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Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and all the rest are the property of Universal Studios; I’m just borrowing them for a short time. This story is based upon the episode "A Tale of Two Muses" and what could have happened after they left the town of Palios. You don’t need to have seen the episode to understand the story. My last warning is that this is a subtext story (although it may not seem like it at first). If the idea of two women being involved with each other is offensive, please do not read any further. This story contains consensual sex between two adults, but it is not explicit. Thanks for taking the time to read my story.

Rating: PG

King of HeartsBy Marista

Autolycus looked around the town square. It had been quite a couple of days, and he still donned his preacher clothes of doom and gloom. There wasn’t any profit here, but the whole charade made for great sport. To see Istafan the Chief Magistrate removed from power made it all worth it, not to mention that he got to score more brownie points with Xena. He looked around the now clear town square and thought to himself... ‘Well dancing is back in the fair town of Palios and I finally got to put my arms around the Warrior Princess. I had no idea she was such a great dancer, but then again she always says she has many skills’.

"I thought you would be long gone by now." said the voice from behind him. He was startled by Xena’s stealthy entrance into the square, but tried to act nonchalantly. He turned and gazed into her face, she was so beautiful. "This was quite a job, thanks for including me." She continued to walk towards him, her body swaying a little remembering the music earlier. "It was fun wasn’t it. I just don’t know why people allow the gods and tyrants like Istafan to ruin their lives this way?" Autolycus circled around her "we’ve set them on the right path." He came around, put on the ole Autolycus charm and held open his arms "Join me in a last dance?" She eyed him, considering his offer, then stepped into his arms. Autolycus held her very close as they moved together to the unheard music. They moved and swayed together, and the slow dance became slower and slower. What began as a dance ended up as a very close, intimate embrace. Autolycus, intoxicated with her scent pulled back and looked into her eyes. She looked up at him with a dreamy expression, obviously moved with events of the day and the continued dance. Without even thinking, because it felt so right he leaned in for a kiss. His brain didn’t kick in until he realized that she was kissing him back. The kiss was deep and passionate and neither seemed interested in breaking it.

"Xena!?" the voice was low, but the intensity cut through the moment like a axe. Both parties jumped in surprise and it was over. "Hey Gabrielle, can’t you see that we’re having a moment over here." Xena stepped away from Autolycus even as he tried to maintain his embrace around her. "Sorry Autolycus, I didn’t realize that dancing would have that kind of effect on me." Xena cleared her throat "Well, our work here is done." She backed away and stood at Gabrielle’s side. She put a hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder and she promptly removed it when Gabrielle looked at her. "We need to pack up camp and head out if we’re going to make it to out next stop, so we’ll see you later Autolycus." Xena tried to regain her composure but looked more uncomfortable than Autolycus thought she should have. ‘Boy that Gabrielle looks pissed off’ he noted. She must have had a last run in with Istafan before coming here. ‘I just had a breakthrough with her, I can’t walk away now. Think Auto, Think!’ "Hey mind if I travel with you guys for a while?" Xena looked at Gabrielle, almost as if she needed her permission "Sure Autolycus, there’s always room for you" Gabrielle said with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

A few candle marks from the town the trio’s silent walk was interrupted by someone yelling. The voice seemed to echo over the barren valley and both Xena and Gabrielle seemed to close their eyes and pull on inner strength simultaneously. The loud footsteps got louder and so did the irritating yelling, neither turned, but both said in unison "Hi Joxer" when the steps were close. And there he stood with his big innocent smile and goofy laugh, "hey I thought I’d never catch up to you guys". Xena said in a low voice to no one in particular "Next time we’ll have to try harder". Joxer frowned at first then his face lit up again when he said "you’re such a kidder" as he slapped her on the back. This time it was Xena’s turn to sneer. As they all continued to walk everyone acted like they wished Joxer wasn’t there, but deep down each was very glad to see him. Overall he lifted all the tension of silence between the group, although Autolycus really didn’t understand the reason for it. All he knew was that he finally got to kiss the warrior and he wanted more.

They arrived at a decent campsite shortly and the rest of the night was uneventful. After dinner Xena and Gabrielle laid down on one side of the fire and Joxer and Autolycus on the other. A short time later Autolycus heard a noise, sat up and saw that Xena was leaving the campsite. Autolycus got up and started to follow her "what do you want?" Autolycus just shrugged his shoulders "I couldn’t sleep either". Her features softened "come on, we can take a walk together". They continued silently for a few moments until they were by the side of a river. The moonlight shone off the surface of the water giving the entire area an enchanted hue. As he took in the sight, Autolycus turned to Xena and was almost speechless as he saw how the moonlight set off her brilliant blue eyes and shimmered off her hair. She looked like a goddess bathed in moonlight.

Xena stood there looking around and he could tell that she was also taken aback by the beauty of this area. She sat down on a rock near the water, crossed her legs at the ankles and looked into the shimmering depths of the river. Autolycus took up next to her and there they sat shoulder to shoulder. Xena sat with an introspective look on her face for some time. Then she said "when I look at the water sometimes I imagine myself in its depths, the water cleansing the evil out of my soul." Autolycus just looked at her; he was seeing a very different side of the tough, beautiful warrior. "What do you mean by that? Xena, you have a wonderful soul. Just look at what you did in that town. You set those people free." Xena just shrugged her shoulders as she continued her melancholy "You don’t know me Autolycus. If you did you wouldn’t say that, if you truly knew me you wouldn’t even be sitting here next to me". Autolycus chose his words carefully, now wanting to make her more upset. "I know you did some things in your past. I know you were a ruthless warlord, but things are different now. Now you help people and make a difference in this world." Xena finally raised her head and looked up into the moon as if looking for guidance. Xena began to relay to Autolycus stories of her past deeds and the tears began to fall freely from her eyes. One thing that surprised Autolycus was the absence of details to her stories, and she didn’t tell him anything that he hadn’t heard before. ‘Well she never said being a bard was one of her many skills’. He sincerely wanted to hear more, because he knew that it was a rarity for the warrior to open herself up in this way. Autolycus turned and began to try to comfort her by stroking her hair. "Don’t do that, I don’t deserve your kindness." He was overcome by his feelings for her. "It takes a lot of courage to do what you’ve done. We all make mistakes, but you turned your entire life around. You’ve endured so much pain, so much hardship. Xena I want you to know something, I think you’re the most beautiful woman I know inside, and out." Autolycus paused and took a deep breath before continuing. "I want you to know that I’m in love with you, I don’t care if you love me back, but I love you. I want to make you forget your pain, even if it’s only for one night." Xena just looked at him with her tear streaked face in unbelief. The tears were illuminated by the moonlight and now her face truly was bathed in light. Again Autolycus felt the rightness of this moment and leaned in for a kiss that was not rejected. He whispered in her ear "let me love you".

He got up and led her to a grassy area of the clearing. He gently and lovingly wiped her tears away. After a few more kisses they quickly removed their clothing and there they moved together in the throws of passion. As they were making love Xena looked into Autolycus’ eyes with love and said "Autolycus I’m yours forever". Autolycus closed his eyes and began to tremble as the waves of emotion flooded his very being. He heard Xena whisper his name over and over again "Autolycus... Autolycus... Autolycus". When he opened his eyes again he was flat on his back and he looked into Xena’s beautiful face leaning over him. "Xena" when he spoke her name it reflected all the love and the passion his heart felt at that moment. He reached up, and tried to kiss her, but she pushed him away and gave him a puzzled look as she said "What’s gotten into you?" His eyes were filled with confusion as he thought to himself ‘didn’t she just say she was mine forever?’ As he looked around he realized that they were in the campsite. Then he noted that they were BOTH fully clothed, and then reality set in. There was no moonlight walk, no heart moving talk, no making love in a secluded field. "Sorry Xena I was just..." Xena smirked, "I don’t know who you were just dreaming about, but your moaning was about to wake the whole camp." Autolycus swallowed hard as embarrassment settled in, he tried to pull himself together, but it was too late. He could see in her eyes that she had figured it out; that he was dreaming... about her. Once he realized she knew, he couldn’t look at her, he just looked at the ground and thought about the quick escape he was going to have to make in the morning. He didn’t notice the compassion that crossed her face, after all she had spent her share of nights dreaming about someone. She placed her hand on his chest and he looked up into her smiling face. She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. "Good night Autolycus". He laid a hand over hers and lightly rubbed the soft skin. Her smile eased his mood, "Good night Xena."

Xena felt sorry for Autolycus, because her dreams came true. Here she was about to lay in the welcoming arms of the person she dreamt about every night for years. Xena then got up and walked back over to her side of the fire and laid down. She knew that as long as Gabrielle lived, Autolycus’ dreams of her would never come true. Autolycus watched as Xena laid down and closed her eyes, and noticed that Gabrielle immediately reached out for her and put her arms around the warrior. Xena laid down facing the dying fire. Gabrielle apparently spooned her from behind. He could tell they were cuddling to sleep, but he noted that one of Gabrielle’s hands slipped under Xena’s torso and with it she cupped Xena’s breast and the other disappeared somewhere in the folds of Xena’s skirt. Xena didn’t flinch or seem surprised by Gabrielle’s touch as if she were used to it. Then the reality of his situation set in and Autolycus thought to himself ‘only in my dreams I guess’.

Finis – June 1999

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