Battling Herodotus

by Lindsey

Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, Hecuba, Herodotus, Lila and the Amazon girls don't belong to me any more than Mulder and Scully do, but I do enjoy taking all of them out for a spin every now and then, besides I think they enjoy it immensely. This little trip into fantasy land is by no means an attempt to gain monetary profits so please no one come after me, unless you want to sue me for the rights to pay off my student loans, and believe me there are a lot of em.

Subtext: Yes it's in there and pretty explicit once you get to it. If two women romantically/sexually involved with each other bothers you then you might want to trot off and find something else to read, open up your mind a bit or maybe re-evaluate what you deem offensive/inappropriate. If you continue on despite this warning don't flame me, cuz I warned ya.

Other Comments: Not much in the way of spoilers for this one, although I am thinking of making it the first in a series, what do you think? Should I never write again or keep on goin? In my world anything is possible so there is no particular timeline here, the only thing that really applies is that Gabrielle's hair is in that short cut, cuz I like it better that way J. This was originally meant to be a short PWP, but somehow took on a life of its own and emerged into this longer story. The next one will have far less plot after all it would be the honeymoon tale.

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Our visit to Potadeia started off simply enough. We were in the area when I asked Gabrielle if she minded if we dropped in for a day or two so she could visit with her family. I didn't mind, we were not in a big rush to get anywhere and it had been too long, in my opinion, since my bard had visited her mother and sister. Her father on the other hand, well it could have been fifty years since her last visit and it still would have been too soon, but that's just me.

So we strode into town and Gabrielle was instantly recognized by one of the local women who ran off to announce our arrival at "Castle Herodotus," as I referred to it. When we had finally managed to make it through the throng of people that wanted to greet the bard and arrive at the family farm there were three people waiting for us on the porch. Hecuba and Lila greeted us warmly, and by that I mean they fawned over Gabrielle and said a passing hello to me as they whisked her, and me by way of Gabrielle's pleading gaze, into the kitchen for a meal. Herodotus remained on the porch, preferring to shoot lethal glares through the window at me than to join his family for dinner on the eve of his eldest daughter's return. I wasn't impressed. I became even less impressed with the man who claimed to be Gabrielle's loving father when he decided to delegate every chore known to the Gods to me the following morning after my companion had been dragged out to reacquaint with aunts, uncles and cousins. Why he couldn't just leave me be to find my own entertainment was beyond me.

After almost a full day of mending fences and mucking stables under the reproachful glare of Herodotus I was glad to be sent off alone to the perimeter of the property to repair a stone wall. Although I was sweaty and tired I reminded myself of the fact that I suggested this little visit and that thus far it really hadn't gone too badly. My appraisal of the situation was about to take a turn for the worse.

I had just about finished with the stone wall when I heard approaching footsteps coming from the forest. I smiled to myself as I recognized the pattern of footfalls as belonging to my bard. Wiping the sweat from my forehead I quickly ducked in behind some large trees intent on surprising my unsuspecting prey.

"Hey." I said as I jumped from my hiding spot and pinned Gabrielle against a large tree.

"Hades, Xena you scared the life out of me." She gasped, slapping me playfully on the arm.

"That was the idea; catch you unaware so I can have my way with you." I waggled my eyebrows suggestively and lowered my head to kiss her neck, careful not to leave any lasting marks.

"Somebody missed me today." She groaned, tilting her head to give me better access.

"This is all I have been able to think about, kissing you, touching you, feeling your body against mine." I whispered softly into her ear before taking the lobe into my mouth and sucking gently.

"Gods Xena, what has gotten into you!?" My blonde bard asked as she threaded one hand into my hair and the other came to rest on my hip, pulling me closer. Taking this as encouragement I continued my assault on her sweet skin.

"Maybe this wasn't such a good time to visit the family. You know how I get the week before my cycle begins." It was true that my sex-drive was pretty strong, but the week before I menstruate it shoots into overdrive, so much so that I have been known to pounce on Gabrielle several times a day during that time of the moon, seeking to satiate my raging libido. Being confined in a small town with Gabrielle's conservative family, who knew nothing of our true relationship, was driving me to distraction.

"Poor baby, a bit frustrated are we?" She cooed into my ear. In response my hands went to her hips and pulled her against me, parting her legs with one strong knee.

"I want you." I moaned as my fingers wandered up her taught belly and felt her stiff nipple through the top she was wearing.

"And I want you, but you know we can't do this right now. My mother is expecting us for dinner….oh gods, Xena!" My busy fingers had found their way into her shirt and were now fondling her tight flesh.

"Screw dinner! I can find us something later." I said as the hand on her hip slipped down to her backside and pulled her center into contact with my hard thigh.

"Ohhhhh, yeah…I mean, no. You know we can't skip dinner. Furthermore, if we show up all sweaty and out of breath my parents will know something is up." I wasn't deterred.

"Not me, I've been working all day in this hot sun. I am expected to be all hot and bothered. You wanna bother me, Gabrielle?" I asked as my lips once again found her sweet neck. My bard allowed me a moment to kiss her before her hand left my hair and cupped my chin, bringing my eyes up to meet hers.

"You know I love bothering you, but it's just…" She let the sentence drop and I sighed deeply, attempting to rein in my desire for the time being.

"I know, I just want to be with you, only you and a nice soft bedroll." I rested my forehead against hers, closing my eyes.

"Tonight, after dinner, I promise. Once everyone has gone to bed I will sneak out and meet you. We can go to this spot by the river that I know of and take a swim and…and do other stuff." This last bit was accompanied by a slight blush as she traced one finger along my lips.

It never ceased to amaze me that after all the sexual acts we have done together in various locales throughout Greece that Gabrielle would still blush when talking about sex. She once told me that there was a big difference in talking about sex and having sex and that she would much rather have sex with me than talk about it. How could I resist that logic? So I let it go and just allow the fact that she had had a sheltered upbringing, but didn't allow it to temper her desires, endear her to me that much more. And that endearment allowed me to try to bring her out of her shell every now and then, without being to obvious about it.

"You promise?" I teased and her eyebrow arched in a pretty good impression of my own expression.

"Seal it with a kiss." She whispered as she leaned in and captured my lips with her own. The moment contact was made I felt her hand resettle itself in my hair and I just allowed myself to relax and enjoy the moment…until the sound of a twig snapping behind us made my blood run cold in my veins.

"Gabrielle, your mother sent me to…WHAT IN HADES IS GOING ON HERE?!" 'Awww, shit' was my first coherent thought. Instantly my bard froze, her mouth pulling away from mine, her eyes remaining tightly closed. Herodotus was making his way toward us as I tried to remove my hand from Gabrielle's top without drawing anymore of his attention to our actions. I failed miserably I realized when his face turned five more shades of red.

"Get your FILTHY, MURDERING hands off her!" Oh no, this was not going to be pretty. I guess ignorance was bliss as far as telling Gabrielle's father was concerned.

"And as for you," his gaze shifted to his daughter, "I DID NOT raise a harlot who shacks up with a WOMAN! What are you Gabrielle, some sort of PERVERT?" His hand rose to grab her arm and pull her away, but instead of capturing her arm he found his hand encased in my fist, my grip belaying my anger.

"If you EVER call her that again, or even make any motion to touch her in anger you will see just how murderous these hands can be." I growled, shielding my lover from her father so she could compose herself. I was not going to let some close minded farmer talk that way to the woman I loved, I don't care if he is her father.

"You are brainwashing her you bitch. First you steal my daughter, dragging her off to Gods know where and now you are forcing her to be a slave to your immoral sexual needs." Herodotus spat, his voice pained as my grip remained tight on his hand.

"She is not brainwashing me, father, or forcing me to do anything I don't want to do." I felt Gabrielle's hand on my elbow as she stepped out from behind me.

"Xena and I are in love. And we express those feelings physically, just like any other normal couple." I was surprised; Gabrielle's voice had not risen above its normal tenor. 'You go, girl,' I nodded internally.

"NORMAL!! It is not normal for two women to…to…to be together in THAT way! It's against the way of the Gods." Herodotus sneered as he renewed his attempts to break away from my grip. I released him, but didn't drop my vigilance in case he made any attempts to lunge at my bard again.

"Who are you to tell me what is against the way of the Gods? Xena and I know many gods, none of which have spoken one word against our relationship!" Ok, she was loosing her patience, I could tell, as her voice was beginning to rise.

"Well, no daughter of mine is gonna tramp around Greece shacking up with another woman, especially THAT woman." He pointed at me.

"You are done, Gabrielle. You will not be leaving this village again. I indulged your travel fantasies for long enough; I will find a suitable husband for you and you will live a normal life, never speaking of this to anyone." Herodotus nodded, as if to indicate that the discussion was over. I was about to speak up when a strong grip on my arm stopped me.

"First of all, father, you don't own me anymore. I am old enough to make my own decisions. Secondly, I am an Amazon Queen. If I don't return to the village as expected they will come looking for me. How long do you think you can hold me against my will with hundreds of Amazons beating down your door? And lastly, I will NOT be separated from Xena, ever! She is my life; and whether you want to believe it or not, we have a good life together. And I know that she would fight to keep me by her side. Do you really want to fight her?" I looked at Gabrielle, surprised that she would basically give me the go ahead to get physical with her father if he tried to prevent her from leaving. Feeling that the conversation was over she began the walk back to the house, tugging me along with her.

"WHERE ARE YOU GOING?" Herodotus shouted after us. Gabrielle ignored him, and taking my cue from her, so did I. We were about half-way back to the house when Gabrielle first spoke.

"You won't let him keep me here, will you?" I almost choked on my surprise.

"NO! How could you think that?" I stopped our forward progress and turned my bard so she was facing me, my eyes boring in to hers.

"I would tear that house board from board before I would let him keep you away from me. Besides, you are more than capable of kicking his ass if he tried to stop you." A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

"I love you, so much." She sighed as she wrapped her hands around my waist, hugging me gently. I rested my cheek on her golden hair.

"And I love you; now let's get back to the house so we can…" I ducked my head and captured her gaze, "what are we going to do when we get back there?"

"Pack and get out of here, hopefully before he gets back." She tossed her head back in the direction of the stone wall.

"What about your mother, and Lila?" I asked as we resumed walking, at a more brisk pace this time.

"I don't know, honestly. I can't say whether they will share his point of view or not, but really it doesn't matter. As long as I have you I know I will be ok." I felt her squeeze my hand briefly.

"Are you going to tell them why we are leaving?"

"Nope, I will let him do it."

"I don't think that is the best option, Gabrielle. How do you know they will react the same way? I think it's only fair, to you and to them, that you tell them the truth and let the chips fall where they may." She sighed and ran her free hand through her hair.

"I know, but I just don't know if I want to take the time to tell them and risk an altercation when he gets back."

"I understand. I will follow you, whatever you decide." At this point the house had come into view through the forest. I heard my lover take in a deep breath as we stepped into the yard and walked up onto the porch. No sooner had we opened the door when Hecuba was asking where her husband was.

"He is still out by the stone wall, Mother." Gabrielle didn't meet her mother's gaze as she walked through the kitchen and back into the room where our gear was stored.

"Well, is he going to be back in time for dinner?"

"I doubt it." Gabrielle was now stuffing our clothing and bathing supplies into an empty saddlebag.

"Are you leaving so soon? Why? What happened, Gabrielle?" Hecuba questioned her daughter.

"Father and I had a disagreement. He made it quite obvious that he disagrees with my lifestyle. Xena and I are leaving, mother. I'm sure that father will explain the whole thing when he returns." Tossing the now full bag to me, my bard grabbed her staff and headed toward the door.

"What aren't you telling me, Gabrielle?" Sighing deeply, my bard stopped walking, squared her shoulders and turned to face her mother and sister.

"Xena and I are lovers, have been for about a year now. Father caught us kissing out by the property line." Hecuba's eyes widened in surprised at her daughter's matter of fact tone.

"You're what?"

"Lovers. We are in love, with each other. We have sex. Need any more clarification?" The middle aged woman just held her hand up, stopping Gabrielle's explanation from going any further.

"No, no I think I understand quite clearly. What did your father say?"

"Hmmm, let's see, well first he called Xena a murderer and alluded that she had brainwashed me into being her slave. And then he decided that he wasn't going to let me leave town and that he was going to find me a proper husband."

"He IS your father, Gabrielle." Hecuba chastised.

"But he does not own me. I am a grown woman, mother. I can make my own choices, and I choose to be with Xena. Not holed up in this little town, married to a man I don't even love." A door slamming stopped all conversation in the room. Herodotus' heavy footfalls could be heard coming down the hall as Gabrielle moved away from the door and took her place beside me.

"HECUBA!" He called out, searching for his wife.

"Back here." Storming thorough the door his eyes immediately settled on his eldest daughter.

"Did she tell you?" He directed this towards his wife, his eyes never leaving Gabrielle and me. "Did she let you know that she is shaking up with this bitch?" His fists were clenched at his sides.

"Calm down, Herodotus." His wife tried to sooth him.

"NO! I will NOT calm down. No child of mine is a pervert! She is not leaving this house with HER!"

"Like Tartarus she isn't." I growled. "I told you once, never to speak to her like that again, she is not your property to control!" I could remain silent no longer. I was not going to let this escalate into any bigger of a scene than it already was. Grabbing her hand, I lead Gabrielle out of the room in front of me as Hecuba stepped between her raging husband and our retreat.

"Let her go, Herodotus." She placed her hands on his arms to stop his advance.

"If you leave this house, young lady, I no longer have two daughters!" He screamed at our backs. Closing the door behind us, I lead Gabrielle out of the house and towards the stable where Argo was stalled. When we entered the barn, Lila was waiting for us.

"Don't try to stop us, Lila." I warned as I threw the saddle blanket over my mount. She raised her hands in supplication.

"I'm not here to stop you. I packed some dinner for you when I heard that you were leaving." She handed her sister a basket full of food.

"How much did you hear?" The blond asked.

"All of it." Gabrielle's free hand covered her eyes as she sighed.

"And now you are gonna lecture me too?" I buckled the saddle on Argo and strapped on our saddle bags waiting for the next reign of verbal attacks.

"No. I just want you to be happy, Gab. I know you can't control who you love."

"Then you don't have a problem with Xena and me as lovers?" I took the basket from my bard and placed my free hand on her shoulder. Lila shook her head.

"No, I have a problem with some of Xena's past, but I know she has changed a lot. And as long as she doesn't hurt you then she is ok with me." I looked at Gabrielle and saw tears of relief had begun to pool in her eyes.

"Thank you, Lila. You have no idea how much that means to me." She sniffed.

"Just promise me I will see you again." The younger sister pleaded.

"If you ever want to see me, just send a message to the Amazons and I will arrange for us to meet. Tell mother that, too. That is if she still wants to see me after today." Lila approached her sister and pulled her into a warm embrace.

"She will, Gab. She just wants you to be happy, too." As the pair broke apart I attached the basket to Argo's tack and climbed up into the saddle, leaving room for Gabrielle in front of me.

"We should go." I said softly. She nodded and accepted my help in mounting.

"Thank you for the food, Lila." I nodded at the young woman. She smiled.

"You're welcome. Take good care of her, ok?" I nodded.

"Always." Gabrielle bid her sister goodbye as we rode out of the stable and headed to the road in a trot. As soon as we reached the main road and were headed out of town my bard let the tears come. I hugged her tighter and spoke consolingly to her till we were well out of range of Potadeia. Only then did I steer Argo off the road to find a spot to stop for the night. Easing her off the horse I lead her to a log where she could sit while I set up camp. After I had a fire going and had unrolled our sleeping furs I returned to the log and sat down next to my upset lover. Taking her into my arms I pulled her onto my lap.

"You ok?" It was a dumb question, I knew, but I didn't know what else to say.

"Yeah, I guess. I mean I knew that he wouldn't approve, but I didn't think he would be so cruel. I'm sorry, Xena." She looked up at me.

"For what?"

"For what he said to you, for what he called you." I chuckled softly.

"I've been called much worse, Gabrielle." She shrugged.

"I know, but he had no right to say those things, he doesn't even know you."

"No, he doesn't, but he was upset, people say cruel things when they are upset. I don't care what he says about me, as long as he doesn't degrade you. You are best thing in my life and I won't allow him to hurt you maliciously." I squeezed her a little tighter.

"At least Lila understands." She sighed.

"She loves you, so does your mother and as hard as it is to accept, so does your father. He just doesn't understand, he refuses to see anything other than his own beliefs. Give them time and I'm sure we will hear that they want to come see you, your mother and Lila especially."

"Us, they will come see us. You are a part of my life, Xena. They will just have to accept that or I won't see them." She shifted position so she could rest her head on my shoulder. I felt her warm breath on my neck and I shivered.

"I don't want to come between you and your family."

"You are my family, and I won't let them come between us." I smiled as warmth spread throughout my body at her statement. It was nice to know that I could still have a family, after all the terrible things I had done. She sighed deeply and rose from my lap.

"I am not going to spend one more moment of our time on Herodotus. If he can't see how much I love you then…" She shrugged and moved to search through the food Lila had packed. I knew we would be discussing this some more, but at the moment I was happy to let her take control and just enjoy spending some quiet time with my bard.

We had finished eating and were reclining on the sleeping firs when Gabrielle next spoke.

"So, where are we going to go now?" I rolled onto my side and rested my head on a bent arm so I could look at her.

"How about the Amazons? It's been awhile since we last saw Ephany and the gang, and it would give us a chance to just hang out for a while. And besides they are having their harvest festival in a few weeks, and I know you like a good festival." I grinned.

"Are you sure? You know you don't like to be in one place for too long of a time, and a few weeks is quite a stretch for you to be with that crew." I nodded my head.

"Yeah, I think it will be good for us to stop for a bit before winter comes. Gives me a chance to make sure we have all of the supplies we need and that the equipment is all in good working condition. Besides, I get a good work out when I'm there. Those women never quit trying to best the Warrior Princess." My bard smiled and captured my free hand in her own.

"On one condition." I raised an eyebrow, belaying my amusement.

"What is that?"

"You let me tell Ephany that the ambushes in the surrounding woods are to stop. I hate the idea of them attacking you unannounced. Some one is going to get hurt one of these times."

"I will be fine."

"It's not you I worry about. It's them. Promise me?" I nodded, it was a reasonable request. One that certainly had its benefits; I could walk freely through the woods, knowing that twenty armed Amazons were not around the next bend waiting to attack. Visions of solitary sword practice danced through my head.

"Yeah, you can tell Ephany that I will only spar in the practice field, and only for a few candle marks a day. Otherwise I will spend all our time there beating up Amazons." Gabrielle nodded and rolled us so that she could rest her head on my shoulder, her arm draped across my ribs.

"It's settled then, tomorrow we head to Amazon country." I entwined my fingers with hers and closed my eyes waiting for Morpheus to claim my lover so I could gently follow.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

We made it to Amazon territory with no problems and were immediately ushered to our customary hut by Ephany, Gabrielle's devoted regent. At one time I was a bit miffed by the blonde Amazon. Her dedication to my lover was a bit too extreme and I wondered if she didn't have some secret agenda to steal her away from me. Gabrielle had long since quelled that notion, informing me that she only had feelings of friendship for her regent and that no one could ever hold a candle to what she felt for me. So I relented in my self imposed dislike of Ephany and we have become good friends and more importantly I trusted Gabrielle in her care.

"So, what brings you two to the village?" The regent asked as we all settled down at the main table in the hut.

"Do we have to have a reason to stop by?" I asked, teasing her a bit.

"Uh, no…no you are welcome here anytime. I was just…" I let her off the hook.

"I'm just yanking your chain Eph." I smiled and she visibly relaxed.

"Xena and I decided that we wanted a few weeks of relaxation before winter and thought that this would be the best place." Gabrielle remarked as she raised a mug of tea to her lips.

"Great! So does that mean you will be here for the harvest festival?" This time the regent looked at me, a hint of expectation in her eyes. My bard's regent had been bugging me recently about finally making our relationship official, usually I avoided her questions. I hardened my facial expression, not wanting to give Gabrielle or her Regent any indication as to why I really wanted to be here for the festival. Gabrielle was oblivious, as she was too engrossed in the tray of food in front of her to notice the exchange.

"Yeah, that is the plan, right Xena?" She looked up at me; an apple slice paused midway between the plate and her mouth.

"Yeah, we will be here." My bard smiled and resumed her eating.

"Good. Well, I'd better go let the cooks know you have arrived." The regent winked at her Queen.

"We will meet up with you at sunset for evening meal, ok?" Gabrielle asked as Ephany made her way to the exit.

"Yeah, see you then." Closing the door behind her, the blonde headed off in the direction of the dining hut.

Grabbing the one remaining apple slice before Gabrielle could snatch it; I stood and began to remove my armor and to settle in to the familiar surroundings.

"You know Xena," my bard rose a few moments later and turned to face me, "we never did get to have that little rendezvous the other night." I smiled as she made her way over to where I was leaning against the wall. Bringing a finger to my lip, I tapped it gently as if deep in thought.

"No, I guess we didn't. What ever are we going to do about that?" I asked innocently. I felt my temperature rise at least five degrees as in response I watched my bard reach behind her back and loosen the ties of her top. Thank the Gods I had already removed my armor, less clothing to remove, perfect for this exact situation. As the flimsy garment fluttered to the floor I moved from my spot on the wall and scooped up a half naked bard and carried her back to our bedroom, intent on making her really hungry for that evening meal we were scheduled to attend.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

The first couple of days in the village passed quickly. It was nice to not have to worry about touching or being affectionate with Gabrielle in public; and to not have to worry about catching dinner or finding a suitable campsite?. We took walks in the surrounding woods, sparred with the other warriors and slept soundly in our own bed, bodies entwined in our favorite positions.

On the fourth day I informed my bard that I was going on a day trip with Eponin the best warrior that the Amazons had and by far the one person with whom I spent the most time with, aside from Gabrielle. I told her we were going hunting and she readily agreed, stating that it would be good for me to get away from the hustle and bustle of the village for a while as she knew that all the people made me jumpy. What the fair queen didn't know was that we were not really going hunting. Eponin had been holding a present for Gabrielle for me and I needed to retrieve it and talk with the warrior about my plans to present it to the Queen.

We had been gone most of the day, just riding through the Amazonian woods and talking in the way that warriors do. The sun was starting to get low on the horizon when we decided that we should at least do a little bit of hunting so no one would be suspicious when we returned to the village. It wouldn't do at all for the best warrior the nation had to offer and the Warrior Princess to return empty handed. So with a couple of turkeys and a good sized deer in our possession we rode back into the village. After bringing the game to the dining hut and removing Argo's saddle I returned to our hut expecting to find Gabrielle engrossed in a scroll, either writing or reading. What I didn't expect was company. Hecuba and Lila to be precise.

"Gabrielle, I'm…." I let the sentence trail off as I took in the three women seated at the table, their faces grim.

"What is going on here?" Immediately I was on the defensive. Gabrielle rose from her seat and came to stand next to me, taking my hand in her own.

"Xena, I need to speak with you in private, please." My eyes caught my lover's.

"Oookkaaay…" I drew the word out; wary of what was to come.

"Mother, Lila, if you will excuse us. The guard can show you to your hut. Xena and I will meet you for evening meal in about a candle mark." Gabrielle opened the main door and motioned for a guard. Giving quick instructions she ushered her family out of the hut and closed the door, releasing a huge sigh. Something was wrong.

"What's the matter?" Instantly I was at her side, leading her to the padded bench near the fireplace. She sat silently for a moment only the insistent pressure of her hand in mine as an indicator that she was upset.

"My father is coming." She turned to look at me.

"Here? To the village? What for?" I questioned the surprise evident in my simple questions.

"Apparently after we left Potadeia he sought out all of the available men in the village."

"Oh no." I groaned.

"Yeah. Well he met up with a man named Thad, he is the son of farmer that lived just down the road from us when I was growing up. Nice kid, but kind lacking in the social aspects of life. Apparently Dad played it like he had a daughter who was planning on returning to the village and who was looking for a husband. So he made an agreement with Thad that if he would marry me that he could build a farm on the back third of our land. Thad agreed. So my father is on his way here with Thad to claim me and force me to marry." I was shocked and angered. Herodotus had no right to make decisions for Gabrielle.

"So he sent mother and Lila here to help me pack and make sure I was ready to leave when he arrives." Gabrielle's hand dropped mine and came to settle in her lap. Her eyes were riveted to the fire.

"He has no right!" I said, barely containing the anger that was building within me.

"No, he doesn't, but he is my father and thinks he knows what is best for me." Rising from the bench I knelt between my lover's legs.

"We won't let him in the village. I won't let him near you." I said as I lifted her chin so her eyes met mine.

"I can't hide here forever, Xena." I sighed, she was right, and besides I didn't really want to have to fight Gabrielle's father.

"What does your mother have to say about all of this?" I asked trying to withhold judgment about the eldest of the Potadeian women.

"She told me I should leave, not be here when he arrives, but I am not going to run from him. I won't give him the satisfaction of thinking he can threaten me into doing something I don't want to do." I nodded, we had never run from a fight before, why start now?

"So what are we going to do?" I asked, my hands clasping hers.

"I don't know, I can't in good conscience threaten to use violence on my own father, but I am NOT going to be forced into a marriage to someone I don't love. Besides, I'm already involved with someone." A small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. I chuckled; glad that she could find time for humor in this situation.

"That you are, and I hear that this person doesn't take kindly to others threatening her girl." I smiled.

"No, she really doesn't." She replied and I playfully tugged on her hand.

"When will he be here?" I asked, a plan formulating in my mind.

"Five days."

"That is before the harvest festival." She nodded sadly; knowing that we had planned on remaining in the village for at least another two weeks.

"Don't worry, I will think of something." I said, my plan already coming together. Pulling her into my arms I gave Gabrielle a tight hug and a kiss on the top of her golden head.

"I know, you always do." She sighed.

"Why don't you go see that your mother and sister are settled? I have something I need to do before dinner. I will meet you there, ok?" She looked at me, confused.

"What do you need to do?"

"Nothing really, Pony has something of mine and I need to get it back." She nodded and allowed me to stand up. Grasping her hands, I pulled her to her feet and kissed her gently on the lips before leaving the hut. Quickly I strode across the village to Eponin's hut and rapped loudly on the door.

"Xena, back so soon? Didn't think I would see you for at least a few candle marks." The Amazon winked conspiratorially.

"Get ready, I am doing it tonight." I stated as I walked into the hut.

"Tonight? I thought you were going to wait a week or so, you know allow those of us involved to prepare?"

"I was, but Herodotus decided that he was going to try and marry Gabrielle off so I intend to see that she is already officially off the market before he arrives."

"What? He has no right!" Eponin barked as she strapped on her sword and armor.

"No, he doesn't, but he won't back off so something needs to be done." I fidgeted as I tucked the small brown pouch into a band of my leathers.

Half a candle mark later I was informed that Gabrielle and her family had arrived in the dining hut. Nodding to Eponin, we headed in that direction, stopping outside of the door to wait until I was announced. Joran, one of Eponin's trusted warriors moved through the flap and could be heard addressing the queen.

"Queen Gabrielle, a warrior has requested a word with you." My hands began to shake as I withdrew a silver ring from the leather pouch and placed it on my little finger.

"The queen is eating now; this warrior can wait until she is finished." Damn! I should have told Ephany of my plans; I knew that the blonde regent would be the death of me one day. I sighed as I heard Joran continue.

"Pardon me, Regent, but this cannot wait." I heard Ephany sigh and Gabrielle's muted approval of the request. I held my position till Joran exited the hut and took her place next to Eponin; they would lead me into the dining hall.

"Let's go." I whispered and they started walking.

Upon entry into the hut Gabrielle's eyes immediately fixed on me, confusion registering in their green depths.

"Xena?" She questioned. I walked until I was immediately in front of her and dropped to one knee, removing my sword and placing it at her feet. A few gasps could be heard as other Amazons realized what I was doing, including Ephany who cracked a wide grin of satisfaction. I waited until her eyes rose from the sword on the floor to meet my own before I spoke.

"Queen Gabrielle, I, Xena of Amphipolis pledge my life, and my sword onto you and ask you, here, in front of your tribe and your family, if you would do me the honor of becoming my bond mate in an Amazon joining ceremony?" I asked in a voice that was much calmer than I felt. As I finished Gabrielle just looked at me, surprise warring with confusion in her facial features. When she didn't answer after a few moments I began to get nervous.

"Gabrielle?" I whispered, trying to regain her attention.

"Yes." I blinked, now it was my turn to be confused.

"Yes, what? Yes, I have your attention or yes you will marry me?" Again I whispered.

"Yes, I will marry you." I let out a sigh of relief and scrambled to my feet as a chorus of cheers rose up from behind me. Grinning from ear to ear I pulled her into an embrace and kissed her gently on the lips before she pulled away.

"What's the matter?" I asked the smile fading.

"Is this your plan?" She whispered painfully, her eyes belaying her emotions.

"What? No, well yes, but..." I looked around the crowded hall and decided that this was not the place to be having this conversation. Grasping her hand lightly I resheathed my sword and guided her out of the dining hut so we could speak privately. I led her to a rough bench and we both sat down.

"Is this your plan, Xena? To marry me so I won't have to go with my father." She asked me again when we were both seated and I could hear the accusation in her voice.

"No, Gabrielle, love, I had planned on asking you to join with me while we were here, and that's why I suggested we stay so long, for the festival. I figured that if you agreed we could be joined during the celebration. The situation with your father is just coincidental. I may not have asked you tonight, but I was going to ask you." She started to interrupt, but I placed my fingers over her lips.

"Listen to me, I love you and I want to marry you. I have had this planned for a full season now. Remember the last time we were here and I snuck off with Eponin for a few hours?" She nodded.

"I was asking her to hold something for me till I was ready to use it. She was holding this." I removed the ring from my finger and held it up for her to see. It was an exact copy of my signet ring, only sized to fit her smaller hand.

"And today, we didn't really spend the whole day hunting; we were planning how I was going to propose. I wanted it to be a surprise. Ask Eponin she will tell you the whole story if you want her to, she has been dying to tell someone. Believe me, I would never toy with your feelings that way, I know how much you respect the joining ceremony and how much you want to get married." I looked at her, hoping that she believed me.

"You really want to marry me?" She asked so seriously I almost laughed.

"By the Gods woman, yes! I want to be with you more than anything, be your wife, and have you be mine." I took her hand in mine and brushed her knuckles against my lips before pressing her hand against my heart, my eyes never left hers.

"You know I am not really good with words and I wish I could have written something spectacular for you, but I can only tell you how I feel. So, please Gabrielle, I love you and want to know if you will marry me?"

"Oh Xena, yes of course I will marry you." She whispered relief relaxing her features as tears began to fill her eyes. Feeling the sting of tears in my own eyes I tilted her chin up and pressed my mouth to hers, smiling when I felt her tongue brush my lips, demanding entrance. We kissed softly until the need for air forced us apart.

"I love you, Xena." She whispered as she wrapped her arms around me, pulling me into a tight hug. I sighed happily.

"And I love you." We sat, wrapped in our private embrace for a few moments, reveling in each other until Gabrielle's stomach reminded us that she hadn't eaten dinner.

"I think we should go back inside. People are going wonder where we ran off to and we need to feed that beast." She nodded and released me from her grasp. Standing I took her hand in mine and we walked back to the dining hut to eat. Unfortunately we were seen as soon as we entered and were whisked away to a back table where Hecuba and Lila were sitting with Ephany who rose immediately upon seeing us.

"Congratulations." She smiled happily and pulled Gabrielle into a hug.

"Thank you, Ephany." Gabrielle beamed, her hand never releasing mine.

"To tell you the truth, we were wondering when she was finally going to ask you." The Regent nodded in my direction a look of smug satisfaction on her face.

"Yeah, well…" I faded off.

"Yeah we all know, Xena. You are a bit reluctant about public confessions of emotions, too girly. And you do have that warrior image to think about." She slapped me on the back and laughed; I couldn't help but join and shrug.

"Ephany, will you get Xena and me something to eat, please?" Gabrielle addressed her regent, knowing that we need to talk to her family in private. The blonde warrior nodded and headed toward the kitchen. Pulling out the bench we sat, prepared to face Hecuba.

"Gabrielle, I don't…"

"Mother, don't," my bard held her hand up to stop her mother. "Xena and I are to be joined. I don't care what father has planned for me; I am not going back with him." I was proud of my lover for standing up for our relationship.

"I am not suggesting that you don't love Xena, but is this really the best option? Can she provide you with a good life? And I don't mean to insult you, Xena, but are you sure that you are doing this for the right reason? Marriage is a life-long commitment, what if someday you meet a nice man and want to settle down?" I opened my mouth to speak, but closed it when I felt a warm hand on my thigh.

"Yes, for us this is the best option. Xena provides a wonderful life for me, I never go hungry and best of all she understands and respects me as a person, which is more than I can say about most of the men I've come across. And as much as this may disappoint you, I am not going to find a man and settle down on some farm, its just not who I am, not the way I want to live my life. Xena loves me and wants to marry me because of the person that I am, not because father is about to arrive on our doorstep in attempt to whisk me away. We are committed to building a life together as a couple, besides, if I am already married then father cannot force me to marry a man I don't even know, let alone love." Hecuba was undeterred.

"She can't provide you with a family, Gabrielle."

"That depends on your definition of family, Mother. No, she can't give me children, but I'm sure that if the time comes when I want to have a child, Xena will find a way to make it happen." Hecuba turned her gaze to me.

"And what about you? Do you think this is the best thing for my daughter?"

"I think that Gabrielle has the right to make her own decisions. She knows that I love her and would respect any decision she makes. If she didn't want to marry me then she wouldn't have said yes."

"What about children?" I shrugged.

"If she wants children, then I will find a way to make it happen." I said confidently.

"And if she wants to come in off the road and settle down?" I knew that question was coming.

"Then we will settle down, whatever Gabrielle wants." Hecuba sighed and I felt the hand on my thigh squeeze slightly.

"Your father just wants what is best for you."

"Being with Xena is best for me. We will be joined and he can't stop us." Gabrielle was defiant.

"He will try."

"He won't be here yet; we will be married in two days, at the full moon." I spoke up and Gabrielle smiled.

"By the time he arrives we will already be joined and there will be nothing he can do and if he wants to put up a fight when he arrives he will have to deal with me and the rest of the Amazon nation. We will not allow our Queen to be taken against her will." I was determined not to let Herodotus take Gabrielle from me.

"The question is will you be here mother? Will you stay for our joining?" Lila decided that it was her turn to speak up.

"I will be here, Gab. I want to see you get joined." I smiled, at least one member of the bard's family was accepting of our relationship. Hecuba smiled slightly.

"Of course I will be here. I just wanted to make sure that this is what you really want. In the end, all I want is for you to be happy." I felt my partner relax just a bit. Well, one hurdle had been cleared. Now we just had to let Ephany know of our plan to be joined so soon. Two days was not an extra ordinate amount of time to plan a wedding.

The rest of the evening passed without event, well unless you count a near heart-attack for Ephany when we told her when we wanted to be joined. That commotion settled and Hecuba and Lila settled in, Gabrielle and I retired to our hut only to find Eponin waiting on the porch.

"What's up, Pony?" I asked as we mounted the steps.

"Ah, well...I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Xena you need to come with me." Instantly I was irritated.

"What in Hades for?" I barked, Pony just smiled.

"Mandatory separation and celibacy period," I groaned, should have known the Amazons would have some stupid separation ritual.

"Can I at least get a few things from the hut?" Gabrielle had her free hand covering her mouth and was trying not to laugh.

"You think this is funny, do you? You have to sleep alone too, ya know." I poked her in the ribs.

"I know, I just think it's funny that you didn't know about this."

"Ha, ha." I laughed sarcastically as I walked into the hut to gather some clean clothes and bathing supplies.

"Can we at least have one moment alone?" I asked as Pony monitored my every move.

"Well, you really aren't supposed to, but…" I shot her a dirty look, "go ahead." She relented and left the hut.

"I'm sorry." Gabrielle apologized.

"For what?" I asked as I gathered her into my arms.

"This separation, its tradition." I sighed.

"I know. I'll survive, that is if you will give me just one kiss before I go." I gave my bard my most pleading look.

"I think we can manage that." She smiled as our lips met in a fiery kiss, tongues battling for control. We remained locked in our passion until a throat being cleared at the door interrupted us.

"I believe I said a moment alone, not a quarter of a candle mark." Pony stood in the doorway a smile on her face.

"Screw you, Pony." Gabrielle jabbed, her head buried in my neck.

"As you wish, my queen."

"Don't you even think it!" I growled and the dark haired warrior laughed.

"Two days," I whispered into my lover's ear.

"Um hmm, wouldn't miss it for the world." She purred.

"If you need me just strangle Pony here and I'm sure she will know where I am." Gabrielle nodded as I started to walk out of the hut.

"Xena!" She called and I stopped instantly.

"Marry me?"

"You bet, a team of chariots couldn't drag me away." I smiled and left the hut before it would take more than Pony to get me away.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

My time spent away from Gabrielle prior to our joining afforded me precious candle marks in which I spent contemplating what my future wife and I were going to do about her approaching father. Gabrielle had been right to question my motivations and sincerity when I asked for her hand. Since we had never seriously thought about the two of us getting joined how was she to know that I had every intention of making an "honest" woman out of her during our most recent stay in the village? However, what I didn't intend was for our joining to be tainted by doubts about my commitment to the young queen.

The truth is that I adore my fair-haired bard and do wish to spend the rest of my life by her side, spoiling her, but having her already be married when Herodotus arrived on our doorstep is the easiest solution to this daunting situation. And since I have absolutely no intention of letting her be joined with anyone else, even if it's only for show, I had to accelerate my proposal by a week or so. This hastened matrimonial plan then threw the village into chaos as every member of Gabrielle's tribe tried to prepare a royal wedding in the span of two days.

As I was one of the two people being joined and thus could not be allowed to roam the village for fear of seeing Gabrielle so I had an abundance of time to myself to try and come up with something to say to my bard's father. To my dismay, as the sun set on the day I was to be joined I had only one single idea about what we could say and I knew my lover wouldn't go for it. So, with much more pleasant things to think about, most importantly, my wedding night, I decided that we would just accept the situation as it comes and think on our feet.

I must say that I found myself quite nervous in the moments before the ceremony began, but as soon as Gabrielle came into view all my nerves melted away to be replaced with a sense of wonder that as the former Destroyer of Nations I thought I would never feel. Here I was, standing in the middle of an Amazon village, about to be joined with their queen with whom I was totally in love. I would do anything for her, even if that meant sacrificing my life. The only other person to whom I was as devoted had been my brother Lyceus and at that moment I wished he was there as a witness to this event.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

The ceremony itself was quite simple, as the required blessing by Artemis had already been received when Gabrielle and I first became lovers. Basically we had to declare our love for each other before the entire nation and I had to pledge my fealty to Gabrielle, one of the requirements of marrying a queen; one which I embraced fully. As a sign of our bond we exchanged silver bonding bracelets that would remain on our bodies as long as we were joined. Gabrielle's would shine visibly for the world to see while mine would be beneath a bracer, but it didn't matter to us as we both knew who we belonged to and didn't need a bracelet to prove it. We just chalked it up as another Amazon custom that we were required to follow.

Once the pledges were complete and our bracelets exchanged the ceremony was complete and the party could begin. This was the part that the Amazon's relished. Although they loved their queen and were ecstatic that she was finally joined, there was nothing more an Amazon liked to do than party. So as Gabrielle and I enjoyed our fist kiss as a bonded couple the barrels of ale were tapped and the celebration began in earnest.

"I think they are starting without us." I whispered as our lips parted briefly.

"Let 'em. I am perfectly content to just stand her with you." I smiled at my wife's confession and wrapped her in a warm embrace, my cheek coming to rest on her soft hair.

"I think that we should join them if we want to get any of that feast the cooks prepared." At the mention of food my wife pulled back from our embrace. Taking my hand in hers she practically pulled me toward the food tables.

"Hungry, Gabrielle?" I laughed as I was pulled along.

"I'm starving, I haven't eaten since this morning, I was too nervous." I quirked an eyebrow.

"You were nervous? What for, second thoughts?" I teased.

"You know better than that, and don't pretend that you weren't a little nervous too, Pony told me that you were." She bantered and I knew I was busted. Damn that Pony, can't a girl have any secrets?

Gabrielle never released my hand as we walked toward the banquet tables and were handed plates piled high with wild game and vegetables grown in the Amazonian gardens. It felt nice knowing that we could be so free with our emotions in front of such a large group of people. In many places around Greece our relationship was frowned upon and we had to be careful as to how much we interacted in public. That was not the case here and apparently my bard was more than willing to take advantage of our freedom as we had no sooner sat down at the head table when I felt a warm hand come to rest high upon my thigh. My wife's action took me off guard for a moment, unfortunately that moment involved me attempting to take a drink from a tankard of ale. I choked on the cool liquid and barely escaped spraying it all over the plate in front of me.

"You ok?" She asked me with a not-so-innocent look on her face.

"Yeah, yeah." I nodded, "went down the wrong way, that's all." I lied and I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was amused and pleased by my reaction to her touch.

"Well, I'm glad that you have everything under control." She smiled at me, the kind of smile that crinkled up her nose and made me smile right back unconsciously. My grin was immediately replaced by a look of surprise when I felt her hand shift, her fingers sliding to caress the sensitive flesh of my inner thigh. My bard was normally very private about our intimate moments and her sudden boldness caused the muscles in my abdomen to flutter with my immediate arousal. I briefly put aside those pleasant feelings to entertain the worry that someone would catch us or see what the young Amazon Queen was doing with her ever so talented hand, but the brush of the tablecloth against my legs quickly dispelled any notion I had of stopping this most pleasant torture. So with a façade of calmness I rejoined the conversation that was going on at our table. After a quarter of a candle mark of tracing light circles on my skin I began to wonder if my bard's boldness had worn off and she was merely keeping me aware of her desire to retreat to our own hut. As I was just about to suggest that we call it a night Gabrielle upped the stakes of her little seduction and moved her roaming hand up to the edge of my now damp breeches, her fingers stroking the crease where thigh met groin. She knew it was a particularly sensitive spot for me and was using that info to tease me mercilessly. Instantly I felt a warm flush spread over my chest and neck.

"Xena, you look a little flushed. You feeling ok?" Eponin asked me as I reached to take a big swig from my water glass. Gabrielle pressed her free hand to my cheek feigning concern. 'Ah no Pony, actually I am quite aroused at the moment since your Queen has her hand up my skirt.' I thought as I swallowed long and hard.

"I'm fine; it's just a little warm out tonight." I reassured the warrior who looked at me dubiously. All the while said Queen never ceased the movement of her fingers, in fact she picked that precise moment to slide a slender digit under my undergarments and began to gently rub against my slick center.

I was barely able to hold back a moan as she gently parted my folds and ran the tip of her finger over my erect bundle of nerves before dipping lower and barely penetrating me, allowing just enough entrance to tease me. I tried to keep my focus on what Pony was asking me, but the insistent throbbing between my legs, my now achingly tight nipples, and the fact that I had a pleasurable new appendage in the vicinity of my crotch was making that nearly impossible. My talented wife, noticing the rhythmic tightening and relaxing of my thigh muscles, increased the pressure between my legs and suck one finger fully within my depths. The direct pressure on my clit and the feel of her slender digit inside me quickly propelled me toward climax, and as I felt the precipice approach I shifted in my seat and parted my legs a bit more, hoping that my bard would take pity on me and allow me to come. Instead of bringing me to climax she stopped all movement and removed her traitorous hand from between my thighs, leaving me ready to publicly beg her to resume her actions and fuck me senseless.

Realizing that I couldn't just grab their Queen and throw her on the table and ravish her in front of a hundred Amazons, for one they would enjoy it too much and two, I don't like to share what is mine, I took the only other option. I stood up and grasped Gabrielle's still damp hand and practically dragged her away from the party, offering up a lame excuse as we departed.

"If you will excuse us, I require your Queen's assistance for…for a few moments." I gritted out as a radiant Gabrielle merely smiled and allowed me to lead her into the near-by forest. Weaving through the trees till I could no longer see the festivities and was certain that they couldn't see us I located a large tree and positioned my wife's back against the smooth bark. Closing the distance between us I pressed my body against hers and lowered my head till our lips were a hair's breadth apart.

"Tease me, will you." I whispered. "What shall I do with you now? Hmmmm?" I questioned before gently running the tip of my tongue over her soft lips, smiling when I felt her shiver.

"Tell me Gabrielle; was your little exploration as exciting for you as it was for me?" I asked as I dragged my fingers up her hard thigh and under her short skirt to the crotch of her breeches, they were soaked.

"Gods, Xena!" She groaned, pressing herself harder against my hand.

"Uh uh, love, I think you have some unfinished business to attend to before we can move into other stimulating activities." I smiled ferally as I removed my hand from her underwear and grasped her wrist. Gently I directed her to my own tortured center where she weaved her way under my clothing and resumed her insistent stroking.

"Oh Gods, harder Gabrielle!" I groaned, I'd had enough teasing and was more than ready to come. Thankfully she complied and I pressed our lips together to muffle my moans. We had moved away from the party, but not far enough so that we couldn't be heard, and I was quite vocal in my passion.

My tongue gently stroked Gabrielle's as she brought me to a quick, but much appreciated orgasm with her fingers. Tearing my mouth away from hers I buried my face in her neck in order to catch my breath. I mumbled an incoherent word of thanks when I felt her strong arms wrap around my waist, pulling me closer in order to help me to remain upright.

"I love you." I whispered when I could finally speak without gasping.

"Oh yeah?" She questioned and I heard the smile in her voice. "Prove it." She sighed as she lifted one strong leg and wrapped it around my waist, pressing her hips against my own.

"With pleasure." I groaned as I grasped the shoulder strap of her shirt and moved it aside to give me greater access to her skin. As I delicately kissed her neck I slid my free hand up the outside of her thigh to knead her firm backside.

"Mmmm, Xena, that is so good." She purred into my ear, urging me on. Taking her cue I ran my fingers under the band of her underwear and down so I could stroke her sex from behind.

"Inside, please." She sighed and gripped my hips, pulling me against her rhythmically. Releasing her neck I lifted my head so I could watch her face as I entered her.

"Look at me, baby." I whispered as I slipped two fingers inside of her, penetrating her fully. I watched as she struggled to keep her eyes open as I pumped my hand against her, grazing her clit on each stroke. She moaned loudly as her orgasm approached.

"Xena, oh….I'm close, so close..." She groaned, throwing her head back.

"That's it, let it come Gab, let it come." I prompted her as she continued to moan loudly and press her self harder into my hand. I realized a moment too late that I should have kissed her at the moment of her climax, as she too tended to be a bit loud.

"Yes, ahhh…..YES XEEENNNAAA!" She screamed as she came hard, wetness flowing over my hand. Now it was my turn to support her as she descended back to earth.

Gabrielle and I strolled back into the celebration as covertly as possible; hoping that perhaps we hadn't been missed or heard during our little foray into the forest. That hope rapidly sank when Eponin approached us, a huge grin on her face.

"Feeling better, Xena?" The warrior asked.

"Yes, as a matter of fact that walk cooled me off considerably." I replied, attempting to keep my face neutral.

"I highly doubt it was the walk, the sex on the other hand…" The Amazon grinned full out at us now.

"PONY!" Gabrielle gasped in mock shock.

"Oh don't pretend that it didn't happen, we all heard you." Ephany piped in as she approached and draped an arm over Eponin's shoulders. The opportunity to embarrass her Queen didn't come along every day, but when it did the Amazon's took every moment they could get.

"All…all of you?" Gabrielle stammered and our two companions began to laugh in earnest. I watched as a blush began to creep up my lover's neck. Sensing her discomfort and only wishing to tease their fair Queen the Regent and the Warrior relented.

"Well not everyone, only those of us who were protecting your virtue by preventing any other amorous couples from wandering out and finding you." Ephany smiled politely.

"How did you know we were…" She let the sentence fade out, but made a small gesture with her hands.

"Gabrielle, they way I jumped up from dinner and practically dragged you away must have been a good clue." I teased my wife, who was still blushing furiously.

"Yeah, and Xena had been squirming around in her chair for about a half of a candle mark so we figured you must have been doing something interesting under that table." Again Pony couldn't resist teasing her ruler. I think if embarrassment was fatal Gabrielle would have died on the spot as she turned an even deeper shade of red and attempted to merge herself into my body, her face buried in my shoulder.

"No need to be shy now, we've already heard you." Still they teased, my bard only groaned.

"Gabrielle, it's no big deal, really. It's not like we haven't heard it before, we do live in an Amazon village after all." Ephany tried to soothe her queen.

"And it's not like we didn't expect it, especially tonight." Now it was Pony's turn to attempt to appease. Gabrielle sighed and lifted her head to look at her friends.

"I know, I just try not to think about people hearing us too much."

"Well think of it this way, Love, at least they know that I am a competent consort." I added, hoping to ease her discomfort a bit.

"Mmmm, that you are." She hummed before standing on tiptoe to press her lips to mine, her shyness from a moment ago seemingly swallowed up by the less publicly inhibited woman who had emerged earlier that evening. Instantly I felt my desire rage anew and before I caused any more embarrassment with my roaming hands I ended the exchange.

"And on that note, unless there are any objections, I think we will retire for the evening." I arched an eyebrow to see if there were any complaints to my plan.

"Sounds like a good idea." Gabrielle smiled sweetly and I grasped her hand and began to lead her back to our hut. My plan did encounter some resistance as we tried to navigate the path back to our living quarters. First we encountered Gabrielle's mother and sister, who fortunately hadn't heard about our earlier escapades, and only wanted to congratulate us. Once free of that hurdle we had to graciously accept warm wishes from what seemed to me, every member of the tribe, before we were finally able to escape.

With a wave of my hand I dismissed the guards sitting on our front porch and let my bride inside. As Gabrielle went about lighting candles and rekindling the fire I closed and locked the door to our hut and poured two glasses of cider before removing my boots and joining a now seated bard on the rug in front of the fireplace.

"I must say, this is a whole lot nicer than sitting on a hard bench and trying to make small talk with Pony." I smiled as I wrapped my arms around my bard and encouraged her to sit between my bent knees.

"Yes, much more private." She hummed.

"Are you upset that they heard us in the woods?" I asked gently as ran my free hand lightly up and down her arm.

"I was a bit embarrassed, but upset, no. I should have realized that something interesting was bound to happen as soon as I stuck my hand up your skirt at dinner."

"Well, you certainly got my attention." I joked.

"That I did, that's half the reason I did it, because I knew you wouldn't expect it."

"Well, I certainly didn't, but I definitely enjoyed seeing that side of you."

"Does it bother you that I am a bit…shy about those types of things?" She turned sideways in my embrace so she could look me in the eye.

"Oh no, I don't ever want you to think that. I know you like to keep our intimate moments private and I should have known that even though we were out of sight that someone might hear us. I'm sorry, I know that Ep and Pony embarrassed you and I never want you to be embarrassed by or regret anything that we do together." I confessed as I interlaced our fingers and squeezed gently.

"I am never embarrassed by anything we do, honest. And I was the one who initiated the whole thing; I knew what would happen as soon as I started teasing you. I also knew that we could be caught, but I did it anyway. It was part of the thrill. Besides, I want to work on being less inhibited, you know, being a bit more adventurous in public." I arched one brow.

"Well I don't mean getting naked in the middle of the village or anything." She clarified.

"I'm happy to just let you take the lead there, Love. Anything you want to do you know I'm willing." She smiled and nodded slightly.

"Well," she began as she took the now empty mugs and set them aside, "we are alone now, sitting here in front of this warm fire and not a single visitor expected. What are we to do?" She asked in her most innocent of voices.

"Oh, I can think of a few things." I purred into her ear as I turned her so she was once again facing the fire, her back against my chest. When I felt her lean back completely I resumed lightly stroking her arms with my fingertips.

"Close your eyes, Baby, and just feel me." Again I whispered, before lowering my mouth to where her shoulder met neck and sucked lightly. Instantly, I felt goose bumps race along her flesh.

"Cold?" I asked.

"You know I'm not. That feels good." She whispered.

"I'm just getting started." I added as I began kissing her neck, alternating between light fluttery kisses and wet, open mouthed ones. I was careful not to suck too hard as we did have business to attend to in the next few days, and as much as she said she wanted to be less inhibited, I was sure she didn't want to face her father with her neck covered in hickeys.

When I had my fill of her exposed skin my hands left their position on her arms and began to loosen the ties of her top. Once free, I allowed it to slide down her torso and land between her bent knees. Once her upper body was exposed I admired her smooth skin, it glowed a golden hue in the flickering firelight. When I could no longer just admire I began tracing my fingertips over her collar bones and then slowly descended until I could cup her soft breasts in my hands. With callous-roughened fingers I gently coaxed her pliant flesh until her nipples pebbled beneath my touch. I pinched the hardened points gently and my lover moaned and dropped her head back to rest on my shoulder, her breath puffing softly against my neck, the feeling made me shiver.

"Good?" I questioned as I continued to alternately squeeze and twist.

"Yyyeeesss." She hissed and I felt her try to free her arms from beneath mine. I released her for a moment and rearranged our limbs so that hers were on top with my longer arms looped underneath. My hands resumed their position on her breasts and hers rose up to cover them and encourage me to squeeze her whole breast rhythmically and rub my palms over hardened nipples during the release. I sighed at the feeling of her stiff flesh on my sensitive hands.

I indulged her wishes for a few moments before abandoning her soft mounds to her own manipulations, she continued without missing a beat. Moving lower, I trailed my fingers over her taught abdomen, her muscles contracted lightly as my fingers skimmed over a particularly sensitive spot. I stopped my downward journey momentarily to run my fingers around her navel before dipping lower to where the waistband of her skirt interrupted my downward progress. Working quickly I unfastened her soft leather belt and loosened the ties of her skirt.

"Lift." I breathed into her ear.

When she complied I slid my hands under the material of her skirt and breeches and slid them down and off her legs. When she resettled and was comfortable I used my hands to part her knees even further, brining them into contact with my inner thighs. I smiled when I heard her gasp, as this action exposed her sex to the cool air of the hut. Grasping a hand in each of my own I urged her to place them on my upraised knees, giving my arms more room to move and touch her.

"Hold on." I instructed as my fingers began to stroke the soft skin just to the outside of her sex. I rubbed with just enough pressure to cause her arousal to move up a notch. I felt and heard her already irregular breathing speed up as her hands flexed on my knees.

"Please, Xena." She gasped.

"Please, what? What is it you want me to do, Love?" I coaxed her, wanting to hear her vocalize her desires to me. This was another attempt to make her less inhibited.

"Touch me." She tried, but it wasn't what I wanted to hear.

"I am touching you." I replied, urging her to say where she longed for my fingers to be.

"My sex, touch me there, please." I smiled, pleased with her request, and I slid my fingers inward and gently fondled her swollen labia, just parting the folds with the tips of my fingers.

"Oh Gods!" She jerked at the softness of my touch.

"Too much?" I questioned, knowing full well that she would need firmer caresses to elevate her to climax.

"No! No, I need more…harder, please." Not wanting to tease her anymore than necessary I used one hand to part and hold open her swollen outer folds and the other to firmly run two fingers the length of her sex, reveling in the abundance of fluids I felt.

"Mmmm, Baby, you're so warm and wet." I moaned into her ear, feeling my own need rising as I set up a slow rhythm of strokes, my fingers just brushing her erect clit on the upstroke and circling her opening on the down.

"Xena…ahh…I…need, more." My lover gasped out between heavy breaths. Knowing that if I brought her to a quick release now it would leave ample opportunity for more mutual pleasuring later, on the next downward sweep I thrusted fully into her with two fingers.

"Sweet Artemis, yes." She moaned loudly and I felt an answering tug in my own sex. Pumping steadily I used my free hand to focus on my bards erect bundle of nerves applying direct pressure to the hard node. Gabrielle's hips began moving in counterpoint to my plunging fingers so I added a third finger, knowing that the additional digit would stretch her enough to allow her to reach orgasm. Moments later she was coming, her thighs contracting and her nails digging little moon-shaped indents into my knees.

"OH! XENA….AHHH, YES…..YES!" She screamed, apparently not caring about the level of soundproofing provided by our living quarters.

When I felt her weight collapse back against me I withdrew my fingers slowly, feeling her shudder at the sensation. Quickly I brought my passion slicked fingers to my lips and greedily sucked at the evidence of my bard's passion. Gabrielle's breathing was slowly returning to normal as I lowered her to the soft rug. Rising to my feet I padded over to the bed and retrieved a couple of pillows. Lifting her head and shoulders I propped her up slightly so she could see what I was doing.

Regaining my feet I removed my arm bands and reached behind my back to release my own clothing ties. I watched my wife lick her lips in anticipation as I lowered my garment to the floor. Standing before her clad only in a short shift and breeches I decided that I would allow her to remove the rest of my clothing at her leisure. Dropping to my knees I crawled up her body till our lips were even. She looked at me with an amused smile before looping her arms around my neck and pulling me into a deep kiss. I moaned into her mouth as I felt her soft body caress me. We continued to kiss hotly and Gabrielle grew impatient with my clothed state. Her hands deftly found the hem of my shift and yanked it up and over my head, tossing it in the direction of our bed.

"Much better." She sighed as the bare skin of our breasts met. I shifted slightly so my own hardened nipples rubbed against hers, it felt like Elysium.

"Mmmhmm, definitely better." I echoed.

My bard was not satisfied though and I felt her strong hands slide beneath the waist band of my underwear and come to rest on my ass. She flexed her fingers and pulled my hips hard against her. I moaned and lifted slightly so my lover could slide the offending fabric down. I kicked my legs slightly and the unwanted article was tossed free. I resettled so that one of her thighs was between my legs and I pumped my hips in attempts to gain some friction against my now insistent sex.

"Uh uh." She chided, "not yet." Bracing her hands on my shoulders and using her strong legs she flipped us over. Now on top she began an assault on my neck. I hummed deep in my throat as I felt her sharp teeth nipping at my skin. She obviously didn't have any concerns about marking me as I had with her and I knew that come morning my neck would bear the evidence of the Amazon Queen's passion.

Satisfied that my throat had received enough attention she began her descent, stopping only when she could take the stiff peak of my breast into her mouth and suck hard.

"GODS, Gabrielle!" I groaned when she pulled even harder. I fought valiantly to keep my eyes open so I could watch her fondle one breast while lavishing attention with her mouth on the other. I realized that my lover was a breast woman not long after we first became intimate. She could spend candle marks just kissing and caressing my full mounds and I usually relished her attentions for as long as I could bear, but I had little control left at this point. So I enjoyed her attentions for a few more moments before I threaded my hands into her short hair and gently pushed her lower.

"Please, I need you lower." I pleaded with her. I think she realized that I had been pushed to the edge, my last orgasm seeming like days rather than candle marks ago.

Releasing my nipple with an audible sucking sound she trailed her kisses lower, swirling her tongue in my navel before lifting her head so that she could position herself between my legs. Happily I allowed her to drape one thigh over her shoulders while she bent one knee and moved my leg outwards to give her more room. I cried out when I first felt her warm breath on my heated sex. Once again my hands were in her hair, although this time they were merely one more connection to my lover's body.

The fair-haired queen finally ended my suffering when she ran her warm, wet tongue through my folds and flicked the tip against my clit, causing my hips to jump.

"So…good!" I moaned as she continued to lap at my sex, collecting the abundant wetness she found there. My desire mounted quickly and I nearly climaxed when she plunged three fingers into my depths and bean to pump in and out of me forcefully.

"Gab…yes...OH…harder, harder." I was moaning nearly non-stop now.

"That's it, Baby. Ride my hand, you love it when I take you like this don't you?"

"Yyyeeessss." I hissed as I rocked my hips forcefully against her probing digits.

"Gods, Xena, you are so sexy when I fuck you like this!" She whispered hoarsely. My eyes immediately popped open and locked on hers, my surprise obvious in my expression. I would have come right on the spot if her wantonness hadn't surprised me so much.

"Hades, Gabrielle! You trying to kill me?" I forced out as she continued to pound into me, crushing my clit with her thumb after every stroke.

"Come for me, Baby." She coaxed, "let everyone hear how much you love it when I do you like this." I felt my orgasm approaching rapidly the longer she talked to me in such a manner and I knew that she was going to get her wish. This was going to be a loud one.

"GODS…GAB-RI-ELLE! YES….UNGH…I'M COMING!" I shouted as I climaxed hard, clamping my thighs around her to keep her in place while I rode out the sensations. When I finally quieted Gabrielle had freed herself from my grip and was lying beside me, her gaze fixed on my flushed face.

"Hey." She said as she brushed my bangs out of my eyes.

"Hey, yourself." Ok, it wasn't the most brilliant reply, but it was the first thing that came into my head.

"That was fun." She smiled and her eyes crinkled at the edges. I found that expression very cute, but I would never tell her that.

"Mmmmhmmm. I think you bout gave me a heart attack." I teased, knowing she would remember my surprised expression.

"I got a bit carried away, but after our little tryst earlier I was feeling bold. Was it ok?" For a moment she looked concerned and I rushed to reassure her.

"More than ok, you have no idea how much you're talking like that turns me on." I confessed.

"I think I have an idea." She replied as she showed me a large scratch on her shoulder.

"Sorry." I muttered as I caressed the area.

"Don't be, you haven't seen your neck." Again the eye crinkling smile and I laughed at her attempts to look guilty. We lay there for a few moments longer before moving to the bed. After making ourselves comfortable we made love again slowly before falling into a sated sleep.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

My new wife and I spend the next day secluded in our hut. The only time we saw any visitors was when we had food delivered. We decided that the world would come crashing down soon enough and that we deserved a little time to ourselves. We mostly stayed in bed, lounging comfortably in each other's arms. Between bouts of lovemaking we discussed how we were going to deal with her father when he arrived.

"My plan? I don't think you really want to hear my plan." I said seriously after Gabrielle asked how I thought we should handle the situation.

"Of course I do. Now tell me." She replied.

"I don't think we should let him into the village at all." I said as I popped one of the few remaining pieces of fruit into my mouth.

"Why not?" Gabrielle asked.

"In all honesty, I would like for you to stay here in the village and I'll ride out to meet him and explain that you are a grown woman and thus he no longer has any claim to you, including telling you who you should marry, and that you will not be returning to Potadeia with Thad. And since you are already married, you are not free to marry anyone else." I met my wife's gaze and could tell that she knew that I didn't think she would go for that plan.

"That's it, huh? You just want to talk to him?" She asked in a disbelieving tone.

"Well…" She chuckled at me.

"That's what I thought. Look, Xena, I love the fact that you are so willing to fight for my honor, but I do think that this is something that I have to face in person." She smiled as she removed the food tray from our bed so that we could once again lounge, laying face to face.

"I know," I sighed, "what do you think we should do?" I asked.

"Well," she began, "I think that we need to have him escorted into the village and into the meeting hut. Then I think that he should find out just what it means when I tell him I am the Amazon Queen. I will wear my ceremonial leathers and have my full compliment of guards. I will then explain to him that I have already married and thus am not able to marry Thad and that I will not be returning with him to Potadeia for that purpose, ever." She finished matter-of-factly.

"I knew you were going to say that and I do agree with you. I just needed to get my plan out in the open." I smiled.

"I know, and I know that you want to protect me from him, but I need to stand up to him once and for all." She sighed and patted my hand reassuringly.

"If he tries something…"

"If he does, and I don't think he will with all the guards around, I will make one final plea for him to let it go and then I leave you to take care of it. Promise me something though." I nodded, encouraging her to finish.

"Don't hurt him too badly, Mother and Lila need him and I don't want them to dislike you because he has forced your hand."

"I promise I will only do what is necessary to drive the point home. No lasting damage, I couldn't do that to you or the rest of your family. I never want something like that to be between us." She nodded her understanding.

"It's settled then?" She asked.

"Yes." I nodded, happy to be able to move onto happier subjects. Sighing deeply I rolled onto my back, pulling Gabrielle closer. She quickly settled on her stomach, head resting on my shoulder and one arm draped across my ribs. Content to have settled what was going to happen when Herodotus arrived we drifted in and out of a light sleep, with our moments of wakefulness filled with gentle words and soft touches.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Gabrielle's father arrived, with her intended husband, right on schedule, at dawn the following morning. The information about his arrival was passed on to us by an apologetic Ephany, who dragged us out of bed to share the unhappy news. My bard asked her regent to relay the message that she would meet her father at mid-day in the meeting hut.

"Of course, I will have Pony assemble the guards a candle mark prior and have them meet you in the hall." The Queen nodded.

"Thank you, Ep." The Regent gave a curt nod and quickly left the hut.

"So much for our honeymoon." I joked as I wrapped my arms around her. She gratefully accepted the embrace and sighed.

"I am so sorry about this." She mumbled into my neck.

"Hey, it's not your fault. And once we take care of him we will go away for a while. Just you and me, we'll go someplace private where there are no prying Amazons and no disapproving family members. We will have a private honeymoon." I said as I gently placed my fingers under her chin and lifted so that her gaze met mine and she could see the sincerity of my words.


"I promise." I whispered before I gently kissed her lips and urged her back to our bed for a couple more candle marks of sleep as it was going to be a long day for my bard.

Mid-day came much too quickly for both Gabrielle and I and before we knew it we were seated in the main hall surrounded by Royal Guards. Gabrielle looked every bit the Amazon Queen, but I could tell by the way she kept drumming her fingers against her thigh that she was nervous about the impending confrontation.

"My Queen, Herodotus of Potadeia has arrived and wishes to speak with you." Ephany delivered the required request. 'Show time.' I thought as I took my position, standing just to the left and slightly behind Gabrielle.

"Show him in." She replied and stood to meet her father.

Herodotus strode into the meeting hall with a man no more than twenty five summers right on his heels. I assumed this was Thad, the man he intended for Gabrielle. Subtly I sized him up; he was shorter than me by a good hand-length leaving him just slightly taller than Gabrielle. He was well built, I assumed from his work on a farm, but I could tell he was no warrior. This fact pleased me; I now knew that if this meeting went south I would not have to hold back till I gauged his fighting skill, I could just charge in and kick his ass. His outward appearance was about what I expected, his skin was light, but tanned and his hair was a shade or two darker than my wife's. Herodotus obviously wanted blonde grandchildren. Or he wanted someone for his daughter that reminded her nothing of me, the latter being more probable.

"For what reason do you wish to speak to me?" Gabrielle began.

"Gabrielle, you know damn well why I am here, now collect your things and we will be leaving." I mentally rolled my eyes; this was not going to go well.

"You will show our Queen the proper respect or I will escort you from this village on the end of my sword." Pony spat, as she drew her weapon and stepped up to confront Gabrielle's father. The Amazon warrior had reached the limit of her patience with my lover's father.

"Eponin, that is not necessary, I am sure that he will address me with the proper respect from here on." The Queen stopped the dedicated warrior's forward advance with her statement.

"As you can see, I am the leader of these people and they obey my commands so choose your words carefully. They would kill you where you stand if I should ask them to. Now, why don't you take a seat and we will discuss this problem." I saw Herodotus look around at the twenty armed women and blanch slightly when his daughter told him that the Amazons would kill him if he didn't watch himself and I was pleased with Gabrielle's show of power. With two sentences she showed him who was in charge at this meeting, and that it wasn't him. Begrudgingly the eldest Potadeian male took a seat and for the first time noticed that his wife and youngest daughter were also seated at the table, but not near his end.

"What is this? Did you turn them against me too?" He turned toward me and asked angrily.

"Xena has nothing to do with their position at this table. Their seats represent their own show of support. They were asked how they felt about this situation and they chose to stand at my side." My bard answered.

"We have chosen to support Gabrielle's relationship with Xena." Hecuba stood and stared at her husband.

"Her relationship?! You actually believe that what they are doing is right? It's immoral." He spat, disgust evident in his voice.

"That is for the gods to decide." Hecuba stood firm as her husband slammed his fists on the table.

"Now, what is it you desire from me?" Gabrielle took control once again.

"Desire? I DESIRE nothing; I demand that you end this game and return home with me immediately. There is to be no more traveling, I have made arrangements for you to be wed to Thad, and you will see that arrangement through and settle down like a normal woman and you will not see Xena again. Your mother was to inform you of my decision and see to it that you were packed when I arrived, but I see that she too has been corrupted." At his implication of ownership of Gabrielle and his insinuation that she was merely playing a game with the Amazons I glanced around the room and saw twenty fists tighten on sword hilts. I had to fight my own anger at his demand that Gabrielle never see me again. 'Like he could ever follow through with that threat.' I told myself and I felt my anger abate slightly.

"I see," I saw my wife take a stabilizing breath and knew that she was fighting her own anger at his comments and working hard not to snap back. "First of all you are in no position to demand anything of me; I am a grown woman, Queen of this tribe and free from your close-minded influence. Secondly, and this is the important one, I am currently not available to be married." I saw a small smirk play at the corners of Gabrielle's mouth; she was anticipating her father's reaction.

"What are you talking about?" Herodotus barked.

"I am already married. I was wed two days ago, by an Amazon Priestess." I stood up a little straighter at the mention of our marriage, it was the happiest day of my life and I wasn't about to let it's memory be sullied.

"Who did you marry? Where is he and why didn't you wait for me, you knew I was coming?" Herodotus looked around the room again, seeing no other men his gaze returned to his daughter. Now it was my turn to play.

"She married me. And we didn't wait because we didn't want your hatred to sour our day." I stepped up to Gabrielle's side, my hand coming to rest on her shoulder. Herodotus exploded at this, standing up so quickly that his chair fell over behind him.

"HOW DARE YOU!" He said; his voice low and full of hatred. "HOW DARE YOU TWIST HER INTO SOME SORT OF ABOMINATION, YOU WHORE!" He spat, his fists clenched. I spared a glance at Thad, who had not moved from his chair and seemed to have no inclination to get involved. I felt Gabrielle stand and I allowed my hand to come to rest at my side, ready to defend her if he decided to move.

"Xena and I are married, father. I chose to marry her, not because she tricked me into it, but because I love her. I am in love with her. Now I am sorry you are unwilling to accept that, but it's true." I saw Herodotus begin to move around the table and knew that this discussion was over. Stepping in front of my wife I prepared to meet him head on.

"YOU FUCKING BITCH!" He yelled with venom as he rounded the table. I held my hand up to stay the guards that were prepared to take him down.

"No, let me." I said; my tone even.

"Herodotus, think about what you're doing. You don't want to fight me." Still he advanced.

"Oh yes I do. I've waited a long time for this moment 'Warrior Princess' and it's about time I reclaimed what is mine." I rolled my eyes, knowing that there was no way out of it now; I had given him his final chance. As he came within striking distance I allowed him the first blow. His fist connected with my cheek and I felt my head turn to the side. 'Ok, that's enough.' I thought to myself as I caught his next attempt, his fist encased in my hand. Roughly I pushed him back, he stumbled a bit and I placed a foot against his chest, forcing him back some more. I kept him on the retreat until we were out of the meeting hut.

After my discussion with Gabrielle about how I was going to deal with her father I decided that I would not use any weapons against the middle aged man and I didn't even have my Chakram with me during the meeting. Herodotus had made no such promises, however, and he drew a dagger as he was picking himself up off the ground for the third time.

"I'm going to kill you, Xena." He whispered harshly.

"No, you're not, but you are going to wish that you had." I remarked as I side-stepped his first lunge and connected a strong punch to his jaw. I saw him stumble a bit. He regained his balance and lunged again connecting with air as I hit him again, this time in the abdomen with a well placed kick. He continued his attempts at stabbing me and I continued to hit him till I drew blood from his nose, breaking it with one well placed jab. I heard my wife take in a sharp breath and knew that it was time for this to end.

"Back off, Herodotus. It's over, Gabrielle and I are married, and our relationship has been blessed by Artemis. Don't perpetuate this violence, I am the better fighter and we both know it. Stop before you really get hurt." I tried to reason with him, it didn't work he still lunged at me, missing by a mile. I knew that if I hit him in the face again it would knock him unconscious so I decided to take him off his feet and let the guard take him into custody.

"Well, I tried." I shrugged at him right before I dropped to the ground and swept his feet out from under him. As soon as he hit the dirt I stepped back, the fight was over.

"Take him into custody." I heard Gabrielle order and four armed guards were instantly surrounding him.

"I'LL KILL YOU, YOU BITCH! YOU STOLE MY DAUGHTER!" He was panting, but he still tried to come at me and was stopped by a sword to his throat.

"Get him out of here." I said to Pony and she pulled the still cursing Herodotus away. He would be put into the jail until he had calmed down and then Gabrielle would address him before he was escorted off Amazon lands. As soon as he was out of sight I felt a strong hand on my arm, turning me around. Gabrielle placed a cool hand against my bruised cheek and I met her sad eyes with my own.

"I'm sorry it came to that." I said truthfully.

"I know; he left us no choice." I shook my head and allowed her to lead me back into the meeting hut where she would decide what was to be done about her father.

"How badly is he hurt?" I heard asked as soon as we entered the large hut. Gabrielle's mother and sister had decided to stay inside rather than witness the fight.

"His nose is broken and he will be bruised for a few weeks, but nothing serious." I said as I approached the other members of my wife's family.

"Thank you for not hurting him too badly." Hecuba sighed as she looked at my swollen cheek.

"I hope you realize he left me no choice. I wasn't about to let him insult Gabrielle and I defiantly wasn't about to let him touch her." Hecuba nodded.

"I know, he is just so stubborn, refuses to see things in anyway but his own. He thinks you rode into town and abducted her and are now keeping her against her will." I was about to speak when my bard broke in.

"She didn't steal me, I left on my own. And I choose to stay with her now, I hope you understand that." She came to my side and took my hand in her own; I couldn't help but smile a bit.

"It's going to be hard now, seeing you." I could see the pain in Hecuba's eyes and I wished that there had been another way to settle this.

"No, it won't. I am going to see to it." Gabrielle nodded and then motioned for her Regent to come to her.

"Ephany, see to it that my father is cleaned up and have him brought in to hear the charges being brought against him and his sentence.

"Yes, my Queen." Ephany bowed and left the room, two guards in tow.

A quarter of a candle mark later and we were all once again assembled in the meeting hut, but this time Herodotus was under close guard. Gabrielle remained seated when he was brought before her. She appraised his bruised nose and face and began her sentencing.

"As Queen of the Amazons, I do here by charge you with assaulting the Consort to the Queen, Xena of Amphipolis. As a result your public display of violence you will be sentenced without a trial. From this day forward you will be banished from the Amazon Nation, never again to be allowed voluntary entry. Furthermore, you will return to your home in Potadeia under guard and allowed to remain there as long as you follow one rule. You will not seek retribution against the mother or sister of the Queen as a result of their standing in this meeting today. If it is ever found that you have sought vengeance in anyway you will be brought back to this village and punished under Amazon law." Gabrielle turned her gaze away from her father's angry stare and onto the young man who had entered the village with him.

"Thad, as you have not caused any harm or shown any aggression in this village you will be allowed to leave, however, you are to understand that any arrangement you made surrounding my marriage to you is void." The young man nodded and rose to speak.

"I am sorry for this trouble. I was not made aware of all the details in this situation. I was unaware that you were already involved." Gabrielle nodded and I could see that she believed that her childhood acquaintance was indeed left in the dark about her relationship with me.

"Do you have anything to say?" Gabrielle asked her father.

"As long as you are with her I have, but one daughter." Herodotus sneered.

"So be it, but it is your loss." Gabrielle replied in a low voice. I knew his words hurt her, but she refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing it.

"You are dismissed." The Queen raised her hand and her father and Thad were escorted from the room and out of the village.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

"Mmmmm, that feels sooo good. Thank you." Gabrielle purred as I massaged all the knots out of her neck and shoulders. It had been a long, emotional day for my Queen. Herodotus and Thad had been escorted to the edge of Amazon land and were informed that Hecuba, Lila and an armed escort would be meeting them in the morning for the trip back to Potadeia. After seeing that I wasn't injured too badly, my bard had then gone and talked with her mother. They had come to an understanding about Gabrielle's choices in life. And while Hecuba didn't necessarily understand why her eldest daughter chose to live and travel with an female ex-warlord, she accepted that I made Gabrielle happy and that is all that really mattered to her in the long run. So after all the emotional matters had been attended to the Queen and I had retired to our hut for a private dinner and a relaxing evening and currently we were spread out on our bed as I tried to release all her tension with my strong fingers.

"Do you think I did the right thing today?" She asked suddenly, rolling to her side so that she could look at me directly.

"Yes, I do and I am very proud of you for how you stood up to him. It takes courage to stand up to your family when they disagree with you so vehemently." I said truthfully as I gently brushed a stray lock of hair from her forehead.

"I feel guilty for allowing you to fight with him."

"I don't think there was any other option, Love. He doesn't like me and he thinks that I stole you from him. And the fact that you stay with me willingly makes him even angrier. His confronting me physically allowed him to vent his anger about what he perceived as a wrongdoing toward him. And as much as he doesn't want to admit it, he now knows that I am more than capable of protecting you, even if it is from him." I offered, trying to make her feel better about her actions.

"He doesn't even know you. Not like I do." She stated in a voice that allowed me to feel how much this whole situation was hurting her.

"No one knows me like you do." I smiled softly and pulled her into a comforting hug. "I know that his refusal to accept me as a part of your life hurts you deeply and I hope that someday, for your sake, he can see past his hate so that you and he may have a relationship."

"Why can't he see how much I love you, Xena?" She asked finally as the tears she had been holding in all day began to fall. My heart ached for my wife as I tried to comfort her.

"I don't know, Love." I replied, honestly.

"You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and you would think that he would want to share in my happiness." She got out between sobs.

"Shh, it's ok, I'm here." I consoled her gently. "I think that we should be happy that your mother and Lila support us and that my family and the Amazons support us. With their help we have a chance at making peace with your father."

"I know, and I am grateful for their help, but it doesn't make it any easier." Her tears had slowed slightly and I gently wiped my fingers across the tracks of moisture on her cheeks.

"No, it doesn't, but I am here to help in any way that I can. I'm in this for the long haul, Gabrielle. I love you and I want us to be together forever." I confessed, feeling my own eyes sting with potential tears.

"Me too, forever." She echoed before pushing me back so that I was lying flat on the bed. With my body situated to her liking she shifted so that her head rested on my chest. Happy with this arrangement I pulled a blanket up over us and wrapped my arms around her snugly.

"Tomorrow, Love. After your mother and Lila leave we will try and put all of this behind us. We will head out on that little vacation I promised you. I know just the place." I felt my bard nod and place a light kiss on my neck before she snuggled in deeper against me. As I felt her body slowly begin to relax into slumber I allowed a few of my own tears to fall in hopes that our troubles with Gabrielle's family were over for now and that we could move on to making happier memories of our first weeks of marriage.

The End

For Now…Look for the Honeymoon Sequel in the Future

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