Convert This Page to Pilot DOC FormatConvert this page to Pilot DOC Format


Chapter 27

by M. Parnell
Copyright 1997

Disclaimers: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle and any others from Xena, Warrior Princess, along with the back story, are the property of their creators and producers. Their use in my story does not constitute any attempt on my part to infringe on their rights. The rest of the story is mine. The story is a strictly non-profit endeavor. Any reproduction or other use of this story without my consent is strictly prohibited.

The story contains violence. It also assumes that Xena and Gabrielle are in love with each other. If any of that offends you, please choose another story.

Tartarus takes place after ORIGINS. It is not necessary to read ORIGINS first, but some references will be puzzling to you.

I began this story before season three. Given all that has happened, I find it hard to continue without allowing season three to intrude in some places. If that doesn't fit with the first fifteen chapters, well, (picture me shrugging my shoulders here), it can't be helped. Maybe some day I'll go back and make it all consistent.

Chapter Twenty Seven

It was as Hermia said: winter held one terrible storm in its quiver. After that, all would be gray, dark would fall early, and game would be scarce, but the remaining storms were a matter of nuisance, not disaster. Little had been heard from the Tribes, or Nerad. Drax had it on good authority that word of her trouncing of Petra's man had been delivered to Nerad's doorstep, by Petra's men, it was said, though Drax couldn't understand why it would be so. For Xena it was added proof that if any harm came to Xena, it would be by her hand alone.

Winter's diet was a monotonous round of root vegetables, dried fruits, bread, and cheese. The stream yielded little gifts of trout and panfish, and an occasional rabbit found it's way into the stewpot, liberally attended by the seemingly endless store of mushrooms Xena had gathered.

"I told you people would be happy to barter for knowledge, Xena," Gabrielle told her one morning. Cramma had just left, Nara in tow, having left behind a massive jar of honey, and candles crafted from tallow and beeswax. Cramma had some reading and writing skill, but she was concerned that Nara be taught. "All the honey you can use, and occasional pork, if you teach her," she'd offered. The list of students was long, and Gabrielle spent hours in the long evenings devising the best methods of instruction, beginning with the rudiments of written communication: the letters of the Greek tongue.

"People learn the lyrics to songs easier than they do the words to a poem; if they chant the letters, over and over, to some melody, they'll have them in no time." Xena had looked at the open face, illumined by firelight and nodded agreeably. It seemed like a good idea. She hoped the bard wouldn't be disappointed if the potential students found better things to do with their time when spring came around, having received earrings as payment for their bounty over the winter. Some few would come; Nara would be there, she had no doubt. On each visit Gabrielle's delight in the little girl grew.

"I'm earning enough honey to satisfy even your appetite," she continued, giving the warrior an affectionate hug around the middle. Xena lifted her off her feet, brought her closer for a kiss, and stood holding her, eyes closed for a long moment.

Gabrielle relaxed against her, grinning. Xena seemed to have a need to demonstrate just how well she had healed; it involved lifting the bard several times a day. "What are you doing today?" she asked through the grin

"What do I do every day," Xena replied, and ticked off a list by rote: "Check the snares, check the fish traps, take care of the wood pile, tend the horses, haul water, try to find fresh game. . . the usual," she ended with a weary shrug. "Maybe I'll be really crazy today and do them in reverse order, just to make a change. Or maybe I'll break through the ice and fist a few fish, that could be fun. Or maybe we'll saddle Glider and you'll come hunting with me?" she asked hopefully.

"Xena, I'm sorry. Not today. I'll ride Glider, but I was hoping you'd ride with me as far as Hermia's. I told her I'd come by for a visit, and today seems as good a day as any."

Xena nodded, deposited the bard lightly on the floor and turned away. As good a day as any. Made better by the fact that Cramma and Nara would be there for a visit as well. No surprises there. "Fine. I'll saddle up."


Hermia's homestead had become a focal point of The Sweetwater, much as the baker in any community was a focal point. Everyone wanted the bread that was hers to barter, now that she was free of paying tribute to Nerad's men. Those who made their own bread baked it in her oven; it was a time honored custom wherever there was a decent oven to be found, and so the path to her door was well-beaten. Drax and Ileander had found a home there, living in a constantly improved section of her barn, dry and comfortable throughout the winter. They had begun to plan the home they would construct when the weather had cleared. Best of all, Ileander had a loom once again. It was set in a small alcove created for that purpose, where a decrepit wall of Hermia's home had been torn down. From his seat by the loom, he was company for Hermia and her stream of customers, and the cloth he produced found a ready market.

It had become Gabrielle's custom to visit as often as weather and time permitted, once Xena had healed from her injuries. "I think I'll conduct my classes there," she told Xena after one long afternoon visit. "Hermia would like that, and everyone stops by here anyway."

"Next you'll be keeping a spare bedroll there," Xena had replied, smiling to keep an irritated scowl from her face.


She didn't dismount when they reached Hermia's, merely calling greetings from Argo before heading for a likely hunting area. Drax had already set off for the day, and she was glad; she didn't want his company today, if she couldn't have Gabrielle with her, she'd sooner be alone. If she could come home with something, and maybe something extra for Hermia, she'd feel better, she knew, mentally shaking the vague malaise that touched her. If I opened my mouth right now, a whine would come out, she knew. So, Xena, it's time to make something good happen. She touched her heels to Argo's flanks, leaving the curling smoke from Hermia's chimney far behind.


The game seemed to find her this day. Three fat rabbits hung from her saddle before the hour had passed, and another seemed destined to spend the night roasting on a spit, zigzagging before her in a futile attempt to escape, when she found better prey: before her, outlined against the sky on a nearby ridge, was a magnificent buck, with full rack.

"Argo, that would make a lot of folks happy," she said quietly, as she drew an arrow from the quiver. She could let it fly at full gallop with no loss of accuracy. Gods, this would be fun; her mood brightened as she turned that way. The buck seemed to turn at the same moment, and the chase was on. He could not outrun Argo, but had a sizeable head start; slowly the gap was closed, but then he was in a thicket of woods, and had the advantage. Xena grinned despite herself. The entertainment would last that much longer.


The buck seemed always to be just ahead of them, within reach of an arrow, then he'd plunge through some thick underbrush, or disappear in a stand of trees, and be gone for a moment. Argo balked once, at the path he followed, but Xena urged her on, with a harsh note in her voice, and a slap on her rump. So they continued, until the cold winter sun was half hidden by the trees. Odd, in winter, for so much foliage to remain. Xena stopped for a moment, wondering where the buck had gone to, and puzzling at the green that surrounded her in the late winter. Only one place this could be, she realized, and a flood of warmth touched her. "Let's move, Argo," she instructed, the buck forgotten. The mare needed no direction, following a familiar path, drinking from a welcome stream, hooves cushioned by moss so thick it could have couched the gods, until at last Xena slid from her back, dropped the reins, and settled in a hummock of sweet grass. She lay for a long time, face pillowed on her forearms, happy to have the fragrance of summer in her nose again, glad to feel the soft tickles against her cheek, little concerned how it was always summer here. At last she was thirsty; she thought she'd slept, felt as if something had awakened her, but couldn't be certain. She leaned into the stream, and sipped a handful of the pristine water. In the shimmering waves she created she saw her own face, moving fragments, growing still as the water resumed its glass-like surface. It was then that she saw him, and turned, not startled, not alarmed. "Ares," she said evenly. "It's been a while."

"Not for me, Xena. I've never been far from your side."

"I'll just bet you haven't." She started to sneer, but it was hard to maintain, and relaxed into a small smile. Now she was startled, as she realized she was glad to see him. A little bit, anyway.

"Xena, what kind of patron god would I be if I lost interest in my favorite warrior just because she got into a mess. And didn't bother to get herself out?" he added reproachfully.

Patron god; that touched a nerve.

"Don't know how I'd get by without your interest," she said in a strangely flat voice.

"I flatter myself that that's true," he nodded. "I'm always there for you Xena, if you let me be there." He took hold of the convict earring that dangled from her. The mild tug she felt caused her cheeks to flame with humiliation. She wrenched away, and got to her feet, wondering at the absence of anger in her, and wondering something else. "Thanks, Ares; I've been getting by."

"Barely," he agreed. "A warrior of your caliber, a woman of your quality living in a wattle house, eating the roots that are better left to the pigs. . . " He shook his head. "I don't get it."

"You don't have to get it. This is my life we're talking about."

"I know, I know, I know: yours to waste, yours to squander. . . except for one thing: I'm part of your life, by my choice, and your invitation."

The shiver she'd been expecting ran up her spine at that moment; she caught her breath, and showed her teeth in a forced smile. "Well, now I'm inviting you out."

A slow smile spread over the face of the God of War. "Not so fast, Xena. There's but one problem here. We have a deal, an offer was made, consideration given. . . that constitutes a contract by any reasonable standard. Now it's time to fulfill your part of the bargain."

"We have no bargain, Ares," she said steadily.

"Xena, now you're disappointing me. This constitutes welshing of the very worst kind. In a moment of mortal danger I came to your aid, strengthened you in battle, helped you achieve your objective, as you asked, and you deny your obligation." His brow furrowed as he recalled the moment. "You said, 'Ares, if you still want me, I'm yours.' Do I have that right? Of course you were such a mess, I had to listen very carefully." His voice dropped to a husky whisper. "I was never more proud of you, Xena. Beaten, alone; you were still the warrior. THE warrior. MY warrior. At that moment, you knew who was the source of your strength, the one to whom you could always turn - "

"Shut up," she snapped.

Ares recoiled, as if hurt. "Don't like recalling that tender moment when you prayed for help.?"

"Tender? I was half dead," she countered. "I thought Gabrielle was dead. If I said anything that sounded remotely like a cry for help, it was only because I didn't think I'd live long enough to see you again. It certainly wasn't a prayer," she ended.

"Prayers and offerings to me is a practice you've gotten away from," he admitted, but when you really needed help, the words came back to you Xena. It was beautiful. And your prayer was answered. I came through for you."

"No ya didn't," she said with studied contempt. "It was Gabrielle, and the Amazons; they came through. You have no power in Prestia," she pointed out. "I knew that when I said the words. You did nothing for me, because there was nothing you could do." She watched carefully, from the corner of one eye, waiting for his response. The question had plagued her since that day: Had Ares heard her desperate words? Had her triumph in Prestia left her in his eternal debt?

"Xena, I know the words you spoke," he said patiently. "Shall I describe the scene? Every wound? How you cut off the toe of your boot because the nails had been ripped off your toes? How Salmoneus and Laepita cleaned your wounds and patched you together for that final battle?" It might have been Gabrielle reciting a well-known tale, so complete was his telling. Xena watched, rapt, to see the eyes of the god glisten as he detailed the battle. For a moment, Xena's head swam with remembered sensation: heat and dust, and the belief that Gabrielle had already died a cruel death. If Ares had not been present, he'd heard a good account. "Krykon dead, with Radec dead, both by your hand. Wasn't that what you wanted?"

"Yeah, it's what I wanted," she said quickly. "And I made it happen. It was nothing to do with you," she insisted, hiding her own uncertainty. "If you'd been involved, you wouldn't have waited so long to collect. It's been months, Ares. Where've you been?"

"Despite the prominent place you hold in my heart - " he paused as she emitted a harsh laugh, then went on: " - you are not the only iron I have in the fire. The world's been a busy place while you've been holed up here. Wars, rebellions; they all need my attention. I have you now Xena; you could wait a bit. But, lest you think I was ignoring you," he crinkled his nose, happy to reveal a secret, but Xena was quicker:

"The earthquake; that was your doing."

His face fell, just for a moment. "Of course you knew; we know each other so well."

"Sure," she lied. She had suspected; had never been certain. "It showed a wanton disregard for human life. Who else could it be? Am I worth so much trouble Ares?" she asked wearily.

He ignored the question. "I was rather proud of the whole incident; from the first jolt on, things fell into place."

"How did you arrange it?" She was really curious. "Threat? Collecting a favor? Cajolery?"

"Does it matter?" he lifted an eyebrow. "I get the help I need. Actually," he went on in a confiding tone, "I don't think I could have pulled it off without Gabrielle. Much as I hate to admit it, sometimes the brat comes in handy."

"Gabrielle?" she echoed.

"Would you have gone to Priblis if she wasn't there appealing to your better nature, pleading on behalf of the wretches buried alive? She's good," he said with grudging admiration.

"You went to a lot of trouble for nothing," she said, shoving his words about Gabrielle to the edge of consciousness. She'd think about that later.

His dark eyes regarded her with frank amusement. "You're here aren't you?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'm in Tartarus. Little good does it do you."

He nodded. "I admit, I thought you'd be overlord by now, maybe even the overlord, with the whole of Tartarus under your command. But," he gave a slight shake of the head, "I wasn't speaking of Tartarus. I mean you're here, in this glade." He turned in a slow circle, his big hands moving to encompass the whole area. "This place Xena, this place of light, warmth and peace that I created for my chosen warrior."

She frowned, eyes narrowed as she followed him. "Xena." He sighed deeply. "Don't disappoint me again. A smart girl like you? You had to know this place was not warmed by - what was it? Hot springs?" Xena hadn't moved, except to turn her eyes from him. Had she known? Her mind scrambled to find the answer. For all that it had seemed so unworldly, it was so benign; why would she had guessed it was a creation of Ares? His very presence could make her flesh creep; this oasis in the midst of Tartarus soothed her like a potent drug. What had he called it? A place of light, warmth and peace. Yet she recalled that Gabrielle had never found it so.

He chuckled. "Didn't you wonder why your little partner didn't appreciate its charms?" She started, wondering if he could read her thoughts. "I didn't tailor this place to suit her," he explained. "This is for you, crafted to meet your needs the way you fashioned that doeskin for her. A disgusting little scene, by the way," he digressed, "but never mind. I know you every bit as well. Better." He placed his hands on unresisting shoulders. "We both know that what you need for peace, and what Gabrielle needs, are two very different things. What ever you like to dream, you'll never find peace together; not for long."

She wrenched free from his caressing fingers. "You'd like to think so."

"Xena," he countered, " I hate to state the obvious, but well, you are here. With me." He peered around the clearing. "I don't see Gabrielle anywhere. In fact, you come here a lot, while your little friend visits the neighbors. Not that I don't appreciate the problem: it gets kind of boring listening to the latest wisdom about achieving a really crusty loaf of bread. But, then, it gets kind of boring hunting every day, to put food on the table. Rabbits don't exactly fall in to the category of exciting prey."

"Your point being?" she snapped.

"Why does everything have to have a point? We're having a nice visit, I'm commiserating. But you really don't deserve my sympathy, Xena. It doesn't have to be this way. Tartarus holds challenges enough even for you. And the rewards. . . If one warlord, you, controlled this land, and the people in it, the three kingdoms would tremble in fear. The crowns would be yours for the taking."

"Ares, I just relinquished a crown, walked away from a kingdom. Of all your schemes, this is the lamest, no-starter yet."

"I'll ignore that remark," he said with some dignity, "and point out that you were free to hand over the power and walk away from Prestia. Here, you can't walk away. Unless maybe you hold the power." She made no reply. "I have the uncomfortable feeling that this place is making you slow. Don't tell me that hadn't occurred to you."

"Ares, you've put me in a box. I've had a good look around," she said with an emphatic nod. "I know all the angles, all the escape possibilities. Including that one. Considering all the alternatives, I think it's best for everyone if I stay in the box. Especially now that I see your hand in this."

"What is that? Spite? You don't really think you'll be content here? Doing the domestic thing? It'll never work."

"You sound more desperate every time you say that, Ares. Afraid you might be wrong? You should be."

"Then you won't mind my dropping by to observe your happiness."

"Since when have you cared what I mind?"

"Xena, I've been holding out an olive branch. You have to choose to take it."

"No thanks. I'd rather stick with the Ares I know."

"But I insist." In his hand there was suddenly a sprig of green. Then he was gone.

He might never have been there, but for the still sprouting olive branch Xena held. She eyed it thoughtfully, before hurling it across the field with an oath.


She didn't stay long in the glade, and didn't quite remember leaving. Never bothered you before, she scolded herself, as Argo picked her way along a seldom used path. It made you feel better, why ask questions? She wondered how many times Ares had strode the glade with her, wondered more how the God of War could create a place of such peace. It was a conundrum, not easily solved. But it could be avoided. "Never again, Argo," she said aloud. The horse pricked her ears, and whinnied in response. "You liked it too." That was a puzzle. Argo had healthy instincts. Still, she was a warhorse. "Maybe it is a warrior thing," she mused, again aloud. "I guess we should have gone with Gabrielle's instincts on this one." The thought of the bard sent a warm feeling through Xena; she was seized by a sudden urgency to be with her. "The game she had would have to be enough for today. They turned toward Hermia's.


She might have walked into a scene from another day. If I entered the room blindfolded I could tell where everyone was, she realized. Hermia was by the hearth, baking peel in hand, ready to move her loaves as needed. Ileander was seated at his loom in the small alcove. Lilla and Nara were at Gabrielle's side, in the corner, absorbed in a story. Arthea sat at the table, paring knife in hand, ready to attack a turnip. All eyes turned to her, startled as she stepped into the room.

"Xena! Did you have to make such an entrance?" She wondered what Hermia meant, then caught up with the sound of the door clattering against the frame.

"Sorry," she said, even as her eyes came to rest on the bard. She was doeskin-clad; her eyes were alive with amusement. Her cheeks would be soft to the touch, Xena knew, as she stood by the door, longing to touch them.

"You weren't gone long," Gabrielle observed, watching Xena carefully.

Xena held up her prizes. "Thought these'd do. I missed you." Hermia smiled. Arthea turned back to the turnip, lips twisted in a scowl.

"Has something happened?" the bard wanted to know.

"Nothing has happened," Xena replied, shrugging to mask a rising exasperation. "I missed you, so I came back." Ileander began to whistle, a nondescript little melody which seemed to remove the focus from Xena. "Are you ready to go?"

"Go? Xena, I just got here. And you really just got here. Hermia asked us to stay for supper."

"Gabrielle, there's a lot I can do at home."

"You were going to spend the day hunting, Xena. Nothing would have gotten done then. Relax and visit for a while. Are you sure you're all right."

"Yeah, I'm fine." She ran a hand through her hair, slapped the three hares on the table. "Do you want these for tonight?" she asked Hermia.

"Yes, please, Xena. They're lovely. It's made a world of difference to Lilla, having a steady diet. Just look at the roses in her cheeks."

"Good," she nodded, with a scant glance at the child. "I'll dress them." That meant time outside, where maybe she could breathe. "I'll only be a minute."


She saw the door open, wished hard that it would be Gabrielle, then knew it was Arthea. The woman found a few innocent things to do on her meandering way across the yard, to where Xena gutted the rabbits beside a bucket of water. "It's cold, Xena."

"Yeah," the warrior agreed. "Is that what you came to tell me?"

"Don't be like that, Xena. I'm just being friendly. If you asked me to go home, I wouldn't put it off to have supper with the neighbors." She smiled as she said this, and shivered inside her worn shawl.

I'll bet you wouldn't, Xena thought. It was hard not to smile back. "Gabrielle's kind of more social than I am."

"Social's fine, but first things first."

"Won't Hermia be looking for you?"

"Doesn't even know I'm gone. Lilla's reciting her letters." She tossed her head. "What some people go on about."

Xena eyed the woman coolly. "I thought you arranged to take lessons from Gabrielle?"

"I did," she said indifferently, "but I don't expect I'll be waiting for people to cheer when I get things right," she exclaimed. "It's more just for something to do I go almost crazy in this place."

Xena ripped the belly of a rabbit. "Not enough work around here?"

"Work," she smirked. "Xena, I'm not afraid of work, I just need something else in my life. Even Lutus was better than nothing. Except that he belted me around."

"Spring's coming. Maybe you'll get around and find someone else." Xena glanced up from the rabbit as she spoke, wondering if the words sounded as hollow to Arthea as they felt coming out. Her face hid little, not her skepticism, nor her longing for this moment with Xena to never end. An odd gleam in her eye made Xena wonder if she was tipsy.

"Arthea," she said, "you'd better go back."

"Don't want me to wait for you? Is Gabrielle the jealous type." She didn't turn from Xena's glare. "She shouldn't make you wait for her Xena; it isn't right."

"She's entitled to visit with her friends. Our friends," she amended quickly. She thrust the two rabbits at Arthea. "Take these to Hermia. I'll clean this mess up and be right along." She scraped scraps of fur and flesh together, and rinsed the knife in the bucket. Arthea clutched the rabbits, and stood waiting, considering a reply. "Now," Xena barked.

"All right, Xena. I don't want to cause you any trouble." She turned, took a step, and whirled back, to place a kiss on Xena's cheek.


Xena had stayed outside until just before supper. There was always something that needed to be done, for all that Drax had already taken care of many repairs. Hermia would have a nice farm, at last; with any luck the extra manpower would provide a decent harvest. Still, Xena was busy much of the afternoon, clearing winter's debris from the stream bed. It was hard work, requiring no thought, and her mind turned to other things. Ares had left her shaken, made her question everything she'd done for months. How much, if any, had been influenced by the God of War? She was tied to him by virtue of her descent from Pres prima. She had - maybe- sealed a deal with her words in Prestia. Or maybe not. It wouldn't be past Ares to lie. She wondered if the tree had fallen on her with his help. She found herself standing, axe in hand, staring blankly at a whirling landscape. She rubbed a hand across clammy cheeks, and remembered that it was cold, and damp. There was one question she could answer: whether Gabrielle should know. Even that was not easy. What purpose would it serve, upsetting her? On the other hand, she'd be pissed to know Xena had kept it from her. She hefted the axe, struck it hard against a length of wood. This place, and everything in it seemed to lurch endlessly from bad to worse.


She stood by the fire for a long time when she went in to supper, picking a splinter from her palm, watching the hubbub which swirled around her, as bowls were passed to the table, and the ubiquitous rabbit stew was set out.

"Gods, what I'd give for a roast lamb right now." Her voice was startlingly loud in the small space. Drax, just returned from a fruitless day's hunting, swore.

"We'd all like lamb, Xena. Any idea where we're to find it? Or was that an idle wish?"

"Even goat would make a nice change. Maybe our local goatherds would part with one for a price." She wondered how many earrings Hermia had left.

"Not this time of year," Hermia told her. "Maybe in the spring."

Gabrielle took Xena's hand and pulled her to a seat by the table. "Are you all right, Xena?" she asked softly.

"Yes," Xena hissed. "We just all need a change around here."

"I'm for that, Xena," Arthea said eagerly. She was pouring a strong ale from a jug. She passed a cup to Xena. "Make a toast to something new," she grinned.

Xena returned the grin as she took the cup, and turned to Gabrielle, who watched bemused. "A toast." She stood, wiped a finger across her upper lip, and smiled broadly around the table. "Raise your cups to the woman who has agreed to stand before the world, or The Sweetwater anyway, and declare with me our intention to spend our lives together. We hope you'll all be our witnesses."

"Lovely!" It was Hermia, who followed her words with a healthy swallow of ale. Arthea drained her cup and poured another. Drax placed a hand on Ileander's thigh. Cramma sputtered out her congratulations around a chewy crust of bread. The only surprise evident was on Gabrielle's face.

"Haven't changed your mind?" Xena joked.

"Not on your life," was the hearty reply, to a new round of toasts and best wishes. Xena sat again, and pulled Gabrielle close for a kiss. "Did I tell you how much I missed you today?" she said, for Gabrielle's ears only. The green eyes narrowed in concentration. Something had happened today.


"Hasn't Argo done enough for one day?" Gabrielle asked. Xena had insisted that she share Argo's saddle for the ride home. Glider trotted along behind, at the end of a tether.

"Argo misses you in the saddle," Xena replied. "Not as much as I do."

Gabrielle grinned, and happily snuggled against the warrior, slipping her arms under the cloak Xena wore. The three quarter moon hung low in the sky; occasionally a tree stood out in sharp silhouette as they passed. "Are you going to tell me what happened?" Gabrielle's voice was soft, inviting a confidence.

"Why do you insist something has happened?" Xena countered.

"Because you haven't been yourself since you came back from hunting. I'm almost ready to believe that one of your doubles has found her way to Tartarus."

Xena chuckled. "If that's the case, I'd have to be Meg. Want to check my bodice for 'souvenirs'?"

"Funny. That means you don't want to talk about it?"

"Or maybe it means there isn't anything to talk about."

"If you say so," Gabrielle surrendered, unconvinced. "So explain instead why you made that little announcement at supper. I thought we had agreed to wait." She felt the shrug of Xena's broad shoulders.

"We had; I'm sorry. It just seemed like a good time."

"Just to make a change?"

"Something like that. Funny thing is, I felt better just saying it."

"I'm glad. You could have knocked me over with a sneeze."

"Are you angry?"

A pause. "No. Actually, it was kind of fun. Like a surprise party."

"Then no harm done. Good."

"But Xena, no more surprises for a while? Please."

"Yeah. No surprises." Gabrielle heard a desolate quality in her voice; it scared her a little. Xena seemed so unhappy at times, unreachable. It was like that now, despite the physical proximity, the warrior's thoughts were miles away. She shifted in the saddle, buried her face in the thick hair which hung down over the cloak. "Are you tired?"

Xena hesitated. "A little," she said honestly. "Why?"

"I was hoping you'd want to make love with tonight."

A slow smile spread across Xena's face, though Gabrielle couldn't see it.

"I think I can find the energy," she said solemnly.

"Good. It's been too long." And it feels funny as Hades to be planning it like this. There had been a spontaneity to their lovemaking from the beginning. A spark of passion that would ignite of it's own accord, frequently. Maybe passion like that can't last, the bard mused. That's why all the great lovers are legendary, often dead, she thought. Passion so great burns out. She clutched the warrior a little tighter, hating it to be so. Maybe it's this place. There wasn't much romantic about the endless chores and monotony of life in Tartarus. And there was always something to fight about. Many evenings were wrecked by petty bickering. Love should overcome all that. Life's not a story in your scrolls, Gabrielle, she reminded herself.



"Why is everything harder here?"

The image of the cold, yet sensuous god had never been far from her thoughts. He was fixed there now, as she answered: "I don't know. I guess we just have to try harder."

Continued - Chapter 28

Fan Fiction
Return to the Fan Fiction area