Disclaimers: Not so much mine, but I don’t mean any infringement. Just havin’ a little fun with Taper’s creations.
Sex: Whoa, yeah.
Note: This is a classic X/G, “first time” story. I haven’t written one in many, many moons, and decided to give it a go. Enjoy.
Note 2: What if Gabrielle did indeed marry Perdicus, but Callisto didn’t kill him? This story begins two years after the marriage.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com.
Come visit me at www.officialaspfilms.com or my publisher at: www.pdpublishing.com.
The day had been a long one, and Gabrielle was sore. She had helped her husband fix their wagon, as the wheel had come loose yet again. She stared at her palm, lamenting the family of splinters that were buried in the flesh.
“Ouch,” Perdicus said, standing behind her and looking over her shoulder. “Want me to-“
“No!” Gabrielle said, immediately regretting her tone. She stepped away from her husband and turned to look up into his dark eyes. “No, thank you. I can get it. Why don’t you get Dorius hooked up so you can get to town before nightfall.”
Perdicus studied her for a moment, then nodded before doing as suggested. Gabrielle watched him go, noting the slight slump in his shoulders. He had asked her to go with him that morning, when he’d told her he was heading out. He wanted to do their shopping for supplies, then get a nice meal and maybe take in the show from a traveling bard in honor of, what he called their real anniversary. Gabrielle had balked at the idea of spending an entire day with him, which made her curse at herself in guilt.
The main reason she didn’t want to- though hated to admit it to herself- was because it was on the anniversary that she had first met Xena. She and Perdicus had married in that random temple with Xena and Joxer as witnesses, but when Perdicus and his new bride had arrived back in Potedaia, he had insisted on another ceremony with both their families in attendance. It hadn’t been lost on her that the day he picked was the very same day- two years later- that Xena had first entered her life.
Though Gabrielle didn’t feel that Perdicus was a spiteful man, he was a man all the same, and more often than not, their pride got in the way. He had lost Gabrielle that day, and he was making his claim on his belief that he’d gotten her back. What Perdicus and her father would never understand was that Xena had given Gabrielle an identity that was all her own, and wasn’t reliant on a man. Or anyone else.
Gabrielle turned to face the small home she shared with Perdicus- one bedroom, a small multi-purpose room, and joint kitchen and living space. She had made it as cozy as she could, but ultimately the life of a farmer was not one enriched by many comforts. Ironically, it reminded the bard of her life on the road with Xena- using what they could find, a few denars to buy something special now and then.
The blonde plopped down in a chair at the rugged kitchen table- a gift from an overjoyed Herodotus that his eldest had finally done the right thing and married. Gabrielle closed her eyes, burying her head in her hands. She hadn’t allowed herself to think of Xena, nor their life together, for more than a year. Not since she gave up hope of the warrior ever coming to see her. Where was she? Gabrielle had listened to the stories of anyone coming into town, praying to all gods that Xena hadn’t been hurt or… She couldn’t allow herself to think the worse. It had to be a matter of Xena had been glad to rid herself of the bard. It was the only explanation.
Gabrielle lifted her head, surprised to feel wetness on her cheeks. She quickly wiped it away, then sighed. Never had she felt so lonely. Her sister, Lila, had been sent to a neighboring village to stay with a cousin. Their father had his eye on a young lad named Lester for Lila to marry. Gabrielle knew Herodotus wasn’t taking any chances with his youngest. She would marry and do what was proper, come hell or high water.
Lila had always been somewhat of an ally to Gabrielle. They had stuck together against their hard, overbearing father, and weak mother. They had been close- sisters and friends. The bard’s only regrets over leaving the way she had had been leaving Lila. Now, through no choice of her own, Lila had abandoned her. Hecuba, Gabrielle’s mother, was no company, that’s for sure. When her husband allowed her to leave the family home and visit her daughter, all the older blonde could talk about was wifely duties, and wanting to teach Gabrielle how to cook, weave, or otherwise please her husband.
Gabrielle fought her tears. She had gotten herself into her situation, and one thing she’d learned from Xena was to stay focused, and stand your course. She was not a quitter, no matter what the consequences.
The sky was turning dark, the moon and stars visible. Xena turned back to her fire, sitting alone on the fallen log she’d drug over to her camp. Staring into the flames, she watched as they leapt and danced, seeming merry in the quiet night. The warrior snapped the twig that she’d been twisting in her fingers, throwing the pieces into the flame, watching with satisfaction as they popped into sparks.
She grabbed for her sword, which rested on the log next to her, but changed her mind. The whetstone sat on the ground between her booted feet. Reaching for the dinner of near-burnt rabbit didn’t sound good, either. She was restless. She thought about packing up camp and moving out, maybe finding some unlucky party of bandits and beat them to a pulp just for kicks. The only thing that stopped that train of thought was glancing over at her trusty mare, Argo, and seeing how tired the horse was. She’d pushed her hard over the past few days, wanting to get into the valley on time. Tomorrow she’d finally reach Amphipolis. Her mother would kill her if she were late.
With yet anther sigh, Xena decided to try and sleep. She was exhausted, and her head still hurt from the beating she’d taken earlier in the day when she’d rescued a young couple who had fallen into the river. The woman had been so panicked that she’d nailed the warrior right between the eyes with her flailing arms.
After less than a quarter candle mark, Xena lay on her bedroll, her arms resting beneath her head. She stared up into the night sky, wondering if she could count all the stars she saw. She couldn’t keep the smile at bay as she remembered the game her and her bard used to play- finding pictures in the stars and the clouds. The smile slid off Xena’s face, leaving only a scowl in its place. Gabrielle wasn’t ‘her’ bard anymore. Now she was Perdicus’. That thought hurt her as much lying there as it had two years before, when in the middle of a fight with Callisto’s men, Gabrielle had announced that she was going to marry the farm boy turned warrior.
Xena turned to her side, making sure her weapons were close at hand, then allowed her thoughts to drift some more. Her whole life she’d been a loner, enjoying her own company, brooding in her solo thoughts. Even during her warring days, she was surrounded by hundreds- sometimes thousands- of her own men, and yet was still alone. Even so, she’d never been lonely. Now, she felt like crying. Gabrielle had shown her that it was okay to be part of something, to count on someone else, and let them count on you. She taught her what it was like to be a human being again. She taught her what it was like to be a friend.
Xena knew where her thoughts were headed, where they’d been headed every day for the past two years. She had to stop it or she would go find something, or someone to kill. With a heavy sigh, the warrior closed her eyes.
Cyrene’s Inn was as it had always been as Xena walked to the front door. She had stabled Argo and made sure her beloved horse had a thorough rubdown and a few apples to reward the mare. A few townsfolk had nodded greeted to the tall warrior as she neared the inn, but none said a word to her. Xena felt the Amphipolisians were still uncertain of their wayward daughter, no matter how much Cyrene seemed to have forgiven Xena, and welcomed her back into the fold. The town had seen more of Xena in the past two years than it had in the ten before it.
The inn was already jumping, and the older brunette was busy, loaded down with trays and mugs of ale in an impressive show of balance and service. Xena quickly made her way to the kitchen, dropping off her saddlebags and jumping in to help. The first time Xena had shown up at the inn, not long after Gabrielle’s wedding, the patrons had been stunned that Xena: Warrior Princess, was serving them their bowls of hearty stew and chunks of homemade bread. By the end of the month that Xena had stayed, she was just one of them again. That is, until the next time she visited, where she had to start all over again earning their trust.
Once everything was caught up, all served and eating happily, Cyrene turned to her daughter. “Xena!” she took her in a tight hug before releasing her to look up into the beautiful face. She could see in her daughter’s eyes, so much like her own, that the warrior was tortured. “Come. Let’s get you something to eat and talk.”
Obediently, Xena followed the shorter woman back to the kitchen and took a seat on the stool by the chopping counter. She watched her mother as she set about filling a bowl with the steaming, wonderful smelling stew, and a mug of good ale.
“Eat,” Cyrene ordered, leaving no room for discussion. She sat with a heavy sigh, watching her daughter for a moment before speaking her mind. “You haven’t gone to see her, have you?”
Xena glanced up, mid-bite. “Who?”
Cyrene smiled softly. “You know full well ‘who’. You didn’t, did you?”
Xena sighed, dropping the spoon back into the wooden bowl and pushing it away from her. “She’s married now, Mom. I can’t go interrupting her life again.”
“Says me!” Xena said, allowing her anger at herself and at the situation to be directed at the woman sitting next to her. Cyrene’s motherly glare stopped her in her tracks. She muttered an apology. “She deserves the right to be happy. To have Perdicus,” it took everything in her to not spit out the name, “and a family. I don’t know that it was always so good for her being with me.” She stared into the dark liquid in her mug before taking a long drink.
“Xena,” Cyrene waited until she had her daughter’s full attention. Looking into those troubled blue eyes, she continued. “You’ve come for my birthday, right?” she asked. Xena blinked at the sudden change in topic, but nodded. “I want you to bring her to my party. To have my two girls under the same roof, that’s all I want for my birthday.”
Xena stared at her, incredulous. “You want me to go get Gabrielle, who I haven’t seen in two years, for a birthday part?”
“Yes,” Cyrene said simply.
“Aw, Mom!” Xena whined. “Couldn’t you have sent a messenger pigeon or somethin’?”
Cyrene shook her head stubbornly. “Nope. I want you to bring her here. No arguments.”
Gabrielle counted the denars she had left, using the tip of her finger to count the coins in her palm. Satisfied she’d gotten good deals that day, she tucked the money back into the leather pouch, then tucked it back down her blouse, making sure no one was watching. Hugging her basket of goods to her chest with one arm, and taking her staff in the other hand, she began the long trek back home. She wished that Perdicus would break down and finally buy either a new wagon or a second horse. Yet again, the old piece of firewood was out of commission, so Gabrielle had to walk into town.
Xena was finally on the road that would lead to Perdicus’ farm. It had taken all her willpower to be nice as she’d had to hear all about the lovely young couple, and how happy they seemed to be, from the townsfolk she’d gotten directions from. She had wanted to gut each and every one of them.
Argo galloped along, Xena’s eyes everywhere and nowhere as she allowed her brain to wander. She felt her mother had sent her on a fool’s errand, and the warrior wasn’t sure who she was more angry at. So many times she had roamed to this part of the country, intent on seeing her friend, if even from afar. Once she’d even breached the woods surrounding the northern edge of the town. Though she didn’t want to admit it, in the end it had hurt too much. Xena had packed up and rode as hard and fast away as she could, never to come back.
As Xena got closer to the home where the bard now lived, with her husband no less, a million images flashed before her eyes. What would she see? Would she see a happy, loving couple? Would she see the love and desire burning in those incredible green eyes? Aimed at Perdicus, and not her, of course. Xena wanted to throw up and curse her mother all in one motion.
The warrior was nearly ripped from her thoughts when Argo whinnied softly, bobbing her large head, trying to get her mistress’ attention.
“What is it, girl?” Xena asked, softly rubbing Argo’s golden neck. Glancing further up the road, Xena’s breath caught in her chest. The familiar figure walked along, staff tapping a beat in the dirt with every step she took. “Guess this is it, huh?” Xena murmured to the horse, who had spotted their target first. Xena got Argo moving, stopping her short a small distance behind the blonde. Xena dismounted and led Argo with her.
Gabrielle felt the hairs at the back of her neck flare, a prickly sensation running up and down her spine. She knew she was being followed, and tried to decide what to do: drop the basket and confront them with the staff? Pretend she didn’t hear them and keep walking? Take a detour? Her thoughts were shattered by a voice that nearly pierced her heart.
The bard stopped, her lungs burning from the held breath. Slowly she turned. Xena walked up to her, Argo in tow. Wide green eyes took in the warrior, who looked much thinner than the Xena she had traveled with for two years. The golden mare whinnied, bobbing her head again, almost as if in greeting. The smile that brushed Gabrielle’s lips was brief and disappeared altogether when her eyes once again landed on Xena.
Xena felt nervous as Gabrielle said nothing. Gone were the fantasy reunions she’d had so often over the years. The bard did not run into her arms, crying her happiness to see the warrior. Gabrielle did not profess her undying love as she begged Xena to take her away, and never leave her. Absent was a single smile. “Can I help you?” Xena asked, nodding toward the heavy basket the girl clutched to her body.
Gabrielle shook her head, partly in reply, and partly to clear her thoughts. “No. I’m fine,” she finally managed. “What are you doing here?”
Those words hurt, and they hurt badly. Xena looked down at the toe of one of her boots, her hands playing absently with one of the leather strips of her skirt. “Mother has asked that you come help her celebrate her birthday,” she said, her voice small.
Gabrielle took an incredulous breath. “I haven’t seen you in two years, and when you finally do show up, it’s to offer me a part invitation?” Gabrielle was livid, and deeply hurt.
Xena’s head snapped up, blue eyes wide and nearly desperate. “No! I mean, yes. Ah, Hades!” She turned away, feeling stupid and childish. Her heart hurt, her eyes hurt from trying to keep her tears back. No one had ever affected her the way that this little blonde could. Taking several deep breaths, she finally got herself under control. Turning back to the bard, she sighed. “Can we go somewhere and talk?” Xena looked around, not liking being so vulnerable out on the open road.
Gabrielle nodded, understanding she was putting them in potential danger. “Alright.” Still refusing to allow Xena to help her carry her burden, the bard led the way toward the small house she shared with Perdicus.
Gabrielle cursed herself for her trembling hands as she tucked her staff back in the corner, and set her basket of goods on the table. “Would you like something to drink?” she asked, her back to the warrior, who was standing near the front door.
“No. But if I could get Argo-“
“Out back. You can put her in one of the stalls. You’ll find everything she’ll need there.”
Without a word, Xena slipped out of the house and took care of her horse, taking far more time than she really needed to, but in truth, she was afraid to go back in and face Gabrielle. The warrior smirked at that thought. She had faced Romans, Goths and any number of creature, yet she was frightened of a small blonde. Glancing at Argo, she sighed
“Pretty pathetic, huh, girl?”
Argo whinnied her agreement, leaving Xena rolling her eyes as she headed back to the house. Knocking politely before entering, Xena was beckoned by the sweet voice she’d heard in countless dreams. Inside, Gabrielle had efficiently put everything away, the basket no longer in sight, and was making a small lunch of meat, cheese and fresh bread. Lemon-sweetened water was in a clay jug, waiting to be poured.
“Sit down, Xena,” Gabrielle said softly, taking hold of the platter she’d made. Setting it on the table, she said nothing, nor looked at her guest, until everything was settled and ready for consumption. She poured them each a mug of the lemon water, then finally sat. In truth, she wasn’t hungry, but she was so used to the wifely duties of being Perdicus’ wife, and feeding any and all of his friends or old war buddies who dropped by, it was second nature to her.
Xena watched Gabrielle’s quiet movements, amazed at how much was done in what seemed a few seconds. She felt her heart pounding as the bard settled across from her, and began to pick food from the large platter between them. Deciding to be polite, Xena did the same, even though she worried her stomach would revolt from nerves before the first bite.
“So,” Gabrielle began, finally meeting Xena’s eyes. “Cyrene has a birthday coming, huh?”
“Yep.” Xena made her voice sound far more enthusiastic than she actually felt. In truth, she just wanted to get on her knees and beg Gabrielle go come with her, leave all this domesticity behind. “She’s planning quite the shindig, and wants you there.”
“Why?” Gabrielle asked, her voice quiet but hard. She studied her hands, which were wrapped around her mug.
Confused, Xena blinked. “Well, uh, I guess ‘cause she wants to see you-”
“Why didn’t you?” Gabrielle demanded, her green eyes suddenly very intense, and boring into Xena’s.
The warrior was saved the bard’s wrath as the front door suddenly opened, and Perdicus, smelling of nature and donkey dung, appeared. He took in the scene before him, wondering who the beautiful golden horse in his stable belonged to. He saw Xena, and his stomach tightened. “Hello, Xena,” he said, forcing a friendly tone in his voice. The warrior’s return had always been his biggest concern. He wanted his wife to forget about her life on the road, and to concentrate on them, and the family he so desperately wanted to have with her.
“Perdicus,” Xena said, forcing a smile of welcome to her face. She stood, accepting his arm in greeting.
“What brings you to town?” he asked before bending down and giving his wife a somewhat possessive kiss. Neither bard nor husband noticed when Xena looked away, her jaw clenching.
“Xena has come to invite me to a party for her mother’s birthday,” Gabrielle said. She had the feeling that Perdicus would take the news better from her than from Xena. Not that she was considering going, of course. It just gave her… time.
“Oh. Well, wish your mother a happy birthday, then.” Perdicus kissed his wife once more, explaining that he was heading to town to get some more feed. He made an point of glancing at Xena when he explained he’d be back soon. The warrior had to hide a snarl.
One alone again, Gabrielle ate a bit more of the fresh meat and cheese, then turned her gaze back to the warrior. She hadn’t forgotten her question before they’d been interrupted by Perdicus. Now, as she stared across the table at Xena, who was making herself a bit to eat, she chewed on her lower lip, still able to taste her husband’s tobacco from his kiss.
“When is the party?” she finally asked.
“Two days,” Xena said, taking a healthy bite of the meat, cheese and bread. She met the bard’s gaze.
“Not a whole lot on notice, are ya?” Gabrielle asked, the barest hint of twinkle in her eyes. Xena gaze her a lopsided grin.
“Just found out myself. Blame Mom.”
Amusement gone, Gabrielle took a long pull from her lemon water. “I’ll think about it, Xena,” she said finally. “Your mother was always kind to me. That’s the best I can do.”
Gabrielle chuckled yet again as she watched Xena on her hands and knees, helping her to plant the garden. She had told the warrior that she didn’t have to help, but Xena had insisted.
Xena raised herself to her knees, stretching her back as the hot sun pelted down on her. The padding of her knee armor kept her knees in tact, but her back and shoulders were killing her. She turned to the amused blonde. “How in Tartarus do you do this?”
Gabrielle laughed outright. A sound which made Xena melt. “Buck up, Warrior. I’m sure you can hold your own against the tomatoes.”
Xena grinned, then grew serious. “I’m really sorry, Gabrielle.” She picked angrily at a weed that had tried to make its home the garden. She felt a soft touch to her arm, which nearly sent her flying.
“Why didn’t you come see me? You promised you would.”
Xena finally found the courage to meet Gabrielle’s intense, insistent gaze. “Because I wanted you to have a chance at a good, normal life with Perdicus. I worried that if I hung around here, some of my enemies might follow.”
Gabrielle looked into the blue eyes that had caught her attention from the moment she’d met them across that small field when Draco’s men had attacked. She saw truth in those eyes, but something more. She knew Xena well enough to know that she’d just been told a half-truth, but decided not to push it. Not yet. They each had their secrets, neither ready nor willing to part with them.
Gabrielle lay in the darkness of the bedroom she shared with Perdicus. She could hear him snoring softly next to her. Earlier, once they’d settled, he’d made it clear he wanted her that night, but Gabrielle had told him no. There was no way should could have relations- unwanted as they may be- with her husband with Xena asleep mere feet away in their empty room.
That thought made her think of the early days traveling with Xena. She remembered when they’d had Marcus with them for a couple days, and having to listen to her warrior and the man from her past making love. It had nearly driven her crazy with jealousy and anger. She’d pretended to sleep, but deep inside she’d been alive with fire. She couldn’t do that to Xena, even if it wouldn’t hurt Xena in the same way it had hurt Gabrielle. The bard entertained no fantasies that Xena wanted her in that way, or was in love with her. That had been one of the main reasons she had married Perdicus in the first place.
Yes, that night on the battle field, Gabrielle had given in to Perdicus’ manipulations, claiming to throw down the sword, no longer able to fight. Those were words he knew she wanted to hear, and she’d fallen for it. Also, her own guilt of leaving him the year before played on her decision. But, first and foremost had been the realization that Xena could never love or be in love with a farm girl from Potedaia. Her own feelings for Xena had grown to the point where she no longer saw anyone but the warrior. She had long since realized that all the young men they’d met along the way that she’d fallen for time and again had all been in part to experiment with the newfound feelings of love and passion, but also to see if Xena would notice her. It had never worked.
Gabrielle glanced over at her husband, his back to her as he lay on his side. He treated her well, never hitting her or making demands that he knew full well she’d tell him to go fly a flying parchment. For the most part, Gabrielle was allowed to have her own mind, even if it was mainly kept inside her own head.
The bard sighed, silently pushing the covers off her and slipping out of bed. She made sure Perdicus had remained asleep, not wanting to answer questions she, herself didn’t have the answers to. She needed to be alone and think, and lying in bed, Morpheus repeatedly denying her pleas for sleep, was not helping.
The small house was quiet, everything as it should be. Gabrielle grabbed her cloak, wrapping it around her nightshirt-covered shoulders, and headed outside. It was a chilly night, but not unbearable. A mug of hot cider would make it perfect. She made her way off the small, covered front porch and stood in the middle of the dirt yard in front of the house, staring up into the moonlit sky. Gabrielle heard the soft breathing a moment before the velvety voice.
The bard turned to see Xena sitting in the shadows. The warrior stood, walking over to her. “No. You?” Xena shook her head. She noticed Xena wasn’t wearing her armor, bracers or armbands, but did carry her sword. “Walk with me?”
Xena nodded, nearly falling over herself to spend some time with her bard. Her bard. Mentally she slapped herself. Gabrielle wasn’t her anything anymore. They walked on in silence, heading off toward the main road that would lead into town. Xena decided hitting the forests off to the north wasn’t a good idea.
“Xena?” Gabrielle said after awhile.
“I know you have regrets. And a lot of them.” Gabrielle smiled at the warrior’s snort of understatement. “How do you deal with them?”
Xena studied her friend’s profile for a long moment, trying to read the bard. Once upon a time, all she had to do was look at the blonde, and immediately she knew what she was thinking or feeling. Now, Gabrielle seemed so guarded, her expression carefully hidden. Xena had noticed over dinner, when Perdicus had joined them, that Gabrielle was like that with him, too. She wondered why. Finally after taking a deep breath, she spoke.
“Well, I’ve learned that regrets only hold you back. You can’t change the past. All you can do is work to make the future better, and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes twice. Regrets are made to be guides, not shackles.” She stopped their progress with a hand to Gabrielle’s arm. “Do you have regrets, Gabrielle?”
Gabrielle wanted to cry. Xena was the one she went to when she had a nightmare. She was the one she went to when she was confused, or needed to understand. Without her gentle guidance over the past couple years, the blonde had felt lost, and locked herself away, not wanting to share her thoughts, views or fears anymore. She didn’t feel she could share them with Perdicus. She certainly couldn’t share them with either one of her parents.
“Gabrielle?” Xena’s soft voice brought her out of her thoughts.
Gabrielle got them walking again before she answered. She didn’t want to look at Xena during this conversation. “Sometimes I think we do things, and our intentions aren’t as… pure, as we think they are.”
Xena stopped them again with a hand to Gabrielle’s shoulder. “Gabrielle,” she said softly, “one thing that you taught me what that your future is not set, and we can choose our destiny. Anything done can be undone.”
The bard smiled, hearing Xena’s words loud and clear. She looked up into Xena’s eyes, her voice even softer. “And you taught me to focus and finish what I started.” Taking a deep breath, she turned away from the warrior. “I’ll go to Amphipolis with you, Xena. I’d like to see Cyrene.”
Gabrielle sat perched on Argo, arms wrapped around Xena’s waist. It felt strange, yet so entirely familiar. They had been traveling for the better part of the morning. The bard’s mind wandered back to early that morning. She had told Perdicus that she was going while they lay in bed. For some reason, he always took things he didn’t like easier that way. Maybe because if she was in bed with him, that eased his doubts a bit. He hadn’t been happy that she was going with Xena, claiming that lots would need to be done while she was gone, but Gabrielle had assured him that he could go to her mother’s for meals, and she’d clean and catch up on laundry when she returned.
She thought about that, about returning. Green eyes squeezed shut, and Gabrielle fought the urge to cry. Instead, she shook herself of her morose thoughts and concentrated on the fun she was going to have over the next couple days. She’d always loved Cyrene, and wished that her own mother could have even half of the older woman’s strength.
Gabrielle thought about the night that she and Xena had been lying by the fire, and she’d gotten the warrior to tell her about her mother. She’d been shocked to find out that Cyrene had raised three children on her own, just by owning and running the inn. She’d broken up brawls, squabbles and any number of verbal fights, always keeping her sweet disposition and even temper. In Xena’s words, the blonde could tell she held her mother in great esteem and respect, which amazed Gabrielle, as very few were able to fill that very tall order. The next time they’d visited Amphipolis, Gabrielle had made sure to spend as much time with Cyrene as possible, hoping that she might understand the innkeeper’s daughter better that way. Instead, what she had found was a warm, loving woman with a sense of humor and who loved her daughter with everything in her.
“What’cha thinkin’ about?” Xena said softly, urging Argo to a stop.
Gabrielle looked up, startle from her musings. She was urged to slide off the big mare, so she did, followed by Xena. “Your mother, actually. I was just thinking of some of the times we visited her.” She gave the warrior a large, genuine smile. “I look forward to seeing her.”
“Come on, let’s walk for a bit, give Argo a rest,” Xena said, leading Argo down the trail they’d been following through the woods. “I know she’s looking forward to seeing you, too.”
“How has she been?” Gabrielle walked alongside the warrior, her staff tapping off their steps. Looking down at herself, it felt strange to see herself dressed in a long skirt and blouse, reminding her of when they’d first started traveling together. Her old travel clothing was packed away in a trunk somewhere. It was too painful to look at it.
“She’s been good. Busy and feisty as ever.” Xena was so happy to have this time with Gabrielle, talking with her and just being near her. She knew her horse could have handled another half a day bearing both their weight, but she figured it was as good an excuse as any. She also wanted to get as much alone time with Gabrielle as she could. Once they hit Amphipolis, Gabrielle was lost to her until their journey back to Potedaia.
They walked in silence for a long moment before Gabrielle finally got the nerve to ask what she’d been wanting to since seeing Xena yesterday. “During these past couple years, you haven’t…”
Xena glanced down at her companion and knew what she was wanting to know. A slight wrinkle of worry formed between the green eyes. She reached over, gently soothing that worry with her thumb. She smiled and shook her head. “No. I haven’t gone back to my bad ol’ ways. Though our time together got cut short, I still learned, Gabrielle,” she said softly. “You made me promise that even if something happened, I wouldn’t become a monster. I won’t go back on that promise.”
Gabrielle stopped their progress. She gently took Argo’s reigns from Xena’s hand, looping them over a low branch, then turned to Xena. She took the surprised warrior in a tight embrace, wrapping her arms around her waist. She felt strong arms wrap around her shoulders, and Gabrielle sighed, resting her head on Xena’s chest.
“I really missed you, Xena,” she whispered, unsure if the warrior even heard the words or not. It didn’t matter. She needed to say it, admit it to herself. Even through the cool brass that was Xena’s breastplate, she could feel the warmth of the woman.
“I missed you, too,” Xena whispered back, the words muffled in the golden hair that she’d buried her face in. She wanted to say so much more, but she dare not. As Gabrielle said- she’d made her choice, and now they both had to live with it.
The door to the closed Inn opened, and Cyrene turned to see who it was. Her blue eyes twinkled and her smile grew wide when she saw her daughter, followed by Gabrielle. “How wonderful!” she exclaimed, hurrying over to the bard and wrapping her in a motherly embrace.
“Happy birthday, Cyrene,” Gabrielle enthused, handing over the bouquet of wild flowers she’d picked.
“Oh, you’re so sweet,” the older brunette said, taking the flowers, and offering one more hug before turning and hugging her daughter. “Now keep her here,” she whispered in Xena’s ear, giving her a knowing smile as the hug parted. She ignored the glare that got from Xena and headed to the kitchen to put the flowers in water.
Xena turned to Gabrielle, feeling a bit shy. Now what? “Come on. Let’s get your stuff to your room.”
Gabrielle followed Xena to the upper floor of the inn, stepping through the door the warrior held open for her. It was the exact same room they’d stayed at the last time they were there. She recognized the small, square table under the window, which she’d used to write in her scrolls by candle light as Xena had slept. She remembered the space near the fireplace where they’d put the large, wooden tub. Each had taken a side, giggling and laughing when Xena started a water fight. Gabrielle had later washed the warrior’s hair for her.
Then Gabrielle’s gaze fell to the bed. She remembered lying there on her side, staring down at Xena’s sleeping, peace-filled face. She had reached out a hesitant fingertip, tracing Xena’s features- strong, yet delicate at the same time. She had leaned over, laying a soft kiss on the warrior’s lips. I love you, Xena.
Xena watched Gabrielle’s face carefully. She wondered if the bard’s thoughts were with her won, remembering the night she had first told Xena she loved her. Xena had pretended to sleep, but inside she had melted, and lost her heart that night. She never got the chance to say the words, nor act on her feelings. Not two months later, Gabrielle had married Perdicus.
The warrior cleared her throat, not wanting to think anymore. “Will this do?”
Gabrielle nodded, setting her bag on the table. “Yes.”
“Okay. Well. Um, guess I’ll go down and start helping Mom.” Xena turned to leave, but was stopped by a firm hand on her arm. She turned and saw Gabrielle looking up at her.
“Thank you, Xena. For bringing me here.” She smiled ruefully. “After everything, it took a lot of courage.”
“Hey,” Xena grinned, “if I can face the God of War toe to toe, I think I can face you.”
Gabrielle chuckled, then released her grip. “Go help your mother. I’ll be down soon.”
Once she was alone, Gabrielle took a second look around the room and sighed. She walked over to her bag, emptying the contents. She’d brought a change of clothes for traveling tomorrow, but she also had brought a special dress for Cyrene’s birthday celebration. She held up the emerald green dress, made by her own hands, and for a moment wondered if Xena would like it. It was a little different than anything the warrior had seen Gabrielle in. But then again, Gabrielle wasn’t exactly the same little girl she had been last she’d seen Xena.
Putting the garments away, she took out the one scroll she’d brought with her. It had barely been used. Actually, in truth, the only writing on it was the bard’s last attempt at writing. Since she’d been married and stuck on a farm back in Potedaia, her writing had fallen to the wayside. She missed it terribly, but just either couldn’t muster the energy after such long, hard days, or the imagination. Her writing used to be a way to vent her inner feelings or turmoil. They were a way to celebrate all the wonders of life, and all the wonders that Xena managed with so very little effort.
With a start Gabrielle realized she had nothing to write about anymore. In short, she had lost herself. Lost her inspiration, and had lost her desire.
Gabrielle brought a hand, wiping impatiently at the tear that threatened to fall. “Damn it all to Hades,” she muttered angrily.
The three women and a couple of Cyrene’s hired hands, turned the inn into a work of art. Colorful banners were hung everywhere, and the cake that Cyrene and Gabrielle had made and decorated was second to none. A huge pot of fragrant stew was just about done cooking, and fresh barrels of ale had been rolled in. The doors to the inn would be opening within a candle mark, so Gabrielle decided it was a good time to head to her room and get ready.
The wooden tub was filled with steaming water in the corner of the room, and the bard sank into it, after sprinkling some of her own lavender bathing salts into it. Her eyes closed as her tired body relaxed, the steam clearing her head and skin. She wondered how the night would go, not wanting to think about the trek back to Potedaia, though it still hovered in the back of her mind.
Sighing heavily, she decided to see this for the mini vacation it was, and enjoy it while it lasted. Tomorrow was tomorrow.
Xena clipped her newly polished chakram to her hip, her sword already in place. She knew her mother would prefer she was not armed during the festivities, but Xena knew that with men around, consuming large quantities of ale, it was best to be prepared. Tonight she intended to act as bouncer more than anything. She didn’t want anything to ruin her mother’s birthday.
People were already beginning to wander in, many bearing gifts of flowers or homemade items for Cyrene, a well-respected member of the community. Xena hung back in the shadows, watching. Her gaze kept sweeping to the back stairs, waiting for Gabrielle to appear. Finally she heard the creaking of the wood, then an angelic vision appeared.
Gabrielle felt slightly nervous as she entered the main room of the inn. Her dress, which brought out the brilliant color of her eyes, was cut just low enough to show teasing cleavage. The bodice was fitted to her petit frame, the skirt free flowing and long enough to cover her shoes. Her gaze roamed until it was met by shocked blue. Smiling somewhat shyly, the bard made her way over to Xena, who still stared from her seat in the corner.
“Hello, Xena,” she said softly, trying to keep the waver from her voice.
“Hi.” Xena’s eyes couldn’t get enough. They settled on the long, flowing golden hair, brushed to a shine around Gabrielle’s shoulders and down her back. “You look beautiful.”
Gabrielle smiled, wanting to kick her foot in a nervous gesture. She had no idea why she was so nervous. During their travels, Xena had seen her in any number of ways: fully dressed, partially dressed, naked. Why did she feel like a shy bride on her wedding night by the way Xena was looking at her? “New outfit?” Gabrielle teased as a way of breaking the tension, picking at one of the leather strips of Xena’s leathers. The warrior grinned.
“Yeah, you like it?”
“Oh, yes. It’s so this season.”
Xena chuckled, placing a soft hand on the blonde’s back- a gesture of politeness as well as possession for any that might think Gabrielle was part of the parting gifts- and led her to where Cyrene stood, talking and laughing with some of her well-wishers.
“Mother, thought you might want to check out Gabrielle’s new look. After all, I think she wore this just for you.” Xena smiled triumphantly as she presented the bard to Cyrene’s approving gaze.
Gabrielle wanted to protest that she’d actually wore the dress for Xena, but bit her tongue, instead hugging Cyrene and yet again wishing her a happy birthday.
Though loathe to do it, Xena left Gabrielle, resuming her place in the corner to watch, allowing the bard to wander and talk and laugh. More than once Xena found her gaze on the blonde, wishing she were the one who put the twinkle in her eye, or that she was the cause of the bard’s smile or laughter. Finally Gabrielle’s gaze met her own, and without breaking the contact, the blonde walked over to Xena’s corner. She grabbed the mug that had been ever present in front of the warrior and downed nearly half of it. She grinned at Xena’s protest.
“What say you you leave your guard post and come take a walk with me?” Gabrielle asked, grabbing one of Xena’s larger hands and tugging until finally Xena gained her feet.
“I don’t know, Gabrielle. One of these guys-“
“And Cyrene will handle it like she does every other day of the week. Come on.”
Unable to deny Gabrielle anything- as per usual- she followed as they weaved their way through the crowd, Xena’s hand still clutched in Gabrielle’s. It was a warm night, and the town was quiet, as most of its citizens were in Cyrene’s inn. The pair walked out across the street and toward the small lake that was a big source of the town’s water.
Xena tried not to let her brain think or process anything. She didn’t want to think about the feel of the warm hand in hers, or why Gabrielle hadn’t released her yet. She didn’t want to think about how wonderful the bard looked or smelled, her nose picking up on the subtle scent of lavender. She didn’t want to notice how the moonlight shone down on Gabrielle, turning her golden hair into a silver halo.
“It’s so beautiful out here,” Gabrielle finally said. A voice in her head was screaming for her to let go of Xena’s hand, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t get over how right it felt. Every single one of her old feelings had come surging back, threatening to drown her in a wave of regret and near-despair.
“Yes, it is. My brothers and I used to come fish out here all the time when we were kids.” Xena smiled at the memory. “One time Toris even threw Lyceus in, fully clothed.”
Gabrielle smiled, able to imagine that. Though she’d never met Lyceus, she had met Toris, and could easily picture him torturing his younger brother. “And you, of course, rushed in to save him, right?”
Xena grinned and shook her head. “Are you kidding? I threw Toris in!”
They both laughed, which helped to break the tension. Gabrielle entwined their fingers and got them strolling along the water’s edge.
“Would you think I was a fire-eating Harpy if I told you I don’t want to take you back tomorrow?” Xena asked at length. She met Gabrielle’s bemused gaze.
“Why don’t you want to take me back? And why would I think you were a fire-eating Harpy?”
“Well,” Xena drawled, looking out over the water. “I don’t want to take you back because I don’t want to have to miss you all over again. And, you might think I’m a fire-eating Harpy because you have a life in Potedaia. And a husband,” she finished quietly.
“Did you want me to marry Perdicus? Did you want to get rid of me?” Gabrielle suddenly demanded, stopping their forward motion and looking up into Xena’s eyes, wide with surprise from the sudden outburst. Her bard had definitely become more… grown up, since she saw her last.
“No,” Xena said simply. There was no other answer.
“Then why didn’t you stop me!” Gabrielle pulled away, turning and burying her hands in her hair out of frustration. “Xena,” she stopped herself, unsure of what she wanted to say. What could she say? She was surprised when she felt Xena step up behind her, arms wrapping around her waist with large hands spread out over her stomach. She shivered at the warm breath in her ear as Xena spoke.
“The heart I hadn’t realized I had was broken that day, Gabrielle. I couldn’t deny you the right to find happiness, no matter how badly it hurt.” She buried her face in the thick blonde hair. “I loved you too much. Still do.”
Gabrielle’s heart lurched and her breath caught at the muffled words. She quickly turned in Xena’s embrace, looking up at her with shocked eyes. Xena met her gaze, all the love she felt visible, even in the moonlight. “God, why didn’t you say anything?” Gabrielle whispered. “All this wasted time…” She reached up, cupping the back of Xena’s neck and pulled the warrior down. Their lips touched, sending a powerful tremble through both women.
Xena could hardly believe what was happening, her heart nearly bleeding it was so overrun with joy and careful optimism. She pulled Gabrielle closer to her, deepening the kiss. The innocence her friend once had was gone as a demanding tongue pushed between Xena’s lips. She whimpered as she accepted it, swallowing Gabrielle’s moan.
The bard pulled away suddenly, taking Xena’s hand again. “Not here,” she said, determination in her steps as she led them away from the water and back toward the inn. She glanced at the warrior over her shoulder, desire and need shining in her eyes.
They managed to sneak inside, the party still in full throttle. Up the stairs, finally stopping in front of Gabrielle’s room. The bard stopped them, turning to look back up at Xena, a question in her eyes. Without a word, Xena leaned down, placing a promising kiss on her lips, then took the key from Gabrielle’s trembling hands, managing to get the door open.
Once inside, with the world shut away, Gabrielle felt her stomach tense with the myriad of emotions washing through her. She wanted this more than anything she’s ever wanted in her life, but she knew that if she and Xena did this, she would never be able to go back to her old life. She would never again be able to live without the ambrosia that was Xena’s love. Strong arms wrapped around her from behind.
As though Xena could read her mind, she spoke softly, “We don’t have to do this.”
Gabrielle shook her head, leaning back into the hard body, feeling the unforgiving breastplates against her back. She covered Xena’s arms with her hands, sliding down over the leather and brass bracers until their fingers entwined. “No. I want this, Xena. I want you. I always wanted it to be you.” The last words were a mere whisper, as she wanted to cry at the lost opportunity. She wanted Xena to have her innocence, not Perdicus.
“Alright.” Xena placed a soft kiss to Gabrielle’s temple then stepped away from her. Slowly and methodically she removed her armor, her eyes never leaving Gabrielle, who had turned around to watch. Her weapons and armor were placed on the table beside the blonde’s bag, along with her bracers and armbands. Standing in her leathers and boots, she watched as Gabrielle slowly walked over to her, her verdant gaze taking in all that would soon be bared.
Gabrielle ran her hands down the warm, supple skin of the warrior’s arms, then worked her way back up until she reached the catch which would release the leather straps. Unfastened, the leather battle dress drooped on Xena’s body, slowly sliding off. Xena stepped out of her, laying it atop her armor. She now wore nothing but a thin shift. Dutifully sitting as she was nudged, she watched as Gabrielle knelt, her boots removed one at a time, including her knee guards. Gabrielle set the boots aside, then climbed onto Xena’s lap, her dress fanning around their legs. She looked into Xena’s beautiful face, tracing the lines with her fingertips, watching as the blue eyes turned from the color of the sky to the deepest of seas, her arousal evident.
Xena leaned up, pressing her lips lightly to Gabrielle’s, the bard sighing into the kiss, which began slow, but soon deepened. She pulled the bard against her, their upper bodies pressed together, but the billowing material of Gabrielle’s dress halting the closeness she wanted.
Gabrielle gasped as she was lifted, her legs automatically wrapping around Xena’s trim waist as the warrior carried her to the bed, where she was gently laid down on the mattress, Xena following.
“Oh, Xena,” she whispered, reveling in the warrior’s weight and closeness.
“Yes, my bard,” Xena murmured against the skin of Gabrielle’s neck and throat. She nuzzled the tempting cleave with her face. “As beautiful as this dress is, and as beautiful as you look in it, I think I’d much rather see you out of it.” Xena rose to her knees beside the bard, helping her to her feet. She quickly unbuttoned all the tiny buttons along the back of the dress, the material sliding easily off the glorious body. Xena admired the firm flesh, muscled from hours working in the fields and gardens.
Gabrielle had never felt so exposed, yet so loved at the same time. She shivered at the light kisses trailed along her shoulder. “Take off your shift, Xena,” she said, her voice breathy as her arousal built. She heard the rustling of clothing behind her, then moaned as Xena’s naked front was pressed to her equally naked back. She could feel Xena’s hard nipples and it made her groan.
Xena nearly yelped when she found herself flat on her back on the bed, Gabrielle lying atop her. She buried her fingers in the thick, blonde hair, responding to the powerful kiss. Gabrielle was claiming her, and she would happily give her soul to the bard in that moment. After all, she’d already given her heart.
Gabrielle had no idea what to do, as Perdicus always led the show when they had sex. Pure instinct began to kick in, and she broke the kiss, trailing her mouth across Xena’s face to the proud jaw, licking along it until she was nibbling at the long column of throat that the warrior offered. She moaned softly as Xena’s hands ran down the length of her back, finally grabbing the flesh of her behind and massaging.
Xena couldn’t believe how wet she was as the hot mouth found her collarbones. She had dreamed of this moment for far too long, never believing that the Elysian Fields could actually be on earth. She gasped as a tongue flicked across her very hard nipple, a hand immediately moving to cup Gabrielle’s head. “Oh Gabrielle, yes…”
Gabrielle brought a hand up, cupping the breast she took into her mouth. She remembered always admiring Xena’s body whenever they bathed, especially her breasts. Always wanting to touch them, dreaming of tasting them, she knew in that moment that no dream, or no wishing on a scroll could compare to the reality of Xena. She abandoned the nipple, Xena’s groan of disapproval soon turning into a moan as their lips met again.
“Xena,” Gabrielle whispered against the warrior’s mouth. “I love you.”
“I love you, Gabrielle. Don’t leave me again.” With that plea, Xena turned them over until the bard was beneath her, surprise widening her green eyes. Xena looked down at her, eyes intense. “Never again.”
Gabrielle shook her head. “No. Never again.”
Xena felt almost giddy at her bard’s promise, and she wanted to share the joy. She knew that Gabrielle knew little to nothing of the joys of physical love between women. Likely she knew little of the joys of physical love at all. She wanted to share that with her, show her through her touch and the gift of pleasure just how much she loved, wanted and needed her. She’d make sure Gabrielle never doubted her feelings again.
Gabrielle’s eyes slipped closed when she felt her thighs parted, one of Xena’s slipping between. The pressure on her sex made her groan, but then she lost her breath as her left nipple was consumed by wet heat, her right caressed and massaged by a calloused thumb. Her world had narrowed down to three very sensitive points, all three of which were being tended to. Even still, she needed more.
Xena felt the slight bucking of Gabrielle’s hips, letting her know that her arousal had reached a new, more intense level. Loathe to leave the gorgeous breasts, she knew that her attention was needed far more elsewhere. She kissed her way down Gabrielle’s body, tongue leaving a fiery trail of want behind. Her hand slipped down along the muscular thigh, kneading the flesh before gently lifting the leg and placing it over one of her shoulders.
“Xena,” Gabrielle gasped, looking down the length of her own body to see a pair of mischievous eyes staring at her from between her legs. “What are you doing?”
Xena didn’t bother to answer, instead running her tongue along the entire length of Gabrielle’s sex. The bard cried out softly, her head flopping back down on the pillow. Xena’s eyes closed as she inhaled the heated scent, relishing the taste on her tongue. She needed more of the sweetness. She reached a hand up along the bard’s body until her hand covered a breast, her palms rolling over the hard nipple, making Gabrielle groan languidly. Soon the groan turned into a breathless whimper as Xena’s tongue entered her, pulling out before thrusting inside again.
Gabrielle couldn’t think straight as her body was inundated by sensations that she couldn’t have dreamed of. She was lost in a haze of pleasure, her hands buried in the thick, dark hair of her warrior as Xena’s mouth continued to do incredible things to her. In all the times she’d been with Perdicus, never had he made her feel even the tiniest bit of what Xena did. She could feel a steady pressure building in her body, which she knew from self-pleasuring was the release she sought, but it was coming so quickly, and with such force that she was almost afraid.
Xena could tell Gabrielle was near and took her hand from the breast, instead holding the bard’s hips to the bed as she found the blonde’s clit with steady licks until just the tip of her tongue lashed the hard bundle again and again. Gabrielle cried out, her powerful thighs threatening to squeezing Xena’s head between them. Xena held them down, continuing her oral attack until Gabrielle whimpered, a weak hand pushing Xena away.
Gabrielle couldn’t breathe, her entire world shattered in that one, wonderful moment, and slowly coming back together again. Vaguely she felt Xena kissing her way up the blonde’s body until their mouths touched again. Gabrielle could taste herself upon Xena’s lips, and deepened the kiss, wanting to taste it all.
Xena settled her hips between Gabrielle’s spread thighs, adjusting herself until their sex’s were lined up. She lowered herself, pressing against the blonde, which caused a gasp from them both.
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena’s neck, her thighs spreading further instinctually, which pushed her clit further into Xena’s. Their kiss deepened even more as Xena began to move her body, quickly thrusting into Gabrielle, who’s hands had wandered down the muscled back to grasp Xena’s butt, silently begging.
They panted into the others mouth as Xena pounded into Gabrielle, her thrusts becoming shorter as her body prepared for release. She fell to her elbows, holding Gabrielle close, their breasts pressed tightly together.
“Oh god, Gabrielle,” she hissed, her hips jerking as her body convulsed, followed quickly by Gabrielle in a second orgasm.
Gabrielle could barely move, her legs and arms wrapped around the warrior. She held her tightly to her, never, ever letting her go again. She petted Xena’s hair, waiting for the warrior to come back to her. Finally Xena’s head raised, blue eyes gazing down into the bard’s.
“I love you, Xena,” Gabrielle whispered. “Tomorrow, I want to hurry back to Potedaia, and I want to grab a few things, say goodbye, then leave with you.”
Xena’s grin was like that of a child on Winter Solstice, as though she’d been given a new toy by Senticles. “You got it. But for now, I’m not done with you.”
Gabrielle squealed as her neck was attacked by a growling warrior.
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