Happy Anniversary, Gabrielle
by LJ Maas
#5 in the Queen Series
I watched as Gabrielle pushed the food around on her plate. I knew something was wrong, but couldn’t figure out what and with a pregnant woman…Gods, it could be anything. Of course, I knew that whatever it was, it was my fault. I am an exceptional warrior and I like to consider myself a good wife. Being a good warrior wife I know that when the woman who is carrying my child is bothered, angry, sad, whatever…chances are it’s my fault. I’ve done something stupid, like looking at another woman with more than passing interest or not holding her hand long enough during the noon meal. She obviously gave me the look, but I must have missed it. So, now I have to commit the most unpardonable of sins. I have to ask what is bothering her instead of reading her mind like she thinks I should be able to.
“Brie, what’s wrong?” I ask and lean back in my chair in case I should have to duck quickly.
She lifted her head and those beautiful green eyes were filled with tears. “I’m fat…huge.” She replied.
“Gabrielle, you’re barely showing yet. You are by no stretch of the imagination, fat,” I responded with an amused chuckle. Gods this girl could be dramatic.
“I will be though, just in time for our first anniversary. I’ll be fat and you’ll be around all these gorgeous Amazons…”
“Okay, time out. Come here, my heart.”
I took Gabrielle’s hand and pulled her into my lap. Her hormones were taking her on one wild emotional ride lately, so I attempted to let my kiss and my protective embrace speak for me. I tried to remember what I used to do to get through these feelings when I was carrying Solan. Okay, well I used to kill people and raid villages…guess that won’t work here.
“First off I think we should establish the fact that you will not be fat. You’re carrying a child, you’re just going to look…uhm…”
“Fat,” She finished dejectedly.
“Not fat. Brie, you’re going to look pregnant, but you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. You’ll get bigger with our child…our child, my heart. Did you ever think we would be able to say something like that? Besides, there is no way you could ever look anything but sexy to me.” I added this last and wiggled my eyebrows, reaching in to nuzzle the soft skin of her neck.
Gabrielle couldn’t help but let out a small giggle. “You mean to say you would find me sexy…attractive?”
“Oh, yea,” I answered quickly and I meant it.
“Even if I was eight moons along?” my wife asked in disbelief.
“I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off of you.”
“You, my Warrior, have some very kinky ideas running around up there.” Gabrielle pointed a finger at the top of my head.
“And, you’re just figuring this out?” I leered.
Gabrielle laughed out loud and squirmed in my embrace as I moved my kisses down her chest.
“Xe? Even on our anniversary, you’ll find me attractive?” she suddenly asked in a small voice.
So that’s what this was really about. It was all tied up with our anniversary. We were married on the Summer Solstice and wanted to spend the anniversary of our joining in the Amazon village. Gabrielle’s sister Amazons, who I might add would do anything for a good party, had already begun preparations for a large celebration. Being a little distracted for the last fortnight; I didn’t even have a gift for my wife yet. I know, bad warrior.
“Gabrielle, I don’t care if it turns out that you’re carrying twins. On our anniversary I will think the same thing that I do every single time I look at you. That you are the most beautiful woman in the world and how lucky I am that you picked me.”
“Oh, Xe,” Gabrielle said wrapping her arms around my neck.
I was proud of myself and breathed a sigh of relief. Okay, that was the right answer. Not that I didn’t absolutely believe the words had I voiced, but these days making my wife believe that it was the truth was another story. I was rewarded with a kiss that made me want to be out of my leathers in a hurry. Gabrielle’s tongue and her hands were suddenly everywhere at once. The heat started between my legs and soon enveloped my whole body. I barely had enough strength left to stand and maneuver us both onto the bed.
I think my brain must go into a total meltdown when Gabrielle begins to make love to me. Either that or she’s been taking some sleight of hand lessons from Autolycus, because before I knew it, my clothes were in a heap on the floor, and I couldn’t even remember how it happened. Before I could concentrate on how I wanted to take my wife, she had me on my back in a completely submissive posture.
In this time of hormones running amuck, Gabrielle could wake up one morning and could have all the tenderness of a rampaging cyclone. On those kinds of days she could make Velasca look like a Hestian Priestess. Then there were times like the one we were experiencing right now. When her body couldn’t seem to give, or receive for that matter, enough pleasure. My young Queen was in an extremely rewarding mood, and I was more than happy to be the recipient of all that affection. Oh, yes, I thought as I closed my eyes in sensual delight. I feel very rewarded.
“Ep, you are no help at all,” I commented to my friend as I easily parried her sword thrust.
“Hey, you want to spar, I’m your woman. If it’s advice on your love life, go ask another Amazon,” the warrior responded, the sound of metal meeting metal resounding across the practice field.
“I don’t need that kind of advice, my love life is just fine.”
“So, I heard last night. As a matter of fact the whole village heard last night.” Eponin stopped all movement and looked me straight in the eye. “She made you scream, Xena. I mean, she had you begging; I heard it. Come on…share with another warrior. What does she do that could possibly make you, the Warrior Princess, scream?”
“Honorable warriors don’t kiss and tell.” I realized our sparring session was at an end and I picked up a rag from the ground and began to wipe my blade clean.
“Aw, come on, Xena.”
“Warriors don’t whine either, Ep.” I continued cleaning my blade, realizing I was driving my friend crazy.
“You’d whine too if you hadn’t been with a woman for nearly a whole season,” she responded.
“A whole season?! Gods, Ep…another moon or two and technically you’ll be a virgin again.” I couldn’t help but laugh at my friend’s dilemma. I know it seemed cruel, but that’s the kind of relationship Ep and I had. We loved being able to take cheap shots at each other.
“Okay, how about a trade?” she asked.
“Trade? For what?”
“I’ll tell you the perfect gift that will not only make you a happy woman, but will score you many major points with your wife,” Eponin answered.
Well, I couldn’t resist this one. I love Gabrielle with all my heart and there will never be another for me, but because I can be more warrior than woman some days, I end up in Gabrielle’s doghouse a lot. A gift that would make me happy plus earn points I could store up for one of those ‘doghouse’ days? Whatever my Amazon friend was asking, I was in for.
“Okay, sold. What do you want in return?” I asked suspiciously.
“I want to know, just one little thing that Gabrielle does to make someone like you beg and scream for mercy.”
“Forget it.” I moved to walk away. If my wife ever found out that I was talking about our sex life, there wouldn’t be a safe enough place for me to hide. That doghouse would need a big bed, because I’d be sleeping there for a good long time.
“Okay, but don’t forget that you gave up the chance to make Gabrielle’s dreams come true.” Ep’s voice followed after me.
That stopped me in my tracks. Gods, I was so whipped. It never mattered what needed to be done, I would do it just to make my bard happy. I turned around and Ep already had a look of triumph on her face. I wiped the look off her face with one of my own. I grabbed her by the neck of her tunic and pulled her into a copse of trees, looking around to make sure we wouldn’t be overheard.
“You realize that if my wife, your Queen, ever finds out I told you this we’re both toast.” I sneered.
“I’ll take it to the grave,” she replied.
I moved in closer. “If you don’t, I’ll take you to the grave,” I replied with a threatening growl, and she swallowed hard. “Okay, you first,” I said as I let her go. She wasn’t in a position to argue so she began.
“Well, you know how you’ve said it kind of bugs you not to have been Gabrielle’s first?”
I folded my arms and glared at her. “And, you reminding me of that fact is supposed to make me feel better how?”
“Calm down and listen. What if you could go back to the day when Perdicus married Gabrielle? You could tell her you love her and, wham! Happy ending.”
I just continued to stare at her. “What if I just become the Queen of Egypt and send for her on my barge?”
“Oh, that’s very funny, did you have to pay extra for that sense of humor?” Eponin answered. “Look, Xena, you and Gabrielle have both done Adia’s dreamscape thing. You’ve even done it without Adia’s herbs on occasion. I’m saying that you and Gabrielle go back to that day in your dreamscape.”
I continued to stare at Ep’s victorious smile and slowly the idea began to take on a certain appeal. It’s true that I have regretted nothing more than when I gave Gabrielle up to a man that she didn’t completely love all because of my own fear and pride. Some nights, as I held my bard, I thought of little else. So, what if I could go back and change it all? Just like when we healed Gabrielle’s dreamscape the very first time, it wouldn’t change the reality, but it would alter our perception of it. If it worked out the way I anticipated, then to Gabrielle and I, her first experience would always have been with me.
“Well?” Eponin cocked her head slightly trying to meet my hidden gaze. When I looked up I had a broad smile across my face.
“I like it,” was all I said.
“Excellent! Okay, give it up, warrior.”
“Okay, you sure you’re ready for this?” I teased.
“Come on, Xena.”
“Okay, just remember, this is Gabrielle’s own unique technique. If she gets wind of this, she’ll know I talked and that will make her extremely unhappy. And do you know what happens when Gabrielle is unhappy?”
“You get unhappy?” Ep replied, pretty sure that was the right answer.
“Yup. And, do you know what happens if I get unhappy?”
“I get dead,” she stated the obvious.
“You catch on quick, my friend.”
We turned and walked farther away from the practice field, toward the baths to clean up.
“Okay, Xena, tell me.” Eponin was practically begging.
“Well, it’s like this.” I pulled her closer and spoke under my breath into her ear.
“How?” she asked, pulling away.
“Her teeth,” I answered and kept walking.
“Get out!” the Amazon replied. “Isn’t that dangerous?”
“It can be if you’re not careful…and if you buck around too much,” I answered nonchalantly. “That’s not the best part, though. You see…” I moved closer to her again as a group of young women passed us headed toward the practice field, and whispered the rest.
“Gabrielle does that?! Using what?”
“Oh, anything that’s handy.” I grinned at the temporarily stunned Amazon. “Never underestimate the value of a good toy,” I added.
I don’t know if she was more shocked at our technique or the fact that her mind was probably conjuring up a vision of my sweet and innocent looking Gabrielle performing said maneuver.
Eponin veered right as we approached the warm spring baths, housed in the caverns just ahead.
“Hey, I thought we were going to get cleaned up?” I asked as she walked away from me.
“You go on. I’m going down to the lake for my bath…the nice cold lake.”
I laughed out loud at my friend’s retreating figure. Poor Ep. She needed a woman and she needed one soon.
“Adia…I can’t believe you’d turn me down after all Gabrielle has been through lately.”
It was like talking to a stone wall. I spent the last candlemark pleading my case, but the stubborn healer just couldn’t open up her eyes enough to see it my way. The healer, who was every bit as tall and strong as me, simply stood with her arms folded, shaking her head. Damn, she reminded me a lot of me.
“Xena, walking around in the dreamscape is not a game. It’s serious business. Anything can go wrong and if I’m not there to pull you out of it then someone could end up hurt. Doing something like this for your personal pleasure is hardly why I go to the trouble of perfecting my gift.” She finished just as her wife walked in.
Once Sartori asked what the commotion was about, Adia and I both clammed up. The small healer had a way, though, and she reminded me of Gabrielle as she openly glared at us. We were both at least a head taller than she was, but that look and the tapping foot caused Adia and I to look at one another and immediately we took turns telling the small healer what the disagreement was about. She listened to the two of us and turned to her mate.
“Adia, do you mean to tell me that Xena wants to fulfill a private dream for our Queen and you would refuse her this beautiful gift?” Sartori asked in disbelief.
“I can’t believe that you would be so heartless as to turn down a request obviously made out of love.”
“One that could bring such happiness to two people that we care so much about.”
“But, you see–”
“No buts, my dear wife. This is a request brought to you out of love and from her Highness. If you don’t think that love is worth risking your precious reputation over then perhaps you and your gift would be happier sleeping over in the healer’s hut tonight.”
That said, Sartori turned on her heel and left one very stammering embarrassed wife in her wake. I could afford the luxury of a huge grin, since it was someone else getting dressed down by her wife and not me for a change.
“Kind of reminds me of another small blonde I know,” I mentioned.
“You’re telling me,” Adia answered as she nervously watched her wife walk away.
“I know of what I speak, so don’t take this the wrong way,” I said to the tall healer. “It’s rough to be so whipped.” I grinned and Adia elbowed me in the ribs.
“You should know, my friend,” she laughed. “You should know. Okay when do you want this to happen?”
“The day of our anniversary, but before the party,” I answered.
“All right, my friend. I’ll mix the herbs together and give them to you the day before the party.”
I clasped the healer’s hand and walked away from that hut feeling like my whole world was about to come together. I was going to fulfill a personal fantasy of my own, while giving Gabrielle a present that would live forever as a memory.
My palms grew sweaty and suddenly I wondered if swallowing my pride in the dreamscape would be easier than it had been in real life. After all, I never really confessed my love to Gabrielle until after she seduced me that night here in the village. Once I was reliving the situation in the dreamscape, could I find a way to make my bard realize just how much I wanted her to be with me? Could I convince her that I wanted to love her forever and not just for one night? Suddenly, I was nervous and anticipating the day of the party with a mixture of fear and elation.
“You look stunning,” I told Gabrielle, as she turned around to look at her own reflection in the mirror.
“It’s so beautiful, thank you, Xe,” she said, running over and wrapping her arms around my neck.
Yep, that definitely made it all worth it. Gabrielle was only four moons along, but having such a tiny build in the first place, her growing belly began to show right away. She started to feel slightly self-conscious in her somewhat revealing garments and now wore loose fitting tunics. Of course, that didn’t stop everyone that knew her from coming up to her to pat her stomach, but she finally learned to smile politely, and then roll her eyes when they turned their back.
Part of my anniversary gift to my wife consisted of the tunic she wore right now. I wrote to my mother and asked her to commission it from a seamstress that I knew in Amphipolis. The woman dealt in Egyptian silk and I knew it would turn out beautifully, which it had. It was emerald green, to match Brie’s eyes, with the royal Amazon crest discreetly sewn into the pattern. My mother had it with her when she arrived for our party yesterday. That was a whole story in itself, trying to explain to my mother just how Gabrielle became pregnant with my child. With a bit of explanation, however, we managed to get the idea across that Cyrene’s first grandchild would indeed be a part of Gabrielle and myself.
The best part was when Mom hugged Gabrielle, and through her tears, told the young Queen she was making her the happiest woman in the Known World. Of course, I stood there wondering why Gabrielle was getting all the credit. I mean; I was pretty much responsible for getting her this way in the first place. Okay, Gabrielle was doing the hard part, but still.
We just finished our noon meal and, to avoid the heat of the day, the party wasn’t to begin until sundown. For that reason, we weren’t the only ones in our hut preparing for a short afternoon nap. Most of the village planned on being up until the sun rose, so everyone was trying to catch up on a little rest. Gabrielle seemed determined to disguise the fact that she was dead tired this time everyday, until I explained that it was perfectly normal, considering her pregnancy.
I watched as my wife carefully slipped out of the new garment and pulled on her robe, folding the silk top and laying it across the chair to wear later. Adia gave me the herbs that would place us as willing participants in our dreamscape, in a powder form. I explained to her that I didn’t want Gabrielle to know what I was doing, that I wanted it to be a surprise. The powder was tasteless and I easily placed it in the cup of cider, Gabrielle now drank from. I had mine in a bit of port and swallowed it off before beckoning Gabrielle into my embrace.
In the winter our favorite spot was on a heap of cushions in front of the small fireplace. During the warm summers we simply tossed the cushions near the head of the bed and relaxed there. I watched as Gabrielle snuggled against me, a large yawn taking over her features.
Now came the hard part. Adia explained that the difficulty would be in getting the person who didn’t know about the little scheme to actually meet you in the right dreamscape. They had to be thinking of the same approximate event in time as you, not exactly just roundabout. I picked the point where I wanted to start the dream. I would concentrate on that evening when I caught Perdicus sneaking into our camp, before we even knew Callisto was up to her usual tricks again. If I started us out before we went to sleep that evening, I could ask Gabrielle to be mine before what’s his name even arrived, simple as that. Somehow, I had to get my wife to think of that day, but without causing her pain. The choices Gabrielle made and what happened to that young man at Callisto’s hand were things that still had the power to resurface and bite at Gabrielle occasionally. So, how do you remind the woman you love that she married someone else?
Well, as I am so fond of saying to myself, I am a warrior. I can be sneaky, underhanded, smooth, conniving, but I cannot be subtle; it’s just not in my nature. I leave subtlety and tact to my wife. So, I did what I usually do, barrel in with sword and chakram drawn.
“I still wish I could have been the first person that you ever experienced pleasure with,” I said, running gentle fingertips along her arm.
“Oh Xe, please don’t think like that anymore. We’re together now. Besides,” she continued, turning to look at me with a small smile. “I wasn’t your first either.”
I snorted in a combination of laughter and incredulity. “Brie…you would have had to get to me a lot sooner than you did to even be close, you know that. I’m sorry, my heart, it’s not something I’m proud of.”
Gabrielle yawned again. I had to steer her off this topic or Goddess knows where we’d end up.
“How much sooner?” my wife asked, seriously.
“When I was sixteen summers, satisfied?”
“Mmm Hmm,” she responded sleepily.
“It would have been incredible…making love to you for the first time under the stars.”
“I would have been scared to death, I didn’t know anything then,” she mumbled.
“I know, that’s part of the fun.” I smiled against the warm skin of her neck. “I would have been very gentle. Remember how beautiful it was that night before Perdicus showed up? The moon was full and the smell of lotus blossoms came down from the mountains on the warm breeze.”
I watched as Gabrielle’s lips formed a tiny smile and then her eyes closed and I knew I had her. She was dreaming of that night and I fell into the dreamscape moments behind her.
“Xena…are you listening to this story at all?”
“Huh?” I answered when I heard Gabrielle’s voice, not realizing I was in the dreamscape.
“I said, are you listening?” she passed her hand in front of my face and smiled at my uncharacteristic disorientation.
“Oh yea, Brie…uh…I mean, Gabrielle, I’m sorry. I guess I got caught up in my thoughts.”
“What a surprise,” she replied and smiled at me again. I nearly lost my breath at that smile. “Do you want me to stop or keep going?” she asked.
I’m sure she was expecting me to ask her to stop. I could tell by the look of slight disappointment in her face. I used to put that look there quite a bit in the old days and I’ve regretted it every day since then. Perhaps that’s why she nearly stumbled into the fire when I said I’d love to hear it, but could she start from the beginning again.
I jumped up and grabbed her around the waist, pulling her back against my body. Without my armor on I’m sure she could feel exactly how my body was reacting to the closeness of hers, even through my leathers.
“Are you all right?” I asked softly, enjoying the shiver my whisper against her ear brought to her body.
“Uhm…yea, thanks. I guess I tripped.”
“Did you hurt yourself?” I asked, not yet releasing my hold on her. Funny thing but she wasn’t exactly acting like she was in a hurry to get away from my embrace.
“Uh, maybe I just turned my ankle…I’ll be fine, though,” she stammered.
I didn’t think twice about it, that’s the good part of knowing this was a dream. I reached down and scooped Gabrielle into my arms and carried her over to our bedrolls, already spread out.
“Let me take a look,” I said as I carried her and gently set her on the blanket.
I unlaced her boot and took my time in examining the tender flesh. I ran the tips of my fingers along her skin until she was breathing just a tad faster than normal. This was becoming kind of fun and I smiled up at my companion. Gabrielle’s cheeks held a light pink flush to them and I wondered why I never saw this before. Why was I so convinced that Gabrielle could never love a woman like me? It was there, right in front of me, and I never saw it. I suppose I thought it so outlandish a thought that I was oblivious.
“Here, lay back and get comfortable. Can I get you anything?” I asked.
“Xena, I can barely feel it, you don’t have to fuss over me. I’ll be all right,” Gabrielle responded to my concern. Actually, I think she thought I was losing my mind.
I removed my boots and flopped down next to her. “Okay, story time.”
“Xena, are you feeling okay? You’re not going to hit me when I relax are you?” she asked suspiciously.
“No!” I answered, adding an offended tinge to my voice.
It was true, though, and she was smart enough to see through me. It had only been a fortnight from this point in time when Gabrielle whacked me a good one, sure that I would stop her like I always did. She became rather convinced that I let her catch me unaware, but the truth is that she took me completely by surprise. Gods, the girl almost broke my nose. She definitely bruised my pride.
“Gabrielle, I just wanted to relax and, well…you’re a great bard.”
“Of course. Now do I get to hear this new story or what?”
It was just like it used to be and there was a definite comfort factor, knowing that the pressure was off, that when we woke it would be to a reality where Gabrielle was mine. Lying next to each other, I waited and listened to Gabrielle’s beautiful voice as she wove her tale. I would wait until she was through with her story and I would tell her I loved her and that I never wanted to be without her. Yea, that’s what I’d do.
It was hard to lie there and not wrap my arms around Gabrielle as I usually did. It was as much a delight for me to hold Brie as for her to be held. I settled for the knowledge that by morning she would know of my love for her and the best part, she would probably be using most of my body for a pillow. I clasped my hands behind my head and smiled to myself, rather smugly I must admit. The one thing I didn’t anticipate was falling asleep.
Hades! How can you fall asleep in your dream?! I grumbled and raged inside my own head as I quickly put on my boots, realizing that rustle I heard was farm boy walking like a blind Cyclops through the forest. Well, I missed my opportunity, but he hasn’t asked yet and Gabrielle certainly hasn’t answered, so I still have time.
“Hello, Perdicus…not the smartest way to pay us a visit.”
Okay, the first time this happened I didn’t hit him, but I let my foot slip a little this time and before I knew it he was sitting on the ground, rubbing his jaw.”
“Oops,” I said; realizing Gabrielle was now behind me. “Let me help you up.”
“Perdicus!” Gabrielle exclaimed, my heart immediately ending up in my throat to hear my bard call out anyone else’s name that way.
“I just had to see something,” Perdicus started and I knew I didn’t want to hear what was coming next.
“What?” Gabrielle asked.
“Perdicus! You must be dead on your feet,” I said loudly, stepping between the boy and my wife. “We’ve got an extra blanket,” I said grabbing Gabrielle’s and tossing it into his arms. “Over here, right by the fire…there you go.” I practically pushed him to the ground.
“But, I–” he stammered.
“Xena’s right,” Gabrielle agreed. “Get some sleep and we can talk in the morning, okay?”
Perdicus watched as we settled down on our bedrolls together, he on the other side of the fire, reluctantly lying down. He must have thought there was something odd about that, but I think he was too confused to argue.
“Okay,” he muttered.
I gave him Gabrielle’s blanket, knowing how cold my bard gets at night. I hit her with the double whammy. She’d not only have to share my blanket, but I could already feel her inching closer against my back.
“Thanks, Xena…for being so nice to Perdicus. I know he’s always gotten on your nerves a bit,” Gabrielle whispered in my ear and I felt that warm breath all the way down to my toes.
I turned and gave her a little grin, pushing most of the blanket her way. I guess Perdicus had always gotten on my nerves, but I couldn’t very well tell her that. I think for the most part the young man from Potidaea trusted that I would always take good care of Gabrielle, which is more than her parents thought of me at first. I felt a little bad for hitting him earlier and okay, maybe just a bit guilty at deceiving Gabrielle. Here, she thought I was being nice to the boy and I was simply attempting to shut him up.
Gods, this dream certainly wasn’t turning out like I’d planned.
I was up and scouting around for breakfast early. I knew Gabrielle would sleep for a while and Perdicus was still sawing logs when I left the camp. When I returned from a highly unsuccessful fishing venture, the sun was already up. I couldn’t focus on the task at hand so instead of fish I figured I could hunt up a couple of small rabbits.
“Aw, shit!” I said out loud. I saw the two empty bedrolls and no one in the camp and realized that farmer boy was off telling Gabrielle what he planned on saying last night before I interrupted him.
They weren’t far off and I stopped a discreet distance away. I never knew what Perdicus said the first time all of this happened, so since it was my dream, I used that to rationalize the fact that I was entitled to hear what this young farmer had to say. I easily climbed into a nearby tree, able to see and hear everything quite well from here.
“So, what have you been doing since you left Troy?” Gabrielle asked.
“Fighting. That’s all I’ve been doing it seems.”
Yea, well you are supposed to be a soldier, I thought to myself.
“After Troy I wandered into another war. One day I killed three men. I started to have dreams about all the men whose lives I’d taken.”
Right…try being me, I’ll show you dreams of regret.
“I couldn’t stand it. One night I had a dagger at my heart…”
“…then I saw something.” Perdicus paused.
“What?” Gabrielle asked, falling right into his trap. There was nothing I could do but listen.
“Your face,” he replied.
“Perdicus, I don’t know if I’m really who you think I am. I mean I fight.”
That’s it…you tell him, Brie.
“But you never kill, I know that. Gabrielle, we were to be married once, and you decided that wasn’t to be. You were right. I wasn’t ready either, but I am now.”
“I love you, and if you’ll take me, I want you to be my wife.”
Son of a Bacchae!
The bad part about getting really mad while perched precariously upon a tree limb is that the ground sometimes mysteriously rises up to meet you. I fell right out of that tree and as I hurtled to the dirt, I saw Gabrielle look up. Timing…it’s everything.
“I’m sorry I…just excuse me, okay?” Gabrielle said hastily, rushing over to where I fell.
By the time I shook off the fall I looked up and found myself staring at Gabrielle’s boots.
“Xena? What are you doing?” she asked, standing over me.
I jumped to my feet, rubbing the tender spot on my backside that felt the most impact when I landed. “I was trying to hunt up some rabbits for breakfast,” I mumbled.
Gabrielle looked up and I could see by the expression on her face she wanted to believe me, but she was staring high up into the tree then back down at me like I just told her I could sprout wings and fly.
“From up there?” she finally asked.
What else could I possibly say that wouldn’t make me look like more of an imbecile than I already did? My pride and my dignity all but vanished. I decided to play bad tempered warrior, which was pretty close to the truth by this time, and grumble as I walked away.
“You can see ‘em better from up there,” was all I could think to say, as I limped my sore butt back to camp.
Gods, this dream certainly wasn’t turning out like I’d planned.
So, for the second miserable time in my life I was carrying on this conversation with Gabrielle. I didn’t want it to get this far. I thought by this time we’d be making love somewhere. How had it gone so wrong, so fast? When did I lose control of this dreamscape? Just wait till I see Adia…I’ll tell her just where she can stick those herbs of hers. The crazy thing is that I found myself saying the same inane things to Gabrielle as I did the first time.
“So, what’s your answer?” I asked. I had to wait until she told me what he said this time around, which wasted a lot of precious time. Gods, what if we woke up before I was able to…well, consummate the whole thing?
“No, of course,” Gabrielle answered.
“Why don’t you tell him?” I heard myself asking, feeling déjà vu course through me.
“I’m waiting for the right time.”
“He’s…” I couldn’t believe I was saying this again. “He’s a good man.” I declared, but my heart wasn’t in it and I think she might have sensed it.
“He is,” she agreed. “He’s so sensitive and kind. I’ve never known anyone that I’ve ever felt so comfortable around. Besides you,” she finished, and she had a look of expectation on her face that broke my heart. Gods, why didn’t I see that expression the first time? I guess because I was too busy trying to hide my own pain.
I looked at her out of the corner of my eye and caught her staring intently at me. We both knew she was waiting for me to say something, if not exactly a declaration of love, to at least ask her not to break up our friendship. I would rather spend eternity in Tartarus than to say the words I said the first time. This wasn’t exactly the moonlight and orchids I wanted it to be, but time was fleeting and I was working on a deadline here.
“Gabrielle…” I paused and realized my mouth had gone dust dry.
What if Gabrielle wasn’t as ready to be with me back then as she claimed? Hindsight is one thing, but Gabrielle was still a virgin and the whole prospect of this new kind of loving, with another woman, might be a bit more than she had in mind.
“Yes, Xena?” She stopped and looked at me expectantly.
“Gabrielle, I…I need to ask you something. I mean, tell you something.” I took a big breath. “Gabrielle, I lo–”
“Xena…Xena! It’s Callisto, she’s out!” Joxer’s panicky shouting told me I’d taken too long about this.
“Son of a mother fucking Bacchae!” I muttered under my breath.
You see, this time I knew what the deal was. I sent Perdicus charging in on Argo and I slipped into the small village from the woods. With all the fighting and confusion, Callisto never even saw me until it was too late. She was so fixed on that blonde mare it was almost too easy. There would be no child I had to save or threats about killing my soul. This time Callisto was trussed up and her army either dead or on the run by the time the local militia showed up. It didn’t take too much time, only problem was, the time it did take was valuable. By the time I was through wrestling Callisto to the ground in a surprise attack and finishing off what was left of her men, I saw the fated moment I dreaded. I was too far off to do anything but watch as I fought with Callisto’s lackeys.
Perdicus threw his blade to the ground and all I could think was, what an idiot! He left himself and Gabrielle without a sword’s protection while there was still fighting going on around them.
“I can’t do this anymore. If you don’t want to come with me, it’s not going to change the way I feel about you. I love you more than anything, but I’m done fighting. I’m going home,” Perdicus said in defeat.
“Yeah, but…but…” Gabrielle found herself talking to air until I was able to get there.
“Where’s he going?” I had to ask the same stupid question as last time, but I prayed that maybe he hadn’t said what I thought he said.
“The answer’s yes, Xena.” Gabrielle looked at me as if waiting for a response. I knew what her next words were going to be, but it still rocked my world, having to listen to them again.
“I’m going to marry him.”
Gods, this dream was turning into a nightmare!
It was a small village, but at least it had a decent inn. Once I got Argo stabled I met my wife and the man she was going to marry once again inside the tavern portion of the inn. A few of the local thugs were leaning a little too close to Gabrielle and farm boy was so love-struck that he was oblivious.
“Back off,” I hissed from behind the small blonde.
The ruffians scurried away when they looked up and caught a glimpse of the expression I was sporting. I was not a happy warrior right about now. I got up before dawn, fell from a tree and almost broke my neck. As a matter of fact, my ass still hurt from landing on the ground like I had no abilities in the trees whatsoever. I had to listen to my wife tell me she was marrying someone else, only to come into the tavern to see Perdicus apparently expecting to share a room with Gabrielle. I don’t think so.
“Xena,” Perdicus finally noticed me glaring at him. “We were just getting a room. We can stay the night and be joined by the magistrate in the morning. You’re staying for the ceremony, of course?”
Oh, this was too much. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply through my nose to fight down the desire to lift that kid up by his scrawny neck and toss him through the first available door.
“Xena, are you all right?” Gabrielle touched my forearm and my eyes opened in a flash.
“Gabrielle, I love you,” I blurted out all at once.
Gabrielle looked around a little self-consciously. “I love you too, Xena. You know that.”
I shook my head and suddenly there were tears in my eyes. This was a dream, yet it seemed so damned important to get it right this time. Of course, Gabrielle didn’t quite know me as the sensitive type. I think I was scaring the Tartarus out of her. She probably thought I’d taken a blow to the head in our most recent skirmish.
“No, I mean I love you, Gabrielle. I’m in love with you and I want to be with you for the rest of our lives.”
She just stared at me, then looked over at Perdicus, around the crowded tavern, then her eyes settled on me again. I thought that this would be the hardest thing in my life to ever do. As a warrior, fighting for the greater good, my pride and my honor were all I had that I could call my own. I imagined that this would be the ultimate sacrifice, the most difficult, humiliating thing to ever do, but in reality it was absurdly easy. Now that the moment was upon me, I didn’t even have to think twice.
I got down on my knees in that noisy tavern, right in front of Gabrielle. She continued to stare at me, her mouth open slightly. Perdicus seemed stunned and there were a few snickers at what the men there thought I was doing on my knees in front of the small blonde. I placed my hands on her hips and they almost circled her waist she was so slim. I looked up into those emerald eyes that always held love and adoration for me and I spoke my heart.
“Gabrielle, I do love you. I’ve felt this way for so long now, but I never had the courage to tell you. I never thought I deserved someone as good as you in my life, and certainly not as my lover. I don’t have one thing to offer you but my love, that, and the promise that I will love you and protect you for as long as I live. There will never be anyone in my heart but you, Gabrielle and I swear that I will spend every day of our lives together proving just that, if you will only choose me. Marry me, Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle seemed to be in shock, but no more so than the rest of the inn. “I…I…” she stammered as she looked from Perdicus’ shocked face to my own.
That’s when I felt it. She was torn and she didn’t know what to do. I felt her body pull away from me and I released the hold that I had around her waist. I knelt there for a moment and simply looked into those gorgeous eyes that misted over with tears, confusion and fear apparent in that gaze. I thought that all I would have to do would be to tell Gabrielle that I loved her and she would fall into my arms, but that wasn’t the way real life was.
This was all just a dream that Gabrielle and I were sharing, but the outcome would have a definite impact on our lives in the waking world. We might shake it off and say that she chose Perdicus because it was just a dream, and we would still love one another and grow old together, but there would always be this, hanging silently between us. I couldn’t force Gabrielle or overwhelm her, or even trick her into choosing me. She had to make that choice on her own and when she took a step further away from me, I knew I had my answer. This dream was not to be.
I rose and made arrangements for a room, gathering my things in my hand, I turned back to Gabrielle.
“If you care at all…if you want to be with me. All you have to do is come to the room,” I said.
I leaned down and kissed her on the lips. It was soft and gentle and she didn’t pull away. I almost lost it when she pressed her lips to mine for more contact. When I stepped away, she had the most heartbroken look on her face, but I had to make my bard choose. I had to know what the truth was. I turned and walked up the stairs to my room and once the door closed behind me, my tears fell in earnest.
It was late into the night by the position of the full moon sinking into the night sky. This was a silly dream and yet I sat there on the bed in nothing but my shift and cried. I knew I was letting this affect me far more than I intended, but the thought of Gabrielle in a room with Perdicus right now, stole my strength from me. I sat there and continued to cry like a baby.
The knock at the door stopped me momentarily and I knew that whoever was there was sure to have heard my sobs already. So, when I threw open the door I didn’t even bother to hide the fact. Gabrielle stood there, in her bare feet, looking rather timid and more nervous than she usually did around me.
“Can I come in?”
I opened the door wider in silent invitation.
“Xena, I wanted to explain–”
“Gabrielle, it’s all right. You don’t owe me an explanation.”
She wanted to explain why she was choosing Perdicus over me? I didn’t think I was up for this. I sat down on the bed and realized she was looking into a very tear-stained face.
“Really,” I tried to smile and think I succeeded. “I understand,” I finished and used my hands to wipe most of the wetness from my cheeks.
“Oh…you do? Then maybe you’ll explain it to me,” She asked.
“Huh?” I looked up in confusion.
“Well, I mean, my best friend, who practically ignores me half the time and appears merely to tolerate me the rest of the time, waits until I’m betrothed to someone else and not only reveals all these hidden feelings of love, but she does it in the middle of a busy tavern, while drawing every eye in the place to the fact that she’s on her knees. What was I supposed to say to that, Xena?”
“I…I…” I lowered my head because I couldn’t meet her inquiring stare.
“I didn’t want it to be like that. I wanted it to be beautiful and romantic, but when I saw you two in the tavern…I assumed that Perdicus wanted to spend the night with you–”
“And you thought I would? I thought you knew me better than that.” Gabrielle walked across the room and I watched as she poured some water from a pitcher into a bowl, and then wet a hand cloth.
Gabrielle returned and stood in front of me and I never protested as she wiped the cool cloth across my face, wiping the tears away.
“Did you mean it…what you said downstairs?” she asked in a very soft voice.
“Every word. I know I don’t use them as well as you, but everything I told you was the truth. I do love you, Gabrielle,” I answered.
“How do you know who you’re really in love with, Xena? Can you tell when they kiss you?” she asked absently, allowing her own fingertips to rest on her lips.
“That’s part of it,” I replied. “When I kissed you downstairs I never wanted it to end. I felt it in more than just my body. I felt it in my soul, Gabrielle.”
Her eyes rose up quickly to search mine and she looked alarmed. She walked away and stood in front of the open window, the warm breeze blowing wisps of golden hair away from her face.
“I kissed Perdicus tonight,” she stated simply.
Gods…I really did not want to hear about what they did in their room. Gabrielle was here to tell me she finally decided that she loved me, that she already slept with Perdicus, and we would all live happily ever after, but I would end up getting seconds again. It was already too late.
“It didn’t feel the same as when you kissed me,” she answered quietly.
It took a few heartbeats, but I finally understood without the whole stone wall falling in on me. I wanted to smile like an idiot. I wanted to climb to the top of the roof and scream. Instead, I rose and walked over to where Gabrielle stood, looking out the window.
“How did you feel when I kissed you, Gabrielle?” I asked, leaning into her, but not touching.
She turned and looked up at me and I knew that whatever she asked me for at this moment, I would agree to.
“Would you kiss me again, so I can be sure?”
I smiled a very small smile. “Absolutely,” I answered.
When I leaned in for that kiss, I felt my destiny click into place. The kiss was soft and passionate, tender and hungry all at once. By the time I parted my lips to let my bard’s inquisitive tongue enter my mouth, she had her arms around my neck and I was pulling her body tightly against my own. I moaned at the warm softness as her tongue caressed my own and I regretfully had to eventually come up for air.
“Gods, Gabrielle…where did you learn to kiss like that?” I asked breathlessly.
She gently touched her hand to my cheek and I could see she was trying hard to control her own breathing.
“I asked Perdicus to stop because when he kissed me, it didn’t feel anything at all like this. When I kiss you, Xena, I feel it all the way down into my soul. It feels right,” she said.
“So, you and he didn’t?” I couldn’t bring myself to say it, but I needed this confirmation.
She shook her head back and forth and I felt like my heart was going to pound right out of my chest.
“I told him that I would always love him as a dear friend, but it wouldn’t be fair for me to marry him when I was in love with someone else.”
I reached down and lifted her chin until her eyes met mine. “I love you, Gabrielle.”
“I love you, too. For a long time now,” she added.
“Gabrielle, why didn’t you ever say anything?” I chided.
“Because I didn’t think I could ever be loved that way, especially not by you. I didn’t think…I didn’t think you would ever want a tag along farm-girl as your lover.”
“Oh sweetheart, you are so much more than that. You are everything to me, my heart. You are my world,” I said and now she was crying, too.
I took her face in my hands and kissed her again, slower this time, taking my time to explore every subtle nuance of her mouth.
“Gabrielle, I want to make love to you. If you think it’s too fast, we can wait, but I–”
“I don’t want to wait, Xena. I want it more than anything, but…”
“But what?” I looked up in a hurry.
“I don’t know what to…I mean, I’ve never…” she stammered a bit, but I already knew what she was trying to say.
“Then let me make love to you,” I answered knowingly.
My sweet bard smiled up at me and I thought that no Queen on earth could possibly tempt me while I had this treasure. I took her by the hand and led her to the bed. I sat down and pulled her closer until she was standing between my legs. I wanted to do this right and I had quite a few seasons of fantasizing exactly how I wanted our first time to be. When I raised my hands to begin untying the laces that held her small top together, I noticed that I was trembling.
As I pushed the top from her small, muscular shoulders, I think I must have groaned aloud.
“Xena, are you okay?” Gabrielle asked.
I realized what I’d done and grinned in embarrassment. “If you mean am I aware that I must be in Ellysia, then yes, I’m okay.”
Gabrielle smiled shyly and helped me as I removed her belt and skirt.
“Gods, Gabrielle, you are so beautiful,” I murmured, pressing my lips against the silken skin of her stomach, which fluttered lightly at my touch.
I pulled her to sit down beside me, then to lie back onto the bed. I was about to lie beside her, when my bard stopped me.
“Xena…I want to see you too,” she requested.
“Oh,” I said, because I couldn’t make my brain come up with anything wittier. I sat up and removed my shift and heard the small gasp that came from Gabrielle’s throat.
“You’ve seen me naked before,” I commented, already feeling myself grow wet at her hungry stare.
“Not like this,” she answered, rising up and leaning on one hand.
I understood what she meant. We bathed together, dressed together, and if we wanted to see more of our partner’s body, we stole casual glimpses out of the corner of our eyes. Starting right now, we would no longer have to sneak an eyeful of the other. Gabrielle knew that starting right this moment, my body belonged to her and she could look as long as she pleased.
“May I touch you?” she asked.
I swallowed and seemed to have lost the ability for speech. I could only nod as she reached out her hand and let her fingers slide against my already overheated skin.
“Where do you like to be touched, Xena?” she asked me and something in me knew it was a rhetorical question.
Gabrielle didn’t seem to expect an answer, which was just as well because I couldn’t verbalize a single word. I watched her eyes as they followed the progress of her hand from my face down along the length of my throat.
I nodded and felt the pressure of her fingertips as I swallowed. She continued on, down into the hollow of my chest, spreading the palm of her hand over one breast. When she squeezed the flesh just slightly, I groaned and felt my nipple harden and press against her palm. I think she moaned at the sensation, too.
“Here?” she asked again, her voice taking on a sensuous throaty quality. When she concentrated her efforts on the hardened nipple I moaned again.
“Oh, yes,” I breathed and I closed my eyes, simply in awe at my young bard’s boldness.
My eyes flashed open when I felt her fingers move through the dark triangle of curls and graze across my clit.
“Gods, Gabrielle!” I exclaimed and grasped her wandering hand in mine.
This seduction wasn’t going exactly as planned and if I continued to let my bard have her way; I’d end up being taken, instead of the other way around. Gabrielle smiled as I pushed her back against the bed and stretched my body out alongside of her. I think she already had an inkling of the power she held over me.
“Gabrielle…Gods, how I want you,” I whispered, and then kissed her in a way that would show her just how much. I directed my kisses lower, along her throat and the upper swell of her breasts.
“Xena…will it hurt?” she interrupted and I kissed her lips in reassurance.
“Some women feel more pain than others. Any hurt that you feel will be swallowed up by the pleasure, I promise you, my heart.”
Saying that I let my right hand roam across her body, gently kneading the flesh of her breast, leaning down to place a soft kiss on the pebbled flesh that quickly became erect with desire, finally spreading her thighs apart and running my fingers along the smooth skin on the inside of her thigh. Gabrielle was beginning to understand about the pleasure outweighing the pain and her breathless moans were like music to my ears.
I touched her that way for a long time until my lovely bard finally indicated she could stand the evasive caresses no longer. She arched her back and I let her hand draw my head down to her breast. I started out gentle, with a kiss and an occasional flick of my tongue along the soft curves of her flesh, but soon it wasn’t enough for either of us. I covered a very rigid nipple with my mouth and sucked, working the area over with my tongue, and then sucking it into my mouth even harder, before releasing it between my teeth.
“Xena…yes,” Gabrielle exclaimed, pressing her body against my own.
I continued making love to her breasts, alternating between the two, leaving my lover gasping for breath and anxious for release. Reaching my hand down between her thighs, I let my fingers lightly stroke along the length of her sex, so that she barely knew she was being touched.
“Gods…you’re so wet,” I moaned at that first touch.
“I—I’ve never been this wet before, Xena, even when I’ve touched myself. Is that all right?”
I got an instant visual of Gabrielle pleasuring herself and let of a long sigh at the sensation.
“It is very all right, love. It shows me that you’re enjoying my touch,” I responded.
“Oh, I am,” Gabrielle answered enthusiastically and I felt her move her legs wider apart in encouragement.
I wasn’t sure how much Gabrielle knew about women pleasuring one another. I tended to keep her rather close to me when we made our occasional visits to the Amazons, for obvious reasons. When I slid my body down to position myself closer to her center, she seemed to know exactly where I was headed and spread her legs open further. I took my time here as well, using my lips and my tongue to blaze a path along the sensitive skin of her inner thighs. Her skin tasted faintly musky and I felt a hitch in my breathing as my tongue ran across the wetness that had made its way onto her leg. It only fed my craving and before long I simply couldn’t hold back any longer.
Oh, Xena!” Gabrielle cried out as my tongue slipped through the reddish-blonde curls, exploring every crease and fold that was drenched in my bard’s wetness.
I was lost in a place of pure delight. The sensation my wife’s taste was causing on my tongue could not be compared to anything in the real world. The more I allowed myself, the more I wanted until I finally wrapped my arms around her smooth thighs and pulled her closer, drinking like a parched woman in the desert at the luscious gift she offered. I pressed my tongue against her opening, testing the tightness by barely slipping my tongue inside.
“Gods, Oh Gods!” Gabrielle practically screamed at the sensation and wrapped both her hands in my hair, pulling me tighter against her.
I began to ease my tongue in an out of the sensitive entrance, Gabrielle’s hips beginning to move against me, as she continued to hold my hair in both her hands. I heard her uncontrollable breathing and constant moans and felt her muscles begin to twitch in anticipation. I slid my tongue to the top of her cleft, concentrating on the area I knew would bring her the most pleasure. As I did this, I pressed the tip of my index finger just inside her, the liquid fire flowing from her making the task quite easy. I pressed in, never stopping my tongue’s motion against her, groaning in absolute pleasure at the feel of the warm velvety flesh that surrounded my finger.
“Oh, Xena, please. I want to feel you inside of me.” She tried to thrust her hips onto my hand, but I pulled back so as not to cause her pain too soon.
I replaced my tongue with my thumb and let it make slow steady circles across that swollen bit of flesh. I moved my finger in and out to a slower rhythm than my bard’s hips dictated, but she would thank me for going slow later. Finally, my young lover reduced her efforts and went along at the pace I set, beginning to groan aloud at the fire she could feel gradually building between her legs. I moved my own body up, lying over her, pressing kisses against her throat, letting my tongue slide along the edge of her ear.
I could feel her legs beginning to tremble, my own center quivering in ecstatic empathy. I continued the in and out motion of my index finger, careful not to penetrate to far, my thumb pressing down harder against her sensitive flesh.
“I want to be inside of you too, my bard.” I whispered, flicking my tongue against her ear. “Think how good it will feel, Gabrielle,” I breathed against her.
“Xena, oh Gods, Xena, yes…yes…”
“That’s it, my heart, let go. I can tell you’re right there…that’s it, baby. Come on, sweetheart. Melt for me, Gabrielle…melt for me.”
I bit down gently on her neck just as the first scream left her throat. When she convulsed against me a second time, I quickly thrust my index finger deep inside, easily tearing past the fleshy membrane. Before she could think about the pain, I pressed my thumb against her clit, moving it against the tender area, and Gabrielle cried out again in pleasure at her second release. My own climax ripped through me as I felt Gabrielle’s tightness clamp around my finger, her inner muscles clenching and unclenching involuntarily.
My body was trembling nearly as much as Gabrielle’s. I held her close to me with one arm and simply let her feel the fullness of my finger, still deep inside her. When she was silent for a few moments I gently eased my finger from her, causing another small volley of aftershocks.
Gabrielle finally focused on my face and I saw the green eyes clear of their sensuous haze.
“Oh, Xena…I never knew…I mean, I didn’t think it would be…I just…” she stammered.
I chuckled as I caught my own breath and kissed her forehead, partly covered by damp blonde bangs.
“Yea, me too, my heart…me too,” I answered.
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around me and snuggled herself against me. I held her tight and closed my eyes, sighing deeply. It was a sound of contentment and of dreams fulfilled. And, when I opened my eyes again, I wasn’t lying in a bed in an unknown inn, holding a young lover. I was in my own bed in the Amazon village and in my arms I held the greatest treasure of all, my wife.
Gabrielle looked up into my face with a mix of wonder and happiness on her face.
“Did…Xena, did that really happen?” she asked hesitantly.
“For us it did, my heart. Thanks in part to Adia’s herbs.”
“Oh Xe, it was wonderful. Gods, you put yourself through all of that again for me?” Her eyes filled with tears of joy.
I kissed her and knew that I would go through anything for her. I wanted to tell her so, that I would stand through any trial, suffer any harm or ill. That I would go anywhere, do anything, be anyone, just to be with her. I wanted to tell her all of this, but as usual, when she looked up at me with those loving emerald eyes, my tongue froze. I settled for the few words that really mattered on a day such as this.
“Happy anniversary, Gabrielle.”
Since turnabout is fair play, read about Gabrielle’s gift in, “Happy Anniversary, Xena”