DISCLAIMERS: See Parts 1-4


Part 9

By Texbard


We enter our cottage and I light a lantern. I stop, and lean back against the wall, just watching her. Gods she is beautiful. Unaware of my observation, she walks on ahead of me toward the basket that is sitting on the table near the windows. I had almost forgotten about it. She stops halfway and turns, and looks back at me.

"Xena?" She comes back and takes both my hands into hers. Her hands are all warm. Probably because I held onto them throughout our carriage ride. "Are you okay?"

I smile at her. I'm feeling like a shy young kid again. "Yeah." I lift one of her hands and kiss it.

"You were awfully quiet on the way back here." She reaches up and touches my face briefly, and then brushes my hair back, causing a pleasant tingling on my scalp.

I think about the carriage ride. I basically pulled her up against me, took her into my arms, and cuddled with her. Nothing like our ride home last night. I was feeling a love of a different sort. A protective sort of emotion. And a 'please don't ever leave me' feeling. I want her in my life, always. "Yeah."

She frowns. "You want to tell me what's in the basket?"

"Yeah." I lead her over to the bearskin rug by the fireplace. "Have a seat." She looks at me with complete confusion, and then complies, and watches me while I retrieve the basket and join her, sitting across from her where I can see her face. I hand her a package. "Open it."

She smiles at me and unwraps her gift, a shiny silver man-made quill. She rolls it in her hand and studies it. "What is it?"

"It's like a quill, except it's made of metal, so it won't wear out." I touch the metal tip. "You dip this part in the ink and then you can write, just like with a bird quill, except the print will be a little bit finer. I watched a merchant demonstrate it in a shop this afternoon. They make them in a land to the east beyond Chin. He called it the land of the rising sun."

"Thank you." Her eyes light up like the stars. "Xena. That's amazing. I've never seen anything like it." She peers over my shoulder at the rest of the packages. "What's the occasion?"

"Happy Solstice." I smile and give her the rest of her gifts.

"You broke the rules." She grins and shakes her finger at me. I capture it and nip at it before I release her.

"So did you." I make a point of twisting my new bracelet around on my wrist.

"Guess I did." She looks so beautiful in the low light of the lantern. Her hair has all these white-gold highlights in it. "I just kept seeing things I wanted to get for you." She claps her hand over her mouth, as she realizes she's just divulged the fact that she has more gifts for me. I suspected as much from the bulges in her bag. And the as-yet missing whetstone.

"It's okay." I give her a cheeky grin. "Since we both cheated, I think we canceled each other out."

"Works for me." She tears into the wrapping on the rest of her gifts. I watch to see if I've done a good job. Besides the metal quill, I got her a carved-glass ink well with a glass stopper, a woven leather belt, a doe skin coin pouch, and a soft dark green long-sleeved sleep shirt with green satin lacing and trim, for the coming winter. "Xena." Her voice is very soft. "It's too much. I never ..."

"Never what?" Her head is bowed and she's holding all her gifts in her lap. I fear she's crying. "Baby, what's wrong?"

She looks back up at me and her eyes are indeed sparkling with unshed tears. "Nothing. It's just ... when I was little, we didn't have a lot of dinars. I usually only got one Solstice gift each year. And I was the oldest, so my gifts always seemed to be practical. A pair of plain brown boots, or a simple dress. I hardly ever got any hair bows or toys or anything very pretty. That wooden sheep was one of the few toys I ever got. Lila always got the more desirable gifts. She got a doll once. Mother always pulled me aside and told me I had to be the grown up."

I pull her close to me and wrap an arm around her. "I'm sorry, sweetheart." I retrieve one last package from the basket. No wonder she loved Senticles' workshop so much. She was living the childhood she never had. And I always thought she was re-living pleasant memories. I should have known better. "Here." I give her her last gift. "One totally frivolous gift that is absolutely not a necessity."

She smiles for me and opens the box. And smiles bigger. "Oh, Xena. How pretty. Um ... what is it?"

"A belly chain." I take the delicate golden strand from her, and help her stand. I wrap the chain around her waist and fasten it, so that several golden strands dangle down in the center in front, directly above her navel.

"I love it." She fingers the strands and looks up at me.

"I love you." I lean in and give her a chaste kiss. She sighs and I give her another much-less chaste kiss. She still tastes like the sweet wine from dinner, and I feel my body responding to her. I want more. Soon. We exchange several more before she pulls back.

"I got you a few other things, too." She walks over and retrieves her bag, where we dropped it beside the front door. "Not as many as you got me, I'm afraid."

"Gabrielle." I watch her dump some packages out on the rug. "This isn't a contest. I love the fact that you thought about me. And it's because they're from you that makes the gifts special. It doesn't matter what they are. Or how many."

"We'll see." She gives me a secretive smile and I'm immediately curious. "Sit down and dig in."

I sit back down on the rug and pick up a box. I smile. It's the right size and weight to be ..."A whetstone. Thank you, sweetheart." I manage to look surprised as I flip it over a few times in my hand. "Exactly what I would pick out if I were to buy one myself."

"Really?" She looks very pleased with herself.

"Really. I needed a new one, too." And that's the absolute truth. I go through the next two gifts, revealing a package of chamois clothes, and a suede leather sheath for the ivory-handled dagger I bought in Alexandria. I always carry it tucked into my boot, and my bard is afraid I'm going to cut my leg someday. I reach for the last box and watch her blush. Oh. I think I'm going to like whatever is in this one.

I tear the wrapping slowly, on purpose, to prolong her suspense. It's larger than the other boxes, and inside is a harness and three ivory phalluses, a double-headed one, a single-headed one, and another single-headed one that is quite a bit larger than the other two. I eye her seductively and raise one eyebrow.

"It's ... it was a special ... in a shop. The merchant ... she helped me pick them out." Gabrielle is blushing furiously. I am enjoying this immensely. "She said the two-headed kind is good, but sometimes a single-headed one is better."

"She was right." I smile at my bard. "With the double-headed one, I sometimes get distracted by the stimulation I get. The single-headed one allows you to concentrate totally on your partner."

"Oh." Gabrielle scoots closer. "I see."

I pick up the larger piece and hold it up, and raise my other eyebrow. "What did she say about this one?"

"She ... um ... she said she knew who I am with ... you, that is." My bard is squirming. "She said that sometime, I might want to use one on you ... and that if I did ... this might be something that ... um ... you would like." She looks down at her lap, much like she did after she opened her own gifts. "Maybe she was wrong ... I was afraid that maybe you wouldn't ever want me to ... anyway ... we don't have to ... unless you want to that is ..."

"Gabrielle." I tilt my bard's chin up and caress her lips with my thumb. "Did you enjoy it the other night, when we used the phallus?"

"Yes." Her eyes drop. "Very much."

I duck down and kiss her. "I thought you did. I enjoyed it too. Immensely. Sweetheart, if you ever want to use this on me, I would like it very much, too." I set the phalluses aside and pull her into my arms, and kiss her some more, until I hear satisfied whimpers coming from her throat, and feel her body trembling against me.

I slowly stand, bringing her up with me, and begin to lead her toward the bedroom. She pauses and looks back toward the rug. "Xena, do you want to use them ..."

"No. Sometime. Soon." I waggle my eyebrows at her and grin. "But not tonight." I lift both of her hands and kiss them. "Tonight, I want your hands ..." I pull her tightly against me. "... your body ..." I kiss her soundly. "... your lips. Nothing more, nothing less."

I lead her the rest of the way into the bedroom, and we undress each other. I am careful to let her set the pace. I want her to communicate to me what she wants and needs from this. She looks into my eyes while she peels my leathers down, and pauses to kiss my breasts as they are revealed to her, sending jolts of pleasure to my center. My battle dress drops to the floor, and she slides my undergarments down my legs, and then she kneels down to remove my boots. I rest my hands on her shoulders as I step out of them.

My bard kisses her way back up my legs and then up my torso, and finally back to my lips. She's gotten very good at finding all the right spots. I grasp one of her hands and place it flat against my chest, over my heart. "Feel that?"

"Uh-huh." She kisses me again. "It's your heart beating."

"Touch me, Gabrielle." I take her other hand and place it over my left breast. I wrap my arms around her and hold on tight. My breath catches as she runs her palm back and forth over my nipple. "Feel that?" I manage to gasp out.

"Your heart's beating faster." She smiles and continues to caress me.

"Yeah." I lean forward and flick her earlobe with my tongue, and then whisper in her ear. "Only you have that effect on me."

"Really?" She shivers at my touch and I am now partially supporting her.

"Really." I back up to the bed, pulling her along with me, and sit down. And then I lay back and look up at her. "Love me, baby. Please? I need you so much."

My bard climbs on top of me and sits across my hips. Her fingers tickle my stomach lightly and I feel my muscles flutter in response. She looks down at me and her eyes are shining, dark green with passion. "Xena. You've been so sweet to me today. What do you want? I'll do anything you want me to."

My mind briefly plays with this offer and I mentally slap myself at some of my thoughts. I rest my hands on her hips and re-settle her weight on top of me. "Gabrielle. I want you to make love to me. In any way that you see fit. You are all that I need and your touch is the only one I crave. Your love satisfies me completely. I wish I could make you understand that."

Her eyes water up and I watch a tear slide down her cheek to her chin. I reach up and wipe it away. "Baby, don't cry."

"Xena." My bard lowers herself down and curls her body against me. I wrap my arms around her and kiss the top of her head, where it is resting on my shoulder. "Xena, sometimes I'm so afraid."

"I know." I kiss her head again and then begin combing my fingers through her hair. "You don't need to be." I take one of her hands and place it over my heart again. "Feel that?"

She nods silently against my shoulder, her hair tickling my skin.

"That's you in there. You are my heart." I trail my fingertips up and down her arm and feel goose bumps in my wake. "My life began the day I met you. My passions were ignited the first time we kissed. There will never be anyone for me but you. Please, Gabrielle. I don't want you to be afraid anymore."

I feel tiny kisses on my upper chest and my bard rolls over on top of me. "I'll do my best." She murmurs against my skin, and then she moves lower, and takes one of my nipples into her mouth. Every muscle in my body contracts as I feel her lips and tongue working their magic.

"Gabrielle." Her name is a prayer on my lips and my hands come to rest on her back, encouraging her to continue what she's doing. She switches sides and I sigh, opening my legs up and feeling her settle between them, her hips undulating against me as she begins to kiss her way down my torso.

"Xena." My bard is kissing my stomach just below my navel. "Do you know how much I enjoy kissing you like this? Or how good your skin tastes?"

"Mmm." Coherent speech is lost to me at this moment, as I feel her mouth move lower, kissing my center as she uses her hands to push my legs further apart. "Oh gods." She uses her very talented tongue to bring me up, and suddenly my climax explodes. I cry out and feel her hands holding firmly onto my thighs. Apparently she's not done with me. As soon as the waves subside, she quickly brings me back up again.

I am vaguely aware of her crawling back up my body, and she settles into my arms, and rests one hand over my heart again. "So fast." She raises up and looks into my eyes, and brushes my bangs back from my forehead. I am certain my eyes are a little glazed at this point. "I love you, Xena. I just want to make you happy."

"You do make me happy." I manage to collect my thoughts, and feel my breathing begin to even out. "Always."

I hold her for I don't know how long, occasionally feeling her kiss my neck and shoulder, as one of her hands rubs circles on my belly. Finally, I roll her over and kiss her, tracing her lips with my tongue before I explore further, gently probing the inside of her mouth in a manner similar to the way I'd like to probe other parts of her body. She whimpers into my mouth and I run one hand down to her breasts, brushing my thumb across a nipple and feeling it harden. "I love feeling your body respond to me, sweetheart."

I kiss my way across her jawline and down to her neck, nipping her skin, careful not to leave any marks. I move lower, and suckle her other breast, and feel one of her legs slide between mine. I groan and begin to grind myself into her leg, as I find her ear with my lips. "What do you want, baby? Tell me what you want. Or show me."

She takes one of my hands and guides it down between us until it is cupped against her. I begin to stroke her, gradually deepening the contact. I feel her hips begin to rock against my fingers, and I move my body against her, picking up her rhythm. Her hands grasp my buttocks, pulling me in tighter, and I am certain that when she comes, I am going to be right there with her.

"Gabrielle." I remove one of her hands and bring it between us, resting it on top of mine, letting her feel the motion of my hand against her. "Baby. Show me how to make you feel good."

"Xena." My name is a breathless moan into my ear. She guides my hand, tempering my movements, altering them a bit. She leaves her hand there until she's satisfied I know what she wants. "Yes." Her breath comes out in a short hiss. "Just like that, Xena. Oh gods."

I continue to stroke her, and wrap my free arm underneath her, pulling her tightly against me. She is making constant little mewling noises, and I can feel that she is close. "Does that feel good, sweetheart?"

"Mmmm." She nips at the skin on my shoulder. "You know it does."

We are moving together now, and I feel us merging. It is a merging on an emotional and a spiritual plane, as well as the obvious physical one. I can't tell where she begins and I end. It is one of those moments when if I could, I would crawl inside her soul, so that I could be surrounded by the light that lives there. This is as close as I will ever get. I feel her climax begin, and mine quickly follows her.

"It's okay, baby." I hold onto her and we ride the waves together. "I've got you." Her hands are digging into my back, her fingernails causing a pleasurably painful sensation.

We start to come down, and I roll onto my back, pulling her into my arms against my side. I feel

those familiar tracing patterns of her finger tips on my chest and stomach. I hope to be feeling them periodically for the rest of my life. "Xena." She sighs and kisses my breast, which is conveniently next to her mouth. I feel her tongue on my nipple, which causes a round of after shocks.

"Feels good, sweetheart." I encourage her to continue, wondering if we are going for a full-blown round three, or if she's just not had quite enough yet. Frankly, I'm not sure if I'm good for round three, but I'm willing to give it my best shot if that's what she wants. Her pace picks up and I moan, as her hands begin to explore. Okay. Maybe I am good for this after all.

Long candle marks later, I am holding onto her while she sleeps. She is on her side in an almost-fetal position, and I am curled around her from behind. At some point I lost count of how many rounds we eventually went.

There are so many aspects to our physical relationship now. Often it's just fun, sometimes it's hot and quick and hungry, sometimes it's slow and lazy. Occasionally it's needy. Tonight was very sweet, full of tenderness and emotions. I'm not always good with emotions, but I feel very close to her right now.

I think we've reached a new level of understanding, one that I'm sure we will talk about, most likely tomorrow. This night was much more free on Gabrielle's part. She was much more relaxed and she seemed to understand that it's okay to ask me for what she needs.

I hope she holds on to that. As terrified as she might be of my experience, I am often just as frightened of her inexperience. It's not that I wish she had slept with a lot of people before me. Far from it. I'm glad she's not hardened, and that she never knew sex as a tool to manipulate people or as something that is only a meaningless physical release.

I am sometimes frightened that I am the one to teach her about all of this. I know I don't always communicate very well. More often than not, I go along assuming things are fine until something blind-sides me, or someone, such as Sappho did, points out the error of my ways. On many levels Gabrielle is quick to tell me exactly what she thinks. But on this level, I sometimes have to draw her out. She's unsure of herself. And so eager to please.

That seems to be changing, slowly, with time. We are still growing into our relationship, and I suspect that will continue for the rest of our lives. I want her to be happy, pure and simple. I don't want her to ever be uncomfortable with me. And I want her to understand that she is the most permanent part of me.

My eyes finally grow heavy and I kiss her neck. She murmurs in her sleep, a little incoherent happy whimper, and snuggles back tighter against me. That feels nice. I pull the blankets up over us and nuzzle my face into her hair, and allow Morpheus to claim me.


Part 10

It is early morning and we are watching the sunrise. I am sitting length-wise on one of the padded benches on the porch with a pile of pillows supporting me from behind. Gabrielle is resting back against me between my legs and we have a thick blanket pulled over us.

A low mist is burning off over the water near the shoreline below. Back home in the Amazon village it is the end of the first week of winter, one that the elders have predicted will be extra harsh. And it is winter here, too, although it means little other than some chilled nights.

It is our last day on Lesbos. We've been here for a week. Tomorrow morning we catch a ship back to the mainland. Our passage was booked yesterday afternoon.

My eyes are closed, and I am indulging myself in some rare daydreaming. I can hear the birds singing in the trees and feel my bard's body against me, and the subtle movement of her breathing. I inhale and take in her fragrance, or more accurately, a scent that is comprised of she and I mixed together. It lingers on her skin from last night.

I sigh and wrap my arms more tightly around her. Every day I love her more. I don't know how that's possible, but it's true. I feel her fingers on my forearms, tracing the muscles there. "Dinar for your thoughts?" She turns in my embrace until she is nestled sideways against me.

"Mmm." I open my eyes and look at her, finding her face close to mine. I kiss her and then watch her smile. "Sorry." I run one hand down her side and under her sleep shirt, and let it rest on her hip. "These thoughts are worth a lot more than a dinar."

"Okay." She settles back until her head is pillowed against my chest. "Must be pretty good stuff."

"Yeah." I kiss the top of her head and my hand moves from her hip to her belly. "The best." I make circles on her stomach. "They're about you. Us. I was just thinking about our joining ceremony."

"It's basically planned, Xena." Her voice vibrates against my skin. "Chilapa helped me look up all the legal requirements for a royal joining ceremony. She will preside, and pretty much she just follows the vows that are written in the scrolls."

"But we can add our own lines, can't we? And add other things to the pre-ceremony?" I have some plans for my bard. Things befitting an Amazon queen. This will be a joining that the Amazons will talk about for generations to come, if I have anything to do with it.

"Of course." She is tracing light patterns on my thigh with her fingertips, and I continue to make circles on her belly. I feel pleasant chills wherever she touches me. "Are you still keeping some big secret from me?"

"Yep." I kiss her and then smile against her lips. "I promise you'll like it."

"I have no doubt about that." She kisses me back and we explore each other's lips for several long minutes. "Xena." She pulls back and begins stroking my head. "Have you thought about who is going to stand with you as a witness?"

"Yeah." I close my eyes, enjoying her fingers combing through my hair. "Pony."

"That's what I thought. I was thinking of having Raella stand up with me."

"What about Lila?" I had thought my bard would have her sister stand with her.

"It has to be an Amazon." Gabrielle frowns. "Do you think Lila will understand?"

"You could always make her an Amazon." I laugh, trying to imagine Gabrielle's conservative sister wearing leather and feathers.

"Hmmm." My bard purses her lips and I resist the urge to kiss them. "Somehow I don't think that would go over well. With her or my parents."

"Good point." I cringe internally, wondering what it will be like for Gabrielle's parents to witness an Amazon joining. Or to meet my mother. Oh boy. I'm not sure which will be the greater shock.

My mother is not afraid to tell anyone what she thinks. And she is totally accepting of me and Gabrielle and our relationship. When I told her we plan to have children, she started knitting booties and little blankets.

Gods. Wonder what she will be like after my bard actually gets pregnant? Knowing my mother, she'll make a temporary move to the Amazon village. Or a permanent one. Mental note to self. Make sure that last one doesn't happen.

Gabrielle pregnant. I wrap my mind around that image and smile. I have no doubt she will be the most beautiful pregnant woman in the known world. It's only natural, considering that she's currently the most beautiful non-pregnant woman in the known world.

In just a few short moons I have gone from being unsure of children, to barely-contained excitement at the prospect. Before Cortese, I had thought someday I would marry, settle down, and have kids. It's what most young village girls dream about.

True, I wasn't a typical village girl by any stretch of the imagination. And early in the game I figured out that I was just as attracted to girls as I was the boys. It was just so much more difficult to find any girls in Amphipolis willing to explore that attraction with me. The boys were much more receptive.

So part of me just figured that since I could go either way, that I would eventually follow tradition. Boy did Sappho ever have my number. I can't imagine ever sharing with a man the things I share with Gabrielle.

I had no idea what path I was starting down when I rallied my village against Cortese. By the time I teamed up with Borias, I had given up any thought of marriage, family, or settling down. Warriors don't settle down, they fight until one day they eventually lose to someone better than them. Even after I met Gabrielle, I never expected to see my thirtieth summer. Figured I'd be long dead by then.

When I turned up pregnant with Solan, I was afraid. Truly afraid for the first time in a long time. I knew that if any of the men found out, they would try to take advantage of my weakness. Not to mention my enemies. I wasn't even going to tell Borias. I was going to hide it until the last possible minute.

When I met Alti for the first time, and she spilled my secret in front of him, I could have killed her. Looking back, I should have. Not for that particular transgression, but for all the heartache she would bring to me later.

But then, I was so angry. It had been my little secret. And Borias went soft on me, prepared to leave the life we were living and try to make a family out of us. But I didn't love him and never had. I didn't know what I was going to do.

I considered taking the herbs to terminate the pregnancy. I don't know why I didn't. I think part of it was that I felt Solan kick me inside and I simply couldn't do it after that. After that, part of me wondered if a baby might turn things around for me. Maybe I could have a family.

But when Borias died, all hope of that was killed with him. I hated myself completely, even as I gave Solan away. And just when I was about to get him back, Hope killed him. I try not to dwell on that anymore. Gabrielle and I hurt each other in unimaginable ways then. There's nothing we can do but forgive each other and go on. And Solan is in a better place now. And Hope is dead. For good, I pray. I don't want my bard to hurt any more.

And now we have a second chance. At life. At love. At motherhood. At being a family. I feel my eyes stinging, and before I can stop it, a tear escapes and trickles down my cheek and then lands on my bard's arm. She brushes it off and looks up at me with such concern, that the rest of the tears fall, unbidden. "Xena, what's wrong?" She touches my face and I lean into her hand.

"I was just wondering something." My voice is thick with emotion.

"What's that?" She strokes my cheek with her thumb and her other hand rests against my upper chest.

"When do you think you might want to start our family?" I open my eyes and she looks genuinely confused.

"Xena, from the tears, I'm not sure if that means you want the family, or if you're having second thoughts." She bites her lip and looks at me with such a pained expression, that it rips my heart in two.

I pull her tightly against me and bury my face into the linen of her sleep shirt, inhaling her sweet scent. "I want them more than ever." I ache for all we took from each other. Our children. You aren't supposed to out-live your own children.

"Well ..." She rubs my back and kisses my head. "Good. Because I was thinking we might start trying for the first one at summer solstice.

"Really?" I sit up and feel suddenly giddy. "That will be a season after our joining."

"Yes, it will. Xena, warrior mathematician" Her voice teases me. "Glad to know you can still count."

"Wow." My mind is numb. "That means by our first anniversary, we might have a son or a daughter."

"Is that too soon?" She looks into my eyes with great gravity.

"No." I grin, a giant smile that threatens to split my face in two. "Gabrielle, if you wanted to start right now, it wouldn't be too soon."

"Xena." She laughs and brushes my hair back, and begins playing with it again. "Let's get joined first, okay?"

"Okay." I mock-pout before the foolish grin re-claims my face. Then I remember that not so long ago, she thought it would be a while before she wanted to get pregnant. "Gabrielle. Don't take this the wrong way, because I am ready whenever you are. But you are the one who will be carrying our child. And giving birth to it. Are you sure you want to start so soon? You're very young. You've got plenty of time."

"Yes." She curls into me and I wrap my arms around her again. "I think about it more and more, ever since we watched those animals at the oasis in Africa. I have so much love inside Xena. For you. For our life together. I'm tired of all the violence and killing. I want to give life and nurture it. I want to share that with a child that will belong to both of us. I want to know what it's like to hold our baby in my arms, and know that we are both going to love it and protect it, and watch it grow up."

So. She's been thinking about Hope and Solan too. "Baby, I'm sorry." I rock her gently. "For everything I did to hurt you."

"Xena. Don't." She looks up at me and now she is the one crying. "I know we both can't help but think about them sometimes, and all the 'what ifs.' But I don't want to feel bad about that anymore. We can't go back and change anything. I forgave you a long time ago. Just like I know you have forgiven me. I really really want our future and our children. I can't wait to get started, because I may want a whole bunch of them."

"A ... a whole bunch?" I gulp, in spite of myself. "How many is a whole bunch?"

She giggles and I release a relieved breath. I think the dark mood has passed. "A dozen."

"A ... dozen?" I start mentally counting Olympian gods, trying to remember which ones owe me favors.

"Gotcha." She laughs and nips at the skin just above my breast. "Maybe three or four."

"Oh." I feel the blood return to my face. "I think I can handle that many." And maybe conjure up that many miracles.

"Xena." My bard's voice grows serious. "Are you going to talk to Hercules at our joining ceremony, you know, about your powers and everything ..."

"You mean, if he thinks that as a demigod I can get you pregnant?" I sigh internally. We both want so badly to create a child that is physically part of both of us. We just aren't sure how to do it without intervention by one of the gods. I'm pretty certain if I could do it by conventional means, we'd already be parents by now. It's not like we don't go at it like rabbits as often as possible.

"Yes." She looks up at me and we read unspoken thoughts. "I'm prepared to call upon King Gregor, if we need to. I thought about it, and I believe out of everyone we know, he would probably be the most logical person to donate his seed if we need him to. We gave him baby Gabriel as an heir. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to return the favor to us."

"Yeah." I kiss her cheek. "I thought about him, too."

"Xena, will it hurt?" Her grip around my biceps tightens. "If we have to use one of those hollow reeds?"

"No. The reed is narrower than a phallus." My hand wanders under her shirt again, and my fingertips dance across her stomach muscles before settling into a light circular pattern. "We'd get the reed, and a funnel, and the king's ... um ... donation, and set them both near our bed. Then I'd begin to make love to you. I'd get you to a level where you're ... ready for penetration. Then I'd insert the reed into you, place the funnel in the other end, and then deposit the seed. Then I'd take the reed out and ..." I kiss her forehead and my hand wanders lower, cupping her between her legs. Oh gods. I forgot. No underwear this morning. We woke up naked and tossed on these shirts before coming outside. "... I'd bring you to climax. There would be no pain involved at all."

"Sounds more like pleasure to me." She turns in my arms and our lips meet, and I lightly stroke her, kissing her slowly with great intent. "Mmmm. Yeah. Pleasure ..." She spreads her legs wider and I increase the contact, with my lips and my fingers.

I feel liquid fire around my fingers, and I press my lips against her ear. "Baby ..." I pull her across my lap, straddling me, and raise her shirt up, pulling it over her head. Mine quickly follows, and I feel our breasts touching. Gods that feels good. "Gabrielle, so nice." I mumble against her lips, and bring her to release, feeling her body convulsing against mine.

"Xena." She sighs and sinks down against me. I love it when we are spontaneous. Even if it is just a little morning quickie. I can never get enough of her. She feels so good in my arms, and I love giving her pleasure. She's the most responsive partner I've ever had. And the last one I will ever have. The love between us heightens everything. The slightest touch drives me crazy with passion.

I feel more than a slight touch, as her head disappears beneath the blanket and her lips blaze a path down my torso. "Oh, yeah." My hands dive under the covers and I locate her shoulders, gently directing her lower, and opening myself up in eager invitation. "Baby, please ... yesss ..." She's found her mark, and my body arches up against her. She puts that talented mouth to good use, and my climax shoots through me in almost painful waves.

I am covered in sweat, facilitating the languid slide of her body back up mine. I pull her face to me and find her mouth, groaning as I taste myself on her lips. "Mmmm." I break away and then pull her into a warm hug. "That was a nice surprise." I kiss her shoulder and continue to hold onto her. "Thank you."

"Wonder if this is going to happen every time we discuss making babies." She giggles and I feel it as much as hear it.

"If it does ..." I nip at her neck. "... I plan to discuss making babies every chance I get."

"Like you ever need an excuse." She raises up and looks into my eyes. Hers are twinkling with humor. She kisses my nose and then settles back down into my arms.

I open my mouth to protest it and then close it. She's got a point. I once told her that all I have to do is look at her, and I'm good to go. That's just as true as the first time I ever touched her in a manner intended to bring her pleasure. It was somewhat true even before the crucifixion. But back then, I simply pushed the feelings down. And did lots of sword drills. And running. And fighting. And more sword drills.

I remember in Aiden's paradise, doing sit-ups until I thought I'd broken something inside. Aiden may have been a liar, but one thing that was true about that place, is that it increased your fears and brought them to life. And one of my greatest fears at that time was that I was going to accidentally disclose my feelings to her and lose her because of them. I forced myself to not dwell on it. Hence, the sit-ups, hoping to burn off the excess energy. I'm not sure where that full body massage would have led us if my nose hadn't started bleeding. Aiden used my fear that I would hurt her against me. I almost left her there. Wherever there was.

"Xena?" Her voice brings me back to the present. A very warm place to be.

"Yes?" I kiss her head and rest my cheek against it.

"When we came back from Illusia, did you ever think we'd get to be this happy?" She nuzzles my neck, and I understand just how good life is.

"No." I tighten my grip. "At that time, I was just amazed that we were still together at all. If we didn't love each other, I know we wouldn't have survived."

"Do you think it will be this good from now on?"

I wish with all my heart that I could tell her yes, but I know that's not realistic. "Gabrielle, life has thrown us so many surprises and obstacles, I hesitate to answer that question. What I do think, is that even if we do face bad times ahead, that we've learned how to talk about it, and that our love is very, very strong."

"Strong enough to carry us through anything?"

I search my heart for a long moment, and I know the truth. "Yes."


Can I respond to that? Yeah, I can. "Promise."

She seems content with my answer, and we are silent again, watching now, as the low angle of the full sun makes the ocean surface glitter like jewels. Sea gulls are calling out, dipping into the shallow surf for minnows, and way down on the beach, two lovers are walking hand-in-hand, just near the edge of the water. I look closer and realize it's Sappho and Atthis.

As if on cue, our morning breakfast basket is delivered. I realize briefly that we could have easily been caught in a compromising position. In fact, we're both still naked under the blanket. I tug the cover up closer and nod to the servant to bring the basket and set it next to the bench. My bard seems nonplussed by our state, and I realize that she really has lost some inhibitions this week.

I wait until the servant disappears, and I pull my shirt back on. "Hey. Sappho and Atthis are down on the beach. Wanna ask them to join us for breakfast?"

"Sure." Gabrielle smiles and pulls her own shirt on. "But maybe in addition to our shirts, we should make use of those guest robes inside before they get here."

"Yeah. Probably so." I stand and place my fingers in my lips, whistling much like I do for Argo. Sappho hears me and looks up. I hold up the basket and yell. "Join us for breakfast?"

I watch them confer and then Sappho looks back up. "Yes. Give us about a quarter candle mark to get there."

"See ya in a bit." I yell back, and then follow my bard inside the cottage.


Part 11

We are in the tub, taking our time getting clean. It is dark outside and we have shared a wonderful private dinner for two in our cottage. It has been a lovely last day here. We spent most of the morning out on the porch talking with Sappho and Atthis. They are planning to come to our joining ceremony. Sappho with the Amazons. That should be interesting.

The afternoon found us back on the beach, taking advantage of the last few candle marks we had, soaking up the sun. We won't be playing in the sand and water again for a long time. It will be too cold.

My bard has been flirting with me on and off since breakfast. She's so cute. Even Sappho pulled me aside and commented that Gabrielle finally seems comfortable in her own skin. I know her skin sure feels good when it's against me.

Even our bath has been fun, and we've spent as much time splashing around and playing with each other, as we have washing. I even had to get out once and add more hot water. My bard has been doing her best to heat me up in the process.

We've both been pretty merciless with our teasing, and my body is now at a low steady hum. I want her. She wants me. And we both know it. The sweet torture only serves to heighten our anticipation.

She steps out of the tub and I watch her walk over to the fur-covered platform, and retrieve her towel. We've been playing this teasing game of seduction all afternoon, and I'm not sure who's going to win at this point. I hope both of us. She looks over her shoulder at me and smiles coyly, before drying herself off. Very slowly. Making sure I get a good view of her most charming assets.

Two can play at this game. I stretch one leg out and prop my foot on the edge of the tub, using a sea sponge to wash with, dragging it up my leg while she watches me. Gabrielle once told me that she loves my legs. And by the gods they sure love to be wrapped around her.

I am going to make sure I put on a good show for my bard. I give her what she affectionately calls "the look." It's a private expression I reserve just for her. One which conveys as much raw sexual energy as I can muster up.

She tries to look cool, but I can see the muscles of her throat work, as she swallows hard. She turns her back to me and dons a forest-green silk robe. One I bought for her in the market in Alexandria, right before we returned to Greece. It is the absolute best color on my bard. It makes her eyes look impossibly greener than they already are, and sets off her blonde hair very nicely.

She keeps her back to me as she moves around to the other side of the platform and stokes the fire. It's not the only fire she's stoking. As she walks back around the platform, she reveals that she didn't tie the robe closed. It's hanging open, and driving me insane in the process. She merely smiles at me and busies herself tidying up the room.

In one fluid motion, I climb out of the tub and wrap myself in a towel. She conveniently makes her way back to my side in front of the fire, as I dry myself off. Actually, she's standing a little bit in front of me with her back turned, warming herself in the glow of the fire. I want to warm her up myself. And make her glow, too, for that matter.

I move in behind her and wrap my arms around her waist. She immediately covers my forearms with her hands, and I kiss her neck. Several times. "Gods you smell good." And I'm not talking about just the scent of the soap we washed with. When Aphrodite passed out the pheromones, she gave my bard an extra dose of them.

I lick her neck down to its base, and then nip her skin. I am rewarded with a little whimper. Gods I love that sound. I still can't believe it's in response to me sometimes. My hands have wandered higher, to cover her breasts, and I can feel her nipples harden through the silk. I am already wet for her.

"Xena." She turns her head and we share a leisurely kiss, while I slide the robe off her shoulders and let it drop to the floor. I break off the kiss to pay attention to her shoulders, giving them equal attention with my lips. I slowly drag my hands, palms flat, down her chest and stomach to the tops of her thighs, and then around back. I pause at her buttocks before bringing them up her back to massage her shoulders.

Her back and behind are two of her most beautiful features. She's so toned. Muscular, really. I think it's partly why I love it when she sleeps on her stomach. Sometimes I just watch her, rubbing her back while she falls asleep. And I often wake her up in the mornings by kissing her shoulders and upper back. It's a part of her I should spend more time with.

I am flooded with desire, and I pull her back tightly against me. My chest is pressed against her shoulder blades. My nipples are very happy with this arrangement, and let me know by sending a bolt of lightening to my groin. "You're so damned gorgeous." I play with her breasts, teasing her gently, while I kiss the back of her neck some more.

"Gabrielle. I want ..." I stop. I can't believe what I was about to say. And I'm suddenly ashamed of exactly what it is I want. Me. The one who's spent all week encouraging her to be free with me. And now I can't bring myself to tell her what I desire.

"Xena." She covers my hands with her own, and brings them up, kissing each of my knuckles one at a time. "What do you want, honey?"

I'm glad she can't see my face right now. I look around and spot the one-headed phallus, sitting on a shelf next to us. Not the big one. We have yet to use that. There will be plenty of time for that when we get home. Whenever she's ready.

This is the smaller one she got for me. We've used it a couple of times this week. The last place we used it was in here on this platform. We've really enjoyed this particular gift she gave me. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would one day be playing with sex toys with Gabrielle, not only would I have not believed it, I probably would have knocked them senseless for being disrespectful to my bard.

I pull one of my hands away from her and grasp the phallus, drawing it around in front of her and pressing it against her belly. I kiss her shoulder and then her neck again, and whisper into her ear. "I want you. Like this." I want her from behind. Not anal sex. I am so not into that. My fear is that she will find it impersonal or demeaning somehow, if I make love to her by taking her from behind.

Thank the gods I have actually had the anal sex discussion with her, so at least she won't misunderstand my intentions. The look on her face when we had that talk was particularly priceless. It was another moment of revelation for her. I got one of her disbelieving looks, and it took a while to convince her that some people do enjoy that sort of thing.

"I want to make love to you, baby, pressed against your beautiful back." I pull her even closer to me. "I love you, Gabrielle. I would never force you to do anything you aren't agreeable to. Don't ever forget that, okay?"

"I won't forget." She turns in my embrace and nibbles her way up the valley between my breasts and finally reaches my lips, claiming me as only she can. I moan into her mouth as she explores mine with her tongue. Her lips are so soft, I swear they melt against me.

Somehow, while we've been kissing, she's managed to retrieve the harness from the shelf, and suddenly I feel her buckling it around me. She's already so good at this, that she can do it without looking. She continues to kiss me and keep her eyes on my face instead. "How's that?" She pats both of my hips and then wraps her arms around me, kissing me again.

I break off to take a breath. "Perfect fit." I smile and then watch, as she hoists herself up onto the platform and sits on the edge of it.

"Come here Xena." She opens her legs and I slip between them, still standing on the floor next to the platform, facing her. I lean down and kiss her, and feel her feet running up and down my calves. So. This is her way of telling me that she wants things face-to-face.

That's okay. I'd make love to her hanging upside down from a tree if she wanted me to. Just so long as the day never comes when she doesn't want me at all, I'll be perfectly happy with whatever she will allow.

I am still holding the phallus, and I feel her take it from my hand. I watch as she fastens it into the harness. For some reason I find it incredibly erotic when she does this. Gods I want her so badly, I can literally feel my knees go weak at the prospect.

She finishes and looks up at me, pausing to gaze into my eyes for a long time. "Xena." She strokes my face with her fingertips and then my lips, and I nip at her fingers with each pass. "You set my body on fire, Xena. Did you know that?" I shake my head in a circle, unsure of the correct answer.

"You always say that you just look at me and are ready to go." She runs one finger down my midline and stops, her hand flat against my belly. Her other hand continues to play against my cheek and lips. "I feel like that too, Xena. More often than you might think. I'm not made exactly like you. Few people are."

I smile at this and she smiles back. "But Xena, do you know how it makes me feel, to know that you want me? Do you have any idea?" I give her another idiot shake of my head. My heart is doing flip-flops in my chest, just listening to her. "It makes me feel like I'm walking on clouds, Xena. Like my heart is going to explode. Like I might die from sheer happiness and desire. Like I am going to simply burn up if you don't soothe me with your touch."

I feel a fine sheen of sweat on my brow, and she reaches up and brushes it away. "I love you, Xena. And I want you. Almost as often as you want me. Believe it or not."

She pushes off the platform and moves back into my arms. I draw her in and kiss her soundly. I want to consume her, right about now. I hunger for her skin against mine, to hear those little noises she makes when I touch her, to feel her passion.

Suddenly, with no warning at all, she breaks away. And turns around. She braces her hands on top of the platform and smiles over her shoulder, offering herself to me. Just like I wanted her. "I love you, Gabrielle." I move in behind her and circle her waist with my arms, and press my lips against her ear. "Are you sure about this?"

"Touch me." She lifts one of her hands and takes one of mine, guiding me up to her breast. "Sometimes, when we are laying together at night, and you're curled up behind me ..." I manage to distract her and she yelps.

I smile against her shoulder blade and kiss it. "You were saying?"

"Gods ..." She captures both of my hands and pulls them down to a neutral location against her stomach. "... when you're curled up behind me, Xena, sometimes I've wondered what it would be like if you made love to me like this."

"Yeah?" I lean forward and do indeed curl myself against her back. "Kinda like this?"

"Yes." She releases my hands and I move back to her nipples, eliciting a tiny hiss of pleasure from her. "You always make me feel so good, honey. So safe. And loved. Xena, there's almost nothing you could want that I wouldn't be agreeable to."

Now she tells me. After nine moons of me walking on eggshells. Of broaching almost every new development in our love life as if it is something that would frighten her. Or repulse her. Or even hurt her. Although I've made it abundantly clear to her that I am not into mixing pain with pleasure.

I move one hand lower and caress her thigh, moving inward and parting her legs a bit more. I reach wet warmth and sigh. "All I want, Gabrielle, is to love you." I nibble at her upper back while I use my other hand to guide the phallus into place from behind, gently teasing her with it by rubbing it up and down her inner thighs.

I pause against her opening and watch her back muscles quivering in anticipation. Gods she's beautiful. "Relax, baby." I whisper into her ear, adding several little suggestive phrases while I stroke her belly, moving my hand lower, gentling her until I feel her tension begin to melt away.

"Xena ..." She reaches down and directs my hand in front to pleasure her, which I do. We both moan at the same time. She's like liquid velvet against my fingertips. I continue with my movements, and at the same time, I slowly enter her. I hear a low guttural sound and I fear I've hurt her.

"Baby, are you okay?" I press my lips softly against her neck and run my now-free hand up the smooth expanse of her back.

"Yeah ..." She gasps. "Just feels different. In a good way." She hastily amends.

"I love you." I kiss her neck again and wrap both hands around her waist to anchor myself. I begin to move in and out, and she moves against me. I press myself against her back and my nipples harden at the contact.

We are rocking together now, in perfect rhythm, and she vocalizes her pleasure, making constant little noises as I love her. I angle myself a bit differently, so that with each thrust I know I'm making contact with that sensitive spot inside of her that always brings on her climax when I stroke it.

"Oh gods, Xena." Her knuckles are white where she's still grasping the edge of the platform, and she subtly increases the pace of our movements.

"Come for me, baby." I slide my body firmly against her back and feel her body begin to spasm against me.

"Xena." She cries out my name and I climax with her, holding onto her as my own body reacts in savage waves.

"My legs are gonna give out." I nip at her shoulder and pull out of her. She whimpers and then crawls up onto the platform and rolls over onto her back. I follow her and remove the harness, and then lay down on my side against her, feeling her breathing hard against me, the warmth radiating off her skin. She's trembling and appears to be speechless at this moment.

"Gabrielle." I caress her face and then slide my hand all the way down to her legs, slipping my hand between them to press it against her heat. "So good, baby." I lean in for a kiss and begin to gently explore her mouth and jawline.

I feel her hand reach down to cover mine. "Xena." She grasps two fingers. "Please." She pushes them more firmly against her. My bard still needs to feel full. I slowly push them inside and I feel her muscles fluttering around them. "Mmmm." She groans softly and her eyes close.

I use my thumb to tease her and her whole body jerks. "More?" I smile at her and touch her face, and then kiss her.

"Yeah." She begins to roll her hips up against me, and I take the hint, and bring her back up again. "Xena." Her eyes open and I get the pleasure of watching them. "See what you do to me, Xena?"

She reaches up and takes my hand from her cheek, and draws one of my fingers into her mouth, sucking on it, matching the motions of my other hand. My own body comes quickly back to life, and she brings me up to her level.

She lets go of my finger and pulls me down, wrapping her arms tightly around me as her climax claims her. I feel her legs circle the backs of my thighs, and one of her hands slides down to my buttocks, pulling me close in against her. "Watch, Xena."

I look down at her face and I've never seen anything more beautiful. Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are a deep dark green under half-closed lids. She bites her lower lip and then her mouth opens slightly, releasing a long breath of air as her body begins to slow down.

She shifts, and her hand moves between us. "Gabrielle. I need you ..." She enters me and I shudder. ".... there." I was already on the edge, and with what she's doing now, I won't last long. "Love feeling you inside me, baby. So close to you."

She gives me sweet release, and I am the one who finally collapses, slumping down into the furs next to her. I am vaguely aware of her hovering over me, brushing my hair out of my face and placing feather-light kisses on my jawline. "I believe, Xena."

I force myself to open my eyes and focus. "Believe?" My poor brain is trying valiantly to follow her train of thought, but I know I've missed something somewhere.

"That I'm enough." She rolls onto her back and pulls me into her arms, and I find my head pillowed against her shoulder. "Enough for you, physically, I mean."

"Really?" I smile and raise up to look at her. "What finally convinced you?" I take her hand and press it to my lips.

She smiles at me and pulls me back down. I feel her hands playing softly against my back, making those little patterns I love so much. "You did."

Well what do you know. I did something right. I'm not sure exactly what, but something I did this week worked. I need to thank Sappho if she comes to see us off in the morning. "How so?"

"When you and I first became intimate, Xena, I simply didn't know what to ask for. Or how to ask for it. I trusted you to teach me. To show me how to be your lover. And I prayed every time we came together that I would satisfy you."

"Always." I kiss her collar bone.

"It took a while, but I understand that now, Xena. You've been so attentive this week. Not just in bed, but all the time ..." She uses her nails to lightly scratch my back. Gods that feels good. "... and I love that. But that's not what changed things for me."

"Well what did, then?" I rub myself against her, much as a cat would, enjoying what she's doing to me while we talk.

"You are such a pleasure hound." She chuckles and runs her fingers through my hair. "And that's partly why I finally understood. You are so comfortable with me Xena. I feel it. And see it. You're not like that with anyone else."

"I trust you." It's as simple as that.

"You have no idea how much that means to me. And things like what we just did ... the fact that even though you hesitate, you ask anyway. And you always give me an out. You don't demand and you don't take. You always treat me with the greatest respect The things you do, Xena, and the things you say to me, the way you do and say them, tells me that you love me very much."

"You got that right." I slide up until our faces are even, and we share a sweet kiss.

"And you ... um ..." My bard is blushing. "... so much of the time, when I climax, you do too, Xena. Even when I'm not doing anything to ... um ... help you with that. I don't understand that, I guess because I seem to require direct stimulation. But I thought about it, and I realized that I must be doing something for you, to have that kind of effect on you."

By the gods I love this woman. "Do something for me?" I kiss her again. "That doesn't even begin to describe it, sweetheart. Giving you pleasure, feeling you respond to me, that is all the stimulation I need. Your touch ... it turns me inside out. You wanna know why?"

"Why?" Her voice is an expectant whisper.

"Because we love each other." I look into her eyes, trying to convey things I can't always say very well. "Why wouldn't you be enough? You're the one I love, Gabrielle."

I watch those beautiful green eyes tear up. She presses her face into the crook of my neck and I hear tiny sniffles. "It's okay, baby." My bard, who is usually so eloquent, often responds to me in this way, not saying anything, and at the same time, speaking volumes. I've come to understand that sometimes all she needs is for me to hold her, which I'm always happy to do. "Hey, you want to sleep in here tonight?"

I feel her nod against my chest. "Yeah." Her voice is muffled by the fact that her face is still pressed against me. "I sometimes miss sleeping on furs with you. Next to a fire."

"Me too." I look down and grasp the edge of a thick blanket that is folded at the end of the platform, and pull it up over us. The fire has enough logs on it to burn for a few more candle marks, long enough for us to fall asleep.

I rub her back until I feel her breathing even out and deepen. I place a kiss against her head and sigh, sinking down into the warmth our joined bodies create beneath the blanket. "Believe, baby." I whisper to her while she sleeps. I vow to never give her a reason not to.

Several candle marks later, we make our way to the docks of Lesbos. It is early dawn, and my bard is still half asleep. Sappho is indeed there to see us off. She exchanges her necessary round of cheek-kissing with us. Gabrielle opens her eyes fully and manages to say good-bye. "Xena, I'll go on down and find our cabin."

I watch her board the ship and then turn back to the tenth muse. "Thank you."

"For what?" Sappho knows good and well what, but she's going to make me say it.

"Gabrielle and I were close before we came here. And I truly believe that there is nothing that could separate us, except death ... and I'm not even certain that could." Sappho studies my face and I see a profound sadness there. She's heard our story. About the crucifixion and the aftermath of Eli bringing Gabrielle back. And my bard bringing me back.

"But you, my friend ..." I clasp her shoulder with one hand. "... you helped me open my eyes. Things are even better between us now, and I owe you for that."

"You did that all by yourself, Xena." Sappho looks over my shoulder and I follow her gaze to where Gabrielle is standing, chatting with the captain. "All I did was make a few suggestions, and tell you a few things you needed to hear. Your actions were your own. But since you feel you owe me, I'll keep that in mind for future reference."

"Deal." I clasp her forearm and then we hug.

"I love you, Xena." She pulls away and smiles at me.

I nod, unable to say the words, but she knows I mean them. We do love each other. Not like Gabrielle and I love each other, or she and Atthis love each other. We are very good friends. If there was ever a time we could have been together, it's long passed now, and there are no regrets between us.

"Don't be a stranger." She touches my face and then I watch her walk away. After a few minutes, I turn and make my way up the gang plank to board the boat.

I get our bags situated in our berth and then join Gabrielle topside. We find a place along the railing that faces out toward the open sea. The docks are on the east side of the island, and as we pull away from shore, our view of water gives way to one last sight of the island. I spot our cottage up on the cliffs, the sunlight sparkling off the glass windows.

My bard is leaning against the railing and I am behind her, my arms circling her shoulders. We are going home, in more ways than one. This trip was supposed to be a lark. An opportunity to satisfy Gabrielle's curiosity about part of my past. And a chance for us to play and experiment in a safe environment.

It became so much more, bringing healing and understanding to us in ways we didn't even know we needed it. I think about our last vacation, when we went to Zakynthos. That was a time of discovery for us. This trip was a time of growing closer. Becoming not just familiar, but comfortable.

I look forward to the coming winter. Our village is higher up in the foothills of the mountains, and it will be cold when we arrive home. The Amazons spent the late summer and early fall preparing for the moons ahead. Food stores have been laid up in the cellar below the dining hall, and all the huts have been made more weather-proof. The stables too.

Argo and Star and Tobias were already starting to get their winter coats when we left. The cats and kittens have made warm nests in the hayloft. Although we usually have at least one cat on the foot of our bed each night.

Before we left, I chopped wood until my shoulders could no longer swing an axe. It is stacked now, in a long pile outside our back door in the courtyard. Salmoneus came through the village a while back with his trader's cart, after a run through Amphipolis. My mother sent a fluffy new quilt with him, and it now graces our bed. She made it herself in shades of rich burgundy and green.

We will be warm, no matter what. Doubly so because we have each other. I want to spend this quiet time, when the world sleeps, immersing myself in her. Building fires and talking. Really talking. And playing some of the board games I made for us after we got back from Egypt. I want her to understand that I love being with her, no matter what we do.

The boat turns again. I hug her more tightly to me and she sighs, resting back against me. We need no words at this moment. We are headed out toward the open sea, bound for Greece and our future. A future with her. Now that's something to look forward to.


The End, For Now

The sequel will be called "The Eyes of Eire." I am not certain when the first part will be posted. I am going to be writing an uber called "The Bluest Eyes in Texas," which is already in progress.

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