The characters of Xena and Gabrielle, Melinda Pappas and Janice Covington belong to MCA/Universal and no copyright infringement is intended. The other characters are mine.
This story contains some scenes of violence. It also portrays a relationship between two women and contains scenes that are sexual in nature. If you're under the age of consent or homosexual relationships are illegal where you are, or if it just doesnt light your candle, do me a favour and go read something else!
Setting & W:P Chronology
The story is vampiric in nature and set at the current time in Brighton, Sussex, on the South coast of England. There is some reference to The Xena Scrolls and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but not much!
By Red Raven
(Copyright April, 2000)
Predatory eyes watched from the shadows as two denim and leather-clad figures stumbled from The Font & Firkin; once a chapel but now converted into a popular, real ale house. The pair headed away from The Lanes, their silent hunter gazing almost nonchalantly as she followed them slowly, through the high street and turning off towards Regency Square. Once there, ice-blue eyes shifted from the quarry ahead and stared at The Prince Regent public house. Memories of a feisty young biker flooded back. Too good to use merely for a nights pleasure and as food for that week, she had turned her. She had fed on her to the last drop of lifeblood then imparted immortality through the gift of her own dark blood. A shame she cared more for the open road than to remain as a companion. She had stayed for six weeks and by the seventh had gone. Still, it was nice while it lasted, but it wasnt the same, was it? She could never replace her, could she? Who could ever begin to compare to that one true love, stupidly wrecked so many years ago? The hunter shook her head, dislodging the thoughts and broken memories, then took up the pace again to follow the pair ahead of her.
The two young women made for the seashore, evidently looking for a club where they could dance and drink the night away. Their predator followed them down stone steps and along the pebble beach, cursing her luck for going after someone who had decided on a stroll by the sea. She hated the grit and sand she inevitably got in her boots, not to mention the salt marks left by the sea spray on her leather jacket. So much for the recent dry-cleaning! Still, there was something to be said for the pier supports the two women now headed for. Perhaps they planned on a little fast sex before they found a club. Whatever The shadows were dark, the inner structure secluded and she could smell no other humans nearby. There was something, though. Something familiar in the scent of one of these humans, but from a hundred paces or so, she couldnt be sure.
The hunter allowed her imminent meal to reach the pier and climb across the stone slabs. The pair barely checked to see if they could be seen before fumbling with each others buttons and tugging at zips as their lips and tongues hungrily sought each other. Only when the tall dark figure was standing over them, allowing her raven hair to fall forward, did they realise they were not as alone as they had assumed. Looking up angrily, they prepared to offer some colourful abuse, but the expletives died on their lips as a hand whipped out to grab one of the women by her shoulder length blonde hair, cuffing her unconscious and dropping her. This was an innocent and not for feeding on. Slowly reaching a hand to the other woman, she smiled, revealing glistening fangs.
The woman stared at her in amazement. "Youve got to be joking!" She ran a hand through her cropped dark hair. "What are you a reject from Halloween? Vampires dont exist!"
The predator grasped the lapel of the womans jacket and pulled her up. "No? Well then, if thats true I cant hurt you, can I!" Her other hand clamped over the womans mouth and quickly turned her head, exposing a soft white neck into which she sank the fangs she had displayed moments earlier. Drinking her victim to the point of death, she slowed her feeding as the young womans heart reached its last few beats, then dropped the fresh corpse where she stood.
Turning to the blonde woman, she lifted her into her deadly embrace and stroked her face; she was still unconscious. "Yes youre hers, arent you?" The scent was there and this time there could be no mistake. As the womans eyes fluttered open briefly to reveal their green hue in the moonlight, the vampire breathed in sharply. "Gods! Youre so like her!" Memories of an ancient life, both human and vampire spilled into her mind and she held back long enough to look carefully at the woman she now held. She tilted her head to rest her face against the womans neck, but not in preparation for her lethal kiss. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes. "Gabrielle " Almost tenderly now, she drew the stranger who was no longer a stranger into a close embrace and held her tight. "You are definitely of her line this is her scent! So, your descendants are here in the old green and pleasant land huh? Does that mean youre not far away? Where are you?" She reached out with her senses, but felt nothing. "Damn! My guts say youre here, but why cant I sense you? Are you blocking me now, Gabrielle? Have you learned to do that? I "
The woman stirred in the vampires arms and broke her concentration. She sighed deeply, from memories of a sweeter existence and from a longing for its return. She wiped away the single blood-tear rolling down her cheek and gently kissed the humans forehead, before carefully letting her slip to the ground, to regain consciousness in her own time. Reaching for the corpse of the other woman, the vampire lifted it effortlessly on to her shoulder. Stepping out from beneath the pier, she cast a final glance at the now semi-conscious form. "If this was a good friend of yours, Im really sorry. But if you didnt know, she was a drugs-dealer and shes killed twice. Id have followed someone else if she were an innocent, like you. I Im sorry "
Glancing round to make sure there was still no one around, she rose suddenly and swiftly into the air. As soon as she was high enough to ensure no mortal eye would see her, the night creature travelled at speed, away from the coast and straight out to open sea. Here, she dropped her burden, to let it become food for the fish or any other sea-faring creatures looking to scavenge a free meal.
An hour before dawn, the vampire touched down on her balcony, stepping into a personal study situated on the third floor of her town house. Richly furnished, though without ostentation, the most noticeable feature apart from the extensive library was a glass cabinet displaying an impressive double-edged sword, a coiled whip, several daggers and a curiously marked circular blade. All the items were evidently well cared for and looked as sturdy as when they were no doubt used, in an age long gone. A second case stood nearby, apparently vacuum-sealed and temperature-controlled; it was full of ancient scrolls. These had not fared quite as well as the weapons, though to a trained eye they were certainly of the same period. Even so, being mainly parchment, most were intact and only some papyrus scrolls had suffered any real damage from the passage of time.
The vampire moved at ease through the darkness, her preternatural sight requiring no light to guide her, though being entirely familiar with the room she could have walked about it with her eyes closed. She strode silently across the carpet, not bothering to close the balcony doors now she was home. Seating herself in the only armchair, she reached towards a small table holding a single glass and a beautiful crystal decanter containing port. Filling the glass generously, she sat back in the chair, swirling the dark red liquid around her glass. Never as full and rich as blood, nor ever as satisfying, this was more an ancient habit than a pleasurable indulgence. But it helped her think and it was something she took comfort in, like polishing the sword she hadnt used in almost twenty centuries.
Leaning back in the armchair, she sighed and closed her eyes for a few moments, listening to a carriage clock chime softly, announcing that it was six oclock and little more than half an hour of darkness remained. Her reverie was short-lived, as her eyes snapped open and her senses erupted into wakefulness at the recognition of another ancient beings presence; a vampire well known to her. Had her heart been human, it would no doubt be pounding heavily now, but the features on her pale face remained calm and expressionless.
"Xena ? So this is where youve been hiding lately." The deceptively gentle voice of a powerful vampire floated through the balcony doors.
The seated immortal grinned slowly. "Not so much hiding, as waiting for you to find me again, Gabrielle." She stood, raising an arm to the side. "Please enter freely. Youre welcome here."
"Welcome? Thats a strange way to greet me. I have been looking to destroy you for the past three centuries, remember?" The vampire stepped silently into the room, her golden hair and preternatural skin reflecting the late rays of the moon. She stopped by the glass case containing ancient scrolls and smiled sadly as she recognised the memories of a human life, penned by her own hand so long ago. "You always were more sentimental at heart than I. So this is where they ended up after leaving the hands of the good professors. I often wondered, but never pried." She looked up and grinned, revealing her lethal fangs. "Its been a while since I last saw you."
"Ninety years, give or take."
"Is it so long since my last attempt on your life?"
"Guess youve been busy." The vampire sat down again and sipped from her port glass. "I had thought youd forgotten about me."
"Forgotten you, no! I No, I couldnt forget you, Xena. Anymore than I could forget to breathe."
"We dont breathe though, do we!" Xena laughed. "Its just a legacy of human habit. Like so many other traits we carry on with."
"So, its a phrase." Gabrielle leaned against a bookcase and glanced at some of the titles on the shelves. "Do you want to argue syntax and semantics now Im here?"
"No." Xena gestured from where she sat. "Gabrielle, I cant really offer you another armchair, but youre welcome to sit here or take the chair by my computer over there." She nodded towards an oak and leather desk.
"Thank you, Id rather stand all the same." She folded her arms. "Im puzzled, Xena. You welcome me so easily Why?"
The dark-haired vampire stared into her port glass. "Perhaps I weary of my existence. Maybe oblivion would solve a great deal. That is what youre here for, isnt it? To destroy me?" She raised her head and met her unexpected guests gaze. "Then again, perhaps I miss your company youre the only one who ever truly brought me joy."
"You still say that after everything that happened? After all this time?" The last few words seemed almost to catch in the vampires throat and she turned away from Xena to control the blood tears threatening to well up.
Xena missed the movement, her eyes again cast downward. "Gabrielle did you ever hate me for turning you?"
"Hate you for turning me?"
"Yeah in the beginning?"
Gabrielle turned back slowly, her eyes strangely bright in the darkness. "Sometimes I wished I could, Xena. But no, I didnt. I was mad at you for a long time thats true enough. For Rheas sake, we went through it all once with Bacchus and escaped with our mortality intact! But you had to end up getting entangled with an ancient one of dark blood, and when you realised what youd become, you just thought youd give the same gift to me. No choice, no question, you just just made me!" She closed her eyes and raised her head to the ceiling, before looking back at Xena. "But I never really hated you for it, no."
Xena was unsure whether to smile, laugh or cry at Gabrielles outburst. Such familiar tones and inflections: the passionate voice she knew so well and had sorely missed. She sipped her drink. "You certainly learned to revel in your vampirism as much as I did and you became just as an efficient killer, Gabrielle remember?"
"Yes, but I didnt kill as indiscriminately as you did at first! And I learned very quickly that we dont need to feed every night."
"Oh?" Xena placed her glass back on the table and smiled. "And do you still think that made you better than me somehow? The fact that you began to avoid innocents sooner than I did and you nurtured your conscience while I had to rediscover mine?"
"No, I I dont." Gabrielle sighed and took a step closer. "And thats not what I meant."
"You still took someone I cared about and fed on her. After all the centuries wed been together, you still did that."
The golden-haired vampire hung her head momentarily. "That was an accident, Xena. A terrible mistake and I was sorry for it. You know I was. I didnt realise she was close to you, but she was a thief and a murderer I knew that much."
"She was like me, when I was human and before Id met you. She was trying to change, just like I did!"
"You took your revenge for it though, didnt you!" Gabrielles voice rose steadily. "Lauran was only two days strong and you practically tore her apart with your bare hands!"
"I was confused and angry at the time." Xena gripped the arms of her chair. "I thought you were taking her as a companion over me and, for a few moments, I completely lost it. I panicked and let go of all reason because I thought you were leaving me." She raised a hand and squeezed her forehead, relieving a non-existent headache. "I tried to explain, Gabrielle. I was stupid and jealous and I made a horrible mistake. I did try to explain. You didnt exactly give me the chance."
"Lauran was a descendant of Lila and she was just like her. It was like having my sister with me again, Xena."
"She was dying from an illness. If I hadnt turned her Id have lost her."
"I know Gabrielle, and Im as sorry now as ever I was then." Xena rose from her chair. "Had I realised who she was to you, I would have welcomed her, not destroyed her. At the very least, had I known it would tear us apart Id have never hurt her whoever she was to you."
The two vampires regarded each other silently for a time, both wondering what the other was thinking, each blocking the others attempt to thought-read.
Xena decided to give Gabrielle a clear-cut decision, literally. "Look, Gabrielle " She walked to the glass cabinet where her ancient weapons were displayed and took a small bunch of keys from her jacket pocket. "How many times do we have to go through this same conversation? This same argument?" She unlocked the case and lifted the glass lid. "Three hundred or so years ago, you killed a human friend of mine. A mistake, I know. I destroyed Lauran shortly after that. I didnt recognise who she was, I only thought she threatened what we had together. I was wrong, I made a dreadful error, it wasnt vengeance for my potential fledgling. Since then, youve tracked me across the world to avenge Lauran. So, here!" With imperceptible speed, Xena removed her sword and took it to Gabrielle, offering her the hilt, all in less than a heartbeat. "Take it! Sever my head from my shoulders and have done with it!" She dropped to her knees, threw off her jacket and leaned forward.
Gabrielle stared alternately at Xenas blade in her hands and the kneeling form below her. She gripped the sword in both hands and slowly raised it above her head, waiting for Xena to suddenly spring into action, grappling the weapon from her hands, but she didnt move. Gabrielle closed her eyes. "Is this really what you want?"
Xena didnt alter her position. "Its what you want, isnt it Gabrielle? My life, or existence, for Laurans? Its what youve chased me halfway around the world for, so go ahead, do it! Strike your deathblow now! Free me from the eternal night it holds nothing for me without you anyway!"
Gabrielles eyes opened at the last remark and she looked down at Xena. After moments that seemed an eternity, she lowered the sword until it was level with the table and gently laid it by Xenas half-finished glass of port. Turning on her heel, she walked out onto the balcony from where she had initially entered the room. Here, she leaned against the railing and tried to choke back the blood tears she could no longer prevent from spilling over.
Realising her head was still firmly attached to her shoulders, a relieved vampire looked up and watched her potential executioner retreat. She blew out a heavy breath, got up and took her sword from the table. Once she had returned it to the display case, locking it away again, she made her way to the balcony.
"It doesnt taste as sweet as people say, does it Xena?"
"Not often, no." Xena leaned by the balcony door, trying to understand Gabrielles actions this night, or lack of them, her thoughts drifting because of them.
"For the longest time, I thought that avenging Lauran by destroying you was all I wanted and was all that mattered. Youve escaped me so many times over these past few centuries, Xena, but here you are tonight, handing me your life on a plate! Given the chance to actually destroy you cleanly and swiftly, I I cant do it. Its not what I want anymore." She let her head fall forward, knowing her tears were falling freely, but no longer caring. "The truth is I miss you, Xena."
Xenas drifting thoughts now reeled at this confession. She heard Gabrielles tears hit the balcony flooring and for a moment was enthralled by the tiny pools of blood appearing at the vampires feet. She breathed in and exhaled loudly, as the small clock chimed the half-hour. "Gabrielle, unless you want to burn up out there youd better come inside." She stepped forward and hesitantly placed a hand on Gabrielles wrist. "Please ? Come inside."
"Why dont you just lock me out here and let me greet the sun? It doesnt actually take very long for our kind to burn up completely."
Xena could see the first red rays across the rooftops and knew it would only be a matter of seconds before morning light raced itself to the balcony. Calmly, she firmly grasped Gabrielles wrist. "Cmon, evidently todays not a good day to meet oblivion for either one of us!" She watched Gabrielle turn her head slowly and smile gently. Her emotions leapt to recognise a look of affection she hadnt seen in many decades, on a face that still meant life and love to her.
Gabrielle allowed herself to be led back inside and watched in fascination as Xena walked purposefully to where her port glass still sat and picked up a small, hand-sized console. Pointing it in the general direction of the balcony, the ancient warrior pressed one of a dozen buttons and a low-pitched buzz sounded, quickly followed by the balcony doors closing and locking. A second button was answered with a sheet of tinted glass lowering vertically from the door lintel and covering the entire balcony opening.
Gabrielle offered a wry smile. "Youve been dabbling in the joys of technology then?"
"Would you like to watch the sunrise?" Xena grinned softly.
"We can do that, with this?" Gabrielle nodded towards the tinted glass.
"Yeah, we can." Xena didnt disguise the sense of pride in her voice. "You remember how I never enjoyed having to bury myself somewhere or hide away just because the sun was up? Well, as science improved and discoveries were made, I came to realise that it wasnt actually the light that burned us. If it were, we wouldnt be able to go near a light bulb or a candle! No, its ultraviolet rays and one or two other components of sunlight that damage us. Anyway, a few telephone-calls here and there, one or two conversations with the right people, and a couple of hefty donations for research and thats the result!" She gestured towards the glass.
The two walked over to the balcony area and looked through the tinted glass sheet and the clear glass of the balcony doors. Xena allowed Gabrielle to stand in front of her, appreciating this was an event she hadnt experienced since her mortal days. She remembered the first time she stood here, full of trepidation and excitement. She had been fearful that the experiment would fail and she would either suffer terrible burns or be totally incinerated. Yet she had stood still, longing for the glass to work and enable her to once again enjoy a simple pleasure, taken for granted by most mortals. Xena had not been disappointed and knew that Gabrielle would not be disappointed either; she almost envied her this moment of rediscovery.
Gabrielle breathed in sharply and, like a child outside a toyshop, pressed her palms to the glass and brought her face closer. The tint of the glass did not prevent her observing the full glory of the rose-coloured streaks now spreading and brightening the surrounding rooftops and streets below, causing shadows to recede and slink away. "Oh Xena, thank you. This is beautiful." She felt Xenas hands rest gently on her shoulders and lifted a hand to lay across one of Xenas wrists, assuring her that the action was accepted.
They remained this way for almost an hour while Gabrielle soaked up the wonder of a new morning, unknown to her for almost two millennia, though never forgotten. She could even feel the warmth of the sun through the glass, without the searing pain of her flesh charring, as she had experienced once. Uncharacteristically, she had lost track of the time while exploring the countryside of a foreign land and had to frantically fly to the nearest forest, burying herself deep beneath the undergrowth.
"Ive seen sunrises and daylight on films over these past years, but its not the same as this and its never been the same without you." Gabrielle felt her shoulders squeezed in response and slowly turned round to meet Xena eye to eye. "Xena, Im so tired of trying to hunt you down and destroy you. Losing Lauran hurt more than I have words to tell you, but losing you " She dropped her gaze. "That hurt much more, I know that now. I just got so eaten up by what youd done, I forgot how much I needed you and how much I loved you."
Xena placed a hand beneath Gabrielles chin and lifted her head. "Does this mean we have a truce?" She smiled warmly.
Gabrielle raised a hand to brush away the hair that had fallen across Xenas eyes. "Its your call. Three hundred years of hunting you on and off and here I am saying sorry Xena, oh and by the way, could we start again?, Ill understand if youd prefer me to stay away. At least youd have the assurance of friend out there and could stop wondering if Im still on your trail, ready to torch the building youre living in or hiring vampire nutters to find you in your warehouse and hammer a stake through your heart!"
"That was you?" Xenas eyebrow rose suddenly and she grinned. "I wondered how in Tartarus they got through the locks on that place. I suspected another vampire behind it, but I wasnt sure."
Gabrielle bit her bottom lip. "Yes sorry, that was me." She grinned sheepishly. "Incidentally, how did you get out of that one?"
Xena laughed and looked at the ceiling. "Lets just say that you should have sent professionals. As amateurs go though, those three were delicious!"
"Uh, uh, uh oh no. Im pleading self-defence on that one, definitely!"
Gabrielle shook her head then met Xenas steady gaze again. "Alright, I guess so." She beamed. "Are we okay with each other then? We forgive each other?"
Xena closed her eyes, breathing in slowly and deeply, enjoying the scent of Gabrielle and letting it fill her. "I never dared to hope that Id ever hear those words." She opened her eyes. "Yes, we forgive each other and yes, we are okay with each other."
Gabrielle stepped back and took Xenas hands. "So now what? What do we do, Xena? Its fairly obvious I wont be going home until dark."
In her own thoughts, Xena whispered to herself. You dont have to go anywhere now you are home, at last! She maintained a steady block on her thoughts however, in case easily picked up by Gabrielle. Smiling, she shrugged. "What would you like to do?"
"Well, usually when I return home, at dawn or sooner, Ive gotten into the habit of taking a hot bath with oils of lavender or jasmine, before I step into my casket." She raised her index finger. "And before you laugh at me for enjoying the luxury of a very human indulgence, may I remind you that you still drink port, even though theres absolutely no reason for a vampire to drink the stuff!"
Xena grinned and swatted the accusing finger away. "All I was actually going to do was mention how surprised I am to hear youve gone back to a casket."
"Well, I move around quite a bit these days. Im happier having a place to lay my head that Im comfortable with hotel beds are too unreliable and I dont like to impose all the time on my familiars. Time changes a lot of things, Xena as I think tonight has proven to both of us."
"Hmmm, guess youre right." Xena shrugged. "Look, make yourself at home and have a wander around while I run you that hot bath. I dont have any oil of lavender or jasmine to put in the water, but I think youll like what I do have." She nodded towards the console, back on the table. "Take that with you if you go down to the ground floor or first floor. Up here, and below on the second floor, all the rooms have windows made of the same glass thats over the balcony doors. The ground and first floors have curtains or blinds, but they can all be operated from that little box of tricks Im sure you can work it out, just take care opening doors before you go in."
Gabrielle chuckled. "I think Ill wait for a personal tour, if thats okay. Ill stay up here with you and I wont go far. Where will we uh, sleep the day away?"
"Ill show you after your bath. Youll be comfortable, I promise." With that, Xena left the study and Gabrielle heard her quiet footsteps move down a short single flight of stairs. A few moments more and the sounds of running water reached her, along with the soft tones of Xena singing.
Gabrielle eased into the armchair and picked up Xenas port glass. "Gods, its been too long since I heard that precious voice of yours, Xena." Before she consciously registered what she was doing, Gabrielle brought the glass to her lips and kissed the rim where she could sense Xenas mouth had touched the vessel. "Oh Gabrielle what are you doing?" She smiled to herself and got up, leaving the glass on the small table. Crossing the study to Xenas desk, she noticed more than a dozen photographs adorning a shelf that ran alongside the desk, standing against the only wall not sporting a bookcase. Moving closer for a better look, she could see that several of the subjects, though unknown to her, were evidently of Xenas line. The stature and colouring were startlingly familiar and one or two people pictured could have been Xena herself, except for the fact that a vampires form did not appear on film for some reason. Judging by the age and colouring of the pictures, they ranged from about the 1880s to the current decade. One photo stood out from the rest and Gabrielle happily picked it up, gazing affectionately at the smiling faces of Professors Melinda Pappas and Janice Covington. "Of all the photos Ive seen of you two, this has got to be the first one where youre smiling just for the sake of smiling!" She chuckled to herself for a moment, pleased to see the images of two human friends so dear to her, Professor Covington being one of her descendants. "I should have realised you two knew Xena, I guess that explains how she got hold of my scrolls." She traced a finger down the dark-haired, bespectacled archaeologist. "Bet she never knew I almost turned you though, Mel, after Janice died gods, theres a story and a half!" She replaced the photograph and walked quietly out of the study.
A second room, very large and opposite the study, seemed to be filled with displays of glass and pottery. Gabrielle smiled at this, thinking a trophy room or weaponry might have been more appropriate for the ancient warrior, just as she had always had in the past. Then again, they had always collected pieces of art together over the centuries, the fate of which had been no happier than their own awful rift. Out of anger and heartache, she herself had torched the house-come-fortress they had shared, along with the treasures they had collected. The terrible loss of so many beautiful works of art seemed to aptly reflect the loss of what had been a wonderful partnership, both in life and in immortality. She gently touched the bulbous side of a perfectly crafted, eighteenth century vase and made a mental note never to destroy another precious item of the past ever.
Glancing at her surroundings, Gabrielle grinned as she turned round to look back at the wall in which the door was set. It was covered with weapons from all kinds of cultures, different armies and various periods in time. From floor to ceiling, arrows and spears, shields, daggers and swords, grenades, guns and bullets formed intricate patterns and appeared beautiful, in an oddly grotesque fashion. Looking across to the adjacent wall, her gaze fell on the only painting in the room, though covering almost the entire wall, other paintings were unnecessary. She was awe-struck by the vibrant colours and detail as she studied the work, which depicted various ancient scenes from daily life in an Amazon village. Worshippers gathered at the temple of Artemis; combat drills and sparring were taking place in the adjacent practise fields; a table, evidently outside the Queens quarters, was surrounded by the Amazon Council deep in conversation with the Queen. The over all effect was powerful, but Gabrielle couldnt help smiling as she looked at some of the figures more closely. Her eye was drawn to one particular Amazon, proud in stature, with shoulder-length blonde curls, speaking with a young Centaur and two other dark-haired Amazon warriors. The likeness was uncanny and Gabrielle whispered under her breath the names of Ephiny, Solari, Eponin and Ephinys Centaur son, Xenan. Memories of friends, from so many human lifetimes ago, came flooding into her mind. Intrigued, she scanned the rest of the painting until she found a group on horseback. One of these figures stood out from the rest, in dark chocolate leathers and bronze armour, sitting tall in the saddle of a powerful palomino. Raven-haired, a sword slung from her right shoulder and a gleaming chakram at her right hip, Gabrielle grinned as she gazed at the warrior princess on her beloved Argo. Certain now that she would also know well one other individual in the painting, she turned her attention back to the Queen again, nodding as she recognised her own image. She chuckled to herself. "Oh Xena you couldve at least had me painted a little taller!"
"But you always were short for an Amazon, Gabrielle." Xena had approached the room quietly and now leaned in the doorway, grinning affectionately.
Gabrielle looked over her shoulder and smiled warmly. "When did you commission this?"
"Not long ago its no more than twenty years old."
"The images are so accurate, Xena. The likeness of all our old friends is obvious." Gabrielle turned back to the painting. "You must have guided the artist intensely."
"Actually, I had a stroke of luck when I opened the first gallery and a pottery over here." Xena walked over to join Gabrielle and regarded the painting with her. After a moments hesitation, she placed an arm around Gabrielles shoulders and almost cried out in joy when she felt Gabrielles arm slip round her waist in response. "I met this artist, an immortal, who knew who I was and he twisted my arm to do this; hed say think of your old friend Ephiny and Id think of her and hed sketch her as he read my thoughts and picked up on the pictures in my mind."
"He could read your thoughts? And he knew who you were? Xena, he must be at least as old as you and me!"
"Was, Gabrielle, not is yeah, he was old. He painted Alexander the Great, Cleopatra and even Ghengis Khan all from memory!" Xena laughed. "About a year ago, Mathias, that was his name, he went to Italy. Said he wanted to paint Venice before it sank into the sea, or something. Anyway, he unfortunately ran into some overly zealous vampire hunters and they destroyed him." Xena raised her eyes to the ceiling and suddenly cursed under her breath. "Such a stupid thing to happen! So senseless and well, it was almost as if he came to the end of his existence without so much as a struggle."
"How do you mean?" Gabrielle clasped Xenas hand, suddenly concerned.
"Mathias was strong, Gabrielle, I mean he was a really powerful ancient. Yet somehow they bound him and staked him out on a hillside. I think he must have let them, because he could have escaped them easily, Im certain. Unless there was something else " Xena paused for a moment, collecting her thoughts. "Apparently, when the sun came up, Mathias exploded, taking half the hillside with him."
"Yeah well thats what I heard, anyway. Of course, the official line in Italy was that they had a unique and isolated earthquake. Whatever the cover story, they killed Mathias and it was so pointless; such a waste of a great talent, and of a vampire who was wise and wonderful company. Im sorry our paths never crossed properly centuries ago." She shook her head sadly. "Ya know, the Talisman Circle was devastated and actively mourned his destruction."
"The Talisman Circle?" Gabrielle was surprised. "Youll have to tell me all about your involvement with that little organisation." She nodded towards the painting. "Xena, Im so sorry about Mathias and Im sorry I never got the opportunity to meet him. His talent seems endless and it sounds like he was a very special character."
"Yeah, he was " Xena cast a last long glance at the painting, then took a deep breath and shrugged her shoulders. "Cmon you! The tub is full and my bathrooms all yours!"
"All mine? Are you not staying with me, to talk?"
"If youd like me to, I will, but I thought you might just want your own company while you bathe."
"Not after so long without yours." Gabrielle grinned. "Besides, its not like I need to be shy with you you do know every inch of me, after all!"
Silently, Xena regarded the one who still owned the depths of her being, whether Gabrielle perceived the fact or not. She gently stroked Gabrielles face. "Want me to scrub your back and wash your hair?"
"Just like old times!" Gabrielle chuckled. "Yeah, Id like that."
The two moved out of the room and down the stairs, to be met by the heady aromas of cinnamon and sandalwood. In the large bathroom, soft blues and easy greens contrasted with a mosaic running across one wall. Greek in appearance, it depicted white surf and highly stylised dolphins, which seemed to be leaping towards and over a shower unit situated in the corner. In the centre of the room was a raised bath that could easily hold two individuals and next to it stood a rail full of thick white towels.
Gabrielle breathed in the scent of spices and sighed contentedly. "So Im not the only one who enjoys this kind of indulgence!"
Xena sat down on the wide rim of the bath, crossing one leg over the other. "Never said you were, did I?" She reached for a smaller towel and draped it across her lap. "Its not gonna stay hot forever, though."
Gabrielle slipped off her jacket and turned so that her back was towards Xena. Gradually shedding her other clothes, she reached out with her thoughts and pressed into Xenas mind, searching for and finding exactly what she hoped would be there; a growing sense of desire radiated from the ebony-haired vampire. Gabrielle allowed herself a smile of satisfaction, though it ended abruptly when she felt her mental probing firmly forced away and shut out.
"That is unfair, Gabrielle!" Xena leapt up from the baths ledge.
"Whats unfair?" Gabrielle spun round and feigned as innocent a look as she could muster.
"The fact that you stand there, sneakily pushing into my thoughts when you you " Xenas eyes slowly fell of their own accord from Gabrielles face and wandered down over her shoulders, breasts and abdomen, dropping to her thighs and golden curls, before gazing back up at Gabrielles face. "Gods, but youre beautiful, Gabrielle. I " She looked away suddenly, feeling guilty for having been caught with her guard down and her thoughts wandering.
Gabrielle could sense the emotional barrier steadily rising in Xenas manner and stepped quickly over to her. "Its alright, Xena. Really it is!" She wrapped her arms around Xenas waist and rested her head against her chest. "Please ? Dont prevent what we had from rekindling. I want your love and I want your desire, please dont think that I dont."
Xena responded slowly, drawing her arms around Gabrielle to pull her in close and tilting her head just enough to rest her cheek against Gabrielles hair. "I just dont want us to go too fast, okay? If were really reclaiming the life we used to have together, I want it all, not just fragments." She gently eased Gabrielle away and held her at arms length. "I want us to be together again, always, not just looking forward to a visit now and again, because well, I meant what I said in the study." She smiled tentatively. "Ive never stopped loving you, Gabrielle. Never stopped wanting you, or needing you. Not for a moment have I stopped longing to have you back in my arms again. Whatever happened between us however it all came about " She trailed off as she watched the face before her smile with a radiance that outshone the sunrise recently witnessed.
"I do understand, Xena." Gabrielle brought Xenas hands to her lips and kissed the knuckles tenderly. "And I do want us to be together again, complete and whole. I realise weve both made separate lives for ourselves and cant expect either of us to simply uproot and disappear from responsibilities." She grinned mischievously, her fangs appearing briefly, to reflect the overhead lighting. "Even as what we are, we still have duties to our respective businesses and human familiars, dont we? But whatever your feelings Xena, please believe me when I tell you mine are mutual. If you want us to take this slowly, then so be it. It was me who pushed you away, it was me who made you run and it was me who hunted you with blind hatred. Its only fair that I be the one to match your pace without pushing too fast and without holding anything back." She craned her neck to place a kiss on Xenas cheek, then gracefully stepped into the tub, sliding down into the scented water with a contented sigh.
Xena stood, speechless for a time, happy to let the words she never thought shed hear sink into her and restore her sense of peace and hope.
Gabrielle closed her eyes and rested her head against the back of the tub. "So tell me how you knew Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas and whats your connection with the Talisman Circle? And for Rheas sake, tell me why youve settled here in Brighton, England. I can think of dozens more exciting and exotic places!"
"One reason for my being here is to be near the Talisman Circle Mother house over at Burgess Hill." Xena jabbed a finger in Gabrielles direction. "And for one whos established a reputable antiques trade " She smiled as she sat down on the bath ledge once more. "Oh yes, I know of your New York and Geneva business Gabrielle youre quick to run down this place, so full of antiquities, unusual finds and just fun stuff generally!"
"Okay." Gabrielle allowed a grin to play at the corners of her mouth. "Maybe I am being a little harsh. I did actually come by this way about ten years ago and purchased some good pieces though an associate. Found a wonderful William Morris piece and two perfect first edition Dickens works."
"This would be a human associate your associate?"
"Yes, human." Gabrielle laughed. "Why? How many vampire antiques dealers do you know who can walk around during the day, Xena?"
"Good point." Xena grinned as she playfully immersed Gabrielles head beneath the water, reaching for a crystal bottle before she resurfaced.
"Hey! You could have warned me you were gonna do that!"
"Why? Its not like youre in danger of drowning or anything." She tipped some of the bottles contents into her hand and leaned over to run her fingers through Gabrielles hair, quickly massaging the liquid into a thick lather.
"Mmm, thats good. I dont think anyone has done this, apart from me that is, since gods, since the last time you washed my hair, Xena!"
The dark-haired vampire was thoughtful for a moment, before closing her eyes. "Have you taken no lovers in the past three hundred years?" She suddenly regretted so candid a question. "Im sorry Gabrielle. Thats none of my business. Please dont answer if you dont want to."
"Its alright." She allowed Xena to immerse her again and then repeat the washing process. "Yes, there have been a few. Companions more than lovers, at least, not lovers in the best and truest sense of the word. Ive enjoyed the company of certain humans during these past centuries, and even one or two of our own kind. Ive taken comfort in their closeness, but as for anything more intimate it may sound a bit of a cliché, Xena, but whatever physical pleasures I shared with others, my mind, my imagination and my heart were still filled with you." She laughed quietly. "In the oddest way, it was kind of nice because, now and then for a short time, I was able to let go of my anger and bitterness and enjoy the memories of your love. Their touch and caresses would be yours, Xena, and I know I caused upset on more than one occasion when some dear souls lovemaking to me caused me to call out your name!"
Xena laughed. "I guess I should be flattered!"
"Hmm Anyway, how about you? Have you taken lovers, these past decades?"
"Yes, I have." Xena was suddenly quiet as she allowed herself to slip forward onto her knees and rest her folded arms on the edge of the bath. "And I regretted every single one, because they werent you. A handful of times I tried to convince myself that I would never see you again, except on the occasions youd find me and try to destroy me, so I looked for a companion. Then Id be relieved when they finally left me, because there was never the love or excitement I shared with you; and Id always feel guilty as if I was being unfaithful to your memory. I must have been pretty poor company because of it."
"Oh Xena why was I so stupid to let go of what we had and for so long!" Gabrielle turned her head to be at eye-level with Xena and brought a hand up to stroke the face filled with nothing but love for her. "Im deeply sorry for making us both waste so many years and they could have been happy years."
Xena caught the hand and stretched it open to kiss the palm and the fingers. "We have today now, and hopefully tomorrow too; maybe we can say that from now on?"
"Yeah, maybe we can at that."
"And weve both established good businesses, Gabrielle. On that level were pretty much covered in the world of humans. That at least seems to stand out as something positive for our wasted years."
Gabrielle smiled warmly. "You always could find the right thing to say, just when it was needed!"
Xena reached out and brushed away Gabrielles wet fringe from her eyes, then leaning over the edge of the bath she covered Gabrielles lips with her own, sealing their mouths. The kiss was chaste, gentle and slow. Neither wanted to break the contact, but eventually they parted and regarded each other affectionately.
"So, you gonna scrub my back as promised?" Gabrielle offered a wry grin as she sat up.
"Of course." Xena picked up a flannel and liquid soap.
"And while you do that, tell me about your connection with our favourite professors and the Talisman Circle."
Xena laughed. "I shouldve realised youd have some knowledge of those two." She began soaping Gabrielles shoulders and neck. "So when did you get to know Mel and Janice?"
"In the fifties, after they published their findings on my scrolls but this isnt about me, Xena. Cmon, tell me all about it."
"Alright." Xena scrubbed Gabrielles back, quickly falling into the ancient habit she had always enjoyed. "Its all linked Gabrielle, the professors, the Talisman Circle As you know, Janice was always the purist where archaeology was concerned, despite her tough take no prisoners attitude." Gabrielle chuckled at the comment. "It was Melinda who, through her love of ancient languages and incredible grasp of translation, got involved with the study of myths and legends, in particular vampirism and lycanthropy. Eventually, the Talisman Circle recognised that her knowledge and understanding were unsurpassed and became interested in her as a resource and guide on those subjects. Of course, after Mels initial suspicions of the group, she jumped at the chance to study and translate some of their more obscure manuscripts. Janice was no fifth wheel either. Her ability to date and place some of their ancient acquisitions was a treasure in itself." Caught up in her recounting, Xena had gone on to wash Gabrielles arms and now turned to her chest and breasts.
Gabrielle had no intention of complaining and leaned back to allow Xena access to her torso. "So when did you actually get involved with them?" She closed her eyes, relishing Xenas attention.
"It was when they were in Macedonia during 1940, on the trail of your scrolls Gabrielle, if you knew Janice and Melinda, then surely they told you what happened?"
"I got a version of what happened, thats for sure, but I dont know the whole story; Im certain they didnt tell me everything. Once I got to know them, I regarded them as friends and reading their thoughts seemed such an invasion of their privacy, so I never found out that way either!"
"Well, let me fill you in." Xena smiled at Gabrielles consistency, regarding simple good manners, even where humans were concerned. "After I put my affairs and businesses into the hands of a few suitable protectors, I actually went to ground from around 1915 to 1940."
"Xena!" Gabrielle sat bolt upright. "Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?"
Xena smiled wryly. "Im here, arent I? Maybe that kind of hibernation or whatever, is dangerous for the young or the weak, but it suited me okay."
"But you couldve just fossilised or disintegrated or something!" Gabrielle looked up and laughed suddenly. "Then you couldve been dug up by Mel and Janice."
"Have you quite finished?" Xena chuckled, pushing Gabrielle back into a reclining position. "If youre gonna interrupt every couple of minutes, I wont tell you the story."
"Okay." Gabrielle took the washcloth from Xenas hands, wanting to concentrate on the account rather than be swept up by Xenas attention to her body. "You go on. Ill do this."
"Well " Xena leaned her folded arms against the bath edge. "Although I was physically completely still under the earth, the experience freed my mind, or my essence or something, to wander the earth wherever I wanted to go. It was pretty amazing. I dont know why I was drawn to Macedonia the same time as the professors, or doctors as they were back then. Maybe Mel pulled me there, since she was of my line. Maybe some higher power was at work, or perhaps it was pure chance, I havent really thought about it. Anyway, when I drifted in, theyd already discovered your scrolls and got into a bit of trouble with some Nazi double agent or someone. Theyd even run into a descendant of Joxer."
Gabrielle winced. "Yeah, I heard about that bit!"
Xena grinned. "Then who springs up, but Ares, in the middle of the twentieth century!"
Gabrielle dropped the washcloth and was open-mouthed. "Thats impossible! The gods went to sleep after Dahak was destroyed and Judo-Christian worship took hold!"
"Youre right as usual." Xena laughed. "Ares disappeared with the rest of them. What Mel and Janice came up against was some minor demon making a bid to walk the earth. Have to admit though, whatever he was he had an air for the dramatic! I can only fathom that he posed as the god of war because of the references to Ares throughout the tomb hed somehow been trapped in." Xena rose from her knees and sat on the bath edge once more. "The thing of it is, he didnt sense my presence and I couldnt do a damned thing without a physical form, but I realised the humans there were in a lot of danger from this entity, however small a minion he actually was. Hed already dispatched the Nazi agent and his heavies. So, I did the only thing I could " She threw a sly grin at Gabrielle.
"I jumped into Mel and took over her body."
"You did whaa " Gabrielle covered her mouth and stifled her giggles. "You jumped into Melinda Pappas?"
"Melinda lil ol prim and proper ah declare ah simply abhor physical violence Pappas?"
Xena snickered at Gabrielles mimicry of the American Southerner. "It seemed like a good idea at the time. I definitely felt a very special connection with Mel while I was in her. Anyway, to cut a long story short, in her body I was able to fight off and incarcerate this thing posing as Ares and our friends got away safe and sound with the scrolls. I returned to my body from there, and decided I wanted to be back in the land of the living uh, so to speak. I willed some lesser animals to come to me and I fed on them. It took no more than a few days to build up my strength again, until I could eventually break out of the hole Id buried myself in." She stood up and reached for a hand-held showerhead from the end of the tub and began to rinse Gabrielles hair. "After that, I simply reclaimed my businesses and established a new home for a while in North Carolina, knowing it wasnt far from where Doctor Pappas lived. Then I contacted Melinda and, after a time, we met."
"Did she suspect what you were, Xena?" Gabrielle took the showerhead and moved forward to kneel, so that she could finish rinsing.
"Not at first." Xena suddenly chuckled. "What human really expects their evening guest to be a vampire?"
"You have a point." Gabrielle mumbled through the falling water. "I take it she did eventually realise?"
"Oh yeah Melinda may have been naïve in a lot of ways, but she was sharper than a razor where elements of the preternatural were concerned." Xena stood and picked up a large towel, wrapping it around Gabrielle as she replaced the showerhead and pulled the plug from the bath. Lifting Gabrielle easily, to stand in front of her and rub her with the towel, she continued her account. "I had to discuss the imprisonment of the demon in Macedonia, which led to a lot of questions from Melinda. Not least of all, she wanted to know why we could pass as twins and how I could possibly know what went on concerning their excavation."
"How much did you tell her?" Gabrielle let the large towel fall and picked up a smaller one to rub her hair briskly.
Xena stooped to pick up Gabrielles discarded towel and draped it over the rack. "It had been a long time since Id trusted a human before knowing everything about them and without holding information back, but I was convinced she could handle knowing me for who I really was. I told her everything, Gabrielle. About you and I, about our existence over the centuries and about what part I played in Macedonia." She went to a tall thin cupboard near the bathroom door and returned with a silk robe for Gabrielle. "When I explained that there should be a binding spell over the excavation area to hold the demon, or perhaps even send it back to where it came from, she was relieved that someone at least had an idea of what needed to be done. I gave her my word wed find the right people to do it."
Gabrielle slipped the robe on and stood with her arms folded. "So you went to the Talisman Circle?"
"The next evening, yeah. And believe me, I was not overly happy about finding them. I knew of their work, recording all events involving the paranormal and the preternatural. I knew they worked with aspects of sorcery, magic and religion, and had a record for just about every myth and legend ever noted. I was sure that if I contacted them theyd want to destroy me, or at the very least would want to dissect me!"
"But you discovered that, in your case, they already knew quite a bit about you, and kept a respectful distance because they saw their role as one of observation, not destruction." Gabrielle grinned mischievously. "Am I right?"
"Hades flames!" Xenas mouth hung open. "You really do know them, dont you! I mean you dont just know of them."
"Yeah, I know them. Only, they approached me about two centuries ago, rather than me looking for them." Gabrielle raked her fingers through her hair, sweeping it back. "But Ill tell you later about that. Go on with your story."
"Well, thats about it, really. Melinda and I had talked almost until dawn, but instead of letting me race back to my home, she offered me a clean, windowless cellar to pass the day in. I must admit, I was a little unsure, but she looked at me with that wise owl expression of hers remember that?"
Gabrielle laughed. "Oh yes, I remember that look!"
"Anyway, she tells me that I couldve waltzed into her home and used her for a night-cap, but didnt! Then she says, it was evident I meant her no harm and had already protected her and Janice in Macedonia, so I could be assured that Id never be harmed or betrayed by her." Xena smiled at the memory. "And she kept her word, from that first dawn, to her final breath last year."
Gabrielle smiled sadly, lamenting the loss of a great friend and a keen mind. "And when did you get to know Janice?"
"Oh, that was on the way back to Macedonia."
Gabrielle frowned, puzzled.
"To put the lid on Ares properly "
"Oh, right!" Gabrielle chuckled, before becoming serious again. "I assume someone from the Talisman Circle went with you?"
"Yeah. As soon as Id made contact with the group in Boston, and explained the situation, they were really helpful." Xena grinned suddenly. "Gods, they were like kids in a sweet store when I turned up with Melinda! So eager to speak with me and obviously itching to ask just about a million questions, but trying hard to come across as calm and reserved about everything. After Id read the thoughts of several people there, I realised they were as true as their word and promised them a set of interviews when we got back from Macedonia. That was the time they invited Melinda to consider working with them in those fields of her own expertise. A few days later, we all met out there and three people performed some kind of cleansing ritual and exorcism over the place. I didnt know then, but before Mel and Janice had taken the scrolls and left the site first time around, Jan had the place wired and blew up the entire site to hold the demon. It was a good move and bought some time, but it wouldnt have held the thing indefinitely. Whatever the Talisman Circle did, I guess it worked because I could actually sense the demons presence when we got there, but I couldnt by the time we left again. After that, I spent some time with Mel and Jan and " She suddenly laughed quietly.
"What? What is it?" Gabrielle adjusted the tied belt of the robe.
"Gabrielle, you know as well as I do just how much those two meant to each other and I didnt so much read their thoughts as let them radiate out to me. It was kinda nice observing their love grow until Janice took the initiative to tell Melinda how she actually felt. Must be in our genes, cos I picked up from them a lot of what you and I felt in the early days, or at least what I felt! You know, all those should I, shouldnt I thoughts and always feeling ten feet tall when you were near me."
"Oh yeah I had them too, you know! Still do." Gabrielle grinned. "When I got to know Mel and Jan in the fifties, they were already together and had that wonderful house over in New England. You were the fortunate one, being able to observe them making the first moves." Gabrielle looked around the bathroom. "Uh, are we gonna spend the day talking in here, or could we maybe "
"Oh, where are my manners!" Xena grinned apologetically. "Cmon, lets move into my chamber, shall we?"
They made their way out of the bathroom and Xena led them back up the stairs to a large cupboard next to the study. Gabrielle watched in amusement as Xena opened the cupboard, leaned in and twisted a small light bulb that had lit up as the door opened. The panel at the back of the cupboard slid silently open to reveal a large, inviting though windowless room, decorated simply. A huge bed, a long couch and a small table with a lamp were the only items of furniture. Like the study, the walls were lined with bookshelves and the table supported a familiar crystal decanter of port and a glass.
"Well, arent you the cloak-and-dagger type suddenly!" Gabrielle sidled up to Xena and placed an arm around her waist.
Xena cast a sideways glance at Gabrielle. "I had this room altered after what happened to Mathias. Maybe it was a bit of an overreaction, but I just figured prevention was better than cure if, in reality, what happened in Italy wasnt so much Mathias allowing it as hunters knowing exactly what they were doing."
Gabrielle nodded slowly. "I suppose its possible. This worlds changed so much in the last hundred years or so, theres no reason to assume those advances havent included more sophisticated ways to get rid of our kind."
"Yeah, thats exactly what I thought So, once in here with the panel locked, it can only be unlocked from the inside. The walls, ceiling and floor, and this door are actually made of solid steel; the whole house could be torched without effecting this room beyond a rise in temperature. Oh yes, and theres a neat little escape hatch in the ceiling, just in case someone works out how to cut through the door. They could start at dawn and still be cutting come nightfall, giving me ample time to get away."
"Sounds great!" Gabrielle laughed. "As long as youre in here when trouble strikes, of course. Wont do you much good if youre grabbed at a gallery, or at some club, maybe."
"Thanks, Gabrielle." Xenas tone was sardonic as she raised an eyebrow. "Like I hadnt thought of that. This is just for when Im sleeping during the day. I think I can still take care of myself at night."
Gabrielle squeezed Xenas waist. "Im kidding! I think this is wonderful, and I know you can take care of yourself during the hours of darkness." She regarded Xena intensely and waited for her gaze to be met. "What Im wondering right now though is, can you take care of me? Here now?" She let go of Xenas waist and brought her hand up to stroke the raven hair tumbling over Xenas shoulder. "And would you really want to get that close to me again, if I actually asked?"
"Gabrielle " Xena tilted her head and briefly closed her eyes, before meeting Gabrielles intense gaze again. "I want to very much. And Ive never been more glad, in two hundred years, to hear you say that." She moved slowly against Gabrielle, pinning her against the wall and pressing into her.
Gabrielle slipped her hand through Xenas hair, clasping the back of her neck and drawing the ancient warriors mouth down to her own. She closed her eyes, wanting only to be enveloped in the desire evidently being restored, and ran her tongue across Xenas lips and teeth, gently at first but quickly becoming more urgent. Xena groaned softly as she granted access to Gabrielles tongue and the kiss deepened. Together they explored the familiar landscape of each others mouth as if territory discovered for the first time. Their breath mingled as they kissed and whispered each others name, breaking contact from time to time only to place further kisses on cheeks, brows and ears, and to nip gently at each others neck. Xena stooped to pick Gabrielle up and carried her into the chamber, where she let her down carefully and they simply held one another tightly.
Eventually, Xena held Gabrielle away from her. "Read my thoughts."
Gabrielle smiled and touched Xenas face. "Yes I do and you restore my soul too. I love you, Xena."
Xena smiled, pulling Gabrielle back into her embrace and kissing her tenderly. As she did so, she reached down to the belt of Gabrielles robe and untied it, letting the robe fall open. Slipping her hand inside, she stroked the side of Gabrielles thigh before reaching round to clasp her buttock and pull Gabrielle more firmly against her.
Gabrielle trembled at the contact and from the feel of Xenas cool silk shirt against her now uncovered breasts and abdomen.
"Cold?" Xena cast a feral glance.
Gabrielle returned the look. "Actually, I feel warm. Decidedly warm Xena, and getting warmer every moment." She brushed a hand up the front of Xenas shirt to cup a breast through the material and stroke the nipple with her thumb, causing it to rise and eliciting a whispered moan from Xenas lips. Encouraged, Gabrielle raised her mouth to Xenas neck, nuzzling and circling her tongue in the hollow of Xenas throat, while her lithe fingers made short work of unbuttoning the front and cuffs of the silk shirt, finally discarding it to let it lie across the couch. Before she could reach for the zip on Xenas leather trousers, Gabrielle felt herself being lifted as Xena slipped her hands around her waist. She gripped Xenas shoulders to steady her ascent and wrapped her legs around the immortals hips.
Pressing into Xena, Gabrielle kissed her hard, nipping her bottom lip as she tangled her fingers through raven locks and stroked Xenas neck. "Weve got a couple of centuries to make up for, havent we? Thats a long wait, Xena."
"Too long." Xena whispered.
Gabrielle smiled and brought a hand to Xenas face, kissing her passionately before breaking the contact again and leaning back. "I dont want to wait another minute of another century!" She looked over her shoulder to find the couch was closer than the bed. "There my love." Gabrielle jerked her head in that direction and Xena didnt need to be asked a second time.
Letting her burden down onto the couch, Xena quickly dropped to her knees and leaned over Gabrielle to kiss her way down her neck and shoulders, gently capturing a breast between her lips and suckling for a time. Gabrielle sighed contentedly to feel the soft heat of Xenas tongue running across her breast, circling and toying with the nipple before moving her attention to the other breast. Gradually, Xena grazed across Gabrielles ribs and midriff, planting tender kisses as she moved, reacquainting herself with each inch of the pale, silky skin she never thought to be close to again. Dipping her tongue into the hollow of Gabrielles navel, Xenas own contented sigh was echoed by Gabrielles audible murmurs of pleasure, and she continued to toy with this small sunken button while her hands travelled down to caress the calves and thighs she knelt between. Eventually, Xena raised herself up and returned to kiss the lips that whispered gentle and long-missed endearments, before repeating her sojourn with Gabrielles neck, shoulders, breasts and abdomen once more. Continuing her slow descent, Xena ran a hand across Gabrielles mound of soft curls, eliciting a gasp of pleasure from its owner. She smiled and rested her cheek there, soothed by the mossy texture she could again caress, and thrilled by the shiver she could feel run through Gabrielle in anticipation of her more intimate touch. She again dropped her hand to Gabrielles leg, kneading the firm flesh from ankle to thigh, while she continued to nuzzle until her own hunger to pleasure Gabrielle caused her to move on. Running her hands along Gabrielles thighs, she raised each leg over her shoulders and greeted her now exposed coral opening, breathing in the sweet earthy aroma of Gabrielles arousal.
As Xenas lips and tongue sank into her moist folds, Gabrielle moaned loudly and trembled involuntarily, reaching above her head with both hands to grasp the back of the couch. "Oh gods, yes! Ive missed your touch so much Xena!" She began to rock her hips, matching the firm caresses of Xenas tongue against the length of her opening and already sensitised clitoris, knowing it would take little time for her orgasm to hit. Reaching a hand out to rest on Xenas head, she watched through hooded eyes as the dark-haired vampire continued to pleasure her, Xenas own eyes closed in concentration and enjoyment of this renewed intimacy. Gabrielle sensed her climax nearing rapidly. "Xena! Oh gods, yes!" She breathed in sharply and threw her head back as her release rushed through her.
Xena held Gabrielles bucking hips tightly, draining every last spasm from the immortal she had longed to hold and love again. Gradually, the muscular ripples subsided and Xena slowed her ministrations, coming to a halt and kissing Gabrielles thighs, mound and abdomen. She rested her chin against Gabrielles thigh and sighed happily as she looked up to find Gabrielle lying with her eyes closed, a gentle smile settling on her lips. "I hope youll accept that as a real welcome home?" She watched Gabrielles stomach rise and fall quickly as the blonde-haired vampire chuckled silently.
"I feel welcomed home, Xena." Gabrielle opened her eyes, propping herself up on an elbow and reaching out with the other hand to stroke Xenas hair. "Thank you I love you. And I have missed you."
"I love you too, but " Xena caught Gabrielles hand and kissed the fingers, running her tongue over the tips. "Wanna show me how much youve missed me?"
"Mmm definitely!" Gabrielle threw Xena a mischievous grin. Getting up, she bent over and picked Xena up effortlessly; an action all but impossible in mortal days, but given little thought now. She cradled Xena in her arms and carried her to the bed where she laid her down and stepped onto the bed to stand at Xenas feet. She removed her robe slowly, intentionally provoking the growing arousal in her partner and allowed the garment to slip off the bed and onto the floor. Smiling serenely, Gabrielle raised a hand.
Xena wondered for a moment what Gabrielle was up to until she realised the stud and zip of her leather trousers were unfastening of their own accord and the laces of her boots were untying. "Oh, very clever Gabrielle! Youve have learned some party tricks, havent you!" She laughed heartily and reached out, grabbing Gabrielles wrist and pulling her down to lie on top of her. "So what else have you learned?"
"Nothing of any interest without you to share it, my love." Gabrielle kissed Xena soundly before raising herself on her knees to help Xena kick off her boots and wriggle out of her leather trousers. Kneeling forward, she leaned over Xena, running her tongue over her navel and across her ribs to capture a breast between her lips and toy with the nipple while her hand lightly circled the other breast.
Xena grunted softly and moved down the bed to establish contact between Gabrielles cool thigh and her own steadily heating centre. She dug her heels into the bed to lift her hips slightly and rock against Gabrielle while she waited for a more definite caress from her partner. Her look of frustration was evident as Gabrielle shifted her weight and moved away.
"Just as impatient as ever, I see!" Gabrielle cast a feral look at Xena, but her jaw dropped at the expression of sheer lust that greeted her.
"Gabrielle you told me you couldnt wait another minute of another century." Xenas tone was deep and sensual, though bordering on being threatening as she bared her fangs, sending a shiver of excitement through Gabrielle. "Do you now dare make me wait my love?" She lifted a hand to softly trail her fingernails across Gabrielles throat. "Are you teasing me?"
"No, Xena " Gabrielle swallowed hard, sensing her own arousal building once again. "Im not teasing you I wouldnt do that!" She fell forward, kissing Xena passionately as she raked a hand down through thick raven curls. She circled agile fingers across Xenas swollen nub and slipped two then three fingers into the hot, velvet centre eagerly awaiting attention. Gabrielle breathed in sharply. "Oh gods, you feel wonderful, Xena!" She found her rhythm and began thrusting into her rediscovered lover, slowly at first, but increasing her pace as Xena clamped her ankles around the back of Gabrielles thighs, raising her hips for a better angle.
Xena closed her eyes, thrilling at the energy pulsing at her core and radiating through her. She knew well these unique feelings; that they could only come from Gabrielle, and that they were borne from the depth and longing of their love for each other. It had been a love she could never completely fathom in her mortal days or through their preternatural existence together, even when the two of them bitterly turned away from one another; and she doubted she ever would fully understand it now. She closed her eyes, concentrating on matching Gabrielle thrust for thrust. The movements between them were so well practised and unforgotten, little concentration was necessary, but Xena had missed this beloved touch and wanted to relish each movement and every moment. As Xenas inner walls became drenched, she felt Gabrielle plunge more deeply into her and gasped at the sensation of being filled. "Dont stop! Yes Gabrielle oh gods, dont stop!" Her head butted against her pillow as she rocked harder against Gabrielles thrusting, sensing her impending orgasm which exploded moments later. "Unngh yes!" She bucked powerfully against Gabrielle, relying on her lovers strength to prevent them from falling off the bed as she rode through the crest of her climax.
Gabrielle gazed lovingly at Xena in the throes of her rapture. She had never grown tired of watching her ancient warrior at these times and loved the sensation of Xenas inner muscles contracting, clutching at her fingers and squeezing them. It thrilled her deeply to know she was the cause of Xenas urgent cries and her release of passion; and she felt relief wash over her as she recognised that the intimacy lost, for three centuries, was now truly restored.
Xena felt free. More than that, she felt whole again. "Dear gods I love you, Gabrielle! Thank you for coming back to me." She unlatched her ankles and let herself relax onto the bed again, stroking Gabrielles chin and neck as she looked into the green eyes riveted on her.
"Thank you for letting me come back, Xena." Gabrielle stretched out against Xena, resting her head against the vampires chest. "You and I will never be parted again, whatever happens."
"Is that a promise? I hope its a promise."
"No, not a promise. Just a simple statement of fact."
"Good. That suits me just fine." Xena lifted a hand to stroke Gabrielles hair as they lapsed into silence for a short time. "Gabrielle tell me how you came into contact with the Talisman Circle."
"Goodness it all seems so long ago now! America was still young really, George the Third reigned here, the French Revolution was in full flow and slavery, illness and other atrocities were rife in Europe. At that time, I had a mansion and loyal familiars in Strasbourg. Out of nowhere, I suddenly got this visit from two well-respected men of a local town. They explained that they were watchers for the Talisman Circle and knew that I was a vampire." Absent-mindedly, Gabrielle had begun to caress one of Xenas breasts.
Xena sighed in response and stroked the back of Gabrielles neck. The movements from each of them were more comforting than arousing, as neither now wanted to be distracted from the recounting of Gabrielles tale.
"I invited them in, content that I could easily dispatch them if they tried anything, but they quickly pointed out that they had no intention of trying to harm me and had actually come to ask for my help. Well, you can imagine I was intrigued by the whole bizarre situation humans seeking the help of a vampire!" Gabrielle chuckled. "But then again, I knew nothing of the Talisman Circle back then. What it came down to was that, in a neighbouring land, the people were being terrorised by a vampire. It seemed to have come out of nowhere and was randomly feeding, every few nights or so, on the villages in the area."
"It, Gabrielle? What do you mean, it?" Xena slowly propped herself up on an elbow, allowing Gabrielle to roll to one side.
"Xena, this was nothing like our kind! It was mindless and brutal, with no reason for existence other than to feed, kill and sleep; and most of those it killed seemed to be innocents. I had no idea such a creature actually existed, apart from in myths or in the nightmares of haunted mortals. Even vrykolakas, empusas and lamiae are civilised in comparison!" Gabrielle shook her head. "To this day, I dont know if it was some kind of animated corpse or an insignificant demon infesting a dead human, but it wasnt like us in any sense. The Talisman Circle wanted me to either send it away or destroy it for the sake of the villages and for the sake of respect between the Talisman Circle and our kind. I know now, the group was young then and they were uncertain what they were actually dealing with, with this creature."
Xena drew lazy patterns with her index finger across Gabrielles shoulder and down her arm. "So, what did you do?"
"Initially, I found it and tried to talk to it reason with it, I suppose."
"So like you!" Xena grinned.
"Yeah, well I dont think it even registered I was anything other than an evening meal. It didnt speak, it just looked at me then after a while it screamed and ran at me. Gods, Xena its breath was foetid and it just stank of rot and decay! Truly, the foulest thing Ive ever crossed. Anyway it wasnt powerful in any sense, though it was stronger than a human; Id taken a short sword with me and I decapitated the thing and burned it where I found it. A few nights later, I was visited again by the same men who contacted me before and I told them the villages would suffer no more tragedy at the hands of the monster."
Xena smiled. "So they never viewed you as a monster, Gabrielle?"
"On the contrary Xena, the Talisman Circle helped establish a respectable cover for me." Gabrielle laughed. "Maybe if Id fed frequently and locally, things would have been different, but I never fed too close to my own doorstep and I never fed in the same place more than once in a half year."
"Very wise." Xena grinned.
"I thought so." Gabrielle returned the expression.
"And the professors?" Xena began stroking Gabrielle from her arm, down to her lower back and hip, lightly brushing her buttock before returning to her arm.
"What about them?" Gabrielle was thinking of ending the conversation in favour of making love again.
Xena recognised Gabrielles tone for what it was, but wanted to hear the remainder of Gabrielles tale before turning to physical pleasures again. "How did you actually get to know Melinda and Janice?"
"Oh, right that." Although disappointment sounded in her voice from the delayed intimacy, Gabrielles mood quickly lightened as she talked about her relationship with Professors Covington and Pappas. "It was by accident I discovered they had my scrolls, Xena. During the fifties, I was reading a lot about archaeological discoveries in Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia. In the summer of 1952, I was looking for I think it was for an exhibition of the Tutankhamun treasures, when I found this small advert for a presentation by Doctor Pappas of the so called Xena Scrolls, uncovered by Doctor Covington and herself in 1940. Needless to say, I was enthralled by the whole idea of how modern archaeology would interpret my accounts of your adventures, let alone being amazed to find the scrolls had actually survived! I went to the presentation, which I found to be pretty accurate on the whole, and amusing for the remainder. A few nights later I was finally able to make contact with Doctor Covington and we met shortly after."
"You told her who you were?" Xena stopped stoking Gabrielle, suddenly completely drawn in to Gabrielles story.
"I didnt, actually. She was very suspicious though, about how I came to know so much about the scrolls, and she wasnt blind to the fact that we looked identical."
"That sounds like Janice!"
"Mmm anyway, it was actually Mel who clicked. She took one look at me, another at her watch and asked me if Id like to stay with them, come dawn! Can you believe that? This would be a few nights after meeting Janice for the first time. I guess Jan decided I was okay and invited me to have dinner with her and Mel. Oh Xena, you can just imagine! There was Jan scratching her head and asking Melinda what in Sam Hill she was on about, and theres me, diving into Professor Pappas thoughts to find out how she could possibly know what I was!"
"And you discovered ?" Xena offered a wry grin.
"Diddley squat! Melinda blocked me as you probably well know! Its one of the first things she learned from the Talisman Circle." Gabrielle laughed. "Well, I was impressed, if a little disconcerted. I had no idea of her connection to the group at the time. When she smiled sweetly and explained to Jan that I was Gabrielle of Poteidaia, Jan cursed in her usual colourful way and said she shouldve realised. We hit it off from that moment on."
"Im surprised Jan, in her usual cynicism, didnt just flat out disbelieve it all!" Xena raised an eyebrow.
Gabrielle cast Xena a sideways glance. "Well after I discovered Mel was involved with the Talisman Circle, I realised theyd both experienced some pretty strange stuff in the preternatural world and had no problem dealing with the truth about me. And they already knew you, of course not that they told me. They never let on about how close they were to you, only that they had heard of your existence because of the group."
"Yeah." Xena smiled sadly. "I suppose they thought it was safest not to let either one of us know just how well they knew us both. They wouldve never placed us in danger, including danger from each other. They knew of the problems between us and I guess they decided it was best not to let on."
Gabrielle nodded. "Its a shame, though. Mel only ever referred to her sources when she explained how she knew who I was, and I never pursued it. I simply accepted that their understanding came from my scrolls and from the Talisman Circle, since it was steeped in history and knowledge."
"Me too. Thats why I didnt push it when I realised they both knew about you."
Gabrielle smiled and shook her head and sighed heavily. "I wish they could have lived to see us back together." She rested her head against Xenas chest again.
"So do I."
"I uh I wanted to turn Mel, after Janice died."
"Yes." Gabrielle raised her head. "Actually, I would have turned Jan, to save her from dying, but she and Mel wouldnt let me."
"I guess they didnt."
Gabrielle frowned. "Xena, you dont sound very surprised by all this."
Xena smiled warmly and met Gabrielles gaze. "I wanted to turn Jan too, when I found out just how ill she was. Perhaps it was selfish of me, I dont know, but I loved them both very much and I didnt want to see either one of them lose the other and I couldnt bear the idea of losing Jan because of mortality." She paused and raised a hand to Gabrielles face. "I know you and she were very different in many ways, but in others you were so alike. I didnt want to let go of her."
Gabrielle placed a hand over Xenas wrist and grinned. "I suppose you had the same conversation with them that I did?"
Xena chuckled softly. "The one where Jan pointed out how no damned vampires gonna sink its friggin fangs into me! and Melinda confirming how the life style of some lil old vampire simply wouldnt be right or proper for us, thank you kindly You mean that conversation?"
Gabrielle couldnt help giggling. "Almost word for word."
"I think Mels depth of faith dictated that death and eternal life should follow on from mortal years and be the natural order of things." Xena sighed. "She wouldnt have given so much as a passing thought to the idea of an immortal existence, even if offered to her on a plate. Janice generally felt the same."
Gabrielle nodded. "Strange how all that never seemed to conflict with their love for you or me."
"Melinda wouldve probably reasoned that there was no point crying over spilled milk. You and I were already there, so it was a case of either getting to know us or staying away."
"Im glad they chose to put up with us." Gabrielle smiled. "I miss them though, Xena. I miss them both very much."
"Yeah, me too." Xena stroked Gabrielles hair, then sat up to observe Gabrielle. "Youre starting to look pale after our exertions." She grinned. "When did you last feed?"
"Oh, just over a week ago. I was actually about to feed last night, but I lost my quarry in a club near the pier and then I " Gabrielle smiled warmly at Xena. "Thats when I sensed you, Xena, and followed you."
Xena cocked her head to one side. "You followed me?"
"Yeah look, Im sorry. I know "
"You watched me feed?"
"I didnt want to lose sight of you after finding you by pure chance!" Gabrielle suddenly felt defensive.
"Its okay, Gabrielle, Im not annoyed at you or anything, its just " Xena frowned. "I had the strangest feeling that you were near, but you blocked my senses?"
"Yes." Gabrielle dropped her gaze.
"But how did you do that?" Xena grinned suddenly and reached out to lift Gabrielles chin with a finger. "Im impressed."
Gabrielle gradually returned the smile. "Well, while youve spent time following the advances of technology, I delved into some ancient texts courtesy of the Talisman Circle." It was Gabrielles turn to tilt her head to one side and observe Xena with a grin. "Its actually not that difficult to learn and its come in handy from time to time when I havent wanted to intrude into the territory of another immortal."
Xena nodded slowly. "So did you notice the innocent I left untouched? She was one of your kin."
"Yes I did, Xena. Rowan is her name and she was actually the reason I was around this area in the first place."
"I thought you kept an eye on your descendants from time to time."
"Yeah. Well, it seems shes a smart kid whos into archaeology and ancient texts. Shes studying classics at university here and the Talisman Circles more than a little interested in her and her development if she sticks with her chosen field."
"Because shes related to you not to mention the fact shes also the dead spit of you?" Xena raised an eyebrow.
Gabrielle chuckled. "Well I guess that may have something to do with it, but its more likely to be her IQ of around one-ninety and the fact she wants to follow in the footsteps of Great Aunt Melinda!"
Xena closed her eyes and laughed as she shook her head. "I might have guessed." She looked up at Gabrielle and studied her intently for a few moments. "Shame her IQ didnt stop her from mixing with a local villain. Still, talk of your descendant is not gonna get you fed, is it?"
"Xena, academic genius and street naivety arent mutually exclusive, you know you only had to look at Mel sometimes to realise that!" Gabrielle grinned. "Youre right, though, I do need to feed tonight no doubt you know one or two places of interest and good eating?"
"Yeah, I do." Xena checked her watch. "Theres still a good eight hours of daylight or so to go I suggest we rest in the old traditional way for the remaining daylight."
"Sure but first theres something we need to do." Gabrielle rested a hand on Xenas shoulder.
"Each other a few more times."
Xena smiled and leaned closer. "Ive got no objections to that."
The club on Kings Road was dark, with a base beat that slammed and echoed in the chests of those either dancing or pressed up against the bar. Dimly lit corners revealed a few scattered tables occupied by various couples engrossed either in conversation or in locking their tongues and lips together while their hands roamed below the table. The over all ambience of the club was one of seediness.
"Good company youre keeping these days, Xena!" Gabrielle shouted over the music as she breathed in the aroma of sweat, alcohol and young blood.
Xena smiled and leaned over as she raised her voice. "It serves its purpose!"
Gabrielle caught Xenas hand and squeezed. "Over there! That corner, red shirt at least, in this light its red!"
Xena looked over to where Gabrielle nodded and observed a casually dressed, dark-haired man leaning against the wall and drinking a beer. Evidently on his own, but looking to change that, his attention was caught by Xena and Gabrielle and he raised his bottle in their direction, acknowledging their presence.
"I think hell do nicely." Gabrielle pulled Xena towards her and spoke directly into her ear. "Have you read his thoughts? Not quite the type to take home to meet mother!"
"Yeah, sweet man." Xena rested a hand on Gabrielles shoulder. "Standing there, bold as you like, after killing his business partner a couple of days ago."
"Its what hes been doing to his nieces that got me did you catch that?"
Xena sank deeper into the mans thoughts. "Bastard! Well, at least theres a couple of kids who wont miss his grubby frame all over them." She squeezed Gabrielles shoulder. "With a little luck, people will think his disappearance is down to him doing a runner. He already thinks the police know his partners car crash wasnt an accident."
"Doing a runner?"
Xena shrugged. "Running off! Running away! Its what people say around here."
"Youve lived here too long!" Gabrielle grinned.
"Uh huh? Just go grab your meal, Gabrielle. Ill meet you out the back."
Gabrielle watched Xena walk towards the back of the club and disappear through a fire exit. Turning her attention back to her chosen prey, she raised a hand in greeting and walked over to him.
"My lucky night, tonight! Whatcha drinkin?" The man let his eyes travel up and down the blond vision in front of him.
"Oh, nothing thank you. I dont really drink beer or spirits!" Gabrielle called over the music.
"Wise. Very wise!" The dark-haired man gestured with his beer. "Dont wanna get out of control in a place like this, especially if youre by yourself you are by yourself, arent you? I mean, that six-foot Amazon you just walked in with is just a mate, right? Youre both here to find a bit of fun, yeah? Both out for a good time?" He shouted.
Gabrielle grinned at the choice of six-foot Amazon to describe Xena. "A good time yes, were both out for a good time. And I suppose I am by myself well, I was before I saw you, of course!"
"Oh, cool!" The man nodded enthusiastically. "Names Stuart, by the way!"
"Gabrielle. Nice to meet you, Stuart."
"Likewise, Gabrielle. Thats a great name!" He let his eyes wander again. "For a great body!"
Gabrielle began to feel a little bored with the company now leering at her, and extremely hungry for the only possession he had that interested her. "If you dont think it too forward of me could we go out for some fresh air? Besides, we wont have to shout all the time outside!"
"Sure, sounds great to me." The man finished his beer and thumped the bottle down on a nearby table. As he brought his hand back he patted his breast pocket to check he hadnt forgotten to pack two or three condoms. "Shall we ?" He gestured towards the fire exit, used earlier by Xena, and allowed himself a smug grin as he watched Gabrielle move past him.
Gabrielle smiled broadly and led the way out of the club. She walked slowly past a few parked cars, sensing Xena close by. Looking up, she saw her leaning against the back wall of the club, shrouded in shadows and well hidden from human eyes. Gabrielle smiled to herself, enjoying the thought of being watched over and protected by her immortal beloved while she fed, just like the familiar habit they had often shared so long ago. She purposely stopped by one of the parked cars; a red BMW convertible. It had the scent of her prey all over it and evidently belonged to him. Typical! Gabrielle snorted to herself. She thought the car served little purpose beyond trying to impress and entice.
"Great car right? Shes all mine." Gabrielles prey trailed a hand lovingly across the drivers wing. "Could tell a story or two about me, she could." He laughed loudly, a nasal laugh that grated. "So lets sit you up here shall we?" He moved to grab Gabrielles waist, intending to lift her onto the same wheel arch hed just stroked. "We both know what weve really come out here for."
Gabrielle laughed as she swatted his hands away, then picked him up and sat him over the wheel arch.
"Hell, youre strong!"
"Thats right, Stuart. Im even stronger than you!" Gabrielle rested her palms on his knees and grinned. "And you may think you know what weve come out here for, but Ive got a little surprise for you." She pushed his knees apart and moved in closer.
"Oh fuck, it really is my lucky night! I knew you had class when I set eyes on you. You gonna give me a blow job? Is that what you wanna do to me?"
"Something like that." Gabrielle stroked his face. "Thats nice I do like a man who knows how to shave properly. Cant stand stubble!" She leaned towards him and nuzzled his neck, running the tip of her tongue along the line of his jugular vein.
He tipped his head back slightly. "Oh yeah, thats great. Ya know Im ready. Ready when you are, babe."
"Thats excellent, because Im more than ready!" Gabrielle grabbed a handful of her preys dark hair, yanking back his head to expose more of the throat and sank her fangs deeply into his neck.
He gasped and cried out in pain as he tried to struggle out of Gabrielles clutches, but the iron grip holding him was immovable. Fear clouded his eyes and judgement as he kicked out at air and flailed his arms, clawing pitifully at his assailants shoulders and hair.
Gabrielle closed her eyes and drank hungrily, flooding her mouth and gulping the precious liquid into her stomach, not stopping to savour the flavour. Whatever attempt her victim made to escape came to nothing and eventually his struggling slowed, then ceased altogether. As Gabrielle felt the heart reach its final few beats, she stopped feeding and drew back to lick her lips. Contrary to the opinion of some celluloid and literature, the vampire is not a frenzied, messy feeder. A self-respecting vampire would never waste the life force so readily depended upon and, as such, Gabrielle didnt spill a single drop of blood. As for her victim, apart from the two small puncture wounds on his neck and a lack of colour, he appeared asleep rather than dead from the draining of his vital fluid.
"Well that was entertaining." Xena stepped out of the shadows. "Had enough, or do you need another?"
"Ive had more than enough, thanks." Gabrielle smiled sincerely before nodding towards the car. "Is this a problem? Its his."
"No, its no problem." Xena picked up the corpse and handed it to Gabrielle after rifling through the pockets to retrieve a set of car keys. "If you can deal with the empty Ill lose the car. Ill dump it somewhere and torch it itll support the idea that he ran off."
"Okay." Gabrielle lifted the body to her shoulder and began to rise slowly into the air. "See you back at your home?"
"Yeah, see you there." Xena opened the car door and looked up with a smile. "Be careful."
"Always!" Gabrielle called back. Reaching rooftop level, her keen eyes searched around and located a few people walking along the pavement. She waited for them to pass, then watched Xena backing the car away from the club, suddenly realising cars had not been invented when they had last been together. Shifting the corpse to her other shoulder, she soared quickly into the night to deal with the body as she had done countless times over the centuries.
Less than two hours later, Xena and Gabrielle were sharing a hot bath and beginning to catch up on everything each other had done over the past three centuries or so. They made plans to incorporate their respective businesses and decided to unify their dealings with the Talisman Circle. They appreciated that the group would no doubt celebrate their being reunited.
End Of Part 1.
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