(Part I of II)
Disclaimers (and legal stuff): Although I wish I could say Xena and Gabby are mine, they are not. They belong to MCA/Universal. This story however is mine and mine alone. There’s a bit of violence but not too graphic. All and all it’s a story of two friends who decide to become much more - much, much more. If the thought of two women deeply connected and hopelessly in love offends you read no further. If you are too young, read no further. If you live some place where this may not be kosher, read no further. However, if you are open-minded, old enough and live in a progressive neighborhood. . .enjoy!
The warrior couldn’t contain her grin at the sound of her name echoing across the crowded, dimly lit tavern. She was unsure of the reception she would be given at her arrival. It had been years, almost another lifetime, since she visited the island. Even longer since she was considered an honorary resident.
Warm waves and nods of acceptance greeted her as she walked to the bar. "Long time, no see," the barkeep remarked with a sly grin. "I bet you’re thirsty." She was a lovely woman, about Xena’s age but smaller in stature.
"Yes! May we please have a bottle of wine?" Xena asked formally, strictly for show. It was an odd experience for Gabrielle to see Xena so relaxed, almost playful, with someone besides her.
"And who are ‘we’?" the barkeep asked as she addressed Xena.
"This is Gabrielle," the warrior said with the gentle wave of her hand.
"Gabrielle," the woman said with a nod, shaking her hand politely. Soon her attention turned back to Xena, "She’s a bit young isn’t she?" the barkeep teased. Xena’s eyes narrowed and the barkeep knew she had best discuss other topics. "What brings you all the way back here?"
"I was summoned here," Xena replied in her cool, casual tone. Gabrielle stood close by, trying to stay focused on the conversations while surveying the surroundings, remembering ever detail for one of her stories, no doubt.
"Really?" the barkeep pondered, "By who?"
"By me," a voice interrupted. Xena and Gabrielle turned to see a woman walking toward them. "It’s been a long time," she continued with a seductive grin.
"Too long," Xena said opening her strong arms, welcoming the stranger slowly into them. "How have you been Sappho?"
"I can’t complain," she replied pulling back from the embrace.
"I’m sure she could," the barkeep interrupted with a teasing grin. "Sappho’s made herself respectable." Xena simply questioned the barkeep with her raised eyebrow. "She got married! . . . Get this! . . . To a man!"
Xena looked at Sappho, totally shocked. "Is that true?"
"You seem disappointed," Sappho teased. Xena could feel herself beginning to blush.
"It’s not disappointment," Xena replied. "It’s disbelieve."
"I guess that’s why your cheeks are so crimson." Xena knew she would lose in a battle of words with Sappho and being an intelligent warrior that she was, she knew she had to retreat. However, before she could, Sappho became suddenly distracted. "This must be your bard companion," she said moving in front of Gabrielle.
"Yes. Gabrielle meet Sappho. Sappho this is Gabrielle."
"Charmed. . ." Sappho replied reaching for Gabrielle’s hand and kissing the back of it in a ‘gentlemanly’ fashion. ". . . to say the very least." Gabrielle could tell that she was the one blushing now with the temperature rising to her face. "You know," Sappho continued as she still held Gabrielle’s hand, "I’m somewhat of a bard myself. Maybe tonight we could go over some scrolls and teach each other a thing or two."
"Okay. Okay! That’s enough," Xena said, taking Gabrielle’s hand away from Sappho predatory grip. "Enough with the introductions. Let’s get down to business."
As they made there way to a small table, Sappho pulled Xena to the side and tiptoed to whisper in her ear. "She’s a young one isn’t she?"
"Sappho!" Xena exclaimed, making Gabrielle turn around to study both of them.
"Simply an observation. . . jeez. Don’t get so bent outta shape. . .And speaking of your shape, it’s lovely. So don't change it."
"It’s nice to see some things never change," Xena retorted sarcastically. "Does your husband know you behave like this?"
"Are you kidding?" Sappho laughed.
"That’s what I thought," Xena said smugly.
"He adores it," she grinned. "Last year on my birthday, I walked into my house and there was this gorgeous red head sitting –"
"I get the picture," Xena interrupted. "Could we talk about why we’re here?"
Sappho grinned. "Of course," she replied. "But first I need to take care of this beautiful creature," she said looking at Gabrielle. "Would you like something to drink, something to eat perhaps. They have wonderful lamb stew here, my dear."
Gabrielle could feel Xena’s eyes heavily upon her, even though she would looking at Sappho. "We have wine coming but thank you anyway."
"Well, where is it!" Sappho exclaimed. "Barkeep! Please bring this darling young lady her wine before it ages another year!" Sappho’s demanding nature turned back into one of seduction as she looked at Gabrielle again. "Are you sure there’s nothing else you desire?"
Xena’s fists were clinching and unclenching under the tablecloth, but the real discomfort showed on her face. Sappho and Gabrielle both smiled at Xena - Sappho because of the jealousy she knew she was invoking in Xena; Gabrielle out of the embarrassment of the situation. Sappho knew one more romantic overtone from her would leave her with a black eye or worse. "Anyway," she said lightheartedly. "I did call you hear to ask for your help."
Xena in typical fashion waited for Sappho to continue with a gesture of her head that said ‘get on with it’.
"The local government has been having some problems lately. It seems –"
"Stop right there." Xena ordered. "I don’t get involved in politics," she said as she started to rise.
"Please let me finish," Sappho begged. "I don’t know who else to turn to."
Gabrielle heard the plea in her voice. "Xena, at least hear her out. We’ve got nowhere to go and we’re stuck on the isle until tomorrow morning. Besides, I’d like a glass of wine after that long boat trip."
The warrior considered Gabrielle’s request. She did have a point. Xena avoided eye contact with Sappho as she sat back down. When she did look over, Sappho was waving her pinky finger in the air as she mouthed the words ‘she’s wrapped’ to Gabrielle. Upon being caught by Xena’s crystal blue glare, she cleared her throat in a nervous manner. "Anyway, as I was saying, it seems the mainland has suddenly taken an interest in us."
"In what way?" Gabrielle asked.
"In the way we live, well the way some of us live. . . We’ve been performing commitment ceremonies for same sex couples for quite a long time. The mainland wants to see us put an end to it. Most Lesbians, whether male or female, involved in same sex or opposite sex relationships, feel it’s an oppression."
"Here’s your wine ladies. Sorry it took so long. Is there anything else you’d like?" the keep asked.
"No we’re okay," Gabrielle answered quickly, wanting to get back to the story. "If the majority here doesn’t want a change, what’s the problem? At this point the mainland can’t do anything accept vocally disapprove."
"Yes that’s true. But it’s a little more complicated than that."
"It always is,’ Xena replied in her dry wit style.
"People are turning up dead. . . . Same sex couple have been killed at night on the street, some in their own beds as they slept. . .We never had this problem until we got the message from the mainland. One of the things Lesbos prided it’s self on was the fact it was a place for all people, all walks of life. It was a center for unbiased creativity and culture. Athens may be the nerve center for the arts but Lesbos is the heart. . .or at least it was."
"I’m still not sure were we fit in," Xena asked downing the last of her wine.
"The council asked me if I had any suggestions on what to do. I told them I would contact you; perhaps get some advice on how to protect our people. And if I was so lucky perhaps I could convince you to stay long enough to see who’s behind the murders."
Xena refilled her glass as well as Gabrielle’s’ without responding. Of course it was Gabby’s voice to first break the silence. "Sappho could you go to the bar and order me some of that wonderful lamb stew you spoke of earlier. I’d like to talk with Xena."
Sappho’s admiring grin returned, "Anything for you my sweet."
Once she was out of earshot Gabrielle turned to Xena. "What do you think?"
"I think we could be getting into more than we expect," Xena replied quietly.
"Perhaps, but don’t we always take that chance," the bard grinned.
Xena studied Gabrielle’s smiled and wondered when the young girl she met years ago became the compassionate woman she was today. That smile and this mission could be dangerous. Could Xena spend a week, maybe two, on the island and still be able to be ‘best friends’? Would her strength, in suppressing her desire, survive the onslaught of women loving women thrown in her face everyday? Would her strength be able to keep Gabrielle save if they faced the murderers?
"What do you say?" Gabrielle asked with an encouraging nudge of her elbow.
"Are you up to this?’ Xena asked, the seriousness of the situation pouring into her words.
"Absolutely," Gabrielle replied.
She is a woman now Xena thought. The gung-ho ‘let’s experience life’ tone was gone from Gabrielle’s voice. It was now the sound of a confident, self-assured woman who understood the peril that may come to be, yet accepting it just the same. It’s going be a long week Xena thought to herself again.
Sappho returned with Gabrielle’s stew. Since the bottle was now empty (mostly between Gabrielle and Xena) Sappho ordered another one. "We’ve agreed to stay and help you." Xena smiled. Sappho was so delighted she kissed Xena. It was a quick peck, but just a bit shy of her lips.
The band began to play and many of the women got up to dance. Gabrielle now full of spirits and wine, wanted to join in the merriment. When Xena declined her dance invitation, Sappho offered her services, which in Xena’s opinion the bard accepted all to eagerly.
It was an odd feeling watching the two of them on the dance floor. A feeling she hadn’t had since. . .since Gabrielle’s wedding to Perticus - the mixed cauldron of joy for seeing Gabrielle’s happiness and the torture of her being stolen away. Unsteadily and slightly intoxicated, Xena rose and moved carefully to her companion - her companion, not Sappho’s.
When Xena asked "Can I cut in?" all three knew it wasn’t a request or a question open to debate. Sappho simply gave Gabrielle’s hand to Xena before taking her seat, back at the table. As the tempo slowed down Xena felt Gabrielle’s hands slip around her neck as her own hand possessed the bard’s shapely hips.
"Why the change of heart?" Gabrielle teased, keeping full contact with those beautiful blue eyes.
"You were having too much fun," Xena retorted.
"I’m not allowed to have fun with Sappho?" Gabrielle questioned, keeping the mischievous tone in her voice.
"You don’t know Sappho as well as I do."
"And how well do you know her Xena?"
Xena didn’t answer immediately. The grin that came to her lips was enough for Gabrielle to know the truth.
"I see," smiled the bard. "Are you afraid she’ll sweep me off my feet?"
Xena didn’t answer. The smile she displayed at Gabrielle’s first question vanished with the thought of Sappho doing all the things Xena dreamed of but never had the courage to do. She was a woman who would bolt headlong into a warlords hideout as quick as blinking an eye. Yet standing before this auburn beauty she cowered away like a lost, scared child. Gabrielle noticed the look in Xena’s eyes and knew what it meant.
"Don’t worry," the bard insured. "There’s only one woman in here that could sweep me off my feet. . . and it ain’t Sappho."
Gabrielle pulled Xena closer, resting her head on Xena’s bosom. The feel of leather and flesh caressed the bard’s cheek at the same time, as they swayed their bodies against each other. As she sighed in contentment the warrior could feel her hot breath tickle her cleavage as a shutter ran through her body. Her first reaction was to disguise her desire like she had so many times before. But she quickly surrendered the impulse and let Gabrielle weave her magic around her heart. "I can’t remember the last time I dance," Xena reflected. "This feels wonderful."
Gabrielle lifted her head to met Xena’s eyes again, feeling less inhibited with each passing moment as deep blue connected with sea green. Xena watched helplessly as Gabrielle wetted her lips as if preparing to be kissed. Before she took the opportunity though Gabrielle spoke.
"We should take more time out for simple things like this."
Another odd sensation passed through Xena at the sound of Gabrielle’s words. She truly was a woman. She was firm, confident and capable of handling herself. She was no longer a damsel in distress as when they first met. She wasn’t a sidekick with a staff who lent a hand when the going got rough. She was an equal and on some levels, as in dealing with human emotions, superior to Xena.
The day had finally arrived. The moment had come. Xena had, at last, found a companion, a confidant, a soulmate, that she could envision being with her for today; for forever. She was elated that she realized she had found her and dismayed that it had taken so long. Her dismay, however, didn’t have long to fester as she felt her head being pulled down and Gabrielle’s lips seizing her neck and earlobe.
"It’s late," Gabrielle whispered, making the hairs on Xena’s neck stand at attention. "Could we please get a room for tonight?"
Yes! Oh Gods yes! That was Xena’s first inclination. But instead she found her voice uttering other things, betraying her heart . . . and loins. "We’ve both had a lot of wine."
"And your point is?" Gabrielle replied with her hands now on her hips, totally defiant.
Suddenly Xena felt defensive. "My point is I don’t want anything to happen that you may regret," she countered sternly.
"I’m a grown woman Xena. I’m free to make my own choices."
"So am I and maybe I don’t want to make a decision that I’ll regret."
Xena could see Gabrielle’s spirit shatter behind the sea of green in her eyes. Without another word, Gabrielle darted from the dance floor and back to the table. She didn’t even have the chance to call Gabrielle’s name before she saw her talking with Sappho. Xena walked over, just catching the tail end of the conversation. "I’ll be waiting outside," she heard the bard tell the poet, as she hurried away.
Sappho sat mute for a moment, summing up the warrior. "Xena, I say this in love and in friendship. . .You are an idiot! Look at her! Look at how beautiful she is. Look at the talent that she possesses. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I knew her name before you introduced us. I’ve heard about her storytelling from my friends in the mainland. She really wowed them with her tales and her skill at prose. My Gods woman are you total blind!"
"No I’m not!" Xena spat back. "I’ve known how special she was from the first moment I saw her. I don’t want to lose her because of two bottles of wine. I need her to know that it’s coming from me and not the alcohol. I need to know she feels the same thing. I can’t lose her Sappho. . . I can’t lose her."
Sappho walked around the table and pulled Xena into a tight hug. The warrior was on the verge of tears. "Look," Sappho began trying to calm the shaking ex-warlord, "Gabrielle asked if she could go home with me."
Suddenly, Xena pulled away. Her sorrow filled face now glowing in red, hot anger. "Don’t worry. I had no intention of taking advantage of her. . .well, the thought did cross my mind but it left as soon as it came. . .anyway, I told her yes because I don’t want her wondering around the unfamiliar street alone tonight. . .I want you to come with me. I have a guest house that you and Gabrielle are welcome to use during your stay. . . Please come with us. . .Talk to her. . .She’s just as unsure of your heart as you are of hers. Talk to her."
Xena slowly nodded and they made their way outside to the waiting bard. "I’m not going if she’s going," Gabrielle announced as they both walked over.
"Yes you are," Sappho said matter-of-factly.
"No I’m not," Gabrielle protested.
"See that wagon over there?" Sappho pointed. "That’s mine. You’re going to get inside with Xena and I. We are going to ride to my house. You’re going to take the guesthouse and you’re going to sleep. It’s late. We can all argue in the morning."
Gabrielle tapped her foot in frustration for a few moments before storming off and sitting in the wagon. Xena and Sappho followed suit and they were at Sappho’s house in a matter of minutes. Once at the guest house Gabrielle went in first, letting the door fall in Xena’s face. The warrior pushed it open nearly ripping it from the hinges. Gabrielle didn’t even look back. She bolted to the bedroom and slammed the door. Looking around, Xena tried to find something to cover her body with for the night. Reluctantly she moved toward the bedroom.
"Can I at least have a blanket?" she shouted. After a little commotion on the other side the door flew open and a white cover was hurled at her face knocking her off balance at impact. She didn’t have time to pull it away before she heard the bedroom door slam again. "Thank you o’amazon queen!" she shouted. Reluctantly and with a pounding headache, she curled up in front of the empty fireplace.
A fire was roaring and the smell of bacon filled the room as Gabrielle, peered out with fingers rubbing her temple. Xena couldn’t help but smile at the bard’s hung over fate. She had felt the same a few hours ago but after having time to move around she was feeling quite normal. Carefully, Gabrielle crept until she reached the closest chair in the living room, collapsing into it.
"How are you?" Xena asked in a calm, quiet voice.
"Please don’t shout," Gabrielle insisted.
Xena’s coy grin took shape as she looked at the bard’s aching state. "I didn’t. I’ll just whisper until you tell me not too."
"Thank you," Gabrielle replied, as Xena handed her a cup of tea.
Xena finished cooking the breakfast as Gabrielle watched in silence trying to put the puzzle pieces together from the night before. "Where are we?" she asked looking around the room.
"Sappho’s guesthouse," replied softly as she began to eat her food "Are you hungry?"
"Oh Gods no!" Gabrielle exclaimed. Immediately she clutched her temples as the words rattled around in her throbbing head, not to mention her stomach beginning to do back flips.
Xena finished her breakfast in silence. She knew Gabrielle was watching her the whole time but she wasn’t going to be the one to bring up last night’s events. She knew that’s what the bard was trying to do - put together all the situations that lead her to this place.
"What happened last night?"
Xena paused a moment. "You had too much wine," she replied in her short, straight to the point style.
"I know that," Gabrielle insisted. She took another drink of her tea but her thirst still wasn’t being quenched. The ball of cotton in her mouth refused to leave. "But what did I do?"
"What do you remember?"
Gabrielle focused in silence for a few beats. "I remember Sappho telling us about the local trouble. Then. . .dancing with her." Xena watched as Gabby’s face went blank, almost in horror.
"Remembering now?" Xena teased, moving closer a few inches.
"I kissed her on the neck," Gabrielle replied almost dropping her cup.
The grin left Xena’s face and she quickly turned away. Should she tell her the truth or let her believe it was Sappho? "Do you remember anything else?" Xena asked quietly.
Gabrielle thought a moment longer. "I threw a blanket at you, didn’t I?"
"Yep? That’s all you can say?. . .Please tell me the whole story," Gabrielle pleaded.
Now or never Xena thought. She walked over and knelt between Gabrielle’s thighs, taking her hands in hers. "It wasn’t Sappho you kissed. It was me." Xena rattled the words off so quickly Gabrielle’s mind had to catch up after a bit of silence. She waited for Xena to begin discussing the evening events but she knew she would need prodding.
"It was you?"
Xena nodded. "You wanted to get a room for the evening and when I declined you asked Sappho to take you home with her."
"I didn’t," Gabrielle said, shock still hanging in her voice.
"Yeah. You did."
Xena rose and began to gather the dishes for cleaning when Gabrielle’s voice made her turn around. "I’m sorry," she whispered.
"About what?" Xena asked. "About coming on to Sappho or about kissing me?"
"Both," Gabrielle replied quickly.
They paused looking at each other. Gabrielle began to respond but Xena put the finger up that always silenced her. "Let’s just forget about it okay?"
Reluctantly, Gabrielle nodded in agreement. Xena picked up the dishes and headed outside to the wash basin leaving the bard to her private thoughts. Xena didn’t stop until she was at the basin. Her sobs didn’t start until she knew Gabrielle wouldn’t hear them.
Xena chopped wood in the back yard for their stay as Gabrielle slowly got her nerves together to face the day. The tea calmed her headache and she managed to eat a few grapes for breakfast. By the time she went out to meet Xena, you’d think they would be staying for a year with all the wood piled up outside.
Focusing herself of chopping, slicing the mighty oak in one swoop of the ax, she never noticed Gabrielle until she caught her out of the corner of her eye. "Feeling better?" she asked, trying to disguise her shattered heart. Gabrielle did a beautiful job of putting up her front as well.
"Yes. Thank you. The tea really helped."
Xena went back to chopping without adding more. After a few more logs were split she noticed Sappho coming from the mainhouse. "How’s everyone feeling today?" she asked, the slyness bubbling in her words. "Has the earth stopped spinning?"
They all smiled and Xena hurled the ax into a nearby tree. Sappho looked at all the logs around the yard; then at Xena. "I thought I’d cut some wood for our stay," Xena explained.
"Holy Zeus!" Sappho exclaimed. "Just how long do you think it’s going to take to solve this problem?"
Xena shrugged in embarrassment as Gabrielle giggled.
Sappho moved next to Xena, and away from Gabrielle’s hearing range. "Sexual frustration is wonderful for one’s work ethic," she winked. "Anyway," she announced to both of them, "I thought I might take you to meet the council members today. That is, if you’re both up to the occasion."
"I’m fine," Gabrielle answered.
Sappho nodded to the strawberry blond before turning to the warrior. "Xena?"
She nodded as well. "Let’s go."
The city was buzzing with people as they made their way to the grand hall. Xena steered the wagon as Sappho and Gabrielle sat in the back. Gabrielle felt the overwhelming need to explain her actions for the night before. "Sappho?"
"Yes dear," she replied softly.
"I’m sorry about what happened last night. Xena told me I . . ." Gabrielle couldn’t get the words out and began to blush.
". . .asked me to make mad passionate love to you." Gabrielle hung her head down in embarrassment. "Please don’t apologize," Sappho grinned. "A few years younger and a wedding ring less and I would have taken you up on the offer."
"Thank you," Gabrielle replied sheepishly.
"No problem. . . Although I can’t say that’s entirely true." Gabrielle questioned Sappho with her eyes. "I mean you’re beautiful - don’t get me wrong. You’re really, really beautiful –"
"Sappho!" Gabrielle exclaimed in a quiet tone so Xena wouldn’t hear her.
"Sorry. I can’t help myself. Lovely ladies bring it out in me. . .Anyway, I couldn’t do anything with you. Xena would do that ‘neck pitch’ thing on me in a heartbeat."
"I have to admit," Gabrielle smiled. "She is quite protective of me."
"Protective?" Sappho laughed. "Darling, it’s not protection. It’s love."
Gabrielle felt the air leaving her lungs but she still found the courage to speak. "Love?" she questioned.
"Of course. Why do you think she refused you last night? She didn’t want to hurt you. She didn’t want to do anything that you would regret or worse, not even remember in the morning."
"But this morning she said to forget about it?" Gabrielle asked, hoping Sappho would have an answer.
"Well, in what context did she say it? Did you express regret when she told you?"
Gabrielle thought back to the conversation. "Oh Gods!"
"I’ll take that as a yes. . .What did you do? Say you were sorry?"
Gabrielle slowly nodded.
"There you go," Sappho offered. They felt the wagon come to a stop and peeked outside. "We’re here," Sappho said stepping to the ground.
Xena moved in front of Sappho and opened her arms to help Gabrielle down. Xena could feel Gabrielle’s hesitation. "Come on," Xena ordered. Slowly Gabrielle took Xena’s hands and jumped to the dusty road. "You’re not still feeling sick are you?" Xena asked concerned. Something was up. Xena could tell. She shot a look to Sappho when Gabrielle didn’t answer immediately.
"Don’t look at me!" Sappho replied, showing her hands in a sign of truce. "I didn’t do anything."
"I’m okay." Gabrielle interrupted. "Let’s go meet the council."
With that they all walked inside the marble structure.
Six Lesbians, including Sappho sat on the council - three women and three men.
"I’m sure Sappho has told you about the situation," a graying man informed Xena.
"She has. Do you have any ideas?"
"No. But we are sure it is someone from the mainland. There isn’t a Lesbian who would do such a thing. We live by a very different code. If anyone isn’t in agreement with us they are free to live elsewhere."
"So what you’re saying is ‘Lesbos. Love it or leave it’."
"Yes. I guess that is what I’m saying." He grinned before looking serious again. "I think the outside is putting pressure on us to conform. The best way to do that is to slit a few throats and hope we fall into place at their side. That of course will never happen no matter how many people they kill. We’ve asked you here in the hopes we can prevent more deaths and put an end to this suffering."
Xena paused studying the council. "I’ve agreed to stay and help Sappho so if you need to contact us we’ll be staying at her place. . .Any more questions?" They all shook their heads and Xena rose from the table. "Until later then."
"Meeting is augured." Sappho said knocking the gavel.
As the room began to disperse, Gabrielle pulled Xena to the side. "What do you think of the council?"
"I trust them about as far as I couldn’t throw them."
"Good. I thought I was just being paranoid," Gabrielle smiled.
"We’ve got to get outta here. Go someplace private and talk to Sappho. Nobody up there, except her, is going to give us a straight answer."
"Could you believe all the patriotic crap about different codes and nonsense?"
"No I didn’t," Xena replied giving her a wry grin. "But I’d bet you ten dinars he expected me to. Perhaps all of them expected it." Xena paused for a moment. "We have to find out what connects these leaders with the mainland."
"Should we start by asking Sappho?" Gabrielle questioned.
"Yeah. I trust Sappho. Well, not completely on some manners. But as far as the reason for our trip her I trust her."
Gabrielle grinned. She knew what the ‘some manners’ involved were. Sappho said it herself-beautiful women were her weakness. "Are we ready?" Sappho asked as she strolled up to greet them.
"Let’s get back to your place. We’ve got some questions," Xena said firmly.
Xena took Gabrielle by the arm as soon as the breeze from outside rushed over them. "What’s wrong?" the bard asked.
Before Gabrielle had a chance to ask, they found themselves surrounded by ten secretively clothed swordsmen. The street cleared and people scurried when Xena unsheathed her sword.
As she twirled the weapon skillfully in her hands she spoke in her slow menacing draw. "We really don’t have time to play. Go home." When she pivoted around to see the others she noticed Gabrielle wasn’t carrying her staff. Untypical she reflected briefly. She could tell Gabrielle was upset that she left herself unarmed as she searched around. Xena found something that would work.
She jumped over the ring of men with a summersault landing in front of a merchant tent. In one quick stroke she sliced the thin support beam, causing half the tent to collapse on the owner. "Sorry," she apologized without haste. With another summersault backward, she was standing in front of Gabrielle again, beam in hand. Quickly she tossed it to the bard.
"Don’t ever do this again!" she snapped before she charged the first assailant. Sappho’s eyes widened as she watched Gabrielle and Xena go to work on the thugs.
A slice here and whack there. Soon all was quiet and a path for safe passage back to the wagon had been cleared. As they started on their way, council security showed up, surveying the damage. "You’re a little late boys," Xena smirked over her shoulder. Gabrielle began to following Xena but not before having to pull Sappho by the arm to get her in motion.
"It was an accident," Gabrielle contested.
"There are no such things as accidents. Only consequences." Xena’s cheeks were flamed as Sappho drove the wagon. "How could you forget it?"
"Apparently I’m not the only one who forgot. You didn’t mention that I left it behind!" Gabrielle confronted.
"It’s not my staff. It’s not my job to see that you’re armed. That’s your job. I guess I’ll just have to act like your mother and remind you from now on."
"You’re not my mother," Gabrielle spat. "My mother would never treat me like such a child."
"Well maybe if you didn’t act like a child, I wouldn’t treat you as such," Xena hissed.
"Xena! That’s enough!" Sappho warned. "I think she gets the point. You know, as well as I do, she is not a child. Now the two of you can shut up and sit down!"
Gabrielle’s eyes would have burned wholes into Xena if it were possible. Xena gave her ‘the look’. But Gabrielle refused to be intimidated. The bard challenged the warrior’s glaring gaze for glaring gaze. When the wagon slowed down, Gabrielle jumped from the side, staff in hand.
"See," she spouted. "I didn’t forget mother!" She ran the rest of the way to Sapphos’ house without looking back. As Sappho came to a halt she turned back to Xena.
"I know the only reason that you got upset is because you love her. You want her to keep herself safe. But she’s right Xena, accidents do happen."
"Drop the intellectual conversation until dinnertime Sappho," Xena warned. "I’m not up to the battle right now."
Xena walked to the back to the guesthouse. She knew she’d find Gabrielle there. When she walked inside, Gabrielle was packing her gear. "What do you think your doing?" Xena asked authoritatively.
"What’s it look like?! I’m leaving."
Xena shook her head and grabbed the bard’s hand as she tried to pack her scrolls. "Let me go," Gabrielle ordered dropping the scrolls on the floor. Xena was caught off guard by the demand in her voice. She’d never heard it before - no - She had never heard it directed toward her before. The longer she held Gabrielle’s wrist the more the blonde tried to resist. "Let me go!" she shouted again, as Xena spun her toward her capturing the bard’s other wrist.
They stood face to face, just inches from each other. Xena could feel Gabrielle’s labored breath under her chin; the pinched flesh of her wrists under her strong fingertips.
Gabrielle was on the verge of tears but she knew she couldn’t let them show. Just one more reason I’m a child she thought. Her eyes left Xena’s for a moment and she felt Xena let her go. She looked up but Xena was already going to the door.
"Xena?" she called out making her stop in the doorway.
Xena didn’t turn around. She spoke toward the living room. "Maybe you should go."
The bard looked at the packed bags and then at the warriors back. "Is that what you want?"
Don’t say it. Let her go. Don’t tell her what you really want. Xena repeated over and over in her mind. "I think it’s obvious we can’t continue this way." Good answer Xena commended herself. Nice and neutral.
She heard Gabrielle’s footsteps and turned to meet her. The next sensation she felt was the sting on her cheek from the bards’ palm. Xena did her best to stay calm. "Don’t do that again," she warned. Gabrielle swung once more in defiance and Xena caught it with ease. She tried again with her free hand yet was met with Xena’s grip before making contact. Both hands were trapped. Again.
This time, however, the warrior didn’t look nearly as diplomatic as the first time. But the bard stood her ground, not backing down in the slightest. Suddenly she felt her legs go out from under her as she began to move further into the room. Xena cradled her in her arms. She laid the blonde beauty gently on the bed, rising to take off her armor. She rested it easily on the ground so the only sound continued to be their uneven breathing.
"What are you doing Xena?"
"Something I should have done years ago," she whispered as she pulled the leathers from her body. "Something I think you’ve been wanting too," she added as she pulled off her boots.
"I’m leaving remember," Gabrielle remarked boldly. The quiver in her voice, however, gave her away as the warrior tugged away the bard’s boots.
Without another word Xena laid her naked body on top of the bards. She stared into the green of Gabrielle’s eyes, reading two things - fear and desire. "It’s alright Gabrielle. I’d never make you do anything you didn’t want to."
Gabrielle closed her eyes when she felt Xena’s fingertips begin to journey through her strawberry blonde hair. After a few silent moments Gabrielle felt Xena rise above her, straddling her waist. When she opened her eyes, Xena cocked her head and gave her a coy grin.
"May I?" she asked motioning to Gabrielle’s green tunic with an arched eyebrow.
"By all means," Gabrielle whispered.
She watched eagerly as Xena took her time, slowly moving lace by lace until she could pull the garment from her shoulders. Xena studied Gabrielle’s’ naked breasts intensely. She could finally look at them for more than a fleeting glance, admiring them with lover’s eyes. The look reminded Gabrielle of when Xena observed battle plans - the intensity, the calculations of making sure every detail was memorized to insure victory.
But this battle was already over. Xena had won. Gabrielle would be her "prisoner" forever. There was never going to be any escape from Xena’s charms. The charms no one ever saw except for Gabrielle - her warmth, underneath her fiery temper; her sincerity and concern, underneath her stern orders; her hope for the future, underneath her tortured past. Gabrielle knew Xena, all of Xena, and loved her just the same. Being Xena’s prisoner was truly a gift from the gods.
"You’re so beautiful Gabrielle. But this is what I love most," Xena whispered putting her hand over the bard’s heart. "This is what saved my life. This is what drives me to be better person. . .I had my body and my mind when I met you. . .but you gave me back my heart and my soul."
Gabrielle almost began to cry herself as she watched the tears well up in Xena’s eyes. "Don’t cry warrior," Gabrielle choked. "Make love to me."
Xena pulled Gabrielle into a passionate kiss, welding all her desire and need into her lips, forcing it upon the willing bard. Their hands caressed and explored each other, like long-time lovers. The touches were delicate at first until their mingling heat for each other was overwhelming. Xena couldn’t contain herself any longer.
In haste she pulled off Gabrielle’s skirt and began a trail of butterfly kisses up Gabrielle’s thighs. Gabrielle’s whole body was aflame. Each touch, each stroke of Xena’s tongue and fingertips quickened the bard’s pulse. Xena grinned slyly as she parted Gabrielle’s thighs, noticing the glistening wetness waiting for her hungry mouth. Gabrielle knew Xena was up to something. What it was exactly she didn’t know.
"What are you gonna do?" she asked in a ragged breath. A breath that was continuously being stolen by Xena, who was now caressing her round, full breasts.
"Patience Gabrielle. You’ll see."
With that the warrior ran her tongue, slow and steadily, between Gabrielle’s thighs, making sure to give the protruding nub a little quick lashing. She watched her bard grab two fists full of the sheets as she repeated the procedure again. "Oh Xena!" she cried in pleasure.
Xena laughed silently at her loves’ reaction, going back to nibble on the inside of Gabrielle’s thighs. The bard reached down and tried to direct the warrior back to the place she just left moments before. This time Xena’s laugh vocalized. The desire in Gabrielle was so enormous, she ignored the humor Xena found.
"Please Xena!" she begged. "I need your lips there. Give me your tongue again."
The cocky, coy attitude dripped from Xena’s mischievous grin as she came back up to gaze at Gabrielle. The bard brushed Xena’s hair away from her face to see her beautiful crystal blue eyes.
"You want it bad?" Xena teased.
"How bad?" she continued with her arched eyebrow.
Gabrielle moaned as she felt Xena’s upper thigh make contact with her molten center. The bard’s hips began to move at their own accord. Xena looked down, watching Gabrielle trying to bring herself off on her leg, and felt a river of nectar begin to work it’s way down her own leg.
"Oh Gods Gabrielle. You’re making me so wet," Xena exclaimed softly in her ear, biting gently on the lobe. "Look at the way you’re moving against me."
Gabrielle opened her eyes, catching the sight of hips bucking to meet Xena’s flesh. She groaned deep and pulled Xena’s thigh tighter against her, causing even more friction.
The warrior could feel the bard’s wetness soaking her on the front of her flesh and the bard’s fingernails digging into the back. Any other time the pressure of those fingertips would be torture but Xena adored it now.
"That’s it Gabrielle," Xena encouraged. "Make me wetter. Make me wetter."
All Gabrielle could do was moan. Her sense of touch and hearing took over her vocal cords, rendering her speechless.
"I’m all yours Gabrielle," Xena whispered seductively. "Push harder. I can take it. Let me bring you all the pleasure you’ve been hiding from."
Xena felt Gabrielle’s teeth sinking into her neck, before sucking as much of it in as she could, leaving a red/purplish impression of their passion. Gabrielle’s hands wrapped around the warrior’s head pulling her down toward her lips.
"Say my name," the bard insisted. "I love it when you say my name."
"Oh Gabrielle," Xena mumbled against her neck.
"Ahh. . .Again."
"Gabrielle." Xena was the one struggling with words now.
"Again." The bard insisted once more, running her fingernails up Xena’s back.
"Gab. . . ri. . .elle."
Gabrielle used all her will power to stop her hips from moving. She took Xena’s face in one hand as she spread her legs farther apart. She ran a finger up through her saturated center bringing it to her own lips. Xena watched helplessly as she sucked her own juices off her finger.
"Ummm. . . Tastes good," she teased. She ran her finger across her body once more. Then she offered it to Xena, which she hungrily took. "There’s more where that came from," Gabrielle replied coolly. "But you’ve got to go get it. . .Tell me Xena . . .How bad do you want it?"
"You’re a fast learner," Xena replied with a smile she couldn’t suppress.
"I prefer the term quick study."
Xena didn’t waste anymore time. GABRIELLE had won this battle. She moved with such speed, capturing Gabrielle’s flesh that she didn’t have time to breathe. She went straight for her target, avoiding any teasing or buildup. She had to have Gabrielle, to taste her, to smell her, to feel her softness on her tongue and to hear her voice in exstacey.
Xena’s lips covered Gabrielle’s flesh. But soon, it was Xena who was covered - her lips, her chin, her cheeks - in Gabrielle’s sweet, sticky nectar. The sound of her name on Gabrielle’s lips fueled Xena’s desire, quickening her pace. Her fingers plunged into Gabrielle’s slippery folds. First one. Then two. Then three. Gabrielle’s hips rose off the feather mattress, rotating to match Xena’s strong, callused hand. As Gabrielle’s breath began to come in short, even strokes, Xena knew her task of bringing the world’s greatest pleasure to her bard was nearly finished.
"Great God O’Zeus!" Gabrielle yelled as her back arched and her legs began to shake.
"That’s it my dear," Xena whispered, her affection spilling into the words. "Let go. Let my love carry you."
Xena smiled as she looked down on Gabrielle as the bard climaxed - her eyes closed, her mouth slightly opened fighting for air, the growing smile coming to her flushed face. Gabrielle felt Xena over her, as Xena’s long black hair slid over her sweat covered breasts. She opened her eyes to see Xena’s loving gaze caressing her; protecting her. "Are you alright?" the warrior teased.
"Yeah. . . .Yeah. I’m great," Gabrielle smiled. The tone and the words took Xena back to the ‘nutbread incident’ as she liked to call it - the first time Gabrielle told her she was beautiful.
"Any regrets?" Xena asked sincerely.
"Yes," Gabrielle answered the smile darting from her face. Xena pulled herself up to a sitting position yet remained close to Gabrielle. "We waited far too long for this day. . But now that it’s here I couldn’t be happier."
Xena sighed in relieve. "Please don’t do that. You really scared me."
"I’m sorry," Gabrielle said sincerely. She rose to meet the warrior, stroking Xena’s face with the back of her fingertips. "I have every intention of making it up to you."
Gabrielle began to nibble on Xena’s neck as she moved to her knees. Xena took the time to caress Gabrielle’s hair, feeling the softness and fullness. She closed her eyes and imagined the feel of it running down the length of her body and spreading over her thighs. The combination of Gabrielle’s kisses and her fantasy caused her to moan out loud.
Gentle, delicate hands pushed the warrior back on the bed, as Gabrielle latched onto her nipple, swirling her tongue around it. Xena arched and grabbed Gabrielle by the hair, burying her fingers deep within. "Have I told you lately how beautiful you are?" Gabrielle asked, her voice slightly jumbled against Xena skin.
Gabrielle’s hands on Xena were like a child’s’ with a new toy - full of wonderment and exploration. Her body felt so different from Perticus’. Their shoulders were both broad with incredible muscle tone but Xena’s skin was so much softer, the hair less course. Her scent wasn’t strong and musky. It was subtle and sweet. Her moans weren’t deep and forceful. They were light and breathless. Gabrielle’s senses overloaded and she found herself getting pleasure from giving pleasure. It was a new experience. No. This was not Perticus. Not at all.
This was Xena.
She smiled, watching Xena’s body sway, reaching for her caresses, her eyes casually closed. Xena’s face was the picture of passion and love.
Gabrielle felt proud; wanted. She always felt pretty but Xena’s expression brought about a new description - sexy. She was sexy and Xena needed her. It gave Gabrielle the confidence she needed as she worked her way southward. Xena felt her movements and began to sit up.
"Gabrielle you don’t have to –"
"Yes. I do," Gabrielle said cutting her off, her lust evident in her words. "I need to taste you. I need to bring you the same pleasure you brought me . . .unless you don’t want me to," Gabrielle teased.
She knew better. She knew Xena wanted her. She could feel that want in the warrior’s fingertips; see it in her hypnotic blue eyes.
"I want you more than anything in life," Xena whispered affectionately.
"Then lie back and let me take you," Gabrielle replied, stroking Xena’s face. Slowly Xena closed her eyes and rested her back on the bed again. As Gabrielle crept lower, Xena reflexively opened her legs wider, giving the bard greater access. "That’s it," she said bravely. "Let me inside."
Gabrielle nibbled on the warrior’s thighs, causing the warrior to laugh. Gabrielle had to laugh too. Xena’s laugh was infectious. "I’m sorry," she apologized between giggles. "I forgot how ticklish your legs are."
"It’s okay," Xena insisted. "You’re doing wonderful."
"Am I now?" Gabrielle prodded.
"Oh yes!" Xena complimented.
"I can do even better." Without waiting for a response, Gabrielle’s tongue seized Xena femininity in one swift stroke, causing the warriors hips to rise. Gabrielle’s lips followed and she took the opportunity to place her hands under Xena. As she quickened her pace, allowing Xena to grind against her face, she found her hands gave her greater control over the warrior.
Xena loved the sensation of the young woman’s fingernails lightly scraping her backside, feeling her tongue drive deeper and deeper inside of her.
"Oh Gabrielle," the warrior cried. "That feels. . . so. . .good. . .so . . .wonderful . . .so . . ohhh . . .ohhh . . ."
Gabrielle brought her hands around to capture Xena’s hips. The sight of Gabrielle’s head whisking vigorously back and forth and her beautiful strawberry blonde hair tasseled and stuck to her face from perspiration and Xena’s nectar, sent Xena over the edge. She gripped Gabrielle’s shoulders as gently as her desire would allow.
"Oh Gods," she shouted as her back arched. The love in her heart was so overwhelming. A feeling of freedom washed over and she taunted her nemesis. "Look at me Ares! Look at me now! I’m hers! I’m hers!. . .I’ll always be hers!"
After Xena’s body subsided Gabrielle worked her way up to Xena with soft kisses and a smile. Xena captured her and the bard snuggled up in the warriors’ strong arms. "Always huh?" Gabrielle teased.
"Always. . .always," Xena whispered, placing a gentle, feather-like kiss on top of the bards head. The lay still; relaxed listening to each other breath. Soon the rhythm put them to sleep as they curled up naked in each others’ arms.
Gabrielle was unsure of how long they slept but the indications that it was still bright outside lead her to the conclusion it couldn’t be too long. She looked over at Xena who was still out. Xena was beginning to do the little nasal sound she did whenever it had been a long day. Gabrielle knew they had work to do but she took the time to watch Xena a bit longer.
Xena never looked so ‘at peace’. She would have sworn that the curls at the ends of Xena’s lips were a smile. Innocence was not a word the bard used in any of her scrolls about the warrior. But she looked like a peaceful child as she lay there in the afternoon sunlight.
She lightly stroked the warriors’ face, trying to bring her to consciousness. Slowly Xena’s eyes flickered and widened trying to focus. She was delighted when the first sight she saw was Gabrielle’s face beaming down at her. "Good afternoon," Gabrielle welcomed.
"Wonderful afternoon," Xena said pulling the bards lips down to hers. The kiss was long and passionate. Their tongue reaching and prodding each others’. Gabrielle broke away first.
"We have to meet Sappho," Gabrielle whispered. "I’m sure she’s wondering what happened to us."
"Sappho’s a bright woman," Xena chuckled. "I’m sure she’s figured it out."
Xena went back for another kiss but Gabrielle darted back and stood up, trying to find her clothing. Xena groaned and put her head back in the pillow.
"Come on blue eyes. Outta bed. We gotta get moving," Gabrielle smiled as she nudged Xena, trying to get her into motion.
"You’ve been looking forward to this moment haven’t you. . .The one where you have to bug ME to get going."
"Years!" the bard replied, now fully clothed. She moved back onto the bed leaning over the naked warrior, "Get up sleepyhead."
Xena darted her hands around Gabrielle’s waist and she had her on her back in a matter of seconds. "Not so fast," she said trying to undo Gabrielle’s laces again.
Gabrielle kissed Xena passionately, distracting her. Soon it was the warrior who was on her back as Gabrielle jumped up, swiftly moving to get her boots. "Come on Xena. We’ve got a few murders to solve."
Xena watched helplessly as Gabrielle blew her a kiss and headed out the door.
Never to be one who let the simplest of details go unnoticed, Sappho questioned Xena about the love bite on her neck as soon as she seen it. "Gabrielle over here tells me you two made up. . . From the look of your neck I’d say that’s only the beginning of the story."
Xena grinned as Gabrielle blushed and took a sip of her tea. Xena was sure Sappho was only testing her. She was also sure Sappho already knew of the days events. The bard loved to tell Xena stories. She was sure this was one she felt compelled to share with Sappho - if not the whole story, at least the just of it.
With that realization, concern flood Xena - not concerning Sappho knowledge but the fact that the bard was a story teller and a sucker for romance. Letting the world know she loved Xena and that Xena felt the same could prove very dangerous indeed. Xena tried to push the thought from her head, for the moment. She made a mental note to speak with Gabrielle latter. Sappho picked up on the change in Xena’s demeanor and assumed it was her questioning. "Did I strike a sore topic?" she asked wearily.
"No," Xena grinned. "Just caught off guard. That’s all."
"I, Sappho, the only human to catch the mighty warrior princess off guard. . .I’ll have to write about this one," she grinned.
"Actually you’re the second," Xena replied with a smile to Gabrielle. "She hit me with a stick one starry night."
Gabrielle looked confused for a second but she smiled when recollection took over. "She let me hit her," Gabrielle replied.
"No I didn’t," Xena countered, giving her a quick kiss on the bridge of her nose. "I told you ‘you got me fair and square’." As she finished, Xena brushed Gabrielle’s nose tenderly in the location of the shafts’ assault before getting a cup of tea for herself.
"All’s fair in love and war I guess," Sappho shrugged.
"Speaking of war," Xena replied. "We just might have one on our hands here if we don't get moving on things. . .Gabrielle and I found the meeting today very interesting."
"Really?" Sappho asked. "Why?"
"We don’t trust anyone on the counsel," Gabrielle replied. "Except you."
"Well that’s good to know," Sappho commented. "Who IS under suspicion?"
"I have two in particular. Mr. ‘Lesbos. . .love it or leave it’ and –"
"Wait a second! Waticles! You think Waticles is behind the attacks!"
"Could I please finish?" Xena remarked authoritatively. When no one spoke she continued. "Yes Waticles. I’m also not too sure of Barbideen."
"Why on Zeus green earth do you suspect them?!"
"I understand these people are your friends," Xena began.
"No. It’s not that," Sappho interrupted. "What makes them any different than the rest?"
"Well, as Gabrielle said they are all under suspicion but these two didn’t ring true for me."
Sappho waited for more. But when ‘more’ didn’t come she looked to Gabrielle. "She doesn’t say a whole lot, does she?"
Gabrielle considered the question and thought back to earlier in the afternoon "Well. . .except when –"
"Like I was saying," Xena cut in, glaring at Gabrielle. "These two are my first priority."
Sappho couldn’t suppress her grin at the exchange. Xena and Gabrielle knew each other. Knew each other well. Real well. "Okay. What do you need from me?"
"Everything," Xena said sincerely.
"Everything?" Sappho said mischievously. Her eyes shot back and forth between Xena and Gabrielle. "Sounds like fun."
Xena rolled her eyes in frustration. Gabrielle who was becoming accustomed to Sappho style released a small giggle that Xena’s piercing eyes extinguished. Gabrielle soon began to chuckle again however; before taking shape in a laugh.
"It wasn’t that funny," Xena replied beginning to grin, just a tad.
"No. She reminds me of someone we know. Quite well I should add."
"Who?" Xena questioned the bard.
"Autolycus," she giggled. "She’s a female Autolycus. Witty. Creative. A real ladies . . .lady. If she’s not ogling beautiful women, she thinking up come on lines."
Xena could see a resemblance and began to laugh herself.
"The king of thieves?" Sappho replied. "I’m not the king of thieves my dear. I’m the thief of hearts. And I could steal anyone’s heart if I wanted too - even yours."
"Not if you want to stay healthy," Xena replied menacingly, leaning over the table.
"Too true," Sappho replied. Xena still didn’t move away or unlock her eyes. "I said if I wanted to Xena."
"And you don’t. . . right?" she questioned with a raise of her eyebrow.
"Of course not!"
"So you don’t think Gabrielle’s beautiful enough for you, is that it?" Xena prodded, searching for a fight. It was a game now. Xena knew it. Gabrielle knew it. Sappho was a different story.
"Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t. . .You know what I mean!" Sappho spat.
Xena’s menacing eyebrow did a little dance and she smiled in friendship. "I know what’ch mean." She sat back down next to Gabrielle taking her hand. Sappho released a sigh everyone could hear and the warrior and her bard began to giggle again.
"Anyway. . .back to the troubles at hand. What do you need me to do? Where do I begin?"
"First is Waticles," Xena answered.
"What about him?"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other. "We didn’t believe his little speech. We’d like to know if a break from the mainland could hurt him in someway," Gabrielle asked.
"He’s lived here his whole life as far as I know. I don’t think he had any ties."
"She’s new to the counsel. Her lifemate served on it for a few years but she died . . . about two years ago I think. She has a sister in Athens, I believe. Other than that I can’t think of anything else."
"We need to talk to these members one-on-one."
"Well you could count out Barbideen, Lilith, and Helen. They all have, or had, lifemates. Why would they be behind it?"
"No one is above suspicion,’ Gabrielle offered.
"How do we know it isn’t a local bent on changing Lesbos?"
"We don’t," Xena offered. "However I doubt anyone in any of these villages could afford to hire ten assassins to attack us this afternoon. . .No. It has to be a Lesbian with power, money and connections. Someone who could sway lesbians to be believe the greater good is to kill other lesbians."
"The killers could be from Athens."
"Not likely," Gabrielle commented. "Lesbos is not a big place. That many strangers arriving at once would have been noticed by local authorities. Besides Athens wouldn’t be stupid enough to send in assassins. If the local government is against a change, the defiance would be even greater if Athens is accused of murder."
"We’re going to meet with Waticles," Xena said rising; Gabrielle right behind her.
"Okay," Sappho said, rising as well.
"No." Xena stopped her with her palm. "Stay here. We’ll take care of this. Where can we find him?"
"In town. The second house on the left next to the Starlight Inn."
"Come on Gabrielle," Xena motioned.
Sappho watched them travel to the wagon, and start their journey to town.
"Gabrielle," Xena began as they bounced along on the wagon. "We need to talk."
"You’re kidding," Gabrielle teased as she stroked Xena’s arm lovingly. "The woman of few words."
"I’m serious Gabrielle," Xena said sternly yet allowing her affection to seep inside her words.
"What is it?" Gabrielle was now concerned.
"I don’t mind that you told Sappho about the two of us. Or anyone we’re close to, like Ephany or Hercules, for that matter. . . It’s just. . .We should. . ." Xena found herself stumbling.
"It’s okay Xena," Gabrielle reassured her. "Take your time."
"I’m worried that if people found out about us. . .the real ‘us’. . .You’d become an even bigger target for those out to hurt me."
Gabrielle smiled with realization. "You’re worried I’m going to end up in some tavern telling Xena stories that involve how skillful your hands are and how lightening fast your reflexes are."
"No. You tell stories like that all the time," the warrior smirked.
Gabrielle liked this little game and she began to grin. She leaned next to Xena just shy of her ear and began to whisper.
"Okay. So you don’t want me to tell stories how about those skillful hands set my body ablaze and how fast my reflexes take over when your skin touches mine."
Xena’s growing wetness mounted as Gabrielle slid her tongue back and forth, playing with the warriors’ earlobe. "Yeah," Xena answered in a cracking voice. "Of course in private, you can tell me as often as you like."
"I’d rather show you," Gabrielle whispered as her fingers crept up Xena’s inner thigh.
"Keep this up Gabrielle and we’re not going to make it to Waticles house anytime soon," Xena warned, as she pulled the wagon off to the side of the road.
"Is that a threat?" Gabrielle teased.
"It’s a promise," Xena whispered, resting her forehead on Gabrielle’s.
"Gotta catch me first," Gabrielle proclaimed, leaping off the wagon and running into the woods.
Xena’s arousal made her response time lag as she watched Gabrielle’s feet take off. Without wasting another moment, she too leaped off the wagon, running head long into the ferny growth and tall trees.
Her eyes searched but couldn’t find Gabrielle and her acute hearing wasn’t detecting anything except for insects and small birds. "Gabrielle," Xena drawled out her name. "I know you’re here someplace."
"Aren’t you up for the hunt warrior?" Gabrielle teased.
The sound was definitely behind her and she turned to meet it. She was still unable to see Gabrielle.
Xena liked this game. She liked it a lot. She knew Gabrielle had developed a keen sense of stealth, so much that even Xena couldn’t detector her location now. The forest surrounding them created an echo affect. She could hear the bards’ general location but she couldn’t pin point it. Her adrenaline pumped through her veins for two reasons - her overwhelming desire to find Gabrielle and the prospect of being caught by surprise.
"You’re getting warmer," Gabrielle taunted as Xena moved toward the noise.
Xena narrowed her search down to two huge oak trees - one to the left; one to the right. She stopped and she listened. Gabrielle tried to repress a giggle, sensing Xena’s closeness. Accidentally her foot shifted and she heard a tiny twig snap. Looking down with wide eyes she knew she’d be found. The next sound she heard was Xena’s voice.
"Ah ha," Xena proclaimed as she darted to the right. Gabrielle tried to run but Xena had her by the waist in a matter of seconds.
"All right warrior. You’ve got me," Gabrielle answered huskily, the passion escaping in her words. "Now what are you going to do with me."
Xena’s adrenaline was still running through her veins. The desire in Gabrielle’s voice overpowering her. "Anything I want," the warrior whispered, pushing Gabrielle against a tree in a frisk position.
Gabrielle moaned. The thought of being taken by Xena, being controlled by her, ignited an even greater fire inside of her. She didn’t want slow and gentle. She wanted fast and furious. She wanted to feel Xena consuming her. She wanted to see that passion and power Xena displayed in so many battles raining down upon her.
Xena heard the moan and she knew what it meant. Without a question, her hand traveled up the bard skirt, finding Gabrielle’s center . . .and just the way she assumed it would be - warm and slippery. Her other hand reached around and grabbed Gabrielle’s breast, kneading it and pinching it forcefully.
Xena’s desire was at a fever pitch but so was her love for Gabrielle. She whispered in the bard’s ear trying to keep the mood alive yet expressing her deep affection, "If it starts to be too much," Xena instructed, "say ‘that’s enough’ and I’ll stop." Gabrielle could only nod as Xena continued the sweet assault on the bards’ body.
Gabrielle gasped as Xena’s hand which possessing her breast leapt up to her chin, pushing her head up high. Gabrielle turned her head slightly and let Xena’s index finger come to her lips. She sucked and bite it as Xenas’ other hand worked in a circular motion on her sweltering sex below. Gabrielle’s moans invaded Xena’s eardrums making her moan as well.
"You love to be taken don’t you?" Xena taunted in the bard’s ear. "You love the feel of my hands on your beautiful young body don’t you?"
"Yes," Gabrielle whispered.
"I didn’t say you could speak!" Xena ordered as she moved her hand to pull Gabrielle’s hair until her head met the warrior’s shoulder. Xena’s lips and teeth captured Gabrielle’s neck, biting it fiercely. "Paybacks are a bitch aren’t they?" she asked.
The bard knew what she was talking about and her mind flashed back to the Bacca cavern. It was the only incident she remembered - the sensation of her teeth piercing Xena’s flesh, the soft moans Xena emitted when her tongue began to lap at the blood. For Gabrielle it was a moment of Tartus and the Elysian Fields all rolled into one. Much like the moment she had now. Except now she was the one being consumed.
‘Yes’ Gabrielle’s mind screamed. ‘Take me. Take me. I’m yours’. She wanted to speak so badly. When Xena’s pace on her sex increased even more she couldn’t hold out in spite of the consequences.
"Oh yes," Gabrielle shouted. "Please Xena. . ."
Xena’s mouth released its hold on the bard’s neck. "I can’t keep you quiet for a minute," Xena minced in anger. Gabrielle knew it wasn’t real anger but she enjoyed the jolt it gave her. "I got a cure for that."
She spun Gabrielle’s aroused body around with ease just before plunging her tongue into the bards mouth. Their lips would be bruised by the impact but Xena didn’t care. She wanted Gabrielle. Wanted to possess her. Make her feel the intensity of her desire. As they kissed, Xena unbuttoned her leather body suit between her legs. Once free she pushed Gabrielle down to her knees. She crooked one leg on the tree giving the strawberry blond a full view of her femininity.
"Do it," Xena ordered.
It took all of her strength to suppress what Xena was asking her to do. "No," she said defiantly. "Make me."
Xena’s eyes narrowed and she grabbed Gabrielle by the back of the head, driving the bard’s face between her legs. Gabrielle’s little battle of wills was reduced to zilch once she caught Xena’s smell and taste. Her tongue went wild and they both moaned at the time of impact.
"That’s it," Xena moaned. "Behave and give me what I need." Xena tugged her head up a little more, making Gabrielle press harder and quicker. The bard’s moans now overshadowed Xena’s as Xena’s nectar dribbled down her chin. "Gods what you do to me. . ." Xena gasped.
Gabrielle knew she had Xena where she wanted her. In a flash she darted back to her feet and pushed the warrior against the tree. Before she could even retaliate, Xena felt Gabrielle’s’ fingers plunge into her - hard and fast. Xena was helpless to resist. Gabrielle pumped Xena repeatedly and without mercy.
Xena felt the quivering inside her begin. "Oh Gods, Gabrielle. . ." she moaned. "If you don’t stop now I’m going to come."
Gabrielle smiled at Xena. She certainly had the warrior princess - eyes closed, head thrashing from side to side. "You’re going to come alright," Gabrielle whispered. "All over my hand."
Xena arched. Gabrielle’s words sent her over the edge and she felt herself losing her balance. Gabrielle couldn’t catch her and she tumbled to the ground, a shaking and quivering pool of desire. Gabrielle giggled as she crept down, watching the grin on Xena’s face grow into a smile.
"I won," Gabrielle teased in a whisper.
Like Zeus’ thunderbolt, Gabrielle was on her back with the warrior over her. "It’s not over yet," Xena sneered. Without any delay the warrior’s fingers pushed aside the bards underclothing. Seconds later she was inside Gabrielle building a steady pace.
"Open your eyes Gabrielle," Xena whispered; the words drug out leisurely. Gabrielle did as she was told and was met by the bluest blue she’d ever hope to see. "I want you to see who’s loving you like this. . .I want to see the desire in your eyes when you go over the edge. . .I want you to see who’ll always be there to catch your fall."
Xena’s fingers continued their probe building quicker and quicker each passing moment. Gabrielle moaned and watched as Xena herself was struggling to make eye contact. "I love you," she whispered.
"I love you too Gabrielle," Xena smiled. "Now come for me."
With a few more strokes of Xena’s loving hand Gabrielle felt the crest approaching. Instinctively she closed her eyes but Xena caressed her cheek, making her eyes snap back open. In an instant Xena could see all the love and desire the bard had as she arrived at the pinnacle reflected in those beautiful emerald eyes. And when she heard her name on Gabrielle’s lips with such passion, such devotion, she knew she had finally found her destiny.
Xena planted tender, delicate kisses across Gabrielle’s face - her eyelids, her forehead, her chin - so no place was left untouched. Gabrielle stroked Xena’s hair, loving the feel of the silky, black strands. "You’re so beautiful," Xena whispered. "Inside and out. What did I ever do to deserve you?"
"I can say the same about you Xena," the bard replied. "I know you’re haunted by the past . . .but know this . . . my life was meaningless until you arrived. And if you ever left, it would be meaningless again."
Xena grinned. "Thank you," she whispered. "But I know you would survive without me."
Gabrielle returned the smiling gesture. "Yes I would survive Xena. But my life wouldn’t have ‘meaning’. I’m a writer and you’re my muse. Without that, what good would I be to this earth?"
Xena’s eyes filled with pain. She needed to know Gabrielle would go on without her should the day ever arrive. "But you’re more than a writer Gabrielle. You’re so many things to so many people. Promise me you’ll always remember that."
Hurt was the last thing Gabrielle wanted to invoke in Xena. "I promise," Gabrielle grinned. "As long as you continue to keep your ‘monster promise’."
Xena placed one hand over her heart and the other in the air. "I promise. Should anything ever happen to you I will not become a monster." Xena held out her pinky. "Promise?"
Gabrielle wrapped hers around as they shook in camaraderie. "Promise."
Xena rose first and helped Gabrielle to her feet. "Come on. We’ve got to find out what’s going on. . .If we can avoid any more excursions that is."
Gabrielle grinned. "You’re asking a lot you know?"
Xena kissed Gabrielle on the neck, tenderly yet erotically. "Believe me I know," she whispered.
"Waticles? Mind if we come in?" Xena asked as she entered his barn. He was working on a horse shoe when the two women walked inside.
"Certainly not. What did you need?" he asked casually.
"Horse throw a shoe?" Gabrielle asked keeping the conversation friendly.
"Yeah. Third one in as many weeks."
"Which one?" Xena asked.
"Right front." He pointed.
Xena walked over. "Do you mind?" she motioned to the animal as if she would inspect him.
"Go right ahead."
Xena coaxed the animal by talking softly, affectionately. Her love of animals amazed Gabrielle, especially horses. Slowly the horse lifted its leg and Xena took a good look. "Ah ha," she heard Xena say. "Here it is."
Waticles and Xena spoke but Gabrielle didn’t listen to the words. She just watched Xena’s movements - how she stroked the animal to keep him calm, pointing out the problem to his owner. Her movements were always so graceful, even in something as simple as petting a creature.
"Stay off him for the next few weeks," Xena recommended.
"Thanks," Waticles replied graciously.
"No problem," Xena grinned.
After a few beats Waticles spoke. "So what brings you back out here. Looking for more trouble? I heard about what happened after the meeting."
"Gabrielle and I were just passing through town to get a look around," Xena replied. "We thought we’d just stop by. . .So what do you do for a living? Farm?"
"Hades no," he laughed. "I’ve got crops for the family but that’s about it. The isle pays well enough to support us."
"You mean the council seat?’ Gabrielle asked for clarification.
"Yeah. But it’s pretty time consuming. We act as a court as well - you know settling petty neighbor disputes, handing out punishment to pushy drunks, things of that nature."
"Sounds like you’re not real enthused about being a counsel member." Xena commented.
"Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy it. I just can’t envision myself here 10 years from now."
"Where do you see yourself? Gabrielle prodded, trying to sound naïve.
"Athens," Waticles smiled. "At least that’s the goal . . . Yah, I’ll spend a few more years here then move up to the big leagues."
"Of course, if Athens views you as a rebel, wouldn’t that put a kink in you plan?" Xena pushed. Gabrielle gave her the "not yet - back off" look. Xena didn’t miss it and stifled herself from continuing.
"What do you mean?" Waticles asked innocently.
"What she means . . ." Gabrielle began, looking at Xena with the "don’t even start to open your mouth" gaze, "if Athens wants Lesbos to ‘reform themselves’ and you fight that reform wouldn’t that make you an outsider."
Waticles smiled and shook his head. "To some perhaps but I know enough people to get a position. Besides I think Athens would value a man who stands up for what his people believe."
‘Here comes the patriotic crap again’ Xena thought. ‘Is this man totally disillusioned?’ Gabrielle’s grin told Xena she shared her thoughts. The look in Xena’s grin told Gabrielle her ‘looks’ would no longer work. It was now open season on the councilman.
"If Athens decides to cut Lesbos off from the main land you could stand to lose a lot. I think you’ll realize ‘your people’ in the big leagues would drop you like a sack of manure if they thought their own repretations were damaged as a result of their friendship to you."
"What are you saying warrior?" Waticles said beginning to get defensive.
"I’m saying your plans would go up like a piece of parchment on a campfire if Lesbos doesn’t fall in line with Athens law soon . . .Are you still going to stand there and tell me different?"
Waticles moved closer to Xena. "I don’t like what you’re insinuating."
"So what?" Xena smiled with a shrug. "You never answered my question."
"And the question was?" he prodded, trying to intimidate Xena.
Xena paused meeting him stare for stare. "Do you honestly think your reputation isn’t going to be damaged because you chose to ignore Athens?"
Waticles flinched as he began to back down. "Alright," he agreed reluctantly. "I know my allegiance to Lesbos will hurt me in the long run perhaps. But it’s what my people want. They are my boss. I must and I will do as they ask me to do. . .even if it means I never realize my goals. . .People can say many things about me but I am an honest man."
"No one here is saying you’re dishonest," Gabrielle injected.
Xena studied the man. She thought he was telling the truth but something just didn’t sit well with her. And she didn’t know what it was. At least not yet. But she was determined to find out.
Xena nodded toward Gabrielle. "Yeah like she said," the warrior replied casually as she made her way to leave. "But know this," Xena added turning around. "We WILL find out who’s behind this so the more you tell us the better off you are . . .Come on Gabrielle."
Xena continued on her way out, as Gabrielle began to make her way as well. "Really Waticles. Anything you hear will be helpful. Please let us know. For everyone’s sake," Gabrielle added as she walked outside.
Gabrielle jogged a little to catch up to Xena’s long strides. "So what do you think?" she asked her dark-haired lover.
"As far as I couldn’t through him," Xena smiled.
"I knew you were goin’ say that," Gabrielle teased.
"Please. Please. Come in," Barbadeen replied opening her door wide. "Would you care for some of my wine? They say it’s a favorite in Athens. I just poured myself a glass."
"I think I’ve had enough wine for my stay here," Gabrielle replied. "But thank you anyway."
Xena and Gabrielle took a seat on the feather down sofa as Barbadeen took a spot in a rocking chair across from them. "What brings you out here today?" she asked.
"We wanted to know if you’ve heard anything regarding the recent murders?" Xena asked causally. "Anything you could tell us would be of help."
"Sappho knows as much as I do. We’re looking into the workers at the Hall who handle the joining ceremonies. It seems two of the three couples killed had recently signed up for their nuptial before their death."
"Who has access to that information?" Xena prodded.
"Any worker in the records department," Barb replied.
"What about the counsel?" Gabrielle interjected.
"Well, yes I suppose. . . but why would anyone on the counsel care?"
They let the question float in the air. But a painting caught Gabrielle’s attention. "Who is she?" Gabrielle asked. "She’s beautiful."
Barb turned around. "That was my lifemate Rommy. She caught a fever two years ago last winter. Needless to say it didn’t go away."
"I’m sorry," Gabrielle replied sincerely.
Barb shrugged. "I try to focus on the time I spent with her instead of dwelling on the time that was stolen. Hades takes us when he wants us. It was simply her time I guess."
"You’ve never met anyone else?" Gabrielle asked.
"No one can ever take her place. She was the love of my life . . . "
Gabrielle smiled. She knew what Barb meant. And she realized at that point that she herself would never have another lover. Gabrielle cared for Perticus but Xena was the love of her life. She wondered if the warrior felt the same. She glanced in Xena’s direction and noticed the look in the deep blue eyes. Yes. Yes Xena did feel the same.
"Love is a funny emotion." Barb mentioned breaking Xena and Gabrielle’s gaze on each other. "It brings about so many different feelings - happiness, sorrow, guilt, comfort, anger and peace. Sometimes all in the same day!" Barb laughed at her appraisal. And Xena concurred with a chuckle of her own.
"Ya got that right," Xena smirked.
Barb shook her head and walked over to the painting. "Nah. . .Rommy was the one . . . No one else."
Gabrielle cleared her throat. "Barb we’d like to be able to help the people of Lesbos. Are you sure there isn’t anything else you could tell us?"
Barb turned back to face the two. "Not that I could think of off hand," she replied. "But if I hear anything I’ll let you know as soon as possible."
Xena rose and Gabrielle soon followed suit. "We appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. Again we’re staying at Sapphos’ so if you hear anything please let us know."
"Will do warrior," she replied with a handshake as she lead them to the door.
Once outside, and away from Barb, Gabrielle turned to Xena. "Now what did you think of this visit?"
"Three things." Xena replied quickly. "One. I think she under less suspicion. And two, I’m even more convinced it’s someone one the council."
"And number three?" Gabrielle questioned.
"And third. . . I’m certain that YOU are the love of MY life . . . no one else."
The warmth from Gabrielle’s smile, flooded Xena’s soul yet again. "The feeling is mutual, warrior mine."
Xena smiled at the statement, "Warrior yours, huh? I like the sound of that."
Xena fell back on the bed in exhaustion.
After talking with the rest of the counsel they proceed back to Sappho’s for dinner. After dinner they excused themselves as quickly and politely as possible, to return to the guest house. Now they were wrapped in each other arms after their forth session of love making.
"No more," Xena plead. "You’re going kill me," she teased with a giggle in her voice. "I have to admit it’s a wonderful way to go."
Slowly and with delicate kisses up her body, the bard made her way up to lay next to her raven-haired beauty. "And I thought you were strong," the bard provoked. "I thought you had stamina . . . Are you giving up so easily Xena?". The bard pulled herself up on her knees, placing two fingers deep inside herself.
Xena was captured by the motions of the young woman, beginning to work her own body into another frenzy with her own fingers. "Don’t do this to me Gabrielle," the warrior plead again.
"I’m not doing anything to you," the bard replied coyly, continuing to stroke herself. "I’m doing this to me." Xena was even more helpless when the bard’s voice grew lustful, straining to get the words out. "You love watching don’t you?" she whimpered. Xena had to strain to hear the redheads’ whispers. "I love the affect this has on you."
Xena lust and strength resurged as she watched Gabrielle beginning her climax. "Oh no you don’t," Xena whispered, moving to her knees now. She robbed the bard of her hand and started to suck on her nectar covered fingers. Her taste was exceptional. Xena had more than her fair share of lovers - male and female - but none delighted her palette like Gabrielle. "That’s my job," the warrior replied after she licked the bards’ hand clean.
Xena rolled onto her back and wiggled under the kneeling bard. In only a few heartbeats the warriors lips and tongue found Gabrielle’s core. Amazingly she was just as wet as when they began five candlemarks before.
Gabrielle rocked her body against Xena’s face while she squeezed and pitched her own nipples. She opened her eyes and looked down to see Xena stroking herself as her tongue continued it’s lashing. ‘Perfect’ Gabrielle thought. ‘Just perfect’.
The next sensation Xena felt was her hand being pulled away and Gabrielle’s breasts crushed against her lower abdomen. The ache within her own sex grew mightier as she felt Gabrielle’s breath tickle her inner thigh. With much labor she continued to work Gabrielle’s body into an erotic frenzy, plunging her tongue in and out.
When Gabrielle began to blow lightly on Xena’s sex, the warrior couldn’t stand it any longer. She lifted her hips begging for bolder contact; craving it; needing it.
"Please," Xena whimpered. "Your fingers. Your tongue. Anything. Just touch me."
Xena’s lips were so close they vibrated on Gabrielle’s’ slick skin. The bard had to comply.
"How about both?" Gabrielle replied seductively. Two seconds later her fingers were high and deep within her warrior as the bards tongue danced rapidly across Xena’s engorged clit. Gabrielle was learning the quicker the better. Xena’s movement soon mimicked Gabrielle’s.
It was an odd but wonderfully overwhelming experience for Gabrielle. She felt as if she were touching herself as Xena touched her. Her lips, her fingers were giving herself the pleasure she craved. Her mind was spinning, unsure of where she began and Xena ended. And for the first time in all their lovemaking sessions Gabrielle felt truly connected to Xena - mind, body and soul.
"Incredible," Gabrielle whispered to Xena. She felt herself being transformed. She was no longer just Xena’s lover. She felt as if she were honestly a part of Xena herself as they lay there intertwined; groping, licking, sucking, caressing.
"I feel it too," Xena replied, the excitement yet exhaustion filling her words. "We’re finally one."
"Yes," Gabrielle moaned in agreement. Soon, however, her cries took on another meaning. "Oh yes. . . Xena?. . .Yes. . .Yes. Xena. Yes. . ."
The cascades of Gabrielle’s satisfaction sent Xena toward the pinnacle. "Oh Gods. . .Please don’t stop," Xena pleaded. "I’m so clossse. Please. . ."
Gabrielle shuttered as her orgasm over took her body and mind. She relied on her mere reflexes to abide by Xena’s urgent request. Seeing how desperately the bard tried to continue her administrations allowed Xena’s passion to overtake her. Now - at the end - it wasn’t Gabrielle’s’ lips, or fingers or words that pushed Xena to ecstasy. It was the love the bard had for her. And the love she had for Gabrielle she never knew she possessed.
"Gods, I love youuuuuu . . ." Xena cried out as the pleasure washed over her in long, powerful waves. She could feel tears streaming from her eyes. She pulled Gabrielle back up forcefully, wrapping her strong arms around the smaller woman as she quivered. She clutched to Gabrielle as if her life depended upon the closeness. Xena’s sobs made Gabrielle’s hold a little tighter on the muscular woman.
"Okayyy," Gabrielle whispered stroking Xena’s hair. "Let it all go. I’m here. I’ll always be here."
Xena didn’t expect that reply. She thought Gabrielle would try reassurance. She was certain the bard would ‘schuss’ her, telling her everything was fine. But everything wasn’t fine. Walls around the warriors heart were crumbling into sand. Her emotions were upside down. Her love overwhelming. . .And Gabrielle knew. Everything wasn’t fine. And for the bard that was ‘okay’. She would stand by her warrior without reservation.
That knowledge only made the warrior cry harder. More walls came crashing. But again . . . that was ‘okay’. Gabrielle stroked Xena, rocking her gently, soothing her with her voice.
"I love you Xena. I love you so much. . .I thought I knew what love was. . .I never had a clue until now. . .And something tells me . . . perhaps it’s the same for you."
Xena pulled herself together as much as possible at this moment and met Gabrielle’s loving eyes. She wanted desperately to speak but she could only nod. As she reached up and placed a tender kiss on Gabrielle’s’ face, the bard could feel the wetness on her check from the warrior’s tears. With herself more in check Xena pulled away to look deep into Gabrielle’s eyes.
"I never want to be without you. Ever. I always want to wake up in your arms and I always want to sleep at your side. If the time comes that you want to settle some place - a small village, a big city, Amazonia, wherever - all I ask is that you let me stay with you. All our joys, all our sorrows - I want to share them together in this life and in the next. I’ll spend the rest of my days loving you and protecting you. . .Could you agree to that?"
Gabrielle smiled. "As long as you let me love you and protect you too. I know you’re the warrior princess and all but I think I can protect you too. . .if you let me; if you trust me enough."
Xena started to cry again and Gabrielle pulled her close once more, feeling the tears dripping on her bosom. "I love you Gabrielle and I trust you. I never thought there could be anyone on this earth I could trust like I trust you," the warrior sobbed. "Just promise you’ll never leave me for another. I don’t think I could take it," she added.
Gabrielle smiled again and raised Xena’s head to see her eyes. "I can do one better warrior mine."
"Hmmm?" Xena asked unsure.
"Xena of Amphipolis will you do me the honor of becoming my lifemate on the Isle of Lesbos and the consort to the Amazon Queen? Ephany tells me it’s a position many warriors would like to fill. . .However I know there’s only one that could measure up to the task."
Xena said nothing. Her expression showed nothing. And for a brief moment Gabrielle concluded that she had made a terrible mistake. Xena began to crack the tiniest of grins. To an outside observer no one would have noticed. But Gabrielle wasn’t an outsider.
"If you want time to think about it –"
"Yes," Xena replied quickly.
"That’s okay," Gabrielle replied. "It’s a big step. I know. I don’t want it to be taken lightly."
Xena looked confused, until she concentrated on the context of the exchange. "I mean yes! Yes, of course I’ll be your consort!"
"Yes?!" Gabrielle exclaimed, still a bit unsure.
Xena kissed Gabrielle passionately. "Yes," the warrior whispered lightly against her ear. "I love you with all my heart." Xena snuggled in closer to Gabrielle’s neck as the bard pulled the sheet up their body, making sure Xena’s back was covered.
"I love you too Xena. And no matter what happens, I’ll never stop."
Those were the last words the warrior heard before she drifted off the sleep in the safety of her bards’ protective, loving arms.
Gabrielle’s eyes shot open. It was dark. Very dark. Dawn couldn’t be but a few candlemarks away. Reflexively she pulled Xena and herself off the bed with a scream.
The warrior bounced to her feet at once seeing the shadowy figure slash out with a sword. Stark naked, the warrior jumped back to avoid the blade as it swiped just inches past her mid section. She leaped into the air and over the figure to the other side of the bed where her sword lay. With a swift kick to the blade end, it was in her hand, slashing the opponent down, across the throat. Xena grabbed Gabrielle’s robe and tossed it to her. "Run. Get Sappho. Now!"
Gabrielle grappled with the garment as she ran out the door toward the house. Quickly, Xena dragged the body outside to prevent any more blood from spilling on the floor. Once in the grass Xena took the hood off the figure. The woman looked familiar but she could remember from where. Looking up she saw Gabrielle and Sappho running toward her with Sappho’s husband Harrold, bringing up the rear, watching their backs. It was only then that she realized she was still naked. Casually as possible she went back inside grabbing her own robe as everyone met at the doorway.
"What happened?" Sappho asked.
"Somebody wants us a little dead," Xena replied dryly, pointing at the body. "You two know this woman?" she asked Sappho and Harrold.
Sappho, never being a blood and gore person, quickly buried her head in her husbands chest after they looked over. "Yes," he replied softly. "Her name is Arenia. She’s an aid to the counsel."
"Go figure," Xena replied, tossing the hood to cover the wound.
"Guess this proves the theory," Gabrielle replied.
"Yeah but it doesn’t solve the crime," Xena replied looking at the body. When she turned back she noticed Gabrielle’s’ arms folded across her chest; her hands stuffed under her arms. "Are you okay?" she asked concerned.
"Just coming down from the rush. Sweat and cold air don’t mix well."
"Come on." Harrold announced. "You two are staying at the house for tonight. We’ll settle this in the morning and inform the guards."
No one posed an argument and they all walked to the house with Sappho and Harrold in front of Xena and Gabrielle.
"Thank you," Xena replied.
"For what?" Gabrielle inquired.
"For protecting me. If you hadn’t reacted the way you did by pulling me, I’d probably be the one lying out there."
Gabrielle tried to smile but the truth of Xena’s statement haunted her. Xena probably would have been dead. "I made a promise," Gabrielle replied taking Xena’s hand in hers as they walked. "I keep my promises."
Xena smiled down on the younger woman. "Remind me to thank your folks next time we see them. They did a great job of raising you."
Gabrielle playfully slapped Xena’s arm as they made their way into Sappho’s home.
Xena was already up and dressed, having a cup of tea with Sappho when Gabrielle appeared in the doorway, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
"I take it you’re not a morning person," Sappho replied with a warm smile.
"Far from it," Gabrielle mumbled going to the teapot.
Xena just admired the view of Gabrielle as she shuffled across the kitchen in one of Sappho’s night shifts. Gabrielle was taller than Sappho and the garment exposed all of her legs. Just enough material was left to cover her backside, except when she walked. Sappho noticed Xena’s eyes covering the bards’ body.
"Get your mind outta the gutter!" Sappho teased, slapping Xena’s arm. Gabrielle turned to watch the exchange.
"I can’t help it!" Xena laughed. "Look at her. She’s gorgeous."
"Oh no!" Sappho replied. "I’m not going to look at her anymore. It gets me into trouble, remember? I’d like to keep my blood flowing to my brain."
"I wouldn’t cut the flow of blood to your brain," Xena remarked. "You can look at her all you like. . . Just don’t dare touch her."
Gabrielle smiled as she settled to the table with her tea. "Jeez, it sounds like I’ve become property now. Are you going to brand me later Xena?"
The warrior smirked. "No. You’d probably like it too much."
Gabrielle was now the one smacking the warrior’s arm.
"Why is it all the women around me today feel the need to hit me?" Xena asked rhetorically.
"You need a good smack now and then. And we’re probably the only ones on earth who could get away with it," Sappho offered. "Some of us more than others," she added winking at Gabrielle.
At that moment, Harrold entered with two Lesbian guards. "We’d like to ask you a few more questions?" one of them said to Xena.
"Sure," she said, walking outside with them. Harrold took Xena’s seat after she left.
"I didn’t know they were here," Gabrielle replied.
"Xena told us to let you sleep," Sappho explained. "Here. Have some eggs," Sappho said making her a plate.
A few minutes later Xena returned as the guards left.
"Everything okay?" Gabrielle asked. She wasn’t sure if they were going to hold Xena accountable for the death.
"Yeah. They’re going to take the body now. . .It seems this woman had a lifemate. . .That’s why the guard wanted more information."
"What did you tell them?" Harrold asked.
"There’s nothing I could tell them. I’ve never seen her before. But have to admit she looks very familiar."
Gabrielle jumped from the table and ran outside, pushing Xena out of the way. "Hold up!" she yelled to the wagon.
All three followed Gabrielle’s lead as the wagon came to a halt.
"What is it Miss?" the guard asked.
"Can I see the body?" she asked.
The guards looked at each other then shrugged in acceptance.
Gabrielle climbed in back and pulled the sheet away. "That’s it," she whispered.
"What?! You’ve seen her before," Xena asked.
"No," Gabrielle replied. "Not her. . .but I’m sure she’s a relative of someone we’ve seen," the bard added with a grin. "Although not in the flesh."
"Who?" Sappho asked.
Gabrielle grinned with the realization and looked at Xena. "Rommy."
Continue to Part II