Disclaimers: Unfortunately for yours truly the characters Xena and Gabrielle are not owned by me but by MCA/Renaissance Pictures and Studios USA. Although I do owe them for creating these incredible characters, no copyright infringement is intended. Only some harmless fun and fantasy.
Spoilers: There are none. This story takes place after the events of Debt II, after Xena destroys Lao-mas evil son Ming-Tien and before they return home.
Warnings: This story does revolve around best friends, who happen to be in love and who also happen to be two women. Yes there are very intense feelings and intimate sex. If this is a problem for you either personally or legally, stop now and read Danielle Steele. If not I hope you enjoy my effort. I am very interested in hearing your feedback, good and bad. Let me have it. All responses can be sent to
Bitter and irritable she skulked along the polished corridor, her wooden sandals swinging in her hand. After having tripped yet again, Xena finally resigned herself to walking barefoot, much to the embarrassment of the maid leading her back to her quarters.
She had never gotten the hang of the wooden shoes, the layer upon layer of clothing she was expected to wear, and the endless ceremony that surrounded seemingly everything in Chin, and no place more so than here in the Forbidden City. "Theres a legend or superstition for damn near everything here. Every sneeze has some omen attached to it," she snarled. Yes it was beautiful and mysterious, but for a person, whom admired and thrived on simplicity on every level, all this elegance became tedious and annoying all too quickly.
She and Gabrielle had been the personal guests of the Emperor of Chin for the last three moons. After the defeat of Ming-Tien she was asked to remain and pass on the teachings of Lao-ma. The incalculable discipline and focus that Xena exhibited in that battle easily made her Lao-mas top disciple in the eyes of the Emperor and the people alike. They looked upon the towering, foreign warrior with awe, respect and a large magnitude of fear.
But whatever trepidation the people may have felt for this pair of barbarians, it was overshadowed by the welcomed sense of peace in the land. The masses renewed faith in their Emperor and His influence forced the feuding Regents to rejoin under the umbrella of newfound patriotism. On the surface they were all working together, but outside circumstance can never change someones interior ambition. Thus was the norm: smile, work, plan and plot. And thus it has always been.
Xena had a million reasons to leave. First off, her memories of Lao-ma were so vivid that she would begin to answer questions that had been asked of her years before. Her voice and presence was still very much alive in this land and in Xenas heart, painfully so at times. Having to teach only forced her to relive that chapter of her life again, for she had to live it to bestow it.
Making matters worse, they were both quickly becoming stir crazy. Having traveled and lived out in the open for so long, this extended visit was nothing but confining. Their quarters alone were larger and more luxurious than any home they had ever stayed in before, it was the Palace after all. Yet they yearned for the open air, their intimate solitude and the return of their union.
Their relationship had suffered terribly since this nightmare began. Xena understood why Gabrielle came to Chin to stop the assassination. She knew there was no malice in her act, she simply wanted to protect Xena from her own dark side. Yet, no matter how she tried to heal this rift between them, Gabrielles pain and guilt at betraying Xena would not allow it. None of Xenas words of understanding or forgiveness had any reality for her. The only reality she relived over and over, was the look of Xenas spirit being crushed and her total surrender at the sight of her betrayer.
Xena thought, hoped, prayed that the sooner they could leave this place and return to their old routines the sooner that Gab might finally begin to let all this pain go. She was already grieving the loss of Gabrielle even though she saw the shell of her friend standing in front of her every day. But the essence of her was buried deep. She missed her endless imagination and how silly and animated Gabrielle would get while telling her stories. How did I ever find that irritating? she thought. She missed the tender, silent times when they did nothing but admire how rich, full and satisfying the silence between them could be. Why did I take those times for granted? She longed to wake up again wrapped around her bard, safe and brimming with love and hope. Will we ever reach that place again?
They had never crossed the line of becoming lovers, although she really didnt know why anymore. Their bond had been so real and so intimate that it easily surpassed any connection she had ever shared with her former lovers. This was forever. Although there had been many times when it seemed that this living, breathing passion was surging through not one but both of them, none of that mattered any more. What possibly could have been, now probably would never be.
Since this all began Gabrielle would not share Xenas bed. They had gotten used to sleeping together over the years. And except for the nights that they were forced apart by situation, they had not spent a night apart for more than two years until now. They still shared the same room, their possessions, their meals, their time, but Gabrielle would not or could not share herself. First Im responsible for the death of her son Solen, now I deceive her again. This was Gabrielles inner mantra day-in and day-out, fully immersed in her shame. Whenever she closed her eyes she was struck with the image of Xenas face, one not caring whether she herself lived or died. When they touched pictures of Xena sitting in that sewer-like dungeon or tied to a table placidly awaiting her execution plagued her soul. It was only her intense love and need for her partner, her light that refused to allow her leave. As if continents apart, they ached for each other from across the room.
Daily Xena watched as Gabrielles demons clashed behind her eyes: confusion and doubt between past and future; what should have happened and what was really done; the repulsive realization of what you are truly capable of doing; and the self-forgiveness that is always just beyond our grasp. No matter how much good she tried to do in the world the past few years, no amount of reason or logic had allowed Xena to truly forgive herself for her past. So yes she knew that look in her Beloveds eyes all too well and its destructive power.
Xenas attention floated back into the present when she noticed Gabrielles necklace, her landmark, hanging on the door at the end of yet another hallway. That was her only marker to differentiate their room from the innumerable identical others. Beginning to feel much like a rat in a maze she wondered if that was the architects intention.
They had been assigned a staff of servants to attend to them during their stay, which they quickly dismissed the first evening choosing to take care of each other instead. But no matter how many times they were sent away, there was always a few shadowing them whenever they ventured out. This over-the-top treatment made them both very uneasy. But on days like today, when Xena got lost yet again on her way back from training, she humbly relented when one came to her aid to guide her home again.
Upon entering their quarters Xena scanned the room and could tell that Gabrielle hadnt returned yet. Actually she could sense her absence even before her eyes could tell. After so long together she could always feel Gabrielles energy when she entered a room, and there was no mistaking the void that was left by her absence.
Gabrielle had considered sitting in on Xenas classes, having always been interested in energy and the power of Spirit. But she knew in her heart that if there were ever to be an us between them again, she had to heal herself first. Every morning when Xena went to train, she went to meditate and write. But this time her writing wasnt some epic story with an evil villain or larger than life hero. Her writing now was a soul purging of all her pain, fears, demons and unacknowledged desires. Finally she was getting in touch with her core needs and her souls wishes. She found herself writing for hours in any secluded room or garden that she was able to find, completely ignorant of the passage of time. Her hands moved completely of her souls direction. More than once she found herself sitting by candle light unaware that the sun had long since set, her hands stained with ink, her body cramped and stiff. So caught up in the tide that was flowing out of her, she hadnt even noticed that it was Xena that had found her, brought her the candle and left her in peace.
Having always been a private person, Xena fully understood the need for separateness and space even in an intimate relationship. Even the strongest and tallest of trees can not grow in each others shadow, was one of Lao-mas teachings that resonated in her heart. She knew that Gabrielle would come to her when she was ready to share and she could wait. Xena knew her heart well enough that she knew she would wait forever if need be.
Taking her shoes and weapons and dropping them on the closest chair she could find Xena threw herself onto the bed, Gabrielles bed. Having this moment to herself, she stretched out her long arms and drew together the bedclothes that were strewn there and buried her face in them. One deep breath brought her both incredible peace and a well of pain. All this carried on the lingering scent of Gabrielle that enveloped her. By the Gods I miss her, her heart wailed in silence.
Gabrielle had given up writing early this morning and instead had been sitting on a hilltop adjacent to the practice field where Xena was leading her students. For at least three candle marks she watched as she lead her pupils in a series of drills, meditations, and lectures. Studying her she marveled at Xenas ability to inspire and incite people. Her natural ability and charisma as a leader was only fortified by her convictions. She believed heart and soul in whatever direction she was going, and it showed. As she moved about the field, her physical presence commanded complete attention and respect. Her words in the past had provoked wars and inspired legions of men to race zealously unto their deaths. Now she was inspiring peace, acceptance, surrender and focus.
Few people could see the depth of Xenas convictions and emotions. All they saw was a hardened warrior that didnt blink at taking a life, leading armies or defying Gods. They never saw the tears that would sneak out while she slept, the only time her walls would come down enough for her pain to drizzle out. They never noticed her shaking in revulsion and fury at any crime committed to an innocent. They never felt how tender her arms could be in an embrace or how much she really hungered for those moments. Gabrielle knew and she loved her, not in spite of all of Xenas complexities and contradictions but because of them.
At the foot of the bed was a chest already half filled with the new scrolls that Gabrielle had been writing. She was accustomed to her bard sharing her new writings freely. Painfully Xena remembered times when she just wanted silence and to have the endless talking stop. Now all she longed for was to be let in. She knew the scrolls held more than stories. But as much as she ached for answers she refused to allow herself to defile Gabrielles sanctuary, her writings. So after straightening out the clothes and hiding the evidence of her private indulgence, she walked towards the other chamber and away from further temptation.
"Xena are you here?" Gab called out, sliding the door behind her. Hearing water coming from the adjoining room she dropped the latest paper in the chest and headed toward the sound. "There you are my warrior," she said without thinking. At that moment she was grateful for the billows of steam that filled the bathing chamber, for the heat helped to cover for her blushing at her slip-up.
Xena was reclining in the mammoth tub when Gabrielle found her. She had requested the water to be near boiling, hoping to melt her frustration out. Her skin glistened both from sweat and the jasmine scented bath oil that tantalizingly clung to her. "Hi there. How was your day?" her voice deep and almost liquid from being in the heat for so long.
"Really great actually," she answered.
That being the first real positive thing she had heard out of Gabrielle since their stay, all she could do was smile and allow her eyes to convey her relief.
Moving over to the tub she kneeled down behind it and grabbed the shampoo. Softly she began, "Why dont you scoot up and Ill wash your hair." Happily accepting any contact at this point she quickly consented. As her hands began work the lather through Xenas hair she continued, "Xena Im... Im sorry Ive been so distant lately. I dont want to get into all right now, just please know . I miss you too."
Xena was grateful that she was facing away for tears immediately filled her eyes. Unable to respond without loosing her composure she attempted to change the subject. "Im sure you are excited about leaving soon. Theres only two days till the New Years celebration. Then my commitment is over and were free to go. By the way, thank you for staying with me, I know it hasnt been pleasant for you."
Gabrielle was lost in the sensation of the long, soapy hair running through her fingers. She had felt numb for so long, her grief not allowing her to feel anything pleasurable. Now finally the shell had cracked and she was starting to feel alive, vibrantly alive again. Pulling herself out of her muse, she relented and reached for the urn of rinsing water. "As if Id leave you. But you are wrong about something. Im excited for us to leave soon." With that she tilted Xenas head back into her awaiting hand and began to rinse out the lather.
With Xenas head being lovingly supported, her eyes closed, she branded this moment into her memory; the heat, her tender touch, her words, their meaning. As she drew hope from Gabrielles confession her tears flowed freely to silently mix with the bubbles.
This indulgence lasted only moments, but by the time she was finished Gabrielle knew innately the path her life would take till the day she would die. She loved her warrior, the same one whose name terrified entire nations, was also the same woman who was the scared little girl in her hands crying right now. Xena was her soul mate, her inspiration and her passion. She could no longer deny it to herself or to Xena, she would tell her soon, she had to.
As Xena sat up she was stunned into silence as Gabrielle leaned over and kissed the path of her falling tears. No words were needed from either of them. As their eyes searched each other soul, everything that needed to be expressed was. They knew they would always be there to share the laughter and the pain. Anything life could throw at them they would bear and experience together.
That night Gabrielle was waiting in Xenas bed as she emerged from the bathing chamber. A brief pause grabbed Xena heart as she recognized her Beloved shining back from behind Gabrielles eyes. Walking over to her side of the bed, she removed her robe and climbed in. The sight of Xena in her short silk sleeping gown was too much, too soon. Baby steps remember Gab, weve waited this long there is no need to rush, Gabrielle pleaded with herself. Quickly she blew out the candle and as if lead by instinct curled up into the hollow at the base of Xenas neck. In the darkness they were flooded with emotions. As they held each other, sometimes with tenderness, other times almost possessively; they wiped away wordless tears and let the Love in the air say for them everything they could not until finally yielding to sleep.
The Palace was humming with activity like a frantic beehive all day. Final preparations were being made for the festival and the overall excitement was contagious. The girls were thrilled at the prospect of watching the shows, dancers and fireworks. But they were even more exhilarated with the thought of leaving and going home. Xenas mood couldnt be tarnished even with the delivery of their outfits for the evening. The past few days had been so refreshing and happy for them she refused to let anything detract from this time together. Even if that meant having herself bound up in a league of fabric and some teetering ridiculous headdress.
Four maids working franticly and an entire candle mark later, their wardrobes were finally complete and they were ready to go. When they finally took a good look at each other, they burst out laughing. They felt like they were attending a costume party just as much as a civil celebration.
The evening was magical. Everything was done on a titanic scale. They shared dinner with 300 other guests in a banquet room larger than some villages back home. They had stopped trying to identify what they were eating long ago or how many servings had been given. Even though it was all delicious, both agreed that ignorance was bliss when it came to the menu.
After dinner they were led to a terrace overlooking the main courtyard where the show would be performed. The public had started their celebrating long ago and were well liquored and happy. Their terrace was set to the East but adjoined the Emperors, a position of great honor and much envy among the Regents. They had all heard the stories that were already circulating across the territories quickly becoming legend. There were even reports that she had given private lessons to the Emperor himself. Being in the Emperors presence unattended was almost unheard of, and never with a barbarian. Although few believed such tales to be true or even possible, none had the courage to challenge Xena directly and find out.
Over the course of the evening these two-faced politicians came to them one by one, made their introductions and offered their blessings for the coming New Year. Xena knew better than to take any of it to heart, knowing that behind all their smiles and bows all they wanted was her position and influence over the Emperor. All she wanted was to enjoy this party and be gone.
The entertainers seemed beyond human. The tricks they could do appeared to defy gravity and human ability. Every time she glanced over at Gabrielle she could tell that she was utterly feasting on every detail and nuance, taking it all in for future stories no doubt. No detail of costume, music, movement or color escaped her astute eye. Her mind was already reeling with ideas for epic stories and enchanting fables.
With incense wafting on the breeze, the constantly changing performers and the grand scale of the entire event, even Xena found herself getting caught up in the mass enthusiasm. The night was utterly spellbinding, but so was Gabrielle. Looking at her she was astounded at the love she felt for this woman. Without forethought she reached out to take Gabrielles hand. The profound joy she felt in that simple touch was eagerly accepted and returned in Gabrielles grip and her soft green eyes.
The finale had begun as the Emperor concluded his blessing for the kingdom and a sea of dragon performers began to slither back and forth up the Palace stairs 20 meters below them. There were so many that the stairs seemed to be alive and squirming. When the fireworks began to ignite the sky, they both stopped breathing. They had heard about it, actually had been warned about it. The staff realizing that this would be totally foreign to the barbarians didnt want them to panic when night was turned into day. But even with this information, Gabrielles imagination could not have predicted anything so dazzling. They sat dumbfounded watching the colors, as heaven seemed to explode all around them revealing another reality.
Tens of thousands of people were gathered everywhere; in the courtyard, training fields, hanging onto the sides of buildings and from treetops. There were five stages spread across the courtyard that were the launching points for the fiery dragons that leapt into the sky. Everyone was united in the hopes for the coming year of peace and prosperity for the land. The exploding lights in the sky seemed almost to be an extension of their combined hopes and dreams.
Xena again reached for her glass of sweet plum wine and drained it in one motion. Absorbing this moment she was grateful to be alive which surprised her a little, for she didnt always have this appreciation for life and the living. Her free hand returned the glass to the table while her other hand was still delightfully possessed by Gabrielles. While her eyes soaked in the spectacle, Gabrielle had absent-mindedly begun to trace little trails of pleasure along the inside of Xenas arm. Gabrielle may have been oblivious, but it certainly didnt escape Xenas attention or enjoyment.
With her awareness now fully attuned to her Bard she studied Gabrielle, her profile, the curve of her smile and how her eyes would glow with delight at the booming drums and lights. Everything else started to quiet and blur for her. As her world began to condense and come into focus in front of her, all excuses for holding back the truth of her love melted away. Savagely screams from the pulsating crowd ripped her back into reality.
Turning into the chaos, the scene playing out in front of her seemed unreal. Three bloodied attendants were tumbling off the platform closest to them and onto the screaming spectators below. Two of the colossal black-powder dragons were already lit and aimed right at them. Xena cursed herself for letting her guard down as she heard the ignition. There was no chance to run, for it would take no time for the bombs to fly the 30 meters to their terrace. Xenas last memory was of pushing Gabrielle to the floor, looking into her stunned emerald eyes, whispering "I love you" and at the last moment crouching over her to become her shield from the blast.
The ringing and pounding in her ears is what finally woke her up after three days. As she tried to reach up to console her pounding head, she found it wrapped in bandages and that she couldnt open her eyes. In fact her left arm wouldnt move at all. A flash flood of panic threatened to overtake her until she felt Gabrielles hands grab her and tenderly but commandingly take control of her rising horror.
Desperate for answers she reached out with her other senses to piece together what was happening. She could smell the familiar lavender soap that Gabrielle always used. She knew she was in a bed or hospital somewhere because her left arm was in a splint of sorts and she could smell medicinal herbs everywhere. She must be riddled with cuts, bruises or both from the shards of pain soliciting her attention from all over her body. She could just start to make out Gabrielles voice if she focused but the ringing muddled it allowing only broken speech through. "Xe . alright . relax Honey . you. fine. "
Gabrielle had never left her side over this three-day vigil. On the second day as the Doctor was changing her bandages, she had even managed to wash the blood and debris from her raven hair. Remembering that just the other day she had been doing the very same thing and feeling that the world was theirs and that she would simply burst with love for this woman. Now she was washing out her blood and praying that she would wake up.
Trying to speak, she was cut short when her throat erupted in an inferno of burning and coughing. Gabrielle guided her not to speak and simply held her until the chest splitting coughing stopped. Blind, mute and feeling like a hostage in her own body, the only thing that made it bearable was her faith in Gabrielle. She knew everything that should and could be done would be. Helpless she surrendered, laid back and reached up to anchor herself to her only tie to sanity when a river of tears met her hand. Created of both of joy and fear, they flowed freely now that Xena was awake. Unable to speak to calm her, all Xena could do was pull her down and hold her in a weak but unshakable embrace. Gabrielle finally lay down next to her and waited until Xena fell asleep again before finally allowing herself to give in to her own exhaustion.
Over the first three days one of the Emperors Healers had been in repeatedly to change bandages, apply herbal poultices and ointments to the burns and wounds. Gabrielle couldnt believe the stench of the creams but new better than to find out what it was. All she knew was Xena was getting the best possible care available.
Now that Xena was finally conscious, the rest of the staff was in seemingly all day doing one treatment after another. There was a series of bathing salts, incenses, teas to drink, teas to bathe in and drops placed in Xenas eyes.
As grateful as Gabrielle was for the effort given to Xenas recovery, she was confused at the attitude of the Doctors. Throughout their stay she had always admired and envied the poise and peace of the people of Chin. They had for the most part exemplified balance and harmony most of the time, or at the least were striving for it. All of a sudden this team of Healers, the servants, actually everyone they came in contact with all seemed tense, almost afraid. They both felt the change around them with no explanation why.
Finally Gabrielle had to find out what was happening after seeing the radical change in her little friend Suchi, the nine-year-old daughter of one of the maids. After bringing in the afternoon tea, instead of her usual polite bow and the innocent giggly smile she had always shared with Gabrielle, today she would not meet her eyes and bowed head to floor before making a quick exit. After investigating she wished she never knew.
She was physically sickened as she related the story to Xena of what happened after the attack. The Emperors personal bodyguard had captured the two assassins and mercilessly tortured them for two days until they found out who was behind the order. After arresting the Regent Li-Ming a quick superficial trial was held and yesterday the sentence was carried out. A punishment of this magnitude was usually only handed out in cases of personal threat to the Emperor himself or of high treason. Since Xena was under the Emperors care as a guest and an honored teacher for the nation this was taken as an assault to the Emperor himself. Though truth be known, it was most assuredly done as a warning to the other Regents against any further thoughts of rebellion, now that the Emperor was riding high on his newly restored power and popularity. The sentence was carried out to the letter. The families of the assassins and Regent Li-Ming, wives and children alike were gathered. They were all killed, dismembered and their bodies sent out to each of the outer territories as a ghastly warning and threat.
As a former warlord, Xena understood plenty about the value of fear in controlling groups and also about not leaving loose ends or known enemies alive to haunt you later. But even in her darkest days as a warlord, she had never considered to use the blood of innocent children to be a political tool. Sorrow filled their hearts as they took in the depth of this brutality. Neither one of them was able to sleep that night plagued by regret for events that were out of their control, they simply held each other and waited for the dawn.
Xena was strong enough to get up and move around now, which gave her some hope. But the damage done to her eyes still caused them to burn and vision to was blurred and pocked severely. Doctor Chan kept the bandages on her eyes to assist the herbal poultices in their work but more to discourage his stubborn patient from trying to use them too soon.
Gabrielle left as soon as the sun was up to take a run and try to burn off the anger that raged in her. She never ceased to be dumbfounded that it didnt matter what country or what culture they were in. Her recurring experience was violence begets violence. The cycle always remained the same, always growing, self-perpetuating. The answer of acceptance and love was so clear in her heart and so simplistic she just couldnt understand the mass blindness all around her. She accepted the fact that she was idealistic in her beliefs, but why should truth be anything but simple.
Finding that the run didnt exorcise her demons, Gabrielle headed back to their room to get Xenas staff. She planned to round up one of the students or soldiers and get in some good old-fashioned knockdown, drag-out sparring match to purge her heart. Besides she had been eager to try out the bamboo staff she had seen being used here.
She entered the room silently in case Xena was lucky enough to be sleeping. As she grabbed the staff leaning by the door she glimpsed a shadow on the floor, one much too short to be Xena. Turning the corner she witnessed a man about to insert a needle into Xenas neck. Without conscious thought she spun the staff in an arc and clipped the stranger behind his knees, slamming him backwards onto the floor and causing a shower of needles to fly in all directions. As she positioned herself for another strike it was only Xenas voice that stopped her.
"Wait Gabrielle! Wait, its alright." Xena sitting on the edge of the mattress was shouting to get her attention. But it was more Xenas appearance that halted any further action than her words. She had tiny needles sticking out from her face, neck and arms. "Listen to me. This is one of the Healers. This is a type of energy medicine that they use."
Feeling totally mortified that she just attacked a Doctor, she bent over and helped him to his feet. Cautiously he backed away and began to collect his materials. Walking over to Xena to examine this phenomenon, she was amazed at their delicacy. "Does it hurt?" she asked completely puzzled with her friend turned porcupine.
"No not at all. They have been using this treatment for hundreds of years. They believe there are rivers of energy traveling through your body and these needles can help to unblock them or stimulate them. Its similar to what I do with the pressure points." Xena explained, realizing how bizarre she must look.
Only after calming down did Gabrielle become aware that Xena wasnt wearing her eye bandages. Leaning in closer to analyze her recovery, she was elated to see the amount of healing that had already happened to her face and eyelids. "This is wonderful! I cant believe how fast your burns have healed. The scars are already fading. Ive never seen anything like it."
"There is much we could learn from these people about herbs and healing if we stayed longer." Xena offered.
"No way at least not right now Xena. We are going home and thats final." Gabrielle declared.
Xena had to laugh at the tenacity she heard in her little Bards voice. "Well, that sounds like Elysium to me." Unable to hug Gabrielle while covered with protruding needles, she simply held out her hand.
Gabrielles longing to be closer intuitively guided her to edge herself in between Xenas knees, which quickly opened, and allowed her to slip in closer. Gazing up to look upon her beautiful features, her revelry was cut short with the image of Xenas closed eyes. All too naturally she revealed, "I cant wait to see those baby blues again. I miss what they do to me." She hadnt planned on saying it aloud, but as quickly as it formed in her mind it spilled out of her traitorous mouth.
Now it was Xenas turn to blush. Hearing Gabrielles breathing seize in her chest, she knew this confession was a surprise to both of them and she refused to let this unexpected openness just pass by. Able to feel her closeness and position Xena leaned in right up to Gabrielles ear to whisper, "So do I." The heat of Xenas breath ignited her skin and her imagination. But the words themselves aroused her even more. Chills raced down her side raising her skin into millions of bumps, each pleading for attention.
All the world melted away in that instant for them. Gabrielle turned inward to face her Love, pressing her hips into Xenas outstretched thighs and pushing them further apart. With a confidence driven by hunger she answered the challenge, "Would you like me to show you Xena?" Cheek to cheek, lips to lobes, all they could do was breathe.
The moment of choice of what their next step should be was taken away. For at that moment, a rather uncomfortable and nervous Doctor interrupted them. Purposely making far too much noise than needed to collect his equipment, he successfully broke the spell.
Leaning back from each other and from the cliff they were ready to leap from, they answered the unspoken energy in the air with a simple smile and a sigh. "Ill let you finish your treatment. I think I really need that sparring session right about now but I feel sorry for the poor sap I talk into it. Way too much energy."
"Be careful, the sun is much stronger that youd expect this time of day. Youll get burnt." Xena warned.
"No more than right now," Gabrielle answered involuntarily. Trying to cover she added, "besides whats a few more freckles."
"Hey, I happen to like those freckles, especially Orion."
"What you mean my arm?" Gab asked as she unconsciously rubbed her shoulder.
"Of course, it looks just like Orions Belt. Havent you ever noticed?" Xena wondered.
Astonished that Xena had noticed something so trivial she answered, "Yes I have, I just never knew that you paid such close attention."
"Gabrielle I could probably sketch you right now from memory."
Innocence and longing flooded her veins again to cause another full body blush. Grabbing the staff she gave Xena a quick peck on her cheek before dashing down the hall to find her unsuspecting patsy.
Xena only snickered as she lay down and allowed this poor man to remove the needles. They both conceded that the session was futile at this point. Xenas energy had shot to-and-fro like a lightning bolt. Tomorrow he would try again but made a mental note to make sure the blond haired enchantress was kept busy. Her influence was too strong on his patient.
Half a candle mark later with still no one willing to spar with her fearing repercussions, Gabrielle was forced to work on her drills alone. It was still a good workout and she was able to break a good sweat, but it just wasnt as satisfying as hand to hand competition. She was definitely enjoying this new staff though. Putting it through her routine she noted that bamboo was much more flexible, infinitely lighter and therefore she was much faster, and a few practice strikes against a tree told her it was undeniably strong.
"Are you warmed up yet?" Xenas voice taunted from the shadows. She had called for one of the maids and asked her to take her to the practice arena. Bringing her own staff, she too felt the need for a bit of action. After almost two long weeks of being cooped up, bound up, or bed-ridden she was feeling very stiff and in distinct need of exercise.
Gabrielle whipped around stunned not expecting Xena to venture out and certainly not anticipating her ready to fight. "I am, but I dont think this is a good idea. Besides you cant see."
Xena crossed the 10 meters between them in just a few of her long strides. "Dont be fooled by appearances. You would be surprised what I can see Gabrielle. One doesnt always need to see with the eyes to know." Xena allowed the last sentence trail off suggestively into Gabs imagination. "Besides its a perfect opportunity for me to show you what Ive been trying to teach here."
Xena tied a blindfold around her own eyes, not to block out anything for she still couldnt see, but as a deterrent to her natural urge to open them. She also brought one for Gabrielle. Holding it out in front of her she invited, "Put this on and I will show you."
"Youre joking right?" Gabrielle chuckled.
Softly Xena spoke, "No, not at all. Trust me."
Gabrielle relented nervously but none the less allowed Xena to tie the blindfold over her eyes. While they were preparing and stretching, word had already spread like wildfire through some off duty soldiers and among Xenas students. One by one and in small groups they were arriving and sat in excited silence encircling the makeshift arena.
Oblivious to anything but each other they focused. Holding her staff in the crook of her arm, Xena placed her hands on Gabrielles shoulders to settle her. "First I want you to breathe and relax. Really it is easier than you expect. This is nothing new. You do this all the time but now you are just going to be aware of it consciously and allow it to sharpen."
Rolling her head side to side, more in an effort to shake out her doubts than to stretch, Gabrielle was finally ready.
Xena stepped back a few steps and stood facing her. "Relax, let your mind go. There is nothing outside of right now and right here for you. Do you feel the energy tingling in your arms and moving in your body, yearning for you to jump into action, wanting you to strike out? Now with your mind, grab that energy and pull it back down into your stomach. Picture it circulating there, growing, purifying and expanding. When it is calm and too big to contain inside of you let it flow out in all directions. Let your mind flow in it, with it, as it. Now you are no longer limited within your body and your senses. You are energy, everything is energy. Can you feel the change?"
In a voice brimming with peace and wonder, "Yes I can. I cant explain the sensation."
"Dont even try to. Just let it flow. Now, with your awareness extended you can feel the energy of others. You can feel me, where I am, if I am moving, even my intentions. You dont need your eyes." Without warning Xena took her staff, wrapped it around her back and brought it down in a cross blow to Gabrielles left side. Without forethought, Gabrielle sidestepped to the right and brought her staff across in time to block the shot heading straight for her ribs. She didnt hear the strike coming, but felt it.
Completely amazed, her spirits soared at the sensation. "Why didnt you show me this long ago Xena? It is incredible. What a feeling."
"I dont know. There is a time for everything it cant be rushed. Now is the time I guess. You did better than I did my first try. I almost got my nose broken for my effort. But then its always been harder for me to let go of control, too stubborn. Ready to try again?" Xena asked.
"You bet." Centering again, they began to spar. First simple moves focusing on motion, distance, simple strikes and defenses. As it escalated their actions became faster and the strikes more forceful. Some of the blows did connect, but the experience was so rousing for both of them it didnt matter.
This continued for almost a candle mark. Sometimes the action was fast and almost a blur. Sometimes they simply froze, focused, and waited till they felt the others resolve crack. Then and only then would they act. They became intimately aware of each others shifting energy and the beauty of it.
Finally they were ready to quit, the frustration of before dispelled leaving only peace behind. After removing her blindfold, Gabrielle walked over to Xena and cupped her face totally in awe. "Will you ever stop surprising me?"
"I hope not, dont want you to get bored."
"That could never happen. If I live another 50 years I dont think Ill ever see all of your layers." She answered.
"Only 50 years? I was counting on more with you." Xena confessed.
Only then did Gabrielle hear their audience begin to stand up to leave. During their session about 70 soldiers, students and curious onlookers had gathered to watch their exhibition. Now they stood to grant them their privacy. "Uh did you know we had an audience?"
"Yes, but I didnt want you to be more nervous than you already were. Ready to go home? I need a little help, I couldnt find it when my eyes worked." Xena teased.
Taking Gabrielle by the elbow, they bowed to their departing audience and headed back to their sanctuary and to a sublime night sleep.
The only thing that hinted to Gabrielle of the time were the birds singing outside. The sun hadnt begun to show itself yet, but the birds still sang in the unshakable faith that it would. It was almost unheard of for her to wake so early. But she was brimming with joy. Turning to her left she could see Xenas radiant face by moonlight, her features highlighted by warm blue shadows.
Gabrielle sidled up next to her indulging her voyeurism a bit longer. She looks so peaceful, so innocent. No one would ever believe her if she disclosed that Xena could ever look so vulnerable. Oh well, even better. This was something she could treasure for herself, this rare side of the woman she loved. She didnt have to share it with the Xena groupies or with her enemies.
The moons glow allowed just enough light for Gabrielle to explore. It was rare that she was and able to look freely at this majestic woman. She stole glances when possible, but now with her accomplice the moon she was taking full advantage of this fleeting gift. Allowing her eyes free reign, they toured the outline of her jaw and down her long neck only to be hypnotized by the beating pulse just under the surface. She longed to taste that spot, to savor the sweet, saltiness of her skin. Defenseless, she realized that same pulse was now dictating the rhythm of the pulsing that was awakening deep within her. The silk sleeping shift draped across Xenas breasts taunted her imagination, revealing the delicate texture of her nipples but hiding their essence.
Gabrielles breathing was becoming labored, her parched mouth betraying her outward calm. With a quick glance to check Xenas breathing, still even, still sleeping. Her free hand shrewdly grasped the edge of the sheet and slowly pulled it back and out of the way, exposing Xenas tanned strong thighs to their secret admirer. "How would they feel wrapped around me?" the faintest whisper eluded her guarded lips.
Lying her head on Xenas shoulder, her palm scarcely resting on her stomach, she relished this stolen moment as her own internal pictures filled her imagination and overflowed the walls of her heart. Barely above a breath, "If only I could take it back, give me another chance I love you so."
Feeling Xenas hand rise up to encircle her waist she heard, "Ive already given you my heart, what else is there? Ive always loved you."
For an accomplished bard, the only times that shes ever been left utterly speechless have always been with Xena. She once believed words to be limitless but she had come to accept long ago that they could never encompass her feelings for her, nothing could.
Having believed that she was harmlessly confessing her heart to her sleeping Siren, panic now surged through her veins like a poison. Her hand still resting on Xenas stomach began to tremble as she struggled to conceive of a way to pick up her defenseless soul and put it back in its box.
Xena could feel the instant shift in Gabrielle and understood where it was leading. Now that she had released her eagles of love, she was desperately attempting to cage and silence them again. Xena understood all too well, for every day her eagles would rise from the ashes like a phoenix begging her to set her love free and share it. And every day she would choke the flames and smother it with her fears.
Gabrielle, afraid to move and acknowledge that she had heard Xena, became a living statue until she felt her chin being raised by Xenas hand. With terrified, innocent eyes she looked up to see Xena gazing back at her with tear streaked cheeks. Instantly alarmed she rose up to examine and say, "Xena, your eyes you shouldnt " Only to be tenderly silenced with the touch of the softest lips she had ever fantasized of pressing upon hers.
As their fragile kiss ended and Gabrielle finally remembered to breathe, she looked down in wonder into the eyes she had yearned to see again. Only then realizing that her body had shifted her driven of its own desire to lie on top of Xena. With only their silk shifts serving as their final physical border to cross, their bodies cried out for the attention and admiration they were due.
Floating above Xena, Gabrielles trembling voice asked, "Can you see?"
"Yes, for the first time in my life I think. I can see what a fool Ive been, married to my fears about loving you, because Ive known it from the beginning. I am yours for as long as youll have me. You are the other half of my soul Gabrielle. I will be here for you in whatever way you want me to be; as your friend, your lover "
"My wife?" Gabrielle quickly spoke before her courage could escape her grasp.
In that instant, years of fighting, regret and pain were washed away from Xenas face and heart. Not only by Gabrielles words but also by the torrent of tears which crested their banks and flowed unchecked. The little girl within her answered, filled with all the joy in the universe, "Yes, by the Gods, yes Gabrielle."
With the sound of their final walls turning to rubble echoing in their hearts, Gabrielle leaned down to drink in Xenas tears. Her lips eagerly captured the salty drops that clung to Xenas radiant face. Looking at her image in the mischievous moonlight she proclaimed, "You are so stunning you take my breath away Xena, and you are all mine." The back of her hand caressed the side of Xenas cheek only to travel down her neck in search of the breasts she had been coveting for so long. One last look into Xenas eyes, she noticed the unfocused gaze in return. Part of her ached that Xena could not see all the divine images of their love making that were to come. But strangely, knowing this gave Gabrielle a boldness she had never felt before.
Looking up, all Xena could see were blurred shadows moving above her. Straining she could piece together what Gabrielle was doing. Gabrielle had settled in place above her hips as she straddled Xenas waist. Xenas breathing seized in her chest as she felt the blond curly hair tickle her skin followed quickly by a searing, wet heat which if she didnt know better branded her skin.
Gabrielle sat comfortably atop Xena thrilling in the sensation of Xenas stomach muscles quivering beneath her. Raising her arms above her head she removed her silk shift and grazed it across Xenas arms and face. All her senses were indulging themselves freely. The cool, soft silk danced over her skin like a breeze that carried Gabrielles scent on it like a gift. The true smell of her skin, that scent that always made Xena feel like her heart was home.
She could distinguish the silhouette of Gabrielles breasts against the illuminating wall behind her. Her trembling fingers traveled higher enjoying the definition of Gabrielles stomach only to capture their trophy and caress her straining nipples. Their bodies spoke for them, not in words but in guttural sounds of their appreciation.
Xenas finesse with her aching breasts, the slowly rocking hips beneath her, and the unearthly sounds filling their room merged to fan the embers of Gabrielles hunger into flames, which scorched away her last remaining inhibitions. At last the genie was out of the bottle and she wanted to play.
With her last shard of sanity Xena weakly asked, "Are you sure this is what you want, that I am what you want?"
Gabrielle leaned down to silence her lovers half-witted mouth forever. She allowed her body to travel down along Xenas torso, leaving a slick trail of ambrosia on her belly in its wake. Gabrielle released her possession of Xenas tongue only long enough to whisper her answer; "Dont you know what you do to me? Cant you feel how much I want you?" To punctuate her point Gabrielle settled herself astride one of Xenas thighs and began to slowly ride it.
Gabrielle had placed the last straw and the camels back was finally broken, along with Xenas fears and self-control. None of Xenas fantasies could come close to the excitement she was feeling already. As Gabrielle kissed a path from Xenas ear lobe to her breasts, every touch of her mouth seemed to tattoo indelibly her claim upon Xenas skin and soul. With wanton joy they each accepted the challenge and the privilege of caring for the others heart, as soul mates reunited again.
Gabrielle was beside herself as Xena filled her senses. Her mouth feasted on Xenas solid nipples as she switched her homage back and forth between lips, tongue, hands and teeth. Xenas strong hands stroked her shoulders and traced images along her back with taunting fingertips, sending chills down to her toes.
The ravenous groans and meek whimpers coming from Xena taunted Gabrielles composure. Xena was now beginning to direct her rising need from below. Xenas whole body now rolled like incoming waves, pressing her marinated thigh higher into Gabrielle. Her hands grabbed and possessed Gabrielles bottom and guided, taunted her to explode.
"No not yet my Love." she panted more than spoke. "I want you first." Breaking herself away from the devilish thigh, she lifted herself over and settled between Xenas powerful legs. Xena was beyond words as she felt Gabrielles blond hair snaking down her stomach with no signs of stopping. Gabrielles boldness was intoxicating and so unexpected that Xena drank it in with abandon.
Gabrielle floated above her prize, finally able to smell Xenas true scent. Her mouth watered with anticipation and need to taste her Beloved; to drink her in, to try to douse the fire burning inside her that could never be extinguished. Allowing just the tip of her tongue to part the dark curls, caused her to shudder at her first taste and she knew she was hooked. Raising her eyes she brazenly watched as Xena pulled her own nipples recklessly and strained to press herself up closer to that divine mouth.
Gabrielle slid down further, kissing and biting her way down Xenas inner thighs. Propped on her elbows and knees she pressed her Loves thighs apart and gloried in her unobstructed view of Xenas dripping desire. As Xenas legs spread wider, her foot arose to connect with Gabrielles sex and was immediately drenched catching them both by surprise. As much as Gabrielles body demanded the contact, she crawled down and began to voraciously suck and lick her essence off Xenas toes one by one.
Xenas mind long ago just a bystander, her bodys Will directed her entirely as she pleaded to be taken, "Gabrielle, please please!" Gabrielles restraint now liquefied, she arose with clear intent and claimed her prize. Her hands lifted and spread Xenas legs as far as they would allow as her mouth began its ravenous quest. She allowed her tongue to travel every fold, every satiny wet fissure, her mind mapping out the most sensitive areas she found. Xenas hand was now buried in Gabrielles blond mane, holding on for dear life. When Gabrielles lips took hold of her clit and squeezed, Xena thought she would come apart at the seams. Gabrielle wrapped an arm around Xenas thigh to hold on and ride out the coming crest. Unable to contain another ounce of pleasure, Xena was propelled over the edge just as she felt Gabrielle thrust inside of her filling the void. The shock waves went out in all directions but originated in her heart. Her body trembled, spasmed and called out to the heavens. Gabrielle was frozen in awe watching the cascading emotions on her lovers face, feeling the contractions around her fingers and the pulsing against her lips.
Somehow, sometime later, Gabrielle regained the ability to climb back up and cradle her Beloved. Gazing through enchanted eyes they looked on in wonder each waiting for the bubble to burst, to awaken again from yet another dream. But as they heard the birds singing and watched the suns yellow-orange glow frolicking across their sweat kissed bodies they knew their bubble was safe, this was real.
At first their kisses were tender, almost with reverence, but quickly rose to ravenous again. Their tongues danced and dueled. Xena hungrily lapped up her juices that she found on Gabrielles chin and cheeks, quickly regaining her strength and then some. Wild with desire to delight and consume her bard, her long arms guided Gabrielle up to straddle her stomach again as she sat up on her elbows. Now with full access to the breasts she had craved for so long, she explored every minute detail. Gabrielle sat in wonder watching Xenas delicate tongue encircle her nipples, daring them not to respond. Her tongue and lips painted portraits on the canvas of her breasts with not one inch neglected. Gabrielles hunger demanded more; she needed to test the boundaries of her senses.
Running her hands through Xenas long hair, she grabbed a handful and pressed her mouth forcefully against her breast. "Harder please, I need more, more." She pleaded for something she couldnt even define herself.
Xena felt her last shackle of restraint being torn and thrown away, by Gabrielle no less and allowed her famine to guide her to her gluttony. As her mouth ravaged Gabrielles breast, biting, nibbling the soft flesh; a trail of red brands were seared into her skin in the wake of her blazing lips, signing the title to her flesh forever. Xenas hands affirmed her oath to Gabrielle with every inch they touched.
Gabrielle only opened her eyes feeling Xena move away. Before she could protest, the look of smoky lust in Xenas eyes stole her voice. As Xena lay back down she slid her arms under Gabrielles legs and began to urge her to slide up. In a voice much lower than Gabrielle had ever heard from her, Xena managed to say, "I want to feel you on my face." Gabrielle understood this wasnt a request and eagerly obeyed.
Resting one knee on the side of her lovers head she leaned forward against the wall for support as she started to tremble, from pent up desire and feeling so exposed to Xena. "Please," was Xenas gentle plea as her arms hooked around her hips and lead her down upon her impatient mouth.
Xena was granted her first taste of Gabrielles elixir before she even extended her tongue. She had become so wet; a drop of moisture that clung to her curls fell onto her lips only luring her in for more. Xena floated among the clouds as she began to explore the many worlds of Elysium that she found between those lips.
It was only Xenas strong arms and the wall that held her upright at all for she had turned into a quivering bundle of pleasure. The eagles of desire she always felt in her stomach had finally flown free and took her spirit along for the ride.
Xena delighted in every texture, every taste and left nothing slighted. As Gabrielle began to unconsciously rock back and forth, Xena took her hands and tilted Gabrielles hips forward and was gifted with full access. Slick with her own wetness, Gabrielle was euphoric when she felt Xenas tongue lapping up juices from her pulsing clit to her ass. She felt Xenas tongue flick, encircle, tease and probe her bud. Never before did Gabrielle desire to be possessed, but now all she wanted was to be consumed forever.
In one movement Xena shifted her devotion back to Gabrielles needy clit, sucked it into her mouth and entered her with two demanding fingers from behind. Gabrielle now leaned over completely with her hands flat on the bed to grant Xena everything. Xenas hunger crested and demanded exactly that. Her lips pulled and sucked on the shaft of her clit while her tongue taunted it. Her fingers continued to lay siege filling her again and again taking Gabrielle closer with each thrust.
Needful of any image she could have to remember this moment; she opened her eyes and was awestruck when she was rewarded with her first clearing image in weeks. In the soft morning light she could see the love of her life in ecstasy above her. She saw the excitement straining across her forehead, the sweat glistening down the center of her chest and her abs writhing as she ground herself against Xenas mouth.
Feeling Gabrielle approaching the edge she pushed just a little farther. Adjusting her hand she inserted three fingers and one into her ass and began to thrust again. Gabrielle screamed out in final release. Trembling and unable to support herself she collapsed forward onto the mattress. Only after Xena drank in all Gabrielle had given her and she felt her contractions stop, did she remove herself and crawl up to embrace her quivering lover.
Gabrielle turned into Xenas arms and drifted off in a haze as she felt the blanket being pulled over them. Xena just watched taking in every detail of her face, the rhythm of her breath, their scents mingling together. Making an oath to her sleeping bard she tightened her hug and whispered, "I love you Gabrielle, I always have and I always will. I belong to you."
Gabrielle awoke to this vow which she felt in the depths of her heart. "And I belong to you heart and soul Xena. I love you so." Was her pledge. As she gazed into Xenas eyes she could see a change but was too afraid to ask.
Sensing the doubt behind Gabrielles eyes she answered to set her at ease, "Yes my love, my eyes are fine. My first vision I will always remember is of you, of us."
Caressed more by love than by flesh they drifted off into a dreamless sleep. By mid-day the only thing that disturbed their slumber was Gabrielles noisy, demanding stomach. Noticing the position of the sun, it was bizarre that none of the daily succession of Healers or attendants had been by yet. It only took a moment until Xena understood why and made a mental note to thank Shen, their head valet. She didnt know how they managed it but it never failed that their needs were always met before they ever had the chance to voice them. Now today they were simply granted time and privacy.
The occasional Doctor came in over the next few days to do brief examinations and leave a supply of herbs to use for their voyage home. Gabrielle made sure to ask for something for seasickness, knowing how much she was dreading taking a ship home. But the thought of relaxing in a cabin with Xena also sounded much more enjoyable than weeks on horseback.
They reveled in their loving oasis for another week with few intrusions to disturb their explorations. They had time to talk and finally revealed the true feelings that they each had carried around with them like open wounds, never being acknowledged and thus never healing. Their desire and love was always enveloped by fear which caused this wound to fester. Now utterly exposing their hearts, these fears vanished back into the void they came from leaving only love, as it should be.
The Emperor, wanting to assure their safe passage, arranged for a ship and an escort back home. Preparing to leave they abandoned the local garb and changed back into their old clothes and their old comfort. If it was at all possible Xena appeared to be even taller and nobler in her armor and leather. Noticing this outward change Gabrielle simply smiled knowing that she and she alone truly knew the soft, vulnerable truth that was protected by all that armor and that she had full access to it.
Scanning their quarters to find any forgotten items they were interrupted with a commotion by the door. Actually it was a procession of the Emperors attendants entering the room, followed eventually by the Emperor himself causing everyone in the room except Xena and Gabrielle to bow head to floor and wait. After exchanging bows and each expressing gratitude for the events a servant came forward and reverently handed them each a gift.
They were both unnerved by this personal visit and werent sure whether to open the gifts or not. But seeing the Emperor patiently waiting, they began to unwrap the red silk packages. Xena knew immediately that her gift was a sword but was stunned at the beauty of it and at the inscription in exquisite Chinese script, "Honored Teacher, Protector and Friend" and marked with the Emperors seal. Gabrielle unwrapped a beautifully lacquered box with the finest parchment and writing brushes she had ever touched. On the lid of the box was painted a Yin Yang, inside one of the halves was a delicate quill and the other side held a sword and the pattern of Xenas breastplate. The words read, "Two have always been one."
There was nothing to be said. Gabrielle was again in awe at the grace and understanding of these people. Replying with silent but profound deep bows they parted ways as the Emperor and his entourage exited the room. The debt the Emperor owed Xena could never be repaid and they both knew that. One final scroll was handed to them granting them an open invitation and request from the Emperor for future visits. Xena packed this scroll safely away and made plans to store it and the sword in Amphipolis with her mother.
Two candle marks later they were catching the high tide and leaving shore. Standing on the deck they looked out over the cityscape and admired the setting sun. Holding Xenas hand on the rail she looked up at her Beloved. Noticing Xena squinting at the light she reached up and sheltered her eyes from the sun and directed her down into a light but promising kiss. "Come on my Love, lets get you out of the sun," Gabrielle offered. With a conspiratorial smile she led Xena by the hand below deck to begin their voyage home.
The EndReturn to the Academy