Disclaimer: The following characters are not owned by me legally. I borrow them as they live in my head anyway. Some characters are original and they will be obvious. Enjoy.

 

Wonder Xena

by

Amy Van Dyke

The tall beauty made her way casually through the crowds of the festival. Several heads turned in appreciation and respect as her long black hair caught a light breeze and fluttered behind her. Even in this land of beautiful women she was an exception. She was the official leader of the Amazon nation. Their queen's consort became the ruling Regent in the queen's prolonged absence. She passed them all with a nod and a smile, entering the temple.

The temple was centuries old and the marble still glowed in its whiteness. Her hands lingered on the cool stone as she entered the anteroom. Her dusty sandals came off before she entered the lush interior room; moving quietly through the carpeted hallways, her curiosity adding a rare spring to her step. While she visited the temple regularly in her duties as Regent and as a friend of the goddess it was rare that she be summoned. Most discussions could wait until her normal visits.

The curtains separating the main workspace of the temple parted themselves at the woman's approach. She walked up to where Artemis was leaning over a worktable. Her long hair fell off her shoulders as she watched the low screen.

"Thank you for coming." The goddess turned and faced her old friend.

"Is everything all right?"

"Better than all right. I think I've found her."

Xena gasped at that possibility. "You've thought that before." She tried not to sound bitter but hope was a very painful thing.

Centuries before the gods had gone to war. Zeus's death had turned their world upside down. They split into factions and the world was never the same. Artemis had been able to hide the Amazon Nation by shifting them out of phase with the rest of the world. Unfortunately Gabrielle had been visiting her family and was not shifted with them. It caused Artemis great pain that because of the war she had no way to retrieve her chosen one. A message had been sent and received from Aphrodite that she'd keep her safe.

The war continued to rage on Olympus; going from political infighting to actual battles. Zeus had died and his children & progeny nearly destroyed the world. With his passing each Olympian's powers changed. Overall they were much weaker than before. No longer global powers their battles for control got out of hand.

Artemis spent most of her time with her protected Amazons. Using her temple to live in and run her personal war. She also kept track of the world outside of the protection. It sped by at a faster rate and it fascinated her. As a gift to Xena she hadn't aged in her time with the Nation. Artemis knew Aphrodite had done the same for Gabrielle. The goddess would use her powers to watch the outside world pas by. In its latest age of technology there was a better chance of finding Gabrielle.

About 50 years before they had a good lead & Xena actually ventured into the regular time stream looking for her soul mate. But the world had fallen into its own war and the lead couldn't be followed. Xena's few attempts to help out on that visit made their way safely into urban myth. Xena had returned to the nation and had secluded herself for almost a year. Finally returning to her duties as Regent when Artemis wouldn't leave her alone.

"My computer searches haven't found anything useful since the damn thing was invented. But." Artemis let the moment linger. "When our latest group left the nation a programmer/hacker was among them. I made sure to remind her that part of her duty was to protect the memory of her Queen."

"How could protecting her memory find her?"

"She started a web page in Gabrielle's honor."

"What! After we spend lifetimes keeping secrets."

She put it in such a way that only other amazons know it is a true story. It is some of the email that interests me." She guided Xena's attention back to her. "Several emails mention how similar she sounds to someone they know. A few mention a friend of a friend sort of thing but two actually had a name. Harken, a surname that appeared in the U.S. 30 years ago. A mysterious heiress bought a great deal of land in the western states. Large plots with a house in the middle and nothing else. She is so reclusive she is turning into the next Howard Hughes. "

"So some rich lady is crazy or doesn't like photographers. So, what?"

"Stop being so crabby that is what. It was no trouble at all to track down the purchase records for this woman. She has millions but is living like the untouchables. A small cabin without electricity or running water, so far from a road she packs in supplies on a horse."

Xena smiles at Arties excitement "So, we have a reclusive naturalist."

"Yes, one who orders quill and ink not pens or pencils." Artemis ends in a flourish.

Xena felt the first stirrings of hope in decades. The thought that her sweet bard had had to make her way all these centuries without her protection ate away at her. Would Gabrielle even love her after all this time? Or remember her?

"Sounds like I'm going hiking."

Xena turned and left the planning room, her mind already reviewing the steps necessary to leave the Amazon city. She slips on her sandals and jogs from the temple back to her home.

Two hours later she is hiking up the trail leading to the remote cabin. Her palms are sweating and her nerves were very much on edge. She could hear the voices of two people ahead of her on the trail. It was someone laughing, a woman. Her heart leapt into her throat at the familiarity of it.

Xena moves quickly but quietly to the edge of a small clearing. She sees a woman facing her direction, tall blond with short hair. She is telling a story to someone sitting on the ground. A step closer & Xena could see the top of another sun blonde head. She stepped into the clearing bringing an abrupt halt to the conversation. The tall woman placed Gabrielle protectively behind her. Gabrielle for her part had jumped not for cover but to her staff that was behind the other woman.

Xena and Gabrielle locked gazes. Xena flushed with excitement and paralyzed with fear. Gabrielle's eyes held mostly confusion.

Xena whispered in Greek "I love you."

Hearing that seemed to break Gabrielle's composure.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Xena didn't respond, she just pulled back a step. "You think you can leave me and then show up how many lifetimes later! Get out!"

"Wait I can explain."

"There is nothing you'd have to say that I want to hear." Gabrielle sighs, "Just leave. I don't know you anymore." Gabrielle takes the young blonde's hand and walks away from Xena.

Xena stands there feeling her heart breaking. She falls to her knees and tried to control her breathing. Her vision began to fade and she knew she was going to pass out. With no idea what to do she gives in to the darkness. The nausea hits her hard.

Xena awakens in her bed sweating profusely. The urge to throw up having pulled her from the nightmare sends her to the bathroom. It was a dream that came often.

She knew that Gabrielle lived and that was it. One of Artemis" s gifts to her had been the ability to feel that much. The goddess had trouble understanding how much that could hurt over the years. Xena had moved on emotionally and had loved many women over the years but none compared to her distant memory of Gabrielle. And her loyalty to her Queen remained solid.

She stands in the shower reviewing the previous day trying to find what would've triggered the dream. Since nothing of import happened she decided it that one of her associates had just cut her blond hair short. It had been stranger things. Xena let the water washed away old memories and prepared for another day as Regent of the enchanted Amazon Nation.

Xena left her small apartment on foot as she had every day for years. She'd been encouraged as Regent to live in the Palace but she preferred her quiet stroll at the end of the day as opposed to the endless hustle of the capital. For all the silence of the tucked away street she was very close to her office. The short walk allowed her to clear her mind of personal issues and prepare for the day.

As she climbed the grand front steps at the building she paused near the top to look at her city. The palace had been placed on a hill above the small valley. The community had long since out grown the space & built housing right up the mountainside. Her own buildings tucked down the slope. Her eyes looked past the busy city to the glowing light that touched each mountain.

The shield that held their city apart from the world also had kept them safe through centuries of Olympian war. It had been such a quick decision by Artemis, so much so that even the Queen had been caught outside. Xena's dreams tended to add a bit of dramatic flair to the reality of their situation. Xena trusted the Aphrodite would keep Gabrielle safe but still she missed her terribly.

Artie had informed her that the shield would indeed be coming down soon. The goddess had matured since the death of Zeus. Each Olympian had reacted differently to the loss of his connection to their source. Most had slowly weakened as their followers outgrew them and they then just faded away. But Artemis had the foresight to protect her true followers and children so her power continued at almost its previous level.

As the Olympians found a sort of peace Artemis began the process of integrating her daughters and their sons back to the world. The first step had been to bring the valley back into step with the natural time stream. The war had gone on for thousands of years. They had been living in a natural timeline for several generations. Xena was beginning to feel the weight of the time. Time away from her soul mate had changed for her. She was a much calmer person. Meditation, lots of exercise and constantly trying to live up to Gabrielle's ideals. She was a truer princess as Regent of the nation than she had ever been.

She had refused the crown and never had to defend her post as Regent. Gabrielle's absence and her mysterious life outside the nation had made her as much of an icon as Xena had once been.

The offices were quietly processing all of the paperwork of a small nation trying to blend into the world. Enjoying the use of the goddess empowered systems that no outside computer would question the information. They operated exclusive all girl boarding schools, had "exchange students" in almost every country in the world. Their young women were sent out to school and returned home without too much trouble with timelines.

Xena had even lived in the world for a few years to begin the transition. And then again to get linked into the right computer networks and visit those amazons that she'd set up in the previous visit. Visiting them and their families as she'd been gone to them for 30 or so regular years. On both visits her alias had been the same, Diana Prince.

Gabrielle was no longer the farm girl sidekick, no longer nave, no longer innocent. She was immortal.

She'd been visiting her family on that fateful day. To this day she had little idea of what had really happened. She had found herself suddenly in Aphrodite's temple, standing in front of an arguing Ares and Aphrodite.

Aphrodite was in his face yelling "don't you dare! I promised and if you go near her you'll be celibate forever!"

"You can't touch me", he said in amusement.

"Brother, you have no idea what I can do." Her voice was more serious than Gabrielle had ever heard it.

Ares" smile fell from his face as he looked into her eyes. He turned his head to look at Gabrielle and sighed disgustedly then disappeared.

Gabrielle walked up to Aphrodite. "What's going on? Is Xena okay?"

"She's fine doll. But things are not good." She took the bard's hand and led her to a couch that appeared. She began telling Gabrielle their troubles.

It was hard news that her separation from Xena would continue until Olympus could find peace but it wasn't expected to be that long. Gabrielle was not happy but contented herself that Xena was safe and out of Ares" s control. So she sat and learned the role she'd have under Aphrodite's protection.

This only initially meant time with the goddess. Dite formed an alliance with several Olympians and was unusually reticent with Gabrielle on their names. Her visits became more infrequent. On Gabrielle's part she noticed after many years she didn't grow older. She asked Dite and she confirmed it was a request of Artemis that her chosen be protected indefinitely. She found that she could be physically hurt but would always heal and scars would fade as her skin naturally replaced itself.

Time passed painfully slow for Gabrielle at first. She grew used to friends and family dying. As the gods themselves were forgotten, Gabrielle found it best to blend into the background. She'd held every imaginable job, and witnessed every horror. After a time she felt would occasionally answer her prayers but they didn't speak. She felt very alone. She'd avoid romance until she couldn't stand it and then she'd have to watch them die, either by accident or death because she would never leave them. She's raised generations of children but couldn't stay in their lives. Many times the grief became too much and she would lose her mind. She had literally walked the world to pass the time.

The 21st century found her living in Phoenix Arizona. Time had changed her. Her memory was beginning to fail her again. The occasional insanity proved cleansing. As if she just couldn't store that many lifetimes & she'd short circuit. She had enough money saved that was concentrating on writing. Trying to get as much of herself on paper as she could before she lost it.

She'd once read how vampires regenerate by going into the earth and sleeping. She envied that to the Renfield she would turn into every few centuries. She hated herself for that weakness, as well as a long list of other things. When she began to grow tired she would withdraw and begin waiting. She'd published often but mostly she just filled journals as she used to fill scrolls.

When she was written out she'd send them to the vaults of the Talamasca to a very old friend of hers. They'd be safe and she could retrieve them easily. One of the first signs that she was losing it would be a hallucination of Xena, the soul mate that was barely a memory anymore, and the one scar that wouldn't heal.

Xena walked through the bustling halls of the Amazon government. She enjoyed seeing her tribe huddled over computer screens and keyboards. Even in the morning light they reminded her of the Fates conspiring about something. She was an early riser but the office seemed to always be busy and it was a comfort to the lonely woman.

Her assistant saw her approaching and laid out a small breakfast of fruit and bread. She knew Xena never ate at home.

"Good morning, Regent."

"Yes, Sara it is. Did you have a good evening?" Xena had encouraged her to attend the tribal celebration of the new beginning the night before. Sara had tried luring Xena to the party, having had a crush on Xena since the day they met. Xena's tortured soul & perfect looks were a devastating combination for most amazons. But Xena was rarely tempted. In all the years of the enchantment she'd never married. Even though Artemis had given her leave to despite being the unofficial consort of the missing Queen.

Sara looked at the small smile on the regent's face and wished there were some way to make it bigger. "I had a good enough time without you there to pick on me."

"Why Sara I don't pick on you, how could you say such a thing?" Xena's smile twitched as she goaded her assistant.

Sara refused to be baited. Teasing was as playful as Xena usually got and she was very good at it.

"Today is a big day Sara. This whole island is going to fly in under the radar and act like nothing is unusual. Do you think we can pull it off?" Xena was bouncing on her toes more excited that Sara could remember seeing her.

"With the grace of Artemis and the will of Xena all things are possible."

Xena winced at the well-used adage. She'd been a driving force in the nation for so long her fame was steadfast. As was the trust that generations of Amazon daughters placed in her. Artemis was an active goddess but rarely touched the lives of individuals. Xena had walked among them from the beginning. Sara knew she hated it but it was a safe joke, one that Xena had trouble responding to.

Sara watched as Xena put a hunk of cheese in her mouth, followed by grapes, melon, mango, bread and tea. Xena looked up to find Sara smiling, "What? I'm hungry"

"I didn't say a thing." Sara chuckled "Did you want to wear your robe for the ceremony?"

"Goddess no, I hate that thing." Xena shuddered at wearing the traditional feathered robes of the Regent. "That thing itches."

"Fine, I was just asking." Sara made a quick exit from the office.

The phone rang on her desk and Xena quickly swallowed and garbled a greeting.

"Is that anyway for the Regent to answer her line?"

"Quit it, you sound like my mother. Why are you calling me?"

"I feel like your mother sometimes." Ignoring Xena's snort. "And I'll call if I want. I wouldn't want to scare poor Sara."

"Sara isn't even in here so, "Xena stopped as Sara walked in with some papers. "Never mind. What's up?"

"I just wanted to check on my Regent. Do I have to have a reason? Paranoia is a sign of old age, you know that don't you?"

"My you are cheerful." Xena smiled as Sara grew curious." Sara would you like to say something to Artemis?"

"Yeah right boss." Sara just turns and walks out.

"Well, you're popular." Xena prodded.

"Don't remind me. Are you excited?"

"I am. It's been so long I actually miss the world. It's changed so much but I think we're ready."

"We are you've made sure of it."

"You should be feeling better soon then?" Xena had been concerned, as Artemis grew weaker from maintaining the enchantment.

"Yes, soon and you owe me dinner."

"You're on friend."

"Maybe you could invite Sara."

"Really. Okay I will." Xena enjoyed that Artie sounds so shy about it. Things really had changed.

"Well. I'll see you in a few." Artie obviously uncomfortable hung up.

Xena began clearing her desk of overnight reports; she didn't want to have to come back after the ceremony. For once she wanted to stay at the party.

Xena did not put on her Regent's cloak but did opt for her best suit. She stepped in front of the gathered crowd in a simple black Armani suit, her silk shirt the palest of blue highlighting her eyes. There was a collective gasp as the beautiful Regent stepped to the stage to speak.

"Greetings Sisters," she paused for the ensuing applause. "The time has come for our nation to rejoin the world. I think they might just be ready for us." Laughter ripples through the crowd." I know we have done an excellent job preparing for this.

It is important for you to know that while our nation will no longer remain hidden from the world we are still the daughters of Artemis. Her protection will remain a part of our lives and our children's. Despite rumors which I am particularly unhappy to hear. Despite rumors to the contrary Artemis is still with us. In fact, she'd like to speak to you."

Shock rippled through the crowd. Any other that Xena and her priestesses had not seen Artemis. Silence fell upon the women in attendance as a small woman approached Xena from behind. She placed her hand on Xena's back and Xena stepped aside. The crowd remained silent as if they had no idea what to do.

Artemis had matured during the Olympian war and was now very reserved. She was almost as nervous about her daughters accepting her, fearing she'd been distant too long. She looked shyly over the awed faces and smiled. Stepping away from the large podium she approached the edge of the stage, several women took a step back.

Her smile took on a sad note. "I've missed you my children." Her voice didn't need to carry over the crowd, it echoed gently in their minds. "I've watched you grow strong as a Nation and as individuals. I will always protect you however you no longer need to remain apart from the world. Olympus has found peace of a sort. And this world has felt your absence and your time to return has come." Artemis stopped as if she had something else to say but lost track of it. Instead she smiled lovingly at the women. She turned and nodded for Xena to continue, as Xena stepped forward the awed spell broke over the crowd and the applause and roar of the women stopped her.

Sara who had stood to the rear of the stage the whole time, tried to stop herself from touching the goddess. Her mind was confused as to whether she had worship issues or if she'd just fallen in love. She nearly swooned at the shy blush that fell across Artemis' features when the crowd went wild.

Artemis stepped aside to let Xena retake the microphone. She looked back and Sara was standing with her mouth hanging open. With a raised eyebrow Artie walked up to the taller woman and gently shut her mouth. Her fingers couldn't help but linger on Sara's soft skin. Artie was just beginning to realize how lonely she was. Artie moved to stand beside Sara ignoring the throne at the top of the stage.

Xena returned to the podium and waited for the assembly to calm down. She chose not to say anything else as the murmurs continue. Instead she raised her arms and indicated the valley sides. The sky seemed to glow then rainbows ran across the sky and it all flashed. Then a crystal clear blue sky came into view. Warm winds began to blow tropical breezes and the Amazon nation was now part of the world.

Xena turned and assisted a now tired Artemis down the stairs to her carriage. She was to take the easy way back to her apartments, which were actually in the main building but so out of the way few knew about them. She needed real sleep to recover from the day and regain her strength. Xena asked Sara to accompany her saying she had to see to the crowd. Xena winked as Arties eyes widened when Sara sat next to her.

Three young women rode quietly down the dirt road. Their hands wrapped tightly on the roll bar as each pothole threatened their comfort. They'd been driving off road for several hours only able to go a few miles an hour on the old riverbed road. They had done an incredible job of getting here. Tracing hospital records through different social security numbers.

The 4*4 pulled around a large outcropping, in the shade was a very small camper. Beside it was a table covered in papers. Each pile had a rock to keep it from blowing away. The amazons jumped out of the jeep and circled the camp. They were trained warriors but very nervous. Gabrielle was a legend and the chance to meet her they had worked very hard for. Knocking on the screen doorframe and peeking in it was easy to see no one was in the small space. It was like an oven in there. Not wanting to turn around and leave they sat at the table to wait.

As the sun began to set the distant sound of a motor could be heard approaching. Soon a small cloud could be seen trailing a dirt bike crossing the flat desert floor. It came within 50 feet of the trailer and stopped, the biker looking at the women. It was a small bike with a small woman. Her short hair was covered with dirt. Her bike and body were both layered in mud and loose dirt. She had on sky blue reflective sunglasses and they couldn't tell what she was thinking.

Gabrielle had seen the truck easily. Since she had no phone or electricity she hoped the lost visitors would move on. As she watched them they moved from the table, glad they hadn't disturbed her work. They all bowed deeply to her and while it looked oddly familiar she just figured she'd seen it on TV. Not happy at all to have visitors she walked her bike in the additional 50 feet so as to not raise too much dust.

Gabrielle pulled it up and parked it to the side of the trailer all the while coolly observing her guests. The women just stood there looking at her. Having gotten out of the habit of talking Gabrielle felt at ease just staring at the women waiting for them to speak.

The women were awestruck by this woman, underneath the dirt and torn clothing they recognized the face of their queen but this woman was painfully thin. Through her t-shirt and shredded jeans you could see muscle and bone. As the sun set rapidly Gabrielle removed her sunglasses and still stood patiently & quietly.

The women had been briefed by Artemis that they should remain open minded. Gabrielle had been on her own for a long time. It still hurt to see the dead lifeless eyes that looked back at them.

The leader of the group stepped forward, moving Gabrielle into a defensive posture.

Raising her open hands she began in Greek," Greetings, we have a message from an old friend." Seeing no understanding she tried Latin then English. "We would like to talk to you, is that acceptable?"

Gabrielle seemed to digest this and then. "No.", then walked carefully past them into the small trailer.

Confused the woman used her cell phone, nodding at the instructions she was receiving she hung and tells the group with a heavy sigh. "She comes with us."

One woman went to retrieve a sedation gun. While the others prepared to forcibly and gently bring the queen to Artemis' temple. They had to be very careful; no one wanted a goddess or the Regent angry with them. Knocking on the door they looked in to find the trailer seemingly empty. Opening the door one Amazon is immediately attacked. She is unconscious before her friends knew she was even hit. Gabrielle flew out the door and began fighting with the two nearest her. Fortunately the sedation gun was retrieved and she fell quickly. Not before inflicting considerable damage on her two opponents. It was easy for them to believe she was a contemporary of the Regents.

Placing her gently in the jeep they begin the trek back to the transport. Attempting to pack her belongings they found no food, little water in the trailer. They found boxes of journals and pens. Most empty all different kinds and shoved in every space. The papers on the table were mostly newspapers with notes in the margins. It was too much for the small jeep so they called for a team to get the boxes.

Within an hour they heard the engines. It was invisible to radar and the naked eye covered in crystals from the island. Not completely invisible but only shimmered and of course the dust was settling on it. They drove the jeep into the storage area and loaded the queen. Afraid she'd wake up before they could get her to Artemis.

They arrived back on Paradise Island to a small crowd of women. The Regent paced nervously for the queen to exit the plane. She rushed forward when she saw a battered women limp out of the plane requesting a stretcher.

Pushing her way to the door, "What's happening? Who's hurt?"

"Regent my apologies, our queen was not of a mind to return to us."

"So you beat her?" Xena was as close to striking someone as she'd been in years.

The woman took a step back from the Regent's rare anger, "No, your grace. We sedated her after she beat us."

"Why would you kidnap her? Why didn't you just talk to her or call me?"

"Xena please forgive us. We were very careful. Artemis insisted we bring her. She suspected our queen would be confused."

"Confused?"

"Regent I cannot say she is not herself as I have not met her. But I can say she is not well. She doesn't seem to have eaten or cared to in weeks. She hasn't bathed or taken care of herself. The woman is unwell if not very sick. If nothing else Xena it seems she's been alone for a very long time."

The medic stepped back and Xena could see the sleeping queen for the first time. Even asleep Gabrielle expressed her dislike at being handled with a small mewing noise. Xena leaned in a pulled Gabrielle into her arms. Heading to the palace easily with her light burden. As she started up the stairs she pulled Gabrielle closer breathing in the familiar if not strong musk. Her bard did indeed need a bath. She showed signs of waking and buried her face into Xena's shoulder.

Carrying her into the queen's chambers, a simple room decorated by Xena and attaching to Xena's palace apartment. She laid Gabrielle on the bed and stayed sitting next to her. Xena couldn't form a thought or think of any reason to move.

Gabrielle floated closer to waking and sighed deeply. She opened her eyes to adjust to the light and saw a woman sitting next to her on the bed. In that one look Gabrielle felt she knew the woman but not from where. Of course, she didn't even remember her name so what did it matter, what did anything matter. She hadn't cared in a long time.

Gabrielle opened her eyes fully and looked around the room. Xena grew very concerned to see how Gabrielle had changed. Internally she feared the changes between them were too extreme for them to have a chance. Gabrielle's eyes fell on her and they seemed empty.

"How do you feel?" It seemed a benign enough question for Xena to begin with.

Gabrielle knew the woman was talking to her but her voice was distant and muffled. She just stared at her not caring. Xena repeated the question and leaned forward. Her blue eyes agitated Gabrielle enough to respond. "I don't."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Xena was sure Gabrielle was being sarcastic and was about to get angry when she heard the door open.

Artemis had been in the temple waiting for Gabrielle. She was very excited to see her chosen one, her child of a sort. Receiving word that her fears were realized she rushed from her temple. She'd stopped wasting energy popping in and out and now wished she wasn't too tired to do it.

She opened the door to see Xena talking quietly to Gabrielle. Gabrielle leaning against the head board, her hands at her sides, her eyes vacant. She watched the woman enter the room. She also looked familiar, not that it mattered.

Artemis took the scene in and the part of her that had been anxious finally relaxed.

"Xena, could I have a few moments with my child, please?" She'd taken to calling Gabrielle her child just after the withdrawal. Xena began to suspect Artemis might have a real maternal stake in her bard. Xena wanted to hold her love at least touch her hand before leaving but refrained knowing she'd be back.

Artemis waited until Xena was completely out of the room before she moved to the bed. Gabrielle's eyes tracked her but that was the only sign of recognition. "I know you are very tired child. Let's get you cleaned up then you can rest."

Gabrielle instinctively trusted this woman, letting her led her into the bathroom. It was a large room with a large tub. As they walked in candles lit themselves and the bath was filled in a flash with warm water. The idea of taking her clothes off was not something Gabrielle wanted to do. She looked at the water and then at Artemis. Her defiance was silent just a dead stare and no move towards the tub.

Artemis gently put her hand on her shoulder and Gabrielle gasped. Instead of feeling nothing but a distant bitterness she now felt quietly content. "Come now," Artemis said, "Don't you think a bath will feel good? Gabrielle. Didn't really smile but her face did soften. She began undressing and Artemis gathered her clothes to be thrown out. Gabrielle's body was both painfully thin and wonderfully muscled. Her skin was more dirt and sunburn than tan. Her hair was almost white blonde under the grime.

After Gabrielle was cleaned up and very relaxed from her bath, Artemis tucked her back into bed. Meeting a pacing Xena in the hallway she outlined her plan.

"Xena I'm sorry. I had fear she'd be traumatized but seeing it was very painful. I should've brought her here before I told you."

"Don't even go there." Xena's jaw clenched.

"I know. I'm sorry. "They both walked a few paces then settled into one of the couches lining the wide hallway. "She needs rest and love more than anything."

Xena interrupted, "What has happened to her?"

"Time. You remember after the first few hundred years you had trouble concentrating?"

Xena's thoughts worked themselves back over the many years. She could remember vaguely a time when she feared age had found its way into her mind. But she could not remember any specifics. Casting about for the thought she knew it would be in her journals. "Barely. Is this happening to her?"

"Most definitely. And it has happened so many times, each time more painful. She is in the midst of this now. "

"What is happening to her?"

"Mortal minds are not built for immortality. She has too many memories, too many heartaches and losses. Not only is she full but her spirit is tired."

"Can you help her, like you did for me?"

"I will be able to help her but I must prepare. I'm still not quite myself. I'm going to go rest... Please let Sara know I won't be able to have lunch with her for a few days. "Artemis nearly blushed at the teasing look from Xena. "Stay near her, don't let her wander, I've calmed her but she'll be lost within herself until I fix this. She may be childlike or aggressive, I don't know. I hear her welcoming party was very impressed by her ability to handle 4 amazons."

"It's been so long since we've had anything but the games to hone our skills. Even without so long to improve their queen would've bested them easily."

"Well, it certainly didn't hurt her reputation as an Amazon warrior." Artemis and Xena sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes. "I really must go rest. I'll return in the morning."

Xena watched Artemis walk down the hall towards her apartments. Noting the slump of her shoulders Xena made a quick call to Sara, telling her Artemis couldn't meet her for lunch but it would be appreciated if she would be sure she ate, that would be great. Xena then sat for a few minutes in the hall unsure of whether she should return to Gabrielle's room. Deciding she had no choice she opened the door. Intending to merely watch Gabrielle for a moment while she slept Xena was surprised when she walked into a chair by the bed. She sat very near the bed and watched her chest rise and fall.

Xena sat there for several hours trying to organize her jumbled emotions. Her love had become a constant in her life. But the woman before her had been through so much, would she even want Xena in her life let alone learn to love her again? In the midst of this turmoil she noticed Gabrielle began to have a nightmare. She reached forward and put her hand on her shoulder.

Gabrielle was used to not sleeping well or at all. When the nightmare came it was like any other loneliness, regret, sorrow, and then fear. Her eyes opened in pain and fell on the serene woman sitting next to her. Their eyes met and Gabrielle didn't feel as frightened. She felt herself falling asleep again under the cool blue eyes but she didn't want to be alone. Long past being able to process she acted on instinct. Xena gasped as the sleepy bard crawled onto her lap and went to sleep.

After the shock, Xena settled her arms around her love and held her close. Gabrielle snuggled into the embrace. Xena inhaled the scent and the feel of Gabrielle and found herself melting into the feel of her love. Soon they were both asleep.

Artemis had returned to her apartment and began to pace. She felt so tired. Shielding the nation had been a slow drain for so long and she hadn't quite recovered. Her isolation from her Olympian friends, she'd visited but could never afford the luxury of leaving her children unprotected. As the time approached to rejoin the world she was able to regain some of her strength. Physically she was still a goddess and capable of amazing things but emotionally she was a lonely woman. Xena had been a great friend once she got over the initial anger of being separated from Gabrielle. But Xena did not love her and that is what she needed. Love.

Artemis had begun having lunches with Sara. She felt truly drawn to her but had no idea how to proceed. In her youth she would've seduced her with gifts or magic. Now she just wanted to be liked for herself, for her own personality not what she could do for a person. So she would shyly meet with Sara and talk of everything that came into their minds. Enjoying the woman's company and getting used to her affection for the young woman.

Artemis paced her apartment knowing she needed to rest but currently too excited. She was lost in thought and didn't see or hear Sara enter. She was surprised to turn and see Sara setting a tray onto her table.

"I know you aren't hungry." Sara stopped the statement before Artemis could get it out as she rarely ate. "But I am and I've missed you today. Keep me company?" Artemis gave in easily already feeling the weight of her responsibility easing.

They did what they usually did; Sara would chat away about her friends and their children's antics. Not having much of a personal life, Sara kept her up to date on all the good gossip. Artemis loved the way Sara's voice filled the room. To this point she'd been very shy with Sara, not wanting to presume but also not sure if any advance would be welcome.

Sara sat and chatted with Artie. It hurt to see her looking so lost and tired. She finished her light supper and watched Artie. She sat unaware that Sara had stopped talking, lost in thought. Sara rose and took Arties hand. She led her to the couch and began to rub her shoulders. Unfamiliar physical tension relaxed as Artie reveled in Sara's touch.

Sara felt Artie relax and gathered her in her arms as she leaned back. Both women sighed deeply at the comfort of the position. Artie turned her head and softly drew her lips to Sara's. A few moments of kissing left both women breathless. Sara pulled away slightly and put her hand on Arties cheek.

"You, my dear woman, need to rest." Sara's eyes darkened as they took in the desire in Arties face.

Artemis could barely speak her blood was rushing loudly in her ears and she wanted nothing more than to lose herself in Sara's arms. "I am that you know."

Sara wasn't sure what she meant, so she just looked at her, waiting.

"I mean that I am your woman." Artemis stopped shyly and lowered her eyes. Part of her laughing at how weak she'd become. Before she could think about the consequences of what she'd said Sara was once again kissing her deeply.

Regaining their breath again both women pulled apart.

"Oh my sweet goddess. We have so much to talk about but you really need to rest. "Sara sighed tired herself. "I guess I should leave and let you rest."

"No. Please don't leave me." Artie hadn't meant to phrase it like that but decided to just keep going. "I'll rest I promise, I am just so tired of being alone." Artemis nearly clung to her.

The evening was spent cuddling on the couch and listening to music. Artemis easily fell asleep in Sara's arms and slept better than she'd ever before. .

The next morning Artemis quietly disengaged herself from Sara's arms. Arty felt very rested and ready for the day. She had an idea of what would be necessary to help Gabrielle, having done something similar with Xena a few times, only once was Xena aware of it.

Arty smiled at seeing Xena and Gabrielle cuddled in the large chair asleep. She cleared her throat as she shut the door and both women jumped awake. Xena was more startled that Gabrielle took a defensive stance in front of her protecting her from Artemis.

"Good morning, ladies." Turning her attention to Gabrielle. "How are you today?" Gabrielle just looks at her confused. "I need you to answer me dear."

Gabrielle looks around the room not really sure where she is or how she got there. Hungry is about all she is sure of. "I'm hungry." Gabrielle starts when Xena snorts behind her. She turns and is so close she is nearly in Xena's arms again. Gabrielle looks into the blue eyes and beautiful face and isn't hungry anymore. She reaches up and pulls Xena's mouth to hers. Xena's eyes nearly pop out of her head as Gabrielle's tongue assaulted her.

Artie just smiled and let it go on a moment longer as Xena's face was priceless. Then she put her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and pulled her away. Having no short term memory Gabrielle was back to being hungry.

"Xena, Gabrielle and I are going to spend some time together. Could you please give us some privacy?"

Xena nodded having resigned herself to what must be done. Gabrielle barely glances at her as she left the room. Instead she stared at Artemis. Arte led her into an adjoining room with a table set up with food. Gabrielle immediately tucked in. Arte took some fruit herself and sat watching Gabrielle eat her fill, smiling that she still had a healthy appetite and worried that she was so thin.

When Gabrielle was finished eating, Artemis gathered into herself the strength to complete her task. She once again led Gabrielle back into the bedroom. As they approached the bed, Gabrielle looked from the bed to Arte and shrugged in indifference then began to undress.

Arte saw her and put a hand on her arm to stop her. "No sweetie. Let's just lay down for a bit, okay?" Gabrielle just nodded.

They lay on the bad and Arte pulled Gabrielle into her arms. Artie took a deep breath and willed Gabrielle asleep. Smiling as Gabrielle nestled into her shoulder. Arte pulled Gabrielle closer into her and cleared her mind and entered Gabrielle's.

She wasn't surprised by what she found but she did refine how long this would take. Finding Gabrielle's essence she found that her consciousness was nearly comatose. She could feel the warmth of Gabrielle but only subsistence levels of existence.

Arte spent hours soothing Gabrielle spirit, healing emotional and physic wounds. By early the next day she had done what she could. Dawn found her and Gabrielle embracing one another in the center of the bed sound asleep. A worried Xena once again in the chair next to the bed, watches them.

Xena fought her jealousy at seeing her soul mate wrapped around Arte. It made her think about Gabrielle touching and being touched by others and she wasn't quite able to deal with that. She did note that Gabrielle seemed content and smiled in her sleep.

Hearing the door open; Xena sensed that Sara had joined them. She approached Arte and after a moment to take in how cute Arte looked she leaned down and kissed Arte's cheek. Arte smiled and inhaled Sara's scent and pulled Gabrielle closer. Gabrielle snuggled into the embrace as well. The eyebrows on both Xena and Sara shot into the hairlines.

"I don't know about you, but I do not like that." Sara chuckled.

Xena nodded and sat on the mattress gently pulling Gabrielle to her as Sara woke Arte. Arte opened her eyes and looked sheepishly towards Sara. Sara and Arte hugged briefly and Sara then led arte of to get some more rest.

Gabrielle felt her warm pillow pulling away from her. She spent a moment in that space before waking and took stock of how she felt. Realizing she felt better than she had in ages. She also felt that fog had lifted. She got closer to waking and felt a hand on her shoulder. It was warm and comforting so she didn't worry about it. Instead she continued her mental inventory. It was very confusing, all of the things that floated through her head.

The hand on her shoulder was running its fingers lightly on her skin. It felt good enough to want to look and see who it was. She opened her eyes and found herself looking into caring eyes. The hand withdrew and Gabrielle missed its warmth.

Xena sat waiting as patiently as she could. The wild kiss from the previous day still burned on her lips. Wanting so badly to crawl into Gabrielle's arms and never come out again.

Gabrielle stretched her stiff body like a cat. Waking up slowly and easily in the hold of beautiful blue eyes. The woman smiled as she stretched and Gabrielle began to search for the woman's name. The feeling that she knew her was overwhelming. A name came to mind but that would be impossible. She might look like her, yes, very much like her but no.

Xena saw confusion creeping back into Gab's eyes, afraid she'd lose her again. "Gabrielle, are you all right?" the sound of her voice made Gabrielle's eyes widen.

"Xena?!"

"Yes, love." Xena sat and ached to touched Gabrielle but let her make the next move.

"This is a dream." Gabrielle said to herself. "Have I gone insane again?"

Xena's heart broke at the "again". Her hand cupped Gabrielle's cheek and she shook her head that no, she wasn't insane.

At the touch Gabrielle started then settled into the warmth. Her past hallucinations were mostly Xena's voice or face when she needed to have contact. Her soul mate's absence had been a wound that would never heal. Gabrielle decided that this insanity she could deal with. She brought her hand up and held Xena's hand on her face.

"Please hold me." Dream or not Gabrielle couldn't pass up the chance.

Xena crawled into the spot vacated by Artemis and Gabrielle wrapped herself around her love. Xena sighed and snuggled into the embrace. The comfort of their touch was so complete they each fell into a healing sleep.

Sara led Arte back to her apartment. Arte was so exhausted she let herself be led like a child. Sara saw the far away look still in Arte's eyes. She led her to the bed enjoying the smile that grew on Arte's face when she realized Sara planned to join her.

"How are you?" Sara pulled Arte into her arms. Arte inhaled deeply not just Sara's scent but the warmth of being held by her. "I'm getting better all the time." Arte began to nuzzle Sara's neck, which sent powerful sensations to Sara's center. Since their make out session the previous nigh Sara had been very tense. She hadn't slept at all; instead she'd paced with Xena and snapped at her coworkers. Both too tired to take it very far they fell into a healing sleep as well.

Both couples slept deeply, regaining strength as the sun's rays crept across their beds.

Against all odds Gabrielle is the first to awaken. She smiles widely remembering enough of what has happened to know she was in Xena's arms. She squeezed so tightly that it woke Xena up.

Blue eyes opened and found green. "Hey you."

Gabrielle smiled, "Hey". Tears formed in Gabrielle's eyes. "I thought you were dead." Her grip on Xena tightens as she buries her head in Xena's chest.

"A lot has happened my love."

"I know. Artemis told me. Sort of. "She didn't know quite how to describe the dreaming she'd done with Artemis.

"I need to get up." Xena wished she didn't have so much going on at once.

Gabrielle pulled away dejectedly. "Yes, I'm sure you have better things to do than hang out with me. I mean I can't expect you to..."

Xena cut her off by kissing her deeply. Gabrielle returned the kiss hungrily. Xena pulled back to look seriously into Gabrielle's eyes. "Gabrielle, I love you more than you could ever know. I've waited centuries to hold you. Please don't think I want to get out of this bed."

Gabrielle saw the conviction in Xena's eyes. "I just don't want to let you go, even for a moment."

"Good news. You never have to leave my side again and if I have my way, you are not leaving my sight. "Gabrielle relaxed in her embrace. "You see my sweet woman, your Regent has to tend to some Amazon business and they are not likely to try and kick their legendary Queen our of my office."

"Regent?"

"Yes, my queen." Xena smiled.

"Still?"

"Well, you are irreplaceable and with me as Regent no one had the courage to challenge. So, your highness, what would you like for breakfast?" Xena chuckled at how the mention of food made Gabrielle's eyes light up.

They rose and Xena led Gabrielle across the hall to her apartment and dressed for the day. Gabrielle hung back and drank in the sight of Xena's body moving in front of the large bathroom mirror. Xena did the same as Gabrielle slipped on some loose slacks and a button down shirt of Xena's. With her sandals she looked ready to hit the beach or something.

Xena dressed a bit more formal. She was headed to what consisted of the Amazon Council, their de facto board of directors for all the Amazon holdings.

Dressed and ready they crossed to the business side of the large building and walked hand in hand into the board room. Xena tried to lead Gabrielle to the front of the room but she pulled over to the side.

Xena leaned over to whisper in her ear. "You don't have to do anything. I'd love to introduce you. "Seeing Gabrielle still hesitant. "They are very fond of you. "Gabrielle looked around the room at the smiling faces; still shy she let herself be led to sit next to Xena.

"Ladies, as you can see we have an honored guest today. Our queen has returned to us." Xena passed as the assembly cheered their approval. "Our queen will be joining us today but please hold any questions for a later date." The women murmured agreement and the meeting began.

Having put off some meetings to locate Gabrielle, Xena had a lot of things to cover. Gabrielle amused herself by watching Xena. Never having imagined a corporate warrior she was pleased to see Xena as competent as ever. She really wanted to be able to depend on someone. She was so tired. Letting the voices of the meeting draw into the background she began meditating. Reviewing her life in the third person as Artemis suggested. She knew that soon she'd be looking for a pencil and paper.

Xena was happily checking off items on the agenda and looking forward to the events of the coming year. She was rushing them a bit as she wanted to spend time with her love. Mara, who sat on her left tugged as Xena's sleeve. "Regent, perhaps we have covered enough this morning."

"Yes, we did get quite a bit done." Xena noticed Mara's eyes were on Gabrielle. She turned and saw Gabrielle had fallen asleep in her chair. "Ladies we'll adjourn for the day." Xena said quietly. The small group filtered out of the room. She knelt by Gabrielle's chair and ran her hand through the soft short hair. When she didn't even stir, Xena picked her up and headed back to her apartment. Hoping it would soon be something they shared.

As she walked through the door with her precious cargo, Gabrielle awoke and hugged Xena. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize I'd do that. I was trying to meditate. "Is it over?"

"You're fine. Your body needs rest." Xena made no move to put her down.

They returned to Xena's apartment and Gabrielle took the opportunity to look around. It was nice but her first impression was that it didn't fit Xena. She began to muse at just how little she knew of Xena. "So much time." She mumbles.

"Yes love. Too much." Xena responds "After you've rested I'd like for you to see my home."

"But I thought you lived here."

"Only when I'm too tired to get away from my work. I found long ago I relaxed better away from the palace. So I have a small house several blocks from here."

"I would love to see it." Gabrielle was relieved she at least seemed to know her love. "Do I have to stay at the palace?" She suddenly feared Xena had a wife or husband in this house and she just was an old love.

"Well. I'd hoped you would stay with me." Xena was very nervous. She knew that Artemis had helped Gabrielle to sort out her life but she didn't know her place in it.

Gabrielle saw the insecurity in her love's eyes and it put her at ease. "My life has been long, hard and exhausting and through it all I have loved you. You are my soul mate, it seems like roommate would be an easy enough step." They both smiled at the logic. "Now, why don't you put me down?"

It was then that Xena realized she still had her love in her arms having paused just inside the apartment. "Sorry", she laughed and gently set Gabrielle on her feet.

"Don't be warrior; it's on of my favorite places." Gabrielle pats her arm.

Gabrielle was still very intent one taking a nap and could tell from Xena's face she could use one as well. Shy for some reason she goes into the bathroom to change into shorts and a t shirt that smelled wonderfully like Xena. When she emerged Xena was also in jammies and pulling the blinds closed. They crawled easily into bed and laid looking at one another. As their eyes eventually began to close Gabrielle moved onto Xena's shoulder and sighed before drifting off.

Artie began to return to wakefulness as only a goddess could, it began with her awareness returning to not only her body but to her small kingdom. She spent a moment disembodied in her temple, those present only aware of the scent of fresh flowers. She touched Gabrielle gently so as not to awaken her as a mother touches a child's hair to reassure them. Artemis then luxuriated in the sheer sensual physicality of lying in Sara's arms. Her cheek is lying against Sara's smooth skin, the sound of Sara's heart. Artie rubbed her smiling face against the warmth causing Sara to stir. Sara's arms pulled Artie close tenderly and grimaced as she woke to one of her customary headaches. Stress had never been her friend and she'd been very worried about Artemis. Artie sensed the discomfort and rose onto her elbow to look at Sara.

"What's wrong?" Artie walked asked rubbing gently the creased forehead.

"Head" Sara was not a morning person. She just wanted to go back to sleep in the warm nest next to Artie.

Artemis smiled at the closed eyes and cute pout of the woman she had no choice but to love. She softly kissed Sara and the headache was gone. Sara sighed and opened her eyes in surprise.

"So can I assume I'll just take some of you in the morning before I call my doctor?" Sara enjoyed the playful banter with Artie.

"You can have all of me whenever you want." Artie whispered.

That sounded too good to pass up. Sara rolled on top of Artemis and began by removing her night shirt from her shoulder. Her lips barely touching not quite kissing caused Artie to lose herself in the touch. Before she lost herself completely, she drew Sara's mouth to hers for a calming kiss. Artie looked so seriously at Sara that she grew nervous and pulled away or tried to.

"No" Artie pulled her closer." I just wanted you to know something."

"Are you all right?" Sara wasn't prepared to hear the "this means nothing" speech but felt it coming.

"I wanted you to know I'm in love with you."

Sara released a gasping breath and hid her face in Arties shoulder. "You silly woman, you scared me." Sara laughed quietly. "I love you too by the way. "

Artie was so happy she couldn't help but blurt. "Stay with me?"

"Forever." Sara returned easily.

Artemis grinned, "Careful, I could hold you to that." Sara smiled in return as her hand began to map Arties hips. "Woman, I love you very much. But if you don't kiss me soon, I'll have to find..." Artie didn't want to think about the end of that sentence, knowing it was a joke didn't help. So she did as her love requested and kissed her completely.


Gabrielle again woke first and listened to the cool hiss of the air conditioner Xena slept still and held Gabrielle gently but firmly to her chest. Not that she was going anywhere. By the light creeping in through the drapes she knew they'd finished the day asleep as the city grew lavender in the twilight.

Her cheek felt the softness of Xena's shoulder and she smiled to hear Xena snore softly. Gabrielle could feel the yearning to put some of her thoughts on paper but it wasn't enough to get out of her nest. Her eyes took in the part of the room she could see and noticed several photos beside the bed. At first she was a bit jealous then she realized the largest picture was actually of Xena.

Her fighting leathers had changed subtly over the years. It appeared to be a festival of some sort as Xena's hair was very stylized. As Gabrielle took in the proud figure she saw the gold leather whip, the golden grieves, and her regents gold head band. Something looked so familiar about the outfit but Gabrielle just couldn't put her finger on it. "Oh well, another time." She thought.

As Xena stirred beneath her Gabrielle could think of only one way to spend a long evening in bed. With one last look at the picture she moves to gently kiss her wife awake.

Xena stretched and her first thought sent her heart soaring. The lips grazing her neck belonged to her constant dream, Gabrielle was home. Arms entwines as bodies crushed against one another.

Though the night passed quietly in the nation; those in the palace were well aware of the atmosphere. The matriarch's of the Nation were together and happy. And embarrassingly vocal if you happened to be working near their apartments.

The next morning found Artemis and Sara breakfasting quietly with the royal couple. They met each other easily that morning with hugs and smiles. On their second cups of coffee Sara's assistant brought in her pad with the days tasks.

Xena began to look sullen and was preparing a tantrum to have the day with Gabrielle. But Sara knew her too well.

"Well, Regent, looks like your day is pretty clear." Watching Xena perk up considerably Sara throws in," Goddess woman, you'd think your tail was wagging."

Xena accepted the jibe with a chuckle. "I can just think of better ways to spend my day." She lightly takes Gabrielle's hand.

Gabrielle for her part was more than willing to while away lifetimes just being with Xena. "Xena, could we possibly get outside today? Maybe go for a walk?"

"My queen, your kingdom awaits your inspection."

"Stop it silly."

Artemis had been quietly watching her chosen ones get to know each other again. She wasn't sure she could be any happier. "Sara love, would you please go with me to meet with my Priestess?"

"Of course, but I already know her. Sara was happy to spend some time with her love but was confused.

"Well, I'd like to discuss with her our joining, if that is all right with you?"

Sara stared blankly for a moment before breaking into a beautiful smile. "Yes, yes, I'd love that."

Xena turned to Gabrielle and whispered in her ear, "You know, you need to make an honest woman of me don't you?"

"Oh I do, do I?"

"Yeah"

Gabrielle smiled at the thought of marrying Xena. "Deal"

They each finished their breakfast quietly. Smiling as eyes met around the table.

After the meal Artemis and Sara begin the long walk to the temple hand in hand. Xena and Gabrielle walked several paces behind them. Each couple enjoying the rare quiet of the village and the beautiful morning. Xena and Gabrielle headed down a side path as Artemis and Sara went uphill towards the temple.

As Xena began to hear the sounds of warrior's sparring her pace unconsciously quickened. Although very busy she made the time to keep herself in shape. Unfortunately it meant dawn or midnight workouts and she rarely saw her generals in the ring. Gabrielle smirked at Xena's pace knowing how she loved to play.

The arena was a decent size and held 20 or so practicing warriors. Gabrielle did a double take at the few males in the group. A large blond woman saw their approach and announced her Queen and Regent's arrival with a traditional whistle. The practice stopped immediately and each warrior fell reverently to their knees.

Gabrielle smiled at Xena and appeared impressed.

"Don't look at me." Xena laughed. "This is for you."

"Oh, get them up. They don't need to do that."

Xena moved her hand and the warriors rose respectfully. The blond stepped forward and waited for Gabrielle to acknowledge her.

"Would you care to spar my queen? I'd be most honored."

Xena stiffened subtly knowing how good Martha was but not knowing if it was something Gabrielle had practiced.

Gabrielle was eager to get some exercise. There was so much still spinning round in her head that she welcomed the chance to relax. She walked casually to the weapons rack and chose a good short sword. Enjoying the raised eyebrow Xena gave her.

She joined Martha in the arena and slowing circled, content to let the warrior set the pace. Martha for her part could feel the Regent's eyes burning into her with a clear warning. Her parries were met easily by Gabrielle. The pace increased and soon Martha was using every trick she knew to keep up with her Queen. Xena's grin and pride threatened to split her face in two.

Before anyone expected, Martha was on her knees capitulating to a Queen that wasn't even breathing hard. Gabrielle nodded and helped her to her feet. "Well fought, warrior."

"Thank you my Queen." Martha retreated from the arena with an earned respect for her highness.

Gabrielle waited in the arena for Xena to join her. "Wanna play?" She winked at Xena and returned to the rack to make another choice.

On seeing Gabrielle get a staff Xena decided to really have some fun. She picked up a length of rope lying next to the rack.

Gabrielle spun the staff at blinding speed, a little nervous about sparring with Xena after so long. Xena waited until Gabrielle stopped showing off and took a stance. At that second she threw the rope around Gabrielle pinning her arms and making her drop the staff. Gabrielle fought the hold while laughing and Xena pulled her love into her body.

"Is that a rope or are you just glad to see me?" Gabrielle joked while still trying to wiggle free.

"I'm very glad." Xena managed while laughing and Gabrielle turned in her arms." If you like this one, I've got a gold one at home that makes you tell the truth."

"Like I'd lie to you." Gabrielle places a kiss on Xena's neck. "Wait a sec, a gold one?" Xena nodded and took the rope off.

Gabrielle's mind went back to the picture by the bed with the big hair, that and the rope. Soon she was laughing hysterically nearly boneless in Xena's strong arms.

"What is so funny?" Xena was glad Gabrielle was happy but was very confused.

"Not a thing Wonder Woman. Not a thing." Gabrielle couldn't stop laughing.

"I'm going to kill that guy one of these days." Xena picks up the still giggling Queen and heads back towards her home. Gabrielle snuggles into the strong shoulder singing a theme to an old TV show. Xena just sighs and heads home with her love.

The end (of the beginning)

Le me know what you think. vandykaa@yahoo.com

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