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By: Amazon Bard
The battle had been long and hard. But once again Xena and Gabrielle helped foil the attempts of the ruthless warlord Tomias to gain control of Tritan. This time Tomias' life was lost in battle and without their leader, his army soon fled the valley below the castle. Peace and freedom were finally once again at hand. King Chalelle ordered a feast and festival, both to celebrate victory and to honor the warrior and bard for their help in saving his kingdom.
The festivities were to begin the next morning and much preparation was to be made. Chalelle offered the finest room in his castle, other than his own, to his honored guests and friends. "Xena, Gabrielle, please accept my invitation to remain in the castle for the remainder of your visit, it would mean so much to me and my people. The festivities will begin tomorrow morning, allowing the rest of the day for much deserved relaxation. Consider this your home and go where ever you please." He bowed to the women. His invitation was formally spoken for the benefit of his kingdom, but his eyes were asking as a friend.
Xena, understanding how much it meant to him having rekindled their childhood friendship during the duration of the siege, could not decline him. "Chalelle, we would be honored." She replied with a bow of her own.
"Wonderful my friends" He exclaimed, then called to his servant, "Alastair, please see my friends to their room. It has already been prepared."
Xena eyed him suspiciously as Gabrielle smiled and asked "How did you know we would stay."
Chalelle smiled. And as if to share a secrete, covered the side of his mouth with one hand and whispered toward Gabrielle, knowing full well the warrior could hear him, "She's really just a big softy at heart. If you use the right strategy, she'll give in" He smiled and left the room.
Gabrielle giggled turning to her friend, who began to exhibit a playful scowl "I have to agree with him on that one".
At Gabrielle's remark Xena turned to her. Arching her brow and placing her hands on her hips she stated flatly, "Is that so? I'll have to remember that next time you want something".
"Now Xena, Be nice" They looked at each other and laughed as Alastair came over to lead them upstairs.
As they entered their room, they were immediately taken aback by their surroundings . The first captivating sight was the exquisite canopied bed dominating the room. The mattress, artistically decorated with hand-woven throws, was enclosed by a transparent veil of the finest silk flowing down from the canopy above. The canopy, as well as the four pillars supporting it, was decorated with beautifully illustrated carvings.
The bed stood in front of a pair of stained glass windows opening outward to allow a breathtaking view the beautiful lake below. From this view one might never know that such a tremendous battle had just been fought there. One wall was dominated by a huge stone fireplace, its mantle decorated with weapons, trinkets and candles. The final two were covered almost floor to ceiling with amazingly detailed murals.
As the two women stood in awe of their surroundings, Alastair explained the importance of this room and that only the relatives and most honored guests of the King were allowed to stay within those walls. "The pictures in the glass, the murals on the walls, as well as carvings in the bed, all tell the story of the King's bloodline's history. The battles, won and lost, and the memories, good and bad, are all illustrated here."
He then informed them that the King's artists were already preparing to illustrate the most recent victory and the eternal friends that helped to keep his kingdom free of tyranny.
As Alastair finished the tale Chalelle entered the room noticing first the look of pure excitement on Gabrielle's face. He placed a hand on her shoulder. "I thought you would like this room my young bard. It is an excellent story teller, just like you."
Gabrielle's look of excitement turned to gratefulness as she turned to look up at the handsome king. "Oh Chalelle. I've never seen anything so exquisite." Her green eyes glistened with anticipation of the stories in front of her. "Thank you so much for sharing it with me, with us."
"You are most welcome my friend." He gave Gabrielle a small hug as he turned to see Xena smiling, enjoying the look of excitement on her best friend's face.
When she finally returned Chalelle's look she simply said "Thank you". He knew that she was not thanking him for herself, but for the friend who meant everything to her.
He had seen over the last few weeks how much the two meant to each other and how Gabrielle's friendship had reunited Xena with the heart she possessed as a child. He had seen her in her dark years and knew "that" Xena was a stranger. He had tried to find in her the friend who had helped him so long ago, but it was not to be. They had a bitter argument and he left, aware that she was not ready to return to who she truly was. She had many battles to fight, mostly within herself, until the heart he knew as a child was returned. Now she was back and all was forgiven between them. His memories were starting to flood and he asked, "Gabrielle, did Xena tell you how we came to be friends?"
"Not really. She only told me that you had been rescued from slavers by someone in her village before your parents found you. Nothing more than that". Her eagerness for the rest of the tale obvious in her eyes.
"Well that is the basic story but if you want to know the whole thing..." he turned Gabrielle around and lead her to the wall encircling the door through which they had entered. Then pointing to the beautiful mural painted there he suggested, "read it for yourself."
As Gabrielle started to *read* the pictures she noticed a familiar face, "By the Gods" she exclaimed "Its Xena".
At the mention of her name, Xena left the view of the lake she had been enjoying, curious as to the cause of her friend's excitement.
Chalelle was quickly heading out of the room, knowing well how Xena hated notoriety, and not willing to face the cold steel of her blue eyes he felt sure were about to be staring daggers at him. On his way down the corridor he yelled back "Your bath has been prepared in the other chamber. See you at dinner."
By this time Xena had joined Gabrielle and was gazing at the narrative with her friend. "I'm going to kill him" she quietly said, almost in a whisper. Then yelled after him, "Chalelle I'm going to get you for this!!" They heard his laughter follow him down the hall.
"Oh Xena look at this." She started to recite the story as she read it. "A young boy is taken from the safety of his castle and hidden with a slaver for ransom. One day the boy slips out and is found by two children not much older than he. The younger of the pair was a boy, with sandy blonde hair and crystal blue eyes, the older, a girl, with raven black hair and eyes blue as the skies of the Elysium Fields."
Smiling, Gabrielle looked at Xena . She saw the tears forming in Xena's eyes as looked at the two children. With a soft voice she asked, "It's you and Lyceus isn't it?" Xena softly nodded her head, remembering the brother she loved so much and lost.
Gabrielle took Xena's hand to comfort her, expecting her to pull away from the affection. Instead, Xena locked their fingers together and Gabrielle continued the story. "The young boy at first tries to run from the two, fearing they will return him to the slavers. But they soon earn his trust, pulling him into a cave just in time to evade the search party. When they are sure it is safe, the two young rescuers hurry home to recruit help. They explain the situation to their mother as they stand in her embrace." With one hand still holding Gabrielle's, Xena reaches out with the other to touch the picture of the family she lost so long ago. Gabrielle, sure that she would be weary of her emotions by now, prepared for Xena's departure leaving her to finish the story alone. Instead the warrior gripped the bard's hand tighter, as if needing to hear this story again, needing to hear her tell this story. Gabrielle placed her other hand on Xena's arm. Giving the hand in hers a reassuring squeeze, she continued the story.
"They tell their mother about the slavers and the boy hidden deep in the cave to protect him and the village from the search party. This turned out to be a wise decision on the children's part. For that night the search party appeared, tearing through the village, looking for the child. A few days past and they felt it was safe enough to bring the boy into their home. Late one night, under the cover of darkness, the children headed to the cave, returning home with the boy. Before that, each day, one or both of the children had gone to the cave to stay with him, bringing food, water, and company. A bond was formed between the three and he became part of their family.
A month later, still not coming out of hiding for fear of being spotted, he watched the goings on of the inn from an upstairs balcony. There he was quite content. He could see, and be close to, his adopted family with out being seen. But he still longed for his real family not knowing if they were even aware he was still alive. Then, as if the Gods had heard his thoughts, a man came through the door of the inn. The boy ran down the stairs screaming, surprising and frightening his new family. He jumped into the man's arms as the both burst into tears. The man held the boy away, looking at him, hoping that it was not just another vision before him. He pulled the boy again into his embrace, shedding tears of joy. Only then did he notice the family that stood behind his son. The man took the woman's hand and bowed deeply then looked down at the two children, one hiding under each arm. He knelt down to be level with the children. He held out his arms to the two and, as he had hoped, they entered his embrace. Then the king took his son home."
Gabrielle, still gently holding onto Xena with both hands, now had tears in her eyes. Softly she spoke, "See Xena. Even as a child you had the heart of a hero" The overwhelming pride in her friend, obvious in her voice.
Only then did Xena look down at her friend, exposing to Gabrielle the cheeks soaked with tears. Surprisingly to Gabrielle, when she reached up to dry Xena's face and pull her in for an embrace, Xena did not pull away. Gabrielle held her friend for a long while before Xena did free herself. But it was a slow withdrawal, as if she didn't want to leave the bard's grasp. It was not the jerking motion that Gabrielle was used to. She admitted to herself that she liked it when Xena let her close. She needed to feel like the strong warrior needed her. Moments like these were few and far between, and Gabrielle wanted to absorb as much of it as she could.
Careful not to impose to much affection and push Xena away, Gabrielle lightly tugged at her arm saying. "Come on. What you need now is a hot bath. It was a long battle and you need some rest. I'll make sure the water is right while you get undressed." Gabrielle let go of Xena's arm, and they both headed toward the bath chamber.
Xena offered no protest. Usually she would offer for Gabrielle to go first, even insist on it, but she was ready for a relaxing bath. Besides, with her emotional state at the present, she didn't think she could stay in the beautiful bed chamber knowing Gabrielle was lying naked in the tub behind that door. Xena was not ready for Gabrielle to know her feelings, fearing it would drive away the only peace she had. And Gabrielle was that peace.
Xena knew she needed Gabrielle to stay whole. She could not have gone back in time that day to remember her brother, her mother, her family, if Gabrielle had not been by her side. Gabrielle was the tie that bind together the pieces of Xena's heart, ripped apart so many years ago.
The chamber was the perfect extension of the other room. An enormous tub, closely resembling a natural hot spring, occupied most of the room. The walls, like those of the outer chamber, were covered with illustrations. A large stone fireplace was already burning, heating it's surroundings. And the colorful stained glass windows were open, allowing the last light of the day to enter.
Xena watched Gabrielle through loving eyes as she tested the water. "Feels good to me. Now strip down woman. You need this. In more ways than one." She said with a smile as she pinched her nose insinuating a unkindly smell emerging from the warrior.
Catching Gabrielle's accusation she tossed the armor she had just removed from herself at her friend. "Hey!!" she replied with a playful grimace, "You don't smell like a bunch of flowers either."
Gabrielle still smiling, continued to tease the warrior. "You need any help? I mean, anything I can do to make this quick..." her words abruptly cut off by a leather tunic smacking her in the mouth.
Xena stood in front of her naked and Gabrielle's stomach began to turn flips as she felt the heat well up within her. "Umm... I think I'm going to clean these while you bath. No sense in stepping back into dirty cloths." She had to get out of there.
"Xena naked in a tub if smelling herbs, I can't take this." she thought to herself quickly heading out of the room..
Looking back to Xena, now getting into the tub, she stated, "I'll be right outside if you need anything."
Quietly, as she watched Xena from behind slowly step in, she thought, "By the gods. Come on Xena, need something. Need me."
Xena slid down thinking, "All I need is you."
Gabrielle entered the bed chamber to find Chalelle, "Oh Gabrielle, I'm sorry I thought you two were taking your bath." He said, surprised to see her.
"Xena is." she replied, seeing the confusion on his face.
"I wanted to bring you some fresh clothes to wear."
She smiled at her new friend "Thank you Chalelle. We really do need these." then she added "Why did you look so surprised to find me here?"
"Oh I don't know. I just thought that after what we've gone through you two would want to spend some time alone."
"Why would you think that?" she asked, hoping she had found an ally. If there was one thing she learned about Chalelle in the last few weeks it was that he was honest, and observant.
"I've seen how you fight together and I've seen the way you two look at each other. I thought you two were, you know..."
"Well we aren't but I'm glad *you* noticed something, I just wish she would." Gabrielle said glad she had someone she could talk to. "Can I talk to you about this? But please don't tell Xena, she'd kill us both."
Chalelle let out a small laugh as they both sat on the bed "Yea I know."
Gabrielle started to tell him about what they had been through. How when she lost Xena she discovered just how much she meant to her, that there was so much more to her feelings than she had ever realized possible. Then she told him about the kiss and how that had at first made things even more complicated. "Until she kissed me I never realized I had those kind of feelings for her. I mean, I knew I loved her, I just didn't realize how or how much. It took a bit of getting used to." She went on, commenting that since Xena's return it hasn't been mentioned, "I'm beginning to wonder if it was her that kissed me, or Autolycus."
Chalelle put his arm around her "Have you talked to her about it?" He heard a small laugh come from the bard, and then remembering who they were talking about took back his question "never mind". He though about it, "Well I think you are going to have to make the first move"
She turned to look at him, startle in her eyes. "What?"
"You are going to have to talk to her. You know she wont talk first. If that doesn't work you might have to seduce her" he said bluntly.
Gabrielle admitted, "I think I've already tried. I find myself trying to touch her or rub against her. I've even deliberately bathed in front of her. But nothing works. Maybe she doesn't want me after all."
He looked impressed with her technique "I don't think that is it at all. I think our warrior friend just has an iron will." He smiled and cracked a laugh. "She must be nearly mad by now if she loves you half as much as I think she does."
"Really?" the bard questioned with a smile.
"Yea." He put his mind to thinking, not telling her he was forming a plan of his own. "I have a feeling by tomorrow night, you will have your warrior. And I do mean have her."
Gabrielle, full of anticipation, gave him a big smile as she wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him on the cheek "Thank you Chalelle"
"Your welcome my friend" still sitting beside her on the bed, he returned the hug.
Just then they heard the door of the bath chamber open. Xena came into the room eyes widening at the sight of Gabrielle in Chalelle's arms, on their bed.
They turned and both saw the look in her eyes. They wondered how much of their conspiracy she had heard. Gabrielle spoke first "Hi Xena, How was your bath?"
"Fine" she said coolly.
"I was just telling Chalelle about some of our adventures, and thanking him for the wonderful room" She hoped for once Xena would not recognize her deceit. Even though it was not a complete fabrication, she hated, and was not very effective at, deceiving the warrior princess. But some things were better left secrete. On that she knew Xena would agree.
Knowing how affectionate the bard was Xena decided to accept this explanation. The thought of Gabrielle in the arms of another was more than the warrior could stand. She came over to the bed to join them. "Yes Chalelle, thank you for your hospitality."
He smiled "What are old friends for? We do go back a long way Xena."
She returned his smile. Then remembering the mural on the castle wall, she playfully changed her tone, pointing toward the illustration she started, "speaking of going back a long way..."
Before she could chastise him for painting her on a wall he was off the bed and out in the corridor yelling back to his friends, "Dinner is in an hour."
Xena joined Gabrielle on the bed and the two women laughed together at their scampering friend. Just then he popped his head back in the door and said toward Gabrielle "I'll have someone draw you another bath. I'm sure the tub is a mess now" He giggled as he dodged the flying candle sailing at him from the arm of the Warrior Princess.
Gabrielle laughed out loud at the playfulness of the two. "I really like him. He is a lot of fun and a good friend."
"Yea he is." Xena said lying back on the bed.
Gabrielle's heart began to pound at the thought of what lay beside her. Xena in nothing but the blue silk robe that had been left for her in the bath chamber. Gabrielle couldn't resist the urge as she turned to the warrior attempting to make small talk giving her an excuse to look on Xena's beauty. "I hear it is going to be big party." Gods that sounded lame.
"Yea if anyone knows how to party, its Chalelle." Xena stated as she stretched her arms above her head.
Gabrielle, noticing Xena's eyes were closed, seized the opportunity to take a lengthy look at the woman she loved so much. Xena's blue eyes were hidden by the shade of her eyelids, yet Gabrielle could see their beauty as if they were open, looking into her own. Her hair, still damp from the bath, spread across the sheets and hugged the soft contours of her face. Her hands were now hidden behind her head, her fingers interlocked. Gabrielle almost lost the small portion of resolve she was retaining as she noticed Xena's slightly visible breast through the opening of the robe. She wanted so much to reach out and caress the inviting flesh but stead fast and continued her gaze downward. The robe fell open showing the bare skin of her long legs, yet concealed what Gabrielle knew lay between those muscular thighs. Gabrielle felt her self leaning toward Xena and decided it was time to get up, lest she loose control and possibly make a fool of herself. Perhaps Xena did feel the same. Perhaps she felt like in some way she was protecting her. Or perhaps Gabrielle was alone in her passion. She was not ready to make that decision.
She jumped off the bed startling Xena "I'm going to take my bath now. I'm sure they have finished drawing the new one." To herself she thought, "I should have told them to leave the water cold."
Gabrielle undressed, and suddenly remembering the clothes Chalelle had left them, she stepped into the bed chamber "Xena,"
Xena, oblivious to the look that covered her face, stared at Gabrielle who stood leaning against the door without a stitch of clothing.
"I forgot to tell you, Chalelle brought us some clean clothes, I put them there on the bed." She turned and went back into the bath chamber and sank down into the tub. Only then did she realize what she had just done and the look on Xena's face. She smiled to herself when she realized that Chalelle was right, she was driving her mad. "It won't be long now my warrior princess" and she began to relax in the warm bath.
In the other room, Xena turned over, thrusting her face into the pillow, attempting to bury the image of a naked Gabrielle in the doorway. "By the Gods. Does she have any idea what she is doing to me?"
A short while later Gabrielle emerged from the bath chamber fresh and relaxed wearing the emerald green silk robe that had been left for her. She looked around the room finally seeing Xena standing by the opened window looking out over the lake. Night had fallen and the light of the full moon reflected off the water illuminating Xena's face. "By the gods she is beautiful." Gabrielle thought. She noticed the look on her face and became concerned. "Xena, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. I was just thinking." She stated calmly.
"About what? You look so sad." She questioned as she moved toward her friend.
"Don't worry Gabrielle. I wasn't sad. I was just thinking about the times Lyceus and I spent here as children, and about all the mischief the four of us could, and did, get into." A slight smile appeared on her lips.
"The four of you? You mean Toris?"
"No Toris never was close to Lyceus and myself. The fourth was Arial, Chalelle's sister. You will meet her tomorrow. Chalelle said she is returning home now that the siege is over. She had gone to visit relatives before the battle had begun and Chalelle wouldn't let her return home while the fighting was going on."
"I look forward to meeting her."
"You'll like her. She is just like Chalelle."
Gabrielle sat on the bed and began to brush her hair, soon becoming irritated with the tangles. Xena, seeing her discomfort, removed the brush from Gabrielle's hand and sitting on the bed behind her took over the task.
Xena had not only become used to, but looked forward to, the ritual of gently brushing the bard's hair free of tangles and into a silky softness. It was the only time Xena could freely run her fingers through the strawberry blond locks, absorbing every touch, every smell.
What she didn't know was that Gabrielle was perfectly capable of removing the tangles herself. But "the ritual" was her excuse to enjoy the same pleasure.
Then a knock was at the door. "Xena? Gabrielle? Are you decent" they heard Chalelle ask.
"Yes Chalelle come in." Xena replied.
He cautiously entered the room "Now you aren't going to throw anything else at me are you?" He smiled broadly.
"Not yet. But I'm thinking about it" Xena replied jokingly.
"Well before you change your mind I wanted to let you know dinner will be ready in a few minutes. So come down to the dining hall when you are ready." He smiled and left the room again.
Gabrielle rose from the bed and turned to face Xena, "Well I guess we better get dressed" She said, trying to hide her disappointment.
"Yea, I guess your right. Here ya go." She said throwing the new garments into Gabrielle's face.
"Hey watch it."
After the two dressed they headed down stairs. They entered the hall where music and food were abound. They spent the evening talking and laughing with Chalelle. Gabrielle even had a little too much wine, which of course added to her always giddy mood, and she finally decided to give in. "Xena, Chalelle I had a wonderful time but I think I'm going to turn in. I will see you in the morning"
The two still laughing acknowledged her statement and Xena started to rise, "I guess I better get some rest too" not wanting Gabrielle to feel left out.
Gabrielle could not remember ever seeing Xena this relaxed or happy and was not about to spoil it, even if she did want her to follow her to their bed chamber. "Don't you dare get up. You are having way too much fun and you two have a lot to catch up on. I'll be OK." Gabrielle turned to head toward the stair case as she tripped over the hand-woven rug on the floor, falling flat on her face. The three burst into laughter.
Xena tried to stop her laughter and asked, "Gabrielle are you OK?" her attempt failed as the laughter took over.
"I'm just fine thank you. Just a bit to much wine....hiccup...I think." She stated, using a candelabrum to climb to her feet from her position on the floor.
"You sure you don't need some help?" Chalelle asked.
"Nope. I'll be just fine once I learn how to balance on these things" she commented as she looked down at her feet. Then she turned and successfully ascended the stairs. Upon reaching the top she declared "Ha Ha I did it!!!" Then turned to enter the bed chamber running face first into the door jam.
Xena and Chalelle followed her to the staircase, making sure she didn't fall back down, then fell onto each other laughing as Gabrielle met with the door. Xena turned to walk off as she saw Gabrielle finally make it into the room. "She'll be fine."
They moved into the sitting room. Xena stared into the fire burning in the large stone fireplace, thinking of the friend who had just left their presence. Then Chalelle spoke. "Does she know how much you care about her?"
The question took Xena completely off guard. But then she realized that he was the only person who knew her as well as Gabrielle. Still, she tried to mask her feelings, "What do you mean? She knows how much she means to me. She knows she is my best friend."
"Xena that's not what I mean and you know it. Does she know how much you love her?"
Xena looked at him and back into the fire, not answering his question. Then feeling his eyes still on her. "No Chalelle. She doesn't know how much I love her. She isn't ready for that."
"How do you know? Have you asked her?" Chalelle was trying to get her to speak of the incident during her *death* the one Gabrielle had already mentioned to him. He need to know her thoughts on the events.
"Did Gabrielle tell you about our latest visit with the Amazons?"
"Some of it. She told me how you lost your life and got it back with a little help from the ambrosia." That is all he would reveal.
Xena took a deep breath and began the tale. "You know I can't tell a story as well as Gabrielle but here it is I enlisted the help of Autolycus to help steal my body back. I would have gone straight to Gabrielle but I couldn't break through her grief. Once Gabrielle was convinced I was there, I was able to speak to her through Autolycus. When I did, I kissed her." She looked at Chalelle waiting for some response when none came she returned her gaze to the fire and continued. "I wasn't planning to, it just happened. Then all Hades broke loose and we had to face Valasca. After Gabrielle realized there was a chance I could come back, she released her grief, I was able to enter her body to fight Valasca. I felt such confusion in Gabrielle's feelings, about me, about us, while I was within her, I didn't want to burden her with it anymore."
"So you just pretend like it never happened. No matter what she may feel? Xena that isn't fair to her. Burden her? What if she is feeling the same things? Why don't you swallow some of that Warrior Pride and stop trying to protect her. You might find that protection isn't what she needs, or wants. You may soon regret it if you don't."
Xena turned to look at him again. The questions becoming obvious in her eyes.
Chalelle would go no further with this. He did what he had set out to do. He made her start thinking. "I think I'm going to bed now I have a party to throw tomorrow. Goodnight Xena." He said as he placed his hands on her shoulders and then left the room.
She realized what he was saying and replied "Good night Chalelle" She sat there once again turning her gaze into the firelight wondering if what he said may be true. "Does Gabrielle have the same feelings? Is worth risking our friendship to find out?" She decided it was to much to consider in one night, the wine she had consumed earlier in the evening was beginning to take it's toll, so she too decided to retire.
Feeling sure Gabrielle was asleep by now she moved quietly into their chamber. She removed her clothing and after pulling on a night shift she crawled into bed. There beside her, Gabrielle lay on her back, her face resting on the arm stretched above her head, small strands of hair strewn across her face, as her other arm rested upon her stomach. Xena gently pushed the hair away and lay there watching the sleeping bard.
But unknown to her, Gabrielle was not asleep. Instead, she lay there in silence, enjoying the loving affection being displayed by the warrior. Still pretending to be asleep, she slyly rolled to her side curling against Xena's body. As she heard Xena take in a sharp breath, she smiled inside herself. Then unable to resist the temptation Xena slowly wrapped her arms around Gabrielle and, in the comfort of each other, they fell asleep.
Awoken the next morning by a loud commotion down stairs, they quickly dressed and went outside to investigate. It was chaos. People coming and going. Supplies coming in and out. Chalelle appeared at the bottom of the stair case. "Come on you two, the party is starting." He exclaimed waving his arms in the direction of the excitement. With that, the two followed suit and joining in the festivities.
Many activities filled the day. Dancing, eating, drinking, and many games were among the main attractions. The most popular however was story telling, for which of course Gabrielle was the main attraction.
True to Chalelle's word Arial had arrived shortly after breakfast and joined in the celebration. Xena and Gabrielle could not remember having so much fun. That day, Xena was just a woman, celebrating with her best friends old and new, the tough warrior left hanging in the armory beside her weapons.
As the day wore down everyone gathered in the huge dining hall for a final meal before returning to their daily lives. In that hall there was no king and kingdom, just friends from near and far joined in celebration. That is the kind of ruler Chalelle was, a friend to his kingdom, loved and respected by all.
As they sat at the large banquet table Xena began to notice that Arial was spending a lot of time with Gabrielle. Normally this would not bother her, but tonight it seemed as if the two were sharing too many private moments. A lot of whispering, laughing and touching was going on.
Xena could not believe she was feeling this way. Was she jealous? She was. She finally admitted to herself. Xena knew that Gabrielle was a physical person, always touching the people she spoke to, but Arial, was touching her in return.
Chalelle caught Xena staring at the two women and noticed the look in her eyes. "I warned you." He commented.
"What are you talking about?" she questioned.
"I told you if you didn't take a chance you might regret it. Arial likes her." He stated.
"What do you mean?" Fearing the answer she might receive.
"Arial asked me if you two were together." He stated continuing to pick at the food left on his plate.
"And..." she hinted for more.
"I told her you weren't. I mean, I knew you weren't going to reveal your feelings to Gabrielle. So why should she suffer. Arial smiled and said good. I can only imagine what she meant." He continued, taunting his friend.
Xena turned to look at the two again and noticed they were leaving the hall together, Arial leading Gabrielle by the hand.
"There they go." Stated Chalelle. "You better make your decision right now, or someone else may make it for you." He left the table to join other friends, leaving Xena to her thoughts.
She sat there, her mind racing, then suddenly Xena fled the hall in an effort to find the two women. She looked first in Arial's chamber but they were not there. Then, with a surge of jealously, or anger, she started for the chamber she and Gabrielle were sharing.
Without a thought, Xena burst into the room. The fireplace blazing and the room brightened by candlelight, she saw Gabrielle, unclothed, leaning over the bed, reaching. Fearing what, or who, Gabrielle might be reaching for she exclaimed "Gabrielle!"
Startled, Gabrielle grabbed the silk night shift she was reaching for and instinctively pulled it to cover her naked body. "Xena! What is it?"
Only then did Xena realize they were in fact alone. Quickly trying to change her tone "I thought..." not knowing how to explain her actions she changed the subject "Never mind. Why did you leave the feast?"
Gabrielle knew what Xena thought. She knew Xena had seen her being lead from the hall by Arial, but chose not to reveal her wisdom. Pulling on the shift she had been reaching for she answered her "Arial wanted to show me something."
"Where is she?" Xena questioned, searching the room with her eyes.
"She just left." Gabrielle stated smoothly.
Just then Arial joined her brother down stairs "Did it work?"
"Like a charm." He stated proudly. "We make a good team little sister."
"Your right, we do." The two burst into laughter as they reflected on the success of their scheme against their friends now together in the chamber above.
"What did she wanted to show you?" Xena tried to hide the jealousy in her voice but Gabrielle was on to her now. She reached both hands to Xena's and began leading her toward the bed.
Xena raised a brow curiously and felt again the heat of her jealousy as she wondered "what was she showing Gabrielle on this bed?" She followed, as Gabrielle walked back wards till they reached the edge of the bed.
Gabrielle turned Xena's back to the bed, "Sit down" she said softly and Xena hesitated. Only then did Gabrielle release her hands placing them on Xena's shoulders. "Please Xena" Xena complied, helpless in those green eyes. "Now lie back"
"Gabrielle?" Her heart pounding wildly with anticipation "What are you doing?" She questioned, her voice becoming stern, attempting to mask her desire. Complying once again to the urging of Gabrielle's hands.
"Trust me. I want to share something with you" She no longer had doubts about her affect on Xena, she could see it in her eyes, her face and movements. She could see all the emotions she felt within herself. "Not yet Princess" she thought as she lay down on the bed beside Xena facing up. "Look Xena" she said as she pointed to the ceiling.
There above them, illustrated among all the other wonderful stories and legends on these walls, was the story of their lives together, from Draco's attempt on Gabrielle's village to their most recent victory here at Tritan.
"By the Gods. When was this done?" Xena asked in amazement.
"Arial said that every time we left the room the artists would work frantically. Isn't it beautiful?" Xena nodded, enjoying the scene above. Gabrielle asked, "Would you like to hear it?"
"Yes I would" Xena admitted, eager to hear Gabrielle's version.
Gabrielle rose from her place beside Xena and moved to stand in front of her. Taking her hands, she guided Xena into a sitting position and, nervously, she began,
"Brought together by the fates, now bound together by love, they travel their paths together. The woman, a warrior, atoning for her past, and the girl, a bard, searching for her future. They fight for the innocent, they fight for each other. They battle forces forever attempting to separate them. An arch enemy, seeking revenge, a god of war, yearning for his would be queen, and even Death herself have tried, but failed. Their bond is too strong. For the warrior can never leave the bard, and the bard can never leave the warrior. Both realizing that together, they are strength; together, they are courage; and together... They are love."
Reaching the end of her tale Gabrielle's hands still held Xena's. After a long silence Gabrielle gathered enough courage to finally look into Xena's eyes. She searched her face for a response, hoping she was not wrong. Hoping that this had been the right time to express her feelings.
Xena said nothing. Her heart pounding with joy as she stared into the pools of green desperately yearning for a response. But her emotions left her mute, her voice unable to express the words in her heart.
Just then, with out a word, Xena removed her hands from the bards. Touching her face gently, caressing it, she slowly pulled it toward her own. Gabrielle smiled broadly and expressed a sigh of relief as she leaned into Xena's embrace. Their lips met slowly at first, savoring the long awaited experience. Then, each moving their arms around the other, they deepened their kiss.
Suddenly, to Gabrielle's fear, Xena pulled away and Gabrielle searched her face. Her eyes moist, Xena smiled, and softly spoke the words Gabrielle had longed to hear "I love you too Gabrielle." She returned her mouth to Gabrielle's, kissing her fully as tears of joy began to form in the young bard's eyes.
Hands and tongues now began exploring each other freely. Xena could endure no more as she began to remove the shift covering the body she wanted so badly. This time it was Gabrielle that pulled back. Xena then felt a surge of fear, thinking she had gone to far to fast. Gabrielle took a step back out of the warrior's embrace and removed the shift herself, standing in front of a relieved and excited Xena in all her glory. Xena, no longer denying her feelings, enjoyed a leisurely look of her lover's body. Gabrielle stepped back into her arms and began a passionate kiss. Xena's hands reached up once again to caress the bards face before beginning the journey her eyes had just enjoyed.
She softly ran her hands down Gabrielle's neck and arms, then around to her buttocks where they lingered for a few moments, molding and caressing. She continued on to her thighs, then up her stomach, and finally, to the firm breasts eager for her touch. As she reached her destination she heard a grateful sigh attempt to escape the mouth she still claimed. Then unable to withstand the temptation, she released Gabrielle's mouth leaving a trail of kisses down her neck, along her shoulders, finally taking one inviting nub into her mouth as her fingers still massaging the other. When she heard Gabrielle's sounds of pleasure, she intensified her assault on the ripe breast.
Gabrielle began to feel a weakness in her legs and knew she could not stand much longer in this woman's embrace. She moved her hands, now entwined in Xena's black hair, down to Xena's arms urging her to stand from the bed. Xena released the breast from her mouth and looked at Gabrielle inquisitively.
Gabrielle spoke for the first time since their passion began. "You don't think I'm going to let you have all the fun, do you?" With Xena now standing in front of her she removed the straps holding her dress on her shoulders and it fell into a pile at their feet. "Ahh that's much better." Smiled Gabrielle, as she to began to visually explore the body standing in front of her, before taking Xena's mouth with her own. She turned and slowly began to lay back on the bed, inviting the warrior to join her. Xena eagerly accompanied her love, then reluctantly distanced her mouth and asked "Gabrielle are you sure...Maybe we should talk about this." realizing, however, she could not stop now even if she wanted to.
Gabrielle, attempting to catch her breath, impatiently asked "Xena are you serious? You, the queen of quiet, want to talk now?" She pressed her lips into Xena's neck as she slowly ran her hands down her back, pausing to fondle her bottom, then sliding them up to again caress the smooth back . Xena moaned with pleasure when Gabrielle maneuvered, taking one of her breasts into her mouth. Stopping briefly Gabrielle added, "I forgot you don't know how to take a hint." She returned to work on the soft flesh and firm nipple with an eagerness and hunger threatening to drive Xena into a frenzy.
She couldn't take anymore she had to have all of Gabrielle. As Gabrielle's mouth released one breast and made an attempt captivate the other Xena's mouth caught it instead. She thrust her tongue into Gabrielle's accepting mouth, bringing about a hungry groan from the bard. As their tongues danced wildly, they lay together, their bodies entwined as if they had been molded for each other by the Gods themselves, their eager hands searching every inch of the other's body, .
Xena shifted her body and felt Gabrielle's legs surround her own. With full access, Xena began her decent, stopping at Gabrielle's breasts, needing to taste them again. She began relentlessly flickering her tongue across the nipple. Then, taking the breast fully into her mouth, she began sucking the creamy flesh, teasing the nub with her teeth. Gabrielle's breath became erratic and she moaned with pleasure. Xena removed her mouth, eager to continue her decent toward the recently discovered moisture her fingers had already begun to explore. Xena's tongue reached, and began to trace, the muscular lines along Gabrielle's lower stomach. Teasing the top of the triangle she was so eager to possess, . The erotic sounds coming from Gabrielle imploring her to proceed. She continued downward over the soft curls.
Suddenly Gabrielle arched her back and gasped, "Xena, what...? Where...?" Passion and pleasure cutting off her words.
Just then Xena realized what she was asking. She realized that Gabrielle had never experienced this before. Xena had assumed that her husband Perdicus had introduced her to this particular pleasure. She then admitted to herself that she was glad he had not. It excited her more than she thought possible knowing she would be the first to bring Gabrielle this joy. That she would be the first to taste her lover.
Smiling broadly she said "Trust me Gabrielle" then hesitated no more as her mouth found the secrete place between Gabrielle's thighs, her fingers softly separating the wet folds allowing her tongue to work its magic on the virgin flesh. Xena's heart pounded wildly as she heard the passionate cry from her bard, feeling her entire body arch at the first touch of her tongue.
Gabrielle's head began thrashing from side to side as her fingers attempted to bore holes into the mattress. "Oh Gods... Xena, I can't take..." Fearing her body not yet equipped to handle this much passion. Her cries of pleasure becoming louder.
Xena knew she didn't want her to stop but enjoying the torturous pleasure she was inflicting on her love asked "You want me to stop" her tone teasing, as she intensified the rapture. "Well?"
Gabrielle's body was writhing uncontrollably as she attempted to speak, "Yes." she lied in a whisper, "No" she confessed in a hungry scream, burying her fingers in the black mane of her lover, allowing no escape. Then, feeling as if she would explode, began pleading, for what she didn't know, "Xena!! For the love of Zeus. Please!!"
But Xena knew, and enlisting the help of her fingers, she released her friend into a world she never knew existed. Xena watched with pleasure as Gabrielle, crying out Xena's name, surpassed the climactic peak of her passion for the first time. She then began her ascension of Gabrielle's body, laying soft kisses along the way. She lay on her side next to the bard, her head resting on her hand, watching Gabrielle's as she returned to this world. Then, pushing aside the hair covering her face, Xena leaned over and gently kissed her lips.
When Gabrielle finally caught her breath she scolded in mock anger, "By the Gods Xena you could have warned me. I never knew..." her sentence trailed off as she felt her face begin to flush at the memory of her recent experience.
"What? You didn't like it? I don't have to do it anymore if you don't..." Xena teased, knowing the answer as she ran her fingers slowly across the bard's stomach.
Her eyes, still glazed from the passion, glared at her lover, "You know damn well I..." Gabrielle's words were cut short with a kiss from the grinning warrior.
"Truly though, I had no idea that you hadn't... That he didn't...I mean you were married." Xena remarked seriously, then wished she hadn't. Not wanting to bring up painful times on this night.
"Well he never did that. He was a patient and gentle lover, not wanting to hurt or rush me. He spoke of other pleasures he intended to share with me. I guess that was what he was talking about. I believe he thought he would overwhelm me if we tried everything the first night. We didn't know it would be our last."
Suddenly Xena began to worry. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up such a painful subject."
"Its OK Xena" Gabrielle tried to relax her friend. "I'm OK with it now. I loved Perdicus, he was kind and gentile. With him things were simple. His love, and loving were sweet. But I don't think he could have made me feel the way you do. I realize now there was no passion between us. I did love him but, I'm in love with you. You are passion. You are my passion. Unlike with you, my skin never burned under his touch or gaze. Now you. Ha! All you have to do is look at me and I loose my train of thought."
"Really? Gabrielle I never realized..." Xena started, unable to continue as her heart filled with joy at the bard's confession.
"Yea I know." Gabrielle remarked sarcastically, wanting to change the tone of the conversation..
Then, remembering the remark Gabrielle had made earlier, Xena propped herself on one elbow. Looking inquisitively at her she asked, "What did you mean I can't take a hint?" with no answer from Gabrielle she thought about it. Then she realized, all this time Gabrielle had been flirting with her. The awareness showing in her eyes, she raised her brow at Gabrielle "You've been trying to seduce me for weeks, months. Haven't you?"
"Finally!!!" Gabrielle threw her arms up and exclaimed. "You know sometimes your not to bright for a warrior princess." She stated, breaking into laughter.
"All this time, you're "innocent" touches; your parading around the camp naked, you were doing that on purpose." Xena remarked, annoyed with herself that she had not picked up on the signals.
Gabrielle still grinning proudly touched a finger to her nose. "You got it."
"Do you have any idea what you were doing to me?" Her brow raised in mock anger.
"I was hoping. I mean that was the plan." Gabrielle stated firmly. "You just couldn't take a hint."
"Why you little..." Then Xena spun over as she was once again on top of Gabrielle, playfully pinning her to the bed. She attempted to again seduce the giggling Gabrielle.
But to both of their surprise Gabrielle, with one quick motion was out from under and now sitting astride atop Xena. The pride of her victory showing in her voice, " Oh no you don't *Warrior Princess*, its my turn. Now be patient. You know I'm new at this." They smiled at each other as Gabrielle's expression took a seductive turn.
Xena eager to be explored by her lover. "I'm sure you'll do fine. Just follow your instincts." And they locked in yet another passionate kiss.
Gabrielle began her indulgence of Xena's body, hoping to bring her half as much pleasure as she had just received. Her mouth left Xena's and began feasting on her neck. Oh she loved this neck. She wanted so many times to run her mouth along its curves as she rode behind Xena on Argo. Now she was taking advantage of her access, her lips and teeth teasing Xena's ears and neck, her tongue tracing the lines behind her ear. She finally moved on, making a slight detour to once again taste Xena's mouth before heading toward the essence of Xena's pleasure. Her mouth traveled down, lips and tongue slowly exploring, then finally capturing one of Xena's breasts, the other, already being teased by her fingers.
She heard Xena take in a sharp breath and felt her body stiffen at the pleasure her mouth was creating. Her tongue moved slowly at first, teasing the nub then increasing the pace until Xena thought it would explode. Needing more, Gabrielle's mouth and teeth, consumed every inch of the creamy flesh. As she looked up and saw the anguish and pleasure in Xena's face she released that one and began the same torture on the other. She heard Xena's desperate plea. "Oh Gabrielle please." She knew what the warrior wanted. She released her hold on the tasty flesh and moved slowly toward the place where Xena had almost driven her mad.
Xena, filled with anticipation and yearning, held onto the bed pillars as Gabrielle's fingers began to tease the moist folds between her legs, her tongue and lips playing along the lines of Xena's stomach . Then, moving both hands between Xena's thighs, eased them apart, acquiring full access, as she finally reached the destination they both desired.
Her innocent mouth slowly began its exploration of the new territory, experimenting and learning quickly, keeping mental note of what evoked the most response from her lover. She began to send Xena into a passionate frenzy. The innocence of this mouth learning its way on her flesh was more than the warrior could bear. Xena's back arched, her head thrashed about, her passionate cries became louder by the second. Seeing, and hearing, the affect it was having on her lover, Gabrielle continued the rapture relentlessly, ravishing the warrior. Her tongue and teeth teasing, taunting, trying to keep pace with the rhythm of Xena's body as her moans of pleasure soon became crying pleas for release. "Oh Gabrielle. Please!." but the bard continued on, "Please! Gabrielle!!" Only then did she take mercy on her lover, releasing her the same way she had been earlier.
As Xena cried her name in ecstasy, it was Gabrielle's turn to watch as her lover surpassed the erotic peak she had experienced only a short while ago. She slowly returned to Xena's side and kissed her fully on the lips. Seeing the look of bliss on Xena's face she innocently asked "How did I do?" Trying to mask the pride of her accomplishment from her voice.
Xena cut her a look "You know perfectly well how you did. How did you..." This time it was her words cut off with a kiss. In response to the attempted question, Gabrielle responded seductively. "I'm a bard." applying a slight kiss to Xena's lips she whispered, "I used my imagination."
Gabrielle began to giggle as her fingers teased one of Xena's breasts,
Xena cut her an evil glance. "What's so funny."
"I kinda liked that. The warrior princess begging me, a little ole bard from Potadia, for mercy. Kind of a power trip ya know." She stated slyly, watching the nipple she was teasing, eager to taste it.
"And I thought I was the one with the dark side."
"I too, have many skills." She replied. She began to giggle again as she leaned in to devour the breast.
"So I noticed." Xena replied and then spun Gabrielle onto her back. Now Xena sat astride Gabrielle's thighs pinning them to the bed as she did her arms above her head. "So you think you can get away this time? Now we'll see who begs for mercy."
Gabrielle's eyes widened with anticipation as she saw on Xena's face the same evil grin she displays when she is about to defeat her enemies. "Uhh, Xena, Maybe we should talk about this." Her voice becoming nervous about the warrior's intentions.
Ignoring her suggestion, and still holding Gabrielle motionless, Xena leaned in and began a slow seductive kiss. Finally she released her hold and softly began drawing her hands down Gabrielle's arms, hearing a hungry moan as brushed them slightly, teasingly, across her breasts . Her hands continued gently downwards, pausing at the bard's waist. Gabrielle stiffened, taking in a breath, yearning for Xena's passionate touch.
But instead of a passionate touch, Xena let out a wicked laugh and began to tickle her.
"Oh Xena stop!! Please." Gabrielle tried helplessly in her laughter to escape the warrior's playful activities. "Xena Be Nice.!! Come on Xena please!! Ahhhgh XENA!!"
Finally Xena relinquished her hold, laughing at her lover, "I told you I was going to make you beg.
As Gabrielle began to challenge the warrior she silenced her with a kiss. Helpless against her affection for Xena, they made love again.
Deciding they both needed to bathe after their passion they proceeded to the bath chamber which to their surprise was already prepared. Hot water filled the tub and candles illuminated the room. They looked at the door that lead from the bath chamber to the corridor. Then smiled at each other as in unison they said "Chalelle."
"Well lets not make his efforts in vain. Shall we?" Xena offered her hand and Gabrielle accepted as they both stepped into the colossal tub.
Silence filled the room as the lovers enjoyed each others embrace. Gabrielle was leaned back against Xena her head resting in the cove of her shoulder tracing the strong arms surrounding her.
It was Gabrielle who finally broke the silence, her question kept too long.. "Xena, why wouldn't you come to me?"
She spoke softly, her cheek resting against Gabrielle's "I was afraid I would push you away."
"Couldn't you hear my thoughts? I mean when you were gone." Gabrielle's body stiffened at the thought of losing Xena.
Xena felt her tension and reinforced her hold on the bard "I heard you when I first left. I heard you calling me back. That's when I knew I had to fight to come back to you. After I made that decision it was difficult if not impossible to hear your thoughts. I tried to get through to you but your grief was to strong. Then, when I joined with you to fight Valaska, I felt your confusion about me, about us. I didn't want to risk loosing you're friendship over my own desires. You mean everything to me. If anything..."
Her words were silenced by Gabrielle's fingers on her lips as she turned in the warriors embrace. Looking into the loving eyes of blue she smiled, "I love you too." and she placed a soft kiss of reassurance on her lips. That was the answer that Gabrielle had anticipated, even hoped for. Xena was as afraid of loosing her as she was of loosing Xena.
Feeling the need to lighten the mood she began "But ya know, you should have stuck around a bit longer. You would have discovered those thoughts of confusion were very temporary. You missed the good ones." She said slyly, as she began to trace Xena's breast with her fingertips watching the reaction.
"Oh yea like what?" Xena's voice eager and raising a brow as she watched Gabrielle's fingers.
Gabrielle looked into Xena's eyes and suggested "Well why don't we get out of this tub, and back into bed... and I'll show you." The hungry look of seduction in her eyes unmistakable.
"Race ya!" Xena eagerly replied as she jumped out of the tub.
As she awoke the next day in Xena's arms, Gabrielle couldn't resist another look at their story on the ceiling, then she noticed something. "Oh my Gods"
Her words waking Xena. "What is it?"
"Look" as she pointed to the ceiling. "That wasn't there before last night."
"Your right it wasn't." Xena acknowledged, smiling, as she pulled the bard into a tighter embrace. "But I'm sure glad it is now."
Gabrielle caught her meaning and removed her gaze from the picture of the lovers, turning it to her own, she agreed. "Me too."