Convert this page to Pilot DOC Format
by Jamie Boughen
Warning------- This story contains scenes of consensual sex between two women.
If such scenes offend you, I'm sorry but this is my story and this is the way I see Xena and Gabrielle. I suggest you read no further.
If you are under the age of consent in your country....Shoo! These stories will still be around when you come of age. You probably wouldn't understand half of what you're reading anyway.
If stories such as this are illegal in your country, then I seriously suggest you think about moving. Australia is lovely in the springtime.
One further warning------This story contains a
certain level of violence. It was integral to the story and it
did upset me to write it. Just so long as you know. It might upset
you to read it.
The only thing to be seen was the blur of spinning
wood as Gabrielle swung her staff in complicated patterns around
her body. The end of the staff impacted something but she didn't
stop to watch it fall as she moved towards her next opponent.
A quick thrust forward and she felt the shuddering up her arms
as that one fell also. She spun her body to the left at the same
time as she swung her staff to the right and behind her. Gabrielle
stopped when she heard the satisfying crunch of contact. Panting
a little from her exertions, she looked around at the devastation
she had made of her practice targets.
Without truly being aware of it, Gabrielle had gone
from being merely adequate, just barely capable of defending herself,
to now performing a deadly dance of destruction. Her staff had
become an extension of herself and her own natural ability. She
would be more than a match for most enemies. Gabrielle would go
all out during her practise sessions but she still couldn't bring
herself to take the life of another. One day she knew she might
have to kill someone but for now she was happy simply being able
to disable them.
Wiping the sweat dripping from her face, she walked
back down to the campsite she and Xena had set up two days before.
All she could think about was a cooling dip in the nearby river.
"You're really getting to be quite good with
that thing." Xena commented from the other side of the fire.
She dropped her head to concentrate on cleaning a particularly
stubborn spot from her sword.
Gabrielle was grateful Xena didn't see a look of
delight flash its way across her face. Xena's compliments were
rare and all the more appreciated when they did appear. She knew
sometimes she worked all the harder just to hear that note of
pride in Xena's voice. Gabrielle caught herself as she leant her
staff against a tree. "Why does Xena's approval mean more
to me that even that of...of....my own family?"
She wondered quietly to herself. Shaking her head, she quickly
snatched up a clean shift and walked down to the river for a cleansing
swim. The sight of the water winking in the last of sunsets' light
caught her eye and all other thoughts rapidly left her head. Hastily
stripping out of her damp and sweaty clothing, she dove into the
cool water, surfacing several feet from the bank. She rolled lazily
onto her back and let the gentle current carry her for a few moments.
Musing to herself, she thought, "Everytime
Xena frowns at me, I wonder if *this* is going to be the time
she finally sends me away." Gabrielle shuddered at the
very thought of leaving Xena for any reason. Hidden deep within
the most secret place in her heart, was the fear that one day
her Warrior Princess *would* send her back to the village, even
after all this time together. A fear she had never once given
voice to within Xena's hearing. She couldn't seem to help herself
though and would take the fear out now and then to worry at it
like a dog with a bone. "I just couldn't stand being away
from her because....." Gabrielle could move her mind
no further. She simply didn't have a 'because' to finish
the thought. Tucking her fear back into that secret place, she
rolled again and started the swim back to the bank.
Xena watched as Gabrielle walked to the river and
dove in. Listening to the occasional splash as Gabrielle washed
away the sweat and grime from her practise session, Xena turned
her attention back to cleaning her armour. She tried to
concentrate on what she was doing but she could still see in her
minds eye the quick flash of Gabrielle's naked body just before
she entered the water. "Yes, she has definitely gotten
stronger since she started working out with that staff."
Xena thought to herself. "She's got good lean muscle where
she had so much baby fat before." Xena chose not to look
any further into herself about why she was admiring Gabrielle's
body. "One day she is going to make some man a fine wife."
She almost didn't acknowledge the pain she felt at the thought
of Gabrielle leaving her someday, it had become so familiar to
her. Clenching her teeth, she willed the tears away. She began
to furiously polish her already shining armour.
"We're moving on tomorrow, Gab." Xena said
after dinner that night.
"Fine. Where we headed?" Gabrielle looked
up from the saddlebag she had been re-packing. She had been starting
to feel a little restless too and hoped they would soon be travelling
"The coast. There has been a little trouble
down that way."
"Great!" Gabrielle thought sarcastically.
"Anything from petty tyrants, fire breathing monsters
the odd, rampaging army or who knows what else. Xena's idea of
a 'little trouble' is the stuff of most people's nightmares!"
She glanced over at her travelling companion. "Mind letting
me know what kind of 'little troubles' they've been having?"
"Don't know. I just heard there was some trouble
and I thought I might be able to help." Xena stood and stretched
her long body in the firelight. "I'm off to check on Argo
and see we have a quiet night." She turned and strode off
into the darkness surrounding the small camp. The sounds of Xena
talking softly to her horse drifted back to Gabrielle on the night
"Hi there, Argo old girl." Xena whispered
quietly to her mare. "Feeling good?" Gently patting
the horse, Xena looked around the clearing where they had made
their camp for the past few days. Nothing appeared out of the
ordinary. Argo softly lipped Xena's shoulder as her eyes carefully
took in all the shadows and her hands stopped rubbing the horses
muzzle. "What's up, girl? Want more attention?" She
patted the warhorse's neck and carefully ran her knowing hands
over the mare's legs. The rest over the past few days had done
them all good and Argo looked ready to go again. "First village
we stop at, I promise, new shoes for you." She stopped and
thought for a moment. "Maybe something for our little Bard
as well?" Argo seemed to nod in agreement, though to what
Xena could only guess. The ex-warlord smiled to herself. She
knew how Gabrielle loved to receive gifts, however small. Even
something as simple as a smile seemed to make her so happy. "I'll
try to remember to smile a bit more often for her." Xena
said as she gave Argo one last rub and started back to the fire.
Gabrielle lay staring into the night sky wondering
what had woken her. Glancing around, she didn't see any trouble.
No one was attacking the camp. Everything seemed peaceful and
quiet. Yet something had definitely woken her from a sound sleep.
She heard it again. A barely stifled sob. She sat up and looked
over to where Xena lay on her own bedroll. Her friend was lying
with her back to the firepit and even though the softly glowing
embers were barely enough to light her, Gabrielle could see her
shoulders silently heaving. Climbing quickly to her feet, she
moved over to Xena. She found her curled in a tight ball, the
blanket clutched around her. Gabrielle looked at her, a sad, almost-smile
on her face. Even in her sleep, Xena would not give herself permission
Gabrielle sat down very carefully next to her friend,
knowing not to wake her suddenly and gently began to stroke her
long dark hair. She softly hummed an old lullaby under her breath
and let her simple presence alone calm Xena from whatever night
horrors she was having. Slowly, a little at a time, Xena relaxed
and finally slipped deeper into Morphoses arms. Gabrielle stayed
where she was a while longer. Not because Xena needed her. Simply
because she enjoyed looking at her open and gentle face.
"One day I'm going to tell you about this and
you won't even get angry." Gabrielle said like a whisper
on the wind. How many nights she had sat by Xena and calmed her
back to sleep? She no longer remembered. It was as though it had
always been. Gabrielle never once told Xena about it and never
explained why she was so hard to wake some mornings. Xena simply
accepted it as part of Gabrielle and left it at that. On her way
back to her own bedroll, she stopped to put a few more branches
onto the embers in the firepit. Satisfied the fire would burn
until morning, she lay down again but it took her some time to
finally doze off again. "One day." She whispered sleepily
as she eventually slipped off to the dream plane herself.
"Not much further!" Xena yelled back over
her shoulder towards the woman scrambling up behind her.
"Not much to the top, further or not much to
the village, further?" Gabrielle called back. She stopped
for a moment to suck air into her straining lungs before climbing
the last few feet to the top of the trail.
"Both, actually." Was the dry reply from
The smaller woman finally crested the top of the
trail and was immediately struck by the view. Below them was the
village Xena wanted to stop at and beyond, an amazing expanse
of ocean. The village nestled in the narrow corridor of land between
the near-mountain they had just climbed and the cliffs. The mountain
met with the cliff further to their left but opened out to wide
fields along to the right. At the edge of the village, before
the land started to spread, a palisade of carefully cut trees
had been built to protect the occupants. The cliff edge itself
was the most amazing feature and left the young Bard almost slack-jawed
with wonder. It seemed to go on for miles and miles, as far as
she could see.
"Thought you might appreciate the view."
"It's..it's..." Was all the woman could
mumble in reply.
"What?! My Bard speechless?! I must remember
to show you more views in future." Xena said wickedly.
Gabrielle looked up and merely sniffed in response.
"At least now I know why you insisted on coming up this endless
mountain." She had thought Xena a little mad for wanting
to come up the steep path but having seen the view, well, Xena
did like to surprise her now and then. Dragging her eyes from
the view of the cliffs, she looked down the mountain towards the
village. "What's to stop raiders from coming up this way
"This whole side of the mountain is nothing
but loose gravel and dirt. If you don't know *exactly* where the
trail is underneath, it just slides away under you. Any raider
is going to end up in a crumpled mess at the bottom with a few
tons of gravel on top of them if they try it." Xena explained.
She smiled down at Gabrielle. "Nice to see you thinking defensively."
"Well, you did say there had been trouble on
the coast." Gabrielle said as she continued to look around
feeling a flutter of joy after seeing the smile in Xena's face
and hearing the approval in her voice.
"Not in this village. Which is one reason why
I wanted to stop here first." Xena said as she looked for
the tiny marker that showed the exact start of the downward trail.
"Walk right behind Argo, Gabrielle. The last thing I want
is to see you tumbling down to the bottom."
"It'd be quicker than climbing down, that's
for sure." The younger woman grumbled quietly under her breath.
Xena chose to be conveniently deaf at that moment.
The climb down really wasn't any worse than the scramble
up but Gabrielle was very aware of the tons of loose rock around
her and made very sure she was walking right behind Argo all the
way to the bottom. With no small sigh of relief, they finally
reached the end of the trail, entering the village itself and
Gabrielle was able to look around again. She noticed many of the
villagers watching them but she was used to that after travelling
with Xena for so long. What she was really looking out for was
any trouble. Something else that seemed to happened a lot.
"Gabrielle?" Xena said quietly.
"Yes." Gabrielle replied without taking
her eyes off her surroundings.
"We're safe here. Only those people welcome
in this village know the way down that gravel slide." Xena
told the Bard. She felt a little guilty her friend had become
as cautious about new situations as she was and it didn't make
her happy to see the more defensive changes in Gabrielle. "One
day," She promised herself, "we won't have to
fight the evil in this land anymore. Or the darkness within me.
You have my word of honor." The ex-warlord thought a
"Look. There's the blacksmith. I promised Argo
new shoes before we move any further down the coast." Xena
said as she pointed out the smithy. "Could you find the inn
and get us a room?"
"Your wish is my command, oh Mighty Warrior."
Gabrielle grinned. Seeing the icy glare she was getting from Xena.
She turned and scurried off to find the inn. Xena could still
hear her giggling as she rounded the corner of the short street.
Xena smiled softly at the retreating back and whispered
to herself. "There are days when I would cheerfully strangle
you, Gabby but I wouldn't ever want to be without you. You're
the best friend this worn-out old warlord has ever had."
She could feel the tears trying to break through again and quickly
turned to speak with the blacksmith about the shoes she needed
The inn was like so many others Gabrielle had seen
in her travels with Xena. Maybe a little cleaner perhaps but still
with the usual human flotsam and jetsam all inns seem to accumulate.
The main area had a cheery fireplace against one wall with tables
around it and there were several long counters with benches spread
through the rest of the room. Clean sawdust covered the floor.
Two very small windows faced the front of the building leaving
the room quite dark. Several candles burnt in sconces along the
walls. Behind the bar, a small tired looking woman stood washing
tankards in a large bowl. As she slowly dried each one, she stacked
it with others on a shelf running behind her. A doorway next to
the shelf showed a part of the kitchen area. This looked fairly
clean too. Gabrielle carefully noted the people tucked away in
the darker corners of the room. These were the ones she had to
watch for. They almost always were. To the right of the bar itself
was a set of stairs, probably leading up to the rooms.
Gabrielle walked over to the bar and spoke to the
woman working there. "Is it possible to rent a room for the
night?" She asked.
"Yes, yes. We be having rooms available."
The woman said softly.
"I'd like one room for myself and my travelling
companion, please." Gabrielle requested politely, leaving
Xena's name out of it for the moment. She knew some people still
didn't quite believe the change which had taken place within the
"Now you just be waiting right here, young lady
while I go be getting the keys." The woman turned to leave.
"Would you be wanting to bathe as well?"
"Oh yes, that would be wonderful, thank you."
The young Bard said. Gabrielle knew a hot bath would be just the
thing after days and days of washing herself in the cold water
of various rivers and streams. "I might even get a little
laundry done too." She thought.
The small woman walked out the doorway into the kitchen
area and Gabrielle could hear the sound of voices flowing from
the room. A young boy, no more than ten or twelve, shot out the
door with buckets in hand to get their baths ready. She heard
the sound of a well handle creaking as the boy drew the water.
Gabrielle turned to look at the rest of the room
and almost mashed her nose into the chest of a man standing entirely
too close to her back. After getting one whiff of the odour all
but crawling off his unwashed body and badly stained clothes,
her nose was rapidly wishing it *had* been mashed so she wouldn't
have to smell him.
"Well, looky here, boys. What's a pretty thing
like you be doing out all on your own? You really should have
someone looking after you." Unwashed said with a leer. He
tried to grab hold of Gabrielle's chin but she side-stepped him
"Oh, come now. I be just trying to make with
the nice. Pretty things shouldna be left alone, after all. Never
know what might be happening to them." He said and smirked
a very gap toothed grin. The smell of rotting teeth washed over
Gabrielle and she nearly lost the little she had in her stomach.
Barely holding her complaining insides together she
said, "I'm alright, really. My travelling companion will
be along any moment and I won't be alone anymore."
Unwashed made a sudden lunge for Gabrielle's breast.
She stepped back but the bar was right behind her. The man's large
meaty hands smacked down on either side of her body and he was
leaning forward fully intending to kiss her, his fleshy lips already
"Well, don't say I didn't warn you." Gabrielle
said softly. She swung her staff over, caught it with her other
hand and holding it level to the ground, slammed it down onto
the forearms of Unwashed. The hit was hard enough to make him
step back but certainly not enough the break anything.
Unwashed roared in pain and ripped his sword from
its sheath. Gabrielle stood her ground, trying to keep the bar
at her back. She had dropped slightly into a defensive crouch
and was holding her staff ready. The now angry man was taking
short steps from side to side trying to see an opening. It was
obvious he had not fought against a staff before. He made a quick
lunge forward. Gabrielle easily parried the blow and returned
to her ready position. He tried an overarm hit. Once again, Gabrielle
blocked the blow, swung one end of the staff down and made solid
contact with the mans' large gut. The air whomped out of him.
Unwashed stood up, breathing heavily and swung his sword again.
He came in sideways and the Bard simply blocked the hit. The swing
had thrown him slightly off-balance and Gabrielle used this to
give him a very solid shove to the chest. He staggered back and
tripped over one of the benches, landing in an inglorious heap
on the ground.
"Get her, boys!!" He roared from his position
on the floor.
"I wouldn't if I were you." A low female
voice called from the front of the room.
Several heads spun around to the look at whoever
was at the door. Xena could hear her name move up the room like
a cold winter wind. Nobody moved. Xena walked impassively up to
Gabrielle and stood beside her, neither standing in the way of
the other just in case somebody decided they really wanted to
die that day.
"You okay?" She asked.
"Never better, Xena" Gabrielle grinned
back at her. She was barely breathing hard.
The tall warrior looked down at Unwashed still seated
on the floor. "You bothering my friend here?" She asked,
far too casually.
"Oh no, no. I be just leaving. See. I be going
right now." He said, shaking his head as he rapidly crawled
along the floor and out the door. Moments later, hoofbeats could
be heard heading away from the inn.
Xena glanced over to the 'boys' to see they had very
slowly and carefully replaced their weapons and returned to their
seats. No one wanted the Warrior Princess after them.
The ice blue eyes swung around and came to rest on
Gabrielle. She started to smile and said, "Leave you alone
for five minutes and you start picking fights. What *am* I to
do with you?" The glint of wicked laughter in Xena's eyes
was enough to let Gabrielle know she hadn't done anything wrong.
Feeling a little cheeky and knowing she was pushing
her luck, she answered, "Maybe you shouldn't let me out of
your sight then."
"Oh, Gabrielle....." Xena said, exasperated.
She rolled her eyes towards the ceiling and tried not to smile
at her friend. She had been standing at the door from the moment
Gabrielle had first hit the unwashed man. She really didn't see
a need to step in unless her friend managed to get herself into
more trouble than she could handle. Unlikely, as the young Bard
really was as good with that staff as Xena had told her. Secretly,
Xena felt very pleased at how well Gabrielle had handled herself.
She hadn't gone looking for the fight but she was more than able
to defend herself with that staff, even if the 'boys' had joined
the fray. She just wished it was unnecessary.
Later that night, over bowls of a wonderfully rich
fish stew and freshly baked bread, the tall warrior and the young
Bard discussed what little information they had dug up about the
troubles further down the coast. This little village was seen
as the end of the line and news was slow to arrive.
Xena looked deeply into her tankard of port. "I
hate slavers! I hate raiders! I hate bullies and tyrants and this
bastard is all that and more!" She said savagely, almost
biting each word off as she spoke it. "What he can't take,
he simply destroys!" Looking up into the concerned eyes of
her friend, she relaxed a little and tried to smile. Stopping
herself for a moment, she thought, "I really shouldn't
get so angry around Gab. It frightens her so much sometimes."
Gabrielle was anything but afraid. All she could
see was Xena trying to take on the troubles of the whole world
to atone for her own cruel past. "Will she ever forgive
herself?" She wondered. "Xena's years as one
of the most feared warlords Greece had ever seen weighs so heavily
on her soul. What will it take for her to see she was simply lost
and not the evil monster she thinks she is?" Gabrielle
reached out her hand and gently touched the arm of the woman sitting
across from her. She was surprised and privately delighted when
Xena didn't immediately try to shrug it off as she had done so
many times in the past.
"So, does this bastard have a name?" Gabrielle
asked, injecting a small note of lightheartedness into her voice.
"Or shall we continue to call him the bastard?"
Xena looked up suddenly from the hand still on her
arm. "You amaze me sometimes, Gab. You know that." A
slow, very genuine smile grew on her face.
The younger woman blushed and looked down at her
empty plate. She felt callused yet gentle fingers under her chin
forcing her to look up at her travelling companion.
"Never lose that sense of fun, will you?"
Xena asked seriously.
Gabrielle nodded, unable to speak. The jolt of delicious
electricity that had travelled from Xena's fingers down her body
to explode somewhere in the bottom of her stomach had left her
without enough breath to answer. She didn't understand how such
a simple touch could effect her that way but it felt far too good
to try to explain to herself. She let herself enjoy it.
Xena didn't seem to notice and continued talking.
"The bastards' name is Tethion!" She ground her teeth
together in anger. "He has a fairly vicious little army made
up of the worst kind of filth on earth. Seems he has ideas about
taking over this entire section of coastline and using the trade
profits to push his campaign further inland."
"So where is he now?" Gabrielle asked a
Xena stopped to think for a moment about the travelling
time and answered, "About four days ride from here but I
could probably do it in two if I was on my own."
"Ooooh no! You are not leaving me behind again!"
Gabrielle almost snarled at the tall woman. "You've said
it yourself. I am quite capable of taking care of myself and I
am not letting you ride off into who knows what kind of trouble
without some kind of backup." The Bard barely stopped herself
from thumping her fist on the tabletop. As it was, the raised
voices had heads turning from all around the room.
Xena started to get angry at her friend's insistence
on putting herself in danger all the time. Her eyes became chips
of ice as she said, "Gabby, I am not asking you to stay here,
I am telling you. This has to be done MY way. Do you understand!"
"NO! I do not understand. Explain it to me,
oh Great Warrior Princess!" Gabrielle shouted back sarcastically.
As soon as she had said the words, she knew she had gone too far.
Not quite knowing what to expect, she sat waiting for the earth
to fall in on her. She was still furiously angry. All the times
she had been left, safe, in some village while Xena pounded the
bad guys. All the times Xena had tried to protect her, even when
it was obvious she didn't need the protection. All the times she
had been treated as less than an equal. All the times......roared
through her mind taking it with any chance of sensible thinking.
Xena just sat staring at her young friend. She simply
didn't know what to say. All that anger? Where had she gotten
it from? She cringed inside. Xena *knew* where her tender-hearted
friend had picked it up. And she hated herself all the more for
it. Her own anger at herself flared up. Standing up, she snarled
back, "You're staying!" Turning on her heel, she was
out of the room in a few long strides.
Gabrielle looked around the room. Every head was
turned in her direction, completely engrossed in the drama before
them. Stifling a sob behind teeth clenched so tightly her head
began to ache, she stood up and head high, walked up the stairs
to their room. Only when she was safely behind its closed and
locked door did she break down completely and cry, "Oh gods.
What have I done?"
Xena strode from the inn, eyes flashing blue fire.
The few people left on the streets had very rapidly gotten out
of her way. They recognised an elemental force when they saw one.
She pounded up to the closed gate of the palisade and demanded
it be opened for her. The guard didn't even stop to think as he
fumbled to unlock the latching. His life was too precious for
him to annoy the leather-clad bundle of explosive energy. Xena
kicked the gate out of her way and set a heel thumping pace off
into the fields. She kept walking into the darkness, her mind
frozen, remembering the look of absolute anger and hurt on Gabrielle
face. The only thought in her mind, repeated over and over again
was, "By all the gods. What have I done?"
Candlemarks later, Xena found herself sitting on a large rock several feet back from the cliff edge. The thunderous sound of the surf crashing onto the cliffs below had calmed her. The village was miles behind her. Not even the torches on top of the palisade wall could be seen in the distance. Looking out to the dark horizon and watching the moon reflect off the waters below, she tried to think.
"I know I am right about leaving her here.
Yes, she can defend herself against any bully boy she may come
across in the inns and taverns but I'm not sure she would be safe
against dozens of heavily armed soldiers." Xena's mind
kept returning to the images of Gabrielle practising with her
staff and just how truly deadly she had become with it. Her mind
lingered on the images, no longer seeing the dance of whirling
patterns the staff wove around the young woman's lithe body. Instead
she was seeing the young woman herself. The subtle play of muscles
under her skin. The graceful movements as she moved around her
practise targets. The look of determination and the feral, almost-smile
on her face. Xena grinned to herself. She knew where Gabrielle
had learned that. It was the same look Xena had every time she
went into battle. It always seemed to unnerve her opponents when
they thought she was going to enjoy killing them. To be honest,
she no longer enjoyed the killing but to protect herself, and
more importantly, Gabrielle, she did what was necessary.
Xena's mind started to wander over other images of
Gabrielle she had stored away in her memory. Though Gabrielle
didn't know it, Xena rarely had her eyes off the young woman and
would watch her surreptitiously whenever she thought Gabrielle
wasn't noticing. She had been doing it for so long now, she no
longer even thought about it consciously. Images of Gabrielle
laughing at something she had said one night, the firelight highlighting
the red in her strawberry blonde hair. Gabrielle standing hip
deep in a river, wearing just her shift as she tried to catch
fish the way Xena had shown her. The water plastering the thin
material against her skin. A lean muscular leg as it kicked the
blanket off at night. The sight of her strong, naked body as she
dove into the water.
Xena smiled to herself. She wondered what it would
be like to hold that same naked body against her own bare skin.
Xena suddenly jerked her head up. Now where had that thought come
from?? She had never slept with a woman before, had never even
entertained the idea. Why was she suddenly thinking about it with
Gabrielle? Xena knew she could hardly call herself 'virginal'
anymore. She had often used her body as a weapon to gain her own
ends in the past. But sleeping with women was something that had
never crossed her mind before. And she did know for a fact that
Gabrielle had never slept with anyone and was still a virgin.
A few stolen kisses maybe but definitely a virgin. She tried to
think about the last time she had slept with anyone. Longer than
her memory would allow after some minutes of deep thought. She
certainly couldn't remember the last time she had *enjoyed* sex
with a man. Was that it? Was she simply frustrated?
"Come on, you big, dumb warrior. Get honest
with yourself." Whispered a small, quiet voice from deep
Xena could feel herself shying away from the emotions
like a spooked horse. This was not something she expected from
herself. She had worked too hard to suppress as much emotion as
possible, even now as she tried to work her way towards her feelings
of redemption. But thoughts of Gabrielle had given her heart and
soul the chance they were looking for.
"What?! Xena, The Warrior Princess *afraid*
of something!" The voice taunted gently.
"SHUT UP!! SHUT UP!!" Xena cried out, grabbing
her head between her hands. She fought with herself, raged against
the emotions fighting to be released. Slamming up her walls, bringing
all her defences into play, she still knew the battle would be
lost. She fought silently with herself, and that small, quiet
voice regardless. She sat, every muscle tensed against the battle
within. She didn't know how to fight this voice inside herself.
She wasn't even sure if she really wanted to but she still battled.
That was her way. Her own emotions did not fight fair, they had
been denied for far too long. They battered her from within, demanding
liberation. Demanding that she *feel* again, totally and completely.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, there
was a small breach in her walls. Just enough to let her see something
she didn't want to see, let alone acknowledge. She was not given
a choice. This was her own heart and soul fighting back.
"I NEED HER!! OH GODS, HOW I NEED HER!!"
Xena wailed into the night sky. It was the soul-wrenching cry
of a shattered heart calling to its other half. She rolled from
the rock and collapsed into a heap on the ground, fighting once
more but this time to stop the sobs from getting passed her throat.
"Damn you. Damn you. I hope you are satisfied!" She
"For now." Was the answer she heard
from that insistent voice inside.
Gabrielle snapped into sudden wakefulness. She looked
around the darkened room, barely lit by one small candle. "Xena?"
She whispered softly. Peering into the darkness, she could see
that the warrior had not returned. Sliding from the pallet, she
walked carefully over to the window and looked out. Everything
seemed peaceful and quiet. The moon had already set but she could
still see the stars being reflected in the waters below the village.
The sea breeze, chilly off the cool water, gently shaped her cotton
shift against her body. She wrapped her arms around her chest
to warm herself. Feeling a sadness she could not explain and didn't
have the energy to think about, she climbed back into the lonely
bed. Within moments, she was asleep again.
Hours later a shadow silently drifted across the
room to stand by the sleeping woman. A gentle hand reached out
to cup her cheek. Gabrielle nuzzled into the hand for a moment,
a soft smile creasing her face. The hand caressed her skin and
Xena's voice whispered into the darkness. "I just need to
know you are safe." The hand left. There was a rustle of
parchment and the shadow was gone.
In the distance, the thunder of galloping hoofbeats
echoed quietly in the night.
The raucous sound of sea birds calling, wafted in
through the open window. Gabrielle opened her eyes slowly and
looked over at the other side of the pallet. "Xena didn't
return last night." She thought. Quickly sitting up she
glanced over to the corner where their gear was stowed. She saw
her own pack and bedroll as well as the saddle-bags but Xena's
small saddle pack and blankets were gone. Gabrielle leapt out
of bed. Quickly scrabbling through the gear, she confirmed that
some of Xena's things were gone. Most likely taken by Xena herself.
Tears sprang up in Gabrielle's eyes and her deepest fear suddenly
slammed into her full force. "She's left me. Oh my god, she's
left me." She whispered agonisingly. Gabrielle pulled her
knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She sat moaning
softly, rocking and crying for the better part of an candlemark
before her mind started to think again.
"Was she really that angry with me last night?"
She thought, still sitting on the floor. "Nooo, I don't
think so. We've fought over my being left behind before. What
happened this time?" Gabrielle wiped her nose on the
back of her hand. Though she ran every memory she had of the past
few days back over in her mind, she couldn't think of anything
that really stood out enough which would cause Xena to suddenly
leave like this. Gabrielle finally stood up. She was starting
to feel chilled sitting on the floor for so long. Turning, she
noticed the parchment on the table, carefully placed under the
candlestick. Grabbing it, she quickly read the message.
Stay put. I need to know you are safe.
Be back as soon as I can.
Yes, that was her Xena, all right. The mistress of
understatement. Then Gabrielle noticed at the very bottom of the
paper, almost like an afterthought, written in tiny letters, Your
Best Friend. Gabrielle's heart beat faster. Xena had sometimes
called her that but it just felt so different seeing it written
in Xena's neat hand. She clutched the parchment to her heart and
then sat down to read it again.
"You know," She said aloud to herself trying
to make sense of things, "there is really something different
about all this. For one, Xena almost never leaves me notes. She
simply goes. Yes, a written note is strange enough in itself.
The 'stay put' I'm used to. I'm getting a little tired of 'staying
put', that's for sure." Gabrielle read the note one more
time and the part that had nudged her sub-conscious attention
jumped out in bold relief. I need to know you are safe.
Gabrielle tapped the parchment against her lips. "She needs
to know I am safe? She NEEDS to know......" The young
woman sat stunned for a moment. Not once in all the time they
had travelled together had Xena ever said she needed Gabrielle,
for anything. And here it was written by her own hand. "What
happened last night that you suddenly need to know I am safe??"
Gabrielle sat pondering for a few minutes more and
finally reached a decision of her own. "Well, my friend.
*I* need to know you are safe too and I can only do that by being
with you." The young Bard quickly dressed, parked up her
gear and ran down the stairs. The bar-keep was up and washing
down the tables and benches. She asked to leave the saddle-bags
and everything she couldn't carry at the inn, promising to return
as soon as possible. Minutes later she was heading out the palisade
gate and into the fields, following the track to the next village.
Though she kept a sharp eye on the horizon all day,
Gabrielle never once saw Xena on the track. She knew she was following
her because she could see Argo's hoofprints on the ground. He
wasn't galloping along but neither was he walking at the pace
she was used to. She had picked up her own pace as soon as she
realised that Xena and Argo had such a headstart on her. She had
only stopped a couple of times during the day but after a few
minutes, her own anxiety to catch up forced her back out onto
the track again. Not stopping at sunset, she continued on into
the night, letting the pale light of the moon guide her feet.
Once the moon had set, she decided to camp for the night. Finding
a small spring, little more than a soak really, in a tiny clearing,
she made a small fire and lay down exhausted. The sound of crashing
surf in the distance soothed her but for some reason she couldn't
fall asleep. Giving up the effort, she wrapped her blankets around
her and sat staring into the blaze.
"What happened to you, Xena? One minute you're
so angry with me that I thought you were going to break something
into little tiny pieces; namely me. And the next you need me.
I don't understand." Gabrielle said to herself. "I don't
understand myself any better right now either. Why do I need to
follow you? Why do I need to be with you so much. Why does your
approval mean everything to me? Why does your smallest smile light
up my day? And why does the lightest touch from you just take
my breath away? Why do I feel that I would die for you?"
The young Bard sat thinking deeply, trying to make some kind of
sense of all her questions. Her own inexperience hampering her
in many ways. The hours seemed to creep passed but the young woman
was no closer to any kind of an answer.
Like a shooting star across the heavens, an idea
struck Gabrielle out of the blue. It left her open-mouthed with
surprise. "Is it possible I am in love with you, Xena?"
Quite some miles ahead, Xena sat before a small fire
of her own, in an equally tiny clearing with a small spring. Sleep
had deserted the woman for the night and she sat tentatively trying
to sort out the feelings in her own heart. She was not having
a great deal of success. Too many years of hiding from herself
was making it very difficult for her. She had spent most of the
day trying to come to terms with the idea of needing anyone. As
the old Warrior Princess, she would have scoffed at the thought
and simply wiped it from her memory. But she wasn't that person
anymore. This Xena, the Xena trying to find her way back to the
light, had let a bright, young, overly talkative woman join her
as a travelling companion, protected her, called her friend, even
liked her. Yet actually needing someone.....needing Gabrielle.
That was a new idea. Almost too new for her to understand. By
the time the first pearly light of dawn was showing on the horizon,
Xena was no closer to understanding. "Come on, Argo. Time
to get going again." She said to the war-horse. Mounting
up and heading back out to the track, Xena's night of contemplation
had worn the barriers between herself and her feelings very thin
indeed. If only she realised it.
Mid-morning found Gabrielle scanning the ground for
Argo's tracks. She had lost sight of them and was hoping she was
still going the right way. Xena was the far better tracker but
Gabrielle wasn't completely hopeless. Xena had been spending months
teaching her and Gabrielle pleased herself in being able to remember
almost everything she had learned. Giving up on trying to find
Argo's hoofprints, she remembered something else Xena had once
said to her. "Remember to use *all* your senses. There
is more than one way to find someone." Closing her eyes,
she breathed deeply. Delighted with herself, her nostrils tickled
with a hint of wood smoke nearby. Continuing to follow her nose,
she found the small site Xena had used the night before. Holding
her hand over the remains of the fire, she could just feel the
last of the heat from the flames. "Hmmmm, still four or five
candlemarks ahead of me." She mumbled to herself. But she
knew she was closing the gap. Gabrielle had left her own campsite
before dawn was even on the horizon. Moving around the camp in
an enlarging spiral, she eventually found Argo's tracks again
and set off after Xena once more.
In reality, Xena was little more than two candlemarks
ahead of the Bard. Two nights without sleep had finally caught
up with her and in the drowsy, mid-morning heat she decided to
step off the track and get some rest before spying out Tethion's
war camp. She knew she was getting close. The track was badly
cut up with the prints of dozens of horses and wagons. There was
not a lot she could have done in daylight anyway and it was probably
better for her to rest now. She didn't know when she would get
the chance again. Half a mile into the close forest, Xena found
a little clearing at the bottom of a hollow. No one would find
her there unless they stepped right on top of her. She had closed
her eyes thinking about Gabrielle.
Gabrielle tramped along the track forcing herself
to keep to the pace she had set. She was tired and the heat rising
from the track was making her attention wander. Stopping for a
moment, she threw herself into the shade of a small bush and took
a long satisfying drink from her waterbag. Sitting up again, she
looked down the track, its surface dancing in the sunlight. It
was starting to make a wide turn to the right cutting off any
view of what lay ahead. "I'll have to be a bit more careful
now. Can't have anyone simply sneaking up on me." Gabrielle
grinned wickedly to herself. "Be just my luck to have Xena
jump out of the bushes at me and try to send me back to the village."
She climbed wearily to her feet and began walking along the track
Almost half a mile directly behind where Gabrielle
had been sitting, Xena slept fitfully in her little clearing,
fighting to hold back the tears which wanted to flow. There was
no comfort in her dreams this time, no gentle hand softly stroking
her hair, no quietly humming voice to chase away her demons. Argo
raised her head for a moment and snorted. The smell was familiar
and she returned to the sweet grass she had been eating.
Gabrielle was staring to feel a little anxious. There
were too many other hoofprints on the track and she couldn't sort
out which ones belonged to Argo. She was still reasonably sure
Xena was ahead of her somewhere but she no longer had the comfort
of Argo's prints to show her the way. As the track turned inland,
the forest had started springing up on the other side. Gabrielle
could still just hear the sea as it crashed against the cliffs
but the ocean was now at her back somewhere. Only the faintest
hint of salt could be detected on the breeze, mostly made up of
odors from the forest itself. Within a mile the forest was as
thick on the left as had been on her right all this way. The Bard
was starting to feel just the tiniest bit afraid. She was grateful
there was still at least half a days ride until she reached the
point where Xena had said Tethion's camp might be. Rounding a
sharp bend in the track, she suddenly stumbled right into the
midst of a dozen rough looking men. Some where atop horses, others
standing on the ground but all were seriously armed.
"Damn! This really isn't going to be my day,
is it?" She muttered to herself. Crouching slightly into
a ready position, she swung her staff in front of her and prepared
to defend herself.
Dusk was just starting to settle over the forest
when Xena reached the same sharp bend in the track. She had already
ducked two previous patrols simply by stepping into the forest
until they had ridden past. Neither group had made any effort
to hide themselves or the noise they were making. Snatches of
conversation she heard as they rode passed let her know who they
were looking for. Xena or the Bard that travelled with her. She
noted there was never fewer than ten men in each patrol and they
were always mounted. Patrols this far out were strange and Xena
wondered if the camp had been moved up the track towards the village
she had left behind over a day and a half ago. She would have
happily taken them on but she didn't want to alert Tethion to
her presence quite yet. Rounding the bend carefully, it was a
perfect place for an ambush, her eye fell upon a familiar shape
lying on the ground to one side of the track. Fear closing around
her heart, she dismounted to pick it up.
It was Gabrielle's staff. Xena would have recognised
it anywhere. And it had blood all over it.
Concentrating to clear her mind and push her emotions
back behind the barriers, she carefully walked about the area
and tried to understand what had happened. There seemed to be
a lot of blood splattered about and Xena wasn't sure if it was
Gabrielle's or her opponents. Judging from the footprints, there
had been at least seven men standing but the prints of twelve
horses. Xena assumed there was twelve men altogether. In the soft
dirt at the edge of the track, she came across a familiar shape
marked out in the dust. One she had seen a hundred times before
in every open camp they had ever made. Gabrielle. There was a
large pool of drying blood at the head but no sign of any other
injury. Someone had roughly dragged her body over to one of the
horses and Xena assumed she had been tossed over the saddle like
a bag of grain. There were other body shapes in the dust. Her
friend had made quite an accounting of herself before someone
had taken her down. Xena felt a stillness settle over her. The
calm before the bloodlust of battle. This was the feeling she
had lived for during her days as a warlord. The feeling of darkest
rage barely held in check, taking but a spark to ignite the fires
of her anger and her hatred. With a voice completely devoid of
emotion, Xena spoke quietly into the darkness of the surrounding
forest. "Harm a single hair on her head, Tethion and you
will regret forever the day you were ever born."
Tucking Gabrielle's staff along the side of her saddle,
Xena re-mounted and began to move towards Tethion's war camp.
Gabrielle wanted nothing more than to scream at somebody,
anybody, to stop beating those accursed drums. She forced her
eyes open only to realise the drums she was hearing were actually
beating inside her own head. She tried to roll onto her back,
quickly finding someone had tied her arms behind her in a very
uncomfortable position. Then she remembered. The sharp bend in
the track, too many men, fighting, as fast as she disabled one
another took his place. Her last clear memory was of a sword coming
towards her head and she being in the wrong position to duck.
She had honestly thought she was going to die but it seems whoever
used that sword had hit with the flat of the blade, intending
to disable her and not simply kill outright. "Considering
how I feel though, I wish I was dead. Surely, it can't hurt as
much as this?" She thought. As the noise inside her head
settled a bit, she started to look at her surroundings.
She was inside some kind of metal cage, bars at least
an inch thick. Looking up she quickly realised that she would
just barely have room to sit, if she hunched over. Not exactly
the most comfortable of positions, especially for any length of
time. She hardly had room to lie down. Her feet were pushed up
against one corner of the cage, her knees bent sharply towards
her body, and her head was jammed into the opposite corner. No,
there was no comfort to be found that way either. Moving her head
trying to look further, she felt the wound on her head re-open
and the blood start to flow freely again. This did not feel good.
"How much blood have I already lost?" She wondered
almost idly. Gabrielle closed her eyes. "It feels so good
to sleep. I wonder what Xena is doing?" And she faded
Xena was still working her way towards the encampment.
Guards were been rimmed around the perimeter practically within
arm's distance of each other. She had already circled the camp
twice and hadn't yet found a way passed those guards. These men
were alert too. "Maybe later in the night they might start
to doze a bit." She thought. From high in a tree, Xena
could just make out the shape of Gabrielle locked up in some sort
of a too-small metal cage. She watched closely but Gabrielle hadn't
moved and Xena was starting to worry her friend might have actually
been killed in the attack. "But why keep the body then?"
She wondered to herself.
She climbed down from the tree not shaking so much
as a twig. Using every woodcraft skill she possessed, she crept
as close to the camp as she dared. Hidden in a small patch of
leafy bush, she sat listening in to the snatches of conversation
that drifted on the quiet night air towards her. Suddenly her
ears pricked up. She recognised that voice. Carefully moving a
couple of leaves from her line of sight, she could see a man standing
near the fire talking loudly. Xena bit down on her bottom lip
and forced herself to remain still. The man was the unwashed ruffian
from the inn back in the village.
The other man was speaking too quietly for Xena to
hear what he was saying but she got the general gist of the conversation
from the loud braying of Unwashed. The quiet man leaned over and
"Idiot!" Unwashed spat. "Even a body
be enough to drag that bitch out of hiding. But she be breathing
sweet right now. Tethion wants to be the one to say he finally
killed that troublesome cow. Her and that pretty Bard of hers.
Tain't natural like, what they be doing together."
Xena felt a part of herself relax. Gabrielle was
still alive. But for how long? Tethion she would deal with later.
Right now she had to find a way to rescue her friend.
"No, no. Tethion wants to ask the little wildcat
some questions first. Then we be having our fun with her."
Unwashed grabbed at his crotch graphically. "But he won't
be back time tomorrow morn at the earliest." He looked over
to the cage hidden by the shadows and leered. "We can still
be having some fun though even if the sort of fun I be wanting
has to wait. It'll be all the sweeter, after all."
The quiet man looked up expectantly.
"It'll have to wait til later though. To many
people be around at the moment." Unwashed smirked to himself.
"Yes, it be a lot of fun indeed to teach that pretty a lesson.
Meet me aback the kitchen tent just afore moonset. Everything
be quiet then."
The sounds of an approaching guard forced Xena to
move back or be found. "I should have killed you when
I had the chance, fat boy." She thought darkly. "In
fact, I'll make sure of it this time." Circling back
around the camp, she walked quietly to the little corpse of trees
where she had tethered Argo and decided to wait until moonset
before making any kind of a move. Like Unwashed had said, everything
be quiet then.
Gabrielle woke spluttering and gasping for breath
as water cascaded down on her from above. It was absolutely icy
and certainly brought her back to consciousness in a hurry. Another
bucketload poured down on her but the best she could do was turn
her head so her mouth and nose were pointed towards the ground.
It stopped her from breathing in the worst of the water but not
all of it. Still coughing and trying to get her breath, rough
hands reached in and dragged her from the cage. She felt herself
leave several layers of skin from her legs on the lip of the door.
The head wound was bleeding again and she could feel the warm
blood running down the back of her neck and soaking into what
was left of her shirt. Hands supported her on both sides as her
knees barely held her upright. Swaying and shivering, she tried
to focus on the shape moving in front of her.
"Hi there, me little pretty thing." Said
a far too familiar voice. "Time to be learning your lessons"
An uncaring hand grabbed her by the chin and someone
brutally kissed her, forcing his tongue deep into her mouth. If
she'd had anything in her stomach at all, she'd have thrown up.
She knew who this was. The man in the inn she had beaten off with
"It be a right pity I can do no more but the
boss wants to talk to you first and he be having the nuts of any
man who tries you out before he does." The man's voice whispered
cruelly in her ear. "I be betting you be a real spitfire
when bedded. Oh yes. I be certainly seeing what that warrior bitch
be seeing in you." A hand pawed harshly along her partly
exposed breast squeezing the nipple painfully as it passed. "But
there be other things a little pretty like you can be learning
about proper respect to men."
Gabrielle never saw it coming and didn't have a chance
to roll with the punch. An iron fist slammed into her face. Her
knees gave from under her and she teetered on the edge of consciousness.
Another bucket of icy water landed in her face.
"Oh no, pretty one. Not so quickly now. You
have a *lot* to learn and I be not letting you slide away from
your lessons." The man's voice snarled at her.
A star filled blackness hovered in front of Gabrielle's
eyes. All she could hear was the meaty smack of fist against flesh,
her flesh, as the unwashed man beat her about the face, over and
over again. The pain burned through her shutting almost everything
else out. After a few moments, she didn't even hear her own quiet
moans anymore. "Xena!" She cried out in her mind
before she lost touch with herself completely. "Do you
hear me? By all the gods, can you hear me? I love you! I just
wish I could say it to your face." Gabrielle's mind escaped
beyond to a dark place where she hoped she wouldn't feel the pain,
even though she still moaned softly after every strike of the
unwashed man's fist.
Xena had spent the candlemarks waiting for moonset,
terrified Unwashed would decide to take his 'fun' a little sooner
than he had said. As she circled the camp to try to find a weak
spot in the perimeter nearest the cage, she heard the sounds that
told her he had. The darkness screamed up within her. All she
had to do was reach out and take its power. She stood shaking.
She wanted nothing more than to give into the seductive strength
it offered her. The rage boiled in her mind whispering its love
secrets to her. She felt herself slipping....slipping....slipping
into its blood-red embrace. Like a long, lost lover returned,
whose body you know all too well. "It would be so easy."
She thought. "I am so tired of fighting myself, fighting
the darkness within me"
Then like a bell tolling through the fog, she heard
Gabrielle earnest young voice. "If anything ever happens
to me, promise me you won't become a monster again."
Xena heard her own voice replying. "I promise."
And she had meant it.
Hands fisting until her nails cut deeply into her
palms, Xena whispered almost soundlessly into the darkness around
her and to the darkness within her. "I made a promise and
I always keep my word. Especially to Gabrielle." As though
saying her friends name aloud was some kind of touch stone, the
darkness dissipated, the rage calmed and settled, her head cleared
again. Feeling a peace she never knew she had within her, Xena
stood up quietly. "Hold on, Gabby. I'm coming." She
Wriggling forward on her belly, she looked to see
where the perimeter guards were standing. For once her luck was
holding. Four of the men, who should have been standing next to
each other, had instead grouped together and were concentrated
on the dice they were throwing. The gap was almost twenty feet
wide. More than enough for Xena to slip through. But could she
get back. "I'll deal with that when the time comes."
Slithering though the gap, using every leaf of cover
there was, she found herself on the other side of the perimeter
line and in the camp itself. Up ahead she could hear the sound
of someone being beaten. Xena knew that someone was Gabrielle.
She popped her head above the level of the grasses
she lay in and quickly took stock of what was happening. "Only
three of them. Good. I just might be able to get in and out without
raising the whole camp." Not that it really mattered
to her. She was willing to take on every single man there if that
is what it would take to get Gabrielle back again. But she would
rather do it quietly and avoid the chance of Gabrielle being hurt
any further. Moving quickly, she crawled around the cage in a
wide circle, ending in the deep shadows beside a tent. Gabrielle's
head was hanging down below the level of the shoulders of the
two men holding her up. Unwashed had to raise it every time he
hit her. "Better and better." She thought. Unlacing
her chakram from her belt and removing her knife, she suddenly
stood up. Her movement was never noticed by the three men standing
near the cage. With an almost casual flick of her hand, she tossed
the chakram at the necks of the two men holding Gabrielle. Unwashed
barely had a second to register the chakram slicing through the
throats of his two companions. He turned towards the direction
it had come and spotted the shadow of Xena standing, waiting for
him to recognise her. He sucked in a lungful of air, either out
of surprise or to call an alarm. Xena didn't care. Her knife buried
itself deeply into his throat. He fell. His life-blood already
draining away. She quickly walked over to the body, still vaguely
scrabbling to remove the knife. "You were bothering my friend."
Was all she said as the light faded from the man's eyes.
Xena grabbed her chakram from the corner bar of the
cage and wiped her knife on the stained shirt of Unwashed. Quickly
pushing one of the men from on top of Gabrielle's body, she eased
her up onto her shoulder and as silently as she has crept in,
she crept back out again through the twenty foot wide gap the
inattentive guards had left her.
Barely out of earshot of the camp, Xena carefully
placed Gabrielle's unconscious body on the ground. Balancing the
woman against her shoulder, she used her knife to cut the thongs
holding her arms behind her back. She picked up the Bard once
more, in her arms this time, and walked off through the forest
as silent as a shadow.
Xena knew she had to find a safe place for them to
hide until she had tended to Gabrielle's injuries. Going back
to the village really wasn't an option. It was simply too far
for Gabrielle to travel in her current condition. The tall warrior
looked down at the young woman she cradled gently in her arms.
There wasn't enough light under the canopy of the forest to see
very much at all but Xena could feel, and smell the blood covering
her young friend. She hoped desperately it was not all Gabrielle's.
Finally reaching Argo, Xena untied her reins from the branches
and carefully slid the Bards still unconscious body onto the mares
back. Quickly mounting behind the woman, Xena clucked her tongue
at the warhorse. "Come on, girl. We have to find a place
to hide that is far away from here." The mare stepped off,
hardly jostling her passengers at all.
Just as dawn broke over the forest, Xena finally
found a place she thought would be safe. It was deep in the forest
and candlemarks from the nearest path. A small cave, just big
enough for all of them with the entrance hidden by deep scrubby
bushes. Xena dismounted wearily. It had been a long night of riding.
She worried almost the entire journey because Gabrielle showed
no signs of waking. Other than a few soft moans, she had made
no sound all night. She pulled the woman from the mares back and
gently carried her into the cave. Popping back out again, she
unsaddled the mare. Looking around, she felt it was safe enough
to let the horse graze nearby for a time.
Placing the saddle on the ground inside the cave,
she first threw the horse blanket over it and then laid another
blanket on top. With surprising tenderness, she placed Gabrielle
on the blankets, propping her up against the saddle and covered
her with the other half of her bedroll. For the first time she
was able to get a good look at the damage done to the young Bard's
face during the beating. She felt no anger over what she saw,
only an incredible sadness that her friend should have taken such
a beating. "If only I had let you come with me then none
of this would have happened. You were right. You'd've been safer
with me." Cautiously feeling her fingers over the battered
flesh, she tried to assess if anything was broken. Amazingly,
nothing was but it was going to be weeks before the bruising faded
and the swelling went down. She examined the wound on her scalp
and hoped she could sew it back together. It was very deep and
Xena could just make out the bone at the bottom under all the
clotted blood. "Nothing to do but get to it, I suppose."
Xena said to herself. In a way, she was half hoping to hear some
kind of reply from Gabrielle.
It seemed to take forever as Xena had sown up the
scalp wound and delicately bathed away all the blood. Gabrielle's
shirt had not even been worth bothering to save and Xena had simply
cut it away from her friend's body. She washed the blood from
her legs and rubbed a soothing ointment onto all the scrapes she
could find. Finally finished, Xena covered her now naked friend
with a blanket and sat back on her heels. "I guess the rest
is up to you now, my friend." The dark haired woman slowly
caressed the side of Gabrielle face.
By nightfall, there was still no sign of Gabrielle
returning to consciousness and Xena was starting to worry. She
had eaten a light meal, hardly aware of what she was putting in
her mouth and had spent the rest of the evening sitting beside
Gabrielle holding her hand. Finally thinking she had better get
some rest herself, she removed her armour, leathers, greaves and
boots before climbing into the bedroll beside the still unconscious
woman. As she drew the cotton shift over her head, she told herself
she was stripping to bare skin so she wouldn't irritate any of
the many scrapes on Gabrielle' body. At least that is what she
*tried* to tell herself and she almost half believed it. Xena
had to stop herself from groaning aloud as she tucked her body
against Gabrielle's. Kissing the top of the young woman's head,
Xena slipped off into an exhausted and dreamless sleep.
The pale light of dawn and the sound of Argo moving
a little on the other side of the cave, woke Xena the next morning.
She looked down to see she had probably not moved all night and
still had Gabrielle tucked up against herself. Then she noticed
Gabrielle's eyes were open. But there was something odd about
them. "Gabrielle? Gabrielle? You awake?" She asked softly.
Xena turned the blond head towards her and looked deep into those
staring eyes. Gabrielle continued to stare and didn't seem to
notice Xena's presence at all.
Xena sat up a little startled. She had heard of an
affliction like this, where the person lived and breathed but
it was as if their soul had already gone to the Elysian Fields.
She had never seen it before herself but she did know something
of what to do. As she stood and stretched her tight muscles, she
tried to remember everything she had ever been told about this
half-dead, half-alive condition. Xena tossed her shift over her
head and sat by the embers building the fire back up. She knew
she had to care for the body in case Gabrielle should find her
way back from Elysian Fields. "If she wants to come back,
that is" She corrected herself.
The reaction to the situation finally set in and
Xena found herself shaking violently. "I haven't even had
a chance to tell her I need her." She said through chattering
teeth. Even now, 'need' was all she was willing, or able to admit,
to herself or anyone else if they had been there. "This is
*not* helping Gabrielle." She chided herself strongly and
locked down on her fears and worries. There was too many things
she had to do. Looking over to her friend, lying there, staring
into the nothingness, she said, "Hurry back, my little Bard.
I miss you so much."
The days that followed blurred into a haze in Xena's
mind. She found herself caring tenderly for Gabrielle as though
she was a child of her own womb. If anyone had told Xena, even
a few weeks before, she would be carefully massaging away someone's
tight muscles or cleaning up after a person's wastes, she would
have laughed out loud and declared them mad beyond all recall.
But that was exactly what she was doing and not for a single second
begrudging any of it. This was *her* Gabrielle she was caring
She found Gabrielle could swallow but not chew, so
she spent candlemarks cutting up freshly caught meat and picked
vegetables to cook down to a fine broth. Spoon feeding was slow
but Xena was patient and gentle, making sure Gabrielle didn't
choke on a single swallow. She packed soft, dry moss around her
so she would not mess herself and bathed her twice a day with
warm water. Gabrielle now lay on a large bed of tender branches
and sweet smelling grasses to get her off the ground and make
her more comfortable. Xena remembered to turn her often and would
massage away any red spots so there would be no chance of sores
developing. Every day she would slowly stretch out Gabrielle limbs
making sure she would not stiffen, even working down to her fingers
and toes. Each night Xena stripped naked and held the younger
woman close as she slept, no longer trying to convince herself
she was doing it just for Gabrielle's benefit.
If these changes were not startling enough to anyone
who might have been looking in, it was other, more subtle change
in Xena which was the most amazing. Xena started to talk. Really
talk. At first, she was simply throwing the odd comment Gabrielle
way because she missed the sound of another's voice. But it wasn't
long before she was chattering as much as the young woman once
did. At night she would sit beside Gabrielle's bed, holding her
hand talking away like some wined-filled bard. Xena didn't think
Gabrielle could hear her but she kept going anyway. Slowly, sometimes
painfully, the walls Xena had built around her heart began to
crumble. She spoke of her time as a warlord and of the anger and
rage inside her. She told tales from the earliest days in her
home village, before it had been attacked. She chatted about the
places she had been and the people she had seen. And Xena spoke,
haltingly at times, of what the friendship and companionship between
them meant to her. The more she talked, the easier it became and
the more open she started to be. But the deepest part of her heart
was yet to be revealed.
There was still one thing Xena was yet permit herself.
She was yet to allow herself the luxury of tears and the healing
they could bring.
On those days when her mood blackened and she could
feel the darkness calling to her, Xena would take herself out
to a small clearing and practise with her sword and chakram until
she was exhausted and dripping with sweat but able to smile again.
She didn't realise she had already fought the first and hardest
battle within herself the day she stood outside Tethion's camp
and heard the call from the darkness and rage. She had finally
found the right path to the light and could just see a glimmer
of it in the distance. There would be other battles to come but
she had found the touch stone of her own inner peace. That touch
stone was called Gabrielle. Xena was stumbling her way back to
being a 'normal' human being again and even though Gabrielle was
not there to talk to and help her along, as the Bard had been
doing for years, Gabrielle was alive, and still talking, in Xena's
heart and mind. The path was going to be a long and hard journey
but the ex-warlord had taken the first tiny steps willingly, and
with a pure heart.
Xena sat on a small stone ledge just outside the
cave they were living in. It had been almost a moon since that
dark ride which brought them here. Gabrielle was still no better,
though she was no worse. She had lost a little weight, not a lot
but enough that Xena could notice it as she held her close each
night. Xena sighed deeply. She no longer cared about Tethion and
his small army. All she cared about was getting her Gabrielle
Off in the villages along the coast, there had been
slow changes sweeping through house after house, person after
person. Rumours of Xena's presence somewhere in the area had given
the villagers under Tethion's heel hope. They had all heard the
stories and legends, many written and spread by Gabrielle herself
in every village and hamlet where she could find an audience.
The stories gave the villagers courage and showed them the way.
First alone and then in small groups, they began to fight back.
These were the fishermen, farmers and foresters of the area and
they knew the land well. Far better than Tethion's band of cut-throats.
Whenever, wherever there was an opportunity, they picked off the
soldiers one or a few at a time. One night, almost a moon after
Gabrielle had left the village at the end of the coast, a large
group of these land-folk attacked the war camp itself. They were
armed with the weapons they knew the best. Nets, hoes, scythes
and axes. What they lacked in expertise, they made up for in sheer,
raw courage. The gods were with them that night, for they won.
Tethion barely escaped with his life, losing the howling mob at
his heels in the darkness of the forest. After burying the dead
and attending to the hurts of their wounded, the men and women
returned to their homes to celebrate their victory and sing the
songs of Xena, The Warrior Princess. Though she had not been with
them in body, her courage was their example and it had inspired
Xena watched the last of the sunlight leave the forest
around her and the first stars started to twinkle in the sky above.
Argo was slowly moving in the general direction of the cave in
readiness for the night ahead. The tall, dark haired warrior was
not really thinking about anything. She was just letting the peace
of the forest surround her and fill her. Soon she would go back
inside and prepare a meal for both of them before retiring for
the night. The passing days meant little to her now. She felt
as though she was simply marching in place until something happened.
What that something was she couldn't even guess. She smiled sadly
at herself. She had finally found some measure of peace in her
soul but the price seemed too high somehow.
A deep melancholy settled over the woman and the
forest turned from dark blue to purple to the black of true night.
The sounds of the evening filled her ears, so used to them that
she no longer heard. Wait. There was a sound she didn't recognise.
A breathy whisper of wind, almost. Xena turned her head from side
to side trying to isolate the noise. Argo didn't seem to be agitated
in any way and she was the best watch dog around. Then she heard
the sound again......
"Xena?" A bare, cracking whisper from a
long unheard voice.
Scrambling, stumbling and falling, Xena somehow managed
to get back inside the cave and fell beside the bed of branches.
Gabrielle's tired eyes looked back at her. Her Gabrielle had returned
A small smile ghosted across Gabrielle's lips and
she said softly, "Xena?"
Her name, said so delicately and with such love,
it was the final stroke against the fragile barriers of her soul
and Xena lay her head against Gabrielle's chest and burst into
Gabrielle didn't try to understand. Here was her
usually taciturn warrior princess, crying against her breast as
easily as a small child. The Bard didn't even stop to think. She
simply reached out and began to stroke the weeping woman's dark
locks and started humming an old lullaby under her breath. As
she had done on so many nights when the Xena was fighting her
own inner demons, the soft touch and gentle humming gradually
calmed the woman she held in her arms. The storm of tears and
sobs finally abated and the glow of a rising sun began to light
up the warrior's face from within. Her eyes were still closed
as though she was trying to memorise the feeling of Gabrielle's
heartbeat under her ear and the slow rise and fall of her breathing
chest. Gabrielle's hands still stroked her hair but she had stopped
humming and was simply waiting for Xena to look up again.
Xena finally sat up, not quite looking at Gabrielle
but neither did she remove her hands for Gabrielle's arms. The
Bard waited. Somehow she knew that whatever was coming had to
be the warriors own battle and it was not something she could
help her with.....this time.
Still looking down into her lap, Xena said, "Gabrielle?
I have something I want to say and I will...um...try to
understand...if you never want to speak to me again."
The final part spoken in a rush. She tried to take her hands from
Gabrielle's arms but the young Bard was stronger than she looked
as grabbed hold of one, refusing to let it go.
Gabrielle smiled secretly to herself. Never had Xena
looked more vulnerable. She lay listening quietly while Xena tried
to find the right words to express herself. The young woman did
not, could not, help her. This was one battle Xena had to face....and
win, alone. She could see the flight of emotions in Xena's expression
but she held herself still, waiting.
Shaking herself, she appeared to come to a decision.
"Um..er..Gabrielle." Xena looked up into the gently
unquestioning eyes of the young Bard and felt her own fill once
again. The tall woman's deepest secret came rushing to the light,
Xena accepting what she could no longer deny, even to herself.
"I love you, Gabrielle. I have loved you from the very moment
I first saved you from those slavers." Xena gulped back a
sob. "I don't know why I didn't tell you before. I don't
know why I didn't tell myself. But I have said it now. I love
you so much. I don't want to lose you. You are the half of my
soul I have always searched for, if I had only known I was looking
all this time." And once again, Xena collapsed into tears
on Gabrielle's chest.
Gabrielle let the woman cry, knowing she needed the
healing of tears as much as she needed to speak her heart. She
held Xena close and waited until this storm passed the way of
Though it took longer, the tears finally slowed and
stopped. "Xena, look at me. Please. I want you to see my
eyes so you know I am telling you the truth." Gabrielle said,
tugging a little at Xena to get her to sit closer. Xena looked
up, afraid of what her friend was going to say. Gabrielle thought
for a moment to find just the right words. "You love me."
She said simply. This was not a question but a statement. Xena
nodded, too terrified to speak. "You have spoken your heart
and now it is time for me to speak mine." Gabrielle said.
Xena tensed herself for what she was sure was going
to be the killing blow. How could this innocent, young woman ever
love someone with such cruel past, someone with so much darkness
in their soul? How could she ask her Bard to even love another
woman, an idea even she'd had trouble accepting in the beginning.
"Whatever you say, please don't ask me to leave you."
Ran the words though her mind like a mantra. "Please don't
ask me to leave."
Gabrielle felt Xena tense up under her hands and
realised Xena was waiting to be rejected with the same courage
she used in battle. She quickly said, "Xena, I love you too.
I am just trying to find the right words so you will believe me."
Xena brightened for a moment and then the pain showed
on her face again. "Gabrielle, I'm a woman. How can you love
A huge smile lit the younger woman face, understanding
the problem immediately. "I'm a Bard, remember. I've read
everything I can find written by Sappho. Woman-love really isn't
a strange idea to me, you know." Gabrielle blushed furiously.
"I may not know what they actually *do* but I know I can
love a woman and more importantly, I can love you. And I do. You're
the strength in my soul, the courage in my heart, the center of
my dreams and the woman I adore." Still blushing like the
shy young maiden she was, she looked up and said in a low, husky
voice, "Instead of just sitting there like some big, dumb
warrior....Come over here and kiss me."
Xena leaned forward slowly, not quite believing her
Bard really knew what she was asking, not sure if this beautiful,
courageous, *amazing* young woman truly loved her, the Warrior
Princess. She wanted to give Gabrielle the opportunity to stop
her, if this was not what she honestly wanted. The moment her
lips grazed Gabrielle's, she knew this was what *both* of them
wanted. It was the lightest of touches, a bare thistledown brushing
against her skin and she felt as though lightning had struck her
body. Shaking, she could feel Gabrielle tugging at her to lie
down on the bed next to her.
Pulling back, she looked down on this wonderful woman
she could now admit she loved and said. "Gab, you've been
so sick for almost a moon. Don't you think we should wait until
you are stronger?" Xena didn't really want to wait, she could
feel the fires of ignited passion burning their way up and down
her body but she didn't want to hurt her beloved anymore than
she had already been.
"Wait?! I've waited long enough. I'm a little
weak, yes but I am certainly not paralysed." And to prove
it, Gabrielle sensually ran her fingers along the side of Xena's
face and down her neck. She stopped there, completely unsure of
what to do next.
Xena arched her head back, exposing her throat. Shuddering,
she gently pulled Gabrielle's hand away. "Give me a minute
and I'll be right back." She quickly rose. Checking Argo
had plenty of water for the night, she moved the broth she had
been cooking away for the flames and threw a few more branches
into the fire. "Just let me take care of this." She
said as she lifted the blanket and carefully removed the moss
she had kept packed around her lover-to-be. Gabrielle blushed
a little. "Shhh. You needed it." Xena whispered when
she saw the redness on Gabrielle face. Only then did Xena finally
strip her own shift from her body and lay down next to Gabrielle.
Both women moaned when bare flesh knowingly touched
bare flesh for the first time.
They turned into each others arms and let their lips
softly touch again. Gabrielle's mind blanked for a moment. She
had kissed a few boys in the village and spent a night with that
priest sharing a passionate embrace but nothing prepared her for
the overflow of sensation one gentle kiss could give. She reached
forward wanting more. Xena's tongue brushed Gabrielle's lips and
she opened her mouth a little permitting entry. Gabrielle was
surprised at how...how...*undemanding* this gently searching
tongue was compared to the kisses she had endured from the village
boys. She let her own tongue slip forward and into Xena's mouth.
Still hesitant of doing the wrong thing, she slowly explored the
soft delights of Xena's mouth and lips.
Xena lay and simply let Gabrielle learn at her own
pace. Her tentative kisses and gentle hands where lighting a fire
in Xena no man had ever done before. But then she had never truly
loved a man the way she loved this beautiful women either. The
exchange of kisses back and forth went on and on in a marvellously
sensuous haze but both women were starting to feel the burn for
Gabrielle looked into those amazing blue eyes and
admitted, a little ashamed, "I...I don't know what to
The dark hair woman answered, "I don't either.
I've never made love with a woman before. But I have an idea or
two. May I?"
The Bard giggled at the thought of her fearsome Warrior
Princess actually asking permission before making love to her.
"Anything for you, Warrior-mine."
Once again, Xena kissed Gabrielle, slowly letting
her lips inch their way down to her throat. She took a moment
to gently kiss the pulse under her ear before taking the lobe
between her teeth and biting down delicately. Gabrielle jumped,
gasping at the sensations it sent down her body. Xena's tongue
swirled around and in the Bard's ear before softly breathing on
the wet skin.
Xena grinned at the young woman's reaction. "Oooh
Xena." Gabrielle breathed, "I didn't know it could feel
"Surprised?" The Warrior asked, whispering
the word into her lover's ear.
"Uh huh." Looking over into Xena's wonderfully
blue eyes. "Surprise me some more." Gabrielle said wickedly.
As Xena's tongue resumed its delicate exploration
of the folds of Gabrielle's ear, her fingers slowly circled their
way up the woman's arm and across her shoulder. Taking a moment
to caress her neck, they began the leisurely trip down the Bard's
Gabrielle lay back, astounded. Every movement, each
new touch poured fire though her nerve endings. Nothing she had
ever experienced compared to the flood of sensations crashing
over her body. All she could hear was the sound of her own heart
thundering in her ears washing away every thought before it. Gabrielle's
soul felt as though it was going to explode with love and desire
for the woman next to her.
Xena's mouth and lips licked and sucked its way down
the Bard's body finally resting level with her breasts, leaving
a trail of faint red marks. Tenderly kissing each part of Gabrielle
soft breast, she lavished loving attention to every inch of skin.
One hand stroked the other breast, as though promising it too
would receive the same attention if it was patient. The other
hand swept back and forth along Gabrielle's side, sending sensations
screaming throughout Gabrielle's body, until her world narrowed
to those expressive hands and the questing, remarkable mouth on
Gabrielle had honestly thought love was something
that could only be expressed with words. Yet here in the glow
of warm firelight, the smell of sweet grasses and the scent of
Xena's rising excitement filling her nostrils, wrapped in the
strong tender arms of her warrior princess, she was learning that
love could be expressed in many ways. One hand held Xena's shoulder
as though she was trying to maintain contact with reality, the
other thrust deep into her lovers hair feeling the tall woman's
head move from side to side, breast to breast. Mere words could
never describe this bottomless ocean of feeling. If this is what
is was like to drown in sensation then she would have walked willingly
into the sea.
From somewhere further down her body there blazed
an even greater fire, a warm, almost hot wetness between her legs
she had never experienced before. Gabrielle felt a craving build
in her. A craving for something she did not yet understand. Pulling
Xena from the loving cradle of her breasts, she looked deep into
her blue fire eyes. Beyond words, beyond thought, she tried to
express this need, a need not to have the fire quenched but to
have it ignited into full brilliance until her soul burned with
the brightness of day.
And Xena understood.
Lifting her body, Xena shifted down between Gabrielle's
legs, parting them gently with her hands. The Bard's hands clutched
at the blankets beneath her body. She didn't know what to expect.
She didn't know what she *should* expect. This craving....this
need....this *fire* within consumed her and sought release.
Her mind, ablaze with passion and desire could only wait until
Xena possessed her and she surrendered.
Xena looked down on the patch of light blonde curls,
damp with sweat and the excitement of Gabrielle's virginal passion.
Barely able to restrain her own building desires, she dropped
her head and breathed deeply. She could taste the honey-musk odor
as it flowed over the back of her throat. Xena wanted to take
her time, savor every moment, to show Gabrielle what was in her
heart. To explain her love with hands and mouth, lips and tongue
in a way her words could not.
Dropping down a little further, she supported the
backs of Gabrielle's thighs with her strong, loving hands and
dipped her tongue towards the center of the Bard's being. It was
the lightest of touches, a mere beginning but Gabrielle's back
arched until she was almost completely off the bed beneath. She
dropped back down, her breathing ragged and gasping, waiting for
Xena to claim her soul.
Gabrielle could feel the warrior between her legs,
her hands supporting her thighs, her legs over those broad, powerful
shoulders. She heard Xena breathe in. A pause and then she felt
her lover's head move towards her. A white hot blast of the purest
sensation tore through her entire body almost exploding behind
her tightly closed eyes. A feeling so exquisite, so utterly overwhelming
it cut the cry of pleasure before it could leave her throat. Her
body arched, tighter than a bowstring. Her mind filled with wonder
at the immensity of such a simple touch.
The warrior waited a moment, wanting to draw the
pleasure out little longer. She could feel Gabrielle's legs and
thighs tensing and relaxing on her hands and over her shoulders,
heels digging into her back. She knew her Bard couldn't stand
Dropping her head once more, she homed in on the
sweetness of the young woman's being like a bee to the succulent
nectar from the most beautiful spring flowers. Her tongue slipped
between the folds seeking the place where the strongest passions
lie, her nose filled with the scent that was uniquely Gabrielle.
Soft, downy curls brushed her cheeks as she moved deeper towards
the center. Gabrielle's hips began to rock in the ancient rhythms,
older than time.
Letting Gabrielle set her own pace, Xena's tongue
and lips gently nuzzled against her. With her chin, she could
feel her lover's joy flowing against her skin. Gabrielle's ankles
were locked around the back of Xena's neck, holding her in position.
Xena gently moved her hand from the Bard's thigh and placed one
callused finger against Gabrielle's opening.
She pushed gently until she could feel the barrier
of Gabrielle's virginity. A single tear rolled down her cheek,
ecstatic with wonder at the gift this marvellous woman was offering.
Not wanting to cause any pain but knowing she must, just for the
briefest of moments, she tore though the barrier. She knew in
that split second, she would never again look at Gabrielle in
same way as she had in the past. But after tonight, she doubted
she would have anyway.
Gabrielle jerked up at the fleeting stab of pain
but quickly found it wiped from her memory as she felt the pressure
inside her building again. Lost to sensible thought, nearly insane
with pleasure, feeling as though she was about to fall from the
edge of a cliff, she felt Xena's strong finger slide completely
into her. Once, twice, three times the finger gently slid back
and forth. Xena's lips and tongue continued to delicately push
her towards something.
For Gabrielle, time suddenly stopped, her breathing
halted, her mind froze and everything she was, her heart, her
soul, her body, herself.....shattered like fine crystal and
spread itself across the heavens in a rainbow explosion of overwhelming
sensations. Without hearing herself, without being aware of it,
she called Xena's name aloud, over and over until she finally
fell back against the blankets.
Xena lay with her cheek against the damp, sweet smelling
curls as Gabrielle gradually came back to herself, feeling her
lover's heartbeat slow and her breathing settle. Salty tears flowed
down her face and joined with sweet dampness below. She licked
her lips and could taste the honey-musk of Gabrielle against her
tongue. She shifted and lay down again next to the woman she loved,
holding her in her arms and looking down as Gabrielle relaxed
in the warm glow of sensual satisfaction.
The Bard looked up and smiled her heart-stopping
smile at her Warrior Princess. She reached up to kiss her, stopping
suddenly. There was a new taste on Xena's lips. Was it herself?
Xena watched as the young woman rolled the flavors and smells
of herself around her mouth. Gabrielle decided she liked it and
went back for more, and for more of those soft, delightful lips
she loved so much. Xena growled deep in her throat, her own desires
not completely satisfied. She felt the fires re-ignite within
herself, a fire she had banked while gently nudging Gabrielle
to the far brink of sensory understanding and beyond.
"You don't have to do this, Beloved." Xena
said, her hips already starting to twitch in a rhythm of their
own. "You're still a bit weak after being so sick."
More than anything, she hoped Gabrielle would continue.
"Shhhh, Warrior-mine." Was all the answer
she got from the woman next to her, gentle lips and hesitant fingers
beginning a journey of their own.
Gabrielle shy kisses and tentative caresses burned
though Xena in a way no hand, more experienced, had ever done
before. The young Bard took her time, relishing each new taste,
savoring each new texture of Xena's strong body. Every new scent,
the feel of sweat-slicked skin, the sight of muscles contracting
and relaxing under her hesitant touch, was explored and remembered
as Gabrielle tried to soak up as much of Xena's essence as she
could. Low mumbles of delight and wonder reached Xena's ears and
further inflamed her passions. By the time Gabrielle had reached
Xena's nest of dark, sweat-damp curls, the warrior was quivering,
her inner thighs slick with anticipation.
The blonde haired woman gazed down and took a moment
to breathe in the scent of her lover. It tantalised her, drew
her forward, encouraging her to taste, to feel Xena's passion
flow into her mouth. Somewhere within that slick red flower was
a place where thought was banished, where a woman's soul could
be possessed and for a moment, allow her to fly higher than the
Gabrielle buried her face deep into the slick wetness,
filling her senses with all that was Xena, wanting to lose herself
in the tastes and smells completely. She could feel the warrior
jump as her tongue and lips began a slow, lingering exploration
of the silken folds and warm crevices. She looked up along Xena's
body to see her, head thrown back in an almost hedonistic abandonment,
completely surrendering herself to the Bard's unsure touch. Gabrielle's
tongue dipped into Xena's opening, finding it to be sweeter than
anything she could possibly remember and tasting so completely
of the woman she loved.
She swept her mouth up, seeking that place she knew
to be there. That place which Xena had nuzzled gently and pushed
her beyond even herself. Gabrielle found the center of Xena's
sensuous being and began to cautiously tickle it into throbbing
sensitivity. She swirled her tongue around feeling the smallest
changes in texture, revelling in the effect she could see it having
on the warrior.
Xena held one hand on the back of Gabrielle's head
hugging her close, the other clutched the young woman's shoulder
tightly. There would be bruises there later, though the Bard never
felt the pain at the time. She was lost to the outside world,
lost to herself, beyond the reach of even the gods themselves,
surrounded with the tastes, scents and movements of her most beloved
The tall, dark haired woman jerked up, her movements
frozen, breath stopped in her throat. Gabrielle could feel a spasm
against her lips. From somewhere deep inside Xena's soul roared
a half-groan, half howl, loud, passionate, bouncing off the walls
of the small cave, crying out her love for the Bard. It seemed
to go on for forever until the last echoes dies away in Gabrielle's
mind. Xena collapsed, limp, relaxed, spent.
Xena opened her eyes, feeling the young woman wrapping
her arms around her body once more. Brushing a tendril of hair
from Gabrielle's face, "For someone who didn't know what
they were doing, you seemed to do just fine." She whispered,
her voice soft with love.
"I had a good teacher." Gabrielle replied
cheekily, caressing the side of Xena's face with weary fingers,
her eyes already starting to drop into sleep.
Xena gently kissed the woman's soft, inviting lips
once again, tasting the scent of her own pleasures on Gabrielle's
mouth. She tucked the smaller woman close to her body and both
soon drifted off into an exhausted slumber. The first grey light
of dawn lit the entrance of the cave but neither woman was awake
Gabrielle was breathing hard, desperately trying
to suck enough air into her lungs as she swung the staff in complicate
movements about her body. There were no enemies, no targets, just
herself and the patterns of the staff. Still weak, her grip skidded
along the wood and the staff flew back across her body, hitting
her hard on the shoulder before bouncing to the ground. Xena's
arms were wrapped around her in an instant.
"I'm alright, Xena, honest." The Bard said
as she enjoyed the feeling of the warriors strong arms about her.
Trying to ignore the rising feeling of lust, she looked up into
the woman's worried face. Only permitting herself to kiss her
lightly on the chin, Gabrielle gently pushed herself out of the
enclosing circle. "I'm fine. Really. My hand just slipped,
that all." She wiped the sweat from her face. "How am
I ever going to get well again if I don't practise?" The
young woman was starting to get a little exasperated with herself
and her weakness. Now she knew how her lover felt every time she
was hurt in a battle.
"You've only been out of bed a few days, Gabby."
Xena tried not to look so worried but failed completely.
"Once you let us *both* out of bed, you mean."
A wicked light glinted in Gabrielle's eyes.
The tall warrior blushed a little thinking of the
days spent in bed together, exploring their bodies and the delights
they could bring the other. "Don't change the subject, woman."
Xena mock-growled at the young Bard. "It's true, you really
have only been up a few days and I think you might be expecting
too much of yourself. You were...gone....were away for nearly
"All the more reason I need to practise now.
I promise, I won't wear myself out too much. Have to save something
for later." Gabrielle gave Xena a wicked smile and then picked
up her staff once more.
The warrior stepped back to give Gabrielle room to
practise. She was still blushing at the look in the younger woman
eyes. Yes, it was certainly taking some getting used to, this
new, sensuous, definitely sexual Gabrielle. Not that Xena disapproved
or anything. She was simply getting used to the idea and it was
taking a little time. "Was I this bad when I first discovered
sex?" She wondered. "Have to admit, *I* can't
seem to get enough of her sweetness either, so I can't really
say anything about her, now can I?" She stepped back
a little more and tried to look at Gabrielle's practise session
through critical eyes. "Well, yes, she does seem to be
getting stronger but I wouldn't put her up against any local bully
boy just yet."
The staff spun in a final series of fast twirls and
circles, the wood becoming a blur around the young woman, before
coming to rest at Gabrielle's side again. The woman bent over,
gasping to pull enough air into her labouring lungs. She was still
far from happy with her performance but felt she had pushed her
body as far as it was going to go in one day.
She heard her lover step up beside her. "Here.
Let me take that." Xena said reaching out the take the staff.
Gabrielle looked up, not exactly angry, more annoyed.
"This has to stop *now* before it goes too far."
She thought. Almost from the moment she had gotten off the bed
of branches and grasses she had lain in for a moon, Xena had been
treating her like she was the most fragile of crystal, something
that would break at the slightest touch. "Come on, Warrior-mine.
Let's sit in the shade for a minute. There's something we really
need to talk about."
Sitting next to each other under the shade of the
trees, Gabrielle tried to find the right words to describe how
she was feeling, without upsetting her sometimes temperamental
warrior lover. "Xena, I guess what I am trying to get you
to understand is I am not made of something fragile. I won't break,
Xena looked up sharply. "Am I being a bit over-protective?"
Giggling silently to herself. "Yes, she is
still the mistress of the understated comment. How is it that
some things about her will never change?" Gabrielle carefully
wiped the grin from her face before continuing. "Yes, Warrior-mine,
you *are* being over-protective. You weren't this bad before I....well,
just before. What's up? Afraid I am going to leave or something."
Blushing, Xena looked into her lap, at the trees
around them, anywhere but actually at Gabrielle. Tears filled
her eyes as she spoke. "Beloved...I *am* afraid of losing
you." It was about the most honest statement Xena had ever
made, except when she had first told Gabrielle she was in love
"Well, I'm not leaving, believe me when I say
that. And you aren't going to lose me to some raider or thug.
Though that might happen if you don't let me get strong again."
It was a slightly underhanded blow Gabrielle admitted to herself
but Xena did need to hear it. "You're not going to always
be there to protect me, you know. Leaving me in villages and taverns
isn't the answer either. I'll just follow you like I did this
Xena thought back to the early morning they had arrived
here and how she *had* thought then Gabrielle would have been
safer with her, instead of trying to follow her to Tethion's war
camp alone. More than anything she wanted to keep this marvellous
woman safe from harm but for some reason Gabrielle insisted on
jumping into danger as quickly as she did herself. What was she
Watching the play of emotions, open on Xena's face
for the first time in many years, Gabrielle could easily follow
the warrior's thoughts. Waiting a moment more, she gave her an
answer she hoped Xena could live with because Gabrielle would
accept nothing less for herself. "You're just going to have
to accept me as your partner, your equal and not some *wife*..."
Gabrielle almost spat the word out, "you can keep safe in
a backwoods village somewhere."
Gently drawing her strong arms around the woman she
loved more than life itself, Xena looked into the young Bard's
eyes. "I'll try."
A lingering kiss met her lips. "That is all
I can ask of you." Gabrielle murmured.
The days passed quickly at the little cave. Gabrielle
slowly growing stronger, practising with her staff until she all
but dropped or taking long walks and runs with Xena though the
surrounding forest. When they were not exercising their bodies,
they lay together under the trees, talking and exploring each
others minds and emotions. Gabrielle was almost constantly being
surprised at how little resistance there was in her Warrior Princess
when it came to expressing how she felt. Sometimes she stumbled
and tried to withdraw back into herself but Gabrielle came after
her every time, a bloodhound on the scent, never letting her get
away. She was a little worried that a future enemy might see this
a weakness of some kind and use it against her. But that was a
problem yet to be faced and Gabrielle had enough to think about.
At night they made love, (as if they didn't do that often enough
during the day) and slept curled tightly around each other, Xena's
personal demons seemingly held at bay by young woman's closeness.
The one being plagued by nightmares in the darkest
hours of the evening was Gabrielle.
"Gabrielle, wake up! Wake up!" Xena's voice
cut through the darkness in the young woman dreams. Tender, familiar
arms enveloped her, holding her close. "It's alright, you're
safe here. Nothing can hurt you now" Gabrielle woke, tears
streaming down her face and collapsed sobbing against Xena's breast.
Xena held the weeping woman tightly and let her cry out her fear
and terror. When finally she quieted, the warrior asked, "Can
you tell me what this dream is you keep having?"
Gabrielle shook her head. "I...I don't know.
As soon as I wake, it disappears from my mind. All I can remember
is being so afraid and alone."
Xena soothed her lover with gentle kisses and loving
caresses. Often they made love again after Gabrielle woke from
these dreams as though it would somehow shake the terror from
her mind and heart. The dark haired woman looked down on her now
peacefully sleeping partner and sighed. She knew what the problem
was. She had seen it too many times among her own soldiers when
she was leading them as their warlord. She simply had never cared
back then, so long as they had continued to fight. Xena cared
now. Cared more deeply than she ever had about anything. Gabrielle
had to return to face her greatest fear, Tethion's war camp.
"She feels as though she has failed herself
in some way during that brutal beating she took." Xena
thought as morning started to dawn outside and she could hear
the forest birds waking to the new day. "It's guilt, not
fear that is disturbing your sleep, my little Bard."
"Think it might be about time to move on? Maybe
pick up the rest of the gear from that inn, perhaps?" Xena
asked one morning several days later.
The young Bard grinned. Xena usually never asked
her what she wanted but it was just another example of the change
in their relationship. "This might take some getting used
to." She thought. Brushing the crumbs from breakfast
off her hands, she looked around the peaceful forest that had
been their temporary home for the past two moons. "Hmmmm,
yes. I think it might be time. I'm almost completely recovered
now. Sparring with you has really helped me in the last couple
of days." Gabrielle grinned over at her lover.
Xena knew exactly how recovered Gabrielle was. It
was one of the reasons she had suggested they spar together. Sword
against staff. She had found herself sitting on her behind on
one or two occasions, the Bard's laughter pealing over her head,
before she started to take Gabrielle skill with her staff seriously.
The past moon's concentrated practise had sharpened and honed
the woman's ability until she was even better than she had been
before. Yes, it was time.
"Where are we?" Gabrielle asked. She didn't
recognise the area at all, though Xena had told her they were
headed back to the village at the end of the cliffs.
Xena didn't answer for a moment. She was listening
for the sounds of an army and wondering why she didn't hear anything
except the usual noises of the forest. This path was almost the
same one she had followed two moons before, the night she had
rescued Gabrielle from Tethion's camp. "About a candlemark
from Tethion's war camp, Beloved." Xena finally answered.
Gabrielle paled. "We're not going there, are
we?" The fear on her face was obvious. The last thing she
wanted was to go anywhere near that camp.
Knowing what she needed to do, Xena quickly gathered
Gabrielle in her arms and looked deeply into her eyes. "This
is the place of your nightmares and if you ever want them to stop,
you have to face them here." Pointing a little ahead where
she knew the camp lay. She could see the tears in her lovers'
eyes and felt like a flea, forcing the courageous woman to go
through with this but it was the only way.
Nodding her head, Gabrielle understood. "No
one said I had to like it though!"
Taking Gabrielle's hand, they began to creep towards
the war camp. Xena kept listening for sounds coming from ahead
but there was nothing to hear, except the noises of the forest
she had been hearing for moons. It was like the camp didn't exist
Topping a final small rise and peering through the
foliage, they looked down. The camp was gone. More accurately,
the people were gone or dead and the camp had been torn to shreds.
They could see the remains of tents and clothing, torn and scattered
on the ground, wagons tipped on their sides, wheels ripped off,
shafts broken, deep brown stains spotted on the bare ground where
many bodies had lain and possibly died. To one side was a large
churned up pile of dirt just starting to regrow its grass covering.
As they walked down to the camp site, they could see discarded
weapons and armour covered in a layer of thick rust, already slowly
being reclaimed by the forest around them. Broken boxes and torn
open chests lay here and there, the contents long ago taken by
some unknown hand.
Xena gave the pile of earth a poke with her foot.
"Mass grave." She said.
Gabrielle's face was still pale, shoulders hunched
in on themselves, knees trembling. Yes, this was the place she
had been when she ran from herself and took refuge in that dark
cave in her mind. A dark cave where she tried to escape the pain
and the fear and feeling of being completely alone, without Xena.
Even though she had run there to escape, she had taken all that
with her and more.
This was the place where she had failed herself.
The warrior stood by watching. There was little she
could do. Gabrielle had to find her own courage and inner strength
again, by herself. If she truly desired to be Xena's equal, her
partner in this quest, she had to find it within her own heart
to stand beside her again, willingly. Xena could not give it to
her, no matter how she may have wanted to. Tears filled her eyes
as she watched her most cherished friend, the half of her soul
she had always searched for, struggle to find herself again. The
past moon may have healed her body and returned her strength but
to heal the open wound in her heart and her mind, she needed to
be here and find the power within for herself. Xena walked over
to one of the open chests under the shade of the trees and quietly
sat down on it. She didn't know how long it was going to take
but she was willing to wait forever, if that was to be the case.
Time passed slowly at the camp site. Xena, her mind
turned inward, her heart breaking as she watched her lover fight
with her own personal demon. Gabrielle standing in the center
of the devastation, trembling and struggling, trying to bring
peace to her mind.
Off in the bushes, almost in the exact spot Xena
herself had originally broken though to rescue Gabrielle, a pair
of blood-shot eyes also watched. Sunken deeply into an unshaven
face, traces of blood still smeared here and there, a pair of
eyes with nothing to lose watched with great interest. Tethion.
He had lost the mob in the darkness of the forest that night and
had stayed hidden for the past moon. There was nowhere he could
go, no other place to hide. There was no longer an army to back
him up. The few men who had escaped the scythes and axes of the
village attackers had scatter at the first light of dawn. "Cowards!"
He thought. Tethion was going to have his revenge on Xena. He
was going to *kill* the silly little bard that travelled with
Even though it had taken Xena and Gabrielle far too
long to admit to the love they shared, others had already seen
it for themselves. Tethion was one of those people and he didn't
have anything to lose anymore. The legends and stories were up
and down the coast of the care and concern Xena showed the young
Bard. Even if Xena did kill him, he would go to Hades with the
sure knowledge he had taken the single most important thing away
from the warrior bitch. Reaching for his sword, he moved slowly
around his former war camp. Out of the direct line of sight of
the warrior sitting on the broken chest, he stood and began to
move towards Gabrielle. He could see all she had to defend herself
with was a six foot long stick. This was going to be too easy.
She was defenceless.
The Bard had her mind turned inward fighting with
the fear and guilt she felt for having failed herself in this
place. One hand gripped her staff so tightly, the knuckles were
showing white through her tanned skin. Something, a sound, a movement,
an impending sense of trouble reached through the fog of her mind
and she turned to see Tethion lunging towards her. His sword pointed
directly for her heart. Instinct and training took over.
She spun on the ball of one foot, side-stepping the
charging former warlord. She raised her staff and faced her attacker.
Her defence was sloppy, her hands too loose on her weapon. This
was not Xena she was sparring with, it was not some static practise
target, it was a real man, a man with nothing to lose...a man
out to kill her.
Xena stood in the background, her own sword drawn.
She did not step in. She had to give Gabrielle a chance to find
her own strength again. Her warrior blood was screaming to join
the fray, her heart hammering in her chest with fear for her lover.
But still she stood. She would only enter the battle if Tethion
somehow managed to harm Gabrielle.
Hatred and rage rose up in Gabrielle. This was the
place she had failed herself and she was not going to fail a second
time. Her defence tightened, her hands now gripped the staff firmly.
Her eyes focused on Tethion and she allowed the darkness to flood
over her. It filled her with its power and she embraced it. He
became the target. She laughed, an evil, terrifying laugh. One
which stopped Tethion in his tracks for a moment.
The Warrior Princess could see the look in Gabrielle's
eyes, could see the darkness consume her soul, knew the blood-lust
call of battle her lover was hearing. She squeezed her eyes shut
and thought, "I love you, my little Bard. Now only you
can win the battle for your soul." The sound of metal
meeting wood brought her eyes open again. She prayed, "Do
anything, Gabrielle, but don't kill him. Just don't kill him."
She knew to kill Tethion would take Gabrielle down the same path
that Xena had fought so hard to get off. The path of darkness,
murder and self-destruction.
The battle engaged. Tethion may have had the sharper
weapon but Gabrielle had the advantage of reach and she took every
scrap of it she could. Spin, turn, parry and thrust. Every time
Tethion's sword came towards the young woman the staff was there
to block. The deadly dance of sword and staff spun around the
clearing for long minutes. Tethion was panting hard, Gabrielle
sweating freely but nowhere near as out of breath as her opponent.
The tip of the sword scraped along Gabrielle's upper arm, drawing
blood. Xena gasped in the background but held herself still. The
Bard looked down at the free flowing blood, just starting to drip
from the point of her elbow. "That is the only mistake you
will get to make!" She snarled viciously at Tethion.
She renewed her attack, by sheer weight of blows,
forcing Tethion back step by step. He stumbled, barely able to
stop the staff from hitting him. Gabrielle stepped in and using
the end of the staff, hooked it up and snapped the sword out of
his hand. Still using the momentum, she spun in place and punched
the staff back behind her, deep into his stomach. His knees buckled
and he hit the ground. He lay on the earth, face up, the Bard
standing over him with her staff high in the air. She wanted to
slam the end straight into his throat, breaking his neck. It would
Xena looked on. "This is the moment I lose
her." She couldn't even bring herself to try to stop
her once gentle lover. A cold hand squeezed her heart painfully.
Gabrielle's face, a mask of rage and pain...the
hatred burning from her eyes like fire, stood over her downed
opponent. She was rigid. Then the staff swung down.......
To connected solidly with Tethion's temple and knock
In a little clearing, halfway back the village at
the end of the cliffs, a cheery fire burned sending a plume of
smoke into the night sky. Two naked women, one dark, one blonde
lay stretched out on a bedroll enjoying the warm relaxation after
love-making. Gabrielle was stretched over the tall warrior, her
legs wrapped around her. Xena lay, making idle circles along the
young Bard's back and enjoying the texture of her skin against
"Where do you want to go after we pick up the
gear from the inn, Beloved?" Xena asked softly.
Gabrielle looked into her lover's eyes. "Hmmmm,
I wouldn't mind heading back to the Poteidaia and showing you
off." She smiled down at Xena. Yes, some people were going
to be quite surprised but she guessed her mother already knew.
Mothers can be like that.
"Your family has met me before, Gabby? Why show
me off now?" Xena took a moment to nuzzle Gabrielle's ear.
"They met Xena, the reformed Warrior Princess
before." The Bard laughed. "This time they are meeting
Xena, the love of my life. I think they might like you better
this way." Gabrielle knew they would, she'd make sure of
"Tell me," The tall warrior hugged Gabrielle
closer to her body. "Why didn't you kill Tethion? I mean,
I could see the look in your eyes. You really *hated* him."
"Yes, I did hate him, Xena and everything he
stood for. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have had to go through....well,
you know." The younger woman looked away into the darkness
around the little campsite.
Xena gently turn the Bard's head back towards her
and looked deeply into her eyes. "You didn't answer my question.
Why didn't you kill him?"
Gabrielle thought back to that moment as she stood
over Tethion with her staff high in the air. She had honestly
wanted him to die, at her own hand but something had stopped her.
For a moment she didn't speak. "Remember when I was....I
was...away? I was in this dark place and I couldn't find the
way out. I could still feel the pain and the fear. It was as though
I had taken it there with me." She sighed and tried to think
of a way to explain those dark days to Xena. "After a while,
I heard something. Something I wanted to get closer to. Your voice.
At first I couldn't make out the words, just the sound but I followed
it back and as I got near, I could hear the words. You were talking
Xena blushed. "I missed you. I didn't think
you could hear me when I was talking, though."
"I heard you." The Bard said simply. "And
I listened too. You could be a bard yourself one day. You tell
nice stories, you know."
"Hrump! Nonsense." Xena grumped back at
the young woman in her arms. "One bard is bad enough but
two!! Spare me!!"
Gabrielle organised her thoughts again and continued.
"I listened hardest when you where talking about your days
as a warlord. You were so angry and full of hate back then, yet
underneath it all I could hear you were so lost too."
Xena blushed again and her eyes filled with tears,
one slowly rolling down her cheek. The Bard gently kissed it away.
"I guess I was lost. But it was so much easier to hate than
to try and find my way back." She gave herself a little shake.
"Nice try, Beloved but we are not talking about my past.
We're talking about why you didn't kill Tethion. I need to understand
The blonde haired woman looked down at the one person
who meant more to her than life itself. "I guess you do need
to understand." She lay her head on Xena's chest. "I
didn't want to have to go through the same kind of hatred and
rage, I didn't want to be that lost to myself. I...I don't
think I would be strong enough to turn away like you did. I'm
not that brave." She sighed deeply, biting her lip to hold
back a sob.
The Warrior Princess, the ex-warlord understood.
"Gabby, you are far braver than I. You found the courage
to turn from that path before you even stepped on it. That took
more courage than anything I even felt in battle."
"You think so?" Gabrielle asked.
"I know so." Xena replied. "Now instead
of lying there like a little dumb Bard, come here and kiss me."
She laughed, making a joke of Gabrielle favourite line about her.
Gabrielle hands began to move boldly up Xena's body
as the fires ignited within them again.
And here, gentle reader, we shall leave our Warrior
Princess and her Bard lover as the sounds of the sea crashing
against the shore fills our ears and the scent of night flowers
waft about us.........
Til next time..........
Thank you to everyone who suffered though the gestation and birth of this story. There are more to come so maybe you should run and hide now.
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