The Breaking

By Redhawk

Copyright: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA/Universal and used here without permission. References to a certain theory of immortality belong to Davis/Panzer Productions. Everything else is mine.

Author's Note: First off, I'd like to dedicate this tale to Kristian S. Fischer who has left this mortal coil. His words live on and his memory still lives in my heart. He walks with the Immortals now....

Disclaimers: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women.

There are several expletives as well, though I've done my best to not let them get too out of hand.

There are standard scenes of violence wherever Xena is concerned.

MAJOR hurt/comfort theme here..... If you thought the last two tales were along that line, this one's gonna knock yer socks off. (I suggest that those who read as I post might want to wait until the fourth or fifth chapter is out before beginning....) Please supply yourself with tons of Kleenex (I think I should invest in the company) and whatever you do, don't stop reading!! It'll get better! I swear!

If you are under the age of consent, leave. If it's illegal where you are currently residing, move. If any of these things get your fine sensitivities in a ruckus, please hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete on your keyboard.

Part 1: Saturday

"Albert Fossati."

The dark woman seated in the audience attempted to stifle a yawn, barely succeeding as she applauded. She watched as a young man in black robes and a silly hat strode up to the stage. Her eyes were drawn to a handful of people on her right, hollering and whistling at their fledgling.

"Deena Fredrickson," the dean intoned.

Another spate of polite applause, another round of family and friends yelling their support as a young black woman crossed the stage. She shook hands with the dean and received her diploma with a wide smile, responding to his unheard congratulations.

"Rickie Gardner."

Finally! The boredom washed away as Xena's face broke into a huge smile. She watched her lover step onto the stage and rose to her feet, clapping and whistling for all she was worth. Around the dark woman, the Holts did the same, adding their voices to the cacophony. Marjorie Holt snapped a couple of pictures in the process.

The redhead reached the dean and shook his hand, taking the rolled parchment from him with a smile. She then turned to the audience, blindly facing her friends and partner. Rickie held up the diploma with a triumphant, "Yes!" that rang through the auditorium.

Xena watched as the new graduate continued off stage and returned to her seat. Settling down, she grinned at Emil Holt. "Now we sit through the rest of the alphabet," she murmured.

"Benton Garrett," was called from the stage.

The police officer nodded with a rueful smile. "I don't know which would've been better, having Rickie's last name be in the A's or the Z's...."

Chuckling, the dark woman said, "Either way, we'd be suffering."

Losing interest in the proceedings around her, Xena mused over the last few years. Without a doubt, they'd been fantastic. Sometimes her heart literally ached with the overwhelming feelings her lover, her bacchae invoked within her.

They would be celebrating their fifth anniversary in a couple of weeks. Five years? Feels like only yesterday.... Visions of a gangly teenager swaggering along a dark street, telling stories to the streetkids on their way to the City Nightclub filled Xena's mind. Her face creased into a nostalgic grin as she compared that cocky youth to her lover today.

The intervening years had tempered Rickie's brashness with a bit more wisdom and foresight. The trials of the physical and emotional tortures she'd been through gave her a confidence and surety that the teenager had lacked. Physically, the redhead had bulked up a bit from her workouts with the Immortal, though her physique was still slim.

And delicious.... Xena unconsciously licked her lips as a languid warmth washed over her. Despite the years, she couldn't get enough of Rickie. Even out in public, they were always touching - holding hands, sitting thigh to thigh, stealing kisses regardless of who might be witness.

After that first extremely violent year, the warrior had been concerned that this physical closeness, this necessity was bordering on obsessive. That, by the very nature of the tortures they'd suffered through, both were terrified of being without the other. It had taken awhile to broach the subject with the redhead; Xena had not wanted to make it real by speaking it. She'd been both relieved and concerned that Rickie had felt the same way. After much discussion, the two had decided to let things ride, hoping that by being aware of the potential problem, they'd nip anything in the bud.

Apparently it had worked. The nightmares they both suffered dissipated, the anxieties of being separated by school and work faded, and they found themselves just as physically intimate as ever. 'Skin hungry' as Rickie calls it. Her mind wandered down the memory of this morning's activities, soft caresses and moans filling her daydream.

"Bruce Zamora."

There was a nudge on Xena's upper arm and she brought herself back to the present. Inhaling deeply, she looked into humorous dark brown eyes.

"That's the last one," Holt said, nodding his chin at the final graduate from Portland State University as he marched across the stage. "We're gonna bail so we can avoid traffic."

Xena looked down the row of Holts - the older Isaiah with his intelligent eyes, the newly teenaged Jeremy, Marjorie juggling a camera and four-year-old Maria. "Sounds good, Emil."

"Meet you at the warehouse in, what? Half an hour?"

The dark woman looked at her watch and then at the crowd. "Better add another hour onto that. I doubt we'll be getting out of here anytime soon."

The officer shrugged, glancing around the auditorium at the slow trickle of people departing. "Okay. We'll get some ice cream or something before heading over."

Xena nodded. "Great. See ya later." She leaned down to wave at the rest of the family before they rose and filed out of their seats.

On stage, a final speech was spoken by the dean, inviting the new graduates to 'go forth into the world' and all that. The audience seats were beginning to really empty, many wanting to beat the rush in the parking lot now that they'd seen their sons and daughters succeed in their scholastic endeavors. Though Xena would still have to wait for her lover to finish the ceremony, she rose as well and filed out with the others.

The setting sun was brilliant against her pale blue eyes and she winced at the stab of pain. Shielding her eyes with one hand, Xena dug her keys from her pocket and went in search of the car.

Xena leaned against the sunbaked warmth of her silver grey Ferrari, arms crossed. Twenty minutes passed before she caught sight of her partner amid the mass of black robes. While the Immortal's heart thumped at Rickie's cheery demeanor, her pale eyes narrowed when they settled on her current companion.

"Look who I found!" the redhead exclaimed with a grin, indicating the young woman beside her.

Xena nodded her head civilly. "Victoria."

The woman also nodded, her smile bright against her dark skin. "Hey, Xena." She was dressed in jeans and a maroon silk shirt, a light yellow windbreaker in one hand. Her hair was cropped close and brushed back. She dropped the Raybans from her forehead onto her nose against the sun that was beginning to sink beneath the southwest hills.

Rickie chose to ignore the usual awkwardness between her lover and friend, smiling broadly and slipping into Xena's grasp.

Arms suddenly full of woman, the warrior's smile returned. She tightened her grip, pulling Rickie closer and inhaling deeply. With her mouth next to a delicate ear, she whispered, "Congratulations, Dreamer. You made it."

Shivering as the words tickled her ear, Rickie hugged the Immortal close. "Thanks. I never would have without you."

They held the embrace for a moment, lost in each other, until a gentle cough reminded them of the third presence. Rickie blushed a bit, a wide grin on her face. She pulled away and turned, though her lover's arms refused to let her go far. "Sorry," she chuckled to her friend, rolling her eyes.

"S'okay," Victoria Dunross insisted, her smile wide. She made a show of looking at her watch. "Well, I'd better go. Unlike some people, I still have summer classes to contend with."

Rickie looked quickly to the dark woman, their eyes meeting in silent conversation. Xena shrugged lightly with one shoulder and looked away, leaving the decision up to her. The redhead could almost hear her lover's words in her mind - It's your graduation party.... "Look, um.... We've got a little get together tonight. Maybe you could join us...?"

Victoria's smile stayed in place as she studied the couple from behind her sunglasses. She considered her options before speaking. "No, thanks. I've left Nessie inside the apartment for far too long. She needs to spend some running time in the park."

With an Immortal will, Xena refrained from sighing deeply in satisfaction.

Pulling from her lover's embrace, Rickie stepped to the dusky woman and hugged her. "Tell Nessie hi for me, then."

"Oh, I will." Victoria hugged the redhead back. "And congrats on the bachelor's, babe. You worked hard for it."

"I couldn't have done it without you, Tori," the graduate insisted, pulling back to peer at her friend. "You are a language wiz, my friend."

With a chuckle, the young woman added, "And it was all Greek to you."

Laughing at the joke about her choice of language courses, Rickie stepped away. "Thanks again. Maybe we can go for coffee in a couple of days....?"

"Sure. Nessie'd like to see you again." Victoria's smile widened at the mixture of joy and dread on the redhead's face. "I'll have her on a leash so she won't tackle you this time."

Emerald eyes rolled expressively. "Thanks! I don't know what it is about that dog of yours, but I am not a plaything." Behind her Rickie heard a mumbled comment that caused her to fair skin to color. She half turned and glared with mock warning into innocent blue eyes.

Good byes said, the woman went her way. Rickie turned to her partner, hands on her hips, mock glaring at the innocent look. "What was that again?"

"I said, it depends on your definition of 'plaything'," Xena repeated with a smirk. She straightened from where she'd been leaning against the car. "Perhaps you'd like to remove your robe?" she asked as she opened the passenger door, leering.

Rickie waggled a finger at her, trying to keep a stern face and failing miserably. "You are a lech," she informed the Immortal.

"Thank you."

The redhead removed her black, polyester graduation robe and haphazardly folded it. Beneath the required item she wore a pair of black trousers and a powder blue, collarless shirt, a dainty golden chain about her neck. As she passed close to Xena to get into the low slung auto, she felt a hand on her rear, stopping her progress.

"Just remember, Dreamer. I'm your lech," Xena murmured before brushing her lips against her lover's.

Her skin tingled beneath the contact and then the gentle caress was gone. Rickie found herself seated in the Ferrari with the door being closed beside her. Sighing at the loss, she watched the dark woman walk around to the driver's side and climb in.

Once on the road, which was after half an hour of dealing with parking lot traffic, Rickie placed her hand on the Immortal's as it rested on the stickshift. Xena sent an affectionate smile her way at the touch.

"Thanks again."

A dark eyebrow raised. "For what this time?"

Rickie's face creased in a smile. "For not getting bent outta shape when I invited Tori to the party."

Xena carefully schooled her features. "It's your graduation party, Dreamer. Not mine. She's your friend."

"And not yours," the redhead finished. She shook her head and held up her hand to forestall any comment. "Sorry. I just don't see what the problem is. She's a sweet lady and very intelligent. There's never been a problem for as long as I've known her." Except for that Irish wolfhound of hers....

The Immortal watched the traffic as they crossed the Broadway Bridge and headed further into the downtown area. "I know, Rick," she sighed. "I don't know how to explain it, either. It's nothing personal, I swear." Just something about that woman.... Xena shrugged and cast a sidelong look at the redhead beside her. "Can't help it when my radar goes off."

Rickie nodded. "Well, thanks anyway. I appreciate it."


With mild surprise, the redhead noticed her glass was empty. Rising from the couch, she asked Marjorie Holt, "I'm getting a refill. Want anything?"

The older woman looked up with a smile and shook her head. "I think we're fine, thanks," she responded, indicating the child lying on the couch between them.

Nodding, Rickie went to the kitchen and pulled another soda from the refrigerator. She grabbed a handful of ice cubes from the bowl in the freezer and popped the can's top. After pouring the liquid into her glass, she leaned against the counter and looked out at the small gathering.

The party was a small one, with only a few guests. Emerald eyes scanned the large living area. Guess that's one thing we have in common, she mused, sipping her drink. Neither of us have many close friends....

Marjorie's daughter had her head pillowed on her mother's lap. Hands gently brushed her hair as she watched the latest DVD Disney cartoon. In the armchair nearby was Holt's partner, Alyssa Davenport. The small blonde appeared to be more engrossed in the movie than the child and Rickie stifled a chuckle.

At the dining room table, Holt and another woman had made space for a game of Parcheesi. Around them were the graduate's spoils, a food spread that covered nearly every version of the word 'junk' and a large, half eaten cake. The exuberant auburn haired woman that was winning was Alice Walton, or 'Al' as she preferred to be called, and was Rickie's agent.

In the far corner was a lonely armchair with a table and lamp beside it. Xena's space. But the dark Immortal wasn't occupying it at this moment. The youngest Holt male, Jeremy, was currently sprawled there, reading. If Rickie's guess was right, it was an historic account of the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the thirteen year old was so enraptured by it, the ice from his untouched soda had melted long ago.

The redhead smiled fondly at the boy. So studious, she marveled. Remy's gonna kick butt in high school with his grades!

Glancing about, she noticed a couple of people missing from this little soiree. Tuning her ears to the low tenor, her smile widened into a grin. Of course.... Rickie pushed away from the counter and wandered to the other side of the warehouse, to the exercise area.

As expected, Isaiah and Xena were seated on a weight bench in earnest discussion. The teenager's eyes were intent as the dark woman held up a sai for inspection and explained its use. Scattered on the floor about their feet was her sword, the chakram, two throwing daggers and a staff.

Sidling up to the pair, Rickie leaned against the firm back of her lover, one hand playing with the ebony hair. "Talking shop again?" she asked.

Xena grinned at her, holding the three pronged weapon to one side. "Yep." The Immortal offered her lips for a kiss and was rewarded.

"Aw, jeez, guys! Get a room!" Isaiah blushed and looked away. "You're worse than my parents," he mumbled.

With an amused chuckle, the kiss broke off as two pairs of eyes pinned the youth. Isaiah squirmed under their gaze, but kept his chin up and stared back.

"Help me put these away, Ice," Xena said, handing the teenager the sai.

Surprised out of his embarrassment, Isaiah took the weapon gingerly. His face softened in wonder as he studied it, rising from the bench to hang it on the wall. He was so absorbed in the blade, he would have tripped over the staff had Xena not had the foresight to slide it out of the way with one foot.

"He's in love," Rickie murmured. Low laughter tickled her ear and she smiled down at her partner, gently massaging her shoulders. "He's not the only one."

"Hope not!" the Immortal exclaimed. "Otherwise your life's gonna be miserable for a long time!" She leaned away from her lover's caress to scoop up the throwing knives. With a quick snap of the wrist, she sent them both flying into the back wall of the warehouse, joining three others of their kind.

"Hey!" came a yell from the other side of the entertainment center. "Watch what yer doing over there! I'm trying to catch the end of the movie!"

"Sorry, Lyssa," Xena called, her tone and impish grin anything but.

Isaiah returned and looked down at the chakram. "Can I.... Can I put that away, too?"

The memory of a blond Nordic boy named Hrothgar flickered through the Immortal's vision. "Could I hold that chakram of yours?" Shaking the past from her mind, Xena smiled and nodded. "Sure. Be careful, though. The edges are razor sharp." A slight shiver whisked through her at the deja vu of her response.

With proper reverence, the dark youth scooped the weapon up. As he made his way to the wall, he couldn't help but hold it up to the streetlight coming from the window to watch it sparkle.

Warm hands were still on Xena's shoulders, massaging away the tension that had erupted at the flashback.

"What's up?"

"Nothing." The Immortal laid her hand on Rickie's, stilling it. "Just reminded me of somebody a long time ago."

The redhead nodded. "A good memory, I hope...?"

Xena squeezed her lover's hand and her smile broadened. "Yes. A very good one."

The tableau was broken as the television volume swelled with the ending song of the movie. With a sigh and another squeeze, Xena rose from her seat, scooping up her sword and the staff. She tossed the blunt instrument to the teenager approaching them, pleased at his quick catch, and moved to put away her blade. The three of them returned to the living area.

Rickie reached the DVD player first and shut the ending credits off, adjusting the volume on the television before putting the disc away. Nearby, Davenport stretched like a cat and rose to her feet.

"That was a good movie," she said, her tone one of grudging respect. "For a cartoon."

Isaiah grimaced. "Whatever."

The blonde marched over and knuckled his head. "Watch it, fellah! You'll feel the same way in a few years, trust me. You hate cartoons now, but it'll come back to ya."

Snorting, the teenager ducked and wandered to the table. "Schyeah, right." He scooped up a handful of potato chips and munched as he watched his father lose the game he played.

"Gotcha!" Walton crowed, pushing her chair back in triumph.

Holt stared in suspicious surprise at the board between them, mouth pursed into a frown.

Slapping his father on the shoulder, Isaiah grinned. "Yeah, she did, Dad."

The officer sighed and looked up at his opponent. "Two outta three?" he offered, wiggling his eyebrows.


Holt turned to peer at his wife.

"It's way past Maria's bedtime," Marjorie reminded. "And you have work tomorrow...?"

Grimacing, the man sighed. "Oh. Yeah."

"Oh. Yeah," Davenport mimicked. "Don't think I'm gonna pull the shift alone buddy." The blonde grabbed Holt's shoulders and shook him gently. "We have to interview that Raftich fellah tomorrow."

With a sigh and a crooked grin, Holt turned to Walton. "Guess you lucked out, Al. Otherwise, I'da cleaned up."

"Yeah.... Your shorts, maybe," a teenager snickered.

"Isaiah," came the warning tone.

"Sorry! Sorry!" The youth lifted his hands in surrender, appeasing the 'Mommy God.'

"Well, there's always next time, Emil," Walton offered with a smile. She stood and pulled her purse from the back of the chair. "I need to get going myself. Gotta get up nice and early tomorrow to pitch another book for my star author here."

Rickie, relaxing in her lover's arms, grinned and blushed at the praise. "I should have the third chapter finished by next week, Al."

Purse slung over her shoulder, the agent briskly rubbed her hands together. "Good, good, good! Publishers love to hear that kinda stuff."

The auburn woman's actions appeared to be the catalyst as people began collecting their things and heading for the elevator. The only sluggish ones were the youngest of the Holt clan - Maria because she was tired and cranky and Jeremy, who was so engrossed in the book he didn't hear his name being called.

"Can I borrow this, Xe?" he asked when his attention had finally been gained. The young teenager grasped the book firmly in one hand, his forefinger marking his place.

"Sure, Remy, go ahead," the Immortal agreed with a smile. She ruffled his dark hair. "Bring it back when you're done."

"Cool! Thanks!"

Another round of congratulatory hugs for Rickie and the guests were escorted to the main floor. The redhead thanked everyone for helping her celebrate while Xena manned the garage door. Soon, the last of the three cars pulled out onto Couch Street and the Immortal closed the large door, locking it behind them. She checked the smaller door's lock before rejoining her companion at the lift.

Rickie watched her lover pull the freight door down and hit the control. As the large elevator began to rise, she wrapped her arms around Xena from behind and laid her head between the shoulderblades. "Thanks. That was a wonderful party."

"Glad you liked it, Rick." The Immortal leaned back a bit and held the redhead's arms with her own. "Like I could get out of it.... If it wasn't for Marjorie, it wouldn't have happened."

Grinning at the thought of the detective's wife browbeating Xena to host a graduation party for her, Rickie squeezed the waist she held. "Well, thanks anyway."

The elevator arrived at its only destination and the dark woman raised the door, gesturing with a flourish for her lover to exit. As the redhead passed, Xena reached out and pinched her rear.

"Ow!" Rickie dashed away with a giggle and the chase was on.

A rather circuitous route was taken through the warehouse. At one point, the Immortal thought she had her prey cornered in the kitchen until Rickie dived over the counter, sending pop cans and potato chip bags flying. The mandatory circle about the dining table almost netted the redhead. Rickie was expecting the sudden leap from the dark woman, however, and dashed away before Xena could land behind her.

Xena finally caught her lover at the back of the warehouse where the massive bookcase ended and her target wall began. She pinned the lithe body against the wall with her own, both of them panting and slightly sweaty from their exertions.

Looking up into pale eyes that sparkled with a carnal light, Rickie felt the familiar twist of arousal in her heart and stomach. God, I love her! She inhaled deeply, trying to catch her breath, the intimate scent of her Immortal filling her senses.

The dark woman kept Rickie's forearms in check against the wall, leaning into the soft curves and hard muscle. A perfect fit, her mind muttered. "Thought you could get away?" she asked, her voice husky as she peered down at her captive.

Another giggle welled up from the redhead. "Thought it was worth a try," was the breathless response.

Xena tsked at her, shaking her head in mock seriousness. She transferred her grip, holding both wrists in one hand. Her lover made a bid for freedom and the Immortal chuckled, pressing her body closer. "Oh, no you don't, Dreamer."

The feel of the muscular body against hers almost caused Rickie to swoon. She allowed herself to quietly sigh and close her eyes for a second.

Hearing the almost inaudible sound, Xena's heartrate increased. When the emerald eyes opened, bright with passion, the Immortal slowly leaned her head forward for a kiss.

The tantalizing leisureness elicited a frustrated groan from Rickie but it failed to speed up the process. When the lips finally met hers with a searing intensity, she attacked them, demanding access. The redhead invited Xena in, pulled her deep inside her mouth, their tongues swirling together.

It wasn't long before Rickie gained release from her lover's grasp. The hands, callused from millennia of sword fights and battles, fumbled with the buttons on her shirt, ran over her body with firm purpose. To do her credit, the redhead's hands were hardly idle. The Immortal's shirt was already open to the waist, breasts being stroked as she rained kisses and nips on the broad, bare shoulders.

With a growl of frustration, Xena stepped away and ripped the offending cloth open. Buttons flew every which way and the dark woman wasted no time in burying her head between the round breasts. A hand massaged one nipple, the other reaching down to Rickie's rear and crushing their bodies closer.

As one turgid nipple was suckled, Xena's hands dropped to her lover's waistband, easing the button and zipper open. She nibbled the flesh, hearing a throaty groan above her, feeling hands in her hair and down the back of her shirt, nails scratching along her spine. When the fastenings were free, a vee of reddish curls announced the lack of underwear with silent triumph and the Immortal knelt. Her lips caressed the lighter skin, teeth biting into the tender waist, tongue delving within the belly button. All the while, her hands slid down Rickie's thighs, bringing the slacks down to the floor.

The redhead helped kick off her pants, feeling her socks and shoes swept along with the rest. Her head fell back against the wall as the hot breath of her lover brushed her center, causing the throbbing to intensify between her legs. The strong and agile tongue then firmly stroked her, and Rickie gasped aloud. "Xena!" She alternated between leaning back against the wall for support and peering down at her lover, watching the erotic sight of herself being loved.

Xena hummed in pleasure as she tasted her lover's essence, the salty warmth, the silky folds parting beneath her attentions, the gentle thrusting of the hips beneath her hands. Better than chocolate, is right.... A subtle shift occurred and the Immortal's highly trained senses noted the weakening of Rickie's knees. With some regret, she left off her laving and kissed her way back up the naked body, ignoring the disappointed sigh.

Upon her lover's arrival at her breasts, Rickie clutched at the dark head, demanding the Immortal stop her progress. Quite agreeable to the request, Xena gave her total attention to the flesh beneath her lips and the redhead gasped as teeth ground down on an aching nipple.

Standing slightly stooped over was putting a strain on the dark woman's neck and shoulders, but she was unwilling to release her prize, enjoying the breathless passion she could hear from Rickie's throat. With strong arms, she grasped the redhead's hips and lifted her, pinning her nearly a foot above the floor against the wall.

Startled, Rickie clutched at the broad shoulders with a bit of a squeak. When she realized what happened, she chuckled at the fading twist of fear and wrapped her legs around Xena's waist. The washboard stomach rubbed against her sex and her breathy sigh turned into a throaty moan as she moved against the firm muscles. The redhead felt the body push back against her, pressing into her flesh as both Xena's hands clutched and massaged her breasts. On the downstroke, her clit brushed her lover's belt buckle and she shuddered and gasped at the flood of sensations.

Xena continued sucking and biting the swollen nipples, grinding purposefully against the warm wetness on her stomach. Each time her belt came in contact with Rickie's center, the redhead held her tighter and picked up the tempo. The Immortal's attentions were diverted by a long neck and she nibbled and kissed her way upwards. Her ears were filled with the music of Rickie's voice as the supple body shuddered against her in orgasm, bucking between the wall and herself.

Rickie gulped huge amounts of air as she came down from her climax, eyes closed. She licked dry lips. "Oh, God, that was a wonderful graduation gift..." she murmured.

Tenderly, Xena lowered her lover, supporting her as rubbery legs threatened to collapse. She kissed the redhead with a smile. "That wasn't the gift, but you're welcome." She plucked at the powder blue shirt that was hanging half off Rickie's shoulders. "I think I ruined your shirt."

"Mmmm.... It was worth it," the redhead grinned, her eyes hooded. "Though, I must admit, I hadn't thought of using your belt like that before."

The Immortal laughed and peered down at the silver buckle. It glistened wetly and she ran a finger along it. "Neither have I." She licked her finger. "Have to keep it in mind now."

Feeling herself finally steadier, Rickie reached out and tweaked a bare nipple before squeezing between her lover and the wall. She hobbled more than raced to the stairs, Xena in hot pursuit.


In the depth of the night, Xena sighed and eased out from beneath her lover's arm. Despite the strenuous activities they'd enjoyed, sleep was not forthcoming for the Immortal. Back in the days of her origin, she'd rarely needed more than five or six hours. Now, two thousand years later, the dark woman could make do with two or three without a problem, sometimes not sleeping for a couple of days at a stretch.

Of course, that's the problem, came the sarcastic thought as she scooped up her a luxurious maroon robe and donned it. Xena paused to look longingly at the redhead sleeping peacefully in their bed before tying the robe closed and moving downstairs.

A glass of water later, Xena gazed idly at the disaster their home had become. The floor around the kitchen counter was littered with the rubbish from their chase. About and on the dining table were the wrappings from several packages, various and assorted munchies, one game board that had been upset when Rickie had grabbed the edge of the table for purchase and a sheet cake which was completely trashed.

"Well, warrior, that'll give you something to do..." she murmured. The Immortal figuratively rolled up her sleeves and got to work.

The going was slow as the dark woman tried to keep the noise down even though it was a fact that Rickie could sleep through a nuclear holocaust. Eventually, the living area had been straightened, the dishes in the washer, the trash in two neat bags inside the elevator and the table and counters wiped down. The cake was covered with plastic wrap and the gifts neatly piled on one end. Xena left the banner proclaiming "Happy Graduation, Rickie!!" hanging above the table.

"Well, now what?" She glanced at the kitchen clock, noting that it would be several hours before her lover would wake up. After going through her usual list - reading, a run, a drink, a workout, target practice, a drive - and finding none worth the effort, she sighed and drifted to the table.

Xena fished inside a mid sized cardboard box and pulled out a book. Opening the front cover, she verified the autographed copy was hers before turning it over. Long fingers brushed across the photo of her lover on the back and she smiled. The Lawgiver by Rickie Gardner. The cover showed an ancient drawing of Suleiman I, the first of the Ottoman rulers based in present day Turkey. Not a bad rendition of him, either.

Turning out the light, Xena padded up the stairs. She paused long enough to peer at the sleeping Rickie, her heart doing a little flip flop at the vision. Unable to help herself, the Immortal moved over to the bed and kissed her lover's lips. There was a murmured smile in response and Xena grinned. "I love you, Dreamer," she whispered.

"Love... too," the redhead mumbled, rolling over to clutch Xena's pillow to her.

After tucking the sheet up over the bared shoulder, the dark woman wandered across the bedroom to the wall beside the fireplace. With practiced fingers, she found the catch in the darkness and an entire panel opened inwards, revealing a hallway. With sure steps, she walked into her private memories - the hidden room that held momentos of her past.

At the end of the short hall, she entered an area as large as their bedroom. Four windows on the far and right walls shimmered behind the gauzy cloth covering them, faint illumination from the streetlights of downtown Portland turning them misty and ethereal. Xena hit the lightswitch, dispelling the ghostliness. The room was mostly shelves and drawers. An old and tattered armchair resided in one corner and a large oaken table was in the center of a peacock blue Persian rug on the hardwood floor, two benches flanking it.

The Immortal held her new book close, walking a slow circuit about the room. Her free hand traced rare old books of a dozen languages and subjects; various knickknacks given as gifts from some of the most powerful people the world had ever known; her first master smith piece - an intricate maze of knotwork formed into a brooch; a brass breastplate with Celtic swirls shining against dark leather; a box holding the broken Caliburn for which Rickie's first book had been titled; an old flintlock musket carried through the Revolution until the death and destruction of war had finally overpowered her senses and sent her screaming into the cool rainforests of the Amazon.

Xena stopped. Several cracked and yellowed scrolls filled the top shelf just within reach, written in ancient Greek. They were, by no means, the complete library of Gabrielle of Poteidaia but they spanned about three years of her life. Rickie had been reading them as her control of the language had increased, puzzling over the strange writings at the oak table, carefully unrolling each one as she quested for her own past. The dark woman closed her eyes and smiled, seeing the redhead muttering to herself as she read aloud, a frown of concentration on her face.

The Immortal opened her eyes. The next shelf down held the book she was looking for. The Broken Blade by Rickie Gardner. The first of hopefully many novels that put a slightly different slant on history. With some care, Xena made room beside the shelved book, sliding the one she carried into place next to it. Gonna have to clear off an entire shelf for her, I bet, she thought with some pride. A twinge of sadness stabbed at her, but she pushed it away, knowing it a precursor to the future mourning she would endure at Rickie's death.

Now, melancholy as well as bored, she reached for one of her bard's scrolls. Moments later, she was comfortably settled in the armchair, a smile on her face as she read the words that two millennia couldn't erase in her mind's eye.





The sun brightened the exercise area of the warehouse, illuminating the open floor where the two opponents circled. Blunted knife blades flashed as they feinted in an early morning dance.

"Good," Xena commented, watching her trainee quickly transfer the grip on her blade. "Holding it that way gives you less chance of losing it in a fight." To demonstrate, she leapt forward, her own knife laying along her forearm as she took a swipe at her partner's head.

Rickie ducked, her weapon up to block as she wove to the left. Her hair was pulled back in a pony tail and her skin covered in a sheen of sweat. She bounced a bit on her toes and grinned.

Getting cocky, the Immortal thought, her pale eyes narrowing and a slight smile curving her lips. A feral light hit her eyes.

"Uh oh," Rickie murmured, wariness coloring her face.

With surprising speed, the dark woman attacked again, leaping across the space dividing them with a growl. There was a jolt up her arm as Rickie brought her own blade up, blocking her lover's knife as it arced towards her throat. The two strained against each other for split seconds, staring into each other's eyes.

The redhead felt her lover's body against her own and a different sort of heat welled up. Not now! She licked her lips and tried to keep her concentration on the fight at hand, but her eyes flickered from their stare to the breasts that were pressed against her own.

It was all the opening Xena needed. With a cry, she dropped to the floor and swept her long legs outwards. Even as her lover fell backwards with a startled yell, the dark woman jumped to her feet. She stood back, panting lightly as Rickie rose to her feet with a grumble. Chuckling, she said, "You got distracted. What happens if you've got a sexy babe fighting you?"

"I'd tell her that S and M isn't my type of action," Rickie mumbled, brushing imaginary dust from her sweatpants.

Xena wiggled her eyebrows. "That's not what I've heard."

"Oooo, yer gonna get it now, lady." Emerald eyes glinted evilly though Rickie hadn't made a move to prepare herself to attack.

"Promises, promises." A cloud passed over the sun, dimming the light and the Immortal glanced at the window.

Which was all the opening Rickie needed.

Xena's head whirled at the warcry coming from her lover's throat. Rickie had crossed the small space between them and was almost upon her. The dark woman's first response was to hold up the blade in her hand for her opponent to be impaled, but she came to her senses a split second before the redhead's attack connected. She ignored the burning sting along her left shoulder as she took the brunt of the attack. Stepping aside at the last moment, she used Rickie's momentum to push her along and tripped her with one foot.

The redhead sailed through the air and slid two feet before she came to a halt near the office door. Crawling to her hands and knees, she shook her head and tried to catch her breath. When Rickie had finally collected herself, she rose to her feet and turned to see the Immortal grinning at her, hands on hips.

"Not bad, Dreamer. You almost had me."

Rickie blinked, frowning. She replayed the last scene in her mind, feeling the resistance as the blade met its target and her frown deepened. A glance at the knife showed nothing unusual. Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the Immortal. "I got you, didn't I?"

Xena's face was a mask and she raised a regal eyebrow. "Of course not." The wound on her shoulder was already healing, she could feel the itch as her cells took over and repaired the damage. I don't know what she'll do if she thought she actually hurt me.

Obviously disbelieving her, the redhead marched forward and tugged at the dark sweatshirt on her lover's form. "Don't lie to me. We promised we wouldn't do that anymore." She searched her memory and zeroed in on the shoulder. Her fingers found the slice, slightly damp from the blood. "I did get you!"

Sighing, the Immortal looked away, nodding. "Yeah, you got me." As the sweatshirt was twisted to allow her concerned lover to peer at the damage, she tried to pull away. "It's okay, Rickie. It was just a scratch! It's almost healed already."

Lips pursed in disapproval, the younger woman glared at her.

"Alright, alright! It was more than just a scratch!" Xena stilled the hand on her shoulder with her own. "It's healed now. No problem."

Rickie studied her lover's face carefully before breaking away. She turned and stomped to her gear, sliding the knife back into its sheath and dropping it on her gym bag.

Watching the redhead lean against the windowsill and stare out at nothing, Xena sighed. She put her own blade away and moved closer, rubbing the tense shoulders. "It was an accident, Dreamer, it's my fault. I let my guard down."

"I don't like hurting you," was the strained response. Rickie shook her head. "Maybe we should stop training with blades, stick to the quarterstaff and archery."

"No!" Xena turned the redhead to face her, noting the overbright eyes. "With who and what I am, you're in danger. If I get a few scratches and bumps because I teach you not to pull your punches, then that's what happens!" Seeing she wasn't getting through, the Immortal stood back long enough to pull her sweatshirt from her body. "Look, not even a scar," she insisted, pointing to a blood smeared shoulder.

Rickie studied the shoulder in question, though she looked no less upset.

Pulling her close, Xena wrapped her lover in her arms. "A quarterstaff isn't going to do much against an Immortal, Dreamer. Unless you can get in a mortal blow, the damage heals too quickly, they're up and fighting again too soon." She squeezed Rickie, relieved as she felt the redhead's arms slip around her waist. "You have to know how to defend yourself, even if it means I get hurt upon occasion."

"I don't like it," Rickie mumbled against warm skin, relaxing as her lover's hands caressed her back.

"Neither do I, lover. Neither do I."

They stood in the window for quite some time. The tableau broke when Xena's sweat chilled body shivered against the coolness of the warehouse.

Rickie pulled back and peered at the dark woman. "Let's go get a shower and breakfast."




The shower took quite some time. Rickie insisted on going over the Immortal's skin inch by inch with a soapy washrag, as if she was verifying she'd caused no other wounds. Despite the enjoyable feelings, Xena interrupted the serious examination with a rousing kiss and insistent hands, distracting the redhead from her purpose.

Sated for the moment and clean, the pair dressed in robes and puttered around the kitchen together. Rickie manned the frypan and eggs, Xena prepared the ham, onions, mushrooms and cheese for their omelets. They settled at the dining table with mugs of steaming coffee and their plates.

Working on her third omelet, Rickie sipped her coffee and peered over her cup at the dark woman. "So, whaddya got planned for today?"

Xena finished her mouthful, shrugging. "Not much. I've got to finish that report for Tate so I can get it to him in the morning."

"How do you think he's going to take it?" the redhead asked, referring to her lover's last investigation.

Another shrug. "Not well. They rarely do when they finally have absolute proof their spouses are cheating." Xena took a final bite of food and pushed her plate away, leaning back in her chair. She studied the young woman beside her, a slight curl to her lips.

Rickie grinned a little at the attention. "What?"

"I was thinking.... Now that this case is over, I have nothing to tie me down here for a couple of weeks...." she trailed off, reaching for her coffee.

"And...?" the redhead urged, inclining her head closer.

Ice blue eyes sparkled over the rim of a mug. As she finished drinking, she twitched a shoulder in another idle shrug, placing the cup back on the table. "And.... I'm thinking a change of scenery is in order, ya know?"

Rickie's eyebrows came together though her grin widened a little more. "Change of scenery?" she asked with no little suspicion. "Every time we 'change scenery' somebody out there tries to kill one or the both of us."

Chuckling, the Immortal had to nod in agreement. "True. But, I was thinking about staying away from Europe this time."

Startled, the redhead's face cleared and she watched her lover closely. "Really?" At the dark woman's nod, she asked, "What did you have in mind?"

Xena rose from her seat and wandered to the bookcase on the far wall. "Oh, I dunno. It's late spring and rainy in Portland." She pulled a book from a shelf and opened it, pulling out an envelope. "And you're working on your next great historical novel. I thought a bit of vacation would help the ol' creative juices flow."

Rickie snickered as the Immortal returned to the table. "I think my juices were flowing quite well in the shower this morning. You sure a vacation is needed?"

"Hey, I'm the lech here," Xena protested, sitting back down.

"So, I'm learning from a master...." The redhead shrugged with a smirk.

The dark woman shook her head, ignoring the comment. She held up the envelope and her voice became serious. "I told you last night I hadn't given you your graduation present. So, here it is."

Curious and bemused, the redhead took the rather thick envelope. "Travel plans?" she asked as she opened the flap. "Since I'm writing about the Russian Tzars now, does that mean we'll be going to Siberia? 'Come to Mother Russia! See the gulag!'"

Xena chuckled. "No, silly. Just look at the tickets." She watched her lover do just that. The Immortal's smile widened as Rickie's expression went from amusement to blank shock.

Startled green eyes looked up from the tickets. "Oh, wow.... A Caribbean cruise?" the writer asked breathlessly.

The dark woman only nodded in silence, grinning. Her arms were suddenly full of a warm and vibrant woman who rained kisses on her face and neck. Laughing, Xena returned the kisses, adjusting herself in her chair until she held her lover in her lap. "You deserve it, Dreamer. You busted your butt in college and now you've got a bachelor's in literature and an associate's in history." Her voice was muffled by a kiss on the lips.

When the kiss broke off, Rickie sat up and peered at the paperwork still clutched in her hands. "Man, this rocks! Thank you! We're gonna have so much fun...!" Her eyes glittered with joy. "We're leaving Tuesday!?"

Xena nodded , basking in her lover's surprised happiness.

"I've gotta call Al! I've gotta call Tori!" There was a pause. "I've gotta get a bathing suit!"

The Immortal laughed and pulled Rickie close to her. "You make the calls, lover, and I'll write that report. Whaddya say we both go shopping tomorrow for appropriate clothing...?"

Rickie nodded emphatically. "Okay!" Much as she hated shopping, especially for clothes, at least she'd be able to have the dark woman model for her. Oooo, yer evil, Rickster! she thought, imagining Xena in a very tiny, very see through black bikini. Her heart thudded and a warmth coiled in her belly. Maybe I don't wanna make any phone calls just yet....

Xena watched the excited redhead's demeanor change and her own stomach twisted in a rather pleasant fashion.

Her smile altered to predatory, Rickie tossed the papers to the table behind her. With a swift motion she rose from Xena's lap and resettled, straddling the woman. Hands on the chairback for support, she ground sensuously against her lover's lap. "I think the first order of business is to thank you for the present," she husked, licking her lips.

"I'm definitely gonna have to give you more presents," Xena murmured.


Part 2