by Ximena




As characters, Xena, Gabrielle, and any other characters taken from the show, Xena: Warrior Princess, belong to MCA Universal and Renaissance Pictures. As fantasies, they belong to us all. In this series of therapeutic vignettes, I’ve borrowed them for my own perverse purposes as a hopeless subtext romantic. This session contains specific references to the following episodes: "Maternal Instincts," "Bitter Suite," "Tale of Two Muses," and "The Prodigal."


"What’s this, Gabrielle?" Xena said, scowling at the hieroglyphics carved over the entrance to the cave.

"My birthday present? the Bard answered innocently.

"I don’t get it. Saphho’s Couples Counseling Service?"

"You said you’d do whatever I wanted today, didn’t you?"

"Yeah, but--" Xena’s upper lip twisted into a snarl.

"You said that was my birthday present." Gabrielle’s chin trembled, but, as usual, she showed her Amazon mettle and held her ground. "So this is it, this is what I want for my birthday. You’re not going to spoil it, now, are you?"

"Wouldn’t dream of it," said Xena, taming her snarl into a half-smile. "So how long’s it gonna take ya?" She yanked her sword out of the scabbard.

"Guess I’ll get to polishing this while I wait, since I wasn’t able to get to that last night with all your crying." She looked around for a mossy place to sit.

"This is for both of us, Xena. Couples counseling, get it?"

Xena balked. "Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not going in there, Gabrielle."

"Xena, you promised." Gabrielle’s sea-green eyes grew damp around the lashes.

Xena scowled again and sighed deeply. She had promised, that was true. She had to remember not to make blank promises like that anymore. Gabrielle always tricked her into doing something totally unwarrior-like, but what else could she have done? It was the only thing that made Gabrielle stop crying. She’d been crying every night lately, especially at certain phases of the moon, and recently, it had become part of their nightly get-ready-for-bed ritual. Untie the bedrolls"whimper; roll out the blankets, sniffle; crawl into bed, bawl.

You don’t love me any more, Xena, I can feel it. Ah, Gabrielle, you know how much I hate it when you cry. It’s true, isn’t it? There’s someone else. Honey, there could never be anyone else, not after everything we’ve been through. We’re each other’s flesh and blood. Then why don’t we, why don’t you, why do I feel like you don’t want me any more. I don’t know why you feel that, Gabrielle, but it’s not true. Now c’mere, lemme hold you so you can get to sleep. She had tried kissing her cheeks and forehead, nibbling on her earlobes, stroking her hair, rubbing her back, tickling her ribs--ll to no avail. Look. (She had finally hit upon an idea.) Since tomorrow’s your birthday, whaddya say we do anything ya want. Really? Anything that I want? No matter what? You name it, it’s yours. That’s my motto. You won’t change your mind? I promise.

Xena slammed her sword back into the scabbard and took Gabrielle’s hand. "All right, you got me," she said. "I’m all yours."

Inside Sappho’s Couples Counseling Service, the cave smelled of bat guano and damp limestone. Right away, Xena felt her allergies coming on. Her nose started to twitch and she had to concentrate to keep from sneezing. Gabrielle gave her name to an attendant in a blue toga. Nice thighs, thought Xena, trying not to stare at the slit in the fabric through which the attendant’s muscular leg showed.

"You think she’s pretty, don’t you?"

"Huh? Who?" said Xena, rubbing her nose hard.

"Yeah, who," said Gabrielle, giving Xena her fierce femme look.

The attendant came back and told them they could go on in. The doctor would be right there.

"Doctor?" said Xena, cocking an eyebrow.

"Doctor Love," said the attendant, smiling. "That’s what we call her around here. She’s so healing. Oh, but you’ll have to leave your sword with me. No weapons allowed during the session."

"If my sword stays out here, so do I," said Xena, forcing herself to look up from that distracting thigh.

"Doctor’s orders," said the assistant.

"Xena, are you coming?" Gabrielle called out.

"I’m not going anywhere without my sword," said Xena, then lifted a corner of her mouth and gave the attendant one of her most lop-sided of smiles. "So, what’s it gonna be? You don’t wanna watch my friend break down into a big, bawly mess, do ya?"

The attendant blushed. "Oh, okay. But you’ll at least have to take it off when you’re in there."

Xena winked at her and turned to follow Gabrielle, who was waiting for her at the door with her fists perched on her hips.

"Took you long enough," said Gabrielle.

"She wanted to play with my sword," said Xena, "but I talked her out of it."

"Yeah, right."

Doctor Love’s office contained two fur-covered chaise lounges and a wide-armed wicker chair draped with a wool rug. Xena headed for the chair, when an elegant older woman--her black hair streaked with white, her lavender toga festooned with strands of heliotrope--walked into the room and told her that was her seat.

"You and Gabrielle sit over there," she said, her voice rich and smooth as a bard’s. "Those seats are more comfortable anyway."

Xena didn’t like to sit anywhere with both her legs up, but it was either that or the guano-stained bearskin on the cave floor. She unclasped her scabbard and leaned it against the side of the chaise lounge. Gabrielle reclined in her own seat and stretched out her legs, ceremoniously closing her eyes and resting her hands on her flat, bare belly. Xena’s tongue flickered over her lips as she remembered the softness of her lover’s skin, but the doctor piped in and spoiled her revery.

"I’m Sappho," said Doctor Love, "and you must be Xena. Gabrielle’s told me a lot about you. I’m so glad you could make it."

"I didn’t know you two already knew each other," said Xena, scowling at Gabrielle.

"We met at the poetry recital in Lesbos," Gabrielle explained, eyes still closed. "Remember I told you I had met a really interesting woman? She’s the poet who sponsored the event." She cracked one eye open, then the other.

"You didn’t tell me it was Sappho," said Xena "and you also forgot to mention that she was in this line of work." Xena narrowed her eyes and shot Gabrielle one of her you’re-gonna-be-sorry looks.

"Well, now," said Sappho, all smiles and business. "What seems to be the problem? I do charge by the hour, you know."

"You tell me," said Xena, bothered that Gabrielle had tricked her into airing their problems out to this total stranger, who, no doubt, would end up writing about their foibles in her verses. Can’t trust bards or poets, she thought. She rubbed her nose even harder, smearing her palm with the first traces of allergy snot which she proceeded to rub on the leather fringe of her uniform.

"Gabrielle, perhaps you should begin," said Sappho.

"Yeah, Gabrielle, why doncha illuminate us both?" Xena smirked.

Gabrielle fluttered her eyes and smiled sheepishly. "Ok, ok, but I’m not sure where to start?"

"I guess this goes way back," said Xena. "Whatever this is."

"You’re a storyteller, Gabrielle," said Sappho. "Pretend you’re telling me a story."

"Oh, no, ya don’t," Xena interrupted. "Not if you’re charging by the hour. You have no idea how long Gabrielle’s stories can be."

"Ok, ok," Gabrielle said again, then cleared her throat and looked at Xena. "I know how much you hate talking about our lives to strangers, Xena, but I really think we need some help in figuring out what’s come between us."

With her eyes, Gabrielle pleaded with Xena to cooperate, or at least play along. Xena looked down at the hilt of her sword. No way she was going to let herself get mesmerized by Gabrielle’s eyes right now.

"You’re not still mad at me, are you, about Solan and everything?"

"You know I’m not," Xena mumbled into her cleavage, really hoping Gabrielle wasn’t planning on telling the whole maudlin tale to Doctor Love here.

"Then what is it, Xena? Why have you pulled away from me all of a sudden?"

Xena could not look up. The answer to Gabrielle’s question was "cuz you cry too much and I can’t stand cry-babies." But she couldn’t tell her that, now could she?

"Xena?" said Sappho. "I’m perceiving a problem of intimacy between you and Gabrielle--"

Hey, brilliant deduction, Xena wanted to say, but she chewed on her lip instead.

"--an intimacy I assume was there until recently?"

"Until very recently," said Gabrielle. "Things were going so well, better than ever, actually. Right, Xena?"

Xena nodded, eyes now focused on the copper swirls of her breast plate.

"What do you mean by ‘better than ever,’ Gabrielle?" asked Sappho.

Xena closed her eyes and steeled herself against Gabrielle’s inevitable confession, trying not to squirm or grimace as Gabrielle recounted all the nasty details of their lovemaking. All the tub and soap stories, the fish stories, the bacchae stories, the ‘let’s-pretend-you’re-Argo-and-I’m-riding-you’ stories (Xena’s favorite).

"Well, it all seems perfectly healthy and delightful to me," said Sappho. "I’m afraid I still don’t see the problem."

"Yeah, me either," said Xena, daring a quick glance at Gabrielle.

"But it never changes, Xena." Gabrielle was rapidly approaching the whiny stage. "You always get to do it all."

"Ahhh," said Sappho, jotting notes into her tablet with a stylus. "I think I see what the matter is now."

"Will somebody let me in on it, please?" said Xena.

"Just last week, for instance," said Gabrielle. "When we spent the night in that town that had forbid dancing, Calliope’s town? Remember how you flopped into bed and just fell asleep, didn’t even say goodnight, and you wouldn’t let me dance, either? I had to just lie there next to you."

"I was tired, for Zeus’ sake," said Xena.

"But then you woke up and you wanted, well, you know, you wanted to be intimate with me, you said you needed it, and I let you, as usual, but I could tell there was something happening over on your side that I wasn’t a part of, and then it happened, and you stopped and fell asleep again."

Xena pressed her lips into a thin line. Her ears and cheeks felt hot. She had nothing at all to say to that, didn’t even remember it happening, to tell the truth. Guess I’m playing with her in my sleep, she thought. If there’s a word for sleepwalking, she wandered off on a momentary tangent . . . .

"For both of you?" interjected Sappho. "It happened for both of you?"

"I just wanted to dance," said Gabrielle. "Xena needed to get off."

"Gabrielle!" Xena interrupted, shocked at Gabrielle’s language. "I think she gets the picture."

"Yes, actually I do," said Doctor Love. "I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Happens quite frequently in Lesbos, actually, among the younger crowd who’s trying to be politically correct."

"Politically correct? What’s that?" Xena sneered. Sounded like an Amazon affliction to her.

"It’s something new," Sappho explained. "The younger kids have different ideas about sexuality these days."

"Hey, I’m not a kid," Gabrielle got huffy of a sudden.

"I didn’t mean it that way, Gabrielle. It’s just that we can’t deny you belong to a younger generation and Xena, here, she’s closer to my generation, not that she’s old, but she’s cut of the same ancient pattern, if you will. One that’s very strict about certain things, that’s got roles pretty well defined."

"I guess I’m not following you," said Gabrielle.

"Makes two of us," said Xena.

"Well, then, let’s get blunt, shall we?" Doctor Love continued. "What you’re saying, Gabrielle, or, what you’re trying to say is, the real problem is that Xena won’t let you touch her."

Xena’s face burned. Gods be damned, Gabrielle, she thought. That’s private.

"Right," said Gabrielle, expelling a sigh of relief. "In a nutshell."

"Xena?" Doctor Love prompted, but there was no way that Xena was going to meet the woman’s gaze. She rubbed her nose as hard as she could and mumbled something about the stench of bat guano.

"Xena?" Doctor Love said again. "Are you uncomfortable with what Gabrielle is saying?"

Xena smirked. "You could say that."

"Do you have anything to say to Gabrielle?"

Xena turned her angry gaze on Gabrielle. "That was private," she said.

"The thing about couple’s counseling, Xena," said Doctor Love. "is that we learn to be open with each other here. Nothing is private. Nothing is off bounds. That’s how it works, and it’ll help Gabrielle a lot right now if you told her how you feel about this perception of hers that you don’t want her to touch you."

"It’s not a perception," Gabrielle whined. "That’s how it is between us."

"Why does she want to touch me, all of a sudden?"

"Ask Gabrielle, not me."

"What’s with the touching, Gabrielle? Don’t you like what I do any more?"

"I love what you do, Xena. It’s just that, well, it’s just that I would like to do something else. I want to know what it feels like to touch you, for a change, to participate in what happens to you, but you slap my hand away whenever I get near you. At first, you wouldn’t let me touch your chakram. Then you wouldn’t let me touch your horse. Now you won’t let me touch you. That’s why I think there’s someone else."

"I told you, Gabrielle, there’s not someone else, for Giaia’s sake."

"I don’t like to take the name of the Almighty in vain," said Sappho. "But let’s backtrack a little bit. Gabrielle, you just said that now Xena won’t let you touch her. Does that mean she did before?"


"Just that one time, Gabrielle."

"Details, ladies, details."

"Who ya callin’ a lady?" said Xena, placing her hand on the scabbard, feeling a great and sudden need to go outside and take a leak or check Argo’s saddle.

"The time I came back from Potidaea," Gabrielle recounted. "I went home to visit my family, not because I was homesick, so much, but because of some wierdness I was going through where I felt like I was in Xena’s way all the time, that she was constantly having to save me from some dumb thing I’d done or another, and I decided I’d better just go on home and stop endangering Xena’s life."

"And she let you go?" asked Sappho.

"’Course I did," Xena muttered. "She’s not my slave, ya know." Well, at least not all the time, she added silently.

"Xena’s wise, she knew I needed to figure something out on my own, and I went and figured it out and of course I came back. I guess I needed to know she really wanted me around but the only way to know that was to leave and realize how much I really wanted to be around her. So I came back and she was SO happy to see me. I saw it right away in her eyes, her big smile, that was the real clue. Xena doesn’t usually smile very much. I knew I’d done the right thing, and I realized all I wanted was for her to take me in her arms and sweep me off my feet, but that was before, well, before things really started up between us, when we were still just thinking of each other as traveling companions and best friends."

"I see," said Sappho. "You left because you realized you were in love with Xena."

"Well," said Gabrielle, lifting her shoulders in that uncertain way of hers, shining a shy smile toward Xena. "I guess so."

"What about you, Xena? Were you worried you’d never see Gabrielle again?"

"Nah," said Xena, "I knew she’d be back."

"How could you be so sure?"

"Cuz I was gonna go get her if she’ wasn’t back in a coupla days."

Gabrielle pursed her lips and flashed her a wicked look.

"And then what happened?" Doctor Love had gotten hooked by Gabrielle’s story. "When you returned? Did she open up?"

Xena glared at Gabrielle and made a gesture with her hand to tell her to keep it short.

"It was our first time together," said Gabrielle, her voice low. "We were lying side by side, looking at the fire, and I had my back turned to her and Xena started to stroke me, just like that. She touched my shoulder, first, then moved it down to my waist, then let it drift lightly over my hip. It felt so sensual, I got a chill and shivered. That made her move closer to me, and I could feel her bare legs against mine. She said she’d missed me and wanted me to tell her why I’d left. I couldn’t answer her. I was so happy that she was touching me like that and all I wanted was to focus on her hand, on the heat of her body so close to mine, but I knew she deserved to know what I felt, and so I told her, you know, that maybe I loved her and I was afraid she didn’t love me back, me being such a clutz and all and always getting into trouble, making her risk her life all the time to get me out of one scrape or another.

"I told you," Xena interjected, "that it was a risk I thought I could take."

"She did. She’d said that to me already, before I left, but when she said it again the night I came back, in a tone of voice I’d never heard her use before, with her fingers grazing over my belly, by now, and her warm breath on my neck, her breasts pressing against my back, I knew she meant it, and I . . .

Sappho and Xena’s eyes locked in the long silence that followed.

"And I turned around and gave myself to her. I’ve never known anything like that moment. It was so beautiful. We touched each other all night, all night, gently, hungrily, lasciviously. We did it all and didn’t stop until sunrise, and even then, we stopped only to move into the shade of the woods, and kept going."

Gabrielle’s eyes looked like tiny green ponds, her gaze focused on that moment in the past, her hands stroking her own voluptuous breasts as she spoke, her taut belly, thumbs getting dangerously close to that soft cleft between her thighs. Xena felt her crotch grow wet. She’d never heard Gabrielle tell a story like that before.

And suddenly the hands stopped moving and Gabrielle’s eyes were dry, her gaze trained hard on Xena. "She hasn’t let me touch her ever since."

"How long ago was that?" asked Sappho.

"Three years," said Gabrielle.

"That doesn’t mean I don’t love you, Gabrielle," said Xena softly.

"Then why can’t I touch you, Xena?"

"You touch me all the time. You’re always kissing me and hugging me and braiding my hair and snuggling up to me wherever you can."

"That’s not what I mean, and you know it."

"We’re different, Gabrielle. Can’t you accept that? Can’t you be happy with the pleasure I give you?"

"But I want to give you pleasure, too."

"Don’t you know how much pleasure you give me?"

"But I don’t do anything, Xena. Not really. I just lie there and let you do what you want."

"That’s what I like, Gabrielle. I like it when you just lie there and surrender yourself totally to me, like you did that first night. That gives me the most pleasure. I’m not faking it, honest."

"Let’s backtrack a sec," Doctor Love interrupted. "You said a key word there, Xena. ‘Surrender,’ you said. Is that what touching is about to you?"

The proverbial nail got hit on the head. "I’m a warrior," said Xena.

"Warriors don’t surrender."

"Aha!" said Sappho, her stylus working the tablet, "to allow yourself to be touched is to surrender; to do the touching is to, what? Control? Conquer? Dominate?"

Xena remembered every detail of their first night: the firm, plump feel of Gabrielle’s breasts and thighs beneath her, the smell of her own sweat mixed with the salty scent of the girl’s desire, the way Gabrielle quivered under her every touch at the same time that her virgin hands fumbled with Xena’s shift, the leather britches, the chain mail of the Artemis loin-belt she wore to keep her warrior body chaste at all times. She squeezed her eyes shut and relived Gabrielle’s fingers wriggling roughly through links of the chain, pulling at the hair, burrowing through the skin till they found the wetness that was Xena’s secret road to surrender.

"I’m outa here," said Xena, grabbing her scabbard and flashing out of the stinking cave.

"That’ll be seventy-five dinars," she heard Doctor Love’s assistant say.

Xena threw a pouch of coins on the table as she whooshed past.

"Nobody tames the Warrior Princess," she said. "Alalalalalalalalala!!!!!!"


continued in "Sunset Interlude"

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