VIOLENCE/SEX: Well, duh. This is about a Warrior Princess and a bleeping War God and takes place during one of the bloodiest times in history. Sex...er..um..Nothing that requires ice but probably nothing you would want to read aloud to gramma, either. Unless gramma is cool with two women discovering they are in love with one another. Highlight on the discovering in this one. Not the acting on said discovery.
SPECIAL NOTE: There is some talk in this one about rape and that is a topic that some would prefer not to read about. I can only tell you that, because of events in my own life, I would NEVER misuse this word or topic. There will be no graphic scenes in this regard to make one squirm. Not my thing. Just wanted to tell you in advance that the word and threat is here.
FEEDBACK: I can be reached by email at: SamanthaeRuskin@gmail.com. Try to be nice but if you thought is stunk, feel free to say so. I will listen and try to do better next time.
This is the sequel to In Her Dreams. It would definitely help to read that first.
Oh, yeah. I am a woman. Big deal.
And this version has been re-edited by me. No major changes. Just a bit of clean-up.
Nestled snugly into the light blanket, Gabrielle began to wake. She smiled at the touch of the tiny, soft hand upon her midsection. There was a dusty rose color rising with the sun as she turned her head in the direction of the touch. Eve had tugged her little self along one of the bodies she loved so well, and was now depositing a drooling "kiss" upon Gabrielle's navel. Lifting the tiny package, the bard smiled.
"I don't suppose you could teach your mother to do that? No? I didn't think so."
The Bard's nose wrinkled as she chuckled softly.
"Hmmm. Let's get you cleaned up and let the big, bad warrior sleep. What do you think?"
Placing a kiss on Eve's forehead, Gabrielle cuddled the infant she loved so dearly.
"You know? You're a great listener Evie. Not to mention the only living soul I can actually tell that I'm in love with your Mother. You won't tell her now? Promise?"
"Tell her what?" Xena asked, stretching her limbs and groaning.
Gabrielle spun around so fast Eve clutched a handful of hair. "Yeow! Sorry Evie, didn't mean to scare ya. You okay, sweetie?"
"Sure. She's all right. Those are your blonde locks she's clutching in those tight little fists, not hers." Xena could barely contain her laughter at the sight of her child grasping whole handsful of the bard's hair.
"Here, sweetheart. Come to Momma."
"Hey! That hand is attached, in case you hadn't noticed."
Gabrielle kissed the tiny hand, as she gently removed it from her head. "You can keep the hair, Evie. What's a bald head between friends? Right?" She leaned in so she could whisper in the baby's ear: "Just remember to keep our secret."
A wet hand grabbed the bard's nose, as more baby drool was generously awarded a nearby cheek.
"I'll take that as a yes", Gabrielle giggled.
Xena rearranged the sleeping shift to accommodate her daughter and set about the routine of feeding Eve. Once the child was settled in and sucking away, Xena looked up. Soft morning light embraced Gabrielle's face, something Xena feared she would never be able to do. At least, not the way she longed to touch that face.
Warm green eyes watched Eve, with such love and tenderness, Xena had to look away; lest the tears she felt forming betray her secret. Pretending to stretch her right arm, she brushed the newly formed tears away and turned back to her dearest friend.
"Well, Gabrielle, what would you like to do today?"
Gabrielle didn't hear a word. She was completely lost in watching Eve at her mother's breast. The infant was making the most adorable noises and had reached up a tiny hand to caress the breast she was not using at the moment. She had snuggled into her mother and Gabrielle couldn't remember ever seeing anything so beautiful in her entire life.
"Mmmm?" Looking up, she was embarrassed at being caught watching such a personal moment. "Sorry, Xena. I didn't hear you. What did you say?"
"She is cute, isn't she?" Xena couldn't help smiling.
"Yes, she is. Beyond cute, but...well..."
Nervous now, Xena raised her eyebrow. "Well what? What is it?"
"You're just so beautiful, Xena." Gasping. Damn, now I've done it. " I mean. Oh Hades, Xena. Why should this embarrass me? Surely, by now, you know I think you're beautiful? "
Now it was the warrior's turn to blush. "Well, I ...I mean.. Yeah, I guess I do but..."
Sitting on the ground next to the two people who meant the world to her, Gabrielle took a deep breath.
"I don't think I have ever seen you look so happy. So contented. So much at peace as you are when you're feeding Evie. Is that how you feel?"
Xena rubbed her right hand across her cheek and took a moment to think before answering. "I never thought about it but yeah, I guess that IS how I feel. Content. Peaceful. Happy. Yes, that's how I feel when I'm feeding Evie."
Reaching over to touch Gabrielle's leg, she looked into her friend's emerald eyes. "But that's not the only time I'm happy. Gabrielle: content, peaceful, happy...these words weren't even part of my world. Then you came into my life. YOU make me happy, Gabrielle. Very happy. Don't you know that by now?"
Gently, Xena moved Eve so that she could finish her breakfast at the other breast. For just a moment she thought she saw something in Gabrielle's eyes. No, she assured herself. Just wishful thinking. Back to reality, Warrior Princess, before she hears you thinking and slaps your face.
Suddenly, there stood Artemis. No balls of light or fanfare. She stood quietly. Tall and proud and patient, waiting to be noticed. It didn't take long.
"By the gods! Sorry Artemis. What's wrong? Has something happened with the amazons?"
"Breathe, Gabrielle." Artemis smiled. Once again she was reminded just why this incredible woman was her Cchosen.
"Well, geez. It's not like YOU show up that often and...okay, I'm breathing. Now what has happened to my amazon sisters? That is it, isn't it? Please don't tell me I have lost anyone else?"
Xena had finished feeding a now sleeping Eve, and laid her snugly into Gabrielle's bedroll. She gently placed a hand on the bard's right shoulder, getting her attention. Looking into worried green eyes, she smiled to reassure her friend everything was going to be all right.
"Gabrielle. Whatever it is, we will deal with it. Okay?"
Artemis watched, with great interest, the immediate relaxing of the bard's shoulder muscles and noted that her jaw had unclenched.
"Okay, Xena. You're right. Whatever it is we'll get through it. Artemis..."
The air to the left of Artemis lit up with thousands of pink, silver and golden sparkles. Artemis rolled her eyes. The shimmering faded and there stood Aphrodite. "Sorry I'm late."
"As well you should be. I just got Gabrielle breathing normally again and here you come with the gods-be-damned light show. What is it with some of you? Why all the ...nevermind. We don't have long and we're wasting time."
Gabrielle looked at Xena who raised her eyebrow and shrugged her mighty shoulders. Together, they turned to face the uninvited goddesses.
"Look, sweet pea. I'm sorry I was late but I got interrupted."
At this, Artemis grew a worry line. "Aphrodite. It wasn't?"
"Yes it was and he's suspicious of us. We don't have much time so we better just warn them and, like, beat it on out of here."
"Warn us?! Artemis, what's going on?" Xena's hand had now reached around the bard's shoulders protectively. She wasn't about to let go, either.
"Look, Xena. Ares said you have part of the rib of Cronos. Is it true and by all that is holy please tell me it is."
Tartarus! Artemis WANTED her to have the rib? Now even Xena was having trouble breathing. She nodded.
"Good. Don't let it out of your sight." Turning to face the bard, she spoke more gently. "Gabrielle, we have all known for a long time about Ares and his raping..."
"Whoa. Lighten up, Artie. Rape is such an ugly word." Aphrodite couldn't really argue it's veracity, but she cringed at it's use in the same sentence as her brother's name.
"It certainly is. And it applies. And you know it. Now hush so we can get this done." Artemis gently touched Gabrielle's hand and looked into the warrior's blue eyes. "Like I said, we have all known about the way our brother enters the dreams of mortal women and ...sorry Dite, rapes them. We didn't know he planned on ...thank you, Xena. If I had known I would have saved you that confrontation and killed the immortal little bastard myself. What with Zeus gone and all, Ares is a little out of control."
"Excuse me? A LITTLE out of control?" The love goddess was uncharacteristically serious.
"Okay. He is way out of control. And he has some sort of evil plan cooked up to destroy the two of you, once and for all."
"Look, Ares knows where he can find me. If he wants me, tell him to come ahead; but leave Gabrielle out of this." Xena pulled her friend closer.
Artemis smiled. "No Xena. He wants to destroy BOTH of you and his plan, from what we can tell, gets real ugly. Damned overgrown War God is no longer content to just KILL one or even both of you. He's cooked up something that he believes will destroy each of you, at your very core. Then, he plans to kill you, while you watch one another suffer. He was really pissed when you stopped his fun with my Chosen. I am forever in your debt on that one, Xena. I didn't see it coming at all. I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I would NEVER have let Ares rape you. I hope you believe me."
Xena had never seen Artemis so distraught and concerned about the feelings of a mortal. Even an amazon. She tried to piece things together.
"Okay. So if I have this right, Ares is planning to do something awful to each of us while the other one is forced to endure it, helplessly. Gods, he never learns. There is no way I am gonna let him hurt Gabrielle and I think we all know what he plans to do to her. So help me I will cut...."
Artemis chuckled. "If he so much as breathes on her, Xena, I will personally hold him down for you."
Up went the eyebrow. Gabrielle snickered and shivered simultaneously.
"Your turn, Love Goddess. No fancy poetry this time. Cut to the chase before we get caught."
"Ok. Here goes. Artie and I have figured out there is only one way the two of you can defeat Ares without killing him. Not that we object to your killing him, at this point, mind you. Trouble is, by the time Xena gets close enough to kill him he could...well let's not even go there. Gabrielle. Xena. There IS a power on earth that is stronger than Ares. Stronger than any of us gods, really. Even stronger than all of us together. You both know this. What you don't know is how to harness and use the power."
"Let me guess," Xena smirked. "Aphrodite is here so we must be talking about love. Well, Gabrielle, you always said love was the answer." The smile she gave the bard was tender, yet deadly serious.
"It is. But it isn't quite that simple. In order to defeat Ares' and his evil plan. ...and we should tell you, he has some help in this from some of the others who figure they've got nothing left to lose; with this twilight thing and all. To defeat Ares this time you will need ALL of your love, and you will need to focus it."
Xena and Gabrielle looked at one another, puzzled to their boots.
"Look, Aphrodite and I had hoped to give you two as long as you needed to resolve this, on your own; but there just isn't any time left. I'm sorry to take the romance out of things."
"Huh?" One word, two voices.
"Tell them, Love Goddess or I will!"
"OKAY. I hate this. You know I hate this, Artemis. Xena. Gabrielle. Please listen and... don't get mad. By rights, you should be able to take as long as you need to get around to telling one another how you really feel."
Two mouths opened and groped at the air, trying desperately to fill two sets of lungs.
"Yeah, well, sometimes life sucks and I WILL get Ares for this if it's the last thing I do. Anyway, you can only defeat Ares through the power of your love and if you keep pretending not to love each other he will win for sure."
"Pretending we don't love each other? What are you talking about? Gabrielle knows I love her. Don't you?"
"Of course. You know I love you, don't you?"
Aphrodite looked at Artemis and sighed. Artemis nodded and urged her to continue.
"I'm sorry. Gotta get past the fears now ladies or Ares will rape each of you while the other is forced to watch and..."
Xena pulled Gabrielle so tightly the bard winced; while, at the same time, her jaw was clenched so tightly her temples bulged.
"Great Zeus! Artie! Did you absolutely have to tell them that?"
"Get on with it, Aphrodite. We're running out of time and I'm running out of patience."
"We all know you love each other. That isn't going to cut it this time. Not because love isn't enough but because fear and doubt cancel out much of love's power. Xena?"
Swallowing hard, as if she knew what was about to be said: "Yeah?"
"You're afraid to tell Gabrielle you're in love with her because you doubt she shares your feelings and you fear she will reject and then leave you. Does that about cover it?"
Pulling out of the warrior's grasp, so she could turn and face her, Gabrielle trembled.
"Is this true, Xena?"
If icy blue eyes could kill a god, poor Aphrodite would be dead where she glimmered. The stare was not totally lost on Artemis either, who shocked even Gabrielle by taking Aphrodite's hand.
Tapping her booted foot, Gabrielle was doing some glaring of her own.
"Well, Xena? I asked you a question, Warrior Princess. Is this TRUE?!"
A tiny half nodding movement of her head and another swallow later, the ex-warlord knew she had better answer the bard.
"Now, Gabrielle, don't be mad. Please. I give you my word I would never have acted on those feelings. I...
The two goddesses exchanged knowing looks but neither Xena nor Gabrielle noticed.
Water began to cascade down the warrior's flushed cheeks. She made no effort to brush them away.
"Gabrielle, I know you're mad and I don't blame you. If you want to leave I will..."
"LEAVE? Why in Tartarus would I leave?"
"Well, I...I mean. That is, I know you don't..."
Catching the retreating figure by an arm, Gabrielle sniffed back her own tears, which were quickly making their way down a face struggling for control.
"Xena, be still. Please? You think I don't love you? No. Wait. That's not what I mean. Xena? You believe I am NOT in love with you. Is that correct? And because I am NOT in love with you - or so you believe - you think I'm going to not only reject your feelings but leave you. Is that what you think?"
Xena tried to pull away. Both eyebrows shot up in surprise when the bard planted both feet and held her ground....AND her warrior. "Gabrielle. Let go. Please?"
"Not a chance, sweetie!"
Gulp. "Sweetie?" A puzzled but nonetheless pleased smirk.
"Yeah, well we can get to that later. I will not let go. Not ever. Xena, how could someone so smart be so dumb?"
"I AM in love with you, Xena. I think I always have been. Okay. Maybe not always but for a VERY long time. Hades balls, Xena. For the past two years I've lived in mortal fear I would talk in my sleep during one of my dreams...uh, I mean...oh forget it. Let's just say I was afraid my secret would escape under cover of night."
The tall warrior bent down to look directly into the bard's captivating eyes. "You're in love with me? Hey, wait a minute. What kind of dreams..."
Artemis smiled, releasing Aphrodite's hand. "Sorry ladies, but there's no time for sharing erotic dreams at the moment."
Now it was Gabrielle's turn to raise her eyebrows. "How did you know they were erotic...damn.."
Aphrodite and Artemis laughed out loud. "Gabrielle, we all knew. Heavens child, all the gods and practically the entire known world knew. Only you and Xena stubbornly refused to see the ripples on the water. Unfortunately, right now we have more pressing things to discuss."
Xena stepped behind Gabrielle and put her strong arms around the bard's small waist. "Like how to stop whatever evil plan the god of war has cooked up this time."
"And how does Xena knowing I'm in love with her help with that? Not that I'm complaining mind you."
"No Gabrielle. Not Xena knowing and not YOU knowing. Now you both know that you love each other completely and without reservations. Think a minute, Gabrielle. You know how Xena really feels and she knows how you really feel. Now that you know all this and certain things are okay between you..."
"More than okay," Xena interjected.
Aphrodite began to shimmer pink and gold again.
Artemis continued: "Think Gabrielle. Do you still feel the fear? Are there any feelings of doubt lingering?"
"No. No, I don't feel that fear anymore. Doubt? Hmmm. This is all so quick, Artemis. I won't lie to you. I do still feel some doubt."
Leaning forward until her lips were alongside a tempting earlobe, Xena whispered: "I think I can dispel that doubt if these two would get the hades out of here and let us have a moment alone."
A tingle went up and down Gabrielle's spine as she leaned into her whispering warrior.
"Almost done, warrior princess. Then you can use any manner you choose to chase away my Chosen One's doubts. Go ahead, Aphrodite, tell them."
"We, Artie and I, have already bent a lot of rules by forcing you to reveal your true feelings before you were ready. We can get away with this only because Zeus told all of us a long time ago that you two were soulmates and off limits to the gods."
"What? Zeus knew about us? Now wait a Zues-be-damned minute. Off limits to the gods? Then what is Ares doing trying to get Xena to have his child?" Shouted one very pissed off bard.
"Or raping Gabrielle? And how exactly does he think he is going to get away with this new plan of his if we are 'off limits to the gods'?"
Shimmering more brightly now, Aphrodite looked at Artemis. "We have gotta beat it outta here. Like now."
"Okay. He gets away with it because Zeus is dead and Hera is gone and the others are too preoccupied with themselves to care what he does."
"So exactly HOW does our love for each other give us the power to defeat him? And no cryptic answers. It looks like you two are gonna bolt anytime now and we need to know what to do." Their perfectly timed nods told the goddesses Xena spoke for both of them.
Aphrodite sighed. " Sorry Warrior Babe. Can't tell you that. All I can say is that you were right, Gabrielle. Love IS the most powerful force in the universe. Why do you think little bro has tried so hard to keep you two apart?"
Four shoulders. One shrug.
"Look. The kind of love true, lifebond, soulmates have for each other is so powerful it spans all lifetimes, all beliefs, all gods and all eternities. You are the truest and rarest of soulmates. Zeus knew that. Ares knows that. Remember, each of you has already broken the very bonds of death for the other more than once. THAT is the power of the love you have for each other and Ares doesn't stand a chance in the face of that."
"Artemis, do something. We still don't know how to protect ourselves from Ares." Gabrielle could see them fading in and out and was becoming frantic.
"You will. Xena, I'm counting on you. No more doubts, warrior. She loves you. She has always loved you. In every way. DON'T let Ares..."
As Aphrodite and Artemis faded from view, Xena shouted after them: "Don't worry. I will never let her go, Artemis. Never."
Continued in After the Glitter
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