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Cerberus' ChallengePart 3
Warnings, disclaimers and thanks (oh my!): This story contains not only lots of explicit descriptions of consensual sex between two grown up gals, it also tries very hard to develop and enhance some cherished lesbian archetypes. It is written as a very lesbian-positive fiction. If that's not your thing, then for heaven's sake why are you still reading this? If you are under 18, this material is not for you, yet. Even if you are a lesbian. If lesbians are illegal where you are, I think you should quit reading now and leave there quickly and quietly for your own safety. As with many other Xena stories, I have taken almost unforgivable liberties with ancient Greek history and geography. My apologies are only to Greece and her historians. The characters of Xena, Gabrielle and Argo belong to MCA/Universal/Renaissance They are used without permission or intention of obtaining profit. Thanks to the show's producers for permitting fan fiction and for the queer subtext, and my patient and loving sweetie. Happy 40th birthday! Polite feedback is welcome at:email@example.com
Xena’s first waking thought was not about Gabrielle and their long night of passion, but of her toes. Something was chewing on her toes. She squinted in the bright light pouring through the window and saw Pothos sitting beside her exposed foot, nibbling like he was snacking on catnip and butter. She pulled her foot under the covers, then noticed a slurping sound coming from the bed beside her. She turned and found the General sitting like a stone lion on Gabrielle’s chest, looking intently down into her face, stubby ears pricked forward. As Xena watched, he meowed directly into the sleeping face and began to make "happy paws" violently into Gabrielle’s neck. Before Xena could reach him, Gabrielle’s hand came up and scooped him expertly off.
She grinned sleepily and said, "Every morning we’ve been here..." Then she paused and smiled up at Xena, remembering. "Good morning, Xena."
"Good morning, Gabrielle." The warrior grabbed the bard and pinned her to the bed. "It’s the morning after. Any regrets?"
Gabrielle smiled sweetly, her green eyes warm and intimate. She reached up to tangle her hands in Xena’s dark hair. "No regrets. A request, perhaps..." She pulled Xena down on top of her, reaching for her lover with her whole body. The musk from their night of lovemaking hung over the bed in the morning sun, draping around their small world of soft movements and whispered endearments. They kissed slowly, joyfully, with passion building in their mouths and in their bellies. "Let me, let me..." Gabrielle moaned and pushed against Xena, who rolled off of her willingly. Gabrielle knelt, drew the sheet back and looked at Xena in the light of morning. The fighting woman put a muscled arm behind her head and looked back lazily from her pillows like a goddess out of an erotic dream. She bent and kissed a small mark on Xena’s right breast, the one she had once looked at so covertly. She pulled in a mouthful of the sweet flesh and rolled it around. Then, bracing a leg between both of Xena’s, she lay herself down onto the stunning body of her lover, pressing and pushing with her hips.
Xena was enjoying Gabrielle’s first sexual experiments. The feeling of the young woman learning about arousal in this way drew the jaded warrior into an experience of rediscovery. She smiled and pushed back in small movements, gently encouraging the exploration.
Gabrielle growled softly as she picked up the sensations from Xena’s hips. A deep throb began to beat in her sex, her belly, and her ears. She pushed blindly with her pubic mound, looking for a place to anchor. Then Xena brought up her knee, covering her hungry opening. Gabrielle groaned and intensified her hip’s movements, feeling her sex slide against Xena’s thigh.
Grinding against Xena with increasing abandon, she pulled up onto her elbows and searched with her knees for purchase in the smooth sheets. Then she closed her eyes as she felt Xena’s hands, one behind and one in front of her. They held her steady, entered and caressed her. The hands pushed her up into a kneeling position, and she hung there suspended, straddling Xena’s body. Gabrielle’s own hands came up to squeeze and cup her breasts, one traveled even to her mouth. She sucked her finger and opened her eyes to look directly into Xena’s.
Xena found herself once again sailing away on the thick wind of Gabrielle’s maturing sexual intensity. She watched her lover’s climax build slowly in stages until, like a damn breaking, she came in shuddering jerks, hips bucking with each spasm.
Long before Xena would have thought she was ready, Gabrielle opened her eyes and looked down at her, a smile on her face. "You are so tricky. Now, let me!"
She turned Xena over onto her face, wanting to see her beautiful bottom in the golden light. It still shone from the sex and the oil of the night before. She took in big handfuls of it, kneading it, pulling it apart. She looked at Xena’s tiny wrinkled anus thoughtfully, remembering the euphoric stories of anal sex between men she had read about. She bent down her head and touched the tip of her warm tongue to the wrinkled opening, delighted to feel it pulse and to hear Xena’s breathing become ragged. Reaching over to the bedside, she dipped a finger into the pot of oil and brought it back to massage Xena’s quivering sphincter.
Xena groaned miserably; her hips pushed futilely into the bed. Desperately, her hands reached down between her body and the bed to touch her swelling clitoris. Gabrielle waited idly, momentarily fondling herself as well. Then, the finger with it’s coating of oil dropped down onto Xena’s nether opening, and gently, slowly passed through the ring of muscle. Xena’s body froze statuesquely at the peak of her arch, only her fingers moving between her legs.
Pulling her hand out of her own dripping sex, she brought it to Xena’s entrance, and found it also wet and warm. Quickly, her hand entered through the dark curls and pushed deeply into the warrior. She could feel the fingers of each hand through the delicate membranes of Xena’s body. They rubbed lightly against one another, driving Xena into a fury. She pushed in deeper, feeling the effects of Xena’s arousal as muscles tightened around her loving movements. She sent a wave of her adoration for Xena into each thrust, playing the empath’s wild card.
Xena let the sensations wash through her, luxuriating in the lavishness of sex with Gabrielle. Her life had taken a wonderful and unexpected turn...then she couldn’t afford to let her thoughts wander...she had to concentrate on the ecstasy...
Gabrielle felt the climax with both hands and a sense of wonder. When the clenching stopped, she delicately withdrew her hands, letting the oil seal the openings behind her. Laying out on Xena’s back in what was fast becoming a favorite position for her, she pulled the sheets up and over them.
Just then, the bedroom door banged open and Sibyl came through it with the Twins bouncing around her feet. The dogs got a running start and launched themselves in a blur of motion up onto the bed, scattering the cats. They leaped and twirled, tangling themselves in the blankets. Even Xena eventually laughed at the joyful antics of the little shepherds.
"Good morning, my sweets. Are we all right this morning? All better, now?" Both women demurred, meaninglessly. They knew she damn well knew damn near everything. "Well, good. Now, are you up for a bit of a job?"
Xena rolled the two of them onto their sides and looked up at Sibyl sat on the edge of the bed. "What’s up?"
"The Twins brought the flock in last night before the first snow flake hit the ground." Gabrielle’s head spun around to the window to glimpse the snow for herself. "But somehow a big portion of the flock didn’t make it in. I need you to ride out with the Twins and look for the missing sheep. And, just to warn you, Artemis is around."
Xena sat up, took Gabrielle’s head in her hands and began to purposefully comb tangles out of the strawberry blond hair with her fingers. "Where is she?" Xena’s was quickly making two braids from Gabrielle’s temples.
"I can’t say, you’ll just have to keep an eye out."
Xena tied off the braids with some leather thong. "Mmm, I’ll need more than an eye out. Full armor for this ride."
"I’m going, too," announced Gabrielle firmly, noticing Xena set her jaw. "No, I don’t even want to discuss it. I’ll go get my furs on," she said, drawing a blanket around her body. Xena moved quickly to capture her in her arms, and Gabrielle playfully tried to wiggle out.
"Now hold on, here. You’ve both got some time for a quick, and I emphasize quick bath and breakfast. Go through the kitchen on your way out and I’ll have something fixed up you. I’ll get Argo saddled, too."
Xena regarded her old friend. "Sibyl, since when did you become such a hostess?"
"Since you started traveling with someone who could appreciate my flair for the finer comforts." She said coyly, nodding to Gabrielle.
Gabrielle beamed at Xena, triumphant. Xena turned back to Sibyl and said "So, that’s how it’s going to be, isn’t it? The two of you making plans together?"
Chuckling, the priestess directed her words to the bard, "Kind of levels the battle field, doesn’t it Gabrielle?"
"I’ll say it does." She agreed heartily.
Xena smiled and conceded. But her eyes glittered as she anticipated her excellent chances of getting even.
The war-horse’s shining hooves slashed through the mounded snow, sending it to spray sparking in all directions around the riders. Gabrielle was grateful for the furry leggings she was wearing. The air was cold, but the sky was a deep, clean blue. They cantered along a path next to the pasture wall. Gabrielle was once again in front, Xena’s arm around her, a little tighter than necessary. It felt so good to be outside again, after her long confinement in the library. She found herself looking forward to life on the road again. ...with Xena...gods, life will never be the same again...she thought, imagining all the new experiences she and her warrior could find waiting for them. She felt strong and ready, all the confusion and the longing put behind her.
Argo seemed in high spirits today, prancing whenever she got the chance, lifting her hooves high and tossing her mane about. The dry snow squeaked each time she pushed a hoof into it. Xena thought it was odd, Argo wasn’t prone to the temptations of vanity. She and Argo had long made amends for the various offenses from the day of their arrival at Gaea’s. Xena had spent the better part of a day just grooming the horse till she was wobbly in the knees. And Sibyl had given her so many treats she was showing a bit of belly. Argo had enjoyed a nice rest, but Xena had never seen anything like prancing until today. Xena suspected it had something to do with the Twins. They were ecstatic in the powdery clean snow, clots of it forming in their fur as they plowed through the little drifts along the path. They circled Argo continuously while the horse pretended not to notice.
They rode along happily enough for a while. Then Xena slowed Argo to a walk and made a suggestion, using the opportunity to touch her lips to Gabrielle’s hair behind her ear. "Why don’t you tell me a story, bard?"
Gabrielle thought what she’d really like to do was lay a big warm fur down in the snow with Xena naked on top of it. Instead, she tried to remember one of the more interesting tales she had collected in Gaea’s library. "How about one I learned that has a little about Gaea? It’s interesting, historically, and is very different from the traditional texts."
"Sounds great. Go ahead." Gabrielle didn’t see the nasty smile forming on Xena’s face.
"Well let’s see, the tale begins after the opening of Pandora’s box. I have to recite it in the old form, because I haven’t had time to reformat it for entertainment purposes. It might be a little dry."
"Perfect." The warrior leered into the back of the bard’s head. "Now, the story?"
"Okay, here it is." She cleared her throat theatrically. "People grew very wicked, owing to the evils in Pandora’s box, and Zeus resolved to drown them all with a flood. But Prometheus, knowing of it beforehand, told his mortal son Deucalion to build a ship and store it with all sorts of food."
Xena gathered the reins into her left hand, freeing her right.
"In the ship, Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha floated about for nine days till all other humans had drowned. Then as the waters went down, the ship rested on Mount Parnassus."
Xena’s right hand found the ties of the waistband to Gabrielle’s leggings, and began loosening them while the bard talked on, unaware.
"Deucalion and Pyrrha came out of the ship and offered sacrifices to Zeus. He was appeased, and sent Mercury down to ask what he should grant them. Their prayer was that the earth might be filled again with people, upon which the god bade them walk up the hill and throw behind them the bones of their grandmother... Yikes!"
Xena’s hand, cold from the winter’s bite, had slipped into Gabrielle’s furry leggings, and cupped around her sex. "The bones of their grandmother...yes, and then what happened?"
Gabrielle seemed at a loss for words.
"Bard, your story?" Xena’s teased.
Xena’s hand seemed to be happy where it was and held still. The story line came back. "Xena, you are so naughty, did you know that? If you want to hear the story finish, don’t move your hand, not a bit."
"Deal. My hand was just so cold."
"No kidding." She said dryly, then cleared her throat again. "Now Gaea was said to be the mother of the gods and mortals..." She felt Xena’s fingers move ever so slightly. "...So they figured the bones of their grandmother were the rocks of the earth..." She gasped as the curved fingertips reached into her opening, but she was too near the end of her story to stop.
"...No fair!" She groaned. "...So as they went, they picked up stones and threw them over their shoulders. All those that Deucalion threw rose up as men, and all those that Pyrrha threw became women, and thus the earth was alive again with human beings. That’s it." She ended in a rush because she needed some air. It was amazing how fast her passion ignited for this incredible woman. She braced her hands on the pommel and began to move on Xena’s hand. Xena’s armor pressed into her back.
Then, improbably, her eye caught something wrong in the landscape. There was a patch of snow on the other side of the pasture fence that was the wrong color. Gyrating a little to enhance Xena’s ministrations, she squinted and then almost jumped right off of Xena’s fingers when she realized she was looking at one of the missing sheep.
"Xena! Look!" Gabrielle pointed.
Reining in Argo she looked. Her sky-blue eyes narrowed when she saw three more sheep walking straight for the pasture wall from the other side. They didn’t slow their steps as they approached it, and then to the women’s astonishment, the sheep walked straight through the fieldstone wall as if it wasn’t there. The Twins spotted the sheep immediately and bolted to attend them.
"Hmph." Xena offered, removing her hand from Gabrielle’s crotch. She walked Argo over within a stone’s throw of the place in the wall the sheep had walked through. Here, the wall had been built to incorporate a pile of limestone boulders. There were no gaps that either woman could see in what appeared to be a simple field stone wall.
"That wasn’t right, was it?" Gabrielle was sure that was all wrong. "Ok, so maybe it’s a spell. But why would someone want to disguise a hole in a pasture fence? Why go to all that trouble to steel sheep?"
As if in answer, two amazing things happened at nearly exactly the same time. The first was a hissing sound coming at them very fast; the second was the blur of Xena’s fist, that very same hand that had been so otherwise occupied only moments ago, solidifying with the shaft of an arrow clasped tightly in it.
The warrior held up the arrow for Gabrielle to see. A pink-fletched affair, with a bit of gold lame trim. The rose crystal point actually was embossed with curly cues. Ghastly. She flung it to the ground just as a woman stepped out from behind a boulder into the now visible gap in the wall, the illusion vanishing.
"Ask her," Xena said aside to Gabrielle. Much louder and much colder, she addressed the woman, "Artemis. I can’t believe you are shooting at me with an arrow like that." She gestured at the arrow on the ground, which Argo then stepped on firmly.
Artemis stood looking at them, the picture of ambivalence. She shrugged and said, "Well, I got it from Cupid, stupid. What do you expect from him?" She was dressed as the Great Huntress today, bronze and ruby tiara, leather-riding cape trimmed in red fox the exact same color as her casually arranged auburn hair. Her hand absently checked the delicate curls around her temples.
"And you are shooting at us with one of Cupid’s arrows because...?" Gabrielle asked, helpfully.
Artemis’ hand dropped, "Zeus is tired of waiting for you to get together."
"And...?" Gabrielle’s interview skills were working just fine. Xena kept her mouth shut.
"And I get a renovation budget for my temple in Athens if I hurry you up. Gabrielle didn’t come outside to see the full moon, so I borrowed one of Cupid’s arrows. Then I let the sheep out, and waited for you to come and get them. I didn’t expect both of you. " To Xena’s surprise, Artemis stepped through the gap in the wall, onto Gaea’s protected land. "But now that I’ve missed you with the arrow, I’m going to have to improvise."
Xena glared at Artemis. Then, taking Gabrielle’s right leg in her hand, she swung it over the pommel. With her other arm around Gabrielle’s waist, Xena bent over sideways and eased her down. Gabrielle was standing on the ground before she knew it, watching Xena ride away. She began to follow, preparing a blistering tantrum for later, when the waistband of her loosened leggings slipped down to her ankles, pitching her face first into the snow. She landed in the dry snow with a terrific squeaking thud. Her muffled curses did not distract Xena’s attention from Artemis.
Xena commanded Argo to ride in a posture of confrontation. When they stopped before Artemis, she began playing with a dagger that suddenly materialized in her hands. "You’re being a little vague, Artemis. Why don’t you help me to understand? How did you make a hole in Gaea’s protection?"
"It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! Gaea attached the protection spell to the stones of the fence. It was necessary for me to remove the stones with my hands." She held them up for the warrior to see. "My hands! Will you look at them? Ruined!" Artemis sniffed and looked back at Gabrielle, who was pulling herself out of the hole her body had so suddenly made in the snow, her face covered with snow pie. The goddess just shook her head. "What’s wrong with you? She’s gorgeous. Why don’t you just take her? She wants you, you know. Everyone knows she wants you. Zeus thought for sure that you would have bedded her by now. You need some help? Hmm?"
Xena had suddenly heard about enough of what Artemis had to say. She jumped off of Argo, marched up to the Goddess and looked her straight in the eye. The goddess’ eyes widened at the look on Xena’s face. "My, my, Xena. You are in deep, aren’t you?"
Just when Xena thought she might have to see if pressure points worked on a goddess, Argo reared up behind her and whinnied to the sky. She looked up and saw a white form spiraling down out of the sky above. A moment later, Gabrielle bumped into her side breathlessly; brushing off snow dust that still clung to her, head to foot. The glance she threw Xena spoke for trouble later and then she also looked up. Gradually they could all see a winged horse bearing a rider. Argo began to run in small circles, trumpeting.
"Pegasus!" Gabrielle cried.
The angle of the great steed’s descent flattened out over a field outside the pasture wall. Just above the ground, the horse’s legs began to run, and as his hooves touched the ground, his wings snapped back and down, braking. Then they folded neatly back around his rider, as Pegasus slowed to a trot.
As they approached the gap in the wall where Artemis was standing, Gabrielle developed a stutter. "Ahh, X-Xena is that XX-, I mean ZZ-?"
"Zeus. Yeah. Big Trouble. Shh."
The god looked tired. Winking first at Gabrielle and Xena, he smiled patiently down at Artemis. "It’s time to go home, Arte. You’ve been very helpful, and I’m so grateful, but this problem has already been taken care of, so you can just go on and get started on your temple."
"I still get the renovation budget? Thanks, pops!" She drew back her bow, shot an arrow in the direction of Athens, and dissolved into a streak of red sparks that followed the arrow’s flight up and outwards. A few sparks remained which winked out with the bleats of tiny hunting horns.
"Nice exit." Zeus commented. "Not too garish, not too plain."
Xena continued to stand firm between Zeus and Gabrielle. She didn’t move or make a sound; she just waited and watched Zeus through her lashes.
Zeus, in the meantime, had his hands full. The Twins were dancing in and out of Pegasus’ mighty hooves, which were delicately trying to avoid them. And Argo was making her apparently amorous intentions very clear to Pegasus. So the winged horse was very distracted. To top it off, Zeus had canceled his thunder-and-lightening signature. This was turning out to be one of his worse entries. But no harm, he was here to apologize. He could work with it.
"Xena. Gabrielle. We have been so busy up on the hill. You can’t imagine the trouble that the news of you two has set into motion, up top. A lot of speculative politics, you might say. Ares is very upset right now. You really should stay clear of him."
"Why are you helping us?" Xena used her flattest of voices, reaching back to make sure she knew where Gabrielle was.
"Because I feel so bad. I forgot to tell Artemis that you two had already gotten together."
"Not again! Don’t you folks ever communicate with each other up there? First Cerberus, then Artemis..." Her eyes narrowed. "And Aphrodite, too. You sent her to make us fall in love, didn’t you?" She felt Gabrielle’s fingers wiggle in hers for a brief moment.
"Who told you that? Did Gaea tell you that? You know, she talks to damn much sometimes. That’s just the kind of thing I can’t tell Hera about, or she comes unglued." He calmed down, stroking his beard, remembering his purpose. "Well, yes Aphrodite, too. But I sent her home a long time back. She had completely lost all sense of perspective. In the end, you both managed on your own, after all. Who would have thought?"
"You don’t make any more sense than she did, Zeus. But I don’t care why you gods do what you do. Why don’t you just leave us alone and let us live our lives in peace?"
"Of course, dear. I can certainly understand how you might feel that way. But you two are just irresistible! Well, I’ll be going. I’ll leave Pegasus here to play for a few hours. He’ll be happy to give you a lift home, if you like."
"Who’s going to fix the fence?" Xena demanded. "It had better not be me."
"Oh, right." He lifted a finger, and the fence shimmered and solidified whole.
"What about Argo? She can’t fly along." Gabrielle pointed out, stalling. She didn’t like heights, and a ride on Pegasus would be mighty high.
"Oh...should I?...Well...maybe for just a few hours..." Zeus flickered and then was gone from Pegasus’ back, with a sound more like flatulence than thunder.
"You know, I think his entrance was much better than his exit." Xena said, lips pursed.
Just then, a very strange sound came out of Argo. They turned and saw the mare had been given golden wings, which she spread out coyly behind her like a feathered cape. She was prancing again, which finally seemed appropriate.
"Her saddle had just better be waiting for her in the stable." Xena muttered, after noticing Argo’s gear was gone.
Pegasus blew Argo a kiss and then offered his back to the women on lowered forelegs. Another very strange sound was heard, this time out of the bard, who recognized an irresistible chance for a tale of her magical ride on Pegasus. She allowed Xena to lead her to their winged mount, with a face of stone.
When they had climbed aboard the magnificent white animal, he reared slightly and took straight up off the ground. They could see the magic sparkle in his wings as they moved. Xena felt the powerful muscles of the shoulder and wing against the back of her knees. Wrapping both arms around Gabrielle’s body, she looked back to see Argo launch easily from the ground with no apparent effort or strain. They simply glided peacefully, the wing flaps doing no more than stirring the air lightly around them. Ghosting over the sheep, being herded by the Twins further up the little valley, they passed over unnoticed.
From within Xena’s embrace, Gabrielle began to relax a little, allowing herself to look down at the world below. The details of the land were fascinating when seen from above. The white snowfall had neatly traced in white the outlines of every branch of every tree. She turned her face up to Xena’s and asked, "Oh, Xena, do you think he’d take us up to see the mountains?"
Pegasus, who of course understood everything they were saying, nickered and led Argo in an upward spiral on the warmer currents that rose up the valley and gathered against the great divide of the mountains. They soared over the end of the high valley, over the toy-sized buildings of the house and the tiny orchard. From above, Gabrielle could see the hillside the old house was built into was actually at the root of the range itself. Rusty-colored stone peeked through the white dusting of snow. Higher and higher the magical horses climbed above the escarpment, the red-stone cliffs and crags looming ahead. Finally, they spiraled up near the very crest. With a light adjustment in his wing strokes, Pegasus held them all still for a long moment, allowing them a good look at the top of the world.
Gabrielle spoke reverently, "This is a place where heaven and earth touch one another."
"Yes, Gabrielle, it is." The deep female voice was not Xena’s. No one was more surprised than Pegasus, as they watched the tip of one of the red-stone peaks blur and reform into the cloaked and hooded torso of an old woman. Detaching arms from her sides with an odd sound of gently scraping stone, she raised her arms to the flyers before her. Gabrielle watched small stones fall from the massive arms, and followed them down to where they smacked against the cliff side hundreds of feet below. She jerked her head back up and felt Xena tighten her hold around her waist.
"You needed a sign from me, Xena?" Gaea asked.
"Well, I didn’t say I needed one, I just meant I hadn’t seen one, yet." Xena countered, not about to abandon a lifetime of irreverence.
"You are awfully demanding for a mortal, you know that?" The red-stone arms dropped to rest on her hips, stony elbows jutting out. "You always missed the more subtle signs, Xena. Have you ever wondered why you are so unusually strong? Or why you’re so lucky with your chakram?" Xena’s face showed momentary surprise. The elbows came down again, as the old face deep within the hood seemed to smile. "The difference between the lesser gods and I, is how we work with destiny. They try to manufacture destinies. I simply appreciate and enhance them, if I can, and watch where they go. Your destiny has always been along the knife-edge between life and death, the sacred and the profane. You are a Warrior.
"Gabrielle." The goddess’ regard shifted somewhat.
The bard blinked at the abrupt personal address. "Yes, Gaea?"
"This is our second meeting, you and I. Your destiny was to grow up in a village and marry a farm boy. At this very moment, however, you are chatting familiarly with a goddess, hovering over the great divide on a mythical winged beast. What do you suppose happened?"
In a low voice, Gabrielle asked Xena, "Was that a rhetorical question, do you think?"
"I don’t think even she knows the answer, Gabs." Xena said quietly back.
Gaea lifted her hand, "Never mind, Gabrielle. I just wonder. Unexpected events are always the most fascinating. But you are gifted, bard, with talent and circumstance. Now, enough of this. Forming myself out of stone is wearisome. I much prefer my mortal mediums. And Gabrielle, you are always welcome at my home. I look forward to reading your additions to my library. Oh, and one more thing." With the soft sounds of scraping stone, she reached up and pulled back the hood from her face. The face they beheld was one of infinite age, beauty and wisdom. It was the face of their hostess and friend, Sibyl, rendered in red-stone. Her hair was a stone forest of spikes. "When you get back to the house, listen to what Sibyl has to say about your new path. It’s important. Happy trails, my sweetings. Don’t look for any more signs, because this is all you get, Xena." As Xena’s name was pronounced the shape of Gaea/Sibyl blurred again and reformed into the mountaintop.
As if on cue, both horses brought themselves around to begin their descent back between the arms of the mountain, into the little valley below. They could see some of the coast, out at the extreme end of the valley where the stream let out into the sea. The sun hung low and red in the sky over the ocean, igniting some gathering western clouds. As they banked for home, Xena looked again at Argo, who had pulled abreast of Pegasus, and grinned broadly. ...This is a very good day for Argo...Then she looked at Gabrielle, her face tightening in the wind of their descent. Her shining hair swept back from her face like the corona of a golden crown; her reflective emerald eyes caught fiery glints of red and gold from the sun. In that moment, there was no other goddess in the world for Xena, than Gabrielle. She reached down for Gabrielle’s sweet lips with her own hungry mouth and felt the warmth of their combined desire and love grow around her heart.
Gabrielle pulled away slightly and said, "We really should have asked for a bed with wings."
Xena began to laugh softly. At first she chucked, but she couldn’t stop and she soon let her chuckles become howls, brazen and clear. She laughed and laughed, almost sobbing. Gabrielle, surprised and delighted, laughed along, until soon both were laughing for laughter’s sake, for the simple freedom to be found in joy.
...So together they flew, Xena whole and proud like never before. The sense of goodness within her becoming more defined with each passing day in the company of her magical lover. Gabrielle found herself in a transcendent moment out of a romantic tale, flying into the sunset on the winged steed of the gods, in the arms of the ravishing Warrior Princess. Xena brought her face down next to Gabrielle’s, unknowingly matching them together in profile and symmetry, framed by the reddened and cloudy skies, their hair tossed and mingled by the gentle wing beats of Pegasus...
Sibyl watched them fly in, this time from behind the stable, where she had been trying to get Argo’s saddle out of the rain barrel. Apparently Zeus had simply dropped it from the sky above, rather than risk encountering any of her protections. She shielded her eyes from the sun and got a better look at the sideshow on wings coming down from the mountain. Then she trotted back up to the house, just in time to catch the end of their landing.
They had all just barely fit under sheltered doorway. Xena helped a wobbly-kneed Gabrielle down, then both women waved the winged beasts away. They trumpeted and lifted off effortlessly, Argo clearly ready to go anywhere anyhow once again with Pegasus...
"Your entrances are improving, Xena." Sibyl remarked.
"Thanks, Sibyl." She snorted, "You should have seen yours."
"Whatever are you talking about, Xena?"
Xena shrugged and smiled, saying nothing.
"Gabrielle, why don’t you give me the skinny? Don’t make me fish it out of Xena"
Gabrielle’s head was still spinning. "We don’t know why the...lesser gods were interested in me and Xena, I mean Xena and I, but they were. Are, I should say, still. But that doesn’t matter, because they are so caught up in their own problems that they aren’t interested in us directly. Today, that is. Then we saw Gaea up in the mountain, and she is happy with us, pretty much, but she doesn’t understand me, and then she was you..."
"I see. Try to work on your delivery a bit, dear. Better yet, why don’t you just go in there and sit down?" Gabrielle didn’t budge, arms locked around Xena’s waist. "Never mind. Now Xena, you mentioned Zeus?"
"He’s sorry." Xena struggled to keep her face straight.
"Do you say he said he’s sorry, or do you think he just thinks he is?"
Xena’s face fell as she concentrated.
"Sure he is. He let us ride Pegasus." Gabrielle pitched in helpfully.
Xena looked like it might take her the rest of the day to unravel that one.
"I find myself speechless." Sibyl twirled a lock of silver hair absently.
"We found the sheep, the Twins are bringing them up right now." Xena offered.
"The Twins are bringing them up? Zeus couldn’t give them all tiny golden wings?" Sometimes Sibyl obsessed on Zeus’ behavior. "That guy is up to something, I can just feel it! He’s never this conciliatory unless he’s plotting something! But I forget myself." She clapped her hands, bracelets jingling. "We should be celebrating a happy ending. Come in, come in, I’ve got a whale of a fire going in the great room, roasted mutton, a pot of veggie stew and some fresh bread." She took them each by the arm and pulled them through the door and across the room to waiting chairs by the fire. "You two have come through this rather well, all told."
After a delicious meal by the fire, the three women lounged in favorite chairs, listening to Gabrielle tell her new story. The sunset’s last colors poured through the deep window casings and painted the white limed walls of the great room in magenta and gold. Xena sat close enough to touch Gabrielle occasionally. The Twins were finishing off leftovers in bowls on the floor, and Argo was back in her stable, exhausted and ravenously hungry. The saddle was steaming by the fire, over an extra chair.
Gabrielle finished the story; framed as two mortal lover’s chance ride on a divine steed. Sibyl’s honey-rasped voice spoke up into the silence that followed. "Very good, Gabrielle. You kept open the possibility that the characters are both women." Taking a bundle of dried herbs from a pocket and crushing it carefully in her long brown fingers, she tossed it into the fire. "It’s time to talk about what is next for you two. Your dilemmas are solved, dear ones, and now you are both ready for your greatest of destinies. The stories of your strength and love will become a beacon to women down through the dark ages that lie ahead. Once you leave here, your first steps together will be upon a new path. So, tonight we will talk about this path. But first, I’m going to make some more tea, anything you two want from the kitchen? I’ve got fresh baklava."
The roars of Xena’s laughter echoed through the stone hallways of the old house.
Hours later and travel plans made, Sybil excused herself and went off to bed. All that was left of the baklava were smears of honey on their fingers. The dogs had both found nests in a blanket spilled onto the floor. Two sets of cat paws poked out from the edge of the high mantle stone.
They would be leaving in the morning, after breakfast.
"So, it’s down to the southern coast?" Gabrielle asked absently.
"I’d like to change the world somewhere I don’t have to wear furry clothing to do it." Xena wasn’t joking; she detested the mountains in winter. "And I need to be around real people again, not gods. With the exception of whatever Sibyl is."
Yawning, Gabrielle echoed, "Right. Whatever she is."
With glassy eyes, they looked into the flames. The fire was very colorful, with true reds, greens, lavenders...Xena smiled. The flames were definitely forming into human figures entwined. She shot a look at Gabrielle and said gruffly, "C’mere, you."
Gabrielle nodded seriously and stood up, dragging a wool blanket with her, and curled up in a ball on her lover’s lap. Xena’s arms opened wide to bundle her close. It was a quiet, perfect moment of utter peace. Outside, they could hear the wind howling through the eaves of the great house, as if to remind them of the dangers still awaiting them. "Let’s go to bed, Xena. I want to lie next to you again..." Gabrielle whispered huskily.
Xena agreed and then, because she knew of the effect it would have on Gabrielle, she stood with the young woman in her arms and headed for the hall to the bedrooms. And, as easily as that, they were off to a night in each other’s embrace. To their last night in a real bed for what could be a long, long time. Or until their next visit to Gaea’s...
<~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The End ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~>
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