Disclaimer: The characters from Xena: Warrior Princess belong to MCA and Renaissance. No copyright infringement is intended. The story belongs to me.
Warning #1: This story contains violence. If this offends you don't read this; it's pretty graphic.
Warning #2: This story contains love and sexual acts between two consenting adult women. If this offends you don't read this. But I would suggest that you seek professional help. If you're under 18, or what ever the legal age is in your area, do not read any further. I really don't want to get into any trouble.
Note: This story immediately follows my story 'Dream A Little Dream'. It's not necessary to read that one first, but it might make a few things a little clearer. One thing you do need to know, Gabrielle kept the queen's mask. I can be contacted at XWPScribe@aol.com. Please be nice!
Part One of Two
By Greek Warrior (Joan)
The God of War stood just inside the entrance to the cave, watching the two women sleep. The warrior was tall and muscular with sapphire eyes and long raven hair that glimmered like polished black onyx when the sun graced her head. The bard, shorter with lighter muscle tone, emerald eyes and below the shoulder blond hair with red highlights. When his nephew, Strife, had told him that Xena and the bard had become 'More than just good friends', Ares knew he would be able to use this bit of information to his advantage. Ever since Xena had broken away from him and turned from being the fiercest warlord Greece had ever known into a 'champion for the greater good', she had thwarted each and every attempt he had made to get her back. He had tried deceit, manipulation, and even threatened her life. Nothing had worked. Ares was the first to admit, to himself that is, that he didn't understand love. At least not the love that makes one person willing to sacrifice everything for another, but he saw it in Xena's eyes everytime she looked at the bard. 'I may not understand what you see in that irritating little blond Xena,' Ares thought to himself, 'but I will use it against you and I will get you back. One way or another.' And with that thought, Ares vanished.
Xena's warrior senses woke her and she had the unmistakable feeling of being watched. She was lying on her side with her arms wrapped around Gabrielle's stomach and her head buried in the bard's soft silky hair. Without moving a muscle, she didn't want to alert the intruder if there was one; she let her senses explore. The only thing her nose could detect was the sweet odor that was her Gabrielle. A smile started at the corners of the mouth and she had to mentally pinch herself, 'concentrate Xena'. She let her hearing take over. Water dripping into the small pool at the back of the cave, Gabrielle's breathing, and Argo's steady intake and exhale just outside the cave entrance told her that her trusted war-horse was asleep. It also told her that no one could have gotten past Argo and into the cave.
She relaxed and lifted her head. It was still dark outside, but the sky was showing signs of awakening to another day. Xena sighed and laid her head down. She had promised Gabrielle she could sleep late this morning since they were only an hour or so from Amphipolis. They were headed to Xena's village at Gabrielle's urging, 'Just in case your mother heard of your death and hasn't heard of your reemergence into the land of the living'. Xena thought the bard just wanted to test her latest stories on a captive audience, but it would be nice to see her mother. So she had given in to the bard. Xena would never admit this to Gabrielle, but she was curious to see how the bard would handle their relationship in her writings. 'Maybe I should ask her that before hand. There are still places that don't condone this kind of love.'
Xena knew she wouldn't be able to go back to sleep. She also knew that if she woke Gabrielle now, they would have plenty of time to make love before they needed to leave. Desire won out over her promise to sleep late.
Xena brushed aside Gabrielle's hair to expose her ear and neck. She placed her mouth next to Gabrielle's ear and whispered, "Gabrielle". The bard shivered, but did not wake. Xena took Gabrielle's earlobe in her mouth and sucked gently, moans escaped the bard's lips; but still not awake. Xena placed a line of kisses down her lover's neck and shoulder. Then pulling the blanket, that covered their naked forms, slowly down to reveal Gabrielle's arm and started kissing the newly exposed skin. Xena moved her hand to cover the bard's breast and gently started massaging the nipple between her finger and thumb. 'If that doesn't wake her,' Xena thought, 'I'll resort to more drastic measures.'
Gabrielle raised her arm and grabbed a hand full of Xena's thick black mane. "Oh, gods, Xena."
"I know I promised you could sleep late, but I couldn't resist."
Gabrielle turned over onto her right side to face her lover and started rubbing her leg slowly up and down the warrior's leg. "Let me see, sleep late or make love," Gabrielle paused, her head tilted back with an expression of serious contemplation on her face. Xena raised an eyebrow and stared at the bard. Gabrielle suppressed a grin, "Sleep late or." She didn't get to finish as Xena leaned in and covered the bard's mouth with her own.
Gabrielle pulled away from the kiss and grinned. "Definitely make love."
"I'll take that as a complement." Xena said. "Considering it used to take an act from Zeus to get you up in the morning."
"Xena, I know I keep telling you that you should communicate more, but right now can we have less talk and more action?" Gabrielle rolled onto her back bringing the warrior with her.
"Oh, I think that can be arranged." Xena stated with a gleam in her blue eyes.
Their lips came together, their tongues eagerly exploring the other's mouth. The warrior broke from the kiss and rose up on her hands and knees placing her leg between Gabrielle's thighs.
Gabrielle moaned loudly, tightening her thighs around Xena's leg and began to slowly move up and down against it.
Xena was having trouble controlling her own building desire when she felt just how ready her lover was. She mentally shook herself and focused on pleasing her bard. She lowered her head and started kissing Gabrielle's neck. She kissed her way down to the bard's breast and took the nipple between her teeth lightly flicking her tongue across the captured delicacy. She moved her mouth to Gabrielle's other breast and ran her tongue in circles around the nipple, then taking the nipple in her mouth sucking gently at first and then with more force as she felt her lover responding to her.
Gabrielle arched her back, holding on to fistfuls of the warrior's hair. "Xena kiss me." Gabrielle forced the words out between gasping for breath. She loved the feel of Xena's mouth on hers. All the warrior had to do was kiss her and Gabrielle's body would tingle with desire.
Xena released Gabrielle's nipple, kissed her passionately and removed her leg from between Gabrielle's thighs. She grinned wickedly as the bard groaned her disappointment, which quickly turned into a moan of anticipation as the warrior started moving her tongue and lips down her lover's stomach. She held her mouth just above where the bard was pleading for her to go.
Gabrielle's hips moved up trying to make contact with her lover. "Xena please." She pleaded with her tormentor.
The warrior held a few seconds longer, lightly breathing on a most sensitive area, watching Gabrielle shuddered with each exhale of her breath. She couldn't wait any longer to devour the sweet juice that was her Gabrielle, and placed her mouth on her lover. She slowly moved the tip of her tongue up and down the bard's soft folds. Every time they made love Xena felt like she should be waking up from another dream. She had dreamed of Gabrielle as a lover for so long she couldn't believe it was now a reality. The bard moved her hips in time with the warrior's tongue. She had let go of Xena's hair and was grasping their sleeping blanket so tightly that her knuckles had turned white. "Gods Xena that's incredible."
Xena sucked hard on the bard's swollen center, pushing her lover closer and closer to the edge. Gabrielle's hips moved faster with each pull from the warrior's mouth. "Please Xena I need to feel you inside me." The warrior complied with the request by placing two fingers inside her lover, letting the motion of the bard's hips move them in and out until she felt the bard tighten around her and then drove in deeply one last time.
"Xena." The bard screamed her lover's name as pulse after pulse of orgasm rocked through her body.
The warrior moved to lie beside Gabrielle and pulled her close until she stopped shivering. "I love you so much, Gabrielle." Xena said as she kissed the bard's forehead and then the tip of her nose.
Gabrielle was so over come with emotion, she threw her arms around her warrior's neck and pulled her so close she thought they might pass out from lack of air.
"Are you ok?" Xena asked with concern.
The bard pulled back and locked her emerald eyes with eyes so brilliantly blue, she thought the sky must be jealous. "I'm much more than ok," she told her warrior, "as long as I have you, everything is great."
Xena felt herself melting from the simple words and from the look of complete love and trust in her lover's eyes. She knew that if she ever lost this woman, that her life would end.
Gabrielle recovered quicker than Xena expected she would and was surprised when she was rolled onto her back.
As the bard straddled her stomach and picked up the blanket they had used for cover while sleeping, she asked, "Do you trust me?" while a grin spread across her face.
Xena raised an eyebrow. "Do I have a choice?"
"No." Came the reply. "Give me your wrists."
The warrior held her crossed wrists up for the bard to bind. Gabrielle wrapped the blanket around them and tied it. She knew Xena could remove her arms at any time, but she wanted to see how long her lover would play along. She leaned forward pushing Xena's arms down to the ground above her head.
Xena knew her arms weren't tightly bound and she could release them in the blink of an eye. But the thought of being helpless, at least with Gabrielle, was starting to make her body tingle all over.
Gabrielle ran her tongue along the outline of Xena's lips. The warrior opened her mouth slightly, inviting her in. The bard accepted the invitation, kissing her passionately and letting her tongue explore every inch of her lover's mouth.
The bard had yet to lay a hand on her and she was aching from desire. A low moan escaped Xena's lips as Gabrielle placed her mouth next to her ear and breathed out heavily as she said. "Don't move your arms."
The bard moved down Xena's body and took a nipple, hard with desire, in her mouth. The warrior arched her back and let out a gasp as her lover made long sinuous pulls, sucking the nipple far into her mouth. "Gabrielle," Xena's breath was becoming labored, "that feels so good."
The bard spent another moment there, then moved to the warrior's other breast and lightly took the nipple in her mouth, playfully pulling on it with her teeth.
The warrior felt the heat in her body grow until she thought she would explode. "Gabrielle, please." Xena forced out though clinched teeth.
She kissed the warrior once more before placing a trail of kisses down to where Xena needed her most. The bard spread her lover's legs as she moved between them. Xena's hips froze in the air as Gabrielle placed the tip of her tongue inside the warrior. Xena's breath came in short ragged gasps as the bard teasingly ran her fingers through the warrior's folds.
"Gabrielle you're killing me."
She knew she had pushed Xena far beyond what she had hoped for, even in her wildest dreams. Gabrielle wrapped her arms around her lover's hips, which were now bucking wildly. She replaced her tongue with her fingers and moved her mouth over the warrior's swollen center, sucking hard and held on for the ride.
Xena's body jerked uncontrollably as orgasm after orgasm passed through her body and into her very soul. When she finally could open her eyes, she found Gabrielle next to her cradling her head against the bard's chest. "Xena, speak to me. Are you alright?"
She opened her mouth to speak, but a croak was all that emerged. She cleared her throat and started again. "Yes, I think so." She held on to her love. "That was wonderful, thank you."
Contented to spend the morning holding one another, they stayed in each other's arms and dozed.
Gabrielle woke to find the sun high in the sky and Xena still sleeping. She brushed the hair back that had fallen across the warrior's face while she slept and gently caressed her cheek. Xena opened her eyes, "Morning again."
"Almost afternoon," she replied and kissed her lover deeply.
Xena pulled away first. "Oh no. If we start this again, we won't get to Amphipolis until tomorrow morning."
"And just why would that be a bad thing?" Gabrielle questioned.
Laughing, the warrior got to her feet. Pulling the bard up, she wrapped her arms around her waist and kissed her on the forehead. "Get dressed." Xena said as she playfully slapped Gabrielle on the butt.
Gabrielle finished dressing and went to help Xena with her armor. "What's for breakfast? I'm hungry."
"You always are." Xena stated as she put her arm around the bard's waist and lifted her until their faces were level. With a sparkle in her eyes she added. "For one thing or another."
Gabrielle threw her arms around the warrior's neck. "I thought we needed to get going."
"We do, I just wanted a hug." Xena held the bard a few minutes longer then let her down. "Eat the rest of the nuts if you're hungry. We'll get something to eat when we get there."
Xena saw the guilty look on the bard's face. "You ate all the nuts." It was more of a statement than a question.
"I finished them yesterday. I'm sorry, I got hungry."
Xena said the word hungry at the same time the bard did.
"I'm still a growing girl." Gabrielle stated weakly, trying to find an excuse for the amount of food she seemed to consume.
As Xena was leaving the cave, she turned around to face Gabrielle. "Yeah, growing sideways if you don't watch out."
Gabrielle's reaction was to glance at her stomach.
Xena chuckled as she continued outside to saddle Argo. From inside the cave came, "Xena, that's not funny."
The bard joined Xena beside Argo. "I'm not fat." She glared at the warrior.
"I was joking Gabrielle." Xena didn't need to look at the bard; she knew every inch of her body. "You don't have an ounce of fat on you. And I should know."
They had walked in silence down the path back to the main road leading to the village. As they turned toward Amphipolis, Gabrielle asked. "Walking or riding today?"
Xena had been trying to decide how to explain to Gabrielle that it might sometimes be better if they keep the fact that they were lovers to themselves. "Walking first, we need to talk."
"Ok, what about?" The bard drew her attention away from the scenery and looked sideways at the warrior.
"Those stories you just finished, are they about us?"
"I mean. Are they about us as lovers?" Xena was struggling; she had never been good with words. She always preferred action. And this was the first time since they had met that she was getting one-word answers and questions from the bard.
Gabrielle was starting to get a little nervous. She wasn't sure she liked the direction this conversation was headed. "I didn't write down details but," the bard paused and took a nervous breath. "Yes I wrote how we felt about each other and the fact that we make love."
Gabrielle placed a hand on the warrior's arm and brought them to a stop. "Look at me." As Xena turned to face the bard who was trying to stay composed, the dam burst. "Why are you asking? Don't you want people to know?"
Xena heard the panic in the bard's voice. Xena took Gabrielle's face between her hands. "Gabrielle, if it was up to me I would climb to the top of Mt. Olympus and shout how much I love you at the top of my voice."
Gabrielle saw the deep love Xena had for her in the warrior's eyes. "Then what's wrong?" The panic gone from her voice.
They turned and starting walking again. "There are people that don't approve of this type of relationship. Some places even have laws against it."
Gabrielle had a puzzled look on her face. It had never occurred to her that people would outlaw love. "Why should it matter?"
"It shouldn't. But I should have told you this before now. But since we stayed with the Amazons for so long, helping them to rebuild, after Velasca and Callisto, I just kept putting it off."
"So you're telling me, we have to hide our feelings for each other." Part of Gabrielle was relieved, she had thought Xena wanted to keep their love hidden. Part of her was angry because she shouldn't have to pretend. She wanted everyone to know how much she loved Xena and how happy she was.
"In certain places, hidden would be best. In most places, just no kissing in the street would work." Xena said, trying to lighten the mood. It didn't work.
"Which kind of place is Amphipolis?"
Xena sighed. "Well, it's not against the law. But it's not looked upon favorably. It would probably be best if we didn't say anything."
"What do you think your mother would say? Are you going to tell her?"
"I don't think anything I do could shock my mother at this point. Actually, I think she would approve, she likes you. As far as telling her, I'll think about it." Xena put her arm around the bard's shoulder.
Gabrielle put her arm around Xena's waist. "I was going to ask you if we could stop by Potidaea, I wanted to tell my mother and Lila about us. Now I'm not sure I should. What do you think?"
"I think it's up to you. If you want to tell them, I'll be there with you. But keep in mind, as far as your parents are concerned, I was the reason you left home. They're probably not real fond of me." Xena jumped on Argo's back and extended her arm to Gabrielle. "We ride the rest of the way."
Gabrielle sat behind Xena with her arms wrapped tightly around the warrior's waist. "Xena did you ever notice, before we became lovers, that I started riding more and more with you?"
"Did you ever question it?"
She shrugged. "Not really, I thought you and Argo must have come to an understanding."
"Well we did, kind of. But that's not why."
"And the 'why' is?"
"I just wanted to be close. It gave me an excuse to hold you. I still can't believe you never saw through me and figured it out." She laughed thinking of all the times she had been so scared that Xena might actually discover her secret.
"I guess I was busy trying to hide my own feelings from you. Gods, I can't believe how much time we've wasted." Xena had known she was in love with Gabrielle since before the bard and Perdicas had married. But never considered that Gabrielle might have the same feeling for her.
"Considering that I have a hard time keeping my hands off you, I think we'll probably make up for a lot of it." Gabrielle squeezed her lover tighter and laid her head against her back.
Between the warm spring sun and Argo's steady gait, Gabrielle started to doze. Xena twisted her arm behind her to steady the bard so she wouldn't fall. And when one of Gabrielle's hands slipped from her waist and fell between the warrior's legs, she whistled for Argo to pick up the pace.
They were at the outskirts of the village. "Gabrielle, wake up."
"Gabrielle if you don't wake up and move your hand the whole village will know we're lovers, whether we want them to or not."
By this time, the bard's hand had worked itself under Xena's leather tunic. Gabrielle woke up and realized what her hand was doing and jerked it back to Xena's waist. "Sorry."
"No problem, anytime." Xena was teasing the bard. "Must have been some dream."
Gabrielle could feel her face flush. "Well yes, actually it was."
Xena guided Argo to her mother's tavern and lowered Gabrielle down, then dismounted.
The bard turned to see who had shouted her name. She saw Lila running towards her. Lila closed the distance between them and threw her arms around her sister, twirling her around and around in circles.
"Lila, what are you doing here." Gabrielle broke from the hug and stopped the spinning motion. She was getting dizzy.
"I'm getting married tomorrow." The young woman announced.
Gabrielle stood there with her mouth hanging open. Xena looked at the bard thinking, 'This is the first time I've seen her speechless, with her clothes on that is.' She thought back to the first time that they made love. She had rendered the bard speechless twice that night. 'Better not to think about that right now.' She struggled with herself to control her lustful thoughts.
Gabrielle had found her voice. "Who is he? Are mother and father here? I've got to get something to wear to the wedding. And why wasn't I invited?"
"We sent out messages, but no one could find you. We were beginning to get worried." Lila answered one of her sister's questions.
The bard's mother and father had spotted Gabrielle and ran to join the reunion. "Gabrielle, my baby." Her mother said with glee.
"My little plum puddin'." Her father exclaimed.
Xena choked back a laugh. "Don't even think about it Xena." The bard warned her.
Gabrielle's parents seemed to notice Xena for the first time. Their smiles turned to frowns. The bard noticed this and decided Xena had been right. Her parents blamed the warrior for her leaving home. "Let's all go inside, Xena needs to see her mother."
The warrior led the way in. Her mother was standing at one of the tables with her back to the door. "Not open yet, come back later." She called out without turning around.
"Mother." Xena called to her.
Her mother spun around. "Xena!" She ran to her daughter and put her arms around her. "You're alive my little one."
Xena turned her head to look at Gabrielle. "Don't say it."
"You mean don't say, I told you so? Wouldn't dream of it." She whispered so the warrior was the only one to hear.
"Why did she think Xena was dead?" Lila asked her sister.
Xena's mother answered. "Several people that know I'm her mother came to tell me that they had heard that Xena had been killed." She turned back to face her daughter. "Xena, why would someone start a rumor like that?"
Gabrielle answered as delicately as she could. "Cyrene, it wasn't a rumor, Xena did die."
The group turned as one to look at the bard. Cyrene's legs started to buckle and Xena helped her into a chair. "Xena?" Her mother questioned.
Xena glared at the bard with raised eyebrow. "I'm sure Gabrielle will be glad to explain, later." She turned back to her mother. "Do you have room for us?"
Her mother was still looking back and forth between the warrior and the bard with a totally bewildered expression on her face. She forced herself to concentrate on the question. "Ah, room did you say. I only have one, your old room Xena. Gabrielle's family is staying here and a, what did he call himself." Her mother thought. "Oh yes, a traveling salesman but I forget his name."
"Salmoneus." The bard and the warrior said at the same time.
"Yes that was it." Cyrene said. "Do you two know him?"
At that moment Salmoneus walked into the tavern. "Lunch ready? Xena! I heard a nasty rumor you were dead. Glad to hear it's not true."
Gabrielle grinned at him. "But Salmoneus, it was true."
"Long story Salmoneus." Xena stated before he could question them. "I'll go stable Argo and put our gear in the room." Xena said to Gabrielle as she got up to leave.
The bard watched Xena leave. She had her chance. She had been trying to get Xena to tell her the story of how she and Salmoneus met, but she had kept putting her off. "Salmoneus," Gabrielle called him over. "I want you to do me a favor."
"Sure, anything." He wiped the stunned expression from his face and turned to the bard smiling.
They all sat down at the table by the doorway leading back to the rooms.
"You are going to tell me the story of how you and Xena met."
"Oh no, not me Gabrielle. Xena would have my head. Ask her to tell you." He started to stand, but was stopped by a hand on his.
"I have, and she keeps saying she'll tell me later. Come on Salmoneus, you know she doesn't like to talk about herself. Please, for me?" She looked at him with pleading eyes.
He stared at the bard, his resolve fading. "Ok, but if she finds out you had better tell her you made me."
'Like Gabrielle could make anybody do anything.' Lila thought. 'I use to beat her up.'
Salmoneus started. "It was when she was still a warlord and some of her soldiers caught me trying to sneak past their camp "
Xena had entered though the backdoor. She had come back to ask her mother a question, but when she heard Gabrielle's request to Salmoneus, she hid just inside the entranceway to the rooms. 'This should be good.' Xena thought.
" and when the beast swallowed him they both disappeared." Salmoneus finished.
Xena came out of the shadows and gripped Salmoneus' shoulder, firmly.
"Xena!" Salmoneus said in a voice a least one octave higher than normal. "How long have you been standing there?" He was starting to sweat.
"Long enough." Xena winked and everyone at the table saw it, but Salmoneus.
"She made me tell it." He was pointing at the bard.
Gabrielle was looking very innocent. "Me?"
Salmoneus was very nervous now. Xena had sat down next to him. He tried to slide over but she still held his shoulder. She turned to look at him with her best ice cold warlord stare. He was on the verge of passing out. In fact everyone at the table was getting nervous except for Gabrielle.
"Salmoneus." Xena growled.
"Yes oh great warrioress?" He was wringing his hands at this point, trying to find a way out.
"You left out one very important detail."
"What was that, oh mighty one?" He squeaked out.
"That when my men caught you sneaking by the camp," Xena paused, "you neglected to mention that you were wearing a veil, a wig and a very ugly dress." Xena patted his shoulder and let go.
Gabrielle started laughing and Xena smiled as relief washed across his face.
"Xena, why do you do this to me? I never know when you're joking." He said as he breathed a sigh of relief that the warrior would let him live another day. Not that he thought she would really kill him, but on the other hand, why take chances.
"I know Salmoneus, that's why I do it." Xena replied.
Lila looked at Xena with wide eyes. "You know Hercules?"
"Yes and so does you sister." Xena replied.
"Hey, so do I." Salmoneus stated, feeling left out.
Lila looked at her sister with a little envy and turned the conversation back to her important event. "Gabrielle I want you to meet Manderon and we need to find something for you to wear to the wedding, you can't wear those old things." Lila got up dragging her sister with her.
Gabrielle's parents followed their daughters out the door.
"Salmoneus, don't you have somewhere you need to be. Other than here." Xena stated.
"Oh, right. I guess you two want to catch up. I'll just go I'll ." She was making him nervous again.
"Later Salmoneus." Xena glared at him.
"Why don't I just go." Salmoneus said backing away from the table.
"Are you going to tell me what happened or make me wait?" Her mother asked.
"Gabrielle will tell it much better than I can, mother. Come on, I'll help you in the kitchen."
"Are you telling me you've learned to cook? Two miracles in one day, I don't know how much more I can take." Her mother said with a sly expression on her face.
"Sarcasm doesn't become you, mother. And for your information, Gabrielle eats my cooking."
"And likes it?" Her mother asked.
"I said she eats it, I didn't say she likes it." Xena said laughing.
"So that means I'll be doing the cooking." Cyrene stated.
After the lunch crowd left and before the dinner crowd arrived, Gabrielle related the story of Xena's death and how she came back. She followed with the story of Valasca, Callisto and the lava pit. Then explained about staying at the Amazon village to help rebuild. She left out 'the kiss' and what happened between the two of them while they stayed with the Amazons. She received mixed responses.
Lila to Gabrielle. "You're an Amazon Queen?"
Her parents to Gabrielle. "You were hanging over a lava pit?"
Salmoneus to Xena. "You ate ambrosia! Are you a god? Do you happen to know where there might be more?"
Xena's mother to no one in particular. "Thank the gods!"
"Mother, the gods had nothing to do with it. If you want to thank someone, thank Autolycus, the Amazons and most of all, Gabrielle." Xena explained. "No, Salmoneus, I'm not a god and I wouldn't tell you even if I did know where there was more ambrosia."
By this time, crowds of people began coming in. "It looks like it's going to be busy tonight." Xena's mother said. Word had spread that Xena was back.
Xena had relocated to the corner by the kitchen. She was sitting there with her back against the wall for two reasons. One, she always sat in the far corner away from the door in order to see trouble before trouble could see her. And two, because she wanted to observe the people. She knew most had revised their opinion of her since she had stopped the warlord Draco from destroying the village. But some people's opinions and distrust wouldn't change so easily.
The crowd continued to grow until all tables were occupied. Families, couples and friends sitting together filled the tavern. People carried on conversations, but all eyes were scanning the place, looking for her.
Xena watched all this with mixed emotions. She knew they had spotted Gabrielle sitting with her family, Manderon and his family and Salmoneus. But she knew they wouldn't spot her unless she wanted them to, the shadows were too dark. She watched the people who use to be her friends and neighbors begin to relax as they ate their meals.
Most people had finished their meals and she thought it was as good a time as any to reveal herself and see what the reaction towards her would be. She was about to stand when the door opened and five men she didn't recognize walked in. They were armed with swords and looked filthy. They walked over to a table, who's occupants scrambled to get out of their way, and sat down.
Cyrene walked out of the kitchen and saw the men. She looked to the corner where her daughter was sitting with a worried expression.
The warrior wasn't sure if the worry on her mother's face was because of the men or because of what Xena might do. She decided to observe a while longer.
"Ale, now." The one that seemed to be the leader shouted. His size resembled the side of a barn. He was very tall and muscular. His brown hair was shoulder length and in need of washing. His beard was down to mid chest and looked like he had enough food stuck in it to supply his next meal.
The serving girl filled five mugs and carried them to the table. The leader grabbed the girl around the waist.
"Let her go, Tomblin." Cyrene shouted from behind the bar.
He jerked his head around and stared. "Fine, old woman. We're gettin' tired of playin' with her anyway." He pushed the girl away.
Just then one of Tomblin's men spotted Gabrielle and Lila and pointed them out to his leader. Tomblin walked over to where they were sitting, leaned over between Hecuba and Herodotus, placed his hands on the table and stared at the two women.
"Well looky here boys, two pretty young girls just dyin' to have some fun."
Gabrielle was about to reply when her father jumped up. "Leave my daughters alone."
Tomblin placed a very large and very strong hand on his shoulder and forced him back to his seat with a thud. "Best mind your manners, pop."
Gabrielle grabbed her staff, jumped to her feet and planted the end of it in Tomblin's chest with enough force to make him stagger back a few feet.
"Back off." She warned.
He looked at her with a startled expression that quickly turned to rage. "You just made a big mistake little girl."
Everyone but Tomblin's men, had hastily moved from their tables and back against the walls when Xena appeared from the corner and moved to stand behind Tomblin.
"Not as big of a mistake as you're about to make." Xena stated and smiled and it wasn't friendly looking.
He spun around to see what fool had the gall to speak to him like that. He looked Xena over from top to bottom. Then started to laugh. "Hey boys," he called to his men. "It's a woman and she wants to play soldier."
Xena stood a few feet in front of him with her arms folded across her chest.
Gabrielle used the distraction to move everyone at the table except Salmoneus, he had disappeared when Tomblin had walked over to the table, back against the wall and stood in front of them with her staff ready. She then saw Salmoneus hiding under the table.
Cyrene came around the bar and started toward her daughter. Gabrielle grabbed her and pulled her back behind her.
"It's five against one Gabrielle." She stated with uneasiness.
"I know it's unfair but I'm sure Xena will give them a break and not use her sword." Gabrielle replied.
Tomblin caught his breath. "Woman, you better find some other line of work. You're not goin' to out fight me, I'm as strong as an ox."
"You're twice as strong as an ox, at least in the way you smell." Xena prodded him.
"Oh, I'm goin' to enjoy this." He smiled as he swung his right hand to connect with Xena's jaw. Disbelief crossed his face as she caught his fist in her left hand and stopped its momentum. She heard his men rise from the table and move toward her back. The warrior jumped. She pushed off Tomblin's chest with her left foot, kicked him under his chin with her right foot and flipped backwards over the surprised men, landing on top of the table they had vacated.
Tomblin sailed backwards landing on the table Salmoneus was hiding under. Salmoneus let out a squeak and scampered on hands and knees to hide behind Gabrielle.
Tomblin's men turned to stare at the woman who was now grinning at them with a deadly look in her eyes. They looked at each other hesitating. They weren't sure they wanted to attack someone that could do what she just did to their leader.
Tomblin pushed himself to a sitting position rubbing his chin. "What are you idiots waiting for? Get her."
His men hesitated a moment more, trying to decide if they were more afraid of their leader or this woman. They thought maybe she just took him off guard, after all it was four against one now. They drew their swords and moved in.
Xena back-flipped again and landed on the floor, so the men would have to go around the table to reach her. They split with two men coming from each side. The men on her left reached her first. She backhanded the one in front and sent him flying back into the second man, they both hit the floor.
The man in front on Xena's right raised his sword above his head and swung downward to split her skull.
All the spectators except Gabrielle and Salmoneus let out a collective gasp.
Xena turned to her right and caught the blade of the sword between the palm of her hands and pulled it out of the man's grasp. He stood frozen with his mouth hanging open. The man behind him decided against attack. The other two men had gotten to their feet but weren't making any move to attack either.
Xena had judged these bullies correctly. They weren't fighters. Their leader used his size to intimidate people. She tossed the sword back to the man, or boy he looked very young, she had disarmed. "If you can't use it, don't carry it, you'll end up dead." She advised him.
Tomblin wasn't quite as smart as his men. He started toward the warrior. She jumped and flipped forward landing on his shoulders, his head between her thighs. He looked up just as her fist connected with his face. He hit the floor hard, landing on his back. He opened his eyes to see her standing above him, her left foot on his chest.
The crowd was chanting, "Xena Xena."
He looked at the woman above him. "You're the warrior princess? I heard you were dead."
Xena rolled her eyes. "Is there anyone who hasn't heard?"
To Tomblin she said. "I'm very much alive and if I ever hear about you terrorizing villages again, I'll hunt you down and I won't be as nice as I was tonight. Now get your sorry hide out of my sight before I change my mind and finish you now."
Xena removed her foot and watched Tomblin and his men sprint for the door as the crowd started cheering.
The crowd settled down and returned to their tables. Xena and her mother joined Gabrielle and the others at their table.
"That was amazing." Lila commented to Xena.
"Gabrielle, what do you think you were doing by attacking him? He could have hurt you." Herodotus reprimanded his daughter. He had felt the strength in the bully's hand when Tomblin had forced him back to his seat and had been scared. He was also a bit humiliated by his little girl defending him.
"She can take care of herself." Xena replied to him. "That's an Amazon fighting staff and she does know how to use it."
The bard's father was trying to relieve his embarrassment and fear by turning everyone's attention to the fact that Gabrielle might have been the one hurt. He huffed, but he made no more comments.
Gabrielle was a little annoyed. "I knew Xena was close if it had gotten out of control, father." 'He still thinks of me as his little girl', the bard thought to herself.
Xena saw the dejected look on the bard's face. "Gabrielle?" Xena grinned at her. "You've got a room full of people, a captive audience. I can't believe you're not already telling a story. What are you waiting for, a formal invitation?"
Gabrielle's eyes lit up. "Is it alright?" She asked Cyrene.
Xena's mother smiled and asked the crowd if they wanted to hear a story or two from the bard. The people clapped and cheered.
Gabrielle flashed Xena a thank you look and moved to the fireplace. "Ok folks, who wants to hear the story of how Death was captured by King Sisyphus?"
Xena shook her head. "I can't believe I encouraged her." Xena disappeared from the room. She went to the stables to check on Argo.
She spent time brushing and talking to her companion. She gave Argo her dinner and returned to the tavern.
The bard was just finishing the second story of the night, about the Black Wolf. She chose this one because she knew some of the villagers would remember Flora, Xena's childhood friend. She received applause when she finished and boo's when she said that was enough for tonight. She promised to tell more another night.
The women had grouped together around Lila and her mother was explaining the cleansing ritual that she needed to go through before the wedding was mostly an excuse for the women to get together and gossip. But they all decided that a bath in the hot springs sounded inviting and decided to keep with tradition.
They found Xena had beaten them to the bathhouse and was already soaking in the hot water. As they started to disrobe, Gabrielle noticed Lila standing there still dressed. "Lila, what are you waiting for?" She asked her sister.
"I've never undressed in front of anybody before." She said shyly. "I mean, besides you and mother."
"Lila," her mother said. "There is nothing to be afraid of. You're among friends and family."
"I know, I'm just being silly I guess."
"Well, I'm not waiting any longer." Gabrielle stated. "That water looks too inviting."
She undressed and stepped into the water. "Gabrielle, you're to skinny, you need to eat more." Hecuba scolded her.
Xena cracked up. "Eat more?" The warrior started laughing and had to catch her breath before she could add. "She never stops eating!"
Gabrielle was trying to glare at Xena but found it hard not to laugh also. It was very rare for the warrior to let go like this and she couldn't help but enjoy it even if it was at her own expense.
Lila had taken the opportunity to disrobe while nobody was paying attention and slipped down into the water.
Gabrielle moved to sit by her sister. "Lila I can't believe you are a grown woman and getting married. It seems like it happened overnight."
"You've been gone more than two years, Gabrielle. Tell me what you think of Manderon."
"He's very nice and he's cute. He seems to worship you. Are you going to live here or in Potidaea?"
"Here, mother and father are not real happy about it, but I keep telling them that it's not that far away."
Manderon's mother had been listening to the sister's conversation. She had another son who would be about five years older than Gabrielle. His wife died in childbirth last year and it was time he thought about marriage again. She would have to start playing matchmaker. She could start by putting the two of them together at the wedding. Having them dance together and sit together would be a good start. "Gabrielle, how long are you staying in Amphipolis?"
"I don't know. Xena and I haven't talked about it. We just came back to let her mother know she was ok. She likes to keep moving, not stay in one place too long."
"That must be hard. Traveling from one place to another, not settling down." She was trying to get information. She needed to know how long she had to get her son and Gabrielle together.
"Gabrielle," Hecuba interrupted, "where do you sleep at night and what about food?"
"Last night we slept in the caves just east of here. But mostly we camp wherever we find a good location and Xena usually hunts each night." Gabrielle explained to her mother.
"Gabrielle how can you live like that, it's dangerous, it's unpredictable, it's it's " Her mother was beside herself. She had always assumed that they slept in village inns, like normal travelers.
The bard interrupted. "Calm down mother. I knew when I followed Xena it would be dangerous. When I caught up with her, she told me she was sending me home the next day."
"Why didn't you?" Hecuba addressed the warrior.
Xena explained. "She told me that if I sent her home, she would just leave again. She said she wasn't the little girl that you wanted her to be." She stared at the bard with a sparkle in her eyes.
"And you said, it wasn't easy trying to prove you're a different person." Gabrielle finished. She was not very good at hiding the love she had for the warrior. Her emotions were showing in the expression on her face.
Cyrene could see the bard's face clearly. She would have to talk to her daughter. She wondered if Xena realized that Gabrielle loved her and if she did, how far things had gone between them.
Hecuba thought. 'Of course she's not what we wanted her to be, she hasn't had a chance. She's traipsing all over the countryside, sleeping in caves and hanging over lava pits. This has to change, we have to bring her home.'
"If I stay here much longer I'll resemble a prune." Xena said as she stood and let the water run down her body before stepping from the pool.
The women sitting in the water stared openly at the warrior. Gabrielle stared at her with desire burning in her eyes and had to look away before she reached up, pulled her back down and made a complete fool of herself. Most others thought they looked at what could only be a goddess. The light from the oil lamps illuminated the water cascading from her body and gave the impression of a perfectly sculptured golden statue. Cyrene, on the other hand, noticed the scars that lined her daughter's body. Granted, there wasn't very many, but to a mother it still meant that her baby had been in danger and in pain when she hadn't been around to comfort or care for her.
Xena was dressing when Cyrene excused herself so that she could walk back with her daughter. They had entered the tavern and walked back to the door of the room that the warrior and bard were sharing. "Xena, can I come in for a minute? I want to talk to you before Gabrielle gets back."
The warrior looked at the expression on her mother's face and thought, 'Oh well, we hid our feeling for almost half a day. We're definitely going to have to work on this.' She entered the room and held the door open for her mother.
"I don't know any other way to ask this other than just being direct." She paused and looked at her daughter. "Do you realize that Gabrielle loves you?"
Xena knew exactly what her mother meant but wanted to get a feel for how she would react to the thought of her and the bard being lovers. "Mother, when two people spend as much time together as we do, they either love each other or hate each other."
"Gabrielle is IN love with you, I saw it in her eyes when she looked at you in the bathhouse. I'm not sure how you feel, I don't want her to get hurt, Xena." Her mother said with frustration, Xena was not making this very easy on her.
"So you're asking me if I'm in love with her? Or is it that you just want to know if we're having sex?" Xena was beginning to get a little defensive. She wasn't sure if her mother's irritation was due to Xena's avoiding the issue or because of how Cyrene might feel about the two women being lovers.
The door opened and Gabrielle walked in. She looked from mother to daughter and back. "Am I interrupting?"
"Come in and shut the door." Xena took a deep breath and calmed down. The bard always had a soothing effect on her. "I owe mother some answers and you should be here." Cyrene's annoyance also evaporated as Gabrielle closed the door and sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Yes mother, I know that Gabrielle is in love with me." The warrior stroked the bard's cheek with the backs of her fingers. The bard opened her mouth to say something, but Xena moved her fingers to her lover's lips to stop her.
"And the only way I can answer the second question is to say, that I am so much in love with Gabrielle," Xena spoke with so much devotion and honesty in her voice that no one could doubt her feelings, "that I would die if I lost her."
The bard stood and hugged her warrior tightly. When she pulled away she had tears running down her cheeks. Xena brushed them away with her thumb.
"The answer to your third question is, yes." She stated simply.
"What was the third question?" Gabrielle inquired.
Xena just looked at the bard with an eyebrow raised.
Gabrielle thought for a minute. Then her eyes got a little bigger. "Oh." Was all she said.
"Well mother, are you going to condemn us or congratulate us?"
"I can't condemn two people that are obviously so much in love. And I hesitate to congratulate you either. You're going to run into a lot of opposition and trouble."
The bard starting laughing. "That won't be anything new."
"What I can do is to thank Gabrielle. I haven't seen my little one this happy in a very, very long time." She hugged the bard and her daughter. She opened the door to leave but hesitated. "There is one thing I can warn you about that might help you," she paused, "thin walls!" She winked and shut the door behind her.
They looked at each other. "Is my face as red as yours?" Xena asked the bard.
"Definitely. You know, this is the first time I've ever seen you embarrassed."
"It wouldn't have been if you had ever caught me staring at you while you slept and fantasizing about all the things I wished I could do to you."
"Mmmm, you tell me yours and I'll tell you mine." Gabrielle teased and moved close to the warrior.
"Thin walls and your parents and sister are in the next room. And Salmoneus is across the hall." Xena reminded her.
"If Salmoneus heard anything, he wouldn't dare mention it. He wouldn't want you mad at him. And my father snores so loudly that I doubt my mother would hear anything, much less him. But Lila's bed is against the wall of this room."
"We could take a blanket and go to the stables." Xena suggested.
"I'm not going to be driven out of a perfectly good bed. If she hears us, I'll just explain it to her. She should understand, after all she's in love, too." Gabrielle reasoned.
"You've got a lot of faith in people, Gabrielle. I hope you never have reason to change." She leaned down and kissed the bard.
"Xena we have a room with a bed and a door which means no one can just walk up on us. Why are we still dressed and standing?" Gabrielle asked in a voice husky with desire.
The warrior saw the passion burning in her bard's eyes and couldn't resist the urge to tease. "But Gabrielle, you simply have to tell me all about Lila's fiancé and all about his family. And you simply have to tell me all about the wedding plans."
Gabrielle placed her hands on her hips and stood facing the warrior. "The day you want to hear about someone's fiancé, his family and their wedding plans is the day I'll ask Joxer to marry me."
With each word the bard moved forward forcing the warrior backwards. Xena was trying very hard not to laugh at Gabrielle. She came to a stop as her back made contact with the wall.
The bard knew she was being teased but kept on with her verbal lashing. "And further more, I have been aching to get my hands on you ever since you stood up in the pool. You did that on purpose didn't you? You know what it does to me to see you naked."
"Do I need to remind you, my feisty one, who's hand was where during the ride here today?" Xena countered.
"Oh yeah, I forgot about that. But you didn't have to torture me like that." The bard raised her voice with the last statement.
Lila sat up in bed, she thought she heard arguing from the room Gabrielle and Xena shared. She placed her ear to the wall. "Torture, Gabrielle said something about Xena torturing her." She listened some more.
Gabrielle put her hands around Xena's neck and pulled her down for a kiss. Xena pulled away and whispered. "Patience my love, we've got all night."
The bard ran her hands leisurely up the warrior's thighs and under her tunic. 'We'll see how long patience is going to last.' She thought to herself.
Xena closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall. "Mmmm, that feels nice."
The bard kneeled down and placed a line of kisses along the path her hands had previously traveled, slowly making her way to the warrior's center.
Xena felt her knees grow weak from the feel of her lover's mouth on her. She reached down and pulled Gabrielle back up to her and kissed her passionately. Her hands moved down to undo the laces of the bard's top and pushed it from her shoulders. She knelt down and slid Gabrielle's skirt over her hips and let it fall to the floor also. She gazed up at her lover and caught her breath. "You are so beautiful."
Lila heard voices but couldn't make out the words. "I guess I misunderstood, I'll ask Gabrielle tomorrow." She lay back down to sleep.
"Xena, lose the clothes now." Gabrielle growled, her voice thick with desire.
"Ok, ok." Xena said as she was removing her leather tunic. "I'm working on it."
The bard reached down and grasped the warrior's shift, pulled it over her head and flung it to the side. "Definite improvement." She said as her eyes moved up and down the warrior's body. She licked her lips subconsciously in anticipation of things to come.
Xena placed her arms around the bard's waist and lifted her until their eyes met. She kissed the bard's neck repeatedly before sucking sensuously on a particularly sensitive spot. Gabrielle wrapped her legs around the warrior's waist and moaned. Xena carried her to the bed and lay down on top of the bard. "So much for patience." Xena whispered.
"It's not in the sexually stimulated's vocabulary." Gabrielle replied.
Xena stared down at her lover and wondered for at least the hundredth time why the bard had fallen in love with her. Gabrielle used the momentary lapse to roll the warrior on her back and straddled her stomach. She leaned down and kissed her lover sensually. She broke from the kiss and eased down Xena's body until her mouth was hovering above her breast. She kept her eyes on the warrior's face as she raked her tongue across the already hard nipple. She grinned as her lover's body shivered from the touch. The bard took pleasure in knowing that Xena, who was always in control of any situation, would relinquish complete control of her body to her during their lovemaking. Xena had placed her hands on Gabrielle's head and was running her fingers though her hair as the bard began to circle the nipple with her tongue.
Xena spread her legs apart as the bard placed her knees between them. Gabrielle decided the warrior's other breast was in need of equal time and took it into her mouth. She lowered her hand down between the warrior's legs and started caressing gently with the tips of her fingers. When Xena tried to move her hips so the bard would apply more pressure, Gabrielle would pull back to allow only the barest contact. "Have I told you lately that you're a tease?" Xena inquired of her lover, between gasping for breath.
Gabrielle disengaged her mouth. "I had a very good teacher." She replied grinning.
Xena released the bard's hair, grabbed a pillow and placed it over her mouth to muffle the moans that were now beginning to radiate uncontrolled from her throat, as the bard started circling her tongue lower and lower down the warrior's body. Gabrielle placed two fingers deep inside her lover. Xena raised her hips to take in as much of the bard as she could offer. Gabrielle placed her other hand on the warrior's swollen center and began to massage it as she moved her fingers in and out with increasing speed.
The warrior's moans were becoming loud even through the pillow. Her hips moved faster as the bard increased the speed of their lovemaking. Xena tensed and then began to shudder as each tremor passed through her body.
As the bard felt her lover's body tense she drove her fingers deep one last time and held them until Xena's body collapsed into the bed.
Lila's sleep was a restless one; she had been getting more nervous the closer it got to the wedding. She sat up in bed again thinking she heard sounds from the next room. 'If father would stop snoring I might be able to hear what's going on in there.'
The bard straddled her lover's stomach and lifted the pillow covering her face. "Xena?" The warrior's eyes were closed and her breathing was rapid. She opened her eyes. "Good teacher huh? Well let's just see if the teacher can still teach the student a lesson or two."
"Uh oh." Was the only response the bard could utter as she was flipped on her back and the warrior covered her mouth with a long lingering kiss. Grinning wickedly Xena held the bard's wrists and pinned her arms by her sides. "Xena, what are you going to do to me?" Gabrielle's breath was already coming quickly with anticipation.
The warrior ignored the question while she repeatedly flicked her tongue over one nipple and then the other. She inched down the bard's body depositing a trail of kisses. With her body between the bard's legs she very lightly kissed her lover's center. Gabrielle raised her hips but Xena pulled her mouth away. "Oh no, love, it's not going to be that easy." Xena grinned wickedly. She turned her attention to Gabrielle's inner thighs. She ran her tongue up one and down the other. She started back up her thigh with kisses, massaging the skin with her lips and tongue. She paused at the bard's center and ran her tongue around Gabrielle's opening.
"Oh Xena please!" The bard was panting hard. The warrior chuckled sending a wave of breath over a very deprived area. The bard groaned as the warrior started kissing her way down the other thigh. "You win I can't take it Xena I need you pleassse." She forced out.
Xena released her wrists and placed one hand on the bard's hip and the other on her silky mound. She massaged Gabrielle's swollen center with her thumb and plunged her tongue deep inside her lover. She increased the speed of her thumb as she sensed the impending climax. The bard had thrown her hands above her head and grasped the bed frame. When the orgasm over took her she yelled out, "Oh Gods Xena!" She couldn't have stopped herself if her life depended on it.
The warrior moved up and propped on her elbows hovering over Gabrielle. The bard looked up into her lover's eyes. "You are very, very bad, my warrior with many skills." She pulled Xena down and kissed her, tasting herself on the warrior's tongue.
Lila overheard a few of the words her sister uttered. "That's it, if she's hurting Gabrielle I have to help her." She jumped out of bed and ran to her sister's defense. She burst into the room. "Leave her alone." She stopped halfway to the bed; her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open. She was staring at two intertwined naked bodies.
Xena was the first to recover from the surprise. "Damn." She muttered under her breath as she vaulted off the end of the bed and closed the door that Lila had left standing open. She stood in front of it in case the young woman tried to bolt from the room.
Gabrielle reacted next by jumping up and grabbing a robe. She threw it around her shoulders and maneuvered her sister, who seemed to be in shock to the bed and sat her down.
Lila looked at her sister and then at Xena and back to her sister. "Gabrielle, what's going on? I overheard you say torture and I can't take it and you were pleading with her. I thought she was hurting you." The poor girl seemed to be very confused.
"Lila, Xena wasn't hurting me. She would never do that. We're in love." Gabrielle had knelt down in front of her sister and was holding her hands in hers.
"You mean the two of you were," she stammered. "No Gabrielle you couldn't you wouldn't." She jerked her hands away and started moving back from her sister.
Xena had put on a robe and moved to stand by the bard. "Lila calm down and listen to your sister."
Lila jerked her head up to stare at the warrior. "No, get away from me." She kept moving back. "You forced her didn't you! She never would have done this unless you forced yourself on her!" She accused Xena.
"Lila I'm guilty of a lot of things, but forcing someone against their will is not one of them." Xena responded. Her voice was low and compelling, commanding the young woman to relax.
She looked back at her sister. "Why, Gabrielle?" Lila had stopped moving away from them.
The bard sat on the bed and moved close to her sister. "Because I love Xena with all my heart. When she died I wanted to hate her for leaving me, but the truth was I hated myself for not telling her how I felt when I had the chance. And when she came back, I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice."
"But we were taught that we grow up, fall in love, get married, have families "
"Lila," the bard interrupted. "You fall in love with your heart not with your head. I never thought about another woman this way until Xena and I never knew that two women could be intimate until I met the Amazons."
The sincerity in her sister's voice made Lila look up at the warrior and ask, "Do you love my sister?"
Xena knelt down so she could look Lila in the eye. "I love her with all my heart and I'd die without her." Xena looked at her lover and caressed her cheek with her fingertips. Gabrielle placed her hand over Xena's and tenderly kissed the warrior's palm.
Lila was beginning to wonder if they had forgotten she was in the room. She cleared her throat. "So, what are you going to tell mother and father?" She relaxed a little more.
"I don't know if I'm going to tell them anything, I think they blame Xena for me leaving home."
"They do. And there's something else you need to know. They were talking tonight about taking you back home with them."
"What!" They both responded at the same time.
"They said it was time you quit running around the countryside. That it was too dangerous. And you just needed a good man to settle down with. Oh boy, are they in for a surprise." Lila decided that if Gabrielle and Xena loved each other, it wasn't up to her to say it was wrong. "If you do tell them, can I be there?"
"Lila." Gabrielle glared at her grinning sister. "What am I going to do?" She asked the warrior.
Xena moved to sit beside the bard. "Gabrielle you're an adult, tell them you don't want to go home."
"It's not that simple. When I'm around my parents, they make me feel like a little kid. I don't guess we could just kind of sneak off?" She looked at the expression on the warrior's face. "I guess that would be a no." She laid her head back against Xena shoulder.
"Maybe we're over reacting, maybe they'll understand." Xena commented but not really holding out much hope.
"Don't count on it, they really, really don't like you." Lila said to Xena.
"Yeah, I kind'a get that impression." Xena stated.
"Don't worry about it, I like you enough for all three of us." Gabrielle said as she pulled the warrior down for a short kiss.
Lila blushed a little at the open display of affection. "Can I ask a question?" She said tentatively.
They turned they're attention back to her. "Sure." Her sister responded.
"You mean how did we know we loved each other?" Gabrielle asked for clarification.
"No. I mean how do two women, you know?"
"Lila!" Gabrielle started blushing. "Go to bed." She added as an afterthought when she heard the warrior chuckling.
"She's as inquisitive as you are my little bard, must run in the family." Xena grinned at the bright red face of her lover. "Now, where were we?" She moved towards her lover when Lila closed the door behind her.
Xena woke before the bard, as usual. It was just after sunrise and she decided to let her sleep a while longer, since the wedding was not until mid-day. She untangled herself from Gabrielle and got out of bed. She dressed in her leather tunic and decided to leave her armor and weapons in the room.
Lila was sitting with her parents eating breakfast when she saw Xena enter the main room. "Morning Xena. Didn't you sleep well? You look a little tired." She was turned away from her parents and had a wicked grin on her face.
"You know, I am a little tired and I just don't understand it. I should have slept like a baby since Gabrielle made sure I got plenty of exercise. Your sister always makes sure I stay in top condition." She turned toward the kitchen when she saw the girl's jaw drop. 'Serves her right, tease me will she. I wonder how upset Gabrielle would be if I decapitated her sister?' She fought the urge as she entered the kitchen. Behind her she heard the bard's father, "Lila don't encourage her, she might want to join us."
"Xena? We we were told you were dead." Her brother gave his little sister a hug. "I'm very glad to see it's not true."
'Here we go again.' Xena thought as she returned the hug. "But Toris, it was true!" Xena was his little sister in age only. Their height was even. But he had never been able to match her in strength or beat her in their play fights when they were kids. His hair was shoulder length and not as dark as his sister's. But anyone could tell they were related simply by looking into their eyes.
"Well, I see you found Toris." Cyrene said as she walked in on the reunion.
"Why didn't you tell me he was here?" She asked her mother.
"I knew it had been over a year since you two had seen each other." Her mother answered. "He left yesterday morning to hunt, I wanted to be sure we had enough for the wedding feast, and I thought it would be a nice surprise for both of you."
He regained his composure. "Wait, back up. What do you mean it was true?"
Xena laughed. "Mother knows the story, she can fill you in."
"Mother, explain." He looked to Cyrene.
"Later Toris. It's enough for right now to see that your sister is alive and well."
"How long will you be here?" She asked her brother.
"I'm living here now. Have been here ever since we dethroned Cortese. I've been helping mother and I've got a little land outside the village. I've been clearing it, I thought I might stick around and try a little farming."
Xena and Toris walked out of the kitchen about the same time Gabrielle entered the main room. Toris saw her and his eyes got wide. Xena saw the expression on her brother's face. 'Last time he saw her, he called her a kid. I think kid is the last thing on his mind now. I'll have to warn her.'
"Toris." Gabrielle gave him a hug. "It's good to see you again."
"You too." He returned the hug with a dreamy look on his face.
This did not go unnoticed by his sister. 'Yep, definitely need to warn her.'
Cyrene brought breakfast for Xena, Toris and Gabrielle. The group joined Lila's table to eat. "Gabrielle tell us another story, please." Her sister begged.
"We don't have time, Lila. You need to start getting ready." Hecuba said before the bard could start. She didn't know if she could take anymore stories of her daughter in danger.
"We have plenty of time, mother." Lila protested. "Besides, it will help calm my nerves. You got any stories about Hercules?" She asked her sister hopefully.
"Let me see. Well there's the one about " The bard started.
She was interrupted by the warrior. "If you tell the one about Prometheus again I'll " She let the statement trail off.
"Ok, ok don't have a cow." The bard replied. "I'll tell the one about Hercules and the Golden Hind." She stated as she patted the warrior's hand, stopping the drumming of fingers on the tabletop.
A groan escaped the warrior's mouth. She got up from the table. "I forgot to feed Argo."
"You haven't finished your breakfast yet." Her mother said.
"Gabrielle will eat it." She said confidently and pushed the plate toward the bard and headed for the stables.
Salmoneus had entered as Xena was leaving. "Good morning everybody." He took the warrior's vacated spot. "Xena not eating? I'll finish this for her. Wouldn't want it to go to waste. Don't let me stop you Gabrielle, I haven't heard this one either."
The bard started the story between bites, taken from her own plate. "Well the first part is from Iolaus' point of view." Everyone held his or her comments and questions until the bard was done.
"What a sad story." Lila said. Their parents looked at each other with the same thought going though their minds. 'Our baby has to be rescued.'
"Xena ought to know better than to take on the God of War." Toris commented. He was irate that his sister would willingly provoke of the gods. "She must be out of her mind."
"He usually doesn't give her much choice, Toris." As soon as it came out of her mouth, the bard knew she had made a mistake.
"What do you mean Gabrielle?" Cyrene asked. "Has she had other encounters with him before?"
"Well, a few. But she has always been able to handle them." 'Xena is going to kill me. I guess I better warn her that her mother will want some answers.' "I need to ask Xena something, I'll be back in a minute." She quickly stood and hurried to the stables.
Xena was brushing Argo when the bard entered. She walked up behind her lover and put her arms around her waist. She never would have done this a few months ago for fear of having parts of her body broken from Xena's quick reflex to strike out at someone coming at her from behind. But now they were so connected to each other she knew the warrior would know who it was. "Morning, you should have woke me before you left the room."
Xena turned around and kissed the bard. "Morning to you, too. You needed the sleep, it's going to be a long day."
"Your mother's going to be asking you questions about Ares." The bard bit her lip at the raised eyebrow and explained her slip.
"Thanks, Gabrielle." Xena tilted her lover's face until the bard was looking the warrior in the eye. "Oh well, I guess she would have found out sooner or later." She couldn't stay mad, even-though explaining Ares to her mother wasn't high on her list of enjoyable actives. "By the way, I have something that should make your day interesting too."
"What?" The bard asked, wary of the mischievous look on Xena's face.
"I do believe, my little bard, that my brother has fallen for you." She chuckled at the bewilderment on Gabrielle's face.
"Please tell me you're joking. I don't need this. I have my parents to deal with." She pleaded. She turned and walked away a few steps running her hands though her hair. She turned back toward the warrior who had one arm around Argo's neck and was grinning from ear to ear. "You think this is funny don't you?"
"I'll get you for this. It may take awhile, but I'll get you." Gabrielle replied with hands on hips.
"Hey, it's not my fault." She grabbed the bard around the waist. "Besides, he's got excellent taste. Just like his sister." She grinned at the rib-breaking hug she received.
As Gabrielle left the tavern, Hecuba noticed Toris watching her daughter. 'Interesting possibilities.'
Toris was grilling Lila about Gabrielle. And she was hard pressed not to start laughing. She knew he was interested in her sister. She decided that this might be a very good way to have some fun with her sibling.
Salmoneus had left to go 'peddle his wares' by the time the warrior and bard returned. "Xena, kitchen." Her mother said. Xena gave Gabrielle a 'we'll see who gets even with who' look as she followed her mother and brother.
The bard and her sister started back to their respective rooms with their parents following. "Gabrielle," her father stopped his daughter. "We want to talk with you." She followed them into their room.
Back in the kitchen. "Xena, I know Gabrielle told you what she said about Ares. I want to know what's going on and I want the truth." Cyrene leaned back against the table and folded her arms across her chest.
Xena remembered that look and that stance. It meant her mother was not in the mood to be put off. Xena wasn't about to tell her mother the whole truth, but she knew she would have to tell her enough of it to satisfy her. "It seems that Ares was a tad bit pissed off at me when I decided to start helping people instead of conquering them. So every once in a while he tries to trick me into, as he puts it, coming back to him. It hasn't worked."
"Let me get this straight, the God of War is a tad bit pissed off at you and you're not worried?" Her brother had raised his voice continuously with each word.
"There's not a damn thing I can do about it, why worry." She countered as she moved toward him, there faces just inches apart.
"Stop it both of you." Cyrene commanded. "Xena watch your language. Toris your sister is right. I'm sure that if she could stop him she would. But we're talking about a god and no one can make them do anything they don't want to do." She knew her daughter was not telling her everything and the more she thought about it, the surer she was that it was something she wouldn't want to hear.
Toris wasn't done. "What about Gabrielle, Xena? What if she gets caught in the middle?" He said accusingly.
Xena snapped. She grabbed her brother by his tunic and pushed him roughly against the wall. "If you are implying that I would let him hurt Gabrielle," her brother's feet were now dangling off the floor and he was trying to break his sister's hold, "you better think again. I would die to protect her from him or anyone else." Her mother had grabbed one of Xena's arms trying to pull her away from Toris. She held him a moment more, then dropped him to his feet. She turned and left the kitchen without another word.
The bard sat in a chair in the room her parents and sister shared. Her father paced from the door to the window and back. "We're taking you back home with us. You can't be chasing all over the place with HER! It's time you settled down and started thinking about a family."
Gabrielle was furious. She stood and waited for her father to pace back toward her. "If you think you can make me go home you better think again. I'm a grown woman father. And her name is Xena; I'll thank you to remember that. And furthermore, Xena is family, a big part of my family." She stormed back to her room. She was leaning against the door willing herself to calm down when she noticed Xena's armor and weapons were gone. She ran to the stables and found Argo gone. She headed to the kitchen and found Cyrene and Toris sitting at the table. "What happened?"
Cyrene explained what had happened. "By the gods, Toris, that was really stupid." The bard glared at him.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle, but I was concerned about you." He tried to explain.
Gabrielle placed her hand on his shoulder. "Thank you for caring. But Toris, Xena has risked her life more times than I care to remember to save me. And it's usually been because of something I did to get into trouble. Not because of her."
"That's not entirely true Gabrielle. I've put you in danger plenty of times." Xena had ridden only a short distance outside the village when she realized two things. First, she needed to apologize to her brother. She had let her temper get the best of her. And second, she shouldn't have left without telling Gabrielle. She knew the bard would worry if she found her gone. "I'm sorry Toris, I care about Gabrielle a great deal. And what you said mirrored my own fears."
"I'm sorry, too. I should have known you wouldn't let anything happen to her if there was any way to prevent it."
Cyrene grinned. "I've got food to finish preparing and I can't do it with you two under foot. Besides, Gabrielle needs to get ready for the wedding. Toris will you bring in more wood?" She chased them from the kitchen.
The bard filled the warrior in on what had happened with her father. "I'm proud of you for standing up for yourself and for me, too. Do you think that will be the end of it?" They entered their room, closing the door behind them.
"Don't bet on it, Xena." She looked at her lover. "I really need you to hold me for a little while."
Xena took the bard in her arms and held her tightly. "I love you, Gabrielle."
"I love you too, Xena, more than anything or anyone else. More than I could ever put into words."
They stayed in each other's arms for a while longer. "Gabrielle, you're going to be late if you don't start getting ready. And I promised mother I would help her prepare for the feast." She saw the look on the bard's face concerning the last part of her statement. "Not the cooking." She added as she left Gabrielle to dress.
Xena stopped before she entered the kitchen when she heard Hecuba and Toris talking. "Cyrene is very happy that you have come back home and settled down."
"Yes, it's about time I helped out around here. Xena and I never took an interest in this place when we were growing up." He explained.
"I wish some of your taking responsibility and settling down would rub off on my oldest. She seems to like you, Toris, maybe if the two of you spent some time together, oh but I wouldn't want to impose on you."
"It would be my pleasure, no imposition at all." He was pleased with the fact that Gabrielle's mother seemed to like him.
"Oh, she's good, very good." Xena said under her breath as she entered the kitchen. "Where's mother?"
"She went to the market. She was out of herbs or something." Toris answered.
"Well, I'll go check on my two girls and see if they're ready." The older woman excused herself.
"Gabrielle's family doesn't like you very much, do they?" Toris asked her.
"Astute observation brother dear. Did you ever consider becoming a profit? She asked sarcastically.
"Very funny." He continued chopping vegetables. "Why don't you give me a hand and take your aggressions out on those carrots."
"Mother, go help Lila, I've been dressing myself for quite a few years now." Gabrielle shooed her mother out. She had bought this dress because of the color, blue to match Xena's eyes. And because it was long enough to cover most of her boots, which was the only footwear she had. She would have preferred something not quite as tight, but it did show off her figure rather nicely. And she liked the lace around the neck and wrists. She left the room and headed for the kitchen, she knew Xena's reaction would tell her if she had chosen correctly.
Xena stopped in mid chop. "Gabrielle, you look beautiful."
Toris turned at the mention of her name. "Ouch!"
"Toris, you've cut your hand. Let me take a look at it." Gabrielle offered.
"I'll do it Gabrielle, you'll get blood on your dress." Xena said placing a cloth on her brother's hand and pulling him away from the table. "It's not too deep." She said after examining the wound. "But I'll put a stitch or two in, so it will heal faster." She left to get her kit.
"Gabrielle, Xena's right, you look very beautiful." He sighed.
She noticed the affectionate way he was staring at her. "Thank you Toris, sorry about the hand. I, um, guess I must have startled you when I came in." The bard replied. 'Gods, does she always have to be right?'
Before Toris could tell the bard that her beauty was the reason for his lack of concentration, Xena came back with her supplies. "They're ready to start the procession to the temple, Gabrielle."
She hesitated briefly she had wanted to ask Xena to go with her, but she knew better. 'Xena probably wouldn't show up for her own wedding.' She thought as she turned to go. 'I might have to test that theory one of these days.'
Cyrene entered the kitchen. "What happened?"
"He cut himself chopping potatoes. It's a good thing he only had a knife, if it had been a sword he would have cut his hand off."
"You're full of it today aren't you sis." He replied.
To Toris she said. "Hold still." To her mother she said. "Why don't you go to the wedding, I know Gabrielle would like you to be there. And we can finish up here."
"Well if you're sure. I would like to go." She looked from daughter to son, trying to decide if the two of them could be trusted not to kill each other if left alone all afternoon.
"We're sure mother." They both replied.
Xena knew she had to talk to her brother about Gabrielle. But she didn't want to tell him about the two of them yet, since she wasn't sure what his reaction would be. They were about done in the kitchen and she knew it wouldn't be long before the wedding ceremony would be over. "Toris can I ask you something?"
He came back to the table and sat down when he saw the serious expression on her face. "Sure, what?"
"How do you feel about Gabrielle?"
He took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair. "To be honest, I think I'm falling in love. I know that must surprise you, but that's how I feel."
'Surprise is an understatement.' Xena thought to herself. "Toris, you do know she was married to Perdicas and what happened, right?"
He broke in before she could continue. "Yes I know. I also know that you're going to say that she's not ready to make another commitment yet. But why don't we let Gabrielle decide for herself. Maybe she is ready if the right person comes along." He was tired of his sister always thinking she knew best.
Xena opened her mouth to reply when she heard people entering the tavern. Toris went out to meet them. The warrior crossed her arms on the table and laid her head down on them. "Damn, damn, damn! How do I tell him she has already decided I'm the right person."
Cyrene stuck her head in the doorway to ask her daughter if she was going to join the party. Instead she was confronted with a very grim expression and asked. "What's wrong?"
Xena told her mother what Toris had said. "Oops."
"Oops, that's all you've got to say." She stared at her mother.
"You and Gabrielle need to explain the situation to him before his feelings get any stronger. He deserves to know that he doesn't have a chance." Her mother explained.
"I'm beginning to think Gabrielle's idea about sneaking off in the middle of the night was a good one." The warrior mumbled.
"Xena." Cyrene scolded.
"I didn't say I was going to, I just said I thought it was a good idea." They left the kitchen to join the celebration.
Xena spotted the bard and her brother by the fireplace. She was holding his injured hand and seemed to be examining the bandage. 'He's playing on her sympathy.' She started walking towards them then changed her mind and sat down at a corner table. 'Xena old girl, jealousy is not a good thing.' She was still watching them when Manderon's mother walked up to the bard with a young man in tow. She chuckled to herself. 'This is going to be a very long day.'