The day passed quickly in the dark forest surrounding the village. Xena enjoyed hunting with Amazon's, not realizing how much she had honestly missed these women over the past two years. As she wandered back to the village, holding a large deer over her shoulders, Xena felt the tension slowly seep back into her muscles. She had almost forgotten her problem in the shadows of the forest, focusing on the hunt. How did she get herself into this mess and what in Ares name was she going to do? Without realizing it, she began to fall behind the group of Amazon's, lost in thought. She started when she felt a hand rest on her arm and turned to face Solari who was looking at her in concern.
"You alright, Xena?"
The dark haired woman opened her mouth to speak before closing it and sighing. "No, not really."
"Has this got to do with the Queen?" Solari asked, looking at her friend sympathetically. She had been on guard duty in the village the night before and had witnessed Gabrielle sneaking into the warrior's hut, several candlemark's after Alexandria. She had seen the look of anguish on the Queen's face when she exited moments later, her shoulders slumped in defeat. Her own heart had broken for the blonde bard after hearing the woman speak constantly of Xena over the past two years, obviously still in love with her ex-lover.
"Yes," Xena whispered her voice barely audible over the crunching of leaves beneath her feet. "I don't know what to do."
The Amazon sighed, unsure of what to say to the warrior. Half of her wanted to hit Xena over the head and scream that she should be with the Queen. They were meant for each other, no matter what had happened in the past. The more logical part of her though could see the many complications of Xena's situation. The warrior already had a lover and so did Gabrielle. And even though they had barely been in the Amazon village for less than twenty four candlemarks, Solari had begun to like Alexandria.
"You need to follow your heart, Xena," Solari said finally, turning her head to gaze into sad blue eyes. "Stop thinking about all the consequences. This isn't a battle, you don't need to have a strategy or a plan of any sort. Think of your life ten seasons from now and who do you see by your side? Follow your heart, but do it quickly, because otherwise in ten years from now, you might find yourself alone."
She patted her friend on the arm before returning to the group of women in front of them, leaving the warrior to her thoughts.
Xena finally returned to the Amazon village with the rest of the hunting party as the sun started its journey below the horizon. She took the deer she'd caught to the kitchen before making her way to her hut to get ready for tonight's festivities. She was tying up the laces of her boots when she heard the Amazon drums start a slow rhythm, signaling the beginning of the party. She left her hut and made her way to the village center to find several large bonfires surrounding by scantily clad women. She spotted her lover quickly, dancing with Eve around the biggest bonfire with many other Amazon's. She grinned as she watched Alexandria move around the fire, Eve on her hip laughing happily. Her smile turned into a scowl as she noticed several other Amazon's eyeing her lover appreciatively.
Her eyes roamed over the faces of the Amazon women before landing on a large podium. There were three chairs on the stage and Gabrielle was sitting in the middle on a large thrown, Solari to her left and Eponin to her right. Gabrielle was also watching Alexandria and Eve, a bittersweet smile on her face. She looked beautiful in her Queen's leathers, though there wasn't much leather to be honest. Xena found herself admiring her ex lover's exposed skin. She was wearing a tight tan leather wrap around her breasts, leaving her toned arms and muscular abdomen bare. And a tan leather loincloth that covered her most private of part leaving her legs on show for the many appreciate Amazon's. As she looked over the bard's body, her eyes raised to the woman's face only to have her gaze returned. She blushed, looking away as Gabrielle looked at her, a small smug smile playing her lips and one blonde brow raised.
She grabbed a mug of strong Amazon ale from a woman walking past her and took a few gulps. Her heart felt like it was going to beat out of her chest. She looked back towards Alexandria to find the woman had already spotted her and was making her way through the crowd of Amazon's towards her.
"Hey," Alexandria smiled, swapping Eve for the mug of ale.
"Hey," Xena replied as she took her daughter into her arms and bounced her gently on her hip. "You two been having fun?"
"We dance!" Eve giggled as she threw her arms around her mother's neck. "You dance, Mommy?"
"I'll dance with you, sweetheart," Xena grinned, her daughter's smile infectious and warming her to her core.
"Xena," Alexandria said softly, gaining her lover's attention. "We need to talk."
Xena's smile faltered as she looked at her partner, taking in the red headed woman's serious expression. She had come to hate those four words, always bringing something she didn't want to hear. "Can it wait a little while?"
Alexandria heard the pleading note in the warrior's voice and her resolve broke a bit. With a soft sigh, she nodded, plastering a fake smile on her face. "Of course."
Xena smiled gratefully at her lover before turning to her daughter with a forced smile. "Let's dance, Evie."
Her daughter clapped happily as Xena leaned over to give her lover a kiss, her heart breaking as Alexandria turned her head at the last moment, letting Xena's lips brush against her cheek. The warrior smiled slightly at her partner before straightening her shoulders and walking towards the dancing Amazon's. Lost in her own thoughts and determined to have a good time with her daughter, she didn't see Alexandria's pained expression as she walked away.
To be continued in Chapter Twelve.
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