See Chapter 1 for disclaimers.

Chapter 12

Xena made herself comfortable on the bed. So, Gabrielle, what are you in the mood for?

Besides the obvious, you mean?

Xena's intellectual eyebrow rose in question. I was thinking more the where than the who at this point.

Ohhh.... You know what I really miss? A nice big, fluffy bed and perhaps a warm fire would be nice. Oh, and if I'm ordering, a bath for two.

Oh, yeah... I've forgotten what that feels like.

Speaking of which, your mom's inn is very nice, Xena.

Yeah? It's been so long since I've seen it. How is my mom?

She's looking well, although a little tired.

How did she take the news?

At first she thought I was lying, but one look at Marina cured that. She nearly fell off her chair.

Xena chuckled. I bet she did. Marina sort of looks like me, doesn't she?

A bit? Xena, your mom thought she'd seen a ghost. I think it was what they both needed though, a piece of family to keep them both grounded. Oh, before I forget - it seems your daughter picked up an egg on the island and has taken to mothering it.

An egg?

Hmmm... I don't know what's in it but it's pretty big, about double the size of a duck's egg, and it's brown in colour. Any ideas? I suppose we'll find out when we get back.

Xena stopped herself from thinking anything. She nearly let slip "if" we get back. Gabrielle picked up on the silence and tried not to think the same thought.

I told her she had to look after it until you got back, then she had to ask you if she could keep it. I have a feeling that whatever is inside is going to be a surprise.

Yeah, I only hope she doesn't end up with a hydra or something equally hazardous.

Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I was thinking more of a goose or perhaps a lizard.

Gabrielle, it's an island of the Gods. I think a goose is pretty boring for them.

So, we could come home to find your daughter eaten and the inn flattened by whatever is in that egg, eh?

At the very least... And my mom would be standing in the ruins trying to bat it away with her broom. They both chuckled at the amusing image.

But, for the moment let's just worry about us. Now, just relax, and think of a nice hot bath for two, a warm fire and me wrapped around you.

Oh yeeaaahhh...

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


It was dark, but her nose picked up the smell of wood smoke, a nice fragrant aroma permeating the air. Xena could feel the warm water gently lapping at her body and smooth skin resting against her chest. She was loathe to open her eyes at present as she was enjoying what her other senses were relaying to her brain. A gentle stroking drew her attention to a small hand slowly running down her thigh, idly caressing the skin without much thought or direction.

A smile crossed her face in response to the tingles left in the wake of those nimble fingers, and her hands twitched in anticipation of reciprocating the pleasure. Unable to stop herself any longer, Xena opened her eyes and peered over her lover's shoulder, watching as her own hands came up to claim the skin in front of her. Delighted at the whispered gasp she drew from Gabrielle, she continued her gentle roaming.

She scooped up hands full of water and poured it over her partner's skin, letting it cascade down the tanned flesh and watching it stop at twin points before gravity finally allowed the drops to fall. She repeated the action several times, each time watching the drops stop for a moment before falling back into the cooling water. Xena licked her lips in anticipation, as she knew her tongue would be following that same path very soon.

Gabrielle sat quietly, allowing her warrior to do whatever she wanted. The water felt nice gliding over her, and she almost giggled at the tickling sensation where the water left her skin. She looked up over her shoulder to the waiting blue eyes, full of expectation, vibrantly glowing in the candlelight. Emotions rich in colour and depth passed between them, spanning time older than the few meagre weeks they had known each other.

As Xena's hands slowly caressed her, Gabrielle reached up, cupping a hand behind her head and pulling her partner down for a slow, sweet kiss.

Xena looked into familiar eyes, coloured amber in the reflected flames from the fire, knowing that deep down inside her, there was a core that belonged to this woman, and only her. She wanted this particular dream to last into the early hours, to make love to her partner in as many and varied ways as she could. She would catalogue every sound, taste, touch, smell and image in her mind, saving them for the dark days ahead, for she knew she was going to be tested. Even though the darkness would never touch that part of her that belonged to Gabrielle, she had reservations about the rest of her tortured soul.

Xena glanced over to the window, seeing the darkness lurking outside. It battered the glass, looking for a way in, but so far the barrier held. She turned her attention back to the woman in her arms, closing her eyes once more and feeling the firm skin under the rough pads of her fingers. The different textures teased and tantalized her, feeding her fevered imagination with images that had been burned into it from the moment she had seen her little blonde on the slaver's block back in Rome.

What a journey it had been. From that tentative first step together until today, where they could so freely give and take without a single word of encouragement, knowing exactly what the other needed. And yet there was still so much more to discover. Xena doubted she would ever find out everything about her enigmatic partner in this lifetime or the next.

Xena nudged Gabrielle forward then eased herself out of the water, letting the thin film of liquid slide down her body to the pool below. She looked down to find aroused green eyes, slowing darkening to a deep emerald, gliding over her skin. She didn't know if it was the cooling air or the heated gaze, but she felt her own skin pebble at the thought of what Gabrielle was about to do to her.

"Come on." Xena extended a hand down to help the smaller woman out of the bath, both standing on the cold floor as the older woman reached for a dry towel. Using the cloth was just too slow for Xena's liking. She handed over the towel to Gabrielle, then fell to her knees, bringing the damp body closer to her. Lips and tongue made quick work of the moisture, often labouring on when the skin was dry. Not that either of them noticed.

Xena looked up from her work to see Gabrielle's face in rapture: eyes closed, mouth open in a silent cry and her features set in a look of hedonistic pleasure. She continued her ministrations, trying to watch the fleeting emotions crossing her partner's face. Small fingers buried themselves in her hair, trying to pull her even closer to where Gabrielle wanted her.

"Not here." Xena's voice rose over the crackling of the fire and the distant roar of the darkness outside. She stood and grabbed both of Gabrielle's hands, gently guiding her towards the bed. Perched on the edge of the mattress, Xena pulled her partner into an embrace, her long arms encircling the slim waist. She laid her cheek on the well-toned abdomen, breathing in a scent she knew belonged to Gabrielle and Gabrielle alone. She was happy.

Looking up into that young face that held so much joy in her life, she whispered, "I love you." She felt her eyes mist over as her emotions threatened to overwhelm her.

A melodious voice, thick with its own emotion, answered, "And I love you." There was silence for a moment. "And after you have taken me back to Potadeia, I want you to take me home, to our family. Keep that in your heart, Xena. You have so much more to fight for now, remember that."

"Yes, I do... my bard."

"Yes, you do... my warrior."

They exchanged smiles, each studying the other's face. As if committing to memory every loving detail, they took in the arch of the eyebrow, the laugh lines dancing around the eyes, the elegant curve of the lips, the softness of the skin and the deep abiding love in their eyes, each a mirror of the other. Long moments were spent in just being. No words were necessary; they spoke with their hearts and their minds.

Gabrielle resisted Xena's pull and pushed her partner down onto the mattress, shifting her to a more comfortable position. Straddling the older woman, she lowered herself until their bodies met. Long, gentle kisses seemed appropriate and they were both content to keep it slow.

Xena's wandering hands played lightly across Gabrielle's back, creating a lassitude which was slowly eating at her reserves. Gabrielle tried to shake off the sleepiness, not wanting to waste a moment of their time together. Her lips moved, kissing slowly down her lover's neck and finding all those secret points that would drive her partner wild. She playfully nipped and licked the tendons that flexed with every movement of her head, not stopping her journey until she reached the base of the throat. Gabrielle knew she had Xena where she wanted her when long fingers buried themselves in her hair, massaging her scalp and trying to draw her down further.

She ignored Xena's silent pleas, working on the small erogenous zone that would stimulate her warrior's libido. Slowly and methodically she teased, nipped, toyed and licked until she could feel Xena move beneath her, unable to stay still any longer. Before she ended up on her back herself, the young blonde moved her attentions elsewhere. When those fingers in her hair became agitated and more demanding, she knew she had made the right decision.

Gabrielle knew enough about her partner's body to slowly and teasingly draw her out, building the expectation until the older woman could stand it no longer. Xena had to insistently push her tormentor to reach completion. Gabrielle lazily licked the damp skin, allowing Xena time to quietly float in that place of satiation and contentment while she revelled in the tactile sensations she was absorbing from the body below her. Gabrielle was in no hurry, taking pleasure from her warrior's enjoyment of what she could offer her.

Her mind drifted back to the early days of her slavery, where every day was one more lesson in the harshness of life. How different sex and love could be – from the taking of one's soul to the giving of one's heart. All it had taken was the right teacher.

She felt a rumbling in the chest she was lying on and looked up. As expected, those blue pools were staring back at her, filled with peace and love. "Let it go, Gabrielle." Xena whispered. "It's in the past. I'm your teacher now."

What the...?

"What the... indeed."

Huh? Xena watched patiently as Gabrielle put the pieces together. Of course, she had forgotten that they spoke in thought now. No more secrets, eh Xena?

"No, Gabrielle, no more secrets."

The smaller woman rested her chin on Xena's chest, idly watching her partner. A large hand cupped her cheek, gently stroking the curved plane in a loving gesture. A sweet smile crossed Gabrielle's lips, causing her skin to wrinkle at the bridge of her nose. It was such an adorable look that Xena burst out laughing, grabbing the young woman and rolling her over.

"Now," she whispered, "Let's see what I can teach you."

* * * * * * * * * * * * *



Some time later Gabrielle's mind murmured, Be careful what you wish for,Gabrielle... Xena had taken her to the Elysian Fields and back. Wow!

"I'm glad you're happy, Gabrielle." Xena turned to her little blonde, a lascivious grin crossing her face. "Hmmm..."

"Will you stop that!"

"Sorry. It just pops into my head."

"Hades, Xena. Are you trying to kill me, or something? I feel like I've melted into the mattress."

Gabrielle looked over to the woman lying next to her to see a sexy little half-smile crossing her lips. She closed her eyes, trying to get herself under control. She thought that after the woman had exhausted her they would now get some rest. She opened her eyes and looked over again. Xena still had that disgusting smile on her face, even broader than before. In fact, the invitation had extended to her eyes. Oh, sweet Aphrodite! Speaking of whom, she was glad she wasn't watching this particular dream...

"Cut that out!"


"I'm exhausted, you're exhausted."

"Says who?"

"Me. I say so." Gabrielle looked over to see that sexy smile replaced by a sexy pout, sad puppy eyes pleading her case. Damn!

"Oh, Gods!" Awww... Who needs sleep anyway?

"That's my girl." Xena pounced on her exhausted prey and proceeded to carry out her wish for the evening.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *



The next morning, saw four grumpy people trying to get three grumpy bodies into some form of readiness for the day's hike. Not that Xena or Gabrielle would trade their night together for anything. The body was rested but their minds were on edge from lack of sleep.

I told you we should have gotten some sleep.

Cut it out, you had fun as I recall.

I certainly did, and mentally my body is a wreck, but we need to be on guard today, Xena. These two are going to end up off a cliff, I just know it. One wrong word and I'm gonna toss them myself.

Who got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, then?

Not me. I didn't get up at all. You wouldn't let me.

Tsk, tsk. You are a grumpy one this morning, aren't you?

Don't you start...

They looked over at the two gods, heads in hands, feeling sorry for them as they battled their first mortal hangover. Xena just couldn't help herself and slapped her palms down on the wooden table and raised her voice. "OK then. Who wants breakfast?"

Blood shot eyes looked up beseechingly as stomachs roiled at the thought. Aphrodite held her face between her palms as if to stop her head from ringing and Ares just threw up, no longer able to stop his unsettled stomach from reacting.

"Ewww, what is that smell?" The goddess started smelling her clothes, her armpit, Xena and finally her brother. She shifted up to the other end of the bench, getting as much space between her and the stench emanating from the God of War. Ares looked up with agonised eyes, not quite sure what was happening with his body.

"Hang on a minute." Xena disappeared for a short time, returning with a mug of something that looked and smelled distinctly unappetising. "Drink this."

Ares stuck his nose in it. "Hades, what is that?! It smells like my uncle's stables, and those flying horses can stink up the place pretty good."

"Just drink it."

"No. You trying to kill me or something?"

"Ares, if I wanted to do that, I'd find far more satisfying ways to do it than poison you. This will help with the hangover."

He didn't quite believe Xena but, hey, he couldn't feel any worse. One sip made him change his mind. Xena put her hand on the bottom of the mug, forcing it up into his mouth before he could stop her. He could hear his stomach gurgling and he prayed that it would all stay down, not wanting to have that disgusting taste in his mouth again.

"How about you two go and wash up before we leave?" They looked at her like she had spoken a foreign language. "Go! Have a bath. Wash yourselves. Get rid of that smell. I'm not gonna walk all day that and have that odour hanging round me."

Ares' brows drew together. "I'm a man. I'm supposed to smell manly."

Xena moved right up to his face. "Manly, yes, stinking and covered in vomit, no. Go and wash or, so help me, I'll let Gabrielle loose on you and she won't be gentle." She tried very, very hard to keep a straight face as Ares had a look of terror in his eyes, the thought of the young blonde washing him to within an inch of his life scaring the life out of him.

"We will meet back here in one candlemark ready to go." The two gods dragged themselves upstairs, dreading the thought of one more mortal habit to get used to.

What did I do to deserve this, Xena? Using me as a threat?

Hey, it worked, didn't it?

At the rate you're going, I'll be lucky if my own parents talk to me.

Nah, I'll tell them that you're a pussycat in bed.

Don't you dare!!

C'mon, while they're pulling themselves together, let's get to the market and gather some supplies. With that thought, Xena strolled out of the inn, throwing a couple of extra coins on the table to cover the cleanup of the floor.

Continued in Chapter 13

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