DISCLAIMER: The characters Xena and Gabrielle are copyright to Universal etc. No infringement intended. There are no graphic scenes though it does assume the basic premise that sexual love can and does exist between women. As ever, feedback is accepted graciously.
Given the choice would *you* have opted to spend the day fishing?
The sudden appearance of Ares, God of War by her side no longer shocked or surprised Gabrielle, though it invariably annoyed her.
Self evidently not the bard replied in a tone of voice that reflected the disdainful look on her face.
The deity returned the gaze. He had long secretly admired Xenas feisty friend, though he would refrain from admitting it to her, he much preferred to simply annoy the "irritating blonde."
Perhaps that it why Xena decided to go fishing, she knew you wouldnt tag along Ares smoothed his beard and offered a sly wink.
Especially since Nyad lake is home to an old admirer of hers
Gabrielle tried to hide the flash of disappointment that had crossed her face, there had been no mention of "old admirers" when Xena had brought up the idea of them spending a day of pure relaxation
This old admirer, he lives *in* the lake. A carp perhaps?
The war-god however had noticed the change of expression, he grinned knowing he had scored a direct hit.
No, on a large house on the south side of the lake. His satisfaction
allowed him pause before delivering the final blow.
And it is an old *female* admirer, and a looker in her own right.
A few years back those two were inseparable, became the talk of the Nyad lake javelin society
Gabrielle didnt know what was more galling, Ares smug visage or her friends apparent deceit. Perhaps deceit was too strong, but secrecy surely? It had been the warriors idea, and she *would* know that
fishing was guaranteed to drive Gabrielle away to be alone with her scrolls.
I dont have time for this the blonde woman tried to dismiss the intrusion, but she was too late. Ares had already disappeared.
The problem was, Gabrielle surmised that she *did* have time. With so much confusion already surrounding her "day of pure relaxation"
Ares intervention simply gave her more to consider.
She found that the thinking time required to straighten out her mind had been usurped by questions, doubts, and it had to be said, shame.
Her quill poised over a blank scroll, the words would not flow,
silent tears did.
Life with Xena was rarely, if at all, "routine" yet Gabrielle had to concede that she had contrived a system that allowed her to commit her thoughts to papyrus at least once every week. Time had always been found to record the deeds and adventures of her extraordinary friend. If events permitted she would give herself the luxury of some personal bardic licence, even mention that she, Gabrielle had played some part in the salvation of some village or other but the importance was that a written record of Xenas basic nobility was left for posterity.
The description of Xena as "Destroyer of Nations" must not be allowed to prevail, the bard had already become aware that "Xena:Warrior Princess" was becoming a more common epithet, and she much preferred it, indeed almost *liked* it. Gabrielle saw it as little less than her purpose in life to ensure that the true nature of this astonishing, magnificent
most beautiful of women would survive the test of time.
Who are you trying to fool? the blonde bard spoke aloud, her face directed at the space Ares had so recently occupied, but the question aimed entirely at herself.
She knew that her self-appointed purpose was valid, yet she also knew that it was not entirely unbiased, she was in love with Xena, pure and simple, and while she had easily converted her thoughts to words, her
*feelings* remained a guarded secret.
Gabrielle convinced herself that it was inevitable that the stunning warrior would have "old admirers", she reasoned that meeting the aforementioned could be perfectly innocent, she acknowledged the fact that Xena had almost never expressed a serious "interest" in anyone that they had encountered so why was she so upset?
There was no doubt that the fact that this old flame was a woman made the situation more injurious. Despite her perceived innocence, Gabrielle had long noted that the warrior always spoke in more impassioned, indeed wistful tones when recalling females that she had encountered.
The bard was not naïve to the fact that women could be lovers, of course she privately *counted* on the fact.
More than that, Gabrielle detested the notion that Xena would *choose* to spend time with a woman other than herself. Who could provide the absolute devotion, understanding and compassion that the bard offered?
What else could a friend need?
The blonde poet sighed almost mournfully, beauty and intimacy she answered her own questions aloud looking around the entire vista before adding and sex.
The Nyad lake was more than just the expanse of water that its name suggested. The actual lake was fed by brooks and streams from the mountains to the north, densely forested areas were rumoured to conceal some of the most spectacular waterfalls in all of Greece.
The verdant south shore allowed space for six almost palatial residences serviced by one of the smoothest, best maintained roads outside of Athens.
To the east was something even more surprising, and so well concealed that neither rumour nor even wild speculation had ever hinted at.
Do you have a map of this general area? Xena looked up from her second-nature practise of sharpening her sword.
I would imagine so Gabrielle replied with a hint of surprise in her voice, it was rare that her friend ever requested the aid of a map.
The smaller woman unfolded a few parchments before settling on what she reckoned was the appropriate one.
The warrior moved to sit close by as they examined the image together.
Gabrielle resisted the urge to snuggle closer that such proximity always provided.
Im assuming we came from the south, this road here the bard traced the line on the map
that Nyad Lake must be close by and we are in this forest here.
The blonde looked for acknowledgement in Xenas face and duly got it.
Of course it could be out of date, but I dont see much around here.
Probably a good spot for that "relaxing day" you talked about. I suppose you will fish the lake the bard sighed and I will be perfectly safe here. Such a sparse wilderness is not exactly an attraction for thieves or slavers and I promise not to go back on the main road, though even the map-maker gave up on it, look it just fizzles out.
Gabrielle looked up and thrilled to see the grin lighting Xenas face but then felt cheated when the warrior stood up to retrieve something from her saddle bag.
Try this map said the warrior handing over a less pristine looking parchment. It was small enough that Gabrielle could hold it open without assistance and it took her a few moments to study the details.
The scale isnt accurate but everything else is said the warrior who was slightly enjoying the puzzlement of her companion.
The Nyad lake community Gabrielle read from the diagram blacksmith, tavern, whorehouse? she looked up but this time was irked by Xenas grin, it felt like her friend was playing a trick on her, a trick that she couldnt work out.
The warrior decided it was time enough to explain.
I discovered this place a few years back. More accurately, one of my scouts discovered it. A good army needs good scouts, and map-makers the tall, raven-haired beauty added and my army was the best
The story was that a group of wealthy Athenians decided to leave the city and set up their own community, a secret community with their own laws, rules and customs, a place free from the strife of Athens and threats of war or warlords.
Xena as usual kept a neutral tone, her voice betrayed neither approval nor disapproval at the idea, she simply furnished the facts.
Having stumbled upon this pace I saw no reason to interfere. Indeed our meeting was beneficial to both parties. My army had a safe location to stay and restock food, have weapons repaired, horses tended. The Nyad lake community had the protection of the best army in Greece, should anyone else accidentally discover their hidden idyll.
The bard was full of questions but she allowed her companion to finish.
No-one ever did. Those Athenians had picked the perfect location, they were entirely self-sufficient. They *could* trade if absolutely necessary, but then a small party would travel out to the Agfar port and trade perfectly anonymously. In fact the only real potential problem was that one of my soldiers would betray them, by accident or design.
Gabrielle had noticed again that Xena showed no pride, no guilt when she had declared that her army was the best in Greece. To her it was just a statement of the obvious. Her tone did change slightly when she said
back then anyone who betrayed me, whether with malice or inadvertently met the same fate. No-one did it twice.
A brief silence followed, the warriors violent past was always a difficult area of discussion, indeed a topic rarely discussed. Xena herself felt uneasy when her friend seemed lost for words, so it was she who broke the silence.
Of course in time I led my army further afield and returning to Nyad lake was impractical, but the last time I was there it was a thriving and sizeable community. That map you are holding is the only one in existence, I would be very surprised if Nyad lake is not much the same as when I last saw it.
Replaying the conversation from the previous day in her head, Gabrielle now was searching for the things *not* said. Xena had admitted visiting often but had made no mention of a special friend. In fact the bard couldnt recall her actually naming a single person, she only ever spoke of "the community"
Yesterday the bard had been slightly affronted when Xena had asked her to return the detailed map, did she not trust her? Today with Ares words still mocking, her emotions were running much deeper, and darker.
In a fairer frame of mind Gabrielle would have properly reasoned that for her to keep the map was unnecessary, Xena had already directed her to a place where finding the hidden path was simple. Calm reason however had deserted the blonde. She remembered that six properties stood apart on the southern edge of the lake and Ares had said that one of them was the home of Xenas "inseparable" friend, could it be that the map actually denoted the specific house, and it was *that* detail that the warrior
did not want Gabrielle to see?
The biggest doubt, or the greatest proof of subterfuge was that Xena had gone ahead - alone. Her pretext was that in the past she had trained the community in security, instructed them on how and where to post guards
stay covert in the trees as the Amazons did. It had seemed a flimsy excuse even at the time. Surely Gabrielle was never more safe than when by the warriors side?
Xenas response to that had been a dismissive shrug. It was not a matter for debate.
Well you go on then Xena, I dont care about any secret communities! the bard had flared one town looks much like any other town, besides I have a lot of writing to catch up on
The bard had rationalised her decision, scroll writing *was* her relaxation and the map had not promised anything in Nyad lake that couldnt be found elsewhere. It was only remarkable because it was secret, and since Gabrielle now knew the secret, it was no longer remarkable.
The fact was that she had planned to simply write for a while, and maybe later on just stroll into town for a casual look. Xena had promised that
she would ensure that the community would be aware of her description and that she may turn up on the designated route. Safe passage was guaranteed. The warrior also promised that she would return to the campfire straight away if she felt there was any possible danger.
Well Xena had been gone a good while now, that meant that Gabrielle was free to proceed until she saw the three designated markers, then the warrior herself would place the final marker indicating "safe passage".
In fact the warrior had gone to elaborate lengths to ensure her friends security, but the bard did not fully appreciate the fact. It all just smacked of more secrecy and possibly, lies.
Everything seemed wrong, just plain wrong.
Yes it was conceivable that the warrior simply wanted a days fishing or even a break from her friend, but why here? Why now? Gabrielle could only conclude that Ares had provided the real answer.
Her tears flowed more readily but the bard felt rather more shame than anger. The fact was that she had no right to any claim on Xenas affections, the warrior had shown her nothing but kindness, had surely saved her life on countless occasions, had taught her more than most people would ever know
That did not make her duty bound to *love* Gabrielle, nor should it disqualify her from loving someone else, man or woman.
As a self-proclaimed bard, the blonde was more at ease with the theory of love rather than its practise. Growing up she had never felt the urge that some of her contemporaries had shown to engage in sex. She did get "stirrings" when around certain boys, though by far her deepest crush was on the female teacher who schooled her class in poetry and drama.
Gabrielle was besmitten by that woman, and it broke her heart the day she ran off with the villages only professional soldier.
When her schoolmates used to sneak into the woods for assignations with the cadet soldiers who sometimes camped nearby, Gabrielle was genuinely disinclined to join them. She had read that some women took pleasure with each other, and though she found the feminine form more pleasing to the eye than those boy-soldiers who seemed so much in demand, still she lacked a basic desire to get physical.
That was not to say that the blonde was entirely ignorant of physical excitement. She had once written down "that she had explored the realms of self-stimulation more thoroughly than the Greeks had explored the Phoenician coast" but was then so ashamed that she immediately burned the scroll.
It was probably fair to say that Gabrielle had settled within herself for a life that need not include passion, at least until the day a certain warrior woman, a warrior princess blazed into her world.
That particular memory allowed a smile to form on her lips.
Gabrielle became that little bit less sombre. How often in those early days of scroll writing had she indulged in the scenario of "love at first sight?" As she grew older the notion could be impossible, inevitable or anywhere between the two extremes.
Had it occurred for her with Xena?
It was just one of those questions that defied an answer, you might as well ask "if Spartan javelins were longer, would the price of figs go up?"
Xena looked crestfallen.
I put in less thought, effort and planning when I broke the siege at Thrace! further words became inaudible.
Arranging the cease-fire between the five warring factions on Crete was a breeze compared to this! volume and clarity were again restored to the warriors voice.
The day I single-handedly ambushed ten centaurs with their Cyclops allies was like a picnic, a fun day out, a
Xena looked up to see Argo munching at an apple tree and the flock of sheep showing only mild interest.
The manifestation of Ares provided a distraction of complete disinterest.
I saw your little friend earlier on the God never failed to convey the satisfaction he surely felt
I fear that I may have let slip about the old days he positively beamed.
Not now Ares the warrior turned away from the deity, preferring to stare with soul-less eyes into the dirt.
The blonde brat deserted you, Xena? sunlight seemed to make his black leather garb more forbidding.
The woman provided no response, which actually pleased Ares more than any retort could have.
Much as I love these little chats the war-God explained I believe the Furies are planning a mud-wrestling contest
I thought you had gone fishing? the words were unexpected and the voice momentarily unrecognised.
So did I. No sooner had Xena answered than she looked up.
Gabrielle! You came
The bard had surveyed the area as she approached and was surprised to note that her friend was indeed seated close to the lake, but had no fishing apparatus. Perhaps more surprising was that the six large houses that the map, and Ares had alluded to were visible but only distantly so.
Impassioned green eyes locked with intense blue, and both women somehow felt an encumbrance lift from their being.
Gabrielle, I owe you an apology
Xena I dont understand
Both women seemed eager to at least re-convene on friendly terms.
Still, an awkward pause was in danger of forming and that suited neither of them.
Ares turned up Gabrielle announced.
I was counting on it, he is so predictable Xena derived some satisfaction from that revelation.
Gabrielle grabbed the hand of her companion, her friend. She took a deep breath honesty time?
"Honesty time" proved to be less straightforward than either womans ideal, neither seemed capable of immediately revealing their true motives or feelings or emotions.
Perhaps unexpectedly it was Xena who broke the impasse.
I created the most ridiculously intricate situation, and I can only say that it was the greatness of the prize, and the uncertainty of my worth that caused me to be so sneaky
It was possibly the most convoluted speech that the bard had ever heard from her warrior friend, and she regrettably smirked in response.
All right I am no bard the warrior bemoaned but if you dont get my meaning then *you* are no bard either!
A shiver travelled Gabrielles spine as a lightning bolt.
Xena please! she cried, it is the very notion that you feel unworthy of me that made me smile. By the Gods I have wanted to tell you that I am besotted, smitten, head over heels crazy about you so many times that the Phoenician coast has been plundered into submission
Xena raised her eyebrows at that one.
Please dont stray off the subject again she chided it has taken us long enough to get this far
To her own surprise Gabrielle was not blushing at all, in fact she began to laugh.
I yet might regret this but may I attempt to unravel this this?
Very bardic Xena noted wryly.
Gabrielle poked out her tongue, but grinned with the reassurance they surely both felt.
You contrived to bring us to this particular spot the bard began.
In suggesting the "day of relaxation" you were confident that our ideas would be different, thus forcing us apart she continued.
You *knew* that Ares, determined to undermine our relationship, could not resist attempting to drive a further wedge between us, and you probably managed to alert him to the circumstances - how you managed that I wont even ask
A smile and a nod seemed to confirm her theory.
Ares played his part by informing me of this previous lover, friend whatever, my jealousy or just plain curiosity provided the rest
The warrior had remained mute, she admired Gabrielles deduction, but was also embarrassed by her own actions.
Gabrielle, I love you. If you can forgive me for my past, *all* of my past, then I promise you my future.
The bard allowed herself time to digest those words.
For eternity Gabrielle said I declare here and now that you and I are entwined for eternity she leaned forward to seal the declaration with a kiss.
A proud boast announced Xena, reluctantly breaking free from the embrace, but with a smile of utter satisfaction.
The Gods, not least Ares may have other ideas
Gabrielles smile diminished, but the warriors somehow grew deeper.
Let me worry about the Gods. For eternity, *guaranteed*
Xena resumed the kiss, and all doubts evaporated.
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