Soulmates

By D.C. Parker

Feedback is always welcome. Please send it to:  d.c.parker@web.de

 

Disclaimer: Here we go again…and no, I still haven’t got them! Xena, Gabrielle and everyone else still belong to Universal, I still don’t want to harm any rights with what I am writing, and those stories are still just for fun.

Warning: Have you ever gotten that distinctive feeling of Déjà vu? Well, I just did…because frankly, I can recall myself writing those things somewhere else…hmmmm.

Anyway, this story contains graphic scenes of women making love to each other, and if you are under 18 or this sort of story is strictly forbidden where you live…move!!!

Or just read something else.

Feedback is welcome as always. Send it to: d.c.parker@web.de

 

In this little piece of fluff I made up, our two girls have to endure my slightly different version of their timeline. We meet up with Xena’s old flame and mentor Lao Ma, who gets rescued by our heroes this time. Ming Tien, that little piece of…ahem…is killed by Xena, and she and Gabrielle take Lao Ma back to her own castle.

And for the rest…well…let’s see… 

***

Night was falling by the time they reached the ruins of the palace, and rain was pouring down on them. Gabrielle blew wet strands of hair out of her face, glad that finally they were going to get into a place that was warm and dry. She stopped in front of the huge gate that hung slightly ajar, then turned, giving the two women travelling only a few steps behind her a concerned look.

“I don’t know…are you sure about this?” Xena stopped the horse they had bought from a farmer a few miles back, giving it a friendly pat.

“We need to get inside before we get sick, and I think all of us could use a break.” This with an undertone Gabrielle knew well, and the bard chanced a look at the silent figure sitting atop the horse.

Ever since they had rescued the empress from being executed, the Chinese woman hadn’t spoken one word. Not to her, and, what was concerning her even more, not to Xena. She had just watched on as they had battled the troops, and looked on as Xena had used her own, long forgotten powers to destroy the castle and kill the Green dragon. Not one emotion. Not one word. The tall warrior had gently led her outside, not talking to her either, but urging her on, until they had found a safe passage out of Ming territory.

Gabrielle sighed, and nodded, then went over to take the horse’s reigns as Xena signaled her to stay put and pulled her sword out of its scabbard on her back.

“I’ll take a look. Won’t be long.” And off she went, slipping silently through the gate, leaving her and Lao Ma alone.

Lao Ma.

Even as pale as she was, and thin from weeks in the dungeon, she still was beautiful. The white robe she was wearing was soaked through, her long black hair hanging in wet strands around her face. She looked so fragile and helpless, it was hard for Gabrielle to imagine her bearing all that power Xena had told her about. She didn’t look very much like an imposing empress either, and Gabrielle briefly wondered why she had ever been jealous about her and Xena.

Dark eyes suddenly met hers and held. And she knew. She could see in the depths of those eyes what lay beneath, a power and passion she hadn’t seen before. No, that wasn’t true. She had seen it. She still did, every time she looked into those breathtaking blue eyes of her best friend.

“Gabrielle?” She started as the deep voice sounded close to her ear, and turned, her hands already in a defensive gesture, about to hit.

“Woah…it’s just me!” Xena catched on of her fists before it could make contact, and held it, the touch sending tiny sparks all over the blond woman’s skin.

“I…I am sorry…of course it’s you…who…I mean…you said that nobody…I…I…sorry.” Blue eyes twinkled gently, then turned serious again, dark hair whipping through the rain as Xena nodded towards the entrance.

“No one home…I suggest we get the horse stabled and start searching for some food. Knowing you, it is well past feeding time.” Gabrielle stuck her tongue out at her, but nodded in agreement, glad she could look forward to a roof over her head soon enough.

***

Dinner was a fairly good one, for they had found dried meat, and some fruit, and even managed lucked on a small flagon of whine stored away in a small cabinet in what surely used to be the kitchen.

Gabrielle picked a grape to nibble, her eyes ever so often wandering back and forth between the two women sitting opposite each other at their impromptu table, none of them saying anything. While Xena at least ate a few pieces of meat and had gotten herself a cup of the whine, Lao Ma didn’t even touch the food. She kneeled on the hard floor, her gaze reverted to her hands laying in her lap, her face a closed mask.

The blond woman shook her head slowly, reaching for another grape. She could only imagine what was going on inside that mysterious woman. Not only had the last month in captivity surely left their mark, as well as almost being killed by her own son, but coming back to the place she once called home, finding it torn into pieces and destroyed…

“Do you want some fruit?” She tried, giving the Chinese woman a smile. No answer.

“It’s really good, considering it must be here for quite some time now. Or…maybe some meat? I think its sheep…or no…I really don’t know, but it tastes good.” She held out a bowl of it, offering it to the other woman.

“She doesn’t eat meat.”

Gabrielle watched, mesmerized, as Lao Mas face changed at hearing Xena speak. The contours strained by her torture softened, even if only for a few moments, and she found a tired smile somewhere. Gabrielle turned her gaze towards her friend, who had stopped eating, watching the empress with a concerned gaze. The air around them seemed suddenly heavy with held back emotions, and Gabrielle could feel the heat return in her guts as she noticed her companions face changing as well, and answering smile starting to form.

“Thank you Gabrielle, for being so kind and friendly. But I am afraid I am not very hungry.”

The young woman spun around as the Chinese woman suddenly spoke up, thereby almost letting the bowl fall to the floor. Her voice was surprisingly warm and deep, and carried a gentleness that instantly soothed her raw nerves. Lao Ma now looked directly at her again, her gaze intent, as if she would be studying her, look straight into her soul, and suddenly Gabrielle felt the urge to run away.

Instead she managed to put the bowl down, reaching for the plate of fruit.

“But you have to. Eat the fruits. It’s better than nothing.” Xena choose that moment to stand up, hands pushing the hair out of her eyes, her face serious again.

“She is right. I am going to take a look around, see if there aren’t any surprises hiding in a corner or two. You…”

“…stay here, yeah yeah, go on.” Gabrielle moaned, rolling her eyes. Xena gave her a wink, then walked around the small table, stopping short when standing next to her old mentor, She reached out a hand, touching her shoulder, gently squeezing it until Lao Ma had turned her eyes to her.

“Eat.”

Her voice had gotten soft, and a little deeper than Gabrielle was used to, and her heart rate picked up a as the Chinese woman raised a hand to touch the one on her shoulder shortly, before Xena turned and left without another word.

Lao Ma sighed, then finally reached for the fruit, selecting a piece of the melon Xena had cut for them, slowly turning it over in her hand, studying it. Gabrielle swallowed down the lump in her throat, not at all being comfortable with the gentleness the warrior was treating that woman with. And she wished she knew why.

“The heart is a mysterious place Gabrielle.” Lao Ma said suddenly, her voice even and strong.

“I am sorry…I didn’t quite get that.” Green eyes met dark ones, and held. Lao Ma smiled at her.

“Your journey is far from over. Trust in your destiny, trust in your heart. One day, it will guide both of you home.” Then she bit into the fruit in her hand, leaving the bard stunned and lost in thoughts.

***

It was close to midnight when she finally returned from her tour, shaking her still wet hair out a little, closing the thin door behind her as she reentered the main part of the palace. The rain had transformed to a huge thunderstorm, shaking the walls, wind howling through the broken windows, and lightning throwing dangerous shadows through the halls.

Xena slowly crossed the hallway she was in now, turning left at its end, entering the small alcove where the bathing chamber still held its place. The huge pool now looked more like a dirty pond, leaves scattered everywhere, the water dirty and black. The marble floor was broken in many places, and she carefully stepped over shards of glass and pieces of what once must have been one of the large vases with flowers. Vials and little bottles lay broken and empty, smudges of oils painting the white floor in ugly colors, satin canvases had been ripped down, some of them even were burnt.

The dark haired woman took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. The memories of this place, now that she was walking through it, were so fresh in her mind as if she had only been gone a day, and it hurt her deeply at how a place full of peace and freedom had turned into a scene of fight and fear. She went over to a small bench that lay turned over, bending down, her fingers slowly stroking over the wood before she turned it back around, finally sitting down on it. Her gaze wandered over the room, the pictures in her mind changing the ones before her, making the water clean and warm, and the air heavy with the scent of flowers. She closed her eyes then, and could again feel the water as it surrounded her, and the sense of quiet and peace that had flown over her so long ago as she had sat in the pool for the first time. Still angry, still scared, but she had felt it, strong and sure, and ever so gently starting to pry away the wall of stone around her heart. And the soft, gentle touch of hands on her head, on her neck, massaging her sore muscles, tickling her skin, starting a slow burning in her guts like nothing had ever done before…

“There you are. I was starting to get worried.” Xena looked up at the sound of Gabrielle’s voice, watching in silence as the young bard made her way carefully through the destruction until she had reached her, sitting down on the bench as well.

“Everything all right?” Xena shrugged, her eyes swiftly travelling over the room.

“As well as it can be, considering the circumstances.” The blond woman laid a hand on her arm.

“I am sorry…it must be hard being here again and…nothing is the same anymore.” Blue eyes met hers and the warrior sighed.

“It’s not my home that has been ripped apart…where is she, anyway?” Gabrielle bit back an angry retort at the gentleness in her companion’s voice, and forced a reassuring smile on her lips.

“She had some more of that fruit, then went off somewhere to meditate. I wanted to accompany her, but she, oh wonder, refused.” Xena smothered a laugh at that.

“Yeah well…she is quite stubborn if she wants to be.”

“Oh really? I thought she was so well composed and had the calmest soul in the world.” Blue eyes twinkled gently.

“She does Gabrielle…but I suppose one has to be stubborn if you chose to save a ruthless warlord from being ripped into pieces by dogs and destroyed by hate, don’t you think?” Her voice, however, was very serious, and Gabrielle felt ashamed by her own words. She hung her head, nodding slowly.

“I guess…”

They fell silent for a while, each immersed in her thoughts. The bard watched her friend out of the corner of her eyes, once again fighting down the sudden, dangerous wave of jealousy. Lao Ma was an astonishing woman, she was sure about that, all friendly and nice and intelligent, and a great ruler from what she had learned. And hadn’t it been for her, Gabrielle surely would never have met the dark haired warrior next to her. But the hold she still had over Xena, after all these years, scared her. Whatever it was that bound them together, it could be strong enough to force them apart, to make Xena stay with Lao Ma instead of her, help her rebuild her kingdom, her palace, her home…

“I wish you could truly understand what she has given me.” the warrior finally said, a wistful note in her deep voice. Gabrielle bit her lip, once again short of saying something nasty, and instead chose to just shrug her shoulders.

“I am sorry Xena. I know I am acting stupid but I…I just…” She gave up, throwing her hands in the air, then stood up and walked over to the small balcony on the other side of the room, leaning on cold stone, watching the storm rage outside.

“I guess you are right. I don’t really understand it.”

Her voice wasn’t more than a whisper, but she was sure the warrior had heard her just fine.  She only stood on her own for a few precious moments that gave her a chance to collect herself, to swallow down the anger closing her throat, then Xena came up next to her, leaning onto the railing as well.

“Me neither”, she said, her fingers playing with a dead leaf she found on the stone beneath her hands.

“And you are right. It is…very hard being here again.” She turned her head as she felt Gabrielle’s eyes on her face, her own gaze clouded with pain.

“There are so many memories here…this halls hold so much of my past, every damn corner reminding me of…something. Of the anger I felt when I first came here, and the hatred, and the pain…and of how Lao Ma showed me how truly empty and alone I was.” She cleared her voice as it suddenly got rough.

“Do you know what scared me the most when we found her strapped to that execution table?” Gabrielle shook her head slowly. A cold, emotionless smile met her.

“That I know had things went just slightly different…that hadn’t she been how she was…it might have been me raising that knife above her head.”

The words dripped from her lips, falling between them, and Gabrielle could see in the swirling blue on front of her that Xena meant every single one of it. She took a breath, then reached out a hand again, putting it on Xena’s, squeezing gently.

“She saw what lay beneath that Xena…a strong woman that just hurt too much to find her way right then and there. And she knew that she could save you, that all you needed was a chance. And at least in that concern, I am glad that she was stubborn like a Cyclops.” It worked. The warrior broke into a laugh, the tension instantly starting to abate.

“That’s quite a picture…I don’t think she sees herself like this.” Gabrielle started to laugh too.

“Maybe I should think of something a little less ugly and bad smelling before I tell her, huh?”

“That’s a good idea.”

The laughing died down, and as the warrior turned her head towards the storm again, Gabrielle made a decision. No matter how much it hurt, she knew there still were too many raw spots between Xena and her old mentor to leave it like that and just go back home. No matter how it pained her to see the emotions between them, especially now that she had betrayed the bond that had steadily been forming between Xena and herself, it was essential for Xena to make peace with this particular part of her past. And she would help her, although it would break her own heart into pieces.

“Go to her Xena.”

The sudden stiffness in the body next to her told her she had hit the right spot. Getting all her nerves together, she straightened, nodding once, sharply.

“You need to talk to her. Now. Before it is too late.”

“I don’t know what to say Gabrielle. What can I tell her, me, who is responsible for her own flesh and blood turning into a monster?” Gabrielle sighed, her fingertips starting to stroke the soft skin of the warrior’s hand.

“Don’t you think you should give her more credit than that? Haven’t you told me yourself that her mind isn’t bound by hate, or wrath, or vengeance? Don’t you think she has forgiven you?”

“Why should she? I haven’t!” Blue eyes suddenly stared into hers, the intensity of them making her instantly dizzy. But she resisted the urge to turn away, knowing that this was what the warrior would do couldn’t she hold her ground.

“Xena…you are the only thing of her past she has left.” Sadness mixed with the self hatred shining in those clear orbs.

“Then she truly has lost everything…” A hand on her cheek stopped her, and she hung her head, shaking it slowly.

“I…I can’t help it. I know I am not the woman I used to be but still…I can’t help thinking that I could have changed what happened had I only listened to her, just once.”

“I know Xena. And so does she, believe me.” The hand stroked her then, soothing the pain that was trying to overwhelm her, finally managing to bring a tired smile back onto a stoic face.

“I don’t know what I would do without you.”

These soft words sent shivers down her spine, and Gabrielle had to swallow a few times, forbidding her anxious heart to let her say something stupid, like for the warrior to keep that in mind before she promised herself to another woman…

“She needs you Xena. She needs you to remind her that she has, indeed, done good in this world. You are the living proof of that, remember?”

The warrior nodded, and just for one second turned her head to softly kiss the hand still holding her cheek. Then she straightened up as well, and brushed her hands over her leathers.

“You are right, as always. Will you be all right for a while?” A sheepish grin spread over the beautiful face of her companion.

“On my way here I found the library.” Xena held up both hands, and Gabrielle breathed a sigh of relieve as she started laughing again.

“Then I don’t need to worry anymore…Gabrielle?” Green eyes met hers one more time.

“Thank you.”

***

She wasn’t surprised when her senses led her into another room full of hurtful memories just a few minutes after she had left Gabrielle. And as she stood under the dark wooden arcade at its entrance, watching the Chinese woman sitting in her meditation pose, she could feel her insides starting to churn again. Just like they had the last time she had been here. There was no light, only the reflections of the storm every now and then making it able for her to see a little more than she already did, but she could tell the pose of her old mentor was slumped, bent forward, her shoulders slightly shaking.

Xena could feel the instant urge to turn around and leave, like she did whenever Gabrielle was hurt or sad. Because somewhere deep inside her soul, there still lived that cold warrior, not able to deal with any emotion other than hate, making her unsure of how to react in those moments. But she didn’t, instead she entered, slowly closing in on the silent figure until she could see her face, pale and contorted in pain. She sighed, then bowed into the inevitable.

“How’s the meditation going?”

‘Really Xena? That woman saved your ass and you can’t do better than that?!’ Thankfully, Lao Ma didn’t react, and the dark haired woman took a deep breath, calming her nerves, then tried once more.

“Gabrielle said you ate at least some fruit…that’s good. You need your strength now.” No answer.

“I took a good look around. Most of your palace is pretty broken, but with some help and enough time, it will be your home again.” Silence.

Xena sighed again, then kneeled down, finally able to take a closer look at the other woman’s face. The still were some smudges of dirt on her soft cheeks, and she reached out with one hand to try and wipe them away, thereby carefully stroking the smooth skin underneath her fingers.

“How are you doing?” Suddenly dark, brooding eyes met her gaze, a fury in them Xena had never before seen in her mentor.

“How should I be doing, Xena?” Her voice was hard and angry, stopping the warriors caress at once, and Xena could feel irritation settling in her guts. She took back her hand, clasping it with the other one, rocking back on her heels to bring some distance between them.

“That wasn’t what I meant. Are you hurt?” A pained laugh.

“Yes, I am.” Blue eyes hurriedly searched the lithe body in front of them.

“Where? What did they…do you have any sharp pain behind your skull… your ribs maybe?”

“Yes.”

Xena could feel panic starting to take over. Why hadn’t she stopped on their way here to check her out? Maybe there was some serious damage to her body, surely that bastard had tortured her in many ways, and she could have beaten herself silly for not having thought about that earlier.

“Let’s get you settled so I can take a look at you, okay?” Dark eyes found hers again, hard as stone.

“No.” Xena frowned.

“But you just said…you are hurt!”

“Yes…”

“You said your head is hurt.”

“Yes.”

“And your ribs…your body…”

“YES!”

The sudden outburst shocked the warrior back into her senses, and now that she saw the stark pain flicker through those deep eyes, saw the tears welling in them, she understood. She pushed the hair out of her eyes, shaking her head slowly.

“I understand.” Lao Ma grunted, angrily wiping at the tears that now spilled down her cheeks.

“You understand? Really Xena? How would you know how I am feeling right now?!”

Xena decided not to answer, knowing the cliff the other woman was standing at well enough. She needed to get it out of her system, and quick, before she would fall into the black emptiness that had been a home for the warrior for so many years.

“What do you know about your home being torn apart? About being helpless to stop everything that you ever believed in from falling into pieces? About losing your soul...”

Lao Ma bit her lip so hard she could taste blood. The sadness she could see in those stunning blue eyes suddenly forced every breath out of her body, leaving her gasping for air and shaking. The tall woman gave her a sad smile, then stood up.

She walked slowly through the room, her eyes wandering over its crumpled interior, breathing in the dry air, letting the memories flood her senses once more. She still could feel the pain in her legs, and how incredible it had been when Lao Ma had finally healed them.

In here.

Where for some precious moments all her hatred had been gone, and she had only felt happiness, and compassion, and something more…towards the woman that had so desperately tried to rescue her from the darkness.

She reached the cot she had been lying on so long ago, that now was broken as well, and she stopped short when she saw a flicker of purple underneath its wooden pieces. She bent down, moving a bit of debris and wood, finally reaching for the soft silk. She stroked it then, remembering how she had thrown it away carelessly after killing Ming Tzu, and being banned from the palace, and the land, and Lao Mas heart.

“You are right Lao Ma. I don’t have any clue as to how that feels. I can’t remember what I felt when my village was attacked and my brother was killed. Not because I didn’t want tofeel anything at all. I know I did. But because I couldn’t…for the anger and hatred had already started to consume my soul.”

She turned around again, holding the piece of purple silk in her hands.

“I don’t know anything about being pure, and gentle, and loving, and forgiving…but I do know everything about being angry, and being in pain, and so full of hate you can’t even sleep! About demons haunting you every step of the way, about your insides hurting so much you want to scream. About seeing yourself sinking deeper and deeper into a spiral of violence that you know you don’t have any strength to get out of again.”

Lao Ma sat there, her eyes wide open, and hurting, and Xena found a tired smile somewhere when she realized the Chinese woman was staring at the silk in her hands. She went to her again, now fully sitting down opposite her, in much the same posture her mentor was. She put the silk carefully down on the floor between them.

“That’s how I felt when we met, Lao Ma. That’s the kind of animal I had become when you rescued me from Ming Tzu. The kind of monster that still lives inside me. I can feel it burning in my soul every day, wanting to break free, trying to consume my mind, wanting to pull me back into darkness. That’s how it always will be. I learned that a long time ago.”

Silence descended upon them, in which they only looked at each other. Lao Ma searched her face, letting her eyes sink deeper into the blue ones across from her, and Xena willingly let her guard down, letting the other woman see what she so desperately needed to. She had lived in darkness. And she had survived it. Time passed, and with it the thunderstorm outside the palace walls, leaving after it the scent of rain, and clean, fresh air.

“It is strange for me, I have to admit, to see our positions reversed now.” Lao Ma spoke after a long time. Xena managed a smile, shaking her head a little.

“They are not, believe me. I am still that stubborn warrior you met in the grasslands.” And at that, finally, the Chinese woman had to smile as well.

“You sure are…but I can see…so much change in you, Xena. You’ve come down a long road.” Blue eyes clouded over a little.

“Yes…yes I have.” Lao Ma reached for the silk between them, softly stroking over it.

 “I have learned so many things in my life…about love, and forgiveness, and how to conquer your own will to reach complete freedom. But I never learned how to hate…” One of the warrior’s hands shot forward, capturing hers, holding it in a surprisingly hard grip.

“And you won’t! Hate does nothing other than destroy you, and you know it! You have seen it in me, in so many people, in your son!” Her other hand reached for Lao Mas face, gently cupping her chin, forcing her to meet her serious gaze.

“Please Lao Ma…don’t let that happen! Don’t let what I did to you and your family years ago destroy your soul! Please…I couldn’t stand it.”

The admission surprised her as well as her mentor, and she quickly pulled her hand away from the soft face, hurrying to swallow down the emotions that had risen in her, to put the mask back into place. But she should have known that the Chinese woman would look well beyond that, probably had read her soul already the moment their eyes had met while Xena had bent over her on the execution table.

“You blame yourself for that?” A bitter laugh was the answer.

“Why shouldn’t I? I brought darkness over your home, and your child, and your heart. It’s all I can do. To you…to the people in my life…Gabrielle…” It was the hand of the other woman now that came up, cupping her cheek, gently forcing her eyes to look up again.

“Xena…do you…remember the day I healed your legs?”

It surprised her, and Xena had to collect herself for a moment before she nodded slowly.

“Of course I do.” A nod as her mentor looked down at the piece of cloth.

“I never was able to throw that robe away…it was always in here. To remind me…” She stopped to take a breath, then tried again.

“Close your eyes Xena.”

And she did, with the same trust she had so many moons ago. She closed her eyes, concentrating on her breathing.

“Remember what you felt that day…remember the peace…remember the freedom…”

Lao Mas voice sounded from far away, reaching her through a thick fog, and Xena did as she was asked, letting her body sink even deeper into her memory. She could feel the air around her starting to move, and whirl, and the heavy scent of rain and dirt suddenly was replaced by the smell of flowers, and warm earth, and green grass, and she could feel a smile starting on her lips. Her body felt light all of a sudden, her skin tingling just like it had then, and the heavy armor she wore seemed to vanish, leaving her skin naked, only to be covered with the incredibly soft feel of silk in the next instant. Then the darkness that surrounded them was gone, and Xena could feel the warmth of sunlight on her face, lifting her soul, and her heart, and then, finally, her body.

“Come to me, Xena…”

Xena opened her eyes, finding herself standing inside the same room, yet now it looked like it had the first time she had seen it, all bright and friendly, in harmony and peace. She couldn’t help but laugh as she turned around quickly, feeling the soft robe on her body, seeing Lao Ma stand several feet away, in the same yellow silk she had worn that day. Her beautiful hair open, her face relaxed and gentle, her arms opened and waiting for her. She moved forward, her naked feet feeling the wood underneath them, their eyes calling out to one another, their hands clasping each others as well as their souls did in that moment.

The dark haired warrior took a deep breath, then raised one hand, slowly reaching for the back of her head, a soft laugh bubbling up again as she touched the small wooden figure in her hair. She loosened it, like she had in the past, carefully putting it into Lao Mas hair instead. The Chinese woman laughed at that too, nodding slowly.

“You do remember…” Blue eyes twinkled mischievously.

“I do…although the last time we were…”

She wasn’t able to finish the sentence as they lifted from the ground, holding onto each other’s hands as they floated through the air, wind picking up around them, wafting through their hair, blowing the silk of their robes around them.

Xena sighed, feeling as content as she hadn’t in a long time, her body light, and free, her soul soaring. It had been so long. So long…

“How do you do that?” She asked half jokingly, knowing full well about the mystic powers the other woman possessed. But to her surprise, Lao Ma smilingly shook her head.

“I am not doing anything…I wasn’t then…I am not now.”

“But…”

“It’s you Xena…it has always been you.” Blue eyes stared at her uncomprehendingly.

“But…your powers…you said that one needs to…” She stopped, her face slowly transforming as her mind started to register what her teacher had said then.

“Let go. Yes…to conquer your self is the key. Believe me Xena…only a pure heart could really do that.”

Blue eyes softened, and then that mesmerizing smile came back as the warrior let go of her hands, only to frame the other woman’s face with them like she had that day, slowly stroking the smooth skin of her cheeks.

“I never said it then Lao Ma. I couldn’t. But I do now…thank you. For everything.”

Their eyes sank into each other, slowly drawing them nearer, and the warrior could feel her heart starting to pound. They had been at this point before. Their eyes asking, both not being able to confess what their souls had told them. Emotions flowed around her like a strong wash of air, making the sunlight mix with shadows, changing the clear picture of the room into a blurry rush of color and scent. Making her mind spin, and her heart, leaving her dizzy, and raw, and vulnerable, as her vision started to swim as well. She felt tentative fingers brush her shoulders as Lao Ma held onto her in the storm of feelings they had created, the color of her eyes swirling, getting lighter, clearer…

“There is something I have wanted to tell you too, Xena.” Her voice sounded so different…

“What?” Her own breaking.

“I love you.”

Everything around them stopped suddenly, and she needed a moment to get herself together. And when she looked up, she found the dark, warm eyes of her mentor again, open, and trusting, and so full of love it made her speechless. So much time…

She closed the distance between them, feeling the heat of Lao Mas body pressing into her. She had been alone with all those emotions for too long, wanting, needing to let them go, let them out. And as she saw the understanding shimmer in those eyes, she did the one thing she had been too scared to do then. The one thing she still was too scared to do…

In the fading sunlight, as darkness crept back into the room, their lips met in a rush of passion and love that none of them was able to control.

***

Her fingers gripped the dark wood so tightly it actually hurt. Teeth bit her lip, drawing blood, and she could feel the hot sting of tears in her eyes. She hadn’t meant to come here. She had been in the library, and found herself wondering what was going on between the two women more than really paying attention to the book she had been holding. Like a moth drawn to a flame she had let go, and against better knowledge, had allowed her feet to carry her down the dark hallways, until she had reached that room. Only to find them in an embrace, both with a faraway look on their faces, like they were in a place no one else could follow. With Xena giving her a hairpin she hadn’t known the warrior even possessed. With Lao Ma carefully, lovingly stroking her best friends face. They hadn’t moved one inch, and yet she had gotten the feeling they were somehow lifting, as if their joined bodies could leave the ground to float in long lost emotions…

“I love you.”…

She could feel her heart breaking at that. She spoke those words too, in that moment, without sound, her lips moving out of their own accord. And as Xena held that beautiful face, slowly drawing it nearer, she could feel a part of her soul slowly dying. She had dreamed, wanted, prayed…for so long…

As their lips met in a searing kiss, she turned, stumbling down the dark hallway. Fleeing from the love she could see between them. Feeling herself sink even deeper into the darkness that had started to consume her the moment they had reached Britannia. The only thing she wanted right now was to find a place to hide in her misery, and let her tears fall in lonely silence.

***

It was as if their kiss had broken a damn. Xena moaned against the soft mouth as a tidal wave of emotions flooded over her, pulling out her legs under her, consuming her, leaving her helpless in its grasp.

She nipped at the soft flesh, asking for permission, and smiled shortly as a gentle tongue answered her, both of them desperate to deepen the contact. She could feel gentle fingers starting to wander over her cheeks, down the skin of her neck, brushing over her naked arms, igniting the fire in her, making her guts clench, and her body tremble.

So long…she couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched her like this, nor the last time she had wanted someone to. She had been lost in the way of redemption, so lost that she had completely forgotten to hear what her body was telling her. Or her heart. And did she listen, just this one, short moment in a forest far away from here, what she heard had scared her so badly she had done everything in her might to keep this particular door firmly shut.

But now…now, here, with a woman that knew her, knew her darkness, and still wanted her…she could let go. For just a few, precious seconds, she could forget who she was, what she was and just…breathe.

Lao Ma moaned as Xena pulled her even closer, her tongue eager, her hands now roaming too, a relentless caress that left the smaller woman gasping, shaking, and their eyes opened again and held as strong, yet gentle fingers slowly opened the clasps of the white robe the empress was wearing.

Xena sighed, allowing a warm smile to assure her partner, and bent her head to taste the inviting skin of a slender neck as Lao Ma started to undo the buckles of her armor. She let out a breath she hadn’t been aware of holding as the heavy plates fell to the floor, the sound nothing but a dull thud, the lightness that fell over her body now matching the one claiming her soul the moment those soft hands stroked over her now mostly bare shoulders. Her own fingers peeled away the soft, still damp material carefully, exposing white, creamy skin to the light of the moon that now the storm had passed shone on them from between dark clouds, basking them in a mystical glow.

Xena groaned as the heat in her belly grew, moving her lips further down the other woman’s neck to her shoulders, alternately kissing, licking, biting the skin there, and getting a deep moan from soft lips. She brought her hands up, one pressing against the smaller woman’s back, the other ever so slowly, tauntingly crawling around the skin of one small breast, never really touching. She couldn’t help a smile as Lao Mas hands shot into her hair, trying to press her head where she wanted it.

The air around them was heavy with arousal, and passion, and Xena let herself get carried away in it, sinking deeper into the want she could feel creeping over her heated skin. She pushed the silk down onto the slim woman’s hips, making room for her to be able to touch more of that delicate skin, and then she did, her fingers wandering over it, taunting, teasing. Until the whimpering pleas of her lover drove her to a point where she couldn’t ignore her own bodies desires anymore.

“Xena…”

It wasn’t more like a gasp, coming out on a powerful rush of air as Lao Ma threw her head back when Xena’s lips finally closed on an already erect nipple. They swayed as the Chinese woman pulled her head even closer, and the warrior could feel her own body shaking, so much that she was sure she wouldn’t be able to hold them both upright any longer. So she did the only reasonable thing her lust clouded mind was still able of. She stopped her caresses, and let go of Lao Ma. Dark eyes watched her, with a mix of barely hidden lust and fear, and Xena bent her head down to kiss her lover passionately before turning around, walking over to one of the huge canvases that lay on the dirty floor in a heap, and bringing it back to where Lao Ma was standing putting it out on the floor for them to recline on.

She looked up from her kneeling position, to find the other woman smiling gently at her. Moonlight bathed her skin in beautiful washes of silver and blue, her dark hair falling down thin shoulders, the white silk pooling around her hips. She looked so much younger than Xena knew her to be, and fragile, and so tauntingly breathtaking. The warrior could feel her heart drumming in ears, the blood pumping through her veins as arousal gripped her fiercely, and she was already starting to get up and reach for the other woman when Lao Ma held up a hand to stop her.

Xena frowned, about to say something, but fell instantly silent when small hands reached for the silken robe, pushing it down the rest of the way. The tall woman could feel her mouth go dry, and she had to take several deep breaths as she watched in fascination how darkness and light moved over the soft skin while Lao Ma slowly walked up to her.

She couldn’t remember the last time she had been with a woman that way. Well…of course she could, but that had ended in one of the most painful ways, and after that she hadn’t found another one with whom she had wanted to be intimate. Until now…

Xena shook her head violently as unbidden thoughts crossed her mind. Instead, she gave Lao Ma another smile as she had reached her, letting her eyes wander over her body.

“You are beautiful.” Lao Ma licked her lips at that, bending her head, looking at her expectantly. Xena cocked an eyebrow at that, her smile widening to a grin.

“Yes?” Her voice was a deep purr in the back of her throat, and she could see the answering shiver going through Lao Mas body as it went down her own.

The other woman closed the last distance between them, bringing her belly only inches from the face of the kneeling warrior, and Xena could feel her own arousal starting to coat her skin as she caught sight of the soft dark hair covering her mentor’s desire. Before her lover had the chance to do anything, she leaned forward, letting her lips brush against the soft down on Lao Mas belly, gently biting the delicate folds around her belly button, while her hands went up to cup her breast again.

The surprisingly deep growl she enticed with that was all the encouragement she might have still needed, and she started to let her lips slide lower, getting in a nibble very close to the heat she could feel emanating from the smaller woman. The scent that surrounded her was intoxicating, and she could feel her control slipping away on a hopeless wave of want, her own body responding shamelessly to the desire she could feel rising in the one of her lover.

Before she could kiss even lower, a strong grip in her hair stopped her, pulling her face away, and when she looked up to meet eyes glaze over with need, for a moment she thought them to be lighter again, reminding her of the ocean they had crossed to get here…

“Xena…”

Was that really the voice of her mentor? Xena faltered, stopping her hands that still stroked the small nipples to painful errection, and frowned. It had sounded…strange, yet she could have sworn to know it better than her own, calling to her from far away, trying to soothe the raging in her soul.

And still, it hadn’t done anything to quench the thirst in her body, instead causing a thrill inside her that let the flames burn even higher, brighter, and the moan she heard herself press out when gentle hands pushed her slowly backwards sounded as desperate as it was heavy with relief.

And as those hands slowly pried away the leather she was wearing, freeing her bronze skin to the cool breeze of midnight air, she forced all thought from her mind, closing her eyes, letting everything go…

Both women groaned when their naked skin touched for the first time, and Xena raised her head a little to receive the hungry kiss Lao Ma forced on her. The heat in her body rose higher still, and she let out a pained sigh as the hands of her mentor now started their own, torturous journey over the landscape of her body.

She had no idea if Lao Ma had done this before, but her touches where very sure, and confident, making her skin burn with desire, and her insides scream with need. Delicate fingers brushed over her own breasts now, quickly followed by a hot mouth that sent her mind spiraling, waking a constant ache in her of which she knew there was only one way to relieve it.

She threw her head back, exposing her neck to the smaller woman who answered her silent plea instantly, her own hands grasping the finely shaped buttocks of her lover, pressing their heated centers together, making both of them moan and shudder. Xena could feel teeth biting her passionately, and she gasped as a rush of dark energy tried to swallow her, bringing out a bit of the animal with it…

“Wait…Lao Ma…no…” Her voice was urgent enough to stop the other woman the moment it was heard, and all movement between them ceased. Xena opened her eyes, breathing hard, meeting concerned dark eyes very close to her face.

“Are you…did I…make a mistake?”

The question haunted her, as well as the fearful look in those deep eyes. She was all right, wasn’t she? Hadn’t she managed to calm the beast? She had gotten a hold on her darkness, hadn’t she? And by that won control over her feelings, her desires…A face flashed through her mind, like a flash of lightening, gone the moment it appeared, and she watched the one of her old mentor closely. Was Lao Ma making a mistake? Was she?

All of a sudden sadness consumed her whole being, clawing at her skin, breaking her soul open, and she felt her throat close convulsively. Her hands shot up, holding the other woman in a death vise grip.

“No…no you aren’t…doing anything…wrong…” The words hurt as they left her mouth, and she could feel her eyes starting to burn. Could see the change in her lovers face as she started to think about what was going on.

No…no…please don’t…

With a pained cry she crushed her lover’s mouth down on her own, her tongue pressing those soft lips open, entering, conquering, her hands raking over tender flesh, fingernails breaking it open, making the other woman writhe in lust and agony. It felt like she couldn’t hold onto anything anymore as everything started to blur, images of the past mingling with the present, love mingling with hate, trust with betrayal, and Xena was helpless to stop it.

With a quick movement she had reversed their positions, bringing her out on top, growling as her hot wetness met the satin skin of her lover’s thigh the same instant her fingers delicately parted soft folds, swollen and coated with need.

Even as she started the erotic rhythm that would drive the smaller woman constantly higher, she could feel her own body starting to get cold, and hard, and distant. She shook her head repeatedly, trying to erase the pictures swirling in front of her eyes, trying desperately to hang on to the warm, welcome feeling of lust caused by the pulsing under her fingertips. But it was impossible. With every touch, every moan she enticed from her lover, she could feel herself being forced deeper into a dark and painful place. With every frantic trust of her own swollen flesh against Lao Mas thigh, the pictures her mind tortured her with came closer. She couldn’t stop them. She couldn’t hold onto them…

It hurt. Every part of her being hurt.

With a strangled cry she went down the smaller woman’s body, finding the sweet smelling heat in a move that was almost violent, licking it, sucking it, even biting until her lover groaned in pain.

But the warrior didn’t let go, instead forcing an even harder rhythm, trying, fighting so desperately to keep herself together…

Someone cried out. It might have been Lao Ma. She was afraid it had been her. Wetness flowed against her lips, and she licked the delicious taste of lust like it would rescue her from the feeling of loss and hurt that crashed against the shores of her heart.

But it didn’t. It couldn’t.

She could taste the salt on her lips now as well, the moment Lao Ma cried out in a shocking wave of pleasure, and even as the other woman came, violent spasms shaking her, Xena could feel her composure shattering, her mask breaking into a million pieces.

She let go of her lover’s desire, hiding her face in the soft skin of her belly. In front of her closed eyes she saw an image of herself years back, violent and angry. And then she saw herself now, calm, almost gentle, and for fear of losing herself opening her heart again. Trusting. Loving…

She had felt it, the moment she had looked into those beseeching eyes the warrior had been sure Gabrielle hadn’t told the whole truth. That everything was about to change again. And that, with allowing love back into her soul, she had once again lost everything.

 Her body shaking with violent sobs she laid there, crying. It was the only thing she had left.

***

Morning found her standing on the front steps of the palace, arms crossed in front of her leather clad body, her distant eyes watching her blond companion as she crossed the yard a few feet away from her on the way to the stables.

She hadn’t slept the previous night, leaving her old mentor as soon as she had been able to move again, spending the rest of the night in a dark corner of the palace, crying, hurting, and lonely.

Xena sighed, brushing strands of her hair out of her face. She didn’t know what to do, what to think, what to feel anymore. Maybe she should stay here…being content with what she might find in this place. Trying to live with the pain that separation was causing by the mere thought of it.

“You need to leave.”

She turned her head at the sound of Lao Ma’s voice next to her, searching her face with hopeless, tired eyes.

“ I don’t know if I can…I don’t know if I dare…” Her voice broke, and she turned her eyes back towards the now open stable door again, her keen hearing picking up Gabrielle moving around inside.

“What lies before you is going to cause both of you incredible pain, Xena. She will hurt you more than anyone, anything ever has before. And you…will be so close to falling back into the darkness…I can’t tell you if you will ever recover from that.”

Xena closed her eyes at that, biting the inside of her lip. So she had been right, after all. There was something Gabrielle wasn’t telling her. Something…

“And yet, you need to go. You need to rescue her soul…only that can keep your own safe.” Blues eyes opened again, meeting dark ones, a lone tear slipping down the tall warriors face.

“I am sorry Lao Ma…last night…I…I don’t know what to say.” Having made her decision. Knowing that this was, indeed, good bye. In more ways than one.

“You don’t need to say anything, Xena.” The tall woman bent closer, softly, fleetingly, kissing her lips one last time.

“I hope you find peace again.”

Dark eyes studied her intently, then cleared up, getting brighter still as a smile formed on her mentors lips while she turned her head, nodding towards the stable. Xena turned her head as well, meeting clouded green eyes as Gabrielle stood there, holding the reigns of the horse, quickly averting her gaze as she met sad blue ones.

“Never stop believing that you are destined to be together Xena. You and Gabrielle..are Soulmates. Forever.”

It wasn’t but a whisper in her ear, and yet, it made the warrior smile. She nodded, once. And then started to slowly walk over to the blond woman waiting for her.

Never looking back.

The End

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