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 Bonding of souls pt.iV

Disclaimers in Part One


EMPATHY NEST (set after 'Path of Vengeance')

Now I know how my father felt. . . She’s gone. She just walked away. I couldn’t do anything to stop it. What the hell, she’s a grown woman. And isn’t that just what my mother said about me? They couldn’t lock me up. I was a grown woman free to do what I wanted to do – make my own choices. . . Damn it I wish they were alive. I’d go back home and tell them I understand.

"Whatcha thinkin’ bout bard?"

Xena’s voice brought Gabrielle from her thoughts. "Oh nothing really. Just . . . remembering, I guess."

Gabrielle watched as Xena straddle the bench with two mugs of ale. "Thought we could both use it tonight," she said as she slid the cup over the wood table they sat. Xena lightly pushed Gabrielle’s hair away from the cut she got in the brawl with Varia. "Swellings gone down. Might not even bruise."

"Please," Gabrielle said as she held back her tears while removing Xena’s hand carefully, "I was hoping to forget about that."

"You might have lost Gabrielle but it worked out in the end," Xena countered. "Like me on those rare occasions - you might have lost, but you were never beaten. Not for a second."

Gabrielle didn’t respond. She just looked into the bottom of her ale after taking a few large swallows.

"Come on Gabrielle. What’s really going on?" the warrior asked.

Gabrielle swished the ale around in her mug. "I don’t know. I feel like I failed you. I failed Eve. Maybe if I had won then Eve might have stuck around for awhile…I just don’t feel much like a ‘father figure’ is all. Fathers are strong and brave – they’d kill for their children if need be. Right now I don’t feel very strong or brave because I miss Eve. And in some odd cosmic connection, I miss my parents too. I finally GET IT, you know? When I watched Eve walk out of this village today, I finally understood what my parents must have felt when I left. . ."


Xena was a woman of few words but she made the ones she used count.

"Exactly," Gabrielle grinned bittersweetly. "I feel helpless. And I don’t do ‘helpless’ real well."

"So I guess that makes me a real baby for blubbering the way I did earlier huh?" Xena grinned.

"No, that made you sweet," Gabrielle grinned. "One of the reasons I love you very much because it’s a side few have ever seen."

"You and mother," Xena answered.

"What?" Gabrielle asked, a bit confused.

"You and my mother are the only ones to ever see me cry – at least that hard anyway. Not even my other family members saw me cry. I remember when I broke my arm. I was six on a hunting trip with Toris and my father when I fell out of a tree-."

"You? The warrior princess? Fell out of a tree?" Gabrielle chuckled.

"I didn’t always have many skills Gabrielle," the warrior answered playfully. "Anyway, I didn’t shed a single tear until my mother took me to my room to tend to my arm. I balled my eyes out then," she chuckled. "She almost started crying too. She hated to see me in pain. . .And when we first found Eve and I could feel her pain, her anger . . . I knew just how mother felt that day. And many days afterward for that matter. So I guess the point is that yes it hurts to be a parent. But it also has wonderful rewards so try not to be too upset. Cry a little, morn the fact we won’t have her near us . . .but realize we’ve done the right thing. We may not have raised her as a child but we showed her a new way that she can live and learn - - and that’s the greatest gift a parent can give a child."

Gabrielle grinned and took another long drink of her ale.

"Feel better?" Xena asked.

"No," Gabrielle chuckled.

"Me neither," Xena answered as she downed her ale. "Let’s say we get real drunk and fool around all night long."

Gabrielle choked on her drink and Xena patted her on the back.


"Just caught me off guard."

"Well the ‘kid’ is ‘out of the house’. We can act like newlyweds again," Xena said with a wiggle of her eyebrows.

"But we’ve never been wed to begin with," Gabrielle countered.

"Yeah, why is that? You know something? We should get married Gabrielle."

"I think it’s the stress of the ‘nest’ being empty that has you not thinking clearly," the bard answered.

"No I’m serious," Xena replied.

"No," Gabrielle countered. "You’re getting drunk."

"I am not!"

"You always want to marry me when your drunk and I always turn you down. Ask me when you’re sober and I’ll consider it," Gabrielle said coyly.

"Will you at least sleep with me?" Xena asked.

"You already know the answer to that question warrior," the bard said, grabbing Xena by the breastplate and bring her inches from her face. "You don’t even have to ask."

"I don’t huh?"


"How about I take you right here on this table?"

"Now I KNOW you’re drunk. Besides you wouldn’t want all these horny amazons admiring your naked bard now do you?"

"I’d kill ‘em all," Xena growled, starting to look around at the thought of them ogling HER BARD.



"Down dear."

The warrior’s lip still quivered like a mad dog ready to strike out.

"Oh boy what did I start?" Gabrielle chuckled. "I think I better get you to a hut quick."

"I think you better kiss me before you do anything else," Xena warned playfully.

Gabrielle rose up and slid over until she straddled Xena’s waist. Her fingers pushed their way through Xena’s hair at her temples until they locked together in the back. Delicately Gabrielle kissed Xena high on the forehead while the warrior’s face became buried in the bard’s cleavage.

"How’s that?" Gabrielle answered.

"You’re so bad," Xena chuckled.

"And you wouldn’t have it any other way would you?"

"Not on your life."

"To the hut then?"

Xena rose taking the bard with her, still wrapped around her waist. "To the hut."

HEAT OF BATTLE (set after "To Helicon and Back')

"Magnificent. Absolutely brilliant."

Gabrielle turned sharply as soon as she heard the voice behind her approach.

"What are you doing here?"

"Admiring a strong, brave leader."

Gabrielle shook her head. "Take your admiration elsewhere Ares."

"I can’t. You were so impressive out there. So decisive. So calculating. So cold when you needed to be. I have to admit I was in awe Gabrielle. Sending those amazons out to their death. Making all the right choices because Xena had failed in her task. If you froze they’d all be dead on the beach. But you didn’t. You pressed on. You kept moving – never relenting. It was inspiring to watch I must admit."

Gabrielle rose from the fallen tree she was sitting on. "Ares . . . You don’t know shit."

As she began to walk away Ares followed.

"Now tell the truth battling bard. You never felt more alive then when you were running for your life, did you? You never felt anything as passionate as the heat of battle. When you chased down that young solider in the woods I cursed Xena for stopping you. He deserved to be gutted like a fish. And the look in his eyes – the fear – I know you enjoyed seeing the power you had over him."

"I did what needed to be done," Gabrielle replied, not stopping her strides.

"Like I said, brilliant. You, my dear bard, could be so much more. You could command armies. Legions would fall at your feet."

Gabrielle stopped and faced the God of War.

"First of all I’m not YOUR bard. I’ve never sang of you Ares. I never will. As for offering me the world yet again, you forget – you can’t offer me what you don’t have." The war god didn’t have a response and Gabrielle went on. "And for the record I’ve felt things far more passionate than the heat of battle. I’ve had something you’ll never have. I’ve had the warrior princess," she answered smugly. "She’s all the passion I need."

Gabrielle began to walk again but this time Ares didn’t follow. He simply watched her walk away.

"Just remember Warrior Amazon Queen, My offer will always stand!"

Gabrielle didn’t look back. She just shook her head and shooed him away with her hands. When she got back to the small camp the amazons had set up at the edge of the forest she found Xena sharpening her sword by the campfire. From the sounds around her in the various makeshift huts, which consisted of bedrolls hung from the trees, she could tell battlelust was certainly in the air tonight.

Quickly the warrior rose when she saw Gabrielle approach. Xena wasn’t quite sure what to think as Gabrielle came closer shaking her head and small grin on her lips.

"What’s going on?" Xena asked, unsure if her bard was going to laugh or cry.

"Ares," she answered.

"What’d he do this time?" Xena asked, looking around the forest behind them.

"He’s gone now," Gabrielle answered. She felt the tense warrior relax if only slightly with the news. "He’s impressed with my ‘performance’ today. He’s impressed," Gabrielle chuckled in spite of her misery. "And I feel dead inside."

Xena could feel her bottom lip quiver just slightly. She wondered silently for a moment if it would have been better if she and Gabrielle hadn’t crossed paths again. She felt responsible for her failure to stop the beach attack. But more than that she felt once more that she was leading Gabrielle down the wrong path in life. She was a beautiful, talented, creative woman. She didn’t deserve to be fated with the likes of the warrior princess.

"I’m sorry," Xena began. Before she could go further Gabrielle cut her off.

"Oh no. Not again," the bard warned. "We’ve already had this discussion once today. Get that ‘I have to leave Gabrielle for her own good’ look off your face warrior," she ordered.

She does know me well, Xena thought as a small smirk crept to her mouth. "In that case is there anything I can do to help."

"Yes," Gabrielle answered, pulling the warrior down for a searing kiss. Xena felt every nerve ending in her body erupt. "Make me feel alive again," Gabrielle cooed softly, her breath tickling Xena’s ear.

Xena looked around for some seclusion for them but all the tents were occupied with the sounds of moaning and labored breathing. The warrior looked around for some place to go but the movement of her head was stopped when she felt Gabrielle’s fingertips on her chin.

"Don’t worry about them," Gabrielle whispered.

Xena saw the look in her bard’s eyes that said take me, right here, right now. She hesitated a moment, still unsure of what the nation’s reaction might be should anyone wander out of their tent. She didn’t dwell on it too long when she felt Gabrielle unbuckling her breastplate before running her palms over her battle dress. Xena took Gabrielle by the wrist, halting her movement. She wanted to make sure that her bard was thinking clearly.

"Please," Gabrielle whimpered. "I need to touch you."

Any resistance Xena had at that point melted away in the firelight as she admired her lover. She reached down and undid the first few laces of her boots, kicking them away. Next came the laces behind her back. When Gabrielle felt the task was taking too long she briskly turned Xena around and pulled with all her might, loosening the dress. A moment later, Xena felt the leather garment puddle at her ankles.

Gabrielle reached around squeezing Xena’s breasts, her fingertips pinching around her erect nipples. The moan that Xena omitted at the contact sent Gabrielle into a frenzy. Her teeth nipped roughly between the warrior’s shoulder blades as her fingers and palms continued to claim her warrior. Xena reached back and grabbed a handful of Gabrielle’s blonde locks, egging her on. In the meantime, Xena used her other hand to lead Gabrielle down to her britches, which were soaked by this time. Soon her britches met the same fate as her dress.

The wetness Gabrielle encountered made the bard quiver, not to mention the rhythm that Xena had began against her hand. Gabrielle watched as Xena gyrated against her long digits striving for more and more pleasure. She couldn’t take it anymore. Gabrielle had to pull away. When she did, she pushed Xena down on all fours. The warrior grinned at the strength her bard had as well as the tingling feeling the bard’s show of force left in her very center. Not wasting a moment Gabrielle quickly stripped herself of her clothing, continuing to stroke the warrior’s back when she could, just so she could have some contact.

Once undressed, Gabrielle pressed her sex against the warrior’s backside making Xena moan. The wetness of her bard chilled her yet warmed her all at once. Gabrielle grabbed Xena by the hips and ground her sex against the warrior until Xena skin shinned from the trail of arousal left there by the bard’s movements. Xena heard Gabrielle’s ragged sigh over the sound of their bodies slapping against each other.

"What I wouldn’t give for our phallus right now," Gabrielle remarked, her voice strained. Xena felt the bard reach between her legs, feeling her reaction to their escapade. "I love doing you like this. I love it. I love it," the bard began to repeat over and over again, synchronizing with every thrust her body made against the warrior. Xena couldn’t take it any longer.

"That’s it," Xena whispered. She reached back and guided one of Gabrielle’s hand deep into her center. The bard slid in with ease, two fingers first and then three. Gabrielle took Xena’s long hair and threw it over one shoulder. In doing so she laid her body over the warrior as much as she could without breaking the contact her clit was feeling.

Xena could feel Gabrielle breasts brushing across her back with each grind Gabrielle made. She turned her head to try to look back at the bard when she noticed a pair of amazon eyes watching her from one of the tents. It was Cyan and her young lover who obviously were distracted by the sounds outside their tent. Xena could have stopped but she didn’t. Instead she grinned wickedly at the young women.

Take a good look ladies Xena’s mind called out. See who your queen wants? Do you see? And I’m not even part of your ‘club’.

The young women seemed hypnotized by the movements in front of them and Xena soaked it up. She looked back briefly to see if Gabrielle noticed them too but the bard was far too consumed in her desire to see. Her head was thrown back and her eyes closed tight. Her hips worked quicker and quicker. By the quivering sounds Gabrielle was making at this time Xena knew the bard was close to climax.

Watch ladies, Xena thought, her attention focusing on the amazon admirers again. Watch your queen come all over me.

Cyan’s lover had seen all she could and switched positions so she could suck on her queen’s bosom, worshiping her body again. Cyan never broke eye contact with the warrior princess and the battling bard. She watched intently and whimpered at the feel of her lover’s tongue and the sight before her. When her lover saw that Cyan was still watching the show before them she pulled back. Cyan whispered something to the young woman and she rolled on her side to face the warrior and bard again.

This time Xena watched as Cyan spread her lover’s legs. The young queen immediately shot to her lovers centered and rubbed at lightening speed. The young woman squirmed and shuddered but she never looked away from the activities of Xena and Gabrielle.

Xena’s attention quickly turned back to Gabrielle when she felt the bard release her center and grab her hips. Xena could feel Gabrielle’s nails digging into her flesh as the bard let out a deafening howl of satisfaction. The bard made a few more thrusts to insure she was well spent. The sound alone made Xena wet all over again. Without warning Xena felt herself being pushed face first into the bedroll that lay before them. The bard quickly turned her over and roughly took a place between Xena’s thighs.

At the first sensation of Gabrielle’s tongue against her clit, Xena’s hips instinctively raised to meet her mouth as her hand buried its way into Gabrielle’s hair.

"Ahh yeah," Xena sighed. The warrior knew the young amazons were still watching them but the feeling that Gabrielle was creating between her legs was far too powerful at the moment for her to care any longer.

Gabrielle pulled back and let her fingers slide over Xena’s clit at a blurring speed.

"You taste so good," Gabrielle complimented. "I have to devour you."

The world could have ended and Xena knew she couldn’t stop. She wanted this. No. She needed this. With every slurp Gabrielle made from her center, Xena moved closer and closer to the end. Her toes curled and her muscles tense.

Breathe Xena, she told herself. Breathe.

Xena had discovered that when she focused on her breathing when she came the feeling was so much more intense. She willed her body to relax as she felt the crest approaching closer. With a sound that rivaled Gabrielle’s the warrior exploded under the bard’s tongue.

"God yes Gabrielle," she sighed as wave after wave of satisfaction washed over her. Slowly and with tender kisses the bard worked her way up to Xena’s shoulder before snuggling in.

The pair held each other in silence for long moments until Gabrielle spoke.

"The power of love is much more passionate than the heat of battle," she remarked.

"Meaning?" Xena asked, kissing the bard on top of the head.

"You’ve made me feel alive again. Thank you."

Xena glanced over to see Cyan and her lover smiling. Slowly they went back into the recesses of their tent to give the warrior princess and the queen some privacy.

"You’re very welcome," Xena answered. "And if you ever need my services again don’t be afraid to ask. I’ll be happy to oblige."

Gabrielle chuckled softly and reached down to pull the covers over the two of them. "I love you Xena," the bard mumbled sleepily.

"I love you too Gabrielle. Sleep now. With any luck the amazons will sleep in and I’ll make you feel alive again in the morning."

Xena could feel the bard grin against her shoulder before slumber claimed them.

The Karmic Cycle Just Ran Over My Dogma (set after 'Send in the Clones') w/TNovan

Harry Cavender climbed out of bed after the alarm had gone off for the second time. He wasn't sure why he was getting up. Technically, he was still on vacation, but being home meant getting up for some reason.

He groaned, cleared his throat a little and then stretched, popping his shoulders, neck and back. “Oh that's good.” he smiled and hummed. Leaning over, he placed a kiss on Mattie's forehead and then left their bedroom.

Scrubbing his face to awaken, he retrieved the paper from the porch. Then he made his way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, which was pre-brewed thanks to the fact that Mattie had remembered to set the timer the night before after they had gotten back from their ski trip.

He grabbed his favorite cup from the coffee tree and poured the coffee as he flipped open the paper on the counter. Passing up the national news headlines, he opened the paper to the local news. He had always figured there wasn't anything he could really worry about on the national level anyhow, but if there was some pervert running around in his neighborhood, he should probably be aware of that.

He scanned the paper until he landed on the top local story. His eyes widened, locked on the paper as he read. He was so intent on reading the story that he only became distracted when he realized he was overfilling his mug and spilling coffee all over the counter. “Son of a bitch!” He put the pot back quickly, dashed to the sink for a rag and mopped at the mess as he continued to read the paper.

“Mattie! Mattie get up, hon!”

The blonde groaned and rolled over. Slowly she opened a weary eye, then rubbed both. Finally, she pushed up onto her elbows and watched as Harry pulled on his pants and grabbed a shirt from the dresser. “Is the house on fire?”

“It's much worse than that. Get up. We have a big problem. We've got to find out what's going on.”

She never questioned it when her partner got like this, in this lifetime or any other for that matter. They had been through too many together. She did however, need to get him calmed down and there was only one way to do that. “Xena?”

He turned around and raised a brow, “Yes Gabrielle?” He crossed his arms over his chest, knowing that his partner had done that on purpose. They had been trying to reconcile all of this for a while and every time Mattie did that it made him nervous. He understood everything it meant. But it was just easier to go with Harry and Mattie in this life, just as it had been easier to go with the names they had been born with in all the others. She only used Xena when she really wanted his attention.

“Would you like to take a deep breath and tell me what's wrong?” She rubbed her eyes and sat up, placing her feet on the floor.

He reached over and tossed the soggy, coffee soaked paper at her.

“Spilling your coffee on the paper is not a good reason to get me up, Harry.”

“Read the headline on the second page.”

Mattie flipped open the paper as best she could. “Oh shit!” She was on her feet headed for her closet, still reading the paper. “This can't be!”

“Then explain to me why the bodies we occupied several millennia ago caused a huge ruckus at a local police department.”

Mattie tossed the paper down and pulled a pair of jeans off a hanger. Then she retrieved a t-shirt for herself. She quickly found underclothes and pulled them on, hopping on one foot as she slipped her jeans on one leg then the other. “We need to find out what's going on.”

“Is there an echo in here? Didn't I just say that?” He tapped his foot.

“Nobody likes a smart-ass. Come on, get your shoes on!” She huffed, tossing him his sneakers as she tied hers.

Xena cleared her throat and looked out from the small cave they had found in an outcropping of rocks near the water. The warrior could tell it was an ocean by the scent. Which ocean she wasn't sure. There were a lot of things she wasn't sure of at the moment.

They had been on their own for a few days now and things were really starting to get more frustrating. Mostly because she knew they just weren't prepared for what was out there.

They needed money. They needed new clothes, even though Gabrielle was quick to point out that the women on the beach were wearing far less than they were. Xena couldn't disagree, but she wondered why in the hell the bard noticed the women on the beach!

She chewed on her pinkie nail for a moment and blew out a frustrated breath. She turned her head slightly when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

“Xena, I know you're only doing what your instincts tell you to do. But I'm sure there's no reason for us to hide out in a cave. I think it'll be all right for us to mix and mingle with the people out there as long as we're careful.”

“But the police may still be looking for us.”

“Xena, they think we're dead, remember? We were supposedly blown to Olympus and back.”

The warrior let out another long, slow, calming breath. “You think they bought that?”

“Absolutely.” She smiled and rubbed her partner's shoulder. “I think we should go out there and see what we can find out. I know it's all a little intimidating, but as long as we're together we'll be fine.”

Xena nodded. “You're right. Let's go. We need to find food and money.”

“It might be best to try and earn some money so we can buy the food. I saw vendors selling it. I have a feeling that fishing with a lure made from my hair or trying to chakram some poor small animal around here might not be a wise move.”

The tall woman nodded. “We know local law enforcement doesn't like you and your sais.”

A blonde brow arched. “No kidding.” Now she chewed her nail. “Maybe we should leave a few things here.” She reached down and took her sias from her boots. “Weapons might not be the best approach.”

“Agreed,” Xena nodded as she took off her sword and removed her armor.

Mattie ran her hand through her hair as she grabbed a juice from the fridge and Harry grabbed the car keys from the hook on the wall. “So where do we start?”

“The police department?” Harry questioned.

Mattie shivered. Given her 'past' indulgences in various moneymaking opportunities, police departments still made her a bit edgy. It was true, since meeting back up with her partner, everything had finally come to order and she was living the straight life at last. The mere thought of that still cracked her up for several reasons.

“Me? Police? Really?” She gave him a coy smile and a little laugh. “I don't think so.”

Harry nodded, still amused by the fact that it was Mattie in this lifetime that had 'issues' with authority figures. “Okay then, I'll go to the police and you can check out the newspapers. Do some digging and see if 'we've' shown up anywhere else.”

Mattie nodded and watched as Harry began to make his way out. Mattie cleared her throat and cocked her head. Harry cursed himself and turned right back around.

“Sorry,” he muttered, making sure to give her the traditional goodbye kiss. “I'm a little bit focused at the moment.”

“I guess I can forgive ya,” she teased. “Be careful.”

“2000 years and you still tell me to be careful?” he joked back.

“Old habits die hard,” she grinned. “Do you have your cell phone?”

He patted his hip. “Always. If you need me just yell. Be back soon,” he said blowing her another kiss and making his way out.

The warrior and the bard made their way down the beach then up to street level. The traffic both on the city street and the sidewalk was a bit overwhelming. They were realizing quickly that it didn't take long to 'fit in'. In fact they weren't even noticed, except for some construction workers who started hooting at 'Blondie'. Of course, with the help of a bucket that was located at the bottom of the scaffolding and the good aim of the warrior princess, that was put to an end real quick. The menacing, “Keep your eyes off and your mouth shut,” warning from Xena didn't hurt either.

As they continued their walk down the street they approached a resident walking toward them. At least they thought it was an area resident.

“Xena,” Gabrielle whispered. “What is that?”

There wasn't a single orifice left on this person that didn't have a piercing. Hardly a single bit of flesh remained that didn't display tattoo art of some kind. Gabrielle was in awe.

“I'm not sure,” Xena replied back. “Maybe a local warlord or something, just keep walking and don't make eye contact. We don't need to cause a scene.”

“Right, this from the woman who just knocked down three carpenters for 'ogling her bard',” Gabrielle retorted.

“That was different!” Xena exclaimed in a hushed tone. “What was I supposed to do? Just let those men treat you that way?”

Gabrielle grinned. She loved her warrior. Especially when she watched out for her 'virtue'.

As the person passed, Gabrielle tried to look at a store window. When she did, she noticed a sign.

“Hey Xena,” she said coming to a halt. “They need help according to this sign. Perhaps I can find some work to get us some money.”

Xena looked up at the front of the building. She let out a long, disgusted breath. In this lifetime, like the last, it looked like it would be Gabrielle who would be the one earning the money. “All right, let's see what kind of help they need Gabrielle. Maybe I can find work, too.”

The bard arched a brow, following Xena into the building. It was dark and quiet, obviously a tavern that hadn't opened for business yet. A few people milled about, including a few very scantily clad women. One woman, who was completely topless and not paying attention to where she was going, ran right into Xena causing them both to be knocked off balance a bit. The warrior was quick to wrap her arms around the woman and right them. She cleared her throat and tried to look innocent as she took in an eyeful of the woman's obvious attributes. “Umm…sor...sorry…” Xena cleared her throat as she slowly released her hold on the woman.

The red head grinned, taking a look at the woman she had run into. “No problem.” She ran a finger over the soft leather strap at Xena's shoulder. “Happens all the time. Nice,” She nodded at the rich brown leather. “Soft.” She whispered.

“All right that's it!” Gabrielle had taken more than she could stand and grabbed Xena by the arm, dragging her away from the woman and toward the door. “I was wrong about this place. They don't need the type of help we can give them.”

Xena followed her bard, but turned her head to have one last look at the woman who was now waving good-bye with a grin plastered across her face. Apparently tall, dark and gorgeous was already spoken for and just a tad whipped.

Mattie tapped her foot as she sat staring at the computer screen. Having done a quick search, she didn't find anything further on the local news groups about 'Xena and Gabrielle'. The only thing she was sure of was that she'd bet good money that somehow 'Xena' would have been involved in the explosion at the junkyard. She picked up the phone and dialed Harry's cell number.


“Hiya, handsome. What do you know?” She sipped her juice. “Anything new?”

“Yeah, shortly after their 'escape', there was…”

“An explosion at a local junkyard.” She finished for him.

“Right. The police are assuming they were killed in the blast.” He sighed. “Witnesses say two people fitting their descriptions were seen taking refuge behind a set of barrels that ended up going up in a ball of flames.”

“Wanna bet they didn't?”

“If we know them as well as we think we know them, we know they didn't.”

“So,” Mattie leaned in on her hand. “The question becomes: Where are they now? Where would we have gone?”

“Well,” Harry paused as he made a turn, “We would have looked for shelter first and then food.”

“And given this location, where is Xena most likely to go to find those two things?”

Harry pulled up to a stoplight and glanced over the top of his sunglasses at the street sign. “Santa Monica.” He mumbled when he saw the sign. “The beach.”

“Right!” Mattie jumped up. “I'll meet you there. We can cover twice as much ground if I bring the Jeep down.”

“Meet me at Santa Monica and Ocean. That's a good place to start.”

“But Gabrielle I didn't do any…”

“Just don't.” The bard put her hand up and stalked away from the warrior, walking briskly down the 3rd St. Promenade past all the shops and restaurants.

“By the Gods.” The warrior just shook her head and followed the blonde down the street, only turning her head slightly when she walked past the Greek restaurant and her stomach grumbled. “Later.” She chastised her own system and picked up the pace to catch up. “Gabrielle wait a minute!”

The blonde stopped and crossed her arms, tapping her foot in the 'I'm completely annoyed at you' manner that had become habit. Xena approached slowly and grinned. That particular grin was the one that always melted her bard before, if her memory was serving her correctly. She hoped she was right.

“What?” The blonde snapped.

“Didn't want to lose you in the crowd.” Xena grinned again, still waiting for it to work. When it didn't take, she went for the puppy eyes. The bard smiled. That did it. I knew it was one of the two. “Let's just take it slow and easy.”

Gabrielle sighed allowing her frustration to dissipate. “Right. I'm sorry.”


They continued their walk. As they approached a busy street, a car screeched to a halt and the driver's door popped open.

“You two have to come with me.”

Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other before taking another look at the man panting in front of them. Gabrielle could tell he wasn't a local law officer by his appearance. He didn't have a uniform like them. His dress, however, became secondary the closer he moved to them.

“He looks like Joxer,” Xena whispered.

Harry stepped closer. “I know you might not believe me but I'm a . . . friend. You have to come with me so we can talk a few things over. Besides, it may not be safe for you here.”

“Who are you?” Gabrielle asked.

“Please get in the car and I'll explain everything,” he replied pointing behind him.

Xena considered it a moment. What do we have to lose? Can't be any worse than where we've been. With a nod, the bard followed her lead. Xena took the passenger side and Gabrielle took the back seat as Harry climbed in.

“I've got someone you have to meet first,” he said has he pulled into traffic.

“Who are you exactly?” The warrior questioned, making sure she had room in the car to throw a proper punch if need be.

Harry sucked air through his teeth and sighed. “Well, that's where things get a little complicated.” He looked to Xena, lifting a brow. “My given name is Harry. Let's go with that for right now and we'll try to figure everything else out as we go.”

“You keep saying we,” Gabrielle commented, scooting closer to the front seat and staying close to Xena. “Who is we? Or do you have a mouse in your pocket?”

Harry and Xena both gave the bard a strange look. She smiled at the warrior, then just shrugged at Harry. “It was a perfectly reasonable question.”

“Yes it was.” He agreed as he pulled over to the side of the road and honked the horn to get Mattie's attention as she stood at the intersection waiting for him. He rolled down the window and waved her over.

The blonde jogged across the street and jumped in the back seat, coming face to face with, well, herself.

“Xena?” Gabrielle looked totally shocked as she took in Mattie's features. “She…She…” The bard pointed as she stammered. “She looks like me.”

“Actually,” Mattie crossed her arms. “You look like me,” she declared defiantly. “You were artificially created.”

Gabrielle immediately didn't like the tone and took offense. “Yeah, we'll I'm thousands of years old,” the bard challenged.

“No you're not,” Mattie said beginning to argue. “You-.”

At that moment, Xena turned around and anything Mattie was about to say got lost in her admiration of the blue eyes examining her. Her thoughts now seemed anything but chaste as she watched Xena and the smile on her lips conveyed just what was on her mind.

Xena grinned in response as Gabrielle watched the interaction between her warrior and this . . . woman.

“Hey!” Gabrielle barked. “Who do you think you're staring at?” the blonde asked, unable to hide her hostility. Xena turned away in response but Mattie continued to watch the warrior oblivious to the warning.

“Okay, guys this is going to be hard enough.” Harry tried to get things under control before there was an out and out fight in the back seat that he and Xena certainly wouldn't want to get in the middle of. “Let's all just relax until we get back to the house. Mattie, do you want me to take you back to the Jeep?”

“No, it'll keep in the parking garage 'til later,” she told him, getting pulled from her thoughts.

“Right then, we'll go back to the house and try to get this sorted out.” He looked over to Xena. “Are you hungry?”

Xena acknowledged the question with a slight nod of her head. She hated relying on someone else for the basics, but she didn't have much choice at the moment and she knew Gabrielle had to be close to starving.

Mattie and Gabrielle continued to stare at each other. It was a very uneasy truce in the back seat between the two women.

Xena and Gabrielle stood in the corner of the kitchen, watching as Harry and Mattie set the table and placed the cartons of food in the center. Even before they were opened, Xena smelled dishes that were new, yet strangely familiar and her stomach growled. She looked down at Gabrielle who reached over and patted her leather-clad stomach.

“Funny it's you and not me this time.” The bard winked even as Xena's arm settled around her waist and the warrior pulled her close.

The action was not lost on Harry who smiled a bit and tilted his head slightly to alert Mattie to have a look at their guests.

“Like I said,” The blonde grinned at her husband, “Old habits die hard.”

With the table set and the cartons opened they all sat down. Xena and Gabrielle followed Harry and Mattie's lead when it came to dishing out the food. They both looked at the Chinese food with a little concern, but decided that if their 'hosts' could eat it, then they could, too.

Xena watched carefully as Harry utilized his fork. She smiled and picked hers up, looking at it. She decided that anything used to stab food multiple times was a good thing. The warrior was so busy getting the hang of the silverware that she didn't notice the storm brewing between Gabrielle and Mattie.

The bard leaned over, waving her knife a little at the 'other' blonde. “Is there a reason you keep staring at Xena?” She quirked a challenging brow.

Mattie dropped her fork on her plate. “It's my house. I can look at whomever I damn well please!”

“Will you two knock….it off.”

The voices of Harry and Xena mimicked each other enough to cause the bickering women turn to look at them, dumbfounded. They, themselves, were caught off guard by their similar reactions.

Xena shook her head to get her bearings. “Now you said you had something to tell us,” she said, addressing Harry.

“Remember when you went to India?” he began.

“Yeah, I got my arms chopped off,” she answered.

“No, before the arm chopping bit,” Harry corrected. “You both learned that your souls were connected in many lives, remember?”

It took a moment but recognition started to take hold for the warrior and the bard. “Vaguely, yes.”

“Well, Gabrielle meet Gabrielle. Xena, I'm Xena,” Harry announced, giving formal introductions.

“Guess this kinda proves that Gabby could never live with herself. They've been fighting since we got here,” Xena commented.

Harry laughed. Xena laughed. Mattie and Gabby gave the slit eyes to their respective lovers, which abruptly stopped the chuckles.

“Point is,” Mattie began, a bit miffed, “You two are…us…made from our DNA from two thousand years ago. I'm not sure if they explained to you how it works, but they usually take something like hair or skin and make a new 'you'. It's called cloning. You're our clones.”

“Does everyone have clones of themselves?” Gabby asked.

“Well, no. I've never heard of a human clone. Animals have been cloned, but never a human. Not until now…and as you can see…it really makes things 'unusual'. I mean you 'think' you're Xena and Gabrielle, but in truth Harry and I are the 'real' Xena and Gabrielle.”

“I know who I am,” Xena remarked. “I don't need some bard look-a-like telling me about my reality.”

Harry could see this could become an explosive situation.

“No one has a doubt that you're real, Xena,” Harry added quickly. “But you have to admit it's a bizarre situation.”

“What I find really bizarre is how much you look like Joxer!” Xena answered, as she examined her egg roll with great detail. She poked it with her fork a few times.

“Wonder if Joxer made the 'karmic jump'?” Gabrielle chuckled.

Harry and Mattie looked at each other, both unsure if they should open THAT can of worms.

“Harry could probably tell you about that,” Mattie began.

“Yes, but you tell it so much better,” Harry said knocking it back over the net.

“Ohhh I couldn't dear. Really, go ahead.”

“You're the storyteller-.”

“Out with it already!” Xena broke in.

Harry paused a moment looking at his plate, getting his nerve up. “Joxer is kinda my ex-girlfriend,” Harry answered, playing with his napkin.

“Joxer?” Gabrielle quipped, “You fell in love with Joxer?!” Gabrielle quickly reached over and slapped Xena across the arm. “How could you?! Xena!”

“Whaaaaaat?” the warrior whined scooting away from another slap. “It wasn't ME. It was HIM.”

“Yeah, but he's you according to him so that means that YOU fell in love with Joxer.”

“But he dumped him – I mean her – I mean…Point is I obviously found you again,” Xena said, pointing to Mattie and Harry. “We're still happy, see? So what's wrong?”

Gabrielle sat. Arms folded. Toe-tapping. Scowling. “Joxer,” she harrumphed. “Sheesh.”

Xena looked to Mattie. “What about you? Did you have someone when you met Harry?” she asked, hoping to 'one up' the bard.

“Actually, no. I was a single lesbian who ran a petty scams here and there,” Mattie admitted openly.

“You're a thief from Lesbos?” Xena remarked, surprised.

Mattie grinned and considered the question. “Hmm…yeah you could say that. You seem shocked to hear I wasn't always on the up and up.”

“Well, actually it was the Lesbos part. I didn't think it was still around.”

Harry had to laugh. “No Xena. You don't understand. Mattie dated women. That's what the term lesbian means today.”

“But she married you?” Xena remarked to Harry.

“It was the soul I fell in love with,” Mattie confessed before Harry could answer. “The 'wrapping' didn't matter anymore today than it did two thousand years ago.”

“And it doesn't bother you that he looks like Joxer?” Gabrielle jerked her thumb at Harry. “Come on,” The bard shivered.

“Well, it took some getting used to.” Mattie looked to Harry with a wink and a smile. “But we managed to get past it.”

“Right.” Harry nodded, taking a big bite of his dinner. “I think after dinner we need to take you out and get you some real clothes. This may be L.A., but you still need a few things that will attract less attention.” He gestured with his fork. “Something that won't make you look like stunt doubles from a bad b-grade movie.”


Mattie gave Gabrielle the once over. “Not bad, not bad at all.” She nodded as she looked at the bard, who was now dressed in blue jeans and a T-shirt. “How does it feel?”

Gabrielle twisted and stretched her legs a bit. “I little constrictive. How do you fight in these things?”

Mattie chuckled as she handed the bard a pair of sneakers. “We don't.”

“You don't fight?” Gabrielle asked. She held the shoes, inspecting them. They didn't feel like leather but they did seem to offer some support and would certainly be good for running if need be.

“Nope. Not in this life.” Mattie answered.

Gabrielle bit her lip in an effort to keep from smiling but it still managed to creep across her face. She leaned in to Mattie. “Then I'll tell you this just one more time. Keep your eyes off Xena or I'll kick your ass.”

The current incarnation drew a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “Look, I have no interest in your Xena. Harry and I are perfectly happy together. You need to get a grip.”

“Yeah, I'll get a grip all right. Right up side your head if you don't…”

“STOP IT!” Harry and Xena both shouted in unison.

The women turned to their respective partners, trying to look innocent but failing miserably.

“Gabrielle,” The warrior stepped into the bedroom. “You've got to stop this. I'm sure Mattie has no interest in me, other than trying to figure out exactly how we're going to work this mess out.”

“Un-huh.” The bard sounded skeptical, then she got a look at Xena in a pair of shorts and a deep blue T-shirt. “That's an interesting look.”

“It's only temporary. Harry's pants are too short in the legs for me. But we thought this was better than my leathers for going out.”

Gabrielle smiled, running her fingers down the T-shirt. “I think it's kind of cute.” She allowed her hand to graze over an erect nipple that was trying to break free of the fabric. “This is very interesting.”

The warrior groaned, grasping Gabrielle's wandering hand. “Be good!” She growled under her breath, glancing at Harry and Mattie.

“I'm always good, Xena, you know that.” The bard winked.


Harry stood by the counter watching as his credit card took yet another hit. After four hours and several hundred dollars he and Mattie were satisfied that Xena and Gabrielle were now suitably outfitted and needing very little.

They picked up the newest packages and headed back out into the mall. Mattie and Harry found themselves holding back grins as the warrior and the bard took in the sights and sounds around them.

Harry thought at one point, when they first got there that he was going to have to wrestle Xena onto the escalator. Then he started thinking more like her and once he called her a chicken the snare had been set and the Warrior Princess was trapped by her own ego, forcing her to get on the moving staircase.

The three of them very nearly collided with Gabrielle when she suddenly stopped outside a video store. She watched the TV screens, then pointed hesitantly. “That's what they used to 'show us' our lives.”

Harry scratched his cheek and sighed. “Ah yeah, well, don't believe everything they showed you Gabrielle. It wasn't exactly like that. That's a television show. It took certain, 'dramatic license' with our lives. It wasn't really very accurate.”

“You mean Xena didn't have the hots for Ares?” She lifted a pale brow.

“Umm, no. Not unless it was some part of a plan…”

Xena crossed her arms when the bard gave her annoyed look. “What? I didn't do anything. It must have been him.” She jerked a thumb toward Harry.

Gabrielle turned back to the window. “So who are these people?”

Mattie bit her lip trying to figure out how to explain it. “They're actresses. Hired to play the parts of Xena and Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle cocked her head. “It's amazing how much they look like us,” the bard remarked as she watched the television. When Autolycus came on the screen Gabrielle turned to Xena. “Look! Remember Autolycus? They never showed us Autolycus in the lab…but I remember now. There was Autolycus…and Minya. Do you remember Minya?”

Xena paused a moment trying her best to put a face with the name. “Frying pan lady?”

“Yeah. There was also Eli and Draco…and NAJARA! Remember Najara?” Gabrielle exclaimed. “I wonder if they mentioned any of them.” Gabrielle and Xena both looked to Harry and Mattie.

Harry cleared his throat. “Like we said the show took 'liberties' with the truth. Eli was a good friend although they made him a sniffling chicken at the beginning. He didn't want to help get rid of Taltaka and took off for the forest.”

“He what?” Gabby and Xena said in unity.

Mattie nodded. “And Draco turned into a love sick puppy dog for Gabrielle and decided if he couldn't have her she was gonna die a spectacular death.”

“He never did that,” Gabrielle answered. “Xena and I convinced him there was a better way than just warlording. He helped us several times after that.”

“I know,” Harry answered. “And Najara….well, you don't want to know, trust me.”

“Oh yes we do,” the bard ordered. “What's the story?”

Mattie sighed. “Well Najara was a religious zealot that Gabby fell for. She also beat the crap out of Xena.”

“Those lying bastards,” Xena answered. On pure reflex she reached behind her back for her sword but realized quickly there was nothing there. “Where can we find these distorters of Gabrielle's work?” she asked Harry, putting her hands on her hips in frustration.

“Well, it's not easy so don't try. Beside I don't want to see any heads roll.” Harry warned.

He and Mattie looked at each other and snickered at the 'head rolling' comment.

“What's so funny?” Xena asked.

“Well according to the producer,” Harry answered. “Xena's end comes when a Samurai warrior cuts off her head in battle.”

“But Xena didn't die that time,” Gabrielle answered. “It wasn't until years later when-.”

“I know,” Harry said putting up his hands, “but try not to be upset. The producer was an equal opportunity offender. He like to 'homage'-.”

Mattie butted in to say, “You mean steal.”

Harry smiled but nodded. “Okay, 'steal' other people's movie ideas and make them fit the story line.”

“Or not fit the story line as the case would often be,” Mattie added.

Gabrielle looked stunned. “I can't believe it. All those years. All that work. And he reduces it to a titillation show, which did nothing more than cast doubts on my 'real relationship' with Xena. It's…appalling. Dare I say, tragic.”

“Absolutely,” Mattie answered. “Although we haven't agreed on much since your arrival Gabrielle, we've found something we can agree upon. It is tragic. I remember all those nights I…I mean you…I mean we…would sit and write. Trying to capture everything…only to have it reduced to an hour of eye candy each week.”

“It's like it's a joke,” Gabrielle said sadly. “Like what I wrote never mattered.”

“It mattered to me,” Xena answered, running a comforting hand across Gabrielle's back. “It still does…We know the truth and that's all that truly matters in the end.”

Harry motioned them along and they followed.

“Death by a samurai warrior?” Gabrielle asked rhetorically. “How ridiculous is that?”


“What are we gonna do Harry?” Mattie asked. The two lay cuddled in bed, Mattie's head resting on Harry's shoulder. She let out a deep sigh as she continued to consider their dilemma. “We can't keep them here and we can't set them free in the city again.”

Harry considered the question carefully and slowly turned to face Mattie. “Why don't we send them home?” he asked.

“Their home is a petri dish,” Mattie pointed out.

“No, I mean the home they know – Greece,” Harry replied. “They know the English language. Perhaps we can teach them Greek. After all, it only took us two weeks to learn. For them it might be even faster. They'll be more familiar with the area, too.”

“We just can't give them two plane tickets and say 'see ya',” Mattie chuckled. “Well, maybe you could do that with Gabrielle.”

“Mattie,” Harry growled. “Be nice.”

Mattie smiled. “I was just teasing. But as I said, we can't just push them out. Besides, they have no visas, no identity. Well, not that it matters. I've got an old friend that owes me a favor,” she grinned.

“Oh really,” Harry laughed. “Do I want to know about this?”

“Probably not,” Mattie answered. “But having a dark past does have it's advantages,” she grinned with a crinkle of her nose.

Harry considered the plan and cleared his throat. “Okay then. Tomorrow you take the gals and see your 'friend'. I'll go to the bank and draw from the savings. I'll make some reservations and get plenty of money for them to get set up in Greece. And since you don't want to just 'dump them off' we'll go, too . . . Besides, it will be like a second honeymoon,” Harry smiled.

The next morning Mattie returned home with the warrior, bard and two visas in her hand. Harry was already home with the plane tickets and a hotel reservation in Athens in his hand. Mattie opened the envelopes and saw the dates.

“Two weeks?” she exclaimed happily.

“Two weeks,” Harry said firmly, wrapping a loving arm around her waist. “Last time you wanted to stay longer. Plus it will give us a chance to teach the gals the language.”

Harry then handed Xena an envelope – she paused a moment before looking inside. It was the paper currency that she'd watched Mattie and Harry use from time to time were out to buy hot food while they'd been shopping. “What's this for?” Xena asked.

“Survival,” Harry told her. “In today's world you need dinars and lots of them. I figure that's enough to get you started somewhere until you can start making your own living. Or if you wish you can just live off of the land – you know the area well enough,” he grinned. “But the choice is yours. You can't stay here in America. You'd either get hounded by the police for the jail-break or mobbed by fans who think you're Xena and Gabrielle. Either way, it wouldn't be pretty,” he chuckled.

Xena gave a small grin of thanks and nodded. “I'll pay you back someday,” she told him.

“Don't worry about it,” he said as he went to the table to collect their travel portfolio. “I've got all of our bags packed and in the Jeep. So whenever you're ready,” he said motioning to the door.

Gabrielle hooked Xena's arm as they made their way outside. Ironically, Mattie found herself naturally making the same gesture as they walked along.

“Thank you,” Mattie whispered up to Harry.

“For what?” he asked.

“For keeping your word – for finding me in every life,” she told him. “You've always had a good soul.”

“You're not so bad yourself, pumpkin,” he grinned. With duplicate smiles the couple caught up to the waiting warrior and bard.

Testing Fate (set after 'When Fates Collide')

"But you could have been-."

"Without you," Gabrielle answered cutting Xena short. "Look we’ve gone over all this at tandem tonight."

"Don’t go throwin’ those big fancy words around Gabrielle. I might not be able to follow you seeing I’m just a simple warrior."

Xena smirked with her answer, which prompted Gabrielle to grin.

"Sorry…Forgot who I was speaking to. Allow me to rephrase. We talked about this over and over and I’m to the point where I’m going to break out the sais. How’s that?"

"Point taken," Xena grinned. She took a drink for their flask and handed it to Gabrielle. "Have some two dinar wine. It’s all a poor warrior can afford to get you."

Gabrielle shook her head. She just won’t let it go. Instead of taking a drink she returned it to Xena’s lips again. She tilted it backward as Xena drank but moved it away before the warrior was prepared. A few drops dribbled down Xena’s chin to her cleavage.

"Gee. Thanks Gabrielle," the warrior retorted.

Before she had a chance to wipe the wine from her skin, Gabrielle leaned over and licked Xena’s breastline. The warrior couldn’t help but smile. She lost her smile, however, when the bard’s lips claimed her own, her tongue tasting the sweet juice inside the warrior’s mouth. Slowly the bard pulled back and took a place between the warrior’s legs.

"On your lips," Gabrielle whispered sincerely, "two dinar wine is better than anything on the empress table. Don’t you see? Any life, any wine, would never be as sweet if we were apart. I might have been the toast of Athens Xena but I’d never have your love. I’d never know your touch. I’d never know what your cry of pleasure sounded like. Fame and fortune would mean nothing to me without you."

"With me to the end huh?"

Gabrielle smiled.

"Always and forever. I promise."

Xena pulled the bard into her arms and turned her so they both looked into the fire together.

"I know I can’t give you everything you deserve Gabrielle. I’ll never give you a house on the vineyard by the sea. I’ll never give you more than a few dinars for some parchment and some quills now and then. With the way our funds look at the moment I’m not sure if I can even do that but…Please know, you’re everything to me. I’d do anything for you…I would."

Gabrielle rested her head back into Xena’s chest and closed her eyes. "You’ve already given me so much Xena. I’m not sure what more you could give me. You’ve spent so much time teaching me and showing me everything I’ll need in this world to go on…That first night when we parted last year, I made a fire and I thought of you. You taught me how to do that. You’ve taught me so much that I don’t think I could ever repay it."

Well there is one more thing, Xena considered. She leaned down and whispered into Gabrielle’s ear. "Come with me."

She rose and reached down for the bard’s hand. Confused but accepting the gesture just the same, she gave Xena her hand and let her lead her to her feet. They walked to a small clearing where a few rocks and trees lined the area. The full moon shown bright in the clearing as Xena took her chakram from her hip.

Casually she handed it to the bard. "Throw it."

Gabrielle looked at the discus and back to her partner. "Xena, I…I don’t know what to say."

"Don’t say anything. Just throw it."

Gabrielle moved back a pace and got her footing. She looked to Xena one last time, hesitant. But the warrior gave a firm nod and the bard heaved it in one mighty stroke.

They both watched as it hit a tree, bounced off a nearby rock, heading straight back to the bard. Gabrielle’s eyes went wide and Xena smiled, waiting until the last minute to extend her hand.

Instead of pulling the weapon she held it out for Gabrielle. "See? See the way I have it now. That’s how you want to place your hand on it’s return. Let’s try it again. This time I’ll help."

Xena fit snuggly against Gabrielle’s back as she showed Gabrielle how to hold it. Once the bard had it firmly in her grasp, Xena’s hand took hold of Gabrielle’s wrist. "Keep it locked and steady. A smooth, even stroke is what you need here."

"Smooth, even stroke huh? You know," Gabrielle blushed. "This feels kinda kinky."

"Like kink bothers you," Xena retorted. "I’ve got a group of amazons that could say otherwise."

Gabrielle bumped back to slam into Xena, which only prompted the warrior to chuckle. "Come on," Xena said getting serious again. "Do you want to learn how to do this or not? It’s your choice."

Gabrielle looked back and grinned. "Teach me everything you know."

Xena returned the smile but regrouped to her former location against Gabrielle’s back. "Okay. On three….one…two…three!"

The chakram left Gabrielle’s hand like a crossbow arrow. Just as before it hit the tree and then the rock and made its way home to her. As the discus came closer she steadied her breath and waited for impact. Xena’s hand stayed on Gabrielle’s wrist.

In one sweeping motion Gabrielle had the weapon in her hand.

"I did it! Well…You helped me catch it."

"I didn’t help. You caught it all on your own Gabrielle. My hand was on your wrist, not the chakram. You did catch it."

"Really?" Gabrielle said looking at the disc and then to Xena. "Are you sure you didn’t slow it down somehow?"

"Positive," Xena answered honestly. "Wanna try again. I won’t touch you this time."

"Well where’s the fun in that?" the bard chuckled.

"Gabrielle," the warrior drawled in warning.

"Okay, okay," she answered. "Warrior training time. I know."

Gabrielle steadied her sights on the rock this time instead of the tree. Xena kept a watchful eye on the situation and was a bit surprised when she felt the peck on the cheek.

"What’s that for?" Xena grinned.

"For trusting me. And being you…my warrior princess with the two dinar wine."

Xena felt herself smile as she stroked the bard’s back in one fluid movement. She didn’t reply. She didn’t trust herself in replying. After all she was the warrior princess, and warrior princesses didn’t tear up at compliments from beautiful soulmates. At least not during training.

"Are you ready?" Xena asked with a simple nod.

"Yeah I’m ready," Gabrielle answered becoming focused again. She watched the weapon fly from one point to the other and back to her. As she caught it a thought occurred. "Can you teach me how to bounce it? I mean sometimes it comes straight back to you and some times it goes all over the place. How do you know how to do that? Can you show me?!"

I gotta admit I love it when I see the little excited girl come back into her eyes. "Sure," Xena answered. "But not tonight, it’s late now but you’ve got the basics of how it works. That’s the hardest part of all really."

Gabrielle reached up and stroked Xena’s face before standing on her tiptoes to kiss her lips tenderly. "Thank you for giving me many skills too."

"It’s my pleasure."

Continue to Part V