Happy Anniversary, Xena
by LJ Maas
#6 in the Queen Series
Everything was perfect, absolutely perfect. The evening, the party, my Warrior, and most of all, the gift she gave me. Oh, I know Xena came up with something that was just as much a gift for her as for me, but all that I put her through in that dreamscape, reliving what was a heart breaking time for the both of us. Well, she deserves my love and thanks and, of course, she has both.
I couldn’t wait to get back to our hut to give Xena her present. Well, her second present. The first was a new saddle I had made for Argo. A saddle doesn’t sound like much, but my wife started complaining, a while back, about the used leather of her current one. I thought the new one was functional as well as beautiful and Xena did as well. She especially seemed to like the added touch that I had its creator burn into the saddlebags that went along with it. Each bag had the impressions of the jewelry each one of us wore around our neck, branded into the leather.
After Xena and I received a toast for our continued happiness together and spoke with our family and close friends, the first person I sought out was Adia. The tall healer stood next to her wife and when I walked up to her, she commented on the size of the grin I had on my face.
“May I assume that is a smile of satisfaction?” she asked quietly.
“You may assume that. Oh, Adia!” I threw my arms around her and kissed her cheek. “Thank you so much.”
When I released her, she had the same look on her face that most people get. Why is it that these warrior-types are so unused to displays of affection? Eventually the shocked look was replaced by a smile and I turned to Sartori.
“I hope you don’t mind, Sartori…I just had to.”
“Well, if you weren’t my Queen and if I didn’t suspect the reason, you and I would probably have to talk,” the healer said in her usual matter of fact tone.
I wondered just what it would take to get this healer, who was not much taller or older than myself, angry. She always had a cool calm exterior, no matter what.
“Adia, I have a favor I want to ask of you,” I began.
It was like the woman knew what I was going to say. I wonder if she’s an oracle as well as a healer?
“Here,” she held out a small pouch and dropped it into my hands with a few simple instructions.
“How did you know this was what I was going to ask?”
“I figured that it could go one of two ways. Either you would have had a miserable experience and in that case I’d be making plans for an extended visit to the Northern tribes, or you would have the time of your life and want to reciprocate that experience for Xena.”
“Wow, she’s good.” I winked at Sartori.
“Happy anniversary,” they both said in unison and when I turned back after having walked away, I watched the tender kiss the two shared. They reminded me of Xena and I in so many ways.
Now, three candlemarks and my limit of two mugs of wine later, I nervously fingered the pouch in the pocket of my tunic. I kept thinking about Xena’s gift to me and the thought that lingered was…why couldn’t I do the same thing? Xena admitted that she was sixteen summers old when she lost her innocence, the year before Cortese attacked her village and her own personal nightmare began. So, why couldn’t I get both of us in the dreamscape and go back to Amphipolis the summer that she turned sixteen? I’m a bard and a Queen, surely that can’t be too difficult a chore. I mean, it’s only a dream, right? How hard could it be?
I suppose if Xena and I had talked a bit longer about all she went through in our most recent dreamscape encounter, I might have thought twice about it. As it was, I thought that if I planned out a careful and loving enough seduction, it would all fall into place. We would both be sixteen, but I would know what I know now…yea that’s it.
How was I to know that what happens in our dreams cannot always be controlled.
Our lovemaking on this evening was all I could have hoped for. It was tender and passionate, and even though I had developed a small belly, that was growing larger each day, Xena treated me as if I were the only woman in the world that existed. This warrior could exasperate me to no end some days, but I had to admit, she was bearing the brunt of my mood swings and tantrums lately with uncharacteristic grace.
I got up from our bed on the pretense of getting something to drink.
“Xe, do you want something?”
“Sure, what are you having?” she asked.
She wrinkled up her nose and I laughed. “Would you care for some more wine?”
She smiled happily and nodded her head. When I saw that she had her hands clasped under her head and her eyes at half-mast, I quickly mixed the powder into the mugs. I lay back on the bed with her and we each took a couple of long swallows from our drinks. Xena’s brow furrowed and I cursed her extraordinary senses.
I leaned over and kissed her before she had time to think about it too long, slipping my tongue inside her mouth. I figured with the taste of cider from my mouth, and well, the fact that my tongue was there too, it would take her mind, and her taste buds, off of Adia’s powder. It must have done the trick because soon we drained our mugs, trading kisses the whole while.
She yawned and I followed suit. We usually slept with Xena holding me, but I wanted to feel her in my arms tonight and I told her so. She smiled and situated herself against me, snuggling against the warm skin of my neck. I felt her lips kiss the skin there and I shivered at the tender touch. I ran my hands through the long dark hair, letting my nails run along her scalp and I saw goose bumps rise on her arms. I felt, rather than heard, the sound of contentment that rumbled out from her chest, sounding something like a purr.
“Thank you, Xe…for making sure that you were my first,” I said softly.
“Mmm, that was my pleasure, my heart.”
“And what about you and the season you turned sixteen? Would you have rather it had been me back then?” I asked innocently.
“That would have been beautiful,” she answered sleepily.
Xena told me about Talon, the young man she lost her virginity to. She didn’t say much, but what else is new, right? She did say that the reason it was Talon was because she thought she loved him, and that they had a future together. She found out later that he won a bet by sleeping with her, the beauty that no one else could capture. I was sure it broke her heart, what sixteen-year-old girl wouldn’t have been crushed? Of course, when she told me, she shrugged it off. I could see the tears in those blue eyes, however, and I knew that if I ever ran into Talon , he would have one very pissed off Amazon Queen to deal with. I would make him sorry…right before I kicked his ass.
“Tell me what you were like when you were sixteen, Xe,” I whispered.
She yawned again and I didn’t know which of us fell asleep first, but the next thing I knew…I was walking through the gates of Amphipolis.
I tripped a little at the sudden sensation of walking, when moments ago I had been lying in bed. The sun was bright and I looked around at a landscape that was very new to me. It struck me then how much of Amphipolis had been ravaged and destroyed when Cortese and his army attacked. Now, the hills were so green and I could almost see the top of the falls where Xena said she and Lyceus played. There were farmers working in fields as far as the eye could see, working in the moderate temperatures of early summer. I heard birds singing and as I drew closer to the village gates, I could smell and hear all the sights and sounds of a bustling community.
I captured endearing smiles from every old woman who passed me by, and their caring expressions were getting to me a bit. I was so caught up in the sensory overload that was going on around me that I never thought to look at myself. Maybe they’re staring because I’m dressed funny or the way I’m carrying my staff. When I looked down and caught a glimpse of my large belly I was helpless to do more than let out my Warrior’s favorite exclamation.
“Son of a mother fucking Bacchae!” I hissed under my breath.
I was pregnant!
Oh this isn’t fair! I’m not supposed to be pregnant…this is my dream. I’m supposed to be a teenager! How in the world is this going to work now? Gods, this could only happen to me.
I sunk down on the nearest bench and seriously thought about having a good cry. I know. I’ll just concentrate really hard and I’ll be me…like when I was sixteen. Some time later I opened my eyes again to see nothing had changed. Okay, how about if I just concentrate on waking up. That way I can just start this whole thing over. Again I reopened my eyes and that’s when I was about to give in to the tears.
How in Hades do I get out of this dreamscape?
“Wake–Up!” I punctuated each word with a smack to my head.
“I say the same thing to myself some days,” the alto voice commented from behind me.
I didn’t have to turn to know who the tall shadow looming over me belonged to. It was her. I didn’t need to recognize the scent of jasmine that she put in her bath or the odor of the sandalwood soap she always used. I could smell her; the scent of her very skin, that was so distinctly my Warrior that I would be able to place it anywhere.
When I did stand and turn around I was looking up into smiling blue eyes, the color of cornflowers. The only lines on her face were those around her mouth and she displayed why, when she smiled at me. On the day we were married she was the most beautiful woman I had ever known. Today looking into her face twenty years earlier, I thought only one thing.
“Breathtaking,” I said slowly and realized as her cheeks flushed pink that I had said the words aloud.
“Thank you,” she replied, as if it was the first time anyone had ever said those words to her.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” I responded, not really sure what to say.
“That’s all right. My name is Xena,” she said as she extended her hand.
I grasped the warm hand and I think she felt something, too because her brows furrowed together in momentary confusion.
“Do I know you?” she asked.
How was I supposed to answer that one? As a matter of fact, twenty years from now you’ll marry me, oh, and by the way, this is your child I’m carrying. Right. She’ll be calling the local healer over and they’ll toss me into the nearest cell.
“I don’t believe we’ve met, I’m Gabrielle,” I said, still unwilling to relinquish her hand.
“Are you new to the village, Gabrielle?” Xena asked and I couldn’t believe how good my name sounded coming from her.
“Actually I just arrived.”
“Are you waiting for someone?” she looked around the busy square for other strangers.
“Traveling with someone?”
“Nope,” I answered and followed her eyes down to my middle, then back up to mine.
“Are you visiting family here in Amphipolis?” she at last tried.
“I’m afraid I don’t know a soul,” I replied with a smile and I could see that she was hesitant to leave me alone here. I never would have thought Xena was like this as a young woman. She was a lot like…well, like me.
“Look. My mother runs the local inn. Why don’t you come stay with us for a while, huh? At least come and share a meal with us.”
At the thought of Cyrene’s cooking, my stomach rumbled loudly.
“I’ll take that to mean yes.” Xena giggled.
My Xena, giggling…who would have thought it? She put an arm around my shoulder and led me through the busy streets to the inn. She said hello to people on the street and they returned the greeting. I don’t think she stopped talking the whole way there and I simply couldn’t believe this was my Xena. Gods, this must be how Xena feels when I start talking.
My stomach protested again and Xena looked down at me and laughed.
“My little brother has a monster like that, too,” she said as she pushed open the doors to the inn and held them open for me.
So that’s where she got that. I wonder if Lyceus had the same type of appetite as I do, though.
“Wait here, Gabrielle, I’m sure my mother is in the kitchen,” Xena commented and I heard her calling her mother’s name. I could hear their exchange and I wondered if either of them knew that their voices were carrying into this room.
Xena, what took you so long, dear?”
“Sorry, mom, but I brought somebody home with me…they looked kind of lost.”
“Xena! You did not bring one of your strays home again, did you?” Cyrene’s accusation made me smile. I’d never been called a stray before.
“Ssh, mom, she’ll hear you.” Xena growled.
“She? Oh no, young lady. The last time it was a girl she had little ones two moons later.” I was about to burst out laughing and I wish I could have seen the look on Xena’s face at her mother’s confusion.
“But, she’s already pregnant.”
“Oh Xena, I swear if you brought a pup about to have–”
“Pup? Mom, it’s a girl…a real girl. Her name is Gabrielle.” There was silence and I could only imagine the looks those two women I loved were giving each other.
The doors that separated the tavern portion of the inn and the kitchen swung open and Cyrene came through, followed by my Warrior. I had my hand over my mouth to hide the smile and my eyes widened in surprise. Cyrene was truly beautiful and it was evident at this age where Xena obtained her natural beauty.
“I’m sorry, dear, my daughter and I seemed to have a bit of confusion over your identity.” Cyrene wiped her hands on an apron tied around her waist and held out one hand to me.
“She thought you were a dog,” Xena added with a smirk and I laughed. Gods, she was just so damned cute.
“Xena, hush,” Cyrene chided in embarrassment.
I shook Cyrene’s hand and she smiled warmly, briefly touching my stomach, as everyone did.
“Mother! I bet she hates when people do that,” Xena remarked. She knew me better than she realized.
“It’s all right, I’m used to it.” I grinned.
“Well, dear, do you need a place to stay? Xena tells me you’re lost.”
“Well, not lost exactly, but I do need a place to stay. I–” I realized I didn’t have any dinars with me. “I’m a little short on money right now, but I’m a good cook, I could work in the kitchen, or I could tell stories to your customers and give you my tips. I’m a bard.”
“You’re a bard?” Xena asked excitedly. “Have you been on adventures…have you been to the Academy in Athens…can you tell us a story?”
“Xena!” Cyrene admonished. “Let the girl breathe. Here, Gabrielle, let’s sit here.” She motioned to an empty table.
I smiled over at Xena who was giving me a younger version of her ‘I got caught being an idiot’ grin. I placed my hand over hers.
“Yes, on all counts, Xena.”
She blushed again and mumbled an apology. All I could think of was that I couldn’t wait to get back to my Xena because I was never going to let her forget this.
“I’d be happy to have a bard entertain, but you look like you could use something to eat and a place to have a lie down first. Is there no one waiting for you, child…no one expecting you?”
“Uhm, I was going to visit the Amazons, but no one is waiting for me.” It was the only thing I could think of and I only hoped that there weren’t any Amazons in Amphipolis. I didn’t think I’d be able to explain to Queen Melosa who I was.
“I thought your clothes looked like the women from the southern tribes,” Cyrene added and Xena’s eyes went wide.
“You’re an Amazon? Really? Is that an Amazon staff…are you good with it… could you give me a few pointers?” Xena rattled off her questions in one breath and I wanted to laugh out loud.
Cyrene simply turned and raised an eyebrow in her daughter’s direction. So, that’s where Xena got that. My young warrior-to-be looked up at her mother and smiled. “I know. Xena, shut up.”
Cyrene laughed and reached over and gave her daughter a hug. It felt so good to watch mother and daughter together. My Xena still lived with the knowledge that at one time in her life; her mother pretended she didn’t have a daughter. I sure wished someone here knew me, I thought as the mother and daughter embraced. I was beginning to feel alone all of a sudden and I could feel hot tears beginning to form in my eyes. Cyrene must have seen it too.
“Why don’t we get you some hot food and a room to get settled in, before we do anything else, all right? The world always looks better on a full stomach and a little sleep. I know when I was carrying this one; all I wanted was to lie down on a nice soft mattress half the time. I have a large pot of lamb stew all ready and you can eat your fill, how does that sound?”
“It sounds wonderful, but you may want to take that offer back, it takes quite a bit to fill me up.”
Cyrene laughed and I was sure she thought I was teasing.
“Well, we’ll just have to take our chances there won’t we?” she responded, rising from her seat.
“Oh, I’ll get it for you, Gabrielle,” Xena said, jumping up and taking long strides into the kitchen.
Cyrene watched her daughter disappear into the kitchen and turned back to face me. “Well, Gabrielle, I think I’m going to like having you here if you can get Xena to serve up food. Between you and me,” she leaned her head closer, lowering her voice. “The girl doesn’t really have any talent in the kitchen, so it’s just as well she enjoys fishing and hunting with her brothers more.”
I laughed and watched as an eager Xena juggled stew, bread, and some fresh fruit on a serving tray. She set the food in front of me and sat back, not knowing what to say next. She did seem rather eager to please me, and considering I was a stranger, maybe that meant she felt a spark of something between us.
“Oh, a spoon…and a napkin.” She jumped up again. “Would you like something to drink, Gabrielle?”
“Some water will be fine, thanks.”
“Nonsense. Xena, bring some fresh milk. You need to be drinking fresh goat’s milk if you want your baby to be healthy,” Cyrene added.
I put on a fake smile. Great…goat’s milk. Just what I need to make this dream a complete nightmare!
“I think you’ll be a good influence on my daughter, Gabrielle. I’ve never seen her so helpful in the kitchen. She could use a friend like you.” Cyrene patted my hand and rose to help her daughter in the kitchen.
I sure bet she wouldn’t feel that way if she knew I was here to take her only daughter’s virginity, a young girl, who in my estimation, just happens to be about eight seasons younger than me. Talk about robbing the cradle.
This is just great! How in the world is Xena going to find a woman eight years older than herself, and pregnant to boot, attractive enough to fall in love with?
Gods, am I ever going to wake up?
“What?” I asked as Xena peered under the table at my feet.
“I was looking for the dog that must have followed you in,” she said seriously.
I watched as she grinned from ear to ear. Gods, she is so cute when she does that.
“Very funny,” I responded to her tease. “I’m all done,” I said, pushing the third empty bowl away from me.
“Are you sure? Because there’s plenty more–”
I slapped her in the arm and she laughed along with me.
“Would you like to go to your room? I can show you the way.”
“Sure,” I replied and I followed her down the hall, just past her own bedroom.
“I put you in the room next to mine. That way if you ever need anything, all you have to do is shout.” She smiled proudly.
Xena opened the shutters and let the warm southern breeze into the room. It smelled lovely and as she stood in front of the window, the sunlight hitting her face, I could only stare. She turned and came and sat on the bed with me, looking like she wanted to ask something serious. When she did, it surprised the Tarturus out of me.
“Gabrielle, You’re older and you’ve traveled around, so I figure you probably know a lot more than me. Most of the girls my age are already married, but I…I don’t know. How do you know when you’re in love? When it’s the right person?”
“I found out through a kiss. I never wanted the kiss to end and I felt it all the way down into my soul,” I answered, using my most recent dreamscape encounter with my Warrior as an example.
“Was it your husband?” she asked.
Now how do I answer this one? “No…my wife.” I searched her eyes for disappointment, but didn’t see any.
“Oh, that’s right,” she grinned in embarrassment. “You’re an Amazon.”
“I guess the important thing to remember is that if you have any doubt in your mind…then it’s probably not the right person,” I added, just in case I should miss the infamous Talon.
“Why isn’t your wife here with you?” Xena asked. Then realizing her mistake,“I’m sorry, that’s none of my business.”
“It’s all right,” I answered, wondering what I was going to come up with. “She’s no longer here.”
Xena looked genuinely distressed and it was easy to see that she took my news as I intended. Making my wife sound dead seemed like the only explanation to give.
“That must be so hard for you, to be alone now,” said softly.
“You have no idea,” I answered, knowing that right now I would love nothing more than to have my Xena holding me.
“You’re still happy about it then…having this baby?”
“Yes,” I nodded my head, “very much so.”
That’s when it hit me. Why I didn’t remember until now is beyond me. When Xena and I entered the dreamscape for the very first time, Adia said something to us that came to me just now. She explained that if any part of the dream appealed to us, on any level, we wouldn’t be able to change it. That’s why I was pregnant in the dreamscape. I loved carrying Xena’s baby.
“Well, I better leave you alone for a while so you can rest.” Xena noticed the far off look in my face. “I’m glad I met you today, Gabrielle,” she said, standing at the door to leave.
“Not near as happy as I am, Xena,” I replied, and she rewarded me with a cute blush in response.
I lay down thinking if I could only fall asleep I would be able to wake myself up from this nightmare. I guess it wasn’t too bad. At least I got to meet my Warrior and see what she was like as a young woman, but my whole plan was to make love to her in this dreamscape. How could I do that when I was pregnant, eight seasons older than her, and quickly becoming her best friend?
Please, oh please, let me wake up soon.
The sound of breaking pottery woke me instantly and my first realization was that I was still at the inn, so much for going to sleep in the dreamscape. The next think I knew was that the sound coming from the inn was continuing. One broken plate I could figure, but a lot of them? I grabbed my staff, which was pretty much second nature, and left my room to see about the commotion.
When I walked into the main dining area of the inn, two larger boys seemed to be terrorizing one younger fellow, who was sprawled out on the floor. An overturned chair and a few broken crocks were proof as to who was winning. They all turned to look at me as I entered and the blonde haired boy picked himself up off the floor. His sparkling blue eyes and proud chin told me he was Lyceus and I smiled just knowing that now I could always say that I met the young man who was such a special part of my wife’s life.
“Who’s this, Lyceus…your new babysitter?” one of the larger boys asked.
“I think if you boys are in the mood to cause trouble, then you should do it somewhere else,” I spoke up.
“Yea…who’s gonna make us?” the largest bully questioned me.
“I think I can convince you,” I replied. I had about one nerve left in this silly dreamscape and these two were on it.
They moved toward me and I could see that Lyceus didn’t know what to think. I held my staff in a defensive posture, but didn’t strike the first blow. They were boys, after all, not the ruffians I was used to dealing with.
“And, you think you can, little mommy?” the larger bully asked while elbowing his partner in the ribs.
“Why don’t you just be about your business and we’ll forget about the mess you’ve made.” I raised my staff further as they approached closer.
I was willing to talk first, but now I could see what Xena always meant when she said that some heads are just harder than others. These boys weren’t about to let it go and I could tell it by the looks in their eyes. The biggest one reached out and grasped my staff as the other made a move toward me.
“Hey!” Lyceus jumped to help me, but it was over by the time he crossed the room.
I kicked out and stopped the smaller boy with a boot to his midsection, which doubled him over, gasping for breath. At the same time I jerked up on my staff and the end caught the larger boy right under the chin. He let go, but came at me just the same. One-two-three, a move I practiced a thousand times. Two blows to the middle and a sweep behind the knees. A heartbeat later he was lying on his back trying to catch his breath.
“Wow.” Lyceus whistled through his teeth.
I turned to smile at the boy’s comments, but the instant that I did, bully number one was on his feet and ready to nail me from behind. I saw the expression on Lyceus’ face, but by the time I swung around, the larger boy’s fist was coming at me.
His wrist was grabbed, inches before his clenched hand was about to meet my face. We all looked over to the person who held the boy’s arm in an iron grip.
“I don’t think so,” Xena’s low voice uttered. “Don’t you know it’s not nice to hit a woman from behind, Pelas, especially after she just kicked your butt, fair and square? Go on…get out of here before I call the magistrate.”
Xena pushed him away from me and I realized that even though she was a wide-eyed innocent at this age, she was still a very strong girl. She looked rather imposing in the first place because she no longer wore a skirt and blouse, but now sported a man’s shirt and trousers.
“Come on…let’s get out of this place,” Pelas said to his friend, helping him up from the floor. “It’s not right…girls fighting.”
I laughed as the two bullies left the inn and thanked my hero, which caused her to blush slightly.
“Sorry, Xe…they hit me when I wasn’t looking.” Lyceus apologized and Xena put an arm around the brother that I knew she loved so well. She mussed his hair and told him they would practice some moves later.
“Gabrielle, this is my younger brother, Lyceus. Thanks for helping him out. Those moves are amazing. Do you think you could show me a few later on?”
“I’m not sure you need any help, but sure,” I answered her request. “Nice to meet you, Lyceus,” I said as I extended my hand.
He took my hand, but I could see his face was turning scarlet. Boys at the age of thirteen aren’t notorious for their conversational skills so I took no offense when he shook my hand then practically bolted from the room.
“I think he likes you,” Xena said with a wink after her brother dashed from the inn.
Great…just what I need. Your brother falls for me!
“I’m going out to bring my brother Toris a meal,” Xena said, carefully placing bundles of wrapped food in a cloth sack. “He farms a small parcel of land just outside of the village. It’s where we grow all the fruits and vegetables for the inn. Would you like to come?”
“Yes, I’d love to,” I found myself answering. Feeling pretty good about the time I’d get alone with Xena. That is until I saw our mode of transportation.
The tall young woman vaulted herself easily onto the large gray mare, and then offered her hand to me. It was no secret how I felt about horses, but this old girl was even taller than Argo.
“You don’t like getting up on horses?” Xena asked. I’m sure she was wondering exactly what kind of Amazon I was.
“Oh, it’s not the getting up that bothers me. It’s how far down to the ground once I fall off that worries me.”
Xena laughed and continued to hold out her hand. “I won’t let you fall off, silly. Come on, you can sit in front and I’ll hold on to you, okay?”
Well, how could I refuse an offer like that? In no time we were riding through the village gates and I didn’t complain one bit when Xena wrapped her arm around my waist for reassurance. We must have made an odd looking pair. A tall girl in her brother’s borrowed clothes and a small, pregnant Amazon.
“Put your hands over your ears,” Xena ordered.
“What?” I laughed.
“Just do as I say.” She smiled back.
Yea, that sounded very much like my Warrior. I held my hands over my ears and it was a good thing too. As we approached the field where a man worked far off in the distance, Xena stood up in the stirrups and yelled.
“Ay-yah!” followed by a very familiar, “ayiyiyiyiyi.”
So, she’d been doing this before she made it a battle cry. I lowered my hands and watched as a figure that must be Toris waved, jumping on a nearby horse, and riding over. Xena jumped off the horse and helped me down. A few moments later, Toris made his way to the road.
“Hey, Sis, what have you got there?” he asked indicating me as he drank deeply from a waterskin.
“This is Gabrielle, she’s staying with us. She’s an Amazon,” Xena added and I had a hard time trying to keep from smiling at her youthful exuberance.
“Oh, she is, is she?” Toris grinned down at me. “Kind of on the small side to be an Amazon, aren’t ya?”
“A scorpion’s rather a small thing, but that doesn’t make its sting any less deadly,” I shot right back.
“Oh, is that what that’s for,” he indicated my staff. “Is this what you’re going to use to sting me, little Amazon?”
“Toris you’re being rude,” Xena warned her brother.
“No I’m not,” he replied as he continued to smile at me. “I just want to see how a real Amazon uses her staff. Come on, little scorpion, try and sting me.”
“Toris.” Xena growled, indicating her patience with her brother was nearing its end.
“It’s all right, Xena.” I smiled right back at the tall man who I already thought of as an older brother. “It’s just a friendly little demonstration, right, Toris?”
“Oh, right,” he replied and although I dearly loved him I wanted nothing more than to knock that smirk right off his boyish face. “So, come and get me, little scorpion.” He laughed.
“I tell you what…why don’t you pretend to attack me,” I responded.
Toris thought what most of my opponents thought, that they would use their size and strength to intimidate me. That worked once, but when you spar with the Warrior Princess on a daily basis, you tend to get over that real quick. One of the first things Xena taught me was that a larger opponent was usually slower and could always be beaten with speed.
Toris made a quick grab for my staff, but that was such a predictable move…it’s what they all did first. I let him take hold of the top of my staff and swung the bottom portion to crack him on the knee. When he yelped in surprise and let go of the staff, I brought it down to rap sharply on his knuckles.
“Ow,” he said, rubbing his hand and backing away.
Now I could see that he knew he was going to have to think about this. I knew what his next move would be before he knew it himself. He went for my body, hoping to grab me around the middle, but like all wrestlers, he planted his lead foot out at the same time he lunged. Just as he grabbed for me, I swung my staff around and took out that foot nearly tossing his whole body into the air. He landed on his backside and a cloud of dirt rose at the impact.
Xena burst out into laughter and I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a beautiful sound. I looked to her brother and tried to gauge whether he was angry or not. It was hard with men, they hated being bested by anyone, but a small, pregnant woman was probably lowest on that list. Toris took one look at me, lay back against the ground, and grinned.
“Okay, okay…she’s an Amazon.”
I knew I loved this man for a reason. Xena and I both helped him up and we kept him company for the next candlemark as he ate his meal. When he was finished he tossed the empty sack back at Xena before draining the last of the skin.
“Thanks, Sis. Gabrielle, it was nice meeting you. Don’t go and show this sister of mine any of those moves. She’s already almost as good as I am with a sword, I don’t need her knowing another way to beat me up.” Toris laughed, then turned and rode away.
We were almost home when Xena commented on what her brother said.
“You don’t think it’s strange, then…me wanting to learn how to use a sword more than wanting to learn to cook?”
“I’m an Amazon, Xena. The last thing I think is strange is a woman warrior.”
“Really…is that what you think I am then?”
“I guess it’s more important to ask yourself that question. Is that how you see yourself, Xena?”
She was silent for a few moments, obviously thinking about that question herself.
“I know my mother would love me no matter what I was, and she knows that I just don’t like all those daughter type things. I can sew pretty well, but I’m hopeless in the kitchen, and cleaning…Gods, I’m pathetic. Why is it that all of the things woman are supposed to like, involve staying in the house? I hate being cooped up like that. I like being outside. I like being strong and knowing how to take care of myself.”
She stopped and I turned in the saddle to see her face. She looked like she was about to cry and I wondered why until she spoke again.
“Some of the girls my age say that if I act like this, I’ll never find anyone to love me. I guess they’re right. Who would want a warrior for a wife?” she commented sadly.
“Someone who loved you for what you are and not what society tells them you should be like. You’ll love yourself a lot more if you just be yourself, Xena. And when you love yourself, it’s hard for others not to.”
She smiled and the innocence in that expression, pierced my heart.
“You’re so smart, Gabrielle. I bet your wife used to tell you that all the time.”
I laughed so hard I almost fell out of the saddle. “Not exactly. Mostly she told me to try and stay out of trouble.”
“Were you in trouble a lot?” she asked in a confused voice.
“Well, let’s just say it has a habit of following me around,” I answered, hoping this dreamscape adventure wouldn’t prove me right on that count.
Xena took the opportunity to show me some of the sights around Amphipolis and by the time we got back to the inn it was almost time for the evening meal. I apologized to Cyrene as soon as we entered the establishment for being away so long, but she just smiled and asked me if Xena and I had a good time.
“Oh, Xena, dear…you’d better get changed, Talon is here looking for you.”
“Did someone mention my name?” a male voice asked from behind us.
Now this was just too good to be true, I thought, as I spun around to meet the guy’s butt that was going to get kicked from here to Athens by my boot. When I turned, I had to look quite a ways up to see his face, though. He stood there like a tree, with more muscles than Hercules, and a face like a Greek God. Oh, life just isn’t fair. How in the Known World am I going to get Xena to give up that for me? I felt like crying.
I’d really like to wake up now, please.
“Xena, what in the world are you doing dressed like that?” Talon asked.
It broke my heart, not to mention really pissed me off, at the way Xena turned red and felt she had to explain our whole day to this hunk of rock.
“Talon, this is Gabrielle. She’s staying with us.” Xena introduced me and Talon did pretty much what I expected. He mostly ignored me.
“Look, Xena,” Talon said turning his back on me to face Xena, effectively telling me my presence wasn’t wanted. “I thought that maybe you’d like to take a ride and watch the sunset with me.”
Xena looked over at me and I could see she was torn. I kind of liked that. “I’d love to Talon, but really, it’s Gabrielle’s first day here and I hate to leave her alone. I mean, she is my guest.”
Talon turned to look down at me. “Well, your friend could come along, I suppose.” He grudgingly uttered each syllable and I knew having me tag along was the last thing he really wanted.
Xena’s eyes lit up and again I felt my heart lurch, seeing my wife fawn over some guy whose brains were in his biceps. It was sweet of her to think of me and suddenly I realized that I was going to make it my mission in life to see that Xena and Talon were never alone.
“Gabrielle?” Xena asked if I wanted to go with.
“Well, thank you, it sounds lovely, but…well, I was rather thinking of telling some stories this evening to help out your mother.”
“Stories?” Xena’s eyes popped open and I knew I had her. Yep, reel her in. “Oh, Talon, Gabrielle’s been to the Academy in Athens, why don’t we stay here and listen to her tales?”
While Xena was looking at Talon, stud-boy was looking at me. I smirked, a really large, self-satisfying kind of smirk. When Talon’s eyes met mine I knew that we both understood one another. Not one other person at the inn knew what was passing between the young man and myself, but we were setting the ground rules to this little game, and we were both aware that the prize would be Xena.
“Sure,” Talon agreed, turning to look at Xena, but not before winking in my direction.
It felt great doing the bard thing in a crowded tavern again and Cyrene kept thanking me for helping keep the rowdy crowd at bay. I decided to relate some of the adventures Xena and I had, but I changed the names. The stories of a strong female warrior and the bard that became her closest friend turned out to be very popular. Especially to one blue-eyed, raven-haired beauty that sat right in front, listening intently to every word. Talon sulked most of the evening, but the only thing that really had my attention was the fact that Xena only had eyes for me.
I could see that Talon tried over and over again to lure Xena away into the moonlight, but at the end of each tale, I would start one even more exciting and Xena was glued to her chair. I laughed to myself thinking the next time my Xena rolled her eyes at the telling of another story, I would remind her of this memory.
I won on this night; Talon never did get Xena to leave the inn. I saw him say goodnight to Xena and she had a look of sadness on her face from whatever he whispered to her, until I called her over and asked her to reach something on a high shelf for me. I was glad that I could cause her to forget stud boy so quickly.
A week went by and then another and I began to wonder if I would ever wake from this dream. How long could this go on? I enjoyed my time with Xena and her family. It was great fun and I felt Xena and I were growing closer every day. Toris took a special liking to me, but he never treated me like anything other than a sister and it felt nice. Xena and I spent nearly every moment together and so far I’d been pretty successful in keeping she and Talon apart. Xena invited me along every time the young man asked her to go walking and under normal circumstances I would have felt like an unwanted third wheel. This was a special case, however, and I delighted in spoiling Talon’s fun. I began to wonder that if Xena liked this guy so much, why did she ask me to go with all the time? For the first time since this dreamscape encounter began, I felt hope that Xena was beginning to develop feelings for me that went beyond mere friendship.
One particular morning I was talking with Cyrene and enjoying a hot mug of tea when Xena came in. I forgot how many days went by since the dreamscape began, but suddenly I wasn’t in such a hurry to end the pleasant experiences with my very youthful Xena. Cyrene got up to start cooking for the lunch crowd that would come through later, just as Xena walked in. She smiled at me and I felt my heart stop for a moment.
Sitting down across the table from me, Xena cleared her throat a few times as if she were preparing me for some big news. I felt my knees go a little weak as I wondered if she were about to tell me how she really felt about me.
“Gabrielle…I know you’re a lot older, but I wondered…I mean, well the Summer Solstice is almost here and there’s this dance they have in the village square. I was kind of wondering…I know this is a lot to ask, but you’ve become really special to me and I knew you wouldn’t laugh at me.” She paused and cracked her knuckles, folding her hands together on top of the table.
I placed my hands over hers and gave them a squeeze until she looked up and shook away the dark bangs from her face. I smiled to encourage her.
“Xena, I think you know how special you are to me too. I’d never laugh at anything you would say. Go ahead, Xe…ask me,” I finished softly.
“Well, Gabrielle… would you do me a huge favor and ask Lyceus to go to the dance with you?”
It would have been impossible to hide the crestfallen look on my face. Here I thought that the woman I loved was about to tell me that she felt the same way and she only wanted me to go out with her brother.
“Gabrielle, it wouldn’t be a real date, he’d only be your escort. Please, don’t be mad. I know Lyceus is just a boy, but he has such a crush on you and it would do so much for his self esteem if someone like you would ask him. I’d do it, but I’m going with Talon, and Lyceus would rather die than be seen there with me, anyway.”
She spoke rapidly and I knew she misunderstood the look on my face. I felt I was going to cry and there was nothing I could do to stop it. My eyes filled with tears and I let them fall. I was frustrated, heartsick, and unhappy and it came out all at once.
“Gabrielle, I’m so sorry. Please, don’t cry…please?. Whatever I said I take it back…please, just don’t cry.” Xena looked as if she were going to burst into tears herself. She touched the back of her fingers to my cheek and it caused me to cry that much harder.
“It’s all right, Xena. It has nothing to do with you. Pregnant women cry sometimes for no reason at all,” I explained and she looked a little better, but not completely convinced. I wiped the wet tears from my cheeks and smiled for her. “Of course I’ll ask Lyceus to escort me. We’ll have a great time.”
“Are you sure? There isn’t anything else bothering you?” she asked.
“Absolutely! There’s nothing else.” I plastered a fake grin on my face, determined to make it easier on my young friend.
Xena smiled and quickly leaned over and placed a kiss on my cheek. When she pulled back she had the oddest look on her face and when she stood up, the normally graceful young woman turned, tripped, and ran right into Toris.
“Whoa, Sis…where’s the fire?”
“Sorry, Tor. I have to go find Lyceus, Gabrielle’s going to go to the Solstice dance with him and I’m going with Talon,” she said excitedly.
“Talon, eh?” Toris arched an eyebrow; apparently it was a family trait. Toris made it no secret that he didn’t like Talon, but he told me in confidence one day that sisters rarely listen to their brothers about such things.
“Oh Toris, don’t act that way,” Xena chided her brother.
“Hey, who am I supposed to go with, if the two best looking girls in the village are taken?” he shouted to his sisters fleeing form.
I turned around, with my back to the table along the long bench, and felt Toris sit down beside me. I couldn’t stop the tears in front of him anymore than I could halt them for Xena.
“I take it this means you don’t like Talon anymore than I do, huh?” he asked.
I laughed bitterly and he handed me a clean hankie from his vest pocket. “He’s going to hurt her,” I said at last.
“I know. There’s only one thing a guy like Talon wants from a beautiful girl like Xena.”
I nodded my head in agreement. “I don’t want to see her get hurt like that.”
“I agree, but this said, little scorpion, I have to wonder at something.” Toris paused until I looked up at him.
“I don’t want to see Xena lose her innocence to a jerk like Talon because she’s my sister. What’s your reason?”
I turned my head away quickly before Toris could see it in my eyes. Of course, he was never an idiot and he must already suspect or he wouldn’t be asking the question in the first place. I remembered that Toris was one of the first people to ever accept the love that my Xena and I shared. I wondered if he would feel differently now. Oh well, the way I was feeling at this moment, getting thrown out onto the street would just round out my day nicely.
“I love her,” I whispered as more tears streaked their way down my cheeks.
I felt a strong arm around my shoulder and I leaned into Toris’s brotherly touch.
“Yea…that was my first guess,” he said softly.
“Oh, it’s stupid. I’m eight season’s older than her; I’m pregnant for Goddess’ sake! She has a boyfriend that’s as big as Mount Olympus, why am I doing this to myself?” I ranted.
“Maybe because you already feel what Xena is just too inexperienced or afraid to acknowledge? She’s young and she’s never been away from Amphipolis before. She has no idea how the rest of the world lives. It’s easy to give into peer pressure when this is all you know.”
“How come I never knew you were this sensitive?” I teased.
Toris grinned. “Because you were too busy kicking my ass.”
We both laughed and I hugged him fiercely.
“Give her time, Gabrielle. Xena’s a smart girl. Once she puts two and two together, she’ll see who really cares about her.”
I nodded my head and reached over to the young man who would always be like a brother to me. To his surprise and embarrassment I kissed him on the cheek. It was then that Xena walked back into the room and the look she had on her face was one I’d seen a hundred times on my Xena’s face. The expression was pure jealousy and the only problem with this Xena was that she didn’t know what she was feeling or why. She turned and walked away with the same odd look on her face.
“What do you think of this?” Cyrene held a dress up that was a beautiful pale green color with touches of pink here and there.
“It’s beautiful,” I answered. “Will you wear it to the dance?”
“Me? Gods, no. It’s for you, child.”
“Me? Cyrene I can’t wear that, it’s way too long for one thing and I’m too big around the middle for it.”
“Yes, but I’m very good with a needle and thread and I just know we can make it work for you. Let me at least try, Gabrielle.”
I smiled and looked at the beautiful dress. It was lovely and I nodded my head, hoping Cyrene was as good a seamstress as she said.
Lyceus strutted around for the next two days like he was taking Cleopatra herself to the dance. I couldn’t really understand why a thirteen-year-old boy would even want to escort a pregnant woman to a dance, but for some reason the male population of Amphipolis seemed to hold me in high esteem. Cyrene admonished her youngest son to act like a gentleman at all times and he was taking it quite seriously, going so far as to have Toris teach him how to dance.
“Cyrene, it’s so beautiful, you’ve done a marvelous job,” I said, turning to see my reflection in the mirror.
The dress was cut to flatter my figure and my belly hardly stuck out at all. It was cut low, but Cyrene just winked at me and said that would keep their eyes from my middle. She made her way back out to the inn and I looked into the mirror one more time at the gown that I thought was much too lovely for me. When I raised my eyes to the mirror once more Xena’s figure was reflected back at me, alongside my own. She had the same odd look on her face as the day she saw me hug Toris and I began to wonder if my young Warrior would ever see what was right in front of her. She simply continued to stare and I began to feel self-conscious.
“What…is it terrible? It looks hideous, doesn’t it?” I said, twirling around and looking at the material.
“No.” Xena exclaimed, and then a small smile formed on her face. “It looks…you’re beautiful, Gabrielle.”
It was my turn to blush and it seemed to please the dark-haired young woman that her words could have that affect on me.
“Are you sure it looks okay?” I asked one last time.
“Very sure,” Xena replied softly, her eyes never leaving mine.
The party and the dance should have been fun, but all I could think about was the fact that my wife was there with someone else. Not that Xena was ever far away. If the whole situation hadn’t been so heart breaking I could have died laughing at some of the looks my lovely young friend was giving the young men around me, when they asked to share a dance. Of course, I’m sure I had the same pleasant demeanor on my own face when Xena danced with Talon.
She didn’t look as happy as I thought she might and I wondered if Xena was as torn between her feelings for me and Talon as I was between her and Perdicus at one time. I came to the right conclusion, but I was older than Xena is now and I’d known her a lot longer than this sixteen-year-old Xena has known me.
I sat at a table and watched as Xena and Talon slow danced together. When they turned, those blues met mine and I smiled at her, or what I thought was a good attempt at a smile. When she returned the smile, it was as if she was in pain, and not the happy young woman I had come to know. Lyceus turned out to be the perfect gentleman. He danced with me and looked more than proud to be my escort. Even he wondered at the silence between Xena and I.
“Did you and Xe have a fight or something, Gabrielle?”
What could I say? I told him everything was just fine and that girls are complicated sometimes. He nodded his head enthusiastically.
Suddenly Toris stood before me and I felt myself being drawn onto the dance area. It was a slow dance and if I closed my eyes I could imagine that Xena’s brother was my own Warrior.
“We should have done this earlier in the evening,” Toris said.
“Why?” I questioned.
“Because, little scorpion, the only way to wake some people up and appreciate what they have, is to take it away from them. Take a look at Xena’s face. I ask you…is that the look of a young woman in love with the man she’s dancing with?”
I slowly raised my eyes to see cobalt fire flashing in my direction. Xena seemed more interested in what Toris and I were doing than at what was going on with her own dance partner. That’s when Talon turned Xena and his eyes met mine. That smile said it all. He was telling me that I may have won all the battles, but he won the war. I turned away to face Toris and by the time I looked up again, Talon and Xena were nowhere to be seen.
“Well, that plan worked just great,” I said to Toris and walked from the dance area.
I drummed my fingers nervously against the table. Almost a candlemark went by and Xena never returned. I was halfway between anger and tears and wasn’t sure in which direction I should lean.
“Okay, Gabrielle…I think we’re to the point where the games need to stop,” Toris said and I looked up at him in confusion.
“Look, Xena is about to make a huge mistake. I know you love her and you want her to come to you, but now is the time to think about what’s more important. Will your silence be worth Xena having her heart broken, or worse?”
It only took me two heartbeats to decide.
“Where would they have gone?” I stood up from the table.
“To the stable behind the inn,” Lyceus leaned over and whispered.
Both Toris and I just stared at the boy.
“Hey…a guy hears things, ya know?”
I smiled and grabbed that young man and pulled him to his feet. “Lyceus, you are wonderful,” I exclaimed and kissed him hard.
I ran off to the inn, but not before I heard a number of young men hooting and cheering for Xena’s younger brother.
Xena taught me a few things and although I could never sneak up on my Xena, this one was another story. She and Talon stood in the middle of the barn talking and I couldn’t hear much they were saying to one another. Xena had that same sad and confused look on her face and she was explaining something to Talon. This little chat session of theirs should buy me a few minutes and so I slipped into the inn to retrieve my staff. I wasn’t much competition for Talon, but at least if I had my staff I could get one good whack in, right before he killed me, anyway, and I knew just where I wanted to place that one blow.
It was a good thing I didn’t change out of my dress, which crossed my mind. By the time I got back to the barn it sounded like their little discussion was turning ugly.
“Look, Talon, I’m just feeling…I’m just a little confused right now. It’s not a good time to make a decision like this,” Xena explained to a very agitated Talon.
“Xena, how long do you think I can wait? Do you think I don’t know what this is all about? It’s all about that little Amazon, isn’t it?” The large man seethed.
“Gabrielle?” Xena asked, and even now I thought the way she said my name was the sexiest sound in the world.
“Don’t play all innocent with me, Xena.” Talon was suddenly beside Xena and had his hands on her in the blink of an eye. “You gave it up for your little Amazon, you can give it up for me.”
Even at sixteen my young warrior would never fit into the helpless female category. Just as I was moving toward the couple, not having any idea how I would stop this wall with legs, Xena spurred herself into action. She elbowed Talon in the ribs, hard enough to cause him to release her, and then she caught him again in the chin. Finally she whirled around and slapped him hard across the face. I stopped where I was because they hadn’t seen me yet.
“You shouldn’t have done that, Xena,” Talon hissed, rubbing his jaw and taking a step toward her again.
“Well, if she hadn’t, I would have,” I remarked from my spot about ten feet away.
“Gabrielle?” Xena sounded frightened and amazed at the same time.
I admit I must have made for an odd sight. A small, pregnant woman in a fancy dress, holding her stave and preparing to get her butt kicked by a guy that could pick up mountains and move them by hand.
“Well, what do we have here?” Talon grinned, turning in my direction.
I had a feeling he was feeling a little sexually frustrated about now and I was certain he was about to direct some of that aggression at me.
“Gabrielle, don’t…please, go back inside. I don’t want to see you get hurt,” Xena cried out.
“Oh, it’s too late for that,” Talon grinned evilly.
Our entire exchange took all of five heartbeats. The large man grabbed for me and I went into attack mode. I fought him off pretty well until my staff got hooked in my dress and it simply spun me around. Talon used one booted foot to kick me in the back and he knocked me to the ground, unable to catch my breath.
At the same time I was falling I saw Xena moving toward me. She caught my body before I hit the ground and lowered me the rest of the way. I saw the look in her eye when she reached for my staff and I almost felt sorry for Talon…almost.
The tall young woman had a look in her eye that caused the large man to back up a step, but that didn’t stop Xena. She used my staff and put a power behind her blows that I couldn’t come close to. She attacked Talon’s midsection first and when he tried to grab at the stave, Xena spun around and put all her strength into a blow that hit his upper arm. A crack rang through the air, the kind that sounds just like a bone snapping. Before Talon could finish howling in pain, Xena spun around the other way and used her whole body to bring the staff under and across Talon’s jaw, nearly lifting his whole body into the air before he fell. That second crack was sure to be his jaw breaking I remembered thinking, still trying to catch my breath.
Xena stood over the fallen young man, who was whimpering in pain by this time.
“Don’t you ever touch her! If you ever lay a hand on her again, I’ll kill you,” she hissed.
I looked up at her, chest heaving in a combination of exertion and adrenaline, her dark hair in a tangle across her face. If I would have heard her say the word, mine, I would have swore it was my Xena. The sound of her voice, as she threatened Talon, made it quite clear who I belonged to. She backed away from the fallen man and he half crawled, half ran from the barn.
Suddenly Xena shook her head as if realizing where she was.
“Gabrielle, are you okay?” There were tears in her eyes as she knelt down beside me. “What were you thinking? You could have been killed, the baby–”
“I’m okay.” I touched her cheek and she just kept staring at me.
She helped me to my feet, but she refused to let go of me and frankly, I wasn’t in a hurry to see that happen either. She held me tighter and I could feel her heart start to beat faster as our bodies connected. I leaned against her as much for support as love. Xena finally pressed her lips to my forehead and I could feel my own heart begin to race.
I looked up into her blue eyes and I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. She searched my eyes as if trying to ascertain the answer to some age old question. And, when she leaned down to me, I met her halfway. I felt an absolute bolt of white-hot desire surge through me, not as much because of the kiss, but at the moan that escaped Xena’s throat as she took my mouth in a kiss that surprised even me.
I was lost to a sensation of pure delight as Xena’s tongue demanded entry into my mouth and then moved against mine in a passionate war for dominance. She easily won and I simply floated along on that wave of pleasure.
Xena pulled away abruptly, leaving both of us panting and me, certainly wanting for more. She held me at arm’s length and looked in my face, but I didn’t understand what was wrong. She looked terrified and when she finally spoke, I understood her fear.
“Gabrielle, I never meant to…I’m so sorry.”
“Xena,” I tried to reassure her. “It’s all right.”
She kept searching my eyes and if I’d known what she was thinking, I could have easily avoided all the pain the next two candlemarks would bring, but at the time I had no idea what was going through her mind.
“Xena?” I asked and reached out to gently touch her cheek.
It was obviously the wrong move because she mumbled another apology and bolted from the stable.
I called out her name once more and was greeted by nothing but silence. I scared the Tartarus out of her. All these new feelings and emotions and I took advantage of her. But, Gods, she kissed me like she wanted me. I picked up my staff and looked down at my torn dress. Heading into the house to change I tried to think of the places I could go to search for Xena.
I was tired and exasperated and my back was beginning to hurt where I was kicked. I wanted nothing more than for this dreamscape to be over, ending my torture. I finally messed it up entirely. Not only had I just lost any chance at making Xena my lover in this reality, but also, I think I just lost my best friend.
Two candlemarks of searching and I couldn’t find Xena. I was starting to get really worried, but I didn’t want to concern anyone else in the family, so I simply hoped that she wanted to be off by herself and would come home soon. I looked up and realized that there was one place I hadn’t searched. Xena and I spent a lot of time sitting in the hayloft talking and trading stories, maybe she went up there and fell asleep or something.
By the time I reached the top my last hope was dashed. The loft was empty except for sheaves of wheat and hay mounded up at one end. There was a blanket laid out onto the hay that we sat on, but no Xena. I sank down to the blanket and began to cry. I couldn’t seem to stop once I started.
“Oh Xena…I messed this whole thing up so badly. I’m so sorry,” I said out loud in between my sobs.
“Please, don’t cry, Gabrielle.”
I jerked my head up and Xena was peering from behind the wall of hay in the corner. I couldn’t stop crying, though and Xena came toward me and sat beside me on the blanket.
“Please, Gabrielle…I can’t stand it when you cry.” Xena moved to wipe the tears away from my face and before we knew it I was in her arms again, only this time she didn’t pull away. “It makes me so sad when you cry.” She held and rocked me in her arms until I had no more tears left.
She touched my face and lifted it until our eyes met. “Better?”
I nodded and wiped the rest of my face off with the back of my hand. “Xena, why on earth did you run away like that?”
“Because…I–” She ran her hands through her long hair and turned away from me.
“Is it because you kissed me?”
“I’m sorry, Gabrielle, I should have never…I mean, I know I’m a lot younger than you.” She let the thought trail off.
It hit me then what this was all about. Xena was attracted to me, but thought I didn’t want her. Oh Gods, this just gets better and better.
“Xena,” I began, hoping I was doing the right thing. “Did you ever stop to think that I might have enjoyed that kiss too?”
“Gabrielle, you don’t have to say that just to make me feel better,” she responded.
“Gods woman, you can be so thick sometimes,” I said in exasperation, then I grabbed Xena’s chin and turned her to face me.
I leaned closer and kissed her hard. I pulled back enough for her to catch her breath and then I kissed her again, pushing her back onto the blanket with no intention of stopping until I made a believer out of her. I think my message finally got through when I felt strong arms pulling me against her body and small whimpers escaping in between the kisses. I pulled back and leaned up on one elbow, smiling smugly.
“So, do those feel like the kisses of a woman who doesn’t feel the same as you?” I asked.
She gave me a typically Xena grin. “I don’t know…maybe we should try again just to be sure.”
I laughed and reached down, but this time I gently brushed my lips against hers. “I love you, Xena,” I whispered.
“Oh Gods, Gabrielle, I love you, too. I just thought that…I mean, why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“Oh, right!” I leaned up again and grinned. “Your boyfriend was tall, dark, and muscle-bound! I’m eight seasons older than you, and a woman who’s carrying a child. How could I ever hope to compete?”
Xena reached up, that lovely, beautiful smile still on her face. “There was never any competition. You had my heart from the very first day,” she said as she traced the contours of my face with her fingertips.
“Gabrielle, would you stay with me… marry me? I feel like I can do anything when you’re beside me. I could work at the inn or I could help Toris with the land. I could help to raise the baby.”
“Would you want to do that, Xena? You’re a young woman and you may want to go on some of those adventures.”
“Adventures wouldn’t be any fun without you. I love you so much, Gabrielle, and I want to be a part of your life, if you’ll let me.”
“Yes, my love, I always want to be with you. Right now or in twenty seasons, in this reality or in any other. I always want to be with you, Xe.”
We kissed…we kissed for a very long time. Eventually, those intimate touches took on a fire all their own and an inexperienced sixteen year old was soon growling in frustration. Xena’s touches grew bolder and I did nothing to discourage her caresses, but I could see she wanted more and didn’t exactly know how to go about it. Now, my Warrior’s libido is the stuff legends are made of, but at sixteen…I wondered if I should be scared?
I allowed my hands to roam and when I cupped Xena’s breast through the fabric of her dress, and let my thumb brush back and forth across her nipple, she groaned as if she were in pain.
“Gods, Gabrielle! That feels so…”
I pinched the hardened nipple lightly through the coarse fabric.
“Gods, so…so good!” she finished at last.
I pulled back slightly so at least one of us could be strong. Xena pulled me back against her and nuzzled my neck, kissing the taut skin there.
“Gabrielle…please don’t stop,” Xena pleaded.
“Xena, maybe we need to think about this.” I tried to focus, but it was extremely difficult to do considering Xena was now sucking on my neck and I always let her have her way when she starts to do that.
“I’m tired of thinking about this, Gabrielle. I don’t want to think, I want to feel. I want it to be you,” she whispered. “I want the first one to be you.”
She gently pushed me away and rose to her knees. She unlaced the front of her dress and pushed it off her shoulders. When it came to rest at her waist I was a goner.
“Hades teeth!” I exclaimed as I felt every last bit of self-control fly away.
Xena continued and pushed the dress down, removing her breeches at the same time. She knelt there wearing nothing but a smile and she watched as I reacted to the sight.
“By the Gods, woman…you are beautiful,” I stammered.
Xena reached for the catches to my tunic and I covered her hands in my own. “Xena, I’m pregnant.” I said, realizing it sounded pretty stupid, but I was suddenly feeling very self-conscious.
She smiled and I had to wonder where she got this burst of confidence all of a sudden. “I know,” she whispered in return and proceeded to undress me.
Once we were lying next to one another, she covered my belly with the palm of her hand and explored the curves there. “Gabrielle, I can’t even believe that a woman as beautiful as you would want to be with me.”
“Don’t you have any idea, my love how beautiful you are?” I said and her skin flushed a deep pink. “It’s true, Xena. You are so beautiful,” I continued as I let my hand explore her body. “I want to make love to you, I want to be the first person to ever touch you this way, I want mine to be the name that you cry out when you come for me. Is that what you want, Xena?”
“Oh Gods, yes,” she replied.
With that answer I couldn’t hold back any longer. I began to make love to this woman for the first time of what would be thousands of times over many seasons. And of those times, we would both remember this one as the beginning of our lives together.
My hands moved over her skin as my mouth pressed against her lips. She slipped her tongue past my lips and I began to suck on the strong muscle. I could feel the pull of her flesh as I sucked on her tongue, and I matched it to the rhythm in which she rolled her hips against my thigh, pressed firmly between her legs. She spread her legs wider and I could feel her wetness as she rubbed her clit harder against the muscles in my leg.
I knew, as I moved myself lower along her body, that I would be spending a great deal of time with her breasts. The first touch was exquisite; the first taste was enough to send both of us out of our minds with lust.
“Gabrielle…please…don’t stop. Don’t ever stop,” Xena incoherently moaned as I used my lips, tongue, and teeth to bring her higher and higher. I alternated between each breast and while I had my mouth on one, I used my hand on the other.
Xena’s body was constantly trembling now and she called out to me as I slid lower.
“It’s all right, love. If I do anything that you don’t like or feel comfortable with, all you have to do is say so and I’ll stop. Okay?” I asked.
Xena nodded her head and lay back against the blanket. Once every inch of her skin felt the touch of my lips, I settled myself between her legs and pressed my palms against the inside of her thighs. Instantly, her legs parted and the sweet, musky scent of her made me lightheaded.
“Oh, Xena,” I breathed, kissing the soft skin of her inner thigh until I reached those dark curls.
She was so wet and I told her so and how happy that made me. I pressed my tongue against that sweet, flesh and almost climaxed right then and there from the mere taste of her. Xena groaned sharply and lifted her hips so as to not lose the contact of my tongue. My excitement increased as I thought about the fact that I was the first person to ever touch her in this way, in this spot. I moved my tongue slowly, but relentlessly. Sometimes teasing the folds with my tongue, other times using the muscle to press against that tight opening, causing another groan to rumble from Xena’s chest.
She began to rotate her hips in a counter rhythm against the strokes of my tongue, lifting up and pressing her clit as hard as she could against me, over and over again, until I slowly began to pick up speed. She tried to hold back the sounds she was making, but in the nearly empty barn, set far in back of the inn, I knew no one would hear us.
I eased one finger inside her, never slowing the movement of my tongue. The slight penetration was enough sensation for her to crave more. I felt long fingers on my shoulders, then grasping my hair, forcing my tongue against her harder.
“Gabrielle…Oh, Gabrielle, yes…please…” Xena moaned.
In one even movement I slid inside of her. Her hips froze, and she gasped at the penetration combined with the act of me wrapping my mouth around that sensitive area of nerves and sucking it in gently. Her hips resumed their motion, now with an intensity that didn’t surprise me. I slid my finger almost all the way from her and plunged it in again. I repeated the action again and again as I sucked harder on the bit of flesh between my lips.
Finally, I felt the muscles in her body shiver all at once and her legs parted as wide as she could make them. I sucked harder and flicked my tongue across that tiny area that would bring her such pleasure. Xena’s back arched and I could hear her take in a deep breath, then one shout of pleasure escaped her lips.
With that her body climaxed and I opened my eyes in time to see the wonder and rapture her face held at that moment of intense pleasure. I wasn’t disappointed. Xena had never been more beautiful and as her body shook against me, I felt the warm rush of wetness on my tongue that flowed from her sex. After a few moments I slid my finger from that satiny warmth and felt her tremble as aftershocks of desire enveloped her. I resumed my tongue’s action and continued to lap gently at the tender flesh. I licked at the sweet juices that flowed from her, taking care to steer clear of the too sensitive flesh at the top of her cleft. It was gentle and relaxed and I simply couldn’t stop tasting of her.
Once again, I felt the movement begin in Xena’s hips as she gently rolled them in a rhythm against my tongue’s strokes against her.
“Oh, yes,” she soon murmured and I decided to feast again on that more than willing flesh.
I wrapped my strong arms around those luscious thighs and drank deeply of the ambrosia found within those folds. I pressed into her and let my tongue replace the action my finger had just finished with. In and out, I penetrated her and I could feel her impale herself on my tongue a little more with every thrust of her hips. She did more of the work herself this time, dictating how hard and deep, but it didn’t take long until she cried out and that wet flesh quivered under my tongue as she felt a second release engulf her.
Her body was still trembling when I came up beside her and wrapped my arms around her. I rocked her and whispered my love to her as she cried. I understood her tears and her inability to put voice to why exactly they were there, but as I would tell my wife on the day we were married, sometimes you’re just so happy, you have to cry.
I closed my eyes and felt the warmth that lay in my arms and when I heard that voice, we both cried.
“I love you, my heart.” Xena’s low alto intonation had become deeper as she grew older.
I opened my eyes to look into the warm blue color that I loved so well. This was my wife, the warrior who gave me the child I now carried. The lines along her forehead and around her eyes showed my Warrior’s true age, but in my mind, she would always be the sixteen-year-old girl I fell in love with in Amphipolis.
“Happy Anniversary, Xena,” I whispered.
Continued in To Walk The Path Of A Queen