For disclaimers see Betrayal. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Up and over. Up and over. Again. Up and over."
August released a deep sigh and let the staff fall to the ground. "I told you I donít want to be a warrior."
Gabrielle released a sigh of her own and picked up the fallen weapon. "Thatís good," she said as she tossed it back to her student. "But this training isnít about war. Itís about self-reliance and protection. If youíre gonna be living in a big city like Athens you better damn well know how to protect yourself."
"Arenít you the one who said to run away if trouble comes?" August questioned.
"Yes," the bard answered. "But there might be a time when you have to stand and fight. If that time comes itís better to be prepared."
"Okaaay," August groaned and rolled her eyes.
Impulsive, stupid kid. Come on breath Gabrielle. Take it easy. "August," Gabrielle said in the most even voice she could muster, "why donít we take a break from this huh? Go see if you can work on your fishing skills and get us some lunch okay?"
August grumbled as she went to the fishing poles. "Yet another skill I donít need Ė fishing. There are tons of inns and taverns in Athens."
Gabrielle heard the comment but let it go. Sure there are lots of place to eat but lots of places want money and if money is short you have to make due. "Oh boy," Gabrielle sighed as she made her way over to Eponin who was trying to hold back a chuckle. She plopped down next to Eponin with a soft thud. She was already exhausted from todayís lessons - not a physical tired but an emotional and intellectual tired. For every reason Gabrielle gave in their discussions August had a counter point.
"Sheís a head strong kid," Eponin remarked. "Not unlike a certain amazon princess once upon a time."
"You must be thinking of some OTHER amazon princess because it certainly couldnít be me that youíre making the comparison to," Gabrielle grinned.
"Ohhh noooo," Eponin teased.
Gabrielle considered for a moment. "Was I really like THIS?" she asked, waving a hand toward August who was now at the riverbank, casting off.
"Like her? No. You were a different kind of head strong," Eponin answered.
"Meaning you had ideals but you didnít narrow yourself into a corner. August is very used to village life. I think sheís going to have difficulty adjusting but who knows. A few more weeks with us, a small scuffle to see how dangerous life really is . . . it might be enough to turn her around."
Gabby watched the young woman as Eponin spoke.
"You do realize sheís in love with you donít you?" Eponin remarked.
"Yeah I realize."
Now or never. "You do realize that Iím in love with you donít you?"
Eponin could feel herself swallow hard. There - I said it. Gabrielle gave a crooked grin but continued to watch the young woman in front of her.
"Yeah I realize."
Eponin played with one of the sais that Gabby gave her to hold onto during the staff sparing session with August. The longer the silence lasted the heavier it felt in her grasp.
"So tell me the truth," Eponin asked when Gabrielle didnít add more. "After all these weeks on the road so far . . . do you think itís possible for a lovely, young lady like yourself to fall for an aging ex-amazon with graying hair?"
Gabrielle turned to face her companion, hoping to choose the right words. "Itís me . . . Iím not ready to move on . . . but if I were . . . then yes Iíd say itís quite possible. "
"Well Iíll tell you what?" Eponin said cheery, rising to her knees to face Gabrielle.
"What?" Gabrielle smiled warmly.
Eponin closed the distance between them to where they were mere inches apart and her voice took on a deeper, more serious tone. "Iíll stick it out my queen and when youíre ready . . . Iím all yours."
Eponin closed the distance and proceeded to leave a slow burning kiss on Gabrielleís lips. Gabrielle for her part felt herself sinking into the kiss. Oh my! How longís it been since Iíve been kissed like this? Donít worry. Just enjoy. Her eyes closed and she could feel her temperature go up a notch. When she felt Eponin pull away she opened her eyes to see her friend smiling at her.
"Shh," the ex-amazon said placing a soft finger against her lips. "Whatever argument youíre going to give please donít." Gabrielle complied and with that Eponin rose to her feet and dusted herself off. "Iím gonna help the young one with lunch. Why donít you get a fire started."
Gabrielle could only nod and soon she watched Eponin walk over to August to give her a few pointers before she mindlessly began picking up sticks.
Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. Come on Gabrielle. Donít start feeling guilty here. It was just a kiss. A wonderful intense mind to the sex to the toes to the sex again kinda kiss. But still itís just a kiss. And besides youíre free. You washed your hands of the warrior princess. You donít owe her anything. Youíre not being unfaithful. Of course you were almost unfaithful that night you learned Xena was pregnant and you were SURE she cheated on you . . . but that was different. You were drunk and angry and if not for Amarise stumbling into the back of that tavern you might have very well did more than share one kiss with that barmaid . . . That was foolish and stupid . . . but this is nothing to feel foolish or stupid about. Eponin is a wonderful friend and judging by that kiss sheís probably a wonderful lover. But no more kisses. Youíve got to figure out what you want for your life before you bring anyone else into it . . . Okay . . . What was I doing? . . . Oh yeah, firewood.
"Look at this!"
The excited voice of August waving a huge salmon in Gabrielle face caught her attention to say the least.
"And she did it all on her own," Eponin commended, patting the girl on the back.
Gabrielle smiled. "And I bet it will taste better than any fish you could buy in Athens," Gabby winked.
"Can you show me how to cut it Eponin?" the young woman asked wiggling it in front of her.
"You mean gut not cut . . . and yes Iíll show you," Eponin said waving the girl over to a nearby rock. "Come on over."
Gabrielle watched her Ďsidekicksí begin the procedure as Eponin took a moment to look up and admire the bard for a moment before getting to her task. She gave a small wink and Gabrielle could feel herself blush.
"This trip is turning out a lot longer than I plan," Gabrielle mumbled to no one but herself. "and quite educational."
CONTINUED IN PART X: COMPLICATIONS