,


Both knew their conversation was far from over, but they also knew it would have to wait for another time.

Right now, the only thing that existed for either of them was laying in that bed.

Everything else would have to wait till another time for their answers.




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