Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, Ares, Varia, Autolycus and all other characters that have been previously mentioned on Xena are property of Ren. Pics. Any other characters are owned by me and are the property of my own twisted little mind. I own this story and it is copyrighted to me, thank you very much.
Content: There's a little of everything, but nothing explicit. Sorry, but that's just not my bag. If you're lookin for a good roll in the hay, its not to be found here. Read accordingly. There is violence, but not anything graphic.
I appreciate any comments. Please use constructive criticism. This is my sequel to my first endeavor. I'm think about extending this to a sequel, so please HELP ME OUT! Feed the bard! And no flame or hate mail please, lets be mature. Thanks
"Autolycus?" The warrior and the bard gasped in recognition.
It was incredible. It was impossible. But, somehow, there he was, twenty-six years had passed and it was as if it had been but a moment. The thief seemed to be immune to the effects of time. Gabrielle and Xena were too overwhelmed with joy to react any other way. They embraced him eagerly.
"AutolycusÉ" Xena began.
"How did youÉ" Gabrielle continued.
"What we mean isÉ"
"Wow!" They spoke in collective amazement.
"So King? I take it you stole the crown." Gabrielle mused, pun definitely intended.
"Well, not exactly." He smiled smugly, twirling the end of his mustache.
"Autolycus," Xena spoke amused. "It's been over 25 years and you haven't aged a wink!"
"Well, neither have you."
"Ahh," Gabrielle grinned. "But we have an icy excuse."
"Quite right. All of Sieves knows the story of the Warrior Princess and her battling bard."
Xena and Gabrielle simply smirked knowingly.
"Well ladies, it seems I have a story to tell." He spoke lightly as he crossed the room to a set of doors.
The doors were quite intimidating. Cold steel darkened each door. Both donned an engraved map of Sieves that had been inlayed with gold. They were also equip with two brilliant knobs fashioned into the shape of roaring lions. The amount of detail applied was almost ridiculous. Xena mused how she could have spent the money used more wiselyÉ.and that extra time for that matter.
Autolycus sharply tapped on the door first, giving whoever was behind the doors several moments to prepare. Finally his patience wore out as Autolycus politely opened the thick metal doors to reveal a realm of wonder.
across the hall to prepare for their audience. They were left with a sight
that took Gabrielle's breath away. By the Gods, it is beautiful, she
It was even more glorious then she had remembered. He had always loved to impress hadn't he, the warrior thought. The Grand table stretched out down for what seemed like miles. The last state dinner she had attended, all the heads of state, their families, friends and other party goers (the king had never been able to turn anyone away) had sat at the table with still room for more.
A giant chandelier hung from the ceiling. Glorious crystals gleamed brilliantly in the candlelight, showering a spectrum of light throughout the room. Again, the craftsmanship was uncanny. Gabrielle had never seen something so beautiful.
The walls were decorated with flowing colorful tapestries. The beautiful wall coverings illustrated the impressive history of the island of Sieves, almost to the present day.
"Look." Gabrielle pointed to the tapestry towards the left. "It's you."
Xena's eyes followed the bard's pointing finger over towards the tapestry. There, weaved into forever on the wall, was her and the king holding hands and smiling.
"Didn't know you smiled back then." The bard joked.
"I didn't." The woman replied soberly. "Except when I came here."
"It's incredible Xena." She said as they both walked towards it. Upon closer inspection, the meticulous stitching could be seen. The great detail was awe inspiring and in the end, enhanced the tapestry to life-like status. It was as if someone had stolen a moment in time and weaved it into the wall.
A tear formed in the corner of the proud warrior's eye at the sentimentally of it all. Before she had a chance to hide it, Xena felt a reassuring hand squeezing her shoulder and another one lightly brushing the persistent tear away.
Xena turned to face the bard and was lost in a sea of green so deep with love, she feared she may drown. But what a way to go. She smirked as she felt a familiar tingling in her belly and a smile tugging at her face.
"That was always one of his favorite." Autolycus commented, but he couldn't break the moment Gabrielle and Xena had. They held each other in a warm embrace of love's eyes for a second later before returning their attention to their company.
"Shall we?" Autolycus asked motioning towards the table with an enticing grin.
"Of course." Xena responded and made her way to the table, all the while feeling a light hand on the small of her back, giving her added support.
They reached the table and sat down accordingly. Quite a waste of space, Gabrielle reasoned looking down the line of empty chairs. With only three of them, dinner looked like a lonely affair.
An awkward silence engulfed the three as they waited forÉ..well waited. Gabrielle wasn't sure what they were waiting for, but I hope it has something to do with food!
As if on cue, the stillness was dispelled by the sound of furious foot steps cutting through the nothingness. Closer and closer they came, until an abrupt halt.
The three turned to face their assailant. Rubrik stood pretentiously. His shoulders, tight; his nose was, of course, sticking into the air. He looked at neither Xena of Gabrielle, as if the sight of them would burn him.
The scrawny man made Xena's skin crawl. She had yet to put her finger on the actual source, but there was something about him that twisted her gut. He's not what he appears to be, She deducted.
Something told her not to trust the façade. It was her warrior's instinct. And, warrior's instinct is rarely ever wrong.
Rubrik lifted his hands and made two crisp claps. Suddenly, a line of people entered the room. Each carried a tray of some delicious delicacy. The glorious scent of mouth watering delecatables coated the room.
Xena stifled down an automatic chuckle as she watched Gabrielle's eyes light up with the innocent earnest of a child on solstice morning. It's so easy for her to be happy. Xena thought. I love that about her.
It was true. Gabrielle was, by her warm nature, an inherently happy person. It took so little to make her happy. A surprise batch of berries or a shooting star was all it took for it to be a wonderful day. Something as simple as a good dream the night before would keep her face as bright as the stars for an entire day. It was so beautiful.
So beautiful to Xena.
The warrior got lost in her own musings. She was brought back to reality by a gentle but swift kick to her leg. Xena looked up with an intrigued eyebrow. She made a lowly growl at the bard in mock anger. In response, Gabrielle kicked again. Except, this time a little higher and not quite so gently.
Autolycus, however, seemed completely oblivious to the childish bickering and continued on with his small mindless chatter that neither woman paid any attention to.
Finally all the food had been brought out. It stretched as far as the eye could see.
"Um, Autolycus?" Gabrielle began in a wavering tone. "Are you expecting anyone else?"
"No." He answered without a second thought.
"Ah, I see you have heard of her appetite." Xena chuckled as she reached for a berry which she chocked down while receiving another not-so-loving kick.
Autolycus just smiled and waited while one of his plates was prepared. Xena and Gabrielle opted to create their own and began to dig in. Hands lingered everywhere. Xena grabbed for everything sweet. The warrior had an indulgent sweet tooth. Gabrielle grabbed forÉ.well, everything.
Soon everyone was served and began to eat their meal. They mixed light chit chat with their meal. All avoided the real questions that both groups were burning to ask. No reason to waste good food now.
Rubrik stood stoically in the corner, closely watching the dinner. Autolycus was oblivious to his haunting eye. Gabrielle was concentrating on her food. But Xena, Xena could feel his gaze upon her. It made her lose her appetite.
"Rubrik." Autolycus called out absentmindedly.
The gawking man stepped out from behind the shadows and walked over to the table.
"What can I do for you sire?"
"I do believe you are making my guest uncomfortable here with your sulking. Please, come join us."
"Of course sire." He spoke automatically sitting down, much to Xena's displeasure, right next to Gabrielle. He was handed a plate and began to eat.
Finally, after several courses, an extremely delicious dessert, the small talk had out worn its welcome. Deep issues silently screamed so to be denied no longer; they had to be addressed.
"So Autolycus, I believe you owe us an explanation." Xena spoke, characteristic of her: short, practical, and straight to the point.
"I was wondering when you would get around to that."
"Ah, my Warrior Princess." Gabrielle spoke. "The beacon of the bluntness."
Xena missed the minor insult in the bard's sweet voice because she had been entranced by the first words. My Warrior Princess. By the Gods, I never thought I'd hear her refer to me in that way again.
It felt more wonderful then words could describe. It was little things like that that made Xena whole. Gabrielle made her complete. We've come a long way.
"She's right Gabrielle. I do owe you both an explanation."
"And?" Xena asked.
"Well," The grown man spoke cautiously in wake of the Warrior Princess. "I'm not exactly Autolycus."
"What?" Xena jumped up form her seat. Gabrielle quickly raced over to restrain the quick tempered warrior.
"Easy, easy." The bard whispered to her Warrior Princess. Xena let Gabrielle's calming presence wash over her. She took a deep breath and returned to her seat. Gabrielle decided it best to switch seats and took a chair next to Xena. Once they were both seated again, the bard laid a comforting hand on top of the Warrior's thigh. There was no sexuality intended, simply compassion.
"Now, AutÉwhoever you are, please explain."
"Quite right. I apologize, I forget not everyone knows. You see, I am Autolycus, just not your Autolycus."
"OK, I don't get it." Xena stated bluntly.
But, Gabrielle shook her head in understanding. She'd been through this before. Diana, Meg, Leah. Actually, she'd been through this quite a few times. She always just assumed Xena was the only one with an army of look-alikes.
"So, if you are not our King of THIEVES," The bard tactfully stressed the last word. "Who are you?"
"Quite right. My full name is Autolycus AloiciousAthedan Acranopolis." He paused to take another deep breathe. "The second. Your Autolycus was my father. I'm his son."
Xena's reaction remained stoic, although she was deftly surprised. Who knew Auto had kids?
Gabrielle however was bowled over with joy. She, in very unroyal-like behavior, ran towards the man and embraced him warmly. For some reason, she began to cry.
Maybe it was at meeting her friend's son. Maybe it was the fact that with him here, Autolycus was most likely dead. Either way, the tears flowed uninhibitedlyand Gabrielle lost herself to them. Her spectacle was finally broken by a whisper in her ear.
"Your Highness." Autolycus whispered softly.
"Huh?" Gabrielle remarked confused.
"Is it customary for the Amazon Queen to drownthe neighboring royalty with tears? Not that I'm not enjoying it. But, I'm afraid,by the way your warrior is looking and reaching for her round weapon thingy, if I stay like this much longer I may be without a head."
Gabrielle slowly backed away from the king and inched over to Xena who gently wiped away her inane tears.
"How did you know?"
"About me being an Amazon Queen."
"Please your highness, do you think I would know about your 25 years in the frozen cave and not about your Amazon escapades. All of Greece knows your stories. I, myself, am the proud owner of some copies of your scrolls. They are kept in the Royal Library."
A deep flush coated Gabrielle's cheeks. Didn't know my works stretched this far. It was always nice to be recognized for her work. But, it never failed to stop embarrassing her. Not in a bad way, in a way that made her feel a warm, tingly feeling inside that reached from her toes to her ears.
Xena beamed with pride every time her partner got the due credit she deserved. Her anger had dissipated and had been replaced with pride and a small inkling of gratitude at the King of Sieves.
Gabrielle never believed Xena when she told her how wonderful her stories were. The warrior hoped that maybe a comment from royalty might make the bard truly aware of her talent. Xena's eyes darted over to her companion who was coated in a light shade of pink. She bent down to whisper in the blonde'sear.
"Have I ever told you how cute you are when you blush?"
"Xena!" Gabrielle scolded, hitting the warrior lightly in the stomach while another wave of crimson attacked her cheeks. "So, Your HighnessÉ"
"If you insist on calling me your highness, then my dear lady, will be forced to extend you the same courtesy."
"Please, use Gabrielle."
"Well then, please call me Auto."
"Auto?" Xena remarked. "That's different."
"But very much preferred."
"Well then AUTO," Gabriellesmirked deviously. "You must tell us how the King of Thieves became the King of Sieves. I'm sure it's a great story."
"Is it insanely romantic?" The bard asked in a high voice filled with childlike anticipation.
"Of course." He answered, his tone drenched with delight.
Xena simply rolled her eyes in response to their enchantment.
"So?!" The bard persisted.
"So," he began. "I will tell you the story of the King of Thieves falling victim to the greatest caper of all: the stealing of his heart."
"Years ago, after you two had disappeared, my father had planned a great burglary. Obviously, the Eye of Sieves was too much for the King of Thieves to resist. So my father, your Autolycus, set out to steal it."
"Auto," Gabrielle politely interrupted. "What is the Eye of Sieves?"
In the background, Rubrik gasped as if the bard had committed some mortal sin. Xenagave him a stiff growl to quiet his reaction.
"Pick your jaw back up from the floor Rubrik." Auto chuckled.
"How scandalous!" He snobbily muttered, but stopped from speaking any further when he saw a certain Warrior Princess reach for a certain chakram. He quickly closed his mouth and hushed himself. Xena turned to him and gave a maliciously toothy grin. A loud gulp pierced through the heavy silence.
"Gabrielle," Xena spoke softly. "The Eye of Sieves is the center of the island. In essence it's Sieves itself."
"Quite right." Auto jumped in.
"You know that tower we saw when we came in?" Gabrielle nodded her head in acknowledgement."Well on top of that were windows. Within those windows is the Eye of Sieves. It is an enormous diamond said to be the greatest in all the world."
"At night, the light of the stars is captured in and reflected back in the most natural form by the diamond. It's mirrored back with such purity and magnitude that it lights up the entire coast. Therefore serving as a lighthouse for sailor's at sea and a beacon of direction and navigation for all."
"It's the pride of Sieves." Rubrik spoke quickly, yet not without his indispensable condescension.
"So I see." Gabrielle replied.
"And," Auto added. "A bounty of such that the King of Thieves was unable to resist. He arrived in Sieves, intent on stealing the Eye. The palace, by tradition, is one of the most secure in all of Greece. It's impossible for any common thief to penetrate its walls. However, as we all know, my father was no common thief."
"Well, to any person, there was only two possible ways to get into the palace. One is throughincarceration, as the dungeon is housed beneath us. The other way is through aninvitation to a royal gala."
"Which is strictly reserved for nobility and their guests." Rubrik pretentiously pointed out.
"Quite right." Auto spoke in an embarrassed tone. "Well locks and dungeons were no challenge for dear old dad. Sometimes I think it was the thrill of the hunt was more important to him." He paused for a pensive moment.
"Any way, he decided to take the more scrupulous route and enter through the annual costume ball held at the palace. Actually, it's set to take place the day after nextÉ" The King trailed off, lost in thoughts.
Several seconds of silence idlyticked by. Xena, annoyed, tapped her foot rapidly. After traveling for a good day or so, the warrior was explicably beat. Rubrik's edgy presence wasn't helping a bit either.
"BuuuutttttÉ." The warrior stretched out the word, dragging the king from his thoughts.
The onlythingkeeping her sitting in her seat was the entranced look on her bard's face. Gabrielle could be completed enthralled by ANY story. But, add to that the fact that this was a love storyÉ..with Autolycus. Ah well, if she's happy, I'm happy.... But there is no reason to drag this on any longer then needed.
"Quite right, Xena. Anyway, he was able to con everyone by disguising himself and announcinghimself as nobility. He had some ridiculous name. Earl of PotanickyÉPotedackyÉ..PotiranaÉÉThat's not right."
"Poteidaia." Xena smugly offered assistance while Gabrielle loudly choked on her cider.
"That's it. Such a strange name. We thought he made it up. You mean you know of it?"
"Oh yes. Been there several times myself. Must be careful with those Poteidaians though, you know. Short little things with mouths like you would not believe. I've heard they've been known to talk yourÉ." Xena abruptly stopped as she felt a sharp pinch to her inner thigh. She turned to Gabrielle and was met with a stiff scowl. The smug grin on her face began to fade for a moment.
A burst of laughter came from behind. The sound made Xena's grin reappear with full force.
"Oh Gabrielle, the look on your face." He giggled on. "I'm sorry. How could I have read you're scrolls and not know of Poteidaia? I was quite kidding."
Gabrielle simply blushed a delectable crimson as a response as Auto rode out his laughter which lasted several more seconds.
"So," He, once again, begun, wiping tears from his eyes. "My father entered into the palace intent on getting the diamond. Just as he was going to do so he ran into my mother. And,as the story goes, it was love at first sight."
"He gave up thievery for nobility. They were married. And, up until his death," Hepaused. "They never spent a day apart."
A somber moment loomed over them.
"Oh Autolycus." Gabrielle sighed."I always knew if he fell he'd fall hard."
leaned up next to Xena so only the warrior could hear her finish the statement.
"I know I did."
The light words floored Xena's soul and warmed her heart. A tear threatened to fall from her eye. Oh Xena, she scolded herself, stop being such a mush ball. They were just words.
She is a bard you knowÉan extremely talented bardÉand extremely talented gorgeous bard who just happens to be the light of my life. A woman who just happens to be able to change my world with a simple lookÉor touchÉor word. A simple bard who I am absolutely, 100%, head over heels, crazy in love with.
She let out an audible sigh. Oh yeah, total mush ball!
"Well ladies, I'm afraid I must retire. I can see you are wellexhausted from you're trip." He quickly bowed to wish them goodnight.
"Wait." Xena called out at his departing form. "Why are we even here?"
He exhaled a deep breath and paused for a moment, looking slightly on the vergeof tears.
"These are things best spoken of in the morning. Goodnight."
And he was gone.
"King Autolycus Aloicious Athedan Acranopolis had retired for the evening. All shall follow suit." Rubrik proclaimed loudly, trying to be regal, but ending up sounding like a nagging mother.
"Alright, we get the picture."
Gabrielle threw her hands up in mock defeat, hoping a little joking would loosen Rubrik up. It didn't. He gave them a stern look. "OK OK! Geez! Don't have to tell me twice." She muttered to Xena.
"See," The bard smirked. "Told you it was a good name."
Rubrik led Xena and Gabrielle down the halls towards what they suspected to be the guest rooms.
"How many rooms will you be needing for the night?" Hespoke gruffly.
Both bard and warrior spoke simultaneously.
"One." Xena said.
"Two." Gabrielle answered.
They gave each other urgent looks before speaking again, at the same time.
"Two." Xena called.
"One." Gabrielle chimed in.
Rubrik gave them suspecting glances. Several minutes of awkwardness, closely watched by Rubrik's lifted eyebrow, passed by. Finally he spoke.
"Well, we have prepared two, so I will leave that to your discretion." He slowly bowed and exited for the night.
Xena let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding onto. She watched Gabrielle's retreating form and quickly followed. Xena caught up to her and laid a solid hand on the bard's shoulder.
"Gabrielle, what's wrong?" She asked, her voice thick with concern.
"Nothing." Gabrielle answered much too quickly and much too coolly.
It had thrown Xena for a loop. Gabrielle acted as if nothing was wrong. Xena knew the bard had been edgy and she didn't want to push an unnecessary issue. Maybe I'm just overreacting?
"I just thoughtÉ" She dangled her words, not sure how to phrase her concern.
"What Xena?" Gabrielle asked offhandedly, lying down on the bed.
"WellÉ" she stuttered. "We just always hadÉ. you knowÉ.one É..room É.never mind."
Gabrielle poked her head up with an understanding expression on her face. I forget how sensitive she is sometimes. She's so worried about us.
"Xena, I thought I explained that."
"The no sex thing."
Xena's eyes widened in understanding.
"Gabrielle, if you think I would do anythingÉ" She was silenced by the bard's hand over her mouth.
"Xena!" She scolded. "Of course I don't believe that!"
The warrior recoiled from Gabrielle. The bard realized she might have been a little too harsh with her. Uh oh, damage control.
"On the contrary warrior," Thelittle Amazonpinched the tip of Xena's nose playfully. "It's I who is worried. I just might ravish you in your sleep."
"And that's a bad thing?" Xena asked with a questioning eyebrow.
"Xena." Gabrielle sighed with obvious sadness.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry." The Warrior Princess embraced Gabrielle for a quick but much needed hug. They held on for a little while before disbursing.
"Gabrielle I do understand. Like I said, I can wait. I mean that."
"Thank you. You really don't know how much that means."
"But, I think we can keep our hands off each other enough to sleep in the same bed."
Gabrielle produced a skeptical glare.
"What?" Xena threw her hands up. "We did it for over five years."
"Yeh, but it's different now." The bard surged back. Truth was she really didn't want Xena to go. But, on the same front, she didn't trust herself either. And I said I was going to wait.
"Gabrielle, I É.it's justÉI just can't bear the thought of a night spent without you in my arms. After all we've been through, with how much I love youÉIt's justÉhard."
Tears streamed down the bard's cheeks at Xena's confession. And I'm the bard.
"Well," Gabrielle began to speak through muddled tears. "Who could resist wordslike that?" She laughed, tiptoeing over to give her big, tough yet teary warrior a hug.
Xena thankfully accepted and returned the hold fiercely. She laid her head down on top of Gabrielle's and inhaled the scent of her soul mate. The light musky smell reminded her of springtime. It was intoxicating.
Another tear slipped idly down.
Gabrielle peered up to see the source of her own personal rain shower. She was about to make a cute remark about Xena's soft state when a light out on the balcony caught her eye.
"Wow." She involuntarily awed. The bard backed out from the hug and was drawn to the light.
She walked onto the open balcony and gawked at the beautiful, pure, light racing across the sky.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Xena whispered in her ear startling Gabrielle out of her trance.
"So warrior bard," Gabrielleleaned into Xena.
"Warrior bard? Thought that was you?"
"Oh no Xena. I'm a ba-tt-ling bard." She sounded out the word in exaggerated emphasis. "See the distinction?"
"Quite right." Xenastiffly bowed, imitating their current host. "So, battling bard, what can I do for you?"
"I got the impression that there was more of a story behind this." She pointed to the Eye. "Wanna tell me about it?"
"I could possibly be persuaded to do so." She held a mischievouslook.
"Oh really?" Gabrielle smiled knowingly. "Well, will this do?" She grabbed Xena and kissed her soundly.
Ardor rose and the kiss lasted much longer then either had anticipated. Persistent hands and passionate lips began to wonder and soon the ties on Gabrielle's top began to loosen.
The bard seemed as oblivious to what was happening as Xena was. Both subconsciously knew they should stop. Neither doing anything to stop. Finally, Xena's mind clued into what her body was doing and quickly pulled away.
"Gods GabrielleÉI'm sorry. I just got carried awayÉIÉ"
Gabrielle smiled while she retied her top.
"It's ok Xena. You weren't raping me or anything. I should have stopped. I almost didn't want to."
"But we're going to wait." Xena spoke firmly.
"Well, yeh. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"
"Gabrielle, to have you, I would buy the cow, the pasture, and the herder. And, I'm not just marrying you for the milk." Her tone turned serious.Gods, that's not what she thinksÉis it?
"I know, I know. Actually, I'd be kind of flattered, you know, to be that good."
"You're better then that."
"Better then good?" She asked hopefully.
"Better then anyone I've ever been with."
"Really?" She asked lightly, but the question held true depth.
"Good." The bard smiled at herselfin satisfaction. "And now, my story."
"Right, well truthfully there isn't much to tell. The Eye is said to be a gift from Athena. Apparently she favored the island. It is said that the diamond has mystical powers. According to legend, as long as the Eye shines, Sieves will never fall."
"SoÉIf the diamond goes, so does Sieves?"
"Why do I get the feeling that I'm getting the abbreviated version?"
"Well, dear Gabrielle, I am just a warrior bard. That is the warrior bard's version."
"Noted." Gabrielle gave Xena a quick little pinch on her bum.
The warrior gave an uncharacteristic yelp and was about to retaliate but strategically decided against it. Who knows where that would lead? Better stop while we still can.
"I guess we should retire." Xena pointed towards the bed.
"I guess." Gabrielle agreed.
They went through their nightly rituals. After they both finished, the events of the day caught up with them and they fell hastily into bed, exhausted.
"I love you Gabrielle." The warrior said placing an arm around her bard, pulling her close to her body. It was amazing how well we fit together. As if the gods themselves created us for each other, for this.
"I love you too Xena." Gabrielle said with a romantic sigh. This is bliss, she mused. Several comfortable minutes of silence passed by.
"You were right Xena."
"Huh?" She looked confused.
"I said you were right. I do love it here."
And they both fell silently to sleep.
In the morning, Gabrielle awoke before Xena.
She's so beautiful.
It was such a rare occasion to see Xena sleep. She rarely ever let her guard down, even with Gabrielle. During sleep, Xena was completely vulnerable. WellÉnot completely. Xena would never be utterly defenseless.
She looked several years younger in sleep. Her face was much less tense. She had cute little lines around her eyes. They weren't quite wrinkles, yet, but even if they were she'd still look beautiful. Always, to Gabrielle.
The lines made her warrior look distinguished. A glorious thought crossed her mind. I can't wait to grow old with her. She'll always be absolutely striking. Oh, and when she starts getting gray hairs! It was a strange thing to think, but Gabrielle could not wait.
There was something else though. Something Gabrielle could not quite put her finger on. Something about her face, she looked soÉsoÉlight.
In her sleep, Xena couldn't feel her guilt. Although, she often had dreams. Sometimes Xena carried around a weight heavier than Atlas. It looked like a giant burden had been lifted from her shoulders. I wish she could forgive herself. I wish she would let herself be happy.
But, Gabrielle knew she never would. Of course, Gabrielle knew that when they were together, Xena was happy. But, she always made offhanded remarks and such about how she didn't deserve Gabrielle. Or, how she didn't deserve to be happy. It saddened the bard's soul when she said things like that. Sometimes it drove her to tears.
Other times, when they were together, Xena got this lost look in her eye. A look like she was on borrowed time. It was the look of an abandoned child. And, it broke the bard's heart.
"Is there something on my face?" Xena spoke with a gravely voice attributed to her recent consciousness. Blue eyes still hidden behind heavy lids.
"No, but I see something missing." She spoke roguishly.
"Oh really." Stunning Sapphires popped open and burned into Gabrielle's soul. "And what is that?"
"A smile." At her words, a grin spread across the warrior's usually stoic face. "There, now everything is perfect." Gabrielle leaned forward and nipped Xena's nose.
"Well, not quite." The warrior remarked, then met the bard's lips and stole a deep kiss. The two lingered in the sensation for a moment before breaking away. "Now everything is perfect."
"Hey," Gabrielle scolded. "You stole a kiss."
"So?" Xena sat up and challenged her.
"Sooooo I want it back."
"Do you now?!"
"Yes, I do." The Amazon pounced upon the dark woman, kissing her furiously. Tongues dueled and passions flared. They rode out the impulse before breaking away.
"Well that's a way to start the day."
"The best way." Xena chimed in.
The bard and her warrior dressed and readied for the day and then headed down to the main room. For some inexplicable reason, Xena could not seem to keep her hands off her bard. She slowly helped Gabrielle dress, gaining a sinful yet divine pleasure from it.
She held the Amazon's hand as they walked down the hall. Whenever Gabrielle stopped or stalled her step, Xena would place a comforting hand on the small of her back, lightly comforting and massaging.
Gabrielle noticed the warrior's extreme touchiness, but it wasn't her place to complain. She was rather enjoying the extra attention. But, it made her curious too. So Xena, why so mushy today?
She didn't dare ask the warrior aloud. Xena was very guarded about her emotions. She saw them as her greatest weakness. Gabrielle saw them as her greatest strength. Either way, whenever the bard called her on anything related to the emotional, Xena brought up her defenses and her mask appeared.
Xena, however, was neither guarded nor embarrassed today. She needed to be close to Gabrielle. Of course, she needed to be close to her every day, but especially now. She needed to be closer. It was ingrained within her soul. But, with the loss of the sex, she needed some sort of physical contact.
It wasn't that she missed the sex. WellÉ.she didÉ.a lot. But, it wasn't about that. Yes, sure, the sex was greatÉ.incredibleÉmind blowing in fact, but that wasn't it. She missed the intimacy that comes with becoming lovers. Holding each other during the afterglow. Falling asleep, drench in sweat, exhausted, in each other's arms.
She needed it. She lived for it. It was everything.
When they entered the main room, Xena let go of Gabrielle's hand and rested an arm upon her shoulder. Auto was in the room, talking deeply to Rubrik about what Xena could only guess was why they were here.
It took him but a moment to see the two, and he quickly made his way over to the two.
"Morning you two."
"Good morning Auto." Gabrielle warmly replied to the getting. Xena simply gave a small smile and a stiff nod.
"Please," he motioned to small side table piled with food. "Have something to eat."
Xena turned him down. Gabrielle, however, could never look away from food. She dug in whole heartedly.
The bard quickly munched on a warm piece of cinnamon bread and an apple. Xena watched intently and considered how delectably it would be to hand feed Gabrielle. Ah well, another time.
The little Amazon finished up and brushed off the extra crumbs that had gottenÉwellÉeverywhere. However, she missed a spot. We can't have that, Xena thought. She raised a finger and brushed away the remnants of the bread. The minute Xena's finger touched Gabrielle's mouth, heat electrified them both.
The bard took the warrior's finger into her mouth and licked it free of all the crumbs. Xena's breath heavied with desire. Blue pools deepened in passion. Her body was on fire.
Rubrik's wondering eye finally broke Gabrielle from her trance. A flush crept up her cheeks and she quickly released the warrior's finger.
Xena retreated back, but without embarrassment. She couldn't be. Everything between her and Gabrielle was so natural, so beautiful. How could she be ashamed of that?
Instead, she gave Rubrik a fierce glare for ruining her fun. He squirmed under her glance. Something about the man still didn't feel right. No time for that now however.
"Auto," Xena spoke kindly. "Why exactly are we here?"
"You know we really need to work on your delivery." Gabrielle teased.
"Of course Xena, always right to the point." He smugly smirked. Then, Auto let out a deep sigh. The light in his face drained; his mood morose. "WellÉumÉ"
A sad tear fell from his eye. Such a starch transformation occurred within the man before them, both Xena and Gabrielle were caught off guard and were uncomfortable in their reaction.
"It's my wife, Victoria. She's missing."
"Victoria. A fortnight ago, she went missing. Rubrik and I have led searches throughout the island butÉ" His voice began to falter as he reveled within his own tragedy. "But she has yet to be found."
I need your help." His desperation was deafening. "She is my world. She
is my life. She's the other half of my soul. If I had to go on without
Auto could not bring himself to finish.
Both women understood his pain and loss. They had both experienced the same loss and feared a life led alone. Luckily, they would not have to face that. Hopefully neither would Auto.
The King took a regal breath.
"And," he paused, waiting for the return of his composure. "She is due with our baby any day now. We were so excited. Our first childÉ andÉ" Once again tears fell. Gabrielle could bear his pain no longer. She flew over and embraced the sobbing royalty in a firm hug, letting his cry it all out. After several minutes, his tears subsided and he was finally strong enough to pull back and regain control of his emotions.
"Not very royal-like, huh?!" He joked, wiping his eyes clear.
"Tears cleanse the soul."
"Thank you Gabrielle. You are a true spirit."
The bard smiled warmly.
Xena, however, was already formulating a plan in her mind and searching her observations for clues.
"So Auto, tell us about your wife."
"Well, she's has hair the color of autumn. Her eyes are pure gold. She was the Princess of Drethos, across the sea. And when we met it true love. A month later, we were married."
"However, at the time, she had already been betrothed to a rich merchant from Thebes. Her father had arranged it and when she broke the engagement, he disowned her. She has not been home since."
"Do you think they could have taken her back?" Xena asked logically.
"No. Rubrik stopped in Drethos before going on to find you two. She was not there."
"I'm sorry Auto, but I have to ask." Xena felt positively horrible, but it was an option that had to be addressed. "Do you think she could have run away on her own accord?"
Gabrielle winced at the warrior's word but also understood their necessity.
"I know you had to ask that Xena and I respect you more for it. Don't feel bad." He spoke sincerely. His face began to brighten. "But, we are each other. There is no me without her and no her without me. She's everything I am, everything I will be. Forever, we are one."
The bard and warrior exchanged knowing glances and spoke simultaneously.
"I knew you would."
"So," Xena said. "Since that's ruled out, have you received a ransom note or something to that effect?"
"Strange." Gabrielle joined in.
"Very," Xena agreed. "Well, we best get started then."
"Don't worry Auto, we will find her." The bard spoke in a very concrete tone.
Gabrielle caught up with Xena as she stormed off, determined to find the missing Queen.
The search of the Palace had turned up next to nil. They'd examined all the exits and entrances, and interviewed all the palace staff.
Auto had been right. The Palace was a very secure fortress. It was almost impossible to enter or escape without predetermined clearance. Xena gave him points for security. Sieves ran a tight ship.
However, getting information had almost been like pulling teeth with Rubrik overlooking the investigation. He seemed more a hindrance then a help. In fact, it seemed he didn't want the queen found at all. Xena held her own reservations about the man.
Towards late afternoon Xena decided she needed a break from Rubrik's constant overseeing eye. She made some unoriginal excuse about going out to interview some citizens who possibly could have seen something.
Gabrielle gave her a curious look before immediately chiming in about the importance of the interviews. Gabrielle, being the bard that she was, made it sound much more convincing then Xena ever could. Rubrik looked deeply suspicious but could not really do anything to stop them. The two dismissed themselves and quickly exited for the market.
"So?" Gabrielle could hold her curious mind no longer. "What's the plan?"
"What do you mean?" The warrior asked absently.
"Well, I don't believe we've found anything to warrant a citizen sweep."
"I know. I just had to get out of there. I couldn't stand that man any longer."
"I know what you mean." The bard began massaging up and down Xena's back with a soothing hand. "I could tell you were tense. I really don't like that Rubrik either. He gives me the creeps."
"I think he's hiding something."
"Me too." The bard agreed, excited at the intrigue. "Everything we did, he watched over and tried to stop. Every step he made screamed guilty."
"Exactly. And going through that castle, no one could get in and out of the place without anyone knowing. She couldn't have been kidnapped. It would almost be impossible, unlessÉ"
"Rubrik! Right now, he's our number one suspect. We've got to watch him closely."
"Did you also want to interview anyone out here about what they saw?"
"Oh no, I just thought we'd come shop. Sieves has one of the most diverse markets I've seen." Xena spoke casually.
"But you hate shopping." Gabrielle said, astonished.
"But you love it."
"ButÉyou hate it."
"But I love you." The warrior gave an irresistible grin. She took Gabrielle's hand and slowly brought it to her lips. "And I live to make you happy, because that makes me happy."
"I'll have to remember that." The bard let out a romantic sigh. She's so wonderful. Always knows just what to say to take my breath away. She's becoming quite the romantic. Gabrielle dwelt on it for a moment. Who are you kidding Gabrielle? You love it!
"Well," The Amazon paused. "If we mustÉ"
"And we must." Xena pushed on convincingly.
"Fine." She gave up in mock defeat, while silently thrilled.
"Wonderful. Let's shop!" Xena exclaimed, then stopped. Did I just say that?! Gods, I must be in love.
Gabrielle laughed heartily at Xena's uncharacteristic words as she grabbed her hand.
"Well, I see a food stand over there that is just screaming my name. Listen closely. Gabrielle, Gabrielle." She whispered in a high, comical voice.
"Are you sure that bread was henbane free?" A sarcastic eyebrow rose.
"Ha ha ha. My Warrior Princess, quite the comedian. Now, let's eat!"
Xena simply rolled her eyes as they were called over loudly to a stand selling delicious meat sandwiches.
Light shopping turned into an all evening ordeal. Gabrielle continually looked to Xena for signs of weary but was pleasantly surprised that the warrior showed none. She was unexpectedly enthusiastic about the excursion.
Gabrielle found the market to be as Xena said. It was wonderful. It was filled with trinkets from all corners of the world: Gaul, Chin, Africa. The bard thought it to be absolutely incredible.
Xena was merely happy that Gabrielle was happy. It was more then enough. More and more, her time with the bard had come into deeper perspective. She valued it with her life. When she was with Gabrielle, she felt so light. Her soul leaped with glee. Her presence was all Xena needed and she was more then pleased to be a tag-along for the day.
Gabrielle noticed the pensive look upon Xena's face and was dismayed. Now what is she thinking?
"Dinar for your thoughts?"
"Couldn't put a price on these." The warrior said, tapping her temple.
"Oh and why's that?"
"Because they're about you." She spoke with such honesty, it left the bard breathless.
"Has anyone ever told you you're a hopeless romantic?"'
"Hush! You'll ruin my image as a ruthless killer." Xena joked, but was unsuccessful in hiding the true hurt behind the words.
"Xena," Gabrielle began sadly. She reached up and pushed a rebellious dark lock behind the warrior's ear. "That's not who you are."
"It's who I was." She downcast her eyes.
"Maybe." Gabrielle raised Xena's chin. "But, its not who you are. Not anymore."
Blue meshed into green as they held each other in an invisible embrace. Xena broke away from the stare in guilt.
"How can you even look me in the eyes with the things I've done." A tear trickled down her cheek. Gabrielle caught it with a fingertip and brought it to her lips for a kiss.
"Oh Xena. I wish you could see what I see. When I look at you, I see the most loving person I've ever known. I see a genuine being with so much emotion in her heart, it scares me. I feel unworthy of such love. I see the greatest person I've ever known. When I look at you Xena, I see my soul."
More tears fell at the bard's words.
"Xena, your pain is my pain. Your past is my past. We are two people, but we are one soul. I love you Xena."
"Gods I love you too Gabrielle." Xena pulled the bard into a strong hug right in the middle of the square. She could care less who saw them, for that moment, it was just her and Gabrielle; no one else existed.
Slowly, Xena backed away from Gabrielle. Their cheeks both glistening from collective tears. They laughed at each other, knowing they must look a sight.
Xena grabbed the Gabrielle's hand as they walked back to the castleÉ.togetherÉ
Alone, Xena lay down in the bed. Gabrielle was looking over the balcony. She was awestruck by the beauty of the Eye. Xena was awestruck by the beauty before her.
"Beautiful." Gabrielle mindlessly remarked.
"I know." Xena spoke seductively.
Gabrielle turned to see Xena staring intently at her. The bard sauntered over to the bed.
"You know what they say Xena. Flattery," She laid down on top of warrior. "Will get you every where."
Xena leaned up for a kiss but Gabrielle pulled away.
"Well, maybe not everywhere." She smiled and dropped her head down for a deep kiss. They embraced for a moment before Gabrielle rolled off Xena and onto the side of the bed.
"Ahh, do you think we'll find the queen tomorrow?" The Amazon asked.
"Don't know. Hope so." Typical Xena. Short and blunt.
"Do you think the King of Drethos stole her back?"
"And why not?"
"Because she's not his daughter."
"What?!" Gabrielle gasped, sitting up from her reclining position.
"I said Victoria is not his daughter. The King of Drethos is sterile."
"Oh really. And how, great and powerful Warrior Princess, do you know this?" The bard challenged her.
"Never mind." Xena spoke quickly and retreated from the bed over to the window.
"I don't think so." The determined Amazon retorted, rising from the bed and following her warrior. "How do you know he's sterile?"
Xena exhaled loudly. Damn it! Yet another story that she wished never to tell her companion. If she avoided the topic, she would anger or even hurt Gabrielle. If she did tell her, she wasn't sure how she would react. And, the unknown is a terrifying thought. ButÉit's about trust, Xena. Trust her words. Trust her to look past your past.
"Years ago, I visited Drethos. Actually, it was right after my trip here. You know the drill, me and the KingÉweÉ.well let's just say that it was common knowledge that I wouldn't have to worry about Solan having any siblings."
"You slept with him?" Gabrielle asked, even though it was more of a statement then a question. She didn't sound upset or hurt, but Xena was still weary.
"Yes." She said, not able to meet the gaze of the bard she loved so much, fearing the hate she might find there.
"Hey." Gabrielle spoke in an understanding tone. "It's ok Xena. Hey!" She made the warrior look face to face at her. "It is alright!" She spoke in a tone that pulled at the Xena's heart.
"Ok." Xena finally answered back with security she hadn't thought possible before. But, Gabrielle had changed all that. She made her believe that everything could be ok.
"It just brings the total up to Xena: 493 Gabrielle:6." She joked.
Xena released some much needed laughter for several minutes. Then she replayed the bard's statement over in her mind. Xena: 493. A bit of an exaggerationÉI think. Gabrielle É.SIX!!! Wait a minute! Ok, Perdicus, Aphrodite, me. Alright, that's three XenaÉI'm still three short.
She began to breathe heavy. Calm down Xena. You've slept with practically all of Greece. It's just three people. It doesn't matter. She desperately tried to convince herself. ButÉbut it did matter. It did. Because this was Gabrielle. She'sÉ.different.
The bard saw Xena's mind was fast at work. Yet, she had no idea what about. The warrior's face began to contort into a sort of anger/hurt mask, leaving Gabrielle completely perplexed.
"What's wrong?" She asked softly.
Xena tried to hold back. It's not a big deal. IT IS NOT A BIG DEAL! She kept telling herself. But her jealous nature refused to cease. She had to know.
"Six? What six?" Xena spoke, flabbergasted.
Gabrielle held her breath for a moment. She did not just say that! Please tell me I did not hear that. But, sadly, her ears did not deceive her. Those had been Xena's words. The Warrior Princess had just questioned her sexual past. The women who had slept with practically anything and everything that walked was questioning HER sexual past.
Her face began to darken in anger. How fucking hypocritical can she be? She's questioning me! The bard began to fume. Red heat spread throughout her body.
"How dare you question me like that!" Gabrielle growled.
Xena knew she had no right to say anything; no right to question her. But, she couldn't stop herself.
"Six, Gabrielle. Six? Well me, Aphrodite, Perdicus. So far I only see three. And the rest?!"
"Is absolutely none of your business." She countered shortly. "This has nothing to do with you."
"You're wrong. This has everything to do with me."
"You're right. This does has everything to do with you. You and your stupid insecurities. I thought you were better then that." Gabrielle spoke venomously.
With such hard words, Xena retracted automatically back within her mask. She erected a wall of emotionlessness, blocking her from everything else, from Gabrielle. With great stoicism, she continued on her quest.
"I want to know."
"Oh, you want to know." Gabrielle repeated. She hurt. She hurt so terribly. The pain was so familiar it scared her. She had promised herself not to let Xena do this to herÉagain. Promised herself no more pain. "Fine, I'll tell you."
She paused for a moment.
"Well?" Xena asked impatiently, afraid her partner would back down.
"VIRGIL?! You slept with Virgil." Xena hadn't expected that. She was thrown for a loop.
"Yes I slept with Virgil Xena." She spoke calmly. "And don't worry, it's not what you think. It was not some torrent love affair. It was one time and it was more friendly and comforting then passionate."
"It happened right after Joxer died. We were both hurting, hurting so much. You were only concerned with Eve. You couldn't see me."
"So you're blaming me." Spiteful words spewed from her lips.
"No, but I want you to understand me, my mindset, and what happened. I needed some one to be there for me, to listen to me, to comfort me. You were consumed with Eve. And that was ok. I understand that, and I don't blame you for that. But, You have to know that I needed you and you were not there."
"Virgil was and he needed me. And Xena, being needed is an elatious, addictive feeling. It just happened."
Slowly her anger began to dissipate. It started to transfer into self-loathing. She had not had time for Gabrielle then, looking back she wished she could have. Wished she'd made time.
"Who else?" Xena asked straight faced.
"Lin Qi, from Chin."
"You slept with him?" Xena gasped, surprised. She knew the man had liked Gabrielle butÉ.sex. She was more shocked then upset.
"Yeh, I did Xena. I felt so alone in Chin. During your entire pregnancy, you barely spoke two words to me besides short demands. He was interested in me, I was interested in him, it felt goodÉ.very good. It wasn't love, it was lust. That contact, that intimacy, what had separated our friendship from everything elseÉ.that was missing while you carried Eve."
"I had to find that somewhere. I found it with him. It was only a few times and when we left Chin, that was it. It was a fling, but I don't regret it."
"And the third?"
Gabrielle began to panic. She had been reluctant to tell Xena the first two, but was terrified to admitting the last oneÉeven to herself. She still couldn't face the experience, not even now, years later. She had only come to terms with it a couple months ago. Gabrielle trembled with fear at Xena's reaction.
"Gabrielle, please." Xena spoke sincerely which only made the bard retreat back further. She'll never trust me again. She'll never forgive meÉShe won't love me.
"Gabrielle, you ask me to trust you with my past. Trust me with yours." She begged. Gabrielle unconsciously shook her head.
No, She couldn't tell Xena. It would ruin everything.
"Please!" She pleaded.
"Please Gabrielle, please!"
Xena involuntarily recoiled, her face contorted in disgust. She hadn't meant to, but it was too late. The last thing she saw that night was Gabrielle's silhouette running through the door and out into the night.
As Gabrielle raced though the halls, it felt as if the walls were closing in on her. She was suffocating and needed to get out. She rushed to the outside area within the compound, where the palace gardens were located. But, not even the night could ease her troubled soul.
It could not silence the screaming in her ears. It could not stop the breaking of her heart.
Just as easily as her mind had repressed the memories, they came flooding back with full force. This time Gabrielle was without the means to combat them. Inner chaos reigned throughout her body as she briskly swished through the garden.
Xena, gods, she couldn't face that woman again. How could she? How could she look into blue eyes once brimming with love and find nothing but disgust and distain? It was too much for her soul to take. Not to see love in those beautiful blue oceans, it would break her.
But, Gabrielle knew she would have to face Xena, face her soul. She knew she would have to learn to accept the hurt, the hate, and the pain. And maybe, someday, everything would be alrightÉsomeday. Maybe someday, Xena could forgive her.
However, someday would not be tonight and most likely not tomorrow. She would have to learn to deal with the coldness. Her soul would have to learn to breathe again.
Gabrielle slowed down her pace as she headed over by the stable. The soft neighing of horses had a calming effect on her surging emotions. She entered into the stable. A majestic dark stallion trounced in its pen. Its eyes held the rebellion obvious by its manner. Gabrielle envied his spirit.
Under the bard's careful eye, he calmed down and trotted over by her. Gabrielle extended her hand and he nuzzled it greedily.
"You know you're so lucky boy."
The horse stared blankly at her.
"You don't have any worries in this world. Oh, how I envy you. You're life is so simple. I wish you mine were." The bard spoke, her voice breaking with tears.
Gabrielle remained on the edge of an emotional precipice, ready to burst into tears. Her ears perked up at the sound of a sniffle, that didn't belong to her. She looked up to the horse accusingly, but he just continued to stare at her.
"Where did that come from?" She whispered to herself. Another sniffle was heard followed by a light series of cries and mumbled voices.
Gabrielle followed the sound to the back of the stable. The source of the noise was a door, well what was behind the door. But, it was ultimately locked.
Gabrielle leaned into listen to the muffled voices:
"He'll find out. He brought those women, he's going to find out!" A frightened female voice spoke.
"Don't worry, I'm taking care of that. I'm taking care of everything." A confident man said in a deep tone. Loving and understanding radiated from his words. "Besides, it's only for a few more days."
"We don't know how long it will beÉ"
"Don't worry. Everything will be fine. I'll make sure of it. I love you, Victoria."
At the mention of the missing queen's name, Gabrielle leaned in even closer to the door as if it would help her hear any better.
"I love you too."
Then only sporadic clusters of soft sobs.
The bard became curious to see whom the queen was with. She kneeled down and peered into the keyhole, gasping aloud at the revelation. There, captured in a lovers embrace, was Rubrik and the woman from the last tapestry: Queen Victoria.
Gabrielle backed away from the door; green orbs wide with shock. Yet another revelation she was unprepared for.
"By the Gods." She whispered in disbelief.
She ran wildly back to the room she shared with Xena. The warrior was sleeping soundly. However Gabrielle could see the dried path of strayed tears that had fallen earlier. The simple presence of Xena calmed Gabrielle's soul.
She walked over and bent down beside the bed and caressed Xena's cheek with a loving hand.
"I love you so much Xena. You are everything to me." She whispered then leaned over to place a light kiss on velvety soft lips.
"You're wrong you know." Gabrielle paused. "It's I who don't deserve you."
Reveling in her unworthiness, the bard stumbled over to the big, comfortable chair in the corner.
She slept alone that night.
Gabrielle woke up slowly. One at a time, her senses slowly waking to the day. Though her eyes remained closed, her body could feel a difference in her position.
Instead of a reclined sitting position she had fallen asleep in, she was lying down very comfortably. And in a bed, she added, smiling.
By the relative coldness around her, Gabrielle could tell that Xena had left the bed much earlier in the day. The warmth of the sun rays hitting her face told her that it was well into the morning.
The bard knew she should get up and out of bed. But, in doing so, she would have to face the day and then she would have to face Xena. Gabrielle was not ready for that. Not after last night.
Suddenly, a smooth hand swept over Gabrielle's cheek. The bard recognized the feeling of the callous fingers as if they were her own. They were the hands of her soul mate, her soul. And she knew the presence in front of her: it was Xena.
Green eyes fluttered open and were captured by gleaming blues, glistening in unshed tears before her. Xena looked startled by Gabrielle's revival and stepped back.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I didn't mean to wake you." Xena spoke in the terrified voice of a child.
"It's alright Xena." Gabrielle said in an understanding and comforting tone. She reached out and grabbed her warrior's hand securely. "How long have you been watching me?"
"I don't knowÉcouple of minutesÉ" She trailed off, embarrassed. "Écouple of hoursÉ."
Gabrielle gave a deep look, her vision obscured by forming tears; moved by the sentiment.
"Xena, about last nightÉ"
"No Gabrielle. I had no right."
"But when IÉ"
"No Gabrielle," Xena paused as tears filled her voice. "You are the most dear thing to me in all the world. You are everything to me." She unknowingly repeated Gabrielle's word of the previous evening.
"But what I did beforeÉ"
"Doesn't matter. Like you said, we both have pasts. They don't matter. The only thing that matters is that we're together."
A silence second ticked by announcing its awkwardness loudly. Finally, Gabrielle spoke.
"Do you want to know?"
"You don't have to tell me." Xena downcast her eyes.
"Xena, I want to." The bard's voice like velvet. Xena lightly smiled and snuggled down into the seat net to the bed. The bard took a deep breath and looked at her soul mate nervously.
This time, Xena took Gabrielle's hand and gripped it firmly.
"It happened years ago. I hadn't even remembered it until me and AphroditeÉwell you know. It was so traumatic, I actually blocked it out of my mind. When Aphrodite and I were firstÉtogether," Gabrielle treaded lightly every time she mentioned her and the goddess's relationship, knowing how it hurt Xena. "Sometimes I would have to stop because it would get too much. Sometimes the memory would just overwhelm me. I would be paralyzed with fear." She paused for a breath.
Xena kept silent and bit deeply into her lip to clamp the anger and jealousy that began to rise. Although she knew now that Gabrielle and Aphrodite were merely friends, their previous rendezvous still twisted her gut.
"When I said I slept with Callisto, I wasn't quite truthful. I mean I slept with Callisto, but it wasn't Callisto at the time."
Xena arched a confused eyebrow.
"Ok, it was when you and Callisto switched bodies." She blubbered out quickly.
"Back then, I wasn't sure I was in love with you. I guess I was attracted to you and I didn't even know it. It was before I found out about the switch. One night, she came to me. She kissed me. She whispered in my ears how she loved me so."
"At first, it was nice. It was gentle. But thenÉ" She stopped to compose herself. "She became harder. She became violent. It hurt Xena. Gods, it hurt."
The bard broke down into tears and Xena immediately sat up and encompassed Gabrielle tight within her arms and began to whisper sweet words in her ear. Xena's tears could not be held back any longer. Two souls meshed into one painful sob.
Xena's soul was bleeding for the bard's pain. Gods, if only I would have been there for her. She's been through so much. She's so brave. Gabrielle began mumbling words. Xena let her ramble on for awhile, then bard was silent for a very long moment.
"Xena," She whispered in a child's voice. "I'm so sorry. It's all my fault."
"Gabrielle, this was not you're fault. She tricked you."
"I let herÉ"
"No, you didn't." The warrior began to raise her voice in anger at her soul mate's guilt.
"Gabrielle, it was glorified rape! Don't put this on yourself!" She calmed herself and spoke again. "Please believe me. Do you believe me?"
Gabrielle spent several tedious minutes contemplating her warrior's words.
"It's not my fault." She repeated, ending in a high tone, as if asking a question.
"It was not your fault." Xena spoke solidly.
"It's not my fault." She answered securely.
And Gabrielle finally believed it.
Xena and Gabrielle walked down the halls, arms and souls linked. Neither really caring what they looked like or what people said. They were simply reveling in each other.
They met Auto for lunch, idly chatting about the weather and such. He had such sadness in his eyes, it broke Gabrielle's heart. Poor Auto, if he only knew.
They broke apart and went their separate ways. The bard pushed the warrior out towards the garden. Although Xena protested, the Amazon was adamant. She did not feel right revealing last night's discovery in the castle. The walls always have ears.
They made their way out the garden. Xena glanced at the flowers. The tall women reached down and picked up a pink rose. She gave the bard a toothy grin and handed Gabrielle the flower.
"A rose for my rose."
Gabrielle took the flower while snickering at Xena's bad poetry.
"Don't quit your day job."
"And give this up?" She grabbed Gabrielle in for a warm hold. She leaned down to whisper in the bard's ear. "Not likely." She kissed the tantalizing earlobe and released her captive.
"Besides, where am I gonna find such great benefits." She pinched Gabrielle's near behind.
"Tsk tsk. Frisky aren't we?"
"With you? Always." She spoke with a mischievous glint in her piercing blues. "So, why did you insist on the garden? Besides a chance to hear my bad poetry."
"It wasn't bad XenaÉ.it just wasn't good."
"HmmÉ" The warrior stole a moment in thought.
"How about, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
"BetterÉbut stick with the warrior thing." The bard sneered as Xena looked wounded. "But, as to the question handÉ"
"Oh yeh," Xena's gaze wandered back to Gabrielle. "Why the garden?"
"Because the walls have ears."
"Last night I made an interesting discovery."
"Oh really? And what would that be."
"Well, last night afterÉeverything, I went out for a walk. I couldn't breathe in here. I needed time and space. Anyway, I came out here to the garden to collect my thoughts. Later, I wandered over to the stable that night. I had an interesting conversation with a beautiful stallion."
"Big Surprise." Xena teased to lighten the moment. Gabrielle could have an interesting conversation with a wall. The bard chose that precise moment to stick out her tongue at the warrior before returning to her tale.
"Well, at one point, I heard a noise I was sure didn't arise from my four legged friend. I followed the muffled noises to the back of the table. I tiptoed close to the door to listen to the words. I don't remember exactly what was said but it was someone worried about being found Éand words of love. I looked into the keyhole and there I saw Rubrik and Queen Victoria in a tight embrace.
"I knew it. I knew I had a feeling about him."
Gabrielle was about to respond in agreement, but she was interrupted as a loud shrill wrung out, slicing through the sky.
Xena and Gabrielle shared a look for a moment before moving over towards the source of the scream: the stable.
They reached the source of which led to the all too familiar stable door. Xena pounded hard on the deteriorating wood.
"Hello, anyone in there?"
Only silenceÉat least to the untrained ear. Gabrielle was oblivious to anything, but Xena could faintly pick up the silenced sounds of pain, desperately trying to keep quiet. Suddenly, Xena took a step back.
"Alright we're coming in."
BAM! Xena released a powerful kick, knocking down the door.
Two terrified sets of eyes looked up in pain as the two women entered the room. There, in the corner of the musky old space which looked like an old store room and smelled faintly like hay, was Queen Victoria.
She was propped up upon a mountain of velvet pillows and displaying a full, protruding belly, testifying to her condition.
"Queen Victoria." Xena said.
She shook her head furiously in denial, but it was already too obvious who she was. Another contraction hit the poor woman and she let out a stifled cry.
The two raced to her side. Gabrielle grabbed the Queen's hand and Xena positioned herself between the woman's legs. Victoria was very well dilated. By her expert opinion, the Queen would be due with in an hour.
No parent should miss this, no matter what the reason.
"Gabrielle," Xena called to the bard who was calmingly stroking the woman's hair, trying to settle her. She's so gentle. Xena pondered for a moment before returning to reality.
"Gabrielle." Xena called again.
The bard gazed up to the warrior.
"Can you please go get Auto. No man should miss the birth of his own child." If it is his child, she sadly mused.
Victoria grasped Gabrielle's wrist firmly, shaking her head furiously, trying to stop her. Gabrielle gave her a large, warm, smile that would comfort anyone. Queen Victoria's grip steadily loosened until Gabrielle was free and ran out towards the castle's interior, to Auto.
After all, No man should miss the birth of his own child.
Gabrielle raced through the castle in abandon. She could feel the seconds ticking by.
"TICK TOCK TICK TOCK"
Time was of the essence.
Sweat dribbled down her temple as she licked her upper lip. Blood pumped furiously through her veins and she could hear the vibrancy of her body.
Finally, she spotted the King, ironically speaking to Rubrik. Gabrielle rushed into the room towards Auto. She gently pushed Rubrik out of the way and grabbed Auto by the shoulder.
"Gabrielle, what is it?" He asked confused.
Gabrielle sputtered for breath as her body played catch up.
The bard bent over and let the blood rush to her head. She took a very deep breath and allowed the simple words to form.
"They found her."
It was enough, Auto went racing behind Gabrielle's heels, both running towards the stable. Rubrik trotted behind them, shouting words of caution, trying to stop them.
Neither would hear him. They sped through the garden, not bothering to remain on the path. They destroyed hours of the gardener's meticulous hand. It didn't matter; they had to get to the stable.
Another scream sounded through the air and the duo double their pace. Finally, they entered the stable. Xena was still in her position between Victoria's legs, preparing for the birth.
The warrior was also lightly singing to the woman, calming her. Her beautiful melody was soothing and magnificent. Gods I love her, Gabrielle thought.
Auto raced down to Victoria's side. He burst into tears, kissing her all over. He whispered how much he loved her, how much he needed her. Victoria, though in pain, reciprocated, letting tears fall. She spoke her own love and apologies. It was a touching scene, soon to be ruined.
Rubrik burst into the room.
"I can explain." He spoke defensively.
"Dammit!" Xena cursed, giving the bard an annoyed gaze. We don't wanna get into this now, especially when she's fully dilated.
"What do you mean?" Auto asked, bewildered.
Might as well get this over with.
"Rubrik was hiding your Queen in the stables."
"I was not." He spoke quietly.
"They're lovers." Xena sadly admitted.
"What?" Victoria squeaked between laborious breaths.
"What are you talking about?!" Auto was flabbergasted.
"It's true, Gabrielle saw them together."
"We ARE NOT LOVERS!" Rubrik yelled.
"Aaahhh!" Victoria cried out as another contraction hit. "We're not lovers!"
"We saw you."
"We are not!"
"Really!" Rubrik defended.
"Then how do you explain what we saw?" Gabrielle's tone skeptical.
"GodsÉbecause I'm her father."
"What?" Gabrielle gasped.
"What?" Auto's jaw dropped.
"AhhhÉ." Victoria announced her place again.
"I said she's my daughter." He took a minute and began an explanation. You don't understandÉ or you will as son as you are a father. Victoria is everything. He smiled over to his daughter.
"I wanted what was best for her. I presented her as royalty instead of my daughter. I knew you two would be perfect for each other. I told you she was from Drethos. No one ever had to know. She could be happy. That all changed when she became with child."
"I am from the house of Menathos. It is well known that the boys of the Menathos carry a birthmark on their right hand." Auto shook his head in knowledge as Rubrik out stretched his right hand, pointing to a dark blotch of skin between his index finger and thumb in an awkward shape of a star.
"As the months wore on, we got more worried. If a boy were born, he would have the scar and you would know Victoria was not from Drethos. So I devised a plan to kidnap her so she could have her baby privately."
"If it was a girl, there would have been no problem. But, if it was a boy, we would have said the child was still born and I would have taken him in and raised him." He bowed his head. "I'm sorry."
"Gods Rubrik, don't you know that I love Victoria. It wouldn't have mattered." He bent down to Victoria. "Don't you know how much I love you? You are my world."
"I'm so sorrÉ..AAAHHHHH!"
Xena's attention again was turned back to the laboring woman.
"She's crowning." The warrior announced. "Ok, now Victoria, I need you to listen very carefully ok. When I say push, you push. Alright?"
Victoria shook her head in understanding. After several rounds of grunting and pushing, a child was born.
"It's a girl." Xena cried as she held the precious package. The warrior smiled at the newborn. The baby greedily gulped in her first breaths of air and a loud whale rung out.
Xena carefully wiped up the baby and placed her in a wool blanket. Slowly she handed the cherished cargo to the awestruck parents who avariciously accepted the gift.
The child was strikingly pink from its recent exposure. The baby had dark eyes and a small tuff of brown hair on her head. Ten little fingers, ten little toes; it was a miraculous thing.
Victoria lightly rocked the child as Rubrik and Auto looked on, unabashedly in tears. They were a family and it was beautiful.
Victoria looked up at the duo.
"Thank you, both, so much." Se released a short smile of gratitude before returning her gaze to the baby before her.
Gabrielle stared on, enraptured by the scene. There was so much love and beauty, it was almost too much to handle. She soon found herself in tears. Unchecked drops lightly fell down her cheek as she continued to observe the family.
She soon found a loving arm around her waste and she looked up to see Xena smiling down on her. It felt so goodÉso right. Gabrielle responded in kind with a large grin that lit up her whole face and ignited Xena soul.
The things she can do to me by just a look, the warrior thought. It's incredible. Xena returned her eyes to Auto, seeing the King now gently cradling his bundle of joy within his arms. He whispered lightly.
"I don't believe I ever truly knew happiness until this day." He bent down and placed a father's kiss upon his daughter's forehead.
Xena gently tugged on her soul mate's side. Gabrielle looked up in question. The warrior gestured with a nod to the door that implying that it was their cue to leave. The bard quickly understood and clasped Xena's hand firmly as they strode out of the stables with content looks upon their faces.
The flowers, the sky, the trees, the world, it all seemed different somehow. As if they'd both been let into a little secret with the world, and nothing would ever be the same. The two strolled on in satisfied silence, but their souls were speaking volumes. It's amazing how much can be said without a word.
Xena brought the bard's had and placed a lingering kiss upon the salty skin. Gabrielle felt electricity race through her body as she was filled with a warm tingling sensation that permeated throughout her body. It's amazing what she can do to me with one touch.
The Amazon, for a moment, looked lost in thought. She slowly turned her head and glanced back at the stables.
"Some day, I want that. For us to be a family." She spoke he thought unwittingly aloud.
"Me too." Xena said, startling Gabrielle out of her light haze.
And they walked hand in hand into the castle. Not knowing the future but anxiously awaiting the happiness it would bring them.
"KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK!" Gabrielle pounded hard on the door.
"Xena, are you almost ready?" She yelled through the wooden barrier.
"Give me another minute." Came a curt reply.
"Geez," the bard muttered under her breath. "She gets mad at me for taking longer in the morning, but when a ball rolls around she takes more time then a damn Trojan War."
"I heard that." Xena called back.
"Of course you did. Xena come on, hurry up. We're already late."
Because of the recent birth, the costume party had become a part birth celebration as well. Everyone and anyone was to partake. No longer was it limited to the nobility. In fact, the only requirement was a costume.
The warrior had stiffly refused Auto when he told them to attend you must be in costume. But Gabrielle begged Xena, and the warrior could never say no to a cute blondeÉor at least not to this one. She finally agreed.
But, as we all know, Xena never did anything at half mast. She then insisted on having separate rooms so they could bath, create a costume, and surprise the other.
Gabrielle had come up with quite the ingenious ensemble.
She had decided she needed to be original and creative. And, being a bard, she was adequately capable of both. Gabrielle had chosen to be the King of ThievesÉor The King of Sieves. Since the men were identical, it really didn't matter. She had to admit, she had out done herself.
The bard, using her persuasive and eloquent speech, convinced one of the laundry maids that is was absolutely essential to her very secretive mission to have one of Auto's outfits. She ended up with black leggings and a white shirt that were much too long. And a gorgeous black robe with gold embroidery that trailed five feet behind her.
Gabrielle implored the use of the royal tailor to help her. She was absolutely helpless with a needle and she couldn't ask Xena for fear of ruining the surprise. They had first shortened the hem of the pants É.a lot. Gods, I hope Auto doesn't like these. When he gets them back, they'll work as shorts.
The shirt could simply be tucked in and the sleeves, bunched up at the ends. The problem lay in the slit in the neckline that was just a tad bit revealing. Actually a lot revealing. It plunged down past between her cleavage to the middle of her stomach. And, as much as Xena might like it, it would probably detach from the whole "pretending to be the King" thing. So, the tailor, who seemed to have a habitual wondering eye, sewed it up to a respectable length.
The absolutely gorgeous, flowing robe had to be shortenedÉa lot. Suddenly Gabrielle became very aware of her heightÉor lack there of. Ah well, what can you do?
The outfit was complimented her black boots. Shiny Sais were hid behind the black leggings. Never hurts to be prepared.
A second later, the thought truly struck her. Always be prepared, always bring weaponsÉGods. I really am part warrior. The Amazon accepted that.
It was not a good thing or bad thing, just a change. You've changed a lot Gabrielle.
But, those were deeper thoughts for another time. Tonight was a time to rejoice. The finishing touches had just been put on. She applied some henna to her hair to darken it towards the color of Auto and she had lightly drawn on a mustache. Looking in the mirror, she smiled. Tonight, I am Autolycus.
But, right now, she was simply Gabrielle, impatiently waiting for the Great Warrior Princess to make an appearance.
"XENA." She yelled loudly. "Come on! I don't wanna waitÉ" Gabrielle, or "Auto's", jaw dropped to the floor as the warrior stepped through the door.
Gabrielle was bombarded by such beauty, she forgot to breathe. It took several minutes before the screaming of her need for air became louder then her heart screaming at the sight of the Warrior Princess. She was gorgeous.
Xena had taken great care in choosing her own costume. The warrior's usual attire was wellÉjust that: a warrior. It was masculine by nature. The leather, the weapons, the armor, they didn't quite lend themselves to feminity. It didn't bother Xena, really. But, she wanted to do it for Gabrielle. She wanted to look special for her bard.
Of course, she knew Gabrielle loved her no matter what, but sometimes she wanted to impress her. Deep down, Xena was very insecure. Deep down, she needed to impress Gabrielle. She needed to feel worthy.
Xena had still been reeling from their earlier conversation of Gabrielle's sexual past. I've gotta show her I'm over it. That who she's been with before me doesn't matter. The warrior had prudently decided to be the Goddess of Love for the night.
She had partaken in the royal tailor's talents. The warrior herself was very skilled with a needle, however Xena was short on time and needed help finishing the outfit soon.
The warrior once overed herself in the mirror and smiled with satisfaction.
"Aphrodite would be proud." She twisted in front of the mirror slowly. She'd never seen so much lace in her life.
The outfit was very small, but living in Amazonia, she was used to little to no clothing at all. Underneath was a small sort of bikini style outfit. With the lace to match. On top of theÉ.underwear Xena wore a sheer coverlet which did less covering then anything. The whole ensemble was precariously pink. Everything except the shoes, which were light cream.
The bard slowly brought her tongue back into her mouth. She couldn't help but stare. She's so beautiful. How did I ever deserve someone like her?
"Pink?" Gabrielle teased.
"Would you expect the Goddess of Love to be in anything else?"
"AhhÉthe Goddess of LoveÉ isn't she a blond?"
Xena's face turned cold. Her eyes became the ideal mix of fire and ice. She spoke very crisply.
"I don't do blonde." The Great Warrior Princess coolly announced. Gabrielle burst out laughing and was soon joined by Xena herself. They continued on until the bard's side ached and tears filled her eyes.
"Good, I like you better this way." The bard smirked, pretending to twist the imaginary mustache.
"You look very dashing this evening."
"Thank you Miss." The bard bowed and took Xena's hard to her mouth for a brief kiss.
"Good Sir," Xena blushed accordingly. "I must warn you, I'm a taken woman."
"Well, your partner need never know. I'll be very discrete."
"You have no idea."
"Shall we?" The bard extended her arm.
"We shall." Xena linked onto her arm and they headed down the hall.
Aphrodite and Autolycus strolled towards the ball, the most dashing couple of the night.
As soon as they entered the ball, people flocked towards them. Everyone was eager to meet Xena the Warrior Princess and Gabrielle the Battling Bard. Both women took the attention in stride and politely shooed everyone away.
The music played softly in the background and various people swayed to the beat. In the center of the room, towards the front, were the royal family.
Auto was dressed as a pirate, sitting upon his throne, lightly doting on his wife who was dressed as a fairy. Rubrik, of course, stood stiffly to the side. He had chosen not to wear any costume besides his dreary attire.
The crowd parted for the duo as they made their way towards the thrones. People spoke muffled compliments and such, but neither paid any heed as they continued arm and arm towards the royals. Finally, they reached the family.
Auto, sensing their presence, looking up from his child to the two and let out a surprised gasp.
"Your Majesty?" He questioned the bard.
"Quite right." She stiffly bowed.
"May I introduce Aphrodite, Goddess of Love."
"AhhÉquite right. Wonderful to meet you my dear. Hmm." He brought a finger to his temple as if in deep thought. "I thought you were blond."
Gabrielle leaned in and whispered.
"She doesn't do blond."
"Quite right. Well, fantastic to see you both."
"Hey Rubrik," Xena called over. "Nice costume."
Gabrielle applied a quick jab to the warrior's easily visible rib.
Victoria and Auto just laughed jovially before returning to their child.
"Have you though of a name yet."
"Oh yes," Victoria spoke. "Rochelle, after my mother."
"Very beautiful." Gabrielle exclaimed giving Xena a Hah! Look. They quietly exited and moved over towards the center of the ball.
"See, told you Rochelle was a good name."
"Don't get started."
Gabrielle spotted a drink bar ahead and started off towards it.
"Let's get a drink."
She had not been able to eat that day, with preparing her costume in all and she desperately wanted something to fill her belly. Gabrielle greedily downed the drink, took a breath, and drank another one.
The drink was delicious. It tasted of exotic fruits and warmed her belly all the way down.
"Gabrielle." Xena interrupted the bard as she gulped down her third drink.
"I would slow down if I were you."
"Why?" She asked, oblivious. "It's just fruit juice."
"No it's not." Great, a drunk bard was not on my list tonight.
"Don't worry Goddess of Love," Gabrielle slowly ran her fingers through Xena's hair. "I'll be fine."
And she was fineÉfor the first hour. But, she kept drinking. By the second hour, the potent liquor and her empty stomach were starting to wreak havoc on her senses. By the third hour, Gabrielle was seeing doubleÉof everything.
Suddenly, the beat turned seductive and Gabrielle looked and found herself utterly alone. I can't be alone during this song. Where's my Warrior Princess?
A few feet over was a group of ladies dressed like nymphsÉor at least that's what they looked like to Gabrielle. She hiccupped loudly as she tried to maintain a coherent thought.
Maybe they know. The bard heavily staggered over to the women, trying to straighten up and sober. Act charming Gabrielle. You can be charming. The Amazon sauntered over with great confidence.
"Hello ladies." The bard took great care not to slur her words. They just giggled at her charm.
"And who might you be?"
"Why ladies, I'm the King of Sieves." She said and lifter her hand trying to twister her imaginary mustache.
But, in her inebriated state, she didn't have the best hand-eye coordination. Actually, instead of the mustache, her hand wouldn't stop and poked her directly in the eye. Again, the women stupidly giggled.
The bard was becoming annoyed.
"Ladies, you haven't happened to have seen a stunning raven haired woman dressed as Aphrodite. SheÕs tall, darkÉÓ
Gabrielle trailed off as the ladies pointed straight past her. She followed the finger towards the crowd. Sure enough, there was a raven haired woman entering the crowd.
ÒThank you.Ó Gabrielle mouthed her words absently as she swayed to the beat and followed the mysterious woman. Every step bringing her closerÉ
Xena was wearing
Be Concluded in Part III
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