I think Hera believed that I fell asleep and she wasn't at all pleased that I was becoming so relaxed. She snapped at everyone from the guard who held the door for her, to the henchman that cracked his knuckles loudly before starting to throw punches at me."Unhhh." I couldn't quite keep my mouth closed that time as I was punched right in the stomach. I had a hard time catching my breath, but it could have been worse...he could have been aiming for my ribs.
"You know, Xena...I can keep this up for a very long time." Hera said from her temporary throne.I lifted my head and sneered. "What about Olympus...how much time have you really got?"I received a boot to my midsection that time. Gods my stomach is going to be sore for days. Hera glared at me with those pale eyes that were like chips of ice and I could see her arms were shaking in her anger."Don't think I won't kill you, warrior." The Goddess hissed.I shrugged, well; I gave as much of a shrug as I could under the circumstances. Nobody really wants to die and I didn't think Hera would actually do it, but if I had to go, then this was the kind of thing I wanted to go out doing. Gabrielle taught me about fighting for the greater good and there was no better example than this. Perhaps I was delaying Hera just long enough for Apollo and the rest of the Gods to win the battle on Olympus. Hopefully Auto and Eponin were still alive and could find a way to the Diamond Chamber. There were other ways this could still play out. I so wanted my wife to be able to go on, to experience all the goodness that life had to offer. If the Olympians failed; my sweet Brie having her life cut short, and I was to meet Hades right now, then at least I would be able to hold my head up when I met my wife in the Fields, knowing I did what was right. I looked at the goddess through the one eye that wasn't swollen shut. "Give it up, Hera...it's never going to happen."
"Bring her down!" Hera ordered.
I felt the chain that held my feet off the floor give a little, but when my feet were finally within reach of the ground, I found I couldn't hold the chains and myself up. I dropped to my knees and when the chain continued to lower my arms, they too fell to the ground until I was on all fours, my back and shoulder muscles screaming in relief."I want her head." Hera said slowly and I knew that she said it that way just so it would sink in.The interrogator turned executioner pulled a broadsword from a scabbard on the table. I tried to even out my breathing, my mind searching for that one last trick, my body trying to pull itself together for one last stand. I couldn't accomplish either.
"No, use her own sword. That makes it so much more fitting, doesn't it Xena?" Hera was enjoying this now.
I'm not sure what the Goddess expected me to do. She knew me better than to think I would beg and plead for my life. I would plead for Gabrielle's if I thought it would do any good, but I knew that wasn't the case. I had no intention of leaving the mortal realm with any less dignity than the way I lived while I was here.
"The way you kill me doesn't really matter, Hera...I'll be just as dead. If you're thinking you can frighten me into changing my mind then think again. No one will help you Hera, not after what you've done to mortals already." I gained a little strength from my soliloquy and raised my body up to sit back on my heels.
"There isn't a mortal alive who will help you to destroy this world, Hera. If you kill me you lose your one chance at getting the Elixir...who else will help you?" I raised my voice.
"Who will help you when I'm dead, Hera? Who, eh? Who will get the Elixir for you then?" I was nearly screaming as the executioner lifted my sword.
"I will." A steady voice came from the back of the Great Hall.
Half of me wanted to shout with joy at the sound of the familiar voice, while the other half wanted to scream in agony over my friend's decision. Everyone, including Hera turned at the sound.
"Spare Xena's life and lives of the Amazons and I'll retrieve the Elixir for you." Eponin said.
"Well, it seems you brought an Amazon with you on your noble little quest, Xena." Hera responded to Eponin's statement, turning back to look at me.
The executioner still held my own sword over my neck and it crossed my mind to hope that his arms weren't getting tired. Eponin came forward slowly and half a dozen soldiers made a move to intercept her. Hera backed them off with a wave of her hand and I realized that Eponin had no idea what she was getting herself into. I searched the Amazon's eyes, looking for a sign, something meant for me alone. Perhaps she planned an escape and this was all part of her plan. I realized, however, as I penetrated those brown eyes with my own intense gaze that this was no ruse. Eponin had every intention of carrying out Hera's wish.
"Ep, don't do this." I pleaded.
"We don't have a choice, Xena." Ep replied.
"We do have a choice, Ep. We don't let her fucking win, that's our choice, that's the only choice!" I was surprised that Hera was letting me talk, but I think it amused her to see us at odds. I'm sure she was as pleased as all get out to see me in chains at her feet trying to reason with my friend.
"Gabrielle is my Queen, Xena...the Amazons are all I have. I have to at least try."
"Do you really think Gabrielle will want to continue living that way, Ep? You know her nearly as well as I do. Do you honestly believe Gabrielle will want to go on living knowing her mortality was paid for with the blood of all humanity? For the love of Artemis, Eponin, don't do this."
Eponin looked like she was actually thinking about what I said, but when she turned to Hera, I knew I'd lost. The Amazon made her decision and, chained as I was, I was helpless to stop what came next.
"Hera, my name is Eponin, in case you aren't aware. I will go in and obtain the Elixir, but in exchange I demand the lives of Xena, Gabrielle, and all the Amazon nation be spared."
"You're not in much of a position to demand anything, Amazon." Hera replied.
"Actually, I am. I'm an Amazon Warrior and I can be just as stubborn and strong as Xena. If you want to behead both of then so be it, but I'm your last chance at getting into the Diamond Chamber." Eponin lowered her head.
I hated her at that moment, but at the same time I couldn't condemn her. She was only doing what she thought was right. She was risking her life, her mortal soul, for her friends and her people. She just didn't realize how misguided her actions were. Hera gazed at the bowed head for a few long moments.
"Nooo, you're not my last chance...there is another. Your thoughts give you away Amazon. Where is the thief?" the Goddess asked.
I watched as my Amazon friend lifted her head, tears coming from her eyes, rolling down her cheek to spill from the edge of a hard set jaw.
"He's dead." She replied softly, and I felt a sharp stab of pain in my own chest.
"I can feel the truth of it." Hera responded to Eponin's admission. "Very well, Amazon. If you keep your part of the bargain and deliver the Elixir to me, I will spare the warrior and all the Amazons from annihilation. I know the oath of an Amazon warrior is strong. Do you swear on your Queen's life that you will bring the Elixir to me?"
Eponin's brow furrowed and I watched as a bead of sweat trickled from her scalp and then down the side of her face.
"I swear on the life of my Queen and by all that is sacred to the Amazons, that I will retrieve and deliver the diamond bottle to you alone." Eponin said through clenched teeth.
If the sound of destiny could have made a noise it would have been heard in the echo of Eponin's voice, resounding off the high stone walls, as she swore a blood oath to the High Goddess of Olympus.
"The chamber is across from this room. Shall we my young Amazon friend?" Hera motioned with a wave of her hand, allowing Eponin to go first.
"But, Xena...I may need her help." Ep stammered.
"I'm afraid Xena can't be trusted just yet. Lift her back up." Hera ordered and my executioner returned my sword to its scabbard and left it on the table. "She'll be here safe and sound when we return."
The large soldier turned the wheel against the stone wall and I was returned to a standing position, but thankfully he left my feet still on the ground.
"Eponin!" I called out. "Please..."
"I'm sorry, Xena...I have to do it this way." The Amazon replied.
My executioner folded his massive arms and remained within close range, but Hera seemed to have other ideas. "She's not going anywhere...come." She ordered and the soldiers filed out behind my friend and the Goddess.
With that action I knew that Hera had no intention of keeping her end of the bargain. Once she took possession of the diamond bottle, she would murder Ep and leave for Olympus. I assumed that was the reason that she took all her soldiers with her. My suspicions were confirmed when Hera strolled back into the Great Hall alone. She walked up close to me and ran a hand along my face.
"You would have been a handsome addition to my collection of concubines, warrior." Hera remarked.
I snapped my teeth at the hand that burned like acid against my skin. Jerking my head away from her touch, I snarled at her.
"Well, perhaps your little Gabrielle will be able to fill that spot." Hera purred.
"Don't flatter yourself. Besides, I'm not an idiot, Hera. I know you plan on having us killed once you get the Elixir. Eponin is just a little more trusting than I am. How do you plan on enslaving Gabrielle if she's dead?"
"As for Gabrielle...All it will take is one drop of the Elixir to cure her. Surely, I will be able to spare one drop. Then I'll take your little Amazon whore and keep her as my own. She and I will have a wonderful time. From the stories that I hear about the two of you she'll make a lovely body slave, don't you think?
"Gabrielle will die before she lets you touch her!" I hissed.
"Oh no, warrior," Hera moved in and lowered her voice to a whisper. "I'll make her mine and after I'm through training her, she will beg me to touch her...and she'll love it."
There was no way I could pretend that those words didn't affect me. That voice inside my head told me I would never stand for anyone else touching my bard. Her love and her body belonged to me alone. Her laughter and her tears...only I would be able to see that side of the Queen. Hera laughed at my frustration, knowing full well how her words struck me. I tilted my head back and let out an angry howl that sounded part human, part beast. By the time the sound carried throughout the Hall and slowly echoed back to me, Hera was gone.
I shook the chains and tried to use what strength I had to bend the bar that was between my wrists. After a candlemark of failed attempts, I let my muscles go slack to ease the sharp pains that ripped through my aching muscles. I wanted to scream or even cry, but I no longer had the strength.
Starvation and dehydration weren't pleasant ways to die and I seriously began regretting that Hera didn't take my head when she threatened to.
"You feel like a stone wall behind me, Xe...what's wrong?"
I rode in my usual position atop Argo, behind Gabrielle. I always said it was because I was a better rider, but if the truth were to be known...it was only because I enjoy where my hands get to roam.
"It's this whole situation. Brie, I know you and Thalassa have become good friends, but I don't know if going to see them is such a good idea. I feel...I feel odd. I mean, Gods...what is her lover going to do? If the positions were reversed I'd be inviting me here to kill me!" I finished in a slight panic.
"It's not like that at all, sweetheart...hey, trust me, okay? I would never put you in that kind of situation."
I felt her hand rest softly against my forearm and she turned her head, already leaning back against my chest, then placed a gentle kiss at the hollow of my throat. As always, I melted at my bard's touch and repeated the often-used phrase in my head. Whatever Gabrielle wants...Gabrielle gets.
Thalassa and her partner, Suko owned a small inn, no more than four rooms, but they had big plans. I was a little unnerved when the redhead introduced her lover. I expected her to go for the warrior type, then I expected I would have to go for my sword, but her partner was rather like...Gabrielle? Petite and blonde, with a personality and exuberance for life that just screamed Gabrielle. Thalassa found someone she loved, but that someone favored my bard's appearance, My bard! That threw me a little.
The two women were a joy to be around and I felt myself relaxing a bit more than I thought I'd be able to. I really was enjoying myself, right up until the moment when I noticed Thalassa watching Gabrielle when she though no one else was watching, and probably a little closer than was necessary. By the end of the evening it was apparent she was flirting...well, at least it was apparent to me! Gabrielle said she was just being nice.
"It's still about two candlemarks till we serve dinner, Gabrielle. What don't you and Xena go to your room and settle in. Suko is making sure there's a nice hot bath waiting for you in a tub that just happens to be warrior sized. Thalassa said.
Well, that sounded like just the thing, but Thalassa cornered me outside our room and asked me to take a walk with her. I reluctantly went and listened to her speak of her newfound love and how she'd put all the feelings of self-loathing behind her. I couldn't help but admire her courage for taking that first step into a new life. I wanted to let her know that I was watching her all afternoon, while she watched my wife. I wanted to call her on it, but damn, if the woman didn't beat me to the punch and leave me tongue tied at the same time.
"You've come a long way, Thalassa, and I'm very happy for you. It still feels strange..." I started to apologize for the past once again.
"Let's not even go there, Xena," she said softly, lightly touching my arm.
I nodded and we spoke of the inn and the plans the two women had. Finally the redhead turned to me and stopped walking.
"It would probably be best if I was completely honest with you, Xena. I suppose you've already noticed how Suko tends to favor our favorite Amazon Queen?" she asked, but I knew it was a rhetorical question.
"I didn't bring you here or make friends with Gabrielle to try and steal her from you, warrior."
"That would probably be a wise move on your part," I responded with a high arch to one eyebrow, folding my arms across my chest.
"I suppose everyone falls a little in love with your bard, don't they?" Thalassa asked seriously.
My bard...interesting choice of words and I'm glad she phrased it that way. I wasn't at the 'smoke coming out my ears' jealousy stage yet, but at least I knew I wasn't going crazy or becoming more paranoid than I know I can be.
"I'm not sure I know what to say to this." I answered. "But, no, you wouldn't be the first person to become enamored of my wife." I threw in that that possessive term of endearment for her benefit.
"Between you and I, Xena...she doesn't know she does that to people, does she?"
I chuckled. "No, Thalassa, the woman has no idea what she does in that regard. It's my job to see that no one takes advantage of her innocence when it comes to those matters."
Thalassa and I stared at one another; neither of us seemed willing to be the first to back down. I could feel my gaze beginning to turn fiery at the thought of anyone else trying to take my place with Gabrielle and I think Thalassa was smart enough to see it. She lowered her eyes and began to speak.
"I love Suko very much. I had no idea, in my conscious mind anyway, that I was comparing her to Gabrielle. I may have become attracted to Suko for that reason, but it's not why I fell in love or why I want to spend the rest of my life with her." Thalassa turned and began walking again and I followed alongside.
"Xena, I would never think of coming between you and Gabrielle." She paused.
"Always a good thing to know." I quipped.
I didn't joke to embarrass, but I wanted her to know that I understood what she was saying. Sure there was this little voice in my head that told me to beat the Tartaurus out of the bitch for even thinking about Gabrielle that way, but I was getting extremely good at blowing off that little sound in my head. I knew, better than anyone did, just how hard it was to resist Gabrielle's innocent charms. Nothing is more of a turn on than a woman who has no idea how beautiful she is.
"I'm sorry," I apologized, "go on."
"Don't apologize, Xena...I feel better just speaking to you about this. I know that tonight I'm going to have Hades to pay when Suko and I get alone. She had no idea what Gabrielle looked like. Xena, I'm afraid Suko will think that's the only reason I love her." She stopped at looked at me expectantly.
I thought for a moment and wondered how I would convince Gabrielle if our positions in this little scenario were reversed. I let my lips stretch into a small smile.
"You'll have to convince her." I said.
"But, what if she doesn't believe me...no matter what I say?" Thalassa asked.
"Sometimes words aren't enough. There are times and circumstances when you can't merely tell someone they're loved...you have to show them how much. Make Suko believe that she is the only woman in your heart."
"Oh." The redhead responded with a blank look. "Ohhhh." She then added as realization flowed through her. She looked at me with a devilish grin. "So, is that what works for you?"
"Absolutely." I affirmed with a smile.
Thalassa laughed out loud. "No wonder Gabrielle is such a happy woman."
"I haven't had any complaints yet." I responded, bowing slightly at the waist.
Thalassa laughed again. "Oh, Xena...Gabrielle was right about you."
"What about me?"
"That you have a one track mind." The redhead answered laughing loudly at my embarrassment.
"Hey...she's telling all my secrets!" I laughed just as loudly.
It felt good, being there and laughing next to a woman that I could now call friend. Suddenly Thalassa's scars disappeared from my eyes and the woman I saw was lovely, on the inside as well as the outside. All it took was for her to believe it herself and for someone to look at her through love's eyes. The young woman looked at me and I felt her offer up an unseen olive branch. Thalassa moved on past the horrible life I condemned her to live and I could see that she wanted me to do the same. As we walked back to the inn I felt something stir inside of me, and if it wasn't forgiveness, it felt a lot like it.
By the time I got back to our room, Gabrielle was already reclining in a large tub, steam rising in thin wisps around her. Gods, she looked incredible and she belonged to me. Never mind that most of the time I was just thankful that I belonged to my young Queen. Suddenly, however, my talk with Thalassa had me feeling very possessive. That small voice was back and it repeated one word over and over again, echoing in my head.
I bent down and kissed her neck. I could tell that she already knew I was there, even though I slipped in rather silently. Gods, she's getting good at that.
"Well, did you two have a good talk?" Gabrielle asked.
"Quite enlightening." I answered.
I removed my garments quickly and knelt down outside of the large tub just behind Gabrielle. I began to massage her neck, then her shoulders, moving my hands lower along her back until she moved forward to give me clear access.
I saw my opportunity and slipped into the bath behind my wife. I pulled her to me until I could feel her backside press against the dark curls between my legs. It took everything in me not to moan at the pleasurable sensation. I picked up a soft bathing cloth and a little soap and began the gentle seduction of my wife's skin. I ran the soapy cloth all across her skin, never lingering in one area. I brushed quickly over her sensitive nipples, feeling her breath quicken, then I ran the cloth lightly between her legs, to be rewarded with a slight gasp at the action. When I turned her around and handed her the cloth, indicating it was my turn, she grinned, putting my body through the same wondrous torture.
When she made a move to leave the still warm water I pulled her back against me again, slipping an arm around her waist and spreading my legs wider just to feel her against me. I caressed her ear, first with my tongue, then running my teeth along the heated skin. I spread her legs wide and ran both my hands along the inside of her thighs, letting my fingers run along the crease where her legs met the rest of her body.
"Xe...we can't do this." Gabrielle breathed heavily and I already knew that she was close to begging me. "Sweetheart, we're guests here...ohhhh, yes...how will it sound?"
"It will sound like I'm having my way with my wife." I replied, pulling her body more tightly to my own and relishing in the small sparks of fire that came as my breasts slid against her back, the dark nipples growing hard from just that small bit of contact.
My hands have made love to her hundreds of times, they know every inch of her skin like it was my own and I let those hands roam to explore all the spots on her body that I was sure would cause her to change her mind. I breathed in the scent of her hair and kissed her shoulders and neck, letting my tongue reach out to slide against her skin. I couldn't help smiling when I felt her body shiver as the taste of her exploded on my tongue.
"Xe, we can't...not here. It could be embarrassing." My wife made an extremely have hearted attempt to move away from me.
I stopped, but kept my arm locked around her waist. "I cause you embarrassment?" I asked.
I admit, my jealousy and possessiveness in regards to my wife was pushing me into warlord mode, and there is nothing more fragile than a reformed warlord's ego.
Gabrielle turned her head back to me quickly and the look on her face told me I might be wrong, but it was the way she voiced the single word she spoke that convinced me that I was mistaken.
"Never," she practically hissed.
I reached out and let my fingertips gently touch the cheek of the face that was turned toward me. My hand slid down and held her chin, reaching in to place a soft kiss on those contrite lips. It was my wife who escalated the tender kiss into one filled with heat and passion. She knew what it did to me when she ran her tongue teasingly along my upper lip that way and I groaned as the sensation heightened my own arousal. My hand found its way to a beautifully smooth breast and I covered the flesh with the palm of my hand while continuing to let my wife tease my mouth. When I felt a hard point press against my palm, I began to knead the flesh, to receive Gabrielle's breathless moan in reward.
She pulled away and I could see she was breathing a little faster. She searched my eyes and then lowered them, a charming blush spreading across her cheeks.
"Xe...it's just the things you do to me...I know I'll be...I mean, I'll be loud. I'll embarrass the both of us." She finished.
Once more I lifted the proud chin until her eyes met mine. I moved in swiftly and took possession of my wife's mouth. It was a fiery kiss that left little doubt as to who the Queen of my heart really was. We both had difficulty breathing when our lips finally parted.
"Who do you belong to, Gabrielle?"
She never hesitated. "You, Xena...always you, my love."
I kissed her again, harder this time as if to reaffirm my ownership. I was never long on words and usually just when I needed them the most they failed me, but the site of this woman, relinquishing her body...her very soul to me, gave me the ability to speak.
"You could never embarrass me, my heart. I want you to be loud, Gabrielle. I want everyone within ten leagues of this inn to know that you belong to me, to know that no one else can make you feel the way I do. I want them to hear you and know that no other will ever know this indescribable pleasure but me. I want them to hear how absolutely beautiful you sound when you come for me. I want them to know that you're mine."
Her chest was heaving, trying to bring in air, and I knew that my words did indeed work their magic. Gabrielle turned her body until she sat in my lap, facing me, and wrapped her muscled legs around my waist.
"Get me out of this tub and I'll scream your name until they hear me on Olympus." she rasped in a desperate tone.
I didn't have to be asked twice. I stood and lifted us both from the water, Gabrielle's legs wrapping around me tighter, her arms encircling my neck. I stopped and kneeled at the end of the bed and lay Gabrielle on her back so that her knees dangled over the edge of the large mattress. I spread her thighs apart and ran my hands along the top of the trim, muscled legs, licking my lips in anticipation when I caught the scent of her arousal. I continued on across her belly, finally cupping a breast in each hand.
The water ran in thin trickles down her body and I used my tongue, everywhere I could reach, to gather up the moisture that flowed across her satiny skin. Gabrielle moaned and leaned up on one elbow to watch me deliver the tantalizing strokes and I took care to run my tongue across the muscled plane of her abdomen. A tiny drop of water mesmerized me as it made its way down her chest, rolling along one perfect breast. Just as the droplet let go of the hardened point of flesh, I speared out my tongue and felt the moisture fall there.
Gabrielle groaned loudly as I swiftly enveloped the pale pink nipple in my mouth. I alternated between each breast, relentlessly licking, sucking, and then nibbling on the stiff peaks.
"Xena...please." Gabrielle pleaded.
I smiled at the sound and knew that I wasn't about to make it that easy. I leaned back on my heels and moved in once more to taste the passion that seemed to emanate from Gabrielle's skin. I worked my tongue up the inside of each thigh and it took all my efforts at control not to cry out in ecstasy when my tongue slid through the delicious wetness clinging to the inner part of her legs. Breathing deeply, I exhaled a warm breath against her center and she strained to propel her hips in my direction.
I pulled back slightly and chuckled, a low rumbling sound that caused my wife to whimper in frustration. Allowing only the tip of my tongue to graze across her swollen lips, I pulled back again to listen to her groan sharply in disappointment.
"Is this what you want to feel?"
"Oh Xena, you know it is." Gabrielle responded, then thrust her hips in my direction once more.
"Then let me hear how badly you want to feel me."
"Gods, Xena...please, do it!" Gabrielle practically screamed.
That's what I wanted to hear. I nearly climaxed right then and there at the heady scent of Gabrielle, combined with the pure adrenaline that shot through my veins. I pulled the writhing hips toward me and slipped my tongue within the drenched folds. The first taste of my lover was like an aphrodisiac to me. I was in a frenzy and I simply couldn't get enough. Plus, the sounds Gabrielle was making urged me even higher, knowing full well that anyone within a stone's throw of our room could hear the sounds of her pleasure. I was absolutely lost in the sensual delight located at the apex of my wife's thighs. Her scent and that sweet musky taste, they caused me to relish in every exquisite detail. I lingered, exploring and comparing the textures under my tongue.
Gabrielle reached down and slid her own fingers into her wetness, brushing past my tongue to finger the hardened area that was now swollen with need. During our lovemaking I encouraged my wife to touch herself, my own pleasure derived at the site of her caressing herself. This was not to be one of those times and I quickly claimed the hand in mine and growled.
I pushed the hand away and urged her thighs further apart. Within moments, the wayward hand returned. This time Gabrielle moved in slowly, it was her way of telling me I was moving much to slowly to suit her. The threatening snarl was something I was barely aware of as coming from myself, and the sound reminded me of a wild animal, protecting its territory, daring another to take what was theirs. My wife was slow to grasp the concept and she reached in once more. I swiftly grabbed both her wrists and held them at the side of her body, while I leveled an intense blue gaze on her.
"Gabrielle, this is mine. Your body belongs to me right now and I am in control, of you and of the pleasure you will be allowed. Do you understand?"
I could see my proud wife warring with herself, her panting breaths the only sound in the room. Gabrielle and I had enjoyed a little play acting in the past with me in warlord mode, but it was never this intense. This was different because it was real, and although I would explain it to her later, right now I wanted to see how freely my wife would give herself up to me. Her next action should not have surprised me.
Gabrielle slowly lay back onto the bed and I released her wrists. She raised a hand to run her fingertips across my cheek and deliberately placed her arms above her head, her fingers digging into the blankets. I smiled at her choice.
"Oh yes, that's my girl, Brie."
I rose up and leaned over her prone form, pressing my body down on top of her. Sliding my hand into the golden mane, I held her hair in one hand and pulled back gently, exposing her throat to my kisses. I sucked hard at the flesh on her neck, marking her as mine. I let my skin slide against her own as I moved lower, continuing to mark the skin on her chest, breasts, and belly. I repeated the action along the inside of her thighs and when I nipped the sensitive skin, hard enough to leave my teeth marks embedded there, Gabrielle cried out from a mix of pleasure and pain and spread her legs wider.
I released another involuntary growl that had little to do with anger as I swiftly buried my face within the soaked, honey-blonde curls. Gabrielle cried out in delight and relief, and I enthusiastically situated my tongue so that it felt like it was everywhere at once. Her hips thrust themselves harder against my face and by this point I was surprised someone from the inn had not yet come to see what all the noise was about. My wife was being her usual audible self, and I did nothing to discourage the sounds.
I captured the hard swelling between my lips and sucked on the flesh, my tongue occasionally flicking over it. I also slipped a finger inside, followed by another and Gabrielle was so close, she was trembling in mere anticipation of the moment.
"Oh yes...Xena I--"
Gabrielle started to call out, and when I raised my eyes, never stopping my tongue or the in and out gliding motion of my hand, she realized her error and clamped her mouth closed.
I was well acquainted with my wife's body and I knew what she desired. I was proud at the way she was willing to forgo her own enjoyment, simply to accede to my demand to be in control of her pleasure. Rewarding such behavior would only bring about pleasurable results the next time we were in this situation, so I did reward my bard.
I looked up with a devilish grin. "More?" I asked.
"Oh yes, please!" she pleaded.
I slid my fingers from their slick haven and thrust three fingers deep inside. Gabrielle's hips thrust back hard onto my hand again and again and I resumed tonguing the pulsing area at the top of her cleft.
"Oh Gods...yes...yes...Oh, right there...Xena..." I could feel her body as it trembled uncontrollably, her cries taking on strength. Suddenly her back arched and her body froze as I continued to penetrate her, leading her into the arms of her climax. "Gods...Xeeennnnnaaaa!"
The scream that girl let out must have truly been heard at least on the foothills of Olympus. I cried out sharply as my own release ripped through my body, simply from feeling the convulsive tremors as my wife clenched down hard around my fingers.
We could do no more than lie there, each of us taking in great breaths of air. I sunk down to the floor and rested my cheek against one of Gabrielle's thighs. I tenderly slid my fingers from her, as her body still quivered from aftershocks. I knew without looking that the smile on her face matched my own.
I reached in and placed a feather light kiss on that very intimate, sensitive area.
"Mine." I whispered against the damp flesh.
"You're the only woman I know who can have erotic dreams while bleeding and hanging up in chains."
The voice came from above me and I realized that I had been in a deep sleep, naturally dreaming of my bard. I was going to have to start being careful about talking in my sleep. I became oblivious to my surroundings, but I wasn't so bewildered that I couldn't place that smart-ass voice.
"The one and only King of Thieves." He tossed back.
By the Gods...I thought...I thought you were dead." I tried to say it without my voice breaking. I could feel tears rise to my eyes.
"Can you get me out of these things?" I shook the manacles.
"Can I?" Auto's voice was tinged with indignation.
"Workin' on it now. You've got these things so bent up...what in the world have you been doing?"
"Oh, not much...just hanging around. Come on Auto..."
Both manacles came loose at once and I dropped like a sack of dried fruit. I felt my friend unlocking the restraints around my ankles, but I just laid back and closed my eyes for a moment to fight away a sudden attack of nausea.
Autolycus helped me to sit up and offered me a waterskin, which I guzzled from. He pulled a cloth from the pack he still carried and poured some water on it, wiping the majority of the blood and dirt from my face. I was sure I looked a lot worse than I really was. Hera had her guy knock me around, not beat me to a pulp.
"Tell me Eponin is in this with you."
"Her idea...great little actress, huh?"
"I hope she doesn't act her way to getting her throat slit. Hera doesn't have any intention of letting us live...what was she thinking?"
I held out a hand and groaned as Autolycus helped me to my feet. I found my armor, pack, and weapons laid neatly on the closest table as if simply waiting for my return.
"What's her plan?" I asked my friend.
"Well..." he hesitated, "she does what you saw her go off and do, and I get you out of the chains...and..." he trailed off.
"And? And what?" I began to feel stronger once my armor was in place and the realization dawned on me.
"There is no plan, is there?" I asked flatly.
"Oh, like you always have a plan." Auto responded.
"Great. Come on." I marched toward the main door. Stopping abruptly I turned and looked at the thief.
"Thanks, Auto...I owe you big time."
"And, don't think I won't collect." He answered with a wink.
"Come on," I smiled, ignoring the pain that action caused my bloodied lip. "Let's go give our Amazon actress a hand."
Autolycus lead me up along the narrow passage that he came down through earlier. It was like an attic that led out the Great Hall and left an opening high up on the ceiling. The entrance to the tunnel was covered with a small wooden door, painted to blend perfectly with the stone. Without really examining the trapdoor, one would never realize it wasn't a part of the ceiling.
We made our way on our hands and knees, thankfully we didn't run into any of my favorite rodent friends. Seems like every castle tunnel or dungeon I get thrown into, that I end up being accosted by rats. When we reached the end of the passage and we quietly lifted the trapdoor off its frame, we found out than we were nearly on top of the whole scene playing out below us.
Our timing was perfect. I could see that Eponin was just coming through the open door of the Diamond Chamber. I had no idea what she thought she was going to do once she turned over the brightly sparkling bottle of Elixir. Was she waiting for me to come up with a way to snatch it before it actually fell into Hera's hands? Damn! I found myself mentally cursing my friends for not being clear on what the plan was to be.
I suddenly realized that I sounded like Brie. She hated the way I constantly told her to simply trust me. She always wanted to know ahead of time what the plan was. It wasn't that I was being mean to her, only that most of the time I didn't have a plan. I went by instinct and, being the hedonist I am, what felt good at the time. So, as I watched my Amazon friend begin to extend her arm, the diamond bottle held loosely in her hand, I did exactly what Gabrielle would have done to me. I took a huge breath, let out an insanely loud battle cry, and jumped right into the middle of the whole mess.
Hera tried to snatch the bottle from Eponin's grasp, but missed when the warrior turned toward me, a look of surprise on both their faces. Hera did appear genuinely astonished to see me, which I loved. I had to nail the few soldiers, who were quick enough to come to their senses and attack me, but I was moving in one direction, and that was toward Hera.
I heard Auto drop to the floor behind me and caught the sound of metal against metal as he drew his sword and attacked. I tossed my chakram with a hard flick of the wrist and took out the next three advancing soldiers. Eponin saw where I was headed, but damn if she didn't make one move to...well, move! She had the strangest look on her face when I thought she realized just what I was up to. I could hear Auto still at my back and I prayed that Ep would get with it and at least move away from Hera. I knew the minute the Goddess got her hands on the bottle, she would dematerialize and be gone.
It all happened in only a few fractions of a moment, but I knew there was only one way I could keep that bottle from the Goddess, and that was if she had no powers at all. We just happened to be standing in front of the place that would do it. I feigned swordplay with one of Hera's soldiers on my right, but out of the corner of my eyes I saw where Hera's hand was headed and Eponin appeared oblivious.
"Xena, No!" Eponin cried out.
I flew right at the Goddess and just as her fingers wrapped themselves around the neck of the small gleaming bottle, I hit her in the midsection propelling the both of us through the open doorway of the Diamond Chamber. Eponin was right behind me, shouting something unintelligible, Auto brought up the rear just as I slammed the door shut.
"Are you nuts?!" Eponin stood in front of me and shouted.
"Me? What was that back there...could you have been anymore dense about what I was trying to do?" I shouted back. "You let her snatch it from you like she was some sort of expert pick-pocket!"
"I had a plan and it was working!"
"Oh, it was, was it. Well, what was this great, almighty plan of yours, to just give the damn thing to her?" I questioned, my voice raising about an octave in pitch.
"Yes!" Eponin glared back at me.
I didn't need to see the huge smirk on her face to realize what I'd done. I closed my eyes, lowered my head, and placed my hands on my hips before I spoke in a, softer than even normal, tone.
"The Elixir isn't in the bottle." I phrased it as a statement since I now knew the answer.
Eponin held up a small waterskin that had been looped through her belt, hanging by her left hip.
"I looked up and rubbed my hand across my face. "Have I told you how good it is to see you again?"
Ep chuckled and shook her head. "You look like Tartaurus. Looks like your face ran into somebody's fist again."
"Uh, ladies...I do hate to break up this touching moment, but I'd like to point out that we happen to be in a locked room with a very pissed off Goddess and her fan club out there doesn't seem to like it." Autolycus said, putting Ep and I in action.
"Don't sweat the small stuff, my friend." I said to the thief, walking toward Hera, who was seated on the floor. "As you can see," I said, pointing to Hera, "she barely has enough strength to stand in here. That's what the place does to immortals. And these guys, who are beginning to become a pain in the ass, won't fare any better."
To demonstrate my point and to stop the infernal pounding, I unlocked the door and pulled it open, swiftly dragging the closest of Hera's soldiers into the small room. He immediately sank to his knees as if his armor were to heavy to hold up. His mates took one giant step backward, the heroes that they were.
"This is what happens to you when you come in here!" I shouted out the door, scooping up the fallen warrior and tossing him out the doorway. The minute he was out of the Diamond Chamber, his strength returned and he led the way for his friends as they turned tail and fled.
"Brave bunch you got there." I said to Hera as I again slammed the door shut, just so the Goddess wouldn't try and crawl away.
"See, things aren't so bad." I said to my friends as I circled the small room, hands on my hips, searching the ceiling for some means of escape. "Yup...only one little problem at this point." I drawled.
"We're trapped in here." We all said in unison.
"Well, I've been over every inch of this room...twice, and I only have one thing to say." Autolycus paused and looked over at us. "We're stuck here." He finished.
"That's just what I wanted to hear." Eponin growled and glared at Hera.
"You shouldn't have put your faith in the Warrior Princess," Hera commented. "She has a habit of letting people down."
"Shut up before I slit your throat!" Eponin drew a dagger from her boot and advanced on the weakened Goddess.
I stepped in front of Ep before she made it to Hera. The Goddess was sitting on the floor, her back leaning against the rough stone wall. She saw Eponin coming at her, but in her present condition there was nothing she could do to fend off the angry Amazon.
"Ep...take it easy." I tried to calm her.
"Don't tell me you're going to defend her?"
"There's nothing I'd enjoy better than to see her get what she has coming, but while she's in here it would be tantamount to murder. I won't even kill an enemy unless they have a fighting chance, not in cold blood like this, Ep."
I touched the top of her hand that held the dagger and she slowly put the weapon back in its sheath, hidden down in her boot.
"Why Xena, I didn't know you cared." Hera said in a tired voice, still able to fix a superior smile on her face.
"I said I wouldn't kill you, I didn't say anything about not beating the crap out of you, so just sit there and shut up." I turned and hissed at her, while Ep stood off to the side, grinning.
"Tell me again why Apollo just can't zap us out of here?" Autolycus said picking at some loose mortar surrounding a piece of stone.
"Because he can't enter the Diamond Chamber or he'd be as useless as her." I pointed in Hera's direction. "As it is just being in the caverns severely limits any use of their powers."
A few moments of silence passed until Eponin spoke.
"What's that look for?" Eponin asked and I realized I must have that glazed over look going.
"I was just thinking about something Apollo said to me...remember when he infused me with his power before we left? He said, When you need the most strength, concentrate on what gives you power in life, and the force will be there for you. I didn't really focus on what he was trying to tell me at the time."
I continued to stare at the wall where Autolycus chipped away some loose mortar. "You know, if I had enough of Apollo's power left, I bet I could blast through this wall."
They all looked at me as if I was a Cyclops with two eyes. Brother, I was going to have to explain.
"When I traveled in Chin I learned a great deal. Ep, you remember me telling you about Lao Ma?" Ep nodded her head and waited for me to continue. "She taught me a lot about how to channel certain types of energy and turn that energy into raw power, chi she called it." I paused as I remembered the woman that I loved before I knew my bard.
"So, you're trying to tell us you're just gonna use this mind power and blast through ten feet of stone?" Autolycus had that look on his face and I'm sure he rolled his eyes when I turned my back.
"I just need to concentrate is all." I said, standing in front of the back wall. "This is an outside wall, so to speak. I figure if we can get through, we'll end up in the cavern recesses. At least Apollo would be able to get to us there."
I loosened up a little so I could focus. The last time I tried to use Lao Ma's powers was when Gabrielle and I ended up in Chin. I was out for revenge against the Green Dragon and it turned out my innocent little bard made a deal with Ares to get her there before me. Brie thought she was trying to save me from myself by betraying my intentions to Ming Tien, turned out she was just jealous. I look back and wonder how I could have been so thick. Was that the action of a best friend or a woman in love? Oh well, it's a moot point now.
I was about to be executed when I started remembering all the things Lao Ma said to me in her subtle way of teaching. She was the first person to ever call me, Warrior Princess, and to this day I'm sorry I bastardized the title with my headstrong lust for power. She meant it to be a title for me as a changed woman, a keeper of peace.
I was never really able to call the power out again, certainly not at will. I always saw traces of it, but not nearly enough for what I needed to do now. I thought about her words, the ones I heard in my head just as I was to be executed.
"The entire world is driven by a will...blind and ruthless. In order to transcend the limitations of that world, you need to stop willing. Stop desiring. Stop hating."
I bent my neck to the left and to the right, hearing the bones pop. I concentrated on the wall then I closed my eyes. I tried everything that Lao Ma taught me in the next few candlemarks, but I still couldn't harness more than a bad headache. I snarled in defeat and a small chunk of rock broke off and fell to the floor.
Autolycus leaned over and picked up the piece of stone, no larger than his palm. "Oh hey, it works. What do ya think...another forty or fifty seasons and we'll be out of here."
"Auto." Ep cautioned as I turned my back on all of them to go sit in the corner.
"I just need to think." I mumbled and they let me be.
I couldn't figure out why Lao Ma's words incited me to such power when Gabrielle and I were in Chin, I mean, I broke the whole damn palace apart. I'm still the same me, well a little more whipped than in those days, but what the hell, belonging to Gabrielle has always been worth a little humiliation. So, why didn't it work this time? I was concentrating on the same teachings that Lao Ma instilled in me. The only thing different between then and now is that Gabrielle was there.
I leaned back against the cool stone and sighed in exasperation. I tried to concentrate, but all I could focus on now was Gabrielle.
"It's kind of cold out tonight."
"Yea, I'm a little cool myself. Here, let me throw some more wood on the fire, that should help."
I leave my bedroll and throw a few small pieces of wood that Gabrielle gathered earlier, onto the fire. I'm not really cold, but I know she would feel she was imposing if I got up to do this just for her. Gods, the girl can be funny sometimes. I go back to my own bedroll, on the other side of the campfire, and sit there, pretending to be drinking from the waterskin by my bed. I can't sleep and I know she can't either. We need to talk, to go over what's happened. We both need explanations and some reassurance, but neither of us makes the first move. Being the closed mouth warrior I am, I wait for the bard to begin. She doesn't and that confuses me. There is only one thing that could stop this girl from talking and that's if she thought that I was angry with her.
"Want some?" I hold up the skin.
I see her shake her head, but she looks unhappy and that breaks my heart. She doesn't know that I've fallen in love with her and that now I can feel her pain as my own. I was angry, earlier...when I first put it all together, but it didn't last long. It took about a fortnight for me to piece it all together. Gabrielle would wake up screaming at some point in the night and be unable to return to sleep. She started to lose weight, of which she could ill afford, and the dark circles that hung under her eyes made her look sullen. Then Gabrielle started talking in her sleep. Once I heard the truth from her own lips, that she'd made a deal with Ares to get her to Chin ahead of me, I was shocked...then I was angry.
I tried to think of all the reasons Gabrielle could have for doing such a thing, but when I learned the truth, all that anger melted away. My sweet, beautiful bard. I professed to love her, but when a debt needed to be paid on account of an old lover, I left her knowing I would probably never return. I told her it was a one way ticket and refused to even explain who Lao Ma was. So caught up in my own hurt that I never even looked up to see Gabrielle's suffering. She was jealous and afraid and so she made a rash decision. Of course, how well I know how Ares can incite one's emotions.
I was losing Gabrielle and it was tearing me apart. We went through the healing of Illusia and grew even closer when we thought we were to lose our lives against the Persians. Gabrielle lay dying from a poisoned arrow wound and so I prepared to journey with her to meet Hades, and die in battle. All this we suffered through and now I had to watch the woman of my heart die a little bit every day because of her guilt. That's when I knew Gabrielle would have to go through Mnemosyne's ritual if she were ever to have a chance to get past this.
I knew if I led Gabrielle there on the pretense of meeting me, she would go in. I watched from a long ways off as she tried to decide what she would do. I sat there and cried for a long time after she entered the temple. I knew she was in a great deal of pain and she didn't know why herself yet. I wouldn't have blamed her if she had taken Mnemosyne's cure. I cried because I realized that the next time I saw Gabrielle she might have no recollection of who I was and what we meant to one another. That was the cruelest pain of all.
Now, I stare at her face and I see that the pain of hiding the truth is gone, but it's been replaced with something new. Gabrielle has that look on her face, as she curls under her blanket and stares into the fire, that she used to get a lot when we first started traveling together. It was a cross between fear and sadness and she would grow melancholy whenever I grew moody and she thought I was about to ship her back to Potidaea. If she only knew I gave up that idea after only a few days of traveling together.
I see it will be up to me to reassure my friend. I love this young Amazon Queen, and whether it's in friendship or as a lover, I want to show her all she does for me, and exactly what she means to me. I rise and pick up my bedroll and blanket and move to her side of the fire, lying my blanket down right next to her.
"I don't know about you, but I'm kinda cold. Do you mind if we share both blankets?" I asked with as much innocence as I could muster.
Gabrielle brightened immediately and I felt my heart grow lighter. I was right in my assumption about what was still troubling her and it felt good to be able to make her smile. I brushed my arm against hers and she was cold, but I also knew she got that way when she was nervous.
"Move over here." I said and put my arm around her shoulder.
I lay there on my back and Gabrielle rested her head on my shoulder. I kissed the top of her head and I think she took that as a bit of encouragement.
"I'm so sorry, Xena."
Then the tears began. Usually I will do anything to stop those tears because they break my heart so, but I let my bard cry and wrapped my arms around her and stroked the blonde hair. When she cried all her tears out I lifted her chin and kissed her forehead.
"After what we've gone through in the past year...Gabrielle, I'm just happy you're still my friend. We are still best friends, huh?"
She nodded and smiled. "Always."
"Always." I repeated. "I can't say that I would have acted any differently, if you'd just gone off and left me. I'm sorry, Gabrielle, I never meant to hurt you. You're my bestfriend and I love you, you know that, right?"
"I do now." Gabrielle answered softly and I realized that too many times I didn't let her know that. "I love you, too, Xena."
"Gabrielle, I know I don't tell you the kind of things you'd like to hear all the time and I know I can be brooding and sullen, and a royal pain in the ass most of the time, but don't ever think that it's because of you. Do you know how much you mean to me? You're the only thing that keeps me going sometimes. You're funny and smart and strong and just so many things I can't name them all." I paused and encouraged her to lift her chin again and look at me.
"Do you know on the day we met, I had given up hope. Not just hope at ever seeing my family, or of being loved. I didn't want to live this life any longer. When I buried my armor and my weapons I wasn't just giving up being a warrior, I was giving up on life. I had every intention of taking my own life that day, then I saw you. When you offered to take the place of those other women and then when you started beating the Tartaurus out of those slavers, at that moment I knew."
"Knew what?" Gabrielle asked gently, her green eyes looking up at me.
"I knew that you were the bravest girl I'd ever seen, braver than even me."
"Oh, Xena." Gabrielle thought I was teasing her.
"I mean it, Gabrielle," I continued. "Me, Xena, the Warrior Princess, I gave up. Then here comes this tiny thing that knew she was never going to win a fight against grown men, but that didn't stop her from trying. That's why you will always be my source, Gabrielle. Whenever I need strength all I ever have to do is think of you and I find a force available that I didn't have before. You, my friend, are what gives me power in this life."
"Do I really do all that, Xena?"
I chuckled and pulled the blanket over her shoulder. "Go to sleep, Gabrielle." I said and kissed the top of her head one more time.
"To conquer others is to have power; to conquer yourself is to know the way."
Lao Ma's words rang in my head and sudden realization spread over me. There was a difference back in Chin when I last used the power of the chi. I learned the way that Lao Ma was speaking of, lying there on that wooden board, waiting to meet Hades. I remember looking over at Gabrielle and realizing that in the scheme of things, I was really nothing. Every good thing about me was because of Gabrielle...she was my way.
That young woman who gave all of herself to me, everyday. She willingly shared the light of her heart with an old warrior that walked a thin line just this side of Tartaurus.
That 's what was different back then...Gabrielle. With all my thoughts and focus on my wife, I could suddenly feel the rush of power as it surged through me like adrenaline. I stood up quickly and crossed the room to the far wall. No one said a word as I stared so hard at the stone and concrete I thought I was going to be able to see through it.
"Get back." I said in a low, even voice. I didn't look, but they must have seen the look in my eye because I could hear them moving to the other side of the room.
I couldn't keep my arms from trembling as I held back the force that was rushing to get out. I raised both hands; arms extended in front of me, and felt a tremendous pressure in my chest, swirling around like a whirlpool. My eyes narrowed to slits and my body jerked as the enormous bolt of energy was launched from my hands. I cried out at the almost cathartic release and watched in fascination as stone, mortar, and rock wall were blown backward.
The dust settled and no one was more amazed than I was. I shuddered a little to think that the power of my love for Gabrielle could be harnessed in such a way. Frankly, something this strong worried me a little and I wasn't in a hurry to do it again. In the past I thought it was solely because of Lao Ma's teachings that I had this ability. Now, knowing the truth, it doesn't surprise me. I have always said that it is because of Gabrielle that I do any good in this world at all.
"Well, you guys coming, or not?" I turned around to face an awestruck audience of three. Even Hera looked a tad impressed.
"Ep, you better keep her back her until Apollo shows." I indicated the Goddess on the floor.
Eponin handed me the waterskin, now filled with the Elixir. "Xena...that was the most incredible thing I've ever seen."
"Nah, it was nothin'." I replied with a wink before making my way out to the caverns.
I had one last item from my pack of toys and I definitely knew what this one was for. I reached into the small leather pouch at my waist and pulled out a thin metallic band. It was the exact replica of the one Gabrielle received from her father. Apollo gave it to me before we left and told me to use it when we were ready to return home. I knew I was going to feel a little foolish doing this and I kind of wondered why he didn't enchant the ring differently, but it was only a word.
"Father." I called out.
In only took a heartbeat and I figured that with Hera out of commission, he must have been waiting for my call. When the God materialized he held a figure in his arms. For a moment panic seized me as I thought it might be Gabrielle. As he knelt to the ground I could see that the woman he carried was Artemis. She looked pretty bad. There was a large gash on her head and a similar wound along her ribs. Her face was a mass of cuts and bruises and it was obvious that Hera did a number on her.
I knelt down beside the two and Apollo reached out and took my hand in his own, squeezing it tightly. I felt I was looking into Gabrielle's own green eyes when I gave him a slightly embarrassed smile.
"I knew, Xena...I just knew you would be the one to save us all." He said in a voice filled with emotion.
I handed him the waterskin and he looked at it strangely.
"It's a long story, but it's the Elixir." I assured him.
Apollo uncorked the skin and gently tipped the flask forward. One drop was all the God said that it would take and he was right. The single drop of liquid fell onto Artemis' lips and the effect was immediate. I'm not sure I would have completely believed this part of the story if I hadn't seen it for myself. Her bruises began to fade and quickly disappear, followed by the injury to her side. When the head wound closed itself and rapidly shrunk away to nothing, the Goddess' dark eyelashes fluttered open.
Apollo handed me the waterskin and wrapped his arms around his twin. It took Artemis a second to figure out what happened, but her gray eyes warmed at the site of her beloved brother. When she turned to see me she smiled and I held out a hand to help her rise to her feet. She was a little wobbly, but near death experiences will do that to you and I told her so.
"Xena...why am I not surprised to see you here?" She said and then indicated my own battered face.
"Hey, trouble just seems to show up when I do, what can I say?" I replied, nonchalantly.
Ares showed up next, followed by the same group who popped into the Queen's hut that morning. Right now, that day seemed like an eternity ago.
"Where is she?" Artemis asked, the color returning to her face and then some.
Autolycus stepped back toward the opening in the rubble, trying to stay out of the way. Artemis caught the movement and drew the blade at her hip. It was probably foolish, but I stopped her in much the same manner that I intercepted Eponin earlier.
"Move out of my way, Xena."
"Artemis I can't let you do that. She's completely helpless in that room." I reasoned.
"As helpless as you will be if you enter." Apollo explained. "Let it go, sister. We have already won."
Artemis slowly thrust her short sword back into its scabbard with a heavy sigh. I knew how she felt. Revenge is a hard thing for a warrior to walk away from.
"My Amazons!" Artemis cried out and dematerialized before our eyes.
"She'll be back in a moment as soon as she learns that they're fine." Apollo seemed to find it necessary to explain his sister's hasty departure.
"So, has anyone come up with any brilliant ideas to get them out of here?" Ares jerked a thumb in my direction.
I raised an eyebrow in Apollo's direction. "Come--up--with any ideas?" I enunciated slowly.
A few of the Gods shifted around nervously. "We've run into something that I didn't anticipate." Apollo said.
"Gabrielle...wake up, my Queen."
Gabrielle yawned and stretched to the smiles of the women in the hut. The green eyes opened in wonder and surprise at the sight before her.
The Goddess sat down on the edge of the bed and wrapped her arms around her niece. Pulling away, Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak.
"She is fine." Artemis anticipated the young Queen's question.
Tears filled the Queen's green eyes. "She did it then? I just knew she would."
"Yes, she most certainly did. Did you know that you are married to the most wonderful woman in the Known World?" Artemis asked.
Gabrielle did what was so naturally her. She blushed and smiled at her aunt.
"Yes, I know that already, but thanks for saying it."
"I have to go back now, it seems we've run into a snag."
Gabrielle looked worried and the Goddess reassured her. "It's nothing that can't be fixed. It's just that I left a bunch of men in charge and you know how that can be."
The Queen laughed and Artemis touched gentle fingertips to the young blonde's cheek.
"Now, you better get out of this bed, my Queen. Take a bath and put on something very attractive because I'm going to be sending your warrior home shortly."
At that, Artemis kissed her niece's forehead and was gone.
"It's not something I knew would happen, Xena...just give me a moment and I'll thing of something." Apollo was saying to me just as Artemis popped back in.
Artemis took one look at my face and turned to her brother. "I take it she knows."
"She does," I said, "and she's not happy."
"It seems as if the caverns here on Delos render us, while not powerless, a little lacking. We can transport ourselves, but don't have the power to send anyone else." Apollo explained to his sister.
"I know, I heard your thoughts, brother. I have a simple solution." Everyone looked at Artemis, especially me.
"No one of us has enough power to do the trick, but there is a way for each of us to give you a small fraction of our power. With a little of all of our strength in you, you will have the ability to transport yourself and your friends back in the same way as my brother sent you here." Artemis explained to me.
I know what my face looked like at that moment and it wasn't pleasant. There wasn't an immortal in the room that didn't know that getting any kind of godly powers was the last thing in this life that I wanted.
"Xena?" Artemis asked finally.
My mouth remained closed and I was weighing the options. The only thing that made up my mind was Artemis.
"Xena...Gabrielle is waiting for you."
"Oh, you Gods play dirty." I smirked. "Well, I guess beggars can't be choosers. Let's do it."
The six Gods stood in a circle and placed their right hands into the middle of the circle. They all touched hands and a warm glow began in each of their chests until the light moved down their arms. When it released itself into a burst of blinding light at their hands, Apollo scooped up the pulsating sphere and came toward me.
"Ready?" he asked.
"It will be much more intense than the last time.
Apollo held the ball of light in his hand and took my hand in his own. The light felt warm, but not painful. I could feel it worming its way up my arm before I even saw the flash when it entered my chest, feeling like it was exploding into a thousand pieces and spreading rapidly throughout my body. I sunk to my knees at the intensity.
"Good Gods!" I exclaimed as I was helped back up again.
My body felt like an over strung bow. It felt...I didn't think I could describe it. I could see out of my eye too. Before my eye was almost swollen shut and now; not one ache or pain.
"Kind of makes you want to be a God, huh?" Ares gloated.
I just glared. I was in a hurry to be away from here. I had a strange fluttering in my belly and a growing ache in my groin, which I attributed to knowing I would be with Gabrielle in a few short moments.
"Watch out...it'll make ya as horny as all get out." Ares sounded off again.
"Well, if it does, leather boy, I have a feeling you'll be the last person she asks to relieve it for her." Artemis grinned as she one-upped the God of War.
"Allright can we get this show on the road." I interrupted. "Ep, Auto!" I shouted for my companions. The growing ache between my legs was getting downright urgent.
"Xena...I owe you my life, thank you." Artemis thanked me. I didn't expect that and so simply clasped hands and mumbled something unintelligible. She said something about seeing us in the village later and disappeared. As if on cue the others took off and Apollo and Ares were the only ones left.
"What do I do with her?" Eponin asked Apollo and nodded her head back toward Hera.
"I think we'll let Zeus deal with her." Apollo replied. "We owe the three of you a debt of gratitude." He finished as Autolycus came into view.
I noticed the thief was a bit chunky around the middle and I rolled my eyes. "Auto...put them back."
"Aw, Xena...the place is lousy with them, who's gonna miss a few rocks." he responded.
I arched an eyebrow impatiently and he opened his shirt and tossed the diamonds out. Apollo laughed at my friend's actions. He bent down and retrieved two of the larger stones and held them out to Ep and Auto.
"A small reward."
"Thanks but no thanks." Ep replied. "I'd probably just get into trouble with some girl over it."
"I think I'll sell mine and get into trouble with a lot of girls," Auto said, then caught my disapproving glare.
"On second thought," Auto began again. "I couldn't possible accept anything, it was after all for the greater good." He spat the last two words in my direction.
I chuckled and turned to Apollo. "So, what do I need to do?"
"It's simple. You just picture where you want to be and that's where you'll end up." He answered.
"Wait a minute...you mean you're powering us back?" Ep asked. I think I was as afraid as she was.
"Don't worry...piece of cake." I lied.
"I sure hope so," Auto added. "I'd hate to get there and find out you left an important piece of me behind."
"You're telling me." I whispered under my breath.
"Uhm, you better tell her that last thing." Ares nudged Apollo.
Apollo looked stricken. "Didn't Artemis--"
"Nope." Ares answered smugly.
Apollo pulled me away from my two companions and tried to say something, but his face was red and he stammered a lot.
"He's trying to say don't nail the irritating little blonde as soon as you get back." Ares jumped in.
Apollo glared at his brother. "What he means, Xena, is that...well with the power...it's very...potent...even for women. You might want to...well, wait just to be sure."
I just nodded like I understood what in the world he was talking about. So, he was trying to say that I'd have some residual power left for a while...big deal. Truth was, all I could focus on was the rather intense need to see my wife.
It wasn't so bad; I could get used to this kind of travel. Hey, and nobody threw up this time, we must be getting better, I thought as we made a landing in the middle of the Amazon village. We were given a hero's welcome, the likes of which I am sure Hercules never even saw. Amid all the noise and back slapping the door to the Queen's hut opened.
No one heard the door actually open, but all eyes were drawn that way anyway. I turned and thought I would surely never breath again. Gabrielle stood in the doorway looking as breathtaking and regal as any Goddess. The outfit she was wearing, or not wearing depending on how you looked at it, was my favorite. The same fawn colored doeskin that she was wearing the night she first seduced me. One slim piece of leather barely covered her breasts, and the loincloth touched the ground in front and behind.
Gabrielle stood there and I realized that she was waiting for me to come to her. If anyone expected me to do anything different then they didn't know me very well. I just about ran across the compound and flew up the half a dozen steps in two long strides. I swept the small figure into my harms and held to her tightly.
"I missed you, my heart." I whispered.
"Missed you too, Warrior." Gabrielle returned and I felt the soft breath from her response against my cheek.
Now who would have thought that nothing more than the sweet scent of her breath so close to me would send me into such a tailspin? The whole world narrowed down to this porch and this woman in my arms. Nothing else in life existed for me. That ache between my legs returned with a vengeance. I leaned down and kissed my wife in a way that she could not possible mistake for anything but what it was. It was my, I need you and I need you now kiss.
Gabrielle pulled back and those beautiful emerald eyes, that I thought I might never see again, sparkled back up at me.
"Yes," she responded softly to my unspoken plea.
I couldn't hold back any longer as I swept her up into my arms and entered our hut, slamming the door closed with my foot.
"Well," Ephiny began, watching the door slam close. "I think we'd best get some drinks and music going because I think it's going to be a very noisy night." She laughed.
I remember thinking for a very brief moment about what Ares and Apollo told me. Something about not making love to Gabrielle right away, but I couldn't remember if they said why. It's very hard to remember anything when an Amazon Queen has her tongue in your mouth and her hand in your breeches.
I think we got into this position so fast by me saying something about not being able to wait. Now I had my back up against the door as I prepared to be taken by my wild young Queen while I was still standing there fully clothed.
"Oh Gods, Brie." My head slammed against the wooden door as I groaned in a mixture of pleasure and relief. The pounding ache at my center turned into a burning need and Gabrielle's fingers were taking the edge off of it quite nicely.
I sounded like my wife when I came and it did cross my mind that I should be embarrassed or that I should at least be a little more quiet, but neither thought was getting through right now. Gabrielle never stopped the motion of her hand and the slow fuck brought me quickly to another climax. By the time I reached the third, my knees were telling me, for Goddess' sake lie down on the bed.
We tossed leather and armor all across the room, setting some sort of record for disrobing, I'm sure. I sat on the bed and asked Brie to leave the thong on for now. She looked so incredible with just the tiny patch of leather covering her mound, her very shapely backside exposed to my caresses.
Now, usually I end up leading the way in our love making, if for no other reason than I'm bigger and stronger and can usually get my way. Suddenly, though, it was if my brain were between my legs and some other highly sensitive parts of my body. I knew what lust was, hey, I had no morals or scruples at one point in my life so I took who I wanted when I wanted, but this feeling I had now was beyond normal lust or desire. It was becoming damned uncomfortable.
So, I guess that's why when my wife slid to her knees between my legs I not only didn't stop her, I encouraged her. There was no pretense, no teasing arousal. Gabrielle was a smart woman and I'm sure she could see that my need went way beyond foreplay at this very moment.
I did manage to remember Apollo's warning and it struck me that was the reason why I was so damned insatiable...must be the power they gave me. I wanted to warn Brie that this could go on for a while.
"Brie...honey...The Gods gave me this, oh, I don't know...some power and I really shouldn't be doing all this yet. I mean, that's what your father said. He said I should wait and Gods, I think I'd die if I had to wait...do you mind if I'm a little...I don't know...ravenous?" I panted and looked down.
She moved closer to me, and the minute I saw that lovely pink tongue spear out of her mouth, I was a goner. I groaned and wrapped a hand into those golden locks and pulled her head in the rest of the way. Situating her right where I needed her the most. The feeling...even the sound of her licking at my sex was extraordinary. I felt instant relief from the pounding ache that was consuming me and within moments I came. Of course, just because I was finished rather quickly didn't mean my Queen had any intention of finishing with me.
Okay, now I admit I could be considered pretty whipped where Gabrielle is concerned. I mean, if Brie wanted some, well, day or night...I'd be there, ready and willing. I have, however, never been a complete slave to my desire before. If I had to, I could say no. Not this time, though. Gabrielle continued to take in the abundant wetness between my thighs and I could no more have stopped her than I could keep night from descending. I lost count of the number of orgasms my wife's talented tongue brought me to.
I was finally sated; well that might be pushing it. Let's just say the edge was taken off. I picked Gabrielle off the floor and placed her on the bed, covering her body with my own. I kissed the lips that had my own taste on them and that started a burning fire all over again. No part of my beautiful wife's body went untouched by my hands, my lips and tongue. By the time my shoulders were situated between her legs, the small patch of leather between her legs was soaked. I used the tip of my tongue to caress her all along the edge of the drenched garment and she shivered and pressed her hips toward my face.
"Please...Xe, I didn't tease you."
"No, you certainly didn't, my heart. Thank you."
Without further delay I wrapped two fingers around the thin tie of the thong and with one strong tug the material was in my hand and I tossed it to the end of the bed. The scent that had previously been contained was now released and the fragrance of my wife's need just about undid me. I buried my face in that wetness and ate and drank like it was ambrosia.
My hand found its way to my own center and I touched myself, circling and sliding my fingers across my own need in time to the rhythmic way Gabrielle's hips pushed against my tongue. When she sped up the movement of those thrusting hips, I increased the movement of my own fingers. Gabrielle's cry at her release was like music to my ears as I let myself go simultaneously.
I moved up to hold the still quivering woman of my heart. Gabrielle's legs wrapped around me tightly, which only served to press my mound against hers. That's all the encouragement I needed. I began a slow, sensual grind against already sensitive flesh.
"Oh Gods, Xe...yes."
I smiled and kissed her again, our tongues only reminding us of the soft, wet flesh that pressed together further south. Gabrielle spread her thighs farther apart and I reached my hand down between us. Spreading my lips apart, I pressed into her again and we both immediately groaned at the feel of the silky wet folds. Gabrielle moved her own hands down to imitate my action and another jolt of arousal hit me as she opened herself for me and I slid across the heated, velvety flesh.
"Baby, don't stop." I pleaded, as my wife lifted and rocked her hips in counter rhythm to my own.
It might have been my own sex filled imagination but I swear I could feel every fold, every nuance and texture as I slid against her wet flesh. When we sped up our movement it happened as if we were one, both our minds linked much the same way as our flesh. I could feel her increasing wetness and I wrapped my lips around a very erect nipple, sucking harder when I felt the centers of our desire rubbing against one another.
We both climaxed in what seemed like a blinding flash. There was no light or otherworldly effects, but when I closed my eyes, the sparkling lights and the colors were definitely there. I lifted myself up onto my hands and pressed myself into Gabrielle firmly until I could feel her convulse against me as she came again. I groaned loudly at the feel of her trembling body and felt a warm rush of liquid flow from me at another release. I could feel my essence overflow onto Gabrielle, only to be swallowed up by her open sex.
I eased my body down and kissed Gabrielle's cheek.
"Thank you." She mumbled, still trying to get her breath back.
I smiled and waited a few moments and kissed her again. I pressed my lips so softly against hers that she opened her eyes at my tenderness.
"Hi, honey...I'm home." I said quietly.
Brie started laughing first, which was contagious enough for me to begin. We ended up collapsing into one another's arms, blissfully sated, laughing until we cried.
"Okay that's it Brie...you're worrying me." I said to my wife who happened to be hung over the rail of our porch, tossing up her morning meal.
I helped her back inside and she washed her mouth out and brushed her teeth. I gave her a few mint leaves to chew on and prepared to fix her a tea to settle her stomach.
"I'm sure it's just a stomach thing going around, maybe some residual effects of the spell." Gabrielle tried to explain.
"That was two moons ago, Brie. You are going to see Sartori and it's going to be this morning." I added. I turned and looked at her with my best no nonsense glare.
"Yes, Xena." She said in defeat.
Walking across the compound, hand in hand, I had to admit that I did feel comfortable in this village. It was the one spot in the Known World where I knew that people cared about us and we didn't have to hide who we were, our feelings for one another, or my past.
When we arrived at Sartori's hut the healer who, to Gabrielle's great joy, finally started calling her by her first name, welcomed us. My wife explained how she was feeling of late and Sartori listened.
"Do you feel nauseous at any other time?"
"Nope," Gabrielle replied. "It seems to only happen after my morning meal...sometimes it's as soon as I wake up, then blech." The motion of Gabrielle's hand indicated what came next.
"Are you more tired than usual?"
"Well, yes as a matter of fact I am." Gabrielle started to look a little worried herself now and that worried me.
"Do you know something, Sartori?" I asked and the healer looked at me in the strangest way.
"Uhm, why don't you step outside for a few moments, Xena, and let me examine Gabrielle." The healer replied.
I looked at the healer and then at Gabrielle. Now I was really worried.
"I'll be allright, Xe." Gabrielle squeezed my hand and so I reluctantly rose and left the hut.
Within moments Eponin wandered up. "Hey there, tall, dark, and deadly...what's the scoop with Gabrielle?"
Just as I opened my mouth to speak Ephiny walked up as well. "Is Gabrielle allright?"
I shook my head. "You Amazons are worse than old women. Gossip moves like wildfire around here. Actually she's just got a bit of an upset stomach...probably something that's going around." I finished, sitting down on the bench outside the hut.
"Would you like a little company while you wait?" Ephiny asked, placing her hand on my shoulder.
I looked up the two women, concern visible in their faces, and nodded nervously.
"Well?" Gabrielle asked as she finished refastening her skirt.
"Gabrielle...have you missed your time of the moon, say the last few times?" Sartori began.
"Well, as a matter of fact the last two, but I thought it was probably some lingering effects of the sickness. It's not?"
"Have you ever been late before or missed it completely?"
"Never." Gabrielle answered and Sartori suddenly realized just how young her Queen really was.
"Is it something terrible?" the Queen asked and Sartori chuckled, then smiled.
"No, Gabrielle, it's something wonderful, but I'm not sure how it happened, which is none of my business, and I'm also not sure how to tell you. Actually, Gabrielle, you're a bright girl...I bet you can figure it out."
Gabrielle wasn't so worried now that Sartori seemed relieved. The healer actually appeared glad. See I told Xe I was allright. The blonde's brows furrowed together and thought about this whole thing. She was young, but she wasn't a complete idiot. She was sick in the morning, tired all the time, and she'd missed her last two cycles. She ate like there was no tomorrow, but that was nothing new. Now that she thought about it, though, her skirt was a little tighter around the middle than usual.
Gabrielle laughed slightly. "Well, if I didn't know any better I'd say I was--"
Gabrielle looked up into Sartori's smiling face and froze.
"Oh Tori, I can't be...I don't know how such a thing could have happened. I mean, I know how it happens; I just don't know how it happened to me! I haven't...I would never...oh Gods, Xena's going to freak!"
Gabrielle's mind searched for an answer. She just knew that Xena would never believe this and think she'd cheated on her. Xena was the only one she'd been to bed with in a long time, like almost ever! When her wife returned from the mission to obtain the Elixir, it was the first time they'd been together since they arrived in the village. Gods, that was one incredible night! Xena was absolutely insatiable...she had the constitution of a God!
Gabrielle looked up at the healer in astonishment as realization flooded over her. "Oh, it's not possible." She said aloud to a confused Sartori.
It did feel like it at the time though, didn't it? Gabrielle asked herself as she placed the flat of her hand over her belly. The last time they made love the day of Xena's return. When their release washed over them, Gabrielle had the strangest feeling, like she could feel life surging into and through her. Then from a place far in the back of her memory she replayed what Xena said that day, trying to tell Gabrielle something about what Apollo warned her about.
"Brie...honey...The Gods gave me this, oh, I don't know...some power and I really shouldn't be doing all this yet. I mean, that's what your father said. He said I should wait and Gods, I think I'd die if I had to wait...do you mind if I'm a little...I don't know...ravenous?" I panted and looked down.
How could she not have told me? Gabrielle fumed to herself.
"I'm simply going to kill her!" the Queen said aloud. Turning toward the doorway she stood there and shouted.
Sartori watched as Gabrielle's features clouded over and she arched an eyebrow high up under her blonde bangs. The young Queen folded her arms across her chest and waited.
Within a heartbeat I was through the door, fear running through me at Gabrielle's shout. "Brie?"
I took in my wife's demeanor and knew this wasn't going to go well for me. Ephiny and Eponin bumped into me as they ran in to back me up. Yea, that's perfect, all a warrior wants is for her friends to be there when she's about to get reamed by her wife for some inexcusable thing she's done.
"Honey?" I asked, not feeling the endearment was going to get me out of whatever Gabrielle found that I was guilty of. "Gabrielle, what is it...what's wrong?" I asked, knowing, like any good warrior wife would, that whatever was making her so unhappy was my fault any way you looked at it.
"I'm going to have a baby!" Gabrielle said in a deep even tone.
I knew I was in some serious centaur stuff now because my wife only uses that husky tone when we're in bed or when I am so dead. Then I realized what she just said.
"You're what?" I said with a highly improbable laugh.
"A baby...with child...up the duff! How many ways do you want me to phrase it for you? You and I are having a child together. So, Xena...why don't you explain to me how this happened?"
"I--" I stopped and looked around the room and wondered myself. Then all of a sudden I knew the only way it could have happened and my blood began to boil.
"Oh, no," Gabrielle stared at me, obviously knowing where my mind was headed. "Guess again. Go back to the day a certain Warrior Princess got home from a certain mission."
I looked at her as though she'd lost her mind. Staring down at my boots, I remembered that day, Gods, I don't think I'll ever forget it, I couldn't walk without it hurting for three days. It was actually pretty incredible, I couldn't get enough and all due to that little burst of power that--Oh, shit!
Gabrielle had a way of reading my mind as well as my face and when I looked up at her, she had sort of a look of triumph across her own features.
"I thought...he said that I probably shouldn't...but then he didn't say why...I mean, he said potent, but I figured...I never even thought about...I mean who knew?"
I stammered badly as I realized just what Apollo's admonition meant. He didn't mean that I would have an unquenchable appetite for my wife...that just happened as a side effect. When he said potent, he meant that I would be carrying this powerful seed and my sweet Gabrielle could very well be ripe for the planting. That's why he warned me to wait. Hades, that warning was about as clear as the Styx.
Everybody realized what was going on by this time and Sartori still smiled, Eponin snorted at my obviously pathetic attempts at an explanation, Ephiny hid her grin under a well placed hand. I should have been on my knees begging Gabrielle's forgiveness for not warning her about what her father said; I should have looked contrite, or even ashamed. All I could manage, though was this huge, shit-eating grin when I thought about the fact that Gabrielle was pregnant with my child.
Gabrielle seemed supremely satisfied that I made a fool of myself in front of our friends and I could tell by the way the corners of her mouth pulled up that she was fighting off a smile.
"This is a good thing, though...right?" Gabrielle asked hesitantly.
My grin grew wider if that was possible and I moved to take her in my arms.
"This is a very good thing, my heart." I said.
That's when she punched me in the stomach. Gods, I have to remember to wear my armor more when we're in the village.
"What do you have to say for yourself, Warrior?" she looked up at me with more than a hint of amusement in those green eyes.
Okay this is your chance. Say what she wants to hear. Something all mushy and sentimental, kind of flowery like those poems she likes to read. You're Xena, the Warrior Princess...come on you eloquent devil...say it.
"Oops?" I shrugged.
I was pathetic when it came to words and she understood that. I could tell that she saw it in my eyes, though, that she would always be the Queen of my heart. She didn't care what the words I voiced to her were. And, in the end it didn't matter what I said...she stood up on her tiptoes and kissed me anyway.
The EndYes, the Queen series will continue after a short summer hiatus. Stay tuned for the fifth story in this series.