Lori A. Meyers
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess is © to Universal Pictures, Renaissance Pictures, Networks USA, Lucy & Rob. I’d love to own the characters of Xena and Gabrielle, but, alas, it’s not to be. There is love here between our two heroes, and a little romance, and, a little sex as well. Go away if you’re under age, or if the thought of two women together makes you queasy all over.
Spoilers: None. Gabrielle of Poteidaia is engaged to her cousin Lyceus, and awaits the arrival of the wedding party that will escort her to her betrothed in Amphipolis—but destiny will not be denied.
They were our cousins from Amphipolis, which is, I guess, somewhere north of where we lived in Poteidaia. I didn’t know much about them, only that they were either second cousins or third cousins—either once removed or twice removed—and related somehow distantly to my father’s side of the family. They would show up at our door twice a year and we would hold a banquet in their honor. I think it had something to do with the management of the vineyards both of our families had an interest in. Those feasts would last about a week—men would gamble, play drinking games, women would gather and gossip, and kids, well, kids would just be kids. We would play at hide and seek, or at night we would pretend we were ghosts, or we would build wooden forts for our imaginary armies, or sometimes do what would later be called “light the fire.” The adults quickly forbade the last game when a neighbor’s barn was found accidentally burning one spring afternoon.
The two brothers were Philoketes and Atrius. The former had a wife and two very boring and uninteresting children named—oh, well, I guess I can’t remember their names because they bored me to tears. Atrius had a wife as well, Cyrene, and three very different children. I never had any trouble remembering their names. The oldest was Toris, he had dark, wavy hair, gray eyes and he was very serious when playing. If we decided to play any games involving having an “army” or something like that he would immediately declare himself general and would draw up very complicated plans for defeating the enemy—very serious, too serious. The youngest boy was Lyceus, and he was so different from his brother that sometimes I would wonder if they grew up in the same household. He had sandy blonde hair and striking blue eyes. Whereas Toris was serious, Lyceus was carefree. He had a sweet disposition and such a lovely smile that all the girls in the immediate vicinity of our property would show up when we played. I liked his smile, too, but never told him I did.
There is a daughter—older than Lyceus but younger than Toris, Xena, who left the household when she was only eighteen to join the Athenian army—or some other army, I don’t remember. I was thirteen at the time and wondered why a girl would want to be part of any army. After all, didn’t all girls want to play with dolls instead? This is what my younger sister, Lila, kept telling me—girls should play with dolls and boys should do the more adventurous things. As more time passed I never believed that was true for me, however, I loved being outside and hated what I considered to be “girly” games.
Anyway, that year when I turned thirteen and that cousin left to join an army something happened. All the adults gathered one night, when all of us kids were supposed to be asleep, and started talking about a betrothal. I was hiding outside the window to our main living room and overheard the adults talking about there being a betrothal and something about a dowry and how it would be paid. Then my name was mentioned along with Lyceus’ name and my father, Herodotus, stood and shook hands with Atrius. I got a funny feeling, not sure I liked what I was hearing, not really understanding what a betrothal had to do with me.
The next day Lyceus was unexpectedly shy whenever he was around me. Even though I still didn’t fully understand what the adults were talking about the night before, I liked this new change in him, and I wondered if it had anything to do with the adults and their late night plans. Lyceus asked me that day to take a walk with him on the beach, just the two of us, without the other kids. After we had chased away some seagulls, and after splashing our feet in the water, he turned to me and kissed me.
I was dumbfounded. “Why did you do that?”
He grinned at me and took my hand in his. “Cause we’re going to be married.”
My mouth hung open in shock. “What?”
“You know, we’re engaged now.”
“No, we’re not!”
He looked at me strangely and let go of my hand. “But that’s what my dad told me this morning!”
I backed away from him and shook my head. “No one told me anything about getting married. I’m too young to marry a boy!”
I turned from him and ran home to mother with tears in my eyes. She was mortified that Lyceus talked to me about the marriage before they had the chance to. I told her I was too young and didn’t want to get married. She put her arm around my shoulders and told me that the actual marriage wouldn’t be for a while and that for the moment we were simply promised to the other by way of an agreement between our families.
I was relieved. I liked Lyceus; he had a pleasant way about him, and I thought it would be fun being married to him in the future. But not now, I still had a lot of childhood left in me.
That was five years ago, and today is the day that the wedding escorts are scheduled to arrive in Poteidaia. I’ve seen by betrothed only ten times in the last five years. He dutifully arrives twice a year and we stroll on the beach and talk about the future. What made him so endearing as a child has helped him to blossom as a young man. He is kind and clever and has such a tender way about him that I cannot help but love him.
But I am troubled at times. I love Lyceus but I don’t know if I’m in love with him. I don’t know if I know what it is like to be in love. But my parents feel enough time has passed and the time for marriage is at hand. I’ve changed over the years—matured and developed my own sense of what my life ought to be like—and I don’t know if settling down is what I really want to do. Lila tells me to get my head out of the clouds and come back down to reality, that there is nothing for a young woman to do but marry and bear children. The more I think about it the more doubt I feel. A part of me feels like I’m surrendering myself to an uncertain future—one that isn’t right for me.
I’m startled out of my thoughts by the sound of approaching horses and carriages. The time has come. We are all packed for the long trip up the coast, through the Chalcidice, to Amphipolis. As the caravan rounds the corner I notice there are four carriages and seven riders on horseback. I know that Lyceus is not with the wedding escort; we won’t see each other until the ceremony in a few weeks. My dad will travel in one carriage, along with Atrius; Lila, Cyrene, and mother in another, and I will have my own. For some reason they think the bride needs to travel alone. The fourth cart carries all the provisions we will need for the long journey. There are a few friends of mine that are following us in their own transportation.
Two of the riders dismount and begin talking to each other; I notice that one of them is Toris, and he dressed in the garments of a Thracian seaman, and the other I don’t recognize because his back is to me. The more I look at him the more I think I recognize the uniform. It’s the uniform of an Athenian soldier—the unmistakable dark purple battledress, the brown leather cuirass with chain mail attached to it, the black cape attached to the shoulders, and dark brown boots—and I realize this must be…
“Xena.” The name escapes my lips before I realize it, as if I’ve been waiting five years just to remember this name.
She must have heard me because she takes the helm off her head and shakes her black hair loose. It reminds me of a black mane you would see on an alpha male lion. She tucks the helm under her arm and turns to me, smiling.
I did not remember what she looked like. But nothing in my wildest imaginings could have prepared me for this. She is beautiful—beyond beautiful, actually—she’s devastating in her perfection. When she looks at me, with those amazing blue eyes and dazzling smile, I feel as if the breath has been knocked out of me. I can’t speak, and I can’t look away, either. Before I know what is happening mother and father come out the front door, brush past me, and walk towards Toris and Xena; father shakes hands with Toris and mother nods to Xena and smiles at her. She looks to mother briefly then her eyes come back to me again, and then I notice that her smile has faltered slightly and her eyes seem to widen in surprise. Mother says something to her and she nods and turns towards the five others who have dismounted. They gather around the carriage that Atrius steps down from and the small party walks up to where my mother and father are standing.
Mother turns around and waves for me to come over to them. I run my suddenly clammy hands down my chiton and move towards my mother. Toris closes the distance between us and scoops me up in his arms and twirls me around.
Toris grins as I laugh at his antics. “Put me down, you oaf.”
“You’re looking good, Gabrielle.”
“So do you, cousin.”
Toris puts an arm around me then turns to his sister. “Hey, Xena, come over here!”
The woman hesitates for a moment, and then comes over to us. She walks up to me then takes my hand in hers. “Its good to see you again, Gabrielle. It’s been a long time.”
I smile up at her, struck by a beauty I’ve never seen before. “I didn’t remember what you looked like.”
She nods then lowers my hand. “Will you excuse me, please?” Without another word, she turns around and, putting her helm back on, walks towards the supply cart.
Toris frowns then looks at me. “Was it something I said?”
“I don’t know.” I look over to Xena as she tightens some ropes on the cart. She glances at me again, and then quickly turns away when she notices my look.
Atrius and father walk into the house with the rest of the party in tow and I notice that Xena isn’t one of them. I turn around at the door and notice that she has taken the sword that was attached to her saddle and sheaths it at her back. She hesitates then, her hands still on the saddle, and then slowly turns her head towards me. Our eyes lock, and something so pure it makes my heart hurt, passes between us. I gasp and take a few steps away from the door but she has turned away from me again and disappears behind the caravan.
The rest of the afternoon and evening are taken up by a festive banquet, which I enjoy far more than I thought I would. Toris is charming, never failing to sing the praises of the younger brother waiting for me in Amphipolis. Father, once again, drinks too much and challenges the men to a knife-throwing contest. When the rest of men tactfully turn him down they end up playing some sort of card game. Mother and Lila end up by the fireplace; going over the wedding dress they both have worked on for me. Philoketes’ daughter—Euboia, I think—has come to Poteidaia, as well, to accompany the wedding escort and is currently gossiping with mother and Lila. Cyrene is sitting with them but she looks a little uncomfortable. I don’t join them; I’ve never been one to add sewing and mindless chatter to the list of things I like to do.
I take my cup of wine and walk out to our patio behind the house. The breeze from the sea stirs up the trees and I sit by the fountain, enjoying the familiarity of home. After awhile, something catches my eye in the brush beyond so I put down my cup and get up to investigate. There is a rather large lot of unoccupied land, filled with groves of Eucalyptus trees, between our property and our neighbors to the west. I’ve spent many a summer night in these trees—dreaming of the future, planning unrealistic adventures—so I know my way around pretty good.
I slow down and quiet my steps. Someone is in the clearing, sitting around a small, makeshift campfire. I stop behind a tree and peer around it. It is Xena; she is warming her hands by a small fire surrounded by stones.
She doesn’t look up. “You can come out now. I know someone is there.”
I step from behind the tree and slowly approach her. “You have really good hearing, you know.”
She looks up then, and then stands abruptly. “Hello, Gabrielle.”
“You didn’t come to dinner, Xena.”
I wonder why she would seek solitude. “Are you feeling okay?”
She wipes imaginary dirt from her hands. “Never better.”
“Then why don’t you come and enjoy the party?”
She looks away briefly then turns towards me. “I’m really not into that kind of thing.”
This enigmatic woman intrigues me. “But we haven’t seen each other for five years, I thought we could get to know each other again.”
“Why?” The word comes out a little too harshly, and she realizes it. “I’m sorry.”
There is something in her eyes that tells me I might be treading a little to close—but a little too close to what? And that same something tells me that this conversation is over.
“I’m sorry for disturbing you, Xena. Good night.”
As I walk away from her I feel as if I’ve been kicked in the stomach and my hand closes over my mouth, in a vain effort to conceal a sob. What has just happened, and why do I feel so bad? I look back to her and she is still standing by the fire. Her eyes though are concealed by the surrounding darkness and I cannot see if they are filled with the same pain mine are. I pick up my pace and reach the patio and collapse on a chaise, suddenly feeling emotionally spent.
That night I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered if there was something in my appearance that perhaps wasn’t pleasing to her. As soon as that thought entered my mind I quickly dismissed it, such thoughts were foolish and full of vanity. Despite my mind telling me otherwise, my heart followed its own rules. I ran my hands through my long hair and made a decision.
The next day we are up before sunrise and hit the road immediately—no breakfast but a quick meal is packed for later in the morning. Mother gasped when she saw my short blonde hair but no one else seemed to care, except for Xena, perhaps. She stared at me as I climbed up the carriage and settled in, and she didn’t tear her eyes away from me until my own frank stare. Father is anxious as always, traveling away from home always makes him a little uneasy. He worries about the house and property and fears it will all burn down to the ground. Maybe if we were all younger and playing that fire game his worries would be justified.
At mid-morning our caravan stops to take a rest and eat. Mother and father gather everyone together and offer a blessing and libation to Hermes for a safe passage to Amphipolis. Xena is absent once again. And as everyone disperses to eat their meal I pull Toris aside.
“Toris, do you know where Xena is?”
He nods and smiles down at me. “Yeah, probably checking the perimeter—making sure we’re not besieged by bandits or some other nonsense.”
“She never joins us.”
“One of the drawbacks of being a soldier, I guess. And people used to complain that I was too serious! She’s far worse than I ever was.” Toris then placed a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry about her, Gabrielle, she can take care of herself.”
I’m not worried about her abilities, or her being able to take care of herself. I want to get to know her. “Thanks, Toris.” He smiles again and then leaves.
I take my meal and travel into the woods a little and sit down on a fallen log. When I’m almost finished I hear a twig snap behind me and turn around. It is Xena; she is standing just a few feet from me.
“You should be more careful, Gabrielle. Don’t travel too far from the caravan.”
I find myself feeling a little defensive considering how she treated me yesterday. For some reason her concern about me makes me a little annoyed. “I can take care of myself, thank you very much.”
She smiles a little at my small outburst and then moves to sit down on the log I’m sitting on. “Making sure you’re okay is my job—my duty.”
“You will be my brother’s wife.”
I nod. “So its only duty that keeps you here?”
She hesitates. “Yes.”
I look at her then. “Is that the only reason?” I think we both know the answer to my question.
She stands and takes a few steps away from me. “What other reason would there be?”
Hello? I didn’t imagine what passed between us yesterday. I stand up as well. “I’m not stupid, Xena.”
She turns to me then and her eyes are narrowed. “I never said you were.”
“I saw the way you were looking at me yesterday.”
She lowers her head, and then takes a deep breath. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
My annoyance grows. “Yes, you do. I know you felt it because I saw it in your eyes. I know you saw it in me, as well.”
“I don’t know what—“
“Please don’t play games with me, Xena! Not about this.” I take the few steps up to her until I’m standing directly in front of her. She is a full head taller than I am. Before I know what is happening, I voice my inner desire. “Do you want me?”
She stiffens. “No, no I don’t.”
“Oh, then you don’t want this?” I take my hand and slowly run it up her arm. She shivers slightly. I take another step and then there is practically no space between our bodies. “Or this?” I use my other hand and slowly caress her cheek.
Before I know what is happening she has taken me in her arms and her mouth collides with my own. Our kiss is frenetic, filled with a deep longing and lust. She has me up against a tree in no time. And finally I know that caged beast called desire; it has both of us in its grip.
When Xena spreads my legs with one of her thighs I moan loudly in her mouth. When I hook a leg around her hip she lifts me against her body. My body feels like it is on fire, but it also feels like drowning, too. But the sound of my need seems to snap her out of our libidinous haze, however; and she breaks away from me and staggers backwards.
I cannot seem to catch my breath. “Please, Xena, don’t stop.”
She shakes her head and backs away further. “I’m so sorry, please forgive me.”
I don’t want apologies, I want her. “Xena, please, I want…”
Her hands have balled into fists and her eyes are blazing. “No, you are to be Lyceus’ wife!”
“Tell me you don’t want me?” I am frantic.
“I said tell me you don’t want me!”
She straightens out her uniform and her eyes are resolute. “I can’t, Gabrielle…I just can’t.”
She is gone and once again I am left alone, feeling desolate, and confused. Two days ago I thought I knew what I wanted—what I was fated to have. Today is a different day and
there seems to me no going back. My heart breaks for three people—Lyceus, my fiancé, myself, and Xena—and I fear none of us will come out of this situation happy.
Our meal is long over and our caravan begins its travels again. I sit in my cage, at least that is what it feels like to me, and stare ahead at the carriage mom and Lila are in. I know what love is like, but I’d never felt desire until today and I’m lost in my need. That I would desire a woman should have knocked me to the ground, but it didn’t. Maybe this is something that my body has always known, albeit hidden from my heart. Maybe this is why I’ve only ever kissed a few boys, I’ve just never wanted any of them the way I now want Xena. As more time passes I realize that I somehow have to stop my impending marriage, but I am at a loss on how to do it. As the night approaches I find that I’ve fallen into a melancholy spirit and just want to be left alone.
By evening we have reached Olynthus, a town similar to Poteidaia. Atrius suggests we take rooms at the local inns instead of setting up a camp outside of town. When father objects to this plan Atrius offers to pay for the rooms—dad, being as frugal as always.
We manage to find accommodations at a few inns next to an Ionic temple dedicated to the twins, Apollo and Artemis. We are lucky to get any rooms at all, considering that many people have come to this town for a religious festival at the temple tomorrow.
I take my traveling pack and enter an upstairs room at the inn nearest the temple. The window is open and I can smell the incense and the aroma of burning oil from the temple.
After I settle in I go back downstairs to see who else is with me. Atrius, Cyrene, Euboia, Toris, Patroklos, and three other friends of the family are at a long table already well into their meal and drinks. They wave me over so I join them.
Patroklos, a friend of mine, pushes a cup of wine in my direction. “Well, how ya doing, Gabrielle?”
Atrius smiles at me. “Yeah, how is the blushing bride?”
Toris must see something in my eyes because he places a hand on his father’s shoulder. “Come on, dad, leave her alone. Okay?”
Atrius looks at his son before turning concerned eyes on me. “Are you all right, Gabrielle?”
“Yeah, I’m just a little tired, that’s all.”
“Would you like me to order you some food?”
“Sure.” I accept a plate of lamb, cheese, bread and hummus. I want vegetables as well but it seems they’re all out. I notice that Cyrene is sitting off to the side, and isn’t joining the conversation.
I think Toris knows that something is wrong because he keeps glancing at me as I eat. Finally his attention is drawn away when father enters the inn. Toris gets up and waves for him to come to our small party. I take that as my clue to leave, the last thing I want right now is to be in the company of dad, Atrius and the rest of the men at the table.
I take my plate of food and excuse myself, feigning weariness. When I arrive in my room I light the fireplace and then settle on the bed, plate on my lap, and a cup of strong wine at my bedside.
I must have dosed for a while, because when I open my eyes it is because there is a soft knocking on my door.
I open the door to Toris, and he looks a little concerned. “Just thought I’d check to see if you’re all right before I turn in for the night.”
I am touched by his concern. “I’m okay, really. It’s all just been a little overwhelming.”
He grins. “Yeah. But you seem so relaxed about all this. Your mom and Lila are more agitated than you are.”
“Trust me, I’m more nervous than you think. I just know enough not to show it in public, mom would be beside herself if I did.”
“Between your mom and my dad—man, its enough to drive even me crazy.”
I reach out and lightly grasp his shoulder. “Good night, Toris.”
He takes my hand and squeezes it. “See you tomorrow.”
I close the door and move to put more wood on the fire. When it begins to crackle there is another soft knock on my door and I wonder what else Toris wants to talk about.
I open the door. “Well, cousin—“
“Hello, Gabrielle.” Her greeting is no louder than a whisper.
I look up to that amazing face again. “Xena.” It’s all I can say, nothing else comes to mind.
“Can I come in?”
Before I have a chance to speak she walks in and stops at the fireplace, placing one of her hands on the mantle. “I think I owe you an apology.”
I see the regret on her face. “There’s no need, Xena.”
“Please, I have to—I treated you so badly.”
I don’t know what to say, so I do something that surprises even me. I hold out my arms to her, and at first she reacts in shock, I can see the wariness on her face. But this is one battle she can’t win, and I think even she knows that.
Then she releases a ragged breath and a small smile touches her lips. Without speaking she walks into my arms and rests her forehead on mine. Her voice cracks a little as she tries to speak. “I can’t seem to stay away from you, Gabrielle.”
I run my hands up her back and, once again, that caged animal roars to life. “Then don’t, Xena.”
“I don’t understand this.” She mumbles into my neck.
My breath leaves me when her teeth find my pulse point. “What…what don’t you understand?”
“This passion, this desire…why I want you so badly.”
I cry out as her hands find my breasts. “Don’t think—feel me.”
Her lips find mine again and their softness and sweetness makes me want to cry out. When I wrap my arms around her neck she deepens the kiss and pulls me towards her. My whole body hums with pleasure, and, I think I finally know what love is. At least, I know what lust is.
Xena lifts me up with very little effort and I wrap my legs around her waist. She gently places me on the bed and her body follows my descent. Our lips meet again and it is a sweet surrender, I’ve never known a feeling like this, and it is truly a wondrous thing.
She kisses down my neck, all the while running her hands down my arms. After a while she lifts off and stares down at me. “Gabrielle…?”
I feel my heart falling, rapidly and desperately. “Yes, Xena?”
“Oh, gods…I want you…” I feel as she moves off my body, then she sits back on her heels.
I open my eyes and look up at her. My breathing is ragged. “Why did you stop?”
I can see a question in her eyes, and I think I know what it is. I take her hand and kiss it.
“Yes, Xena, I’m still a virgin.”
She growls and unfastens the cape from around her shoulders, it falls to the floor. Next comes her armor and leathers until she is completely naked. She falls on me again and works at the laces to my top, we both manage to loosen them and soon my breasts are free and visible to her hungry eyes. Soon I’m naked before her, too.
As she lowers her mouth to mine again her right hand slides up my torso and she cups my breast in her hand. My hands are all over her—running up her back—my nails leaving their mark. She gasps again and moves her body until she is lying fully on top of me—her knees part my legs—and it feels so good.
“Gabrielle?” She begins a slow, sensual grind against me.
I wrap my arm around her neck. “Yes?”
“I want to love you but I can’t take…I…I won’t take your....”
I groan in frustration. “Please, Xena…”
She gently grasps my face in both hands. “Will you trust me?”
How can I not? “Yes.”
She reaches between us and gently parts my nether lips, and then I feel her guide her own pelvis until our centers are touching, I gasp when I realize what she is doing.
“Gabrielle, wrap your legs around me.”
I do, and she responds by wrapping her own arms around me until we are locked tightly together. She begins thrusting lightly against me, a motion so sweet and loving that I cry out for the sheer perfection of it.
She closes her eyes and grunts. “Ungh.”
Our bodies’ writhe—move as one—and her pace quickens from a gentle rocking motion to a near frantic thrusting. Then her hips slow and she starts a circular motion that just drives me crazy.
I grab her buttocks and pull us even closer together. “Please, Xena, faster…”
She runs her arms under my shoulders and our nipples caress. “Oh, Gabrielle…”
Our bodies dance as one, and the bed creaks in rhythm to her thrusts against me. It is like nothing I’ve ever known in the past. I feel as if I will burst into a thousand pieces, and will never be whole again. When her pace quickens again I know she is near her release. Her moans increase and she grips the mattress to support her bucking body. Her mouth finds mine again and when our lips lock she surges against me in three quick movements. She throws her head back and cries out her pleasure and her release causes my own body to shudder in climax.
When our breathing has quieted she rolls off me and collapses on the bed, totally spent. I can barely move, but I turn my body so that my head rests on her shoulder and I drape an arm over her.
She wipes the sweat from her brow and then turns her head towards me. “I don’t know what to say.”
I know the feeling. Up until now I’ve only ever kissed three other people, and one of them is her brother. “Xena?”
“What happens now?”
She turns her body and then faces me. “I don’t know.”
I think we are both at a loss. When I woke up today I could never have imagined this is how I would end my day—making love to Lyceus’ sister. But as I look into her eyes I see a woman that I could love, that I probably already love, and I know I can never be contented being Lyceus’ wife.
“I think I love you, Xena.”
“I know I love you, Gabrielle.” She lovingly caresses my face. “I can’t let you go, I know I can’t.”
My heart breaks. “But what can we do?”
“I don’t know right now, but I promise you I’ll think of something.”
I believe her, because right now I can’t think. My body is still humming from our incredible lovemaking and I find that I’m being drawn again into her beautiful eyes. I reach over and draw us together again—our bodies touch—and our passion roars to life all over again. We spend the rest of the night making love.
I am woken early in the morning by a rather loud knocking on my door. I open my eyes and panic, but I look over and realize that Xena is gone. I wrap a sheet around me and open the door just a little. It is mother.
“Gabrielle, what are you doing?”
I wipe the sleep from my eyes. “What do you want, mom?”
“What do you mean ‘what do I want.’ Its time to go—go on, get packed and meet us downstairs.” She shakes her head and then storms down the hallway.
I groan and lean against the door. I haven’t had enough sleep, and I know I must smell like sex. Luckily, there is a washroom down the hall. I clean myself in record time and pack my small bag. When I arrive downstairs there is no breakfast for me, everyone else has been up a while and they are waiting for me outside.
When I climb into the carriage my dad comes up to me, a frown on his face. “Gabrielle, you have to get up on time, we don’t want to be late for your own wedding now, do we?”
I sigh. “No, dad, we don’t.”
“Good.” He trots to the leading carriage, climbs up, and soon we are all on the road again.
A few hours pass and I decide to sit outside along with the driver. We strike up a conversation and share a flask of wine. After a few deep swallows I realize I need to eat something or else I’ll get really drunk, and I don’t want to do that. I crawl into the carriage again and rummage through one of my travel packs. I find some bread and cheese and take them with me to the front of the carriage again. After a few moments I hear a horse coming up on my side of the carriage.
I turn my head and see that it is Xena. She brings her horse in step with the carriage. “Good morning, Gabrielle.”
I smile at her. “Morning, Xena.”
She smiles without looking at me. “I was wondering if you’d like to ride with me for a while.”
“On the horse?”
Her smile is striking. “Where else?”
I know I must be blushing furiously. “Sure.”
She steers the horse closer and stretches out her arms to me. She grasps my waist and pulls me over so that I’m sitting in front of her on the saddle. Then she looks over to my driver. “Anyone asks, she’s with me.”
He nods. “Okay by me.”
Xena snakes one arm around my waist and pulls the reins to the right. Soon we are traveling into the countryside, far away from the rest of the caravan. We don’t stop, however, but continue to follow at a respectable distance.
“I couldn’t wait to see you.” She lowers her head and nibbles on my ear.
I moan at the intimate touch. “Me, either.” I reach behind me and grasp the back of her head. I guide her lips to my waiting mouth. Our kiss is deep and passionate and soon we are both moaning into each other’s mouths.
Xena drops the reins and then runs her callused hands under my chiton until she is cupping my breasts. I can feel her deep growl and it makes me shudder.
I tear my lips from hers. “If you don’t stop, we’ll have to get off the horse.”
“Oh, I don’t plan on dismounting you.”
My breath catches. “What?”
She rakes her teeth across my neck. “You’re such a lovely mount, Gabrielle.”
She runs her right hand around my hip and under my skirt, and then she dips her fingers under my breeches until she is stroking me. I moan out my pleasure when she uses her other hand to lift up the rest of my skirt from around my waist. I can feel her hot breath on the back of my neck and it sends shivers down my spine. She lifts slightly from the saddle and when she settles back down again I feel her moist hot sex pressed against my backside.
I groan. “Oh, gods, Xena.”
She grunts and presses herself hard against me. “Gabrielle, you feel so hot.”
Then her fingers move in time to her grind against me. Everything else is forgotten—the horse, our surroundings, even time itself. All we both know is the pounding of our hearts and bodies.
Xena reaches around with her left hand and cups my breast and squeezes in time with her fingers. It only takes a few more strokes and then my hips move against the saddle horn. She presses me harder against the saddle horn with every thrust of her hips. Both sensations drive me crazy, and I reach back and grab her head. Her lips crash down on mine with such force that my body slams against the saddle horn soundly, and within moments I am coming on her fingers. I cry out into her mouth and she moans loudly. After a moment she bends me forward a little and then thrusts only a few more times before orgasm hits her.
After a moment I open my eyes to find that the horse has stopped, when it did I don’t know, and I don’t care. I turn my head to see Xena with her head thrown back, gulping for air. Then her head falls forward and she looks at me with hooded eyes.
“That was incredible, Xena.”
She engulfs me in her arms. “I think I could get used to this.”
I smile up at her. “What? Making love on a horse?”
“No—just fucking you.”
I turn around and blush. It is then that the stillness around me causes me alarm. “Xena?”
She reaches for the fallen reins. “Yes?”
“Where’s the caravan?” I look back at her but there isn’t any concern on her face.
“Don’t’ worry about them, I promise you we’ll catch up.”
“Then we have some time?”
“All the time you want, Gabrielle.”
“Get off the horse.”
She leers down at me and then swings down from the saddle. The cool air that touches my backside when she is gone causes me to shudder slightly. She notices and quickly reaches up and scoops me into her arms.
She leans down and kisses me. “There’s a stream over there. How would you like a cool bath?”
“I’d love one.”
She has me in her arms, one arm under my knees and the other around my back, as she walks towards the stream. “I just bet you would.”
“Will you make love to me again?”
Her lopsided grin is charming. “Always.”
We bathe and make love over and over again until there is no strength left in our bodies.
We don’t reach the caravan until late in the afternoon, almost just before dusk. As Xena’s horse approaches three riders from the caravan turn and head back in our direction.
Lykaon reaches us first and leads his horse in step with Xena’s. “Where have you two been? Herodotus and Hecuba were worried.”
Patroklos also approaches. “Gabrielle, you had us concerned.”
I sigh and shake my head. “Didn’t my driver tell you I’d be riding with Xena?”
Toris takes up position on the other side of Xena’s horse. “Xena.”
I feel her stiffen behind me. I offer him a weak smile. “Hello, cousin.”
“What do you want, Toris?” Her voice has a hard edge to it.
I turn my head and notice his icy glare. This startles me. “Is everything all right, Toris?”
When his eyes turn to me they soften. “We’re all fine, just worried a little. Remember what I said last night?”
“Yeah, I do. Why don’t you ride ahead and tell mom and dad that I’m fine.”
He looks to Xena again before replying. “Sure, Gabrielle. I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner with me tonight?”
I can feel Xena’s anger as she pulls the reins in. “Okay.”
Toris nods and then urges his horse away from us. The other riders take off with him. I turn my head back to Xena. “What was that all about?”
Xena shrugs. “I don’t know.”
“Are you sure?” I get the feeling she’s not being completely honest with me, but I don’t want to get into an argument right now.
Xena looks at me in such a way that it makes my blood boil. I can’t believe she is being so brazen this close to the caravan. I slap her hands away when she attempts to touch my thighs.
“Stop it, Xena.”
I can feel her grin, even though I can’t see it. “Stop what, Gabrielle?”
“You know, now get me back to my carriage.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
I reach back and slap her thigh. “Smart ass.”
After Xena deposits me back on my carriage she takes her leave from me. I know I won’t see her until later on in the night. We travel a little farther today than we did yesterday, almost directly north up the Chalcidice, until we reach Apollonia, an agricultural town a lot bigger than the coastal Poteidaia. It has a rather large agora filled with lots of shops, inns, and temples and I’m excited about staying at an inn for another night. I don’t think Atrius is into sleeping in the great outdoors, he has offered to pay for the rooms until we reach Argilus, then our journey will head northeast until we reach Amphipolis. There aren’t any major towns between Argilus and Amphipolis, so then we’ll have to make camp, and I don’t think my future father-in-law is looking forward to this part of our journey. But until then, I’ll enjoy a soft bed.
I’ve noticed that Patroklos and Euboia are spending a lot of time together. I’ve seen how they look at each other when they think no one is watching. But it is also a reminder that, at least for now, I can’t be that open over my feelings for Xena. Gods, this is such a mess…
The inhabitants of this town must really like the god Apollo, because all the temples that run along the main road into town are dedicated to him and his various cults. As the main road reaches the agora our caravan turns down a smaller road to our right and heads for the local stables. When the horses and carriages are stowed for the night everyone disperses into small groups and head for either their lodgings or a local tavern.
I stop at the intersection and look around for Toris, but he’s nowhere to be found. Figures, I don’t see Xena either. I walk down the main road, past the temples, to where I know the smell of food is coming from when I feel someone running up to me from behind.
Toris stops at my side and takes a deep breath. “Sorry I’m late. Dad wanted to go over the plans for tomorrow’s journey.”
I nod. “I hope that means we’ll all be able to sleep in. Mom woke me up way too early this morning.”
He chuckles. “You thought that was early?”
“Well, for me it was.”
“Wait until you’re a farmer’s wife, then its up before the sun rises.”
I cringe slightly. A farmer’s wife… “I can let the field hands do all the work.”
Toris looks at me. “If I didn’t know better I’d accuse you of being lazy.”
I grin at him. “But you do know better, don’t you, cousin?”
“Oh, yeah—don’t mess with Gabs.”
“Who calls me Gabs?”
“Lyceus does sometimes.”
I take his hand and lead him into the nearest inn. “Come on, Toris, I’m starving.”
The inn is very cozy and comfortable. We settle into a pair of couches near the fireplace and a small feast is laid out before us, along with a huge amphora of wine.
Toris takes the amphora and pours me a cup of wine. “Shall we make a toast?”
I lean back into the couch and take my plate of vegetables and place it before me. “To what?”
“No way, I’m not married yet.”
Toris laughs and nods at me. “Okay. Well, how about love—we’ll drink to love.”
Now this is a toast I can drink to. “Let’s drink to being in love.” When we both down our beverages I begin to eat. I know enough about myself to know that I need to eat while drinking, I get drunk way to easily.
After a while I look up just in time to catch Toris glancing at me. I can tell something is on his mind. “Any special reason for the impulse to have dinner? Is something bothering you, Toris?”
He puts his cup down. “Yeah, there is.”
“Well, cousin, what is it?”
“I need to ask you something, Gabrielle, and I don’t want you to be offended by it.”
“I promise I won’t be.” Now he has me curious.
“Has my sister been bothering you in any way?”
My cup stops just before it reaches my mouth. I put it down on the table a little too slowly and I wonder if Toris notices. “No, she hasn’t. Except for that ride today I’ve hardly seen her.” Boy, I hate lying.
“Then she hasn’t made any—well, I mean—she hasn’t—“
He is struggling to say something and I think I know what it is. “Just say it, okay?”
“Has she made a pass at you? You know, has she come on to you?”
Now I am beyond curious, he knows something I don’t. “No, should I be worried?”
“Let me tell you a little story, Gabrielle. Two summers ago my dad brought in a new partner to help out with the family business. It doesn’t really matter what his name is or what he did for us. He and his family came over to the house for dinner one night and I met his daughter.” He drinks a long swallow of wine. “Man, Kythera was beautiful. She was just a year younger than me and we started dating right away—we really liked each other from day one. Anyway, three months into our relationship Xena comes home for a visit and what does she do? She puts the moves on my girlfriend!” Toris slams his cup on the table.
I sit up and blink; he has my complete attention. “What exactly did she do?”
“She made sure they spent a lot of time together while I was away at work all day. Kythera later admitted to sleeping with Xena one afternoon when they were both drunk. I couldn’t believe it, but, then again, I could because I know my sister. She always tried to take away what was mine when we were young. I just never thought she would do something similar when we were adults. I stopped seeing Kythera, and Xena went back to Athens and never talked to her again.”
I down my cup in one long gulp. I look over to Toris but he has his head turned away from me. “I’m so sorry, Toris.” I don’t know what to think.
Toris looks at me before pouring himself another cup of wine. “I have to ask you again, Gabrielle, has Xena flirted with you?”
I can’t tell him the truth, not now. “No, she hasn’t.”
I can see his visible sigh of relief. “Good. You know what really gets to me?”
I wonder if I really want to know. “What?”
“The line she used on her, its so stupid I can’t believe Kythera fell for it.”
“What was it?”
“’I can’t seem to stay away from you.’ Can you believe how lame that is?”
My heart breaks into a thousand pieces. “Oh, gods…”
He misinterprets my outburst. “Yeah, I know—really lame and simple-minded.”
My heart freezes and I have to purposely harden my face or else I’ll fall apart right in front of him, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t know how I do it, but I manage to stay with him well past the dinner hour, making idle and meaningless conversation. When I notice his fatigue I politely excuse myself and tell him I’m going out for the rest of the night. We hug goodnight and I leave the inn. I don’t know where I’m going but I continue down the road, past the inns and brothels, in no particular hurry to get anywhere.
My heart is torn within me. Is Toris right? Has Xena just been playing me, like she played that other woman? I don’t want to believe it.
I turn my head and notice Xena coming towards me from the other side of the street. She trots up to me and grins at me.
“I was waiting for you to be done with Toris.”
“What do you want, Xena?” My voice is cold.
She blinks then and her smile fades a little. “Do you want to get a drink or something?”
I turn and continue down the street. “No, I don’t, Xena.”
She catches up to me and lightly grabs my shoulders. “Hey, wait up, will ya…what’s wrong, Gabrielle?”
I bat her hands away from me. “Will you just leave me alone tonight?”
There is a look of both hurt and confusion on her face. “Have I done something wrong, Gabrielle? Please, talk to me.”
“I just had a long talk with Toris.”
She nods. “Yes…and?”
“He told me about Kythera.” I look up into shocked blue eyes.
She backs up a bit. “Why did he tell you that?”
“He’s just looking out for me, Xena! Which is more than I can say about you.”
I can hold back my fear and anger no longer. “Are you just using me, Xena? Am I just another notch in your belt, tell me?” My hand stings as it connects solidly with her face. The slap startles us both.
For a brief moment, her eyes flash with rage, and then I find myself up against the wall of a building. She inhales deeply then, and then drops her hands from my shoulders; and that look is gone as suddenly as it came. Xena staggers back a bit and reaches up to her cheek. “I love you…”
“No, you don’t!”
“Yes, I do…” She grabs me by the wrist and pulls me along with her down a small alleyway.
When we are away from prying eyes she gently takes me in her arms and holds on. “Oh, Gabrielle, I’m so sorry Toris told you that. It’s in the past, I promise. That’s not who I am anymore.”
“Then its true? You just used that woman?”
She releases me from her embrace. “I’m not proud of who I was, of what I used to do. Not all Athenian soldiers teach you good habits.”
“I want to believe you, Xena.”
“Then do, Gabrielle. Please, I would never hurt you.” Her eyes fill with unshed tears.
I can feel my own tears well up. “Then you really do love me, Xena?”
She brushes her lips against mine. “I’m in love with you, Gabrielle. May the gods forgive us both, but I do.”
“Why do we need divine forgiveness?”
“Because you were meant to be my sister-in-law—not my wife.”
I look up into her loving eyes. “Do you mean that?”
She takes both my hands and holds them between her own. “I know this may not be the time and place to ask, but will you marry me, Gabrielle?”
Xena grins and rubs her cheek. “You’re stronger than you look.” Then she has me in her arms again.
We both turn at the sound of the masculine voice and see Toris; he is standing at the entrance to the alleyway. “What in hades do you think you’re doing?”
Xena stiffens and I can feel the anger coming off her in waves. “Toris, you bastard!”
They both hurry to face each and for a brief moment I hesitate. When Xena reaches Toris she grabs him by the shoulders. “You had no business telling Gabrielle about my past!”
He tries to pull away but she’s much stronger than he is. “Yes, I did! You take what isn’t yours, Xena! I’m just protecting Lyceus!”
“This isn’t about Lyceus!”
Toris tries to loosen Xena’s strong grip. “What are you talking about?”
“You want her, don’t you?”
I am stunned by this accusation. “Xena, please…”
“You got to her, too! Didn’t you?”
Xena shoves him away. “I love her!”
Toris takes a swing at her, but she’s faster, and easily steps aside. “What have you done? Oh my gods, Xena, have you been fucking her, as well?”
I want this to stop right now. “Toris!”
He turns to me and his eyes flash with anger. “Did you let this bitch get to you? You don’t believe her lies, do you?”
“Don’t you talk to her in that tone, Toris!” When Toris turns to swing at her again she easily decks him with a punch to the stomach.
She whirls to face me and her eyes are still wild. “Gabrielle?”
I move past her and gently help Toris to his feet. “Please, Toris stop this absurdity and let us talk about this okay?”
His eyes are full of pain. “Gabrielle how could you? Lyceus loves you.”
I wipe at the single tear that falls down his cheek. “I know he does, but I don’t love him. At least, not in the way that I love Xena.”
“You love her?”
Xena moves to stand by my side. “We are in love, Toris. I’m sorry if Lyceus gets hurt by this but we can’t help it.” She turns to me then and wraps an arm around me. “I’ve loved you from the moment I saw you.”
My eyes are only for her now. “You have?”
She bends to kiss me. “Oh, yes…”
We both break apart when Toris groans. “Xena, what about Lyceus?”
I lower my head and rub my temples; I can feel a headache coming on. “I don’t know, Toris, I really don’t know.”
Xena pulls me closer. “Are you feeling all right?”
“My head hurts, I think I’m getting a headache.”
Toris looks from me to Xena. “I’m sorry, Gabrielle.”
“We all are.”
“Will you excuse us, Toris, I’d like to take Gabrielle to her room.”
They both regard the other for a very long moment, and I wonder if they will come to blows again. Then Toris nods and turns away from us. When he reaches the street he turns to us again, and I see something on his face I’ve never seen before, anger towards me.
“I hope for all our sake you know what you’re dong, Gabrielle.”
I can tell Xena wants to say something but I put a hand on her shoulder. “No, Xena. Let him go.”
She lets out a deep breath and gently takes my hand. “I didn’t want him to find out like this.”
“I know you didn’t, neither did I.” I smile up at her, but it is a little strained and we both know it. “It could be worse.”
“Oh, how could it be worse?”
“It could have been my father at the end of that road.”
“Yeah, that would be worse.” She leads me out of the alleyway and we proceed up the street, towards the inns.
I let go of her hand; the last thing I want right now is another scene like that with someone I know. We continue to walk down the street and our silence is far from companionable. I find myself thinking about Xena’s allegation.
“Do you really think Toris is in love with me?”
She stops and sighs deeply. “I know he is. Don’t you notice the way he looks at you?”
“No, I guess I don’t.”
Xena shakes her head. “Haven’t you noticed how he looks after you? Gabrielle, he’s not like that with anybody else but you.”
I look at her. “Oh, gods…this is more of a mess than I thought. I don’t think I handle it, Xena.”
“What do you mean?” There is concern in her voice, and she lightly grasps my shoulder.
“This is way too much drama for me, Xena. Maybe we shouldn’t see each other until we get to Amphipolis.”
She drops her hand and steps back a bit. “What?”
“Xena, I don’t want to cause trouble for any of us. We still have a long journey ahead.”
“But, Gabrielle, I need you.”
“I know, but what else are we to do?”
Then she does something incredible, she pouts. “Aw, please, Gabrielle…”
Oh, this is just great. I groan and start walking away from her, towards the inn I’m staying at, when she doesn’t follow I turn around and give her my most seductive look. “Are you coming or not?”
Xena grins. “Oh, I sure hope to.”
We enter the inn and Xena stops to get us an amphora of wine while I get the key to the room. The room is cozy and warm. There is a small fire in the fireplace and several oil lamps are already lit. Also, the door to the balcony is open and a little breeze enters the room.
Xena puts the amphora and cups on the table and then pours both of us some wine. “Have some wine, Gabrielle, it will calm your nerves.”
I accept the cup she offers me. “I could really use a good, hot bath.”
“There are some public baths next to that temple dedicated to Phoibos Apollo, would you like to go there?”
“Yeah. Where’s your travel pack?”
Xena downs her cup of wine. “I left it in the room dad got for me. Can I borrow one of your chitons?”
“They’re probably way too small for you. But I think I have a tunic that may fit you.”
We take towels and a change of clothes and head towards the baths. The public baths are located in the louton of an Ionic style gymnasion next to the temple dedicated to Apollo. We enter the building through a colonnaded porch on the west side and approach the man sitting near the door.
I smile when the man stands to greet us. “Hello.”
He bows slightly. “ Good evening. What may I do for you ladies?
“We’re here to use the facilities.”
He nods. “Will you being using the aleipterion or the laconicum?”
“The laconicum—the hot water baths.”
The man retrieves a scroll from an alcove behind him. “Public or private room?”
Xena takes my hand and smiles down at me. “A private one, if one’s available.”
The man scans the scroll then points over his shoulder. “Last door on your left down that hallway. If you need anything please tell one of the servants and they’ll get it for you.”
Xena produces some coins from her purse and gives the man ten dinarai. Then we walk to our room and secure the door behind us. The room is decorated with beautiful marble tile mosaics. The floor and tub show a geometric design while the walls show pastoral scenes. I take our things and place them on a stone bench, and then I proceed to take off my clothes.
Xena comes up behind me and whispers in my ear. “Let me do that.”
She slowly encircles my waist with her strong arms and unties the cord that holds the chiton to my body. I moan when she cups my breasts and pulls my body against her. She nibbles on my ear as she unties the laces along my neck. When they are undone she takes my garment and lifts it off me, leaving me vulnerable and exposed.
I hear her appreciative sigh behind me, and I slowly turn around. “See something you like, soldier?”
Xena unfastens her cape and lets it fall to the floor. “Well what?”
I slowly turn fully around, exposing my entire nakedness to her. “What are you going to do about it?”
Xena lowers her head and gives me the most seductive smile that it makes my heart beat faster. Then she removes her own clothes all the while never breaking eye contact with me.
When she bends down to remove her boots I pounce on her. I grab her around the waist but I don’t realize my own strength and we both fall into the water.
Xena surfaces just after I do and spits out water. “My boots!”
I pull the wet boots from her feet and throw them aside. “What about them?”
“They’re leather…it’ll take days for them to dry out!” She sits down on a stone step in the bath.
I move so that I’m standing between her legs. I slowly part her thighs with my hands. “Oh, don’t all good soldiers carry more than one pair of boots?”
She swallows hard. “Yeah…but those were my best pair.”
I run my right hand up her thigh and then cup her mound. “Any other complaints, Xena?”
Xena’s eyes widen. “Ugh…no, nothing else…”
I take my index finger and enter her. “Come for me, my love.”
Eventually she does, and then much later, I do the same for her as well.
Much later, we are in my room again and are lounging on the bed, naked, drinking wine and just enjoying each other’s company.
I run a lazy hand up her abdomen. “What are you thinking, Xena?”
She rolls onto her side and smiles at me. “Promise me something?”
I put my cup on the nightstand. “Anything, my love.”
“Love me forever.”
I sit up and take notice of the pained look on her face. “What is wrong, Xena?”
She looks away for the longest moment, and then she turns her head towards me. “No one has ever loved me, Gabrielle. Oh, I’ve had a lot of lovers, mostly women, a few men here and there, but no one has ever stayed with me.”
“Why is that?”
“Toris was right—I was a real bitch in the past, you know. I wasn’t one when I left to join the army, I was actually pretty naïve when I left. But in my first year in Athens I was really attracted to the most despicable characters. One of them was my commander—a Roman—by the name of P. Cornelius Scipio. Oh, he was a good teacher, but he was also a jackass and he disrespected women. I kind of looked up to him and imitated him in everything that he did. Sometimes it didn’t feel so good, though.” She gets up and sits cross-legged in front of me. “My experience with Kythera was the turning point for me. I guess I grew up after that.”
“You ought not to be so hard on yourself, Xena.”
“Why not? Toris obviously believes that I haven’t changed.”
I sit cross-legged in front of her and grasp her hands. “But you have a lot of goodness in you.”
“You just said that sometimes you didn’t feel like what you were doing was right. Well, Xena, that was your inner goodness coming to the surface. Don’t you see that you always had the capacity to do what was right, that it was always in you?”
“I just don’t see it sometimes.” She lowers her head.
“Xena, I couldn’t love an evil person.” I take my right hand and gently caress her face. “Maybe I ought to offer sacrifices to Volupia on your behalf.”
“She’s a Roman goddess who helps people who are suffering from mental anguish.”
Xena offers me a genuine smile. “Maybe sacrifices to Janus would be more appropriate. He is, after all, the god of beginnings and endings.” She uses her body to lower mine to the bed, and then she settles on top of me.
I sigh. “What’s ending, my love?”
“The vicissitudes of my past—all my failures and lost hopes.” Her lips lightly run along my neck.
She uses her knees to part my thighs. “You, Gabrielle—you are my beginning. Of all that is my future.”
And then she shows just how much that future—our future—means to her.
The next few days are spent with traveling all day until we come upon the next village, from Apollonia Chalcidice to Anthemus to Apollonia Mygdonia to Argilus. As each day passes the more distance we seem to travel. So by the time we get to Argilus it is already late into the night. The one thing that does cause me regret is Toris’ sullen face whenever he looks at me. I know I’ve disappointed him, he still probably thinks that Xena is just using me. But I know that she isn’t. My heart would know if she was deceiving me, and I just don’t get that feeling when I look at her.
We agreed not to see each other during the day, we both don’t want the unwanted attention, but our nights are spent in many passionate embraces. I can’t believe how voracious I’ve become concerning sex. It’s just something I never thought about before. Lyceus’ kisses were sweet, but they lacked the passion that Xena’s kisses have. And they certainly never ignited my seemingly endless hunger for physical intimacy. Xena is like an uncontrollable stallion in bed, and my body is ever so eager for it. If I’d let her she could probably ride me all night, and never stop, but I’m not sure how I would explain to the others a constant lack of sleep.
We finally arrive in Argilus after five very long days of traveling. We are way ahead of schedule. This trip was supposed to take two weeks, but Atrius is pushing us, each day at a faster pace than the day before. I’ve concluded he must hate to travel, and he just wants to be home. I don’t blame him; I’d rather be home right now, as well. Xena and I haven’t figured out a way yet to tell the others about our relationship. But the good news is that, rather than having to take off early the next day, father and Atrius have decided to stay a few days in Argilus and rest the horses. This will mean rest for all of us and this makes me really happy.
It is past the dinner hour, so, as we have all the other nights, we drift apart into small groups and head for our night’s activities. This night I’ve decided to take Lila with me to the agora and do a little shopping. I know she’s been disappointed that we’ve spent very little time together on this trip so I decide to make it up to her.
We stroll down the main road into the agora and Lila turns to me and smiles. “Thanks for the invite, sis.”
I grin. “Sorry I’ve been preoccupied, but hey, we’re together now.”
We stop at a food stall and purchase cooked vegetables wrapped in flat bread. We eat as we continue to stop at various stalls to admire the goods.
“Look at this, Gabrielle!” She stops at a cloth merchant and holds up a beautiful purple fabric interwoven with gold lace.
I run my hand along the cloth. “This is so soft.”
“I bet it would make a lovely evening chiton.”
I look up from the fabric. “What?”
“You know, for those romantic nights with Lyceus by the fire.”
I put down the cloth. “Yeah, sure. Look, its way to expensive so why don’t we look at something else?”
Next we stop at a jewelry merchant and Lila finds everything to be beautiful and romantic and how great it would look on me and how Lyceus would love it, as well.
“I do need a new chiton.” I don’t tell her its because Xena ripped the last one from my body and it was ruined forever.
We stop at another clothes merchant and Lila finds a lovely light blue chiton that would just look good on me. “Do you have a place where I could try this on?”
He points to a wooden structure behind his stall. “Yeah, there are a few smalls room in there. Go right ahead.”
I take the chiton with me while Lila continues to look for more garments. Just as I’m about to close the door behind me someone grabs me around the waste and places a hand over my mouth. I almost kick back at the intruder then I realize it is Xena. I’d recognize her scent anywhere.
She lowers the hand from my mouth and tightens her hold around my waist. “When are you gonna go to your room?”
I want to turn around and embrace her, but her grip has me pinned tightly to her body. I shudder when a huge wave of unexpected arousal hits me. “Oh, gods, Xena. Take me, take me now!”
There is a small table off to the side of the small room and she drags me over to it, all the while pulling up my clothes from around my waist. She slams me onto my stomach on the table and I can feel the movement of her pulling up her own battledress. She is panting loudly behind me, and when she presses her wet center against my backside I cry out. Her right arm snakes around my hip she easily dips three fingers into me, pumping in and out with a furious desperation. My breath hitches in my throat at the unexpected penetration.
She collapses onto me and grunts into my ear. “You are so fucking hot…”
“Gabrielle, look what…?”
I freeze, and so does Xena. We look up to the door and Lila is standing there, her arms full of clothes. “Gabrielle, what are you doing?”
A part of me wants to laugh, because it is so obvious what I’m doing. I pull down my dress. “Lila, please…”
“No, don’t talk to me!” She throws the clothes on the floor and runs from the room.
“Lila!” I try to follow but Xena grabs my hand and stops me. “What are you doing?”
“You can’t stop her, Gabrielle. It’s time to face the music, so to speak.”
I shake my head. “No, no, I’m not ready to.”
There is thin layer of annoyance to her tone. “Do you think I am? I don’t want to do this but we’ve got to—now. Before Lila finds your parents.”
I feel a trickle run down my leg and my heart freezes inside me. I turned stunned eyes towards her. “Xena, look at your fingers.”
She looks at me as if I’m crazy. “What are you talking about?”
“Please, Xena, look.”
She does, and there is no mistaking the read smears that coat her fingers. “Oh, gods, Gabrielle—I said I’d never do this! What have I done?”
When she collapses against the wall I immediately go to her and wrap my arms around her. She cries out and pushes me away from her.
“Don’t touch me!”
I am still in a state of shock, I wasn’t expecting what just happened, but then again, neither was she. I know she would never intentionally hurt me. “Stop it, Xena! Stop it right now!”
Sobs continue to wrack her body. “Just get away from me, now!”
Now my own anger boils to the surface. “Will you just shut up and listen to me!”
She looks up at me with tear stained eyes. “I’m so sorry, Gabrielle.”
This time, she allows me to embrace her. “We both got carried away, Xena. You didn’t do anything wrong because I’m yours—all of me is for you alone. Do you understand me, Xena? I did ask you to take me, didn’t I? I didn’t stop you, did I? We are for each other, Xena, now and for always. What does it really matter if it was today or tomorrow—or on our wedding night? It doesn’t, Xena, because I love you. You’ve spent most of your adult life beating yourself up for your past mistakes. That ends now, I won’t have it. Do you hear me, soldier?”
Her arms tighten around me. “I love you, Gabrielle.”
“Do I have your complete and utter surrender?”
“Yeah, you do. Do you know how much I love you?”
I take her face in my hands and gently kiss her. “I know. But we’ve got something to do right now, don’t we?” I wipe the tears from her face.
She nods. “Yes, we do.”
“Are you ready to face the enemy?”
Her expression remains serious. “Only if you’re with me.”
“Do you even have to ask that?” I take her hand. “Come on, let’s get cleaned up.”
We both walk out to the night and the ramifications of our relationship. For some reason, I’m not afraid. I really thought the idea of facing my parents, or Atrius, would scare me half to death. But all those worries are baseless; I have Xena by my side and always will have her there. We are facing this together, and together we will face the future. I know where to find my parents, they are staying at the inn nearest to the main part of the agora, and next to a temple dedicated to Eros—that wayward son of Aphrodite and Ares. I wonder at the portent of this development, but keep my thoughts to myself.
We clean up at the local baths, dress in our best clothes—Xena wears her dress uniform—and walk hand in hand to the inn. It’s during our walk that a few tendrils of fear enter into my mind. Xena must notice a small change in me, because she tightens her grip on my hand and gives me a reassuring smile. We enter the inn and look around and don’t see anyone that we recognize. But there is another door that leads to another room and I just know that my parents are in there.
“Are you ready, Gabrielle?”
She tightens hold on my hand and leads me into the private room. And just as I expected, mother and father are in there, sitting with Lila and Toris. They all look up when we enter and then father stands up. Toris frowns and stands along with father. But when father attempts to say something Toris puts a hand on his shoulder.
“Not now, Herodotus, wait until Atrius and mother get here.”
I look to mother. “Mom?”
She doesn’t respond to me, only lowers her head and takes Lila’s hand in hers. I look to Xena but she has an unreadable expression on her face.
Xena looks at her brother. “Nothing to say to me, Toris?”
I can feel the hostility pouring off him. “No, Xena.”
Before anyone can say anything else Atrius, Cyrene, Euboia and Patroklos enter the room. When Atrius smiles and extends his hand to father dad doesn’t return the gesture. This causes the older man to look to his son.
“What’s going on here, Toris?”
The young man glares at his sister. “Maybe Xena ought to tell you.”
Mother points to Patroklos. “What is he doing here? This has nothing to do with him, or Euboia.”
“Hey, I’m a member of this family, too.” Euboia grasps Patroklos’ hand.
I can feel a headache coming on. “Will you shut up!”
Cyrene moves to her daughter’s side. “What’s this all about, Xena?”
“I’ll tell you what this is all about!” Father points towards Xena. “That bitch of yours is fucking my daughter!”
Cyrene gasps and Atrius takes a menacing step towards father. “Don’t you ever call my daughter—” The older man pauses then his voice lowers dangerously. “What did you say?”
“He’s right, dad, Xena is involved with Gabrielle.” Toris glares at Xena.
Both Atrius and Cyrene back up a bit and look towards Xena. She stands her ground and reaches over and grasps my hand.
My mother looks away and a small sob escapes her lips. “Oh, Gabrielle, how could you?”
Atrius doesn’t look angry; he’s still too stunned. “Is this right, Xena? Are you seeing Gabrielle?”
Toris slams his fist on the table. “Aren’t you listening, dad? Your precious Xena is screwing you future daughter-in-law!”
Atrius stands to his full height. “Xena, is this true?”
Mom stands and moves to father’s side. “Of course, it’s true. Why do you think we’re all here and upset?”
Lila looks at me and shakes he head. “What’s the matter with you?”
I glare at my father. “Don’t you ever call Xena a bitch, do you hear me?”
Atrius takes a few steps towards Xena. “I asked you a question, now answer it!”
A strangled laugh escapes Cyrene’s throat and she clutches at a chair to keep from falling. We all look to her when she sits down in the chair and just laughs.
Cyrene, who has been suspiciously quiet and reserved the whole trip, now breaks down into a riotous laughter. Her husband moves to her side and kneels in front of her.
Cyrene wipes at her eyes. “This is all so unbelievable!”
Atrius touches her shoulder. “It’s okay, honey.”
I look at Xena but she just shrugs her shoulders, then I turn towards her mother. “Are you all right, Cyrene?”
“I’m so relieved!”
Now, all of us in the room are looking confused and uncertain. Xena places an arm around me and Toris goes to his mother’s side. Mother and father just look at each other and Lila hides her head.
Cyrene stands abruptly and gives me a strong hug. “I didn’t know how I was going to tell you!”
Xena frowns. “Mom, what are talking about?”
The older woman releases me then holds me at arm’s length from her. “Gabrielle, Lyceus doesn’t want to marry you.”
Everyone in the room is standing now and gaping at Xena’s mother. Her husband tries to put a hand on her shoulder but she bats it away and looks up at him.
“I didn’t know how to tell you, Atrius, but Lyceus confided in me before we left that he’s not in love with Gabrielle and doesn’t want to marry her. He was afraid of telling you because he thought you would be angry with him.”
My dad is now fuming. “What’s the matter with my daughter, Atrius? Not good enough for your boy?”
Mother slaps his arm. “Shut up, Herodotus.”
I give mom an incredulous look; she’s never told him off before. “All right, mom!”
Xena takes a step forward. “Mom, how long have you known this?”
Cyrene lets out a breath. “He told me about two weeks ago.”
“What?” Atrius shakes his head. “When were you planning on telling me, woman? At the damned ceremony?”
“Don’t you ever talk to mother like that, do you understand me, old man?” There is venom in Xena’s voice.
Atrius glares at his daughter and moves towards her, but Toris stops him. “She’s right, dad. Please don’t ever talk to mom like that again.”
Xena places her arm around me and I lean into her touch. “Thanks.”
Dad looks angrily at Xena. “Get your fucking hands off my daughter!”
Cyrene glowers at dad. “You’re a jerk, Herodotus!”
“Will everybody just shut the fuck up!”
Everyone stops and looks at me; Xena releases her hold on me and steps back, as well. When I’m sure I have everyone’s attention I speak up. “All this yelling isn’t solving anything. Listen up everyone, and listen good, Xena and I are in love. Got it, everyone? Let’s have no misunderstanding between any of us. Xena and I are in love.”
Xena smiles down on me and places her arm around me again. “Yes, we are in love. Got that, mom and dad?”
Everyone looks at each other and then back to us.
Mom just sighs and nods. “Are you sure about this, Gabrielle?”
Xena looks pointedly at her. “Yes, we both are.”
Cyrene pats me on the cheek. “I’m very happy for you.”
Toris sighs and then leans against a table. He looks at me then offers me the first genuine smile I’ve seen in days. “I still love ya, Gabrielle. Are you sure you want tall, dark and deadly over there?”
Xena hugs me closer. “Of course she does,”
“I love you, too, daughter.” Mom gives me a brief hug. I can tell she’s still a little uncertain, but that’s okay.
“Damn it, I paid for a wedding!”
We look at Atrius. He is standing in the middle of the room and he is pouting. Now I know where Xena gets it, from good ole’ dad. “I said I paid for a wedding!”
Dad shakes his head. “Hey, I helped out with cost, too. So get off it.”
Atrius storms up to his daughter and jabs her in the chest. “I paid for a wedding, and god’s be damned, there’s going to be a wedding!”
Xena blinks. “What are you saying, dad?”
Now he points at me. “Are you going to marry her, or what?”
Now everyone in the room gasps and just stares at us, they are waiting for an answer. Xena doesn’t disappoint them. She gets down on one knee in front of me and produces a ring from her pocket. I gasp; I didn’t know she purchased one.
She slips the ring on my finger. “Will you marry me, Gabrielle?”
The silence is so loud that you could hear a pin drop. “Gods, yes, my love, I’ll marry you!”
Xena stands and we embrace and kiss, right there in front of everyone. I can’t see what the reactions are but I can hear them. Mother and Cyrene sigh, father and Atrius both clear their throats, and the young adults offer us their congratulations.
When we break apart Atrius nods. “We’ll talk later, Xena. Good night.” He leaves the room and Cyrene follows. Toris follows his mother then turns at the door.
“If you’re happy, then I’m happy. What do you say, cousin?”
I grin. “We’ll talk later, okay, cousin?”
“Okay.” He smiles then follows his parents out the door.
Father still looks a little uncomfortable, but mother grasp his arm and leads him to the door. “Come on, Herodotus, we’ll talk to Gabrielle in the morning. Is that okay with you?”
My dad looks at me. “Sure, honey. See you tomorrow, Gabrielle?”
When we are alone both Xena and I collapse into each other’s arms. I rest my head on her shoulder. “I’m so glad that’s over.”
I can feel her grin. “Well, I don’t think its over, its only just begun.”
“I guess tomorrow is the day we talk to our parents.”
Xena tightens her hold on me. “Don’t worry, Gabrielle, everything is going to be all right.”
“Oh, I know it is.” I wind my arms around her neck. “You ready to turn in for the night?”
“Do me a favor?”
“What is it, my love?”
“Can we just sleep tonight? I don’t think I could take much more than that.”
I wind my arm in hers and lead her towards the door. “All right, but you’ll be missing my tongue tonight, mark my words.”
“We’ll make it a quickie.”
Exactly one week after that night we are married in the largest temple in Amphipolis in front of our families and a very large crowd of well-wishers—who at first were very confused when Xena stood before the priest and not Lyceus.
When we arrived in Amphipolis I immediately found Lyceus. He was working in the fields, along with his servants, and he grinned when he saw me. I took his hand and led him out of the vineyards and we talked for hours. There were words of surprise and some tears but there was no bitterness between us. Actually, we had a pretty good laugh at the whole situation, and I kissed him.
He offers me that oh so charming smile of his. “Why did you do that?”
It reminds me of a conversation we had many moons ago. “Just checking, cousin.”
“So who’s the better kisser, me or Xena?”
“Don’t be a cad, Lyceus.”
He throws his head back and laughs, his blonde curls blowing in the wind. “Oh, I do love you, Gabrielle.”
“Love you, too, buddy.”
He puts an arm around my shoulders and leads me towards the house. “It’s good to see you again, Gabs.”
“Toris mentioned that you sometimes call me ‘Gabs.’ Why is that?”
He chuckles. “Might have something to do with that mouth of yours.”
“Are you saying I talk too much?”
“Hey, you said it, not me.”
“So, how’s your love life, Lyceus?”
His hearty laugh fills the air around us. “You really interested?”
I stop and turn to him. “Yeah, I really am.”
“I’ll introduce you to him tomorrow.”
Her brothers stood up for her as her groomsmen. They looked very handsome next to her in their finest clothes, and Xena wore her best dress uniform, the one with the golden breastplate instead of chain mail. We didn’t think to have the words to the ceremony changed, so when the priest asked me about fertility, as was the custom, I just turned to Xena and grinned. She just chuckled and said something about having many skills, which made me blush.
That night there were no reservations between us, and we were free to love each other as if it was our first time. We’ve been in Amphipolis for over a month now, and we just said goodbye to my parents yesterday. Lila is going to stay on in Amphipolis for a few more days and travel back with Patroklos and Lykaon when they head back. I think she likes Lykaon. Xena is due back in Athens in another month to take up her new commission as Captain to an entire division. We will take up apartments in the city itself for when Xena is on duty, and she has purchased a villa at Eurymenae, on the Thracian sea, as a special place for just the two of us.
I watch her as she sleeps and her beauty never fails to take my breath away. I wonder if she realizes just how special and unique she really is. I knew it before, but now I really know it. I get up from the bed and walk out onto the balcony and just enjoy the night. The stars are bright and there are crickets chirping in the background. I run my hand over my belly and smile, and then I look back to her sleeping form on the bed. Tomorrow I’ll have to ask her about her many skills, because I just might think I know what one of them is. Until then I’ll sleep and dream.
Gabrielle’s virginity went the way of the Dodo during the production of this fanfic. But, then again, that’s really not a surprise now, is it? And Lyceus finally had that talk with dear old dad.
Return to the Academy