Sappho Was A Right-On Surfer Chick
Like A Holiday
Xena lowered her gaze watching her feet fall upon the dirt road. The road seemed hotter and drier than ever before. The greenness of the land always in the distance, never where she was walking. This particular dirt road was kicking up dust as they traveled along it. The summer sun drained the water out of every living thing. It didn’t help Xena’s mood. She couldn’t seem to stop thinking about the beginning. About Gabrielle. Was it just one of those things you let happen because once it starts it’s just easier to let it go? Did she really need Gabrielle so much at first? Was it a need to be loved? Hero-worshipped? Why had she let Gabrielle stay with her on such a dangerous road? Oh yes, now it was too late for any changes. She knew that. Especially after everything they had been through.
Gabrielle walked silently beside Xena. There was something between them, not visible, but large and dense with its relevance. Like a monster eating its way through the air, sucking in every bit of oxygen until, like a vacuum, their world would shrink smaller and smaller until they would no longer exist.
They both sensed it, though neither really understood the danger—so preoccupied with their own minds, their own demons.
Aphrodite appeared in a dusty cloud of glitter. Xena looked around her. A chill moving up her spine in this heat was nothing short of a red flag. She noted her surroundings, cautious and on alert. The Love Goddess joined them on their walk.
After a few minutes of careful observation, Xena decided it was her imagination. She went back to brooding about the last few weeks and how their problems were compounded by the fact that there was virtually nothing happening. From village to village, new places and old, there was not a thing to be done. It was as though all warlords and villains had hung up their swords and taken a Roman holiday. There was not a good deed to be had.
Normally this would have produced an ease between the two lovers, excitedly looking for out-of-the-way watering holes and what-have-you. But this time, though neither mentioned it, they stuck to the road. Plodding away down a dirt path that took them from one dull, uneventful place to the next.
Gabrielle built a fire as Xena tended to Argo. They ate dinner in companionable silence with an unusually quiet and thoughtful Aphrodite sitting between them. When they did talk it was almost too polite, too considerate: Xena asking Gabrielle for a story. Something she rarely did. Gabrielle reciting one half-heartedly. Something she never did.
Xena wondered if she should break their silently, agreed upon, distance. “Is everything alright, Gabrielle? You seem less enthusiastic than usual. Normally, I ask for a story and it’s a never ending stream of—”
“I’m fine. Just tired. It’s been a long day. All the walking we’ve been doing.”
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking ”
“Just a thought. But why don’t we get off the road for awhile?”
Gabrielle hesitated, that’s when Aphrodite could no longer take it. “Oh, I am sooo over this!” She wiggled a couple fingers at Gabrielle.
The bard straightened up, enthusiasm striking like a thunderbolt. “Okay, let’s do it. Umm what do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. Whatever people do when they stop doing what they do.”
Gabrielle thought about it, hand characteristically to her chin in thought. “Like a holiday without any specific reason. Sounds good. Where do you want to go?”
“I haven’t gotten that far. I thought you might figure it out.”
Gabrielle gave her a look. “Up to me, is it? Alright, hmm ”
Aphrodite rolled her eyes and shook another magical finger at the bard.
Gabrielle brightened, then turned dour. “No, that would require a boat.”
“Oh, it’s just that I’ve heard about these great little islands off the coast. I’ve even heard a rumor that the famous poet Sappho lives on one of them.”
“That sounds good. Let’s do that.” Xena leaned back against the tree figuring the arrangements were set.
“Xena, aren’t you forgetting something?”
“Oh yeah, Argo. I know a good place I can board her.”
“I’m talking about my sea sickness.”
“I don’t know.”
“We need the rest, Gabrielle. Have faith in me, or at least trust me with this.”
Trust her? Gabrielle wondered if she still did. She didn’t think Xena really trusted her anymore. The bard looked into the fire without answering.
Aphrodite sighed, “Women ” and disappeared in a trail of glitter.
* * * * *
The boat trip over was fairly uneventful. Gabrielle managed through the use of pressure points though she did consume more squid than she could handle and ended up sick for a night. Xena held her blonde locks back while she returned the squids to their ocean home.
Xena used the time between the retching to hold Gabrielle on the deck, soothing her with hands that stroked the bard’s hair back. It was one of the few physical contacts they had since before Chin. Then after Solon, and Hope it was all too much. Everything after that unraveled at such a heated pace their lives were turned inside out, all but destroyed. Somehow, they had tried to hold on to what they knew. But now that they were no longer lovers, not really even friends—how could they be, when they dare not speak to each other about the pain they were in? Then, really, they were nothing more than traveling companions. And wandering aimlessly at that. But now, this sudden trip, Xena was afraid it would have the opposite effect of healing. What if it exposed just how deep the wounds were? And was there any healing for that?
She looked out at the vastness of the sea, the bard warm in her arms and she could sense something, like a tiny flicker that she needed to get back to. A lost element. She needed it, whatever it was, wherever it was, in order to save what was left between her and Gabrielle. She would need it, simply put, to find the rest of her way through this world. Right now she and Gabrielle were on a precipice, about to fall in. They both knew it, though neither spoke of it.
Poet, Bard, Wave Rider, Warrior
The island was beautiful and unlike anything they were used to. White sands and ocean water that was as clear as a mountain stream. Xena could look down and see her toes as her dinner swam by. She reached down and nabbed it, though it didn’t seem very sporting.
Gabrielle sat on the beach, her toes digging into the warm sand. She watched the tall woman who was so familiar to her, yet at that moment—and too often lately—nearly a stranger. Everything was the same. Xena catching fish like she always did. The gestures, everything about her. Well, except for the recent withdrawal, which was even more pronounced than her usual brooding. The bard felt so distant from the warrior, like she had been looking at Xena through a clear colored stone that somehow had been turned, and with that one act, distorted everything. Nothing retained its shape or form. Long was short, thin was wide, beautiful was grotesque.
There were times when she woke up in the mornings, dawn breaking, when she just knew she would find the answers she needed. But by evening’s end she was just as lost as the day before. But there was something about being here. Ever since the idea came to her she felt hopeful. Though she was at a loss as how this place could do what they had not managed to do traveling through out all of Greece. Still, there seemed to be something
Xena brought the fish to shore and cleaned them. She skewered them and let them cook over the fire.
Gabrielle found herself talking before she was able to stop herself. “Do you notice, I mean, I know you do, but do you ever wonder why we never talk much anymore?”
Xena looked at the fish, adjusting the sticks, though they were fine. “I figured it was you. I never talk much.”
Gabrielle was nervous, her stomach tight, but she pressed on. “True. But Xena, I can feel something between us, I have to believe you feel it too?” There it was. She had spoken about the taboo that had been constructed between them: Not to bring up this matter, a matter that neither of them completely understood. At least not yet.
Xena sighed and gave in to the wreckage of the wall Gabrielle was destroying. “You know what it’s about. All of it. Why do we have to relive it?”
“But it’s more than that. Everything else might have started this, but we’ve nourished it. We’ve fed this monster everyday since and now it’s out of control. We’ve got to do something, Xena.” Tears came quickly to Gabrielle’s eyes, faster than she had expected. She was closer to the edge than she realized. “If we don’t do something, I’m afraid of what’s going to happen.”
Xena went to Gabrielle and kneeled beside her. “Hey, it’s alright. We’ll work it out.” She smiled, tying to convince both Gabrielle and herself that this thing could be toppled. Xena pulled Gabrielle to her, meaning to be tender but her own emotions took over and she held Gabrielle forcefully to her, chin on the bard’s head.
“You know,” Xena said, “if we don’t work it out, we don’t win. And I never accept defeat.”
“It’s more than that,” Gabrielle answered and for the first time, breathing against Xena’s neck, she could face her biggest fear. “I’m afraid for my soul.”
* * * * *
The lyric poetry struck at the very heart of Gabrielle. Its telling moved her as the words moved in and about the accompanying lyre. She sat among a row of other women still trying to push back those tears that seemed too near the surface these days. And she was not quite comfortable enough in this new environment to make a spectacle of herself. Her eyes sought out Xena. There she was near the back, eyes heavy-lidded, leaning against a pillar. Gabrielle couldn’t tell if the warrior was moved by the poetry or if she had sealed up all entrances to her heart.
It was over and the other women moved from their chairs to mingle. Gabrielle made her way across the floor to Sappho. The poet saw the young blonde approaching and turned to greet her, raising her eyebrow in a strangely familiar way.
“I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed—no, that’s not strong enough—I loved it. It really moved me. It had verve.”
Gabrielle would have gone on but Sappho asked, “What’s your name?”
“Oh, right, where are my manners? I’m Gabrielle. I’ve heard so much about you. ‘Sappho the tenth muse.’ ‘Sappho, the honey tongued poet.’ You know, after awhile you figure the build up is going to be bigger than the pay off, but wow I’m floored!”
Sappho’s eyes roamed over the enthusiastic young woman. She saw everything about her: the gestures, the passion, and the light that she came from, the merriment and joy she was capable of. Then something like a cloud, dark and harder to penetrate, shadowed this young Gabrielle’s features. And soon the poet was looking up into the blue eyes of a tall dark warrior. She involuntarily swallowed.
“Nice song,” the dark one said.
“She’s not one for words,” Gabrielle explained, giving the taller one a look. The warrior just shrugged it off and looked across the room.
Sappho could see the tall woman’s mind at work, taking in her environment, measuring it up. First the warrior would make sure they were safe, the rest was just curiosity. Like the poet’s own gift for seeing into people, this very striking warrior could read situations, environments, maybe large human traits like dishonorable intentions, or the like. She was like the bird that could see everything, but only from a great distance. She was blind in the smaller, minute matters. The things the young blonde would be most capable of—probably those things that involved the heart. They were a compliment to each other. No doubt companions of some sort.
Both were beautiful. Both were troubled.
The poet could see the buffer that existed between them. If one moved forward, the other moved backward, as though an invisible barrier of energy prevented them from merging into the same physical space.
Sappho saw all this within minutes of their meeting.
“Sappho! Hey babe!” A voice called from across the room breaking the reverent silence that usually accompanied such events. Sappho’s breath caught at the sight of the tall blonde dressed in a loose toga. She held a long shiny wooden board under her arm. “Come on, let’s go. They’re kickin’ today.”
“Who’s kicking? Is someone in trouble?” Gabrielle asked.
“I mean surf’s up!” The sleek brown skinned blonde ran down the stairs, down the hill toward the ocean, leaving the poet, warrior and bard looking after her.
“What’s she going to do with that board?” Xena asked, almost in spite of herself. She would have rather not been interested.
“Come on. I’ll show you.” Sappho made her way past the two women.
Gabrielle looked up at Xena. The taller woman shrugged, as if to say, nothing better to do.
Once down at the shore Xena watched in amusement, and Gabrielle with some shyness, as dozens of naked young women entered the ocean with their long, shiny wooden boards.
“I don’t get it,” Gabrielle said.
Xena scrutinized the situation then appeared to finally understand. “They’re going to ride the surf. Watch that one out there, the one out the furthest. See the wave beginning to form? Oh, there she goes, see? She’s paddling with the wave and now it’s going to rise up, there!”
Gabrielle saw the woman belly down on her board, riding the high wave until it crashed and so did she.
“Cool,” Xena muttered.
“I dunno,” Xena said, unsure what she had meant.
They watched while all the women rode wave after wave. Sappho’s tall blonde friend was clearly the best. Gabrielle caught Xena leaning forward with an intense gleam in her eye.
After a while, the poet and the tall blonde came out of the ocean, each bronzed and radiant from the sun and the exercise. They sat near Xena and Gabrielle.
“Can I look at this thingie?” Xena asked Sappho.
Sappho handed the board to Xena.
“So, what’s this called?” Gabrielle asked.
“Atthis discovered it,” Sappho answered, gesturing to the tall blonde who simply shrugged. “We call it wave riding.” The tall wave rider smiled shyly when Sappho looked at her with affection.
“It’s amazing to watch. What’s it feel like?” Gabrielle asked.
“It feels like poetry,” Sappho grinned. “Like the ocean’s verse. You should try it.”
Gabrielle looked skeptical. “You can’t get seasick from doing it, can you?”
“You know if you made this fin longer you would have more maneuverability. You should taper the ends a little more, here and here.” Xena handed the board back to its owner.
Sappho was bright eyed, eager at the idea of bettering her board. “Can you make one for me?”
Atthis gave Xena a once over.
Xena shrugged. “Sure, I think I can do something with this.” The poet handed the warrior the board again and she turned it over a few times in her hands.
Sappho studied the dark woman. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Sappho and this is Atthis.”
“Xena, and this is—”
“Yes, Gabrielle,” Sappho smiled at the young blonde.
Gabrielle smiled and gave Xena a haughty look. For once, it was she who was recognized before Xena, and by someone as famous as the great poet Sappho.
Sappho regarded the warrior’s attire and gave Atthis a look. The tall wave rider ran up the cliffs to where the housing was located.
“Since you have been kind enough to better my board,” Sappho said to Xena. “And you have been kind enough to praise my humble verse,” she directed to Gabrielle, before speaking to them both, “I hope you will do me the honor of being my guests for dinner?”
“That would be an honor,” Gabrielle said warmly, answering for them both.
“Do you need a place to stay?” The poet inquired.
“We’re just passing through.” Xena gave Gabrielle a look meant to discourage the bard.
“Well, should it please you, we have an extra cottage, small but private, for as long as you are ‘passing through’.”
Gabrielle ignored Xena’s firm gaze. “We’d be honored to accept your hospitality. Wouldn’t we, Xena?”
“Sure,” said the warrior through her teeth.
Sappho stood and shrugged on her fine linen, prompting Gabrielle to look at the ocean. “Atthis will return and show you to the cottage.”
After the poet was out of earshot, Xena turned to Gabrielle. “What did you do that for? Now we’ll have to spend all our time with them.”
“What’s wrong with that? A little poetry, music, some wine. Good food that I don’t have to clean or cook for a change. How much better can it get?”
Gabrielle softened. “What’s bothering you about this, Xena?”
Xena saw the thoughtful look Gabrielle gave her, which made her more considerate in return. “Nothing. You’ll enjoy it, won’t you?”
“Well, I do love her writing. It’s sort of I don’t know nice, to be around another writer.”
Xena smiled weakly but it had more heart in it than Gabrielle had seen in a long time. “Then, we’ll stay.” She looked down at the wave riding board in her hand, tongue thrust to the corner of he mouth. “Now, to get to work.”
Lesbian Works For Gabrielle
Atthis showed them to their room. A cottage with whitewashed walls, it caught the light of the little island in the most amazing way. It seemed to fill the room; as if the light itself was a boarder, an entity one breaks bread with, toasts with, converses to.
Gabrielle flopped onto the bed. Nothing fancy, but quaint like the rest of the place. Xena kept pacing around the room. Atthis returned with some clothing that she laid next to Gabrielle on the bed.
“What’s this?” Xena asked, her lip curled in distaste.
“Sappho thought you might like some cooler rags. The days here can get pretty steamy—humid, ya know.” Atthis fingered the lightweight cloth to make her point.
“Well, she’s wrong. We’re just fine.” Xena’s voice lowered a notch.
Gabrielle laughed lightly, covering the warrior’s tone. “These are lovely, really. Tell Sappho thank you.”
Atthis backed out of the room, unsure whether to be alarmed by Xena’s threatening tone, or soothed by Gabrielle’s easy manner.
Xena gave the bard an amazed look once Atthis was gone.
“I know, I know, I’ve been going against the warrior’s wishes. But just once, Xena, I would like you to try and relax. There are no warlords here. We’re not in danger. That’s the point. That’s why we came here, isn’t it? I say we go with the flow.” Gabrielle stopped short, never having used that phrase before.
Xena raised an eyebrow.
“What I mean is we should just hang, er I mean chill uh, I mean, you know,” Gabrielle stammered.
Gabrielle swung her head from side to side, shook her shoulders and bobbed her head, grooving in what could only be some sort of funky dance. “Just mellow out, warrior babe.”
Gabrielle stilled her body. What was she doing? She pressed a hand to her forehead, a strange fuzzy sensation there. But then her stomach growled. “Uh, I’m famished. Let’s just…get dressed.”
Minutes later, Gabrielle appeared in a soft blue dress very similar to the one Sappho and the other women wore. Sleeveless, it gathered at the waist with a gold cord and fell in elegant layers at the neckline (which plunged in both the front and the back) and at the waist and hip, down to the floor where her feet donned a pair of fine leather sandals.
“What do you think?” She asked Xena.
Working on reshaping the board near the window light, Xena turned, her smile lopsided as she surveyed the new Gabrielle. “Very Lesbian.”
“Ya think? Yeah,” Gabrielle turned this way and that, checking out the quality of the material, “not bad.”
Hmm, Lesbian works for Gabrielle. She turned her attention back to the board.
Gabrielle waited, hands on hips, observing Xena work. “Aren’t you getting dressed? It’s almost time to go.”
“I told you, I’m comfortable just like this.”
“Xena, I hate to mention this, but normally, when you stick out like a sore thumb it’s to your advantage. In this particular instance, it’s not.”
“And why’s that?”
“There’s no one here to impress or intimidate. You’re supposed to be taking time off from the whole kicking butt thing. So, I think you might want to try and blend in more. Besides, you promised me you would relax.”
Xena looked up, a spark in the cool blue eyes. “Is that what you think? I want to impress and intimidate?”
“Well,” Gabrielle half stammered, but decided to hold her ground. Somewhat. “You may not intend it, but it happens.” Gabrielle walked over to her, as she did, Xena stood up and moved past her. “Xena, I’m sorry—”
Xena picked up the dress laid out for her, the sandals as well. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
She emerged in a light lavender dress of similar material to Gabrielle’s, though Xena’s fell off the shoulders. Xena, forever the warrior, planted her feet apart, hands on hips and looked disapproving and amused at the same time. Gabrielle was perched on the wave rider, and from the looks of it, was imagining herself on a giant swell. She didn’t notice Xena standing there as her body teetered back and forth dramatically.
Xena knew how wacky the bard could be, but since they arrived she had been a little stranger than usual. Xena supposed they really did need this time away from their normal lives, if this was any indication. Xena was lost in this thought when Gabrielle spotted her, straightening up and looking suddenly sober.
Gabrielle took in Xena from head to toe. “Gods, Xena. You look beautiful.”
Xena felt a slow blush crawl up her neck to her cheeks. “Let’s go. We don’t want to miss another one of those snappy songs.”
On the walk over Gabrielle took a sidelong glance at Xena. The woman seemed as stoic as ever. If possible, her feelings were even more hidden than before. Before before it all happened. “Xena,” she stopped the warrior from walking by placing a hand on her arm. “I know I’m pushing you. If you really don’t want to go, I understand. I’m sorry I’ve been so, well, pushy. I just want us back to normal.” Those damn tears came back. “I know there are answers that we’re both seeking. That there’s no forgoing this journey, but I’m afraid of, of losing you.”
At the sight of Gabrielle’s tears, Xena melted. The barrier between them lessened and she took Gabrielle into her arms, whispering fiercely into her blonde hair, “I won’t let that happen.” Xena took Gabrielle by the shoulders and looked down at her. “This will work itself out. No matter what happens, I want you to know—”
A rustling in the bushes brought Xena into a defensive posture.
Emerging with a stumbling gait and several pieces of foliage stuck to him, was Joxer. “There you are! Do you know what I had to do to find you? Aickk ”
Xena put the pinch on him. He fell to his knees, tongue sticking out of his mouth, eyes rolled back in his head, as he fell face first into the dirt.
“What?” Gabrielle asked desperately, pulling Xena back to her as the warrior left the gasping Joxer not far from their feet. “What do you want me to know?”
Xena looked caught, and for a moment Gabrielle wondered if the moment had passed.
But Xena’s eyes narrowed in resolve before softening and pleading with Gabrielle. “That I love you.” She rested her palm on Gabrielle’s cheek.
Gabrielle draped her hand over Xena’s arm, a comfortable gesture that both women were used to. But this time was different because Xena looked at the hand resting there and before she could tell herself not to, before she could call up any old anger or fear, she ducked down and softly kissed Gabrielle’s fingers, like a slow exhale of air.
Gabrielle’s breath caught and her stomach turned upside down. She watched Xena’s face, her eyes closed as her lips stayed in contact with the bard’s fingers. The warrior’s cheek was so soft and smooth looking that Gabrielle couldn’t remove her eyes. Taking a step forward, she rested her own cheek against that soft spot that she coveted. She moved her skin gently against Xena’s, relishing the feel. Her eyes closed, then opened half-mast, feeling something like a great release, a need, an urge she bore for so long that the relief was beyond description.
At the touch, Gabrielle breathed out the tiniest moan, but it was right into Xena’s ear. Xena pressed into the cheek next to hers, pressed sideways until her lips touched Gabrielle’s. Unable to move too quickly, still taking in what was happening, she moved her lips ever so slightly over the smaller woman’s mouth, circling them like she was waiting for the right moment to swoop down on such lovely, tasty prey. But Gabrielle’s shallow breathing, the catch in her throat, caught Xena’s ear once more and her heart beat so fast she could no longer resist the urge. She wanted to swallow Gabrielle whole.
The kiss was so deep, so hard, so sudden, that there was nothing for either to do but receive the blow. Hanging on to each other for support, bracing their legs against the ground for balance, they remained upright longer than either of them suspected they could. When neither could take anymore, Xena pulled back licking and biting Gabrielle’s lips.
Gabrielle’s tongue slid back into the warrior’s, gliding over the beautiful white teeth, unable to leave the woman’s warm mouth but knowing her legs wouldn’t hold her up much longer. Then she remembered something they had both forgotten. Hating to do it, she pulled her lips from Xena. “Joxer.”
“What?” Xena breathed out and kissed Gabrielle again, hating the feel of Gabrielle’s mouth leaving her own.
“The pinch, you put the—”
“Oh.” Xena looked sideways at Joxer lying unmoving on the ground without ever letting her lips leave Gabrielle’s. “Oops.”
“Why ‘oops’?” Gabrielle moved her hands to Xena’s neck, pulling her closer.
“It’s been too long.” Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle’s waist and pulled the bard’s body tightly against her own. The touch of their bodies under the thin fabric was like they were wearing nothing at all.
Gabrielle groaned. “You mean he’s dead?”
“’Fraid so.” Xena’s hands wandered from Gabrielle’s waist into her soft blonde hair, pulling her head back for another deep kiss.
“That’s really not so good,” Gabrielle gasped as the kiss ended and Xena’s hands found their way to the front of her dress, holding a soft breast in each hand. “I mean, we have to do something.”
“Mmm,” Xena groaned back, loving the feel of Gabrielle’s body under her fingers. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Reluctantly, Xena pulled away from the bard, though it was almost an impossible task when she saw Gabrielle’s flushed cheeks and swollen lips. She reversed the pinch and punched Joxer in the chest a few times while managing never to take her eyes off of the very aroused bard.
Joxer gasped, sputtered and eventually began to breathe again. Then his eyes crossed and he passed out once more.
Gabrielle looked concerned. “Is he dead?”
Xena felt his pulse. “Naw, he might have some brain damage though. We’ll have to wait until he’s conscious to see how much.”
Gabrielle held out a hand and Xena took it, letting it pull her into Gabrielle’s embrace. The bard buried her face in warm brown skin.
“Hey! What happened? Oh yeah, I’ve been looking for you two. Do you know how hard it was to find you?” Joxer sat up, looking for all the world like his normal self. “Oh! Is it a group hug?”
Joxer stood and ventured toward them only to have the warrior’s fist swing upward, knocking him out again, her other arm still wrapped tightly around Gabrielle. They were just about to resume from where they left off when there was more rustling from the bushes and Atthis appeared.
“There you are. Sup’s on,” she said, noting the two’s embrace.
“We’ll be right there.” Gabrielle blushed and smiled; assuring the woman their current activity wouldn’t make them late.
“Would it be possible to get him on the next boat out of here?” Xena inquired of Atthis, gesturing to the unconscious Joxer.
Atthis took a step forward and peered down at the strange looking specimen with a repulsed look. “Knarly. Yeah, that shouldn’t be a prob. I’ll have someone dispose—I mean, dump him on a fishing boat.”
“Thanks,” Xena said sincerely. She was beginning to like the tall wave rider.
“Better get a move on. Don’t want to keep the babe-a-licious one waiting too long.” Atthis sauntered off ahead of them, her gait long and loose like she hadn’t a care in the world.
“Babe-a-licious?” Gabrielle’s eyebrow’s raised with her smile. Xena shrugged and ran a thumb along Gabrielle’s lower lip, sobering the bard up quickly. “How are we going to get through this dinner?”
“We could always back out,” Xena playfully suggested, though her eyes were serious.
Gabrielle thought about it. Really thought about it. But eventually sighed. “It wouldn’t be right. We’re her guests.”
“Then I guess we’ll just have to find a way to get through it.”
Gabrielle studied her. “You’re going to give me a hard time, aren’t you?”
Xena feigned surprise, an innocent hand to her chest as she silently mouthed the word, Me?
“Just remember two can play at that game,” Gabrielle warned her, poking the taller woman in the chest.
Xena grabbed the offending hand and held it as they walked the rest of the way to Sappho’s dinner.
Aphrodite and Cupid appeared as the two women walk away, hand in hand, staring moony-eyed at each other.
“You don’t think your little spell on the short one has influenced this?” Cupid asked his sister.
“No, the babes are way into each other, always have been. They were already lovers when all this bummer shit came down. I just needed to get them somewhere where they could re-ignite all that passion brimming just under the surface. A little Aphrodite perfume on the little blonde’s head and the chicky-babe knew to come here.” Aphrodite pats her hair, pleased with herself.
“I think it might have been a little too much. Did you see how she was ” Cupid danced around, imitating what Gabrielle had done earlier. A groovy little dance.
“It’ll wear off. It was just a booster spell. Besides, part of it’s not me, dorkus, it’s the island. Remember, Sappho, Greece’s greatest poet worships moi. So I enchant the island. It allows the natives to loosen up a bit. Seems fair.”
“So what am I doing here?”
Aphrodite wrinkled her nose. “Just a little job. Let’s jam.” She dematerializes in a wake of glitter.
Cupid rolls his eyes. “So flashy.”
A dining area with long wooden tables connected into a “U” was being prepared inside an alcove of trees. Dozens of young women milled about as they took their seats under a pale twilight sky. The waves could be heard in the distance as the full moon began its rise over the dark sea.
Xena and Gabrielle were seated across from Sappho and Atthis. As dinner progressed Sappho made small talk with those around her, clearly the capable host. Finally, she turned her full attention to the two women across from her. “We have all heard of your travels: the Warrior Princess and her Bard.” She smiled a cunning, mischievous smile.
Gabrielle was surprised. “You’ve known who we were all along?”
“Well, this one,” the poet said, gesturing to Xena, “doesn’t dress the part of a maiden.”
The women near them laughed good-naturedly. Xena, in an uncharacteristically high mood due to Gabrielle’s hand on her thigh, smiled.
“So bard, will you tell us a story?” Sappho asked.
Gabrielle blushed slightly, shyer than usual because of the famous writer across from her. “I’m not sure. I mean, you’re Sappho. I’m going to tell you a story?”
The women nearby chuckled at a point well made.
“Oh, I have a feeling you are quite the story-teller,” Sappho countered. “Am I right, Xena?”
“Oh yeah, she’s good.” Xena’s implication was clear to all those around them and there was laughter once more.
Gabrielle pinched Xena’s thigh.
“I mean it,” Xena said seriously. “She’s very good at what she does.”
More, hardier laughter.
“No, I mean ” Xena realized there was no getting out of this hole. A supreme rarity, two blushes in one day.
“Tell us a story, Gabrielle,” Sappho asked again.
This time, Gabrielle realized to turn down the request would be rude. She took a deep breath and considered what story to tell. Maybe it was her mood, but she chose to tell the story of Xena’s death and her return from the underworld.
The women sat in rapt attention. A different kind of audience than the bard was used to, for she was used to captivating her audience, but the work put into doing so was always on her part. In this situation, the women gathered were reverent in their listening, so honored in this land was the artistry of story and poem. So, Gabrielle told the story as she normally would, but she need not raise her voice over the typical disturbances: the drunken man, the newcomer, the din of those not interested in a tale. And because of that, she was able to give her all to the story with a measure of enhanced dignity and pride never afforded her before. The stage given her here in Sappho’s home illuminated for her the respect and honor due her profession.
“Now Valaska, that’s another story for another time.” Gabrielle ended her tale with the return of Xena to the living.
There was enthusiastic applause all around.
Sappho lifted her wineglass in salute to the young bard. “To Gabrielle. For tonight:
Someone honored me, giving me the secret of their craft.” *
Everyone drank to Gabrielle’s ability. To the muse.
Xena sat back in her chair, her wine in one hand, her other arm draped over the back of Gabrielle’s chair. Gabrielle’s telling of the tale moved her. Especially the part about how Gabrielle felt when she lost the warrior.
There was a general call from the rest of the young women to hear a song from Sappho as they all moved away from the tables and the candlelight and settled themselves under the moon and stars, sitting on the grass or under the trees. The night was now fully upon them, the full moon gave off more than enough light to sing and dance and laugh by.
As they were about to move the gathering, Aphrodite and Cupid appeared, hidden to the mortals, though Xena glanced around her, a strange sensation crawling up her spine.
“See the two babes over there?” Aphrodite asked of Cupid. There were two women at the end of one of the tables talking politely to one another. “I need ya to shoot ‘em with the one-eyed-bird. She loves her, her loves she, yadda, yadda. They’re both praying to me like a couple of banshees and nothing’s happening. These Lesbians—I swear it takes a pantheon of Goddesses to get them together! I enchant the whole island and they’re still ships passing in the night. It’s like they enjoy the torture. So, you know what to do, right? I have to split, got another gig, I can’t stay on this island forever.” Aphrodite waves a finger at the two women, sending some magic their way.
“What about those two?” Cupid gestures toward Xena and Gabrielle’s direction.
“They’re fine, remember the smooch?”
“Actually, I meant the other two.”
“Sappho and Atthis?” Aphrodite shoved a hand against Cupid’s chest. “That’s my poet—hands off! No one messes with her except me. Besides she’s got no prob with the babes. She and Atthis will happen when the time’s right. She’s still getting over Gongyla. Don’t want the rebound thing happening. Gotta jam. Later.” Aphrodite disappears in a poof of glitter-gold.
Cupid swiftly retrieved his bow and drew an arrow, proceeding to shoot the two at the end of the table. Already in love, the arrows simply served to strengthen their resolve and they each reached out and took the other’s hand.
About to leave, he took a second look at Sappho and Atthis. He drew his bow and took aim at Atthis, just as he let go a servant girl walked between him and his view of the target, the tray she was carrying barely deflecting the arrow. Startled by what could happen with such a goof up, he strained to see around the passing servant and where his arrow had landed. But all was well. It was protruding out of Atthis and dematerialized a second later. And Atthis was still looking at the poet. It was well done, a bull’s eye. “Rad.” He smiled to himself; he still knew how to mess with his sis, and vanished.
What really happened:
The arrow deflected off of the servant girl’s tray, grazed Gabrielle’s arm and landed in Atthis. As it scraped along Gabrielle’s skin she was busy going over their recent travels with Sappho, explaining how they had recently been to Chin and Rome, when suddenly she discovered that there was something about the poet she found most intoxicating.
As the arrow found its mark in Atthis, she was just asking Xena about the wave riding board and if she had a chance to work on it. As Xena talked about angles and fins, Atthis instantly fell madly, deeply, insatiably in love with the tall dark warrior, only moments before Sappho spoke to her, turning her head and regarding the poet she thought she had been falling in love with.
* * * * *
Sappho, lyricist poet, lyre in hand, sang to Aphrodite as the women who sat under a starry sky listened to the magic all around them: the waves of the ocean, the slight breeze in the tree tops, the poetry of Sappho.
Gabrielle sat near Xena under a tree, her body keenly aware of the woman at her side, yet as she listened to Sappho she was strangely drawn to her. It wasn’t as though she hadn’t found the poet attractive. The darkness of her hair, her skin and her eyes, all had a rather sexy, zestful appeal. And her majestic ways were quite appealing the way they blended with her earnestness and her other rather earthy qualities. But Gabrielle had certainly not thought of her in that way upon their first meeting. What changed? At the same time, her pull to Xena was just as strong, perhaps more so, because right at that moment the things she wanted to do to the warrior would make a wanton whore blush! It was driving her crazy. It was like she was the string on Sappho’s lyre, tightened to the point of breaking, each pluck of the string vibrating like wildfire through her taut body. She could barely contain herself. If this evening didn’t end soon, she was afraid she would make a public spectacle.
“Are you alright?” Xena asked, leaning close, too close, to Gabrielle.
Gabrielle’s fingers entangled in Xena’s hair and brought the warrior’s lips to hers. She hungrily pressed her mouth against Xena’s then pushed her down and climbed on top of her.
Xena grabbed a hold of Gabrielle and sat them both upright. Her skin was burning with the touch of the bard, but she knew—as in ‘warrior knew’—that something was not right. The hair on the back of her neck bristled. “What’s going on, Gabrielle?”
“What’s going on is, if I don’t get out of here—if we don’t get out of here soon and end my misery, I’m going to burst!” On the last word her voice raised loud enough to turn a few heads their way.
Xena sort of half smiled, letting the other women know everything was okay. Though she didn’t feel that way. She saw Atthis and Sappho speaking then. Atthis departed abruptly and Sappho looked wounded. “Something’s up,” she said to herself.
Gabrielle caught the warrior’s mumbling but chose to ignore it in favor of tracing a finger up Xena’s bare arm. She kissed Xena’s neck, making her way to an earlobe.
It was all Xena could do not to give in. In fact, she had to quench at least some of the fire in herself. She took Gabrielle abruptly to her and kissed her deeply, running her hands from the bard’s waist to her hair, then gently holding Gabrielle’s face, and after a rather prolonged kiss, pulled away and looked the beautiful blonde in the eyes. What Xena saw there was not smoldering desire, but a raging inferno. There wasn’t going to be much hope of intact dignity if she didn’t get Gabrielle out of there—quick.
“Xena?” A voice came from above them.
“Hmm?” Xena couldn’t take her eyes from Gabrielle.
“I have to talk to you,” Atthis stated. She seemed desperate about some urgent matter.
Xena looked at the tall blonde and wondered what could make the usually cool, aloof woman so uptight and unsettled. She sensed the tension in Gabrielle’s body and knew there was no time for talk. “It’ll have to wait.”
“No!” Atthis started towards her, a hand reached out to touch Xena’s shoulder, but then stopped short. Atthis drew the hand back and caressed it like it was a wild animal she was trying to calm. “It can’t wait.”
“Is someone in danger?” Xena asked.
“No,” Atthis admitted.
“Is anything in danger? Are lives at stake?”
“Well, no.” Atthis shuffled her feet.
Xena rose and brought Gabrielle into a standing position with her. Gabrielle had barely moved since their kiss and her worry over the bard brought out her next sentence in a low growl, “Then it’ll have to wait.” She held eye contact with Atthis, one eyebrow cocked, closing the subject.
Atthis, who’s heart had not stopped pounding since Xena’s first words to her, was practically dizzy with want, but her survival instincts got the better of her and she stepped aside to let the two pass.
Gabrielle followed Xena, her mind, her eyes, her feet, all focused on the warrior. Nothing else existed except as a fuzzy outline. She could barely function. Never had she been like this before. So heightened was her arousal that her body was shutting down, becoming inert. And she was right to be concerned; the next thing that went was her legs. “I can’t, Xena,” she was barely able to whisper. “You have to ” she trailed off, wrapping her arms around the warrior’s neck, pressing her face there and praying for some release from the torture her body was in.
Xena swept her up off the ground and into her arms. There, Gabrielle curled inward, her vulnerability now sheltered by the warrior.
Atthis watched them leave, making their way down the path that would lead to their cottage, to the bed they would make love in, and the tall anguished blonde nearly bit her lip in two. She could taste the little bit of blood that she drew. Closing her eyes she tried to will away the madness that was driving her. Somewhere, at the edges of the obsession, beyond the burning, she knew something wasn’t right.
“I don’t want it to be like this.” Gabrielle’s breathing was coming in shallow gasps against Xena’s neck.
Xena was making the time between them and their room move as quickly as possible. As much as she had wanted the bard once again in her arms, now she was also concerned. Something, there was no doubt, was definitely wrong. Every fiber in her being told her there was something unseen in action. It was the same thing that alerted her to Ares. And she had felt the odd feeling earlier in the day as well. But this didn’t feel like Ares—where was the pay off?
“Don’t worry, Gabrielle. I’ve got you. We’re almost there.”
The young blonde’s breathing was now ragged against her chest. She could feel her own pulse quicken in response. It was as though Gabrielle radiated a heat that pulsed, was actually alive. Her own body, so in tune with Gabrielle’s, responded to it in spite of herself. But neither did she want their first time together again, to be—this way. She had to think of something, some way to stop herself from reacting to the bard’s arousal. How in Hades was she going to do that? After all they had been through, all she wanted in the world was to be with Gabrielle again. And now this! Was it some kind of joke being played on them? Xena’s eyes narrowed at the thought of a vengeful god. She picked up her pace, thinking she might know how to get to the bottom of this fiasco.
She carried Gabrielle through the door and made her way to the bed, then realizing their dilemma, made a U-turn and headed back for the small table and chair. But as she tried to sit Gabrielle down, she could see that the smaller woman could barely sit up. She slumped against Xena. Sighing in resignation and cursing the fates, she carried Gabrielle to the bed. The bard’s body was so heavy with inertia that Xena was carried forward and nearly on top of her as she laid Gabrielle down. And Gabrielle took advantage in what small way she could, touching her lips to the warrior’s.
Xena wanted to pull away but it was too much to ask. She let herself be pulled into Gabrielle’s spinning world. Like a sweet madness, she felt the bard’s fever infect her. She couldn’t control anything anymore. All she wanted was to be carried down that same lost river Gabrielle was floating down, needing to be her companion even in this spell that Xena now knew they were both caught in.
“I can’t wait ” Gabrielle could barely speak. “It has to be now, Xena. Please.” She tried to pull the tall dark beauty to her, but was unable to be as forceful as her will desired.
She needn’t have bothered because Xena knew too well what she needed to release her from the paralysis. Her hand, the one she always knew as so gentle with Gabrielle when they had made love in the past, instead, roughly forced the blonde’s tender thighs apart, pushed aside the thin material there and entered her with direct force, moving hard against swollen, velvety flesh. Gabrielle was so wet and open that Xena needed to quickly compensate with additional fingers, each time she did so, bringing a small cry from the woman beneath her. Within minutes the bard was pulling the warrior closer to her and grinding into Xena’s palm, feeling their bodies under the thin, soft fabric of the dresses they each wore. The exquisite feel of Xena’s breasts touching her, like finger tips lightly trailing across her own breasts, was all it took to take her over to the other side.
It went on and on until Gabrielle thought she would pass out. Each wave would recede and another would build, each inevitably crashing against Xena’s hand. Finally, truly fearing she was near passing out, she placed her hands on Xena’s so she could catch her breath. But the woman above her was unwilling to leave the warm, soft space her fingers had found.
Gabrielle laughed lightly in Xena’s ear. “Gods. I didn’t know it was possible to do that so many times and live through it.”
Xena smiled down into Gabrielle’s eyes. “I love you, still ya know?”
“I know.” Gabrielle touched Xena’s cheek. “I love you.”
“I didn’t know if you still would.”
“I know,” Gabrielle said with a small grin. “But I do.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“The time was never right.”
“And it is now?”
Gabrielle paused, considered, and ended up gently chuckling. “I don’t think I had a choice.”
Xena removed herself from Gabrielle. The bard caught her breath in surprise at the sudden loss of Xena’s presence within her. “Where are you going?” She watched the warrior sit up and swing her legs over the side of the bed, her back to Gabrielle. From behind all that dark hair, Gabrielle heard a mumble, “Was afraid of that.”
“What?” Gabrielle sat up and reached out to bring Xena back to her.
Xena’s eyes clouded but she shook her head. There would be time for her emotions later. Right now she had to find out what, or who, was behind all of this. After fixing her expression to a neutral one, she faced Gabrielle again. “I don’t have time to explain, but something’s happened to you.”
Gabrielle reached out for the dark woman sitting beside her. “Nothing’s happened to me except you.”
“Shhh.” Xena caught the hands that touched her face and kissed the wrists softly. Gabrielle’s breath caught and she could feel the cycle beginning again, until Xena pressed the bard’s hands into her lap and held them there. “Promise me you’ll stay here until I get back. Don’t go anywhere; don’t let anyone in, just stay put. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
The blonde eyebrows drew downward. “But why? Xena, not now. How can you leave now?”
“I don’t want to leave, Gabrielle, but I need to. If I don’t, then I won’t know if what’s going on here is real.”
Gabrielle gave Xena a puzzled look that slowly melted into annoyance. “How can you say that?”
“Please,” Xena reached for the escaping blonde and pulled her back, “Gabrielle, just trust me. Will you?”
And there was that word again. And even with all that she felt at that moment, every ounce of her being ready to devour the woman in front of her as if she were her only source of sustenance, she still could not completely be sure if she trusted her. Not after all that had happened. It was that thought that allowed Gabrielle to let Xena go. She dropped her arms and watched as Xena backed away from her and stood at the foot of the bed.
Gabrielle knew the look. Xena was aware, had a sneaking suspicion as to what was going on in the bard’s mind. Both of them knew—they were too in sync not to recognize—their recent pattern of uniting and breaking they had been experiencing since Chin. And far beyond that time. With each subsequent event adding to the discord, until they were being pulled and pushed like the ocean coming in and going out against the shore. And Gabrielle knew, sooner or later, the pattern would need to end. Would it end on their unity? Or on they’re breaking? She knew they both held their breath over this life-sustaining question.
“I’ll be back before you know it.” Xena smiled, but it was quickly enough placed behind her stoic mask. The warrior had become, once again, all business. The bard watched her move with deliberate action, firm and steady even in the light-colored dress she wore. She picked up her leather on the way out the door. She turned one last time. “Gabrielle?”
“I do love you.”
Xena made her way back to the party, donning her leather and armor as she went. Though much of a party, it wasn’t. Most had left, though there were a few women still sitting in the clearing. But Sappho sat a ways away on a flat rock looking out over the sea. The warrior spotted her from a distance and as she made her way closer to the poet, she could sense something in the woman’s posture that was troubling: a sadness, or perhaps it was a loneliness. Xena was just about to formulate a hypothesis when a form jumped out at her, and without thinking she simply responded by jerking her body quickly to the right, causing the flying form to go past her rather than landing upon her.
It was Atthis.
Xena looked perplexed at the tall blonde wave rider. “Atthis? What are you doing?”
Atthis looked up at Xena so strangely, so different than how Xena recalled her being earlier, that she was convinced someone else must be behind her receiving this odd stare. She turned around, but she was alone. “What’s gotten into you?”
Atthis held out her hand and Xena helped her up. Atthis took the warrior forcefully into her arms. Xena barely kept the woman from her by leaning back as far as possible. Finally, deciding the polite approach wasn’t working; she hooked her leg behind the other woman’s and sat her back down with a thump.
“Xena,” Atthis started, then was stumped, “I-I-I ” she couldn’t seem to make the words come, as if she sensed something was wrong with them even as she felt compelled to speak them. “I love you, Xena. I’m yours. Completely yours. Just, please, put me out of my misery.”
“Not again,” Xena murmured.
Now she knew something was wrong. Atthis didn’t love her. If Xena was right, she sensed it were Sappho and Atthis who were in love. “What makes you think you love me?”
“I don’t know,” Atthis realized, even as she said it. “I just do. I can feel it in every part of my being.” She ran her hands up the warrior princess’ leather boot and sighed.
“When did you suddenly realize you loved me?”
Now both hands were around Xena’s leg and making their way up her thigh. “I guess it was at dinner. I looked across at you and I just knew.”
“Dinner, huh?” Xena slapped the wave rider’s hand as it maneuvered its way under her leather skirt. The woman was no more distracting to her than a mosquito needing to be shooed. Though, Xena admitted, she was attractive. But somewhere, in the recesses of her soul she knew it was Gabrielle who held her heart and every other part of her as well. Because of that, life without Gabrielle would be a lonely one. This woman—no other person—stood a chance.
“Come on,” Xena grabbed Atthis by the arm and pulled her up. “We’re going to talk to Sappho.”
“No!” Atthis dug her heels in and Xena was surprised at how strong she was. Nearly Xena’s height, she was muscular and clearly in good shape.
“Why not?” Xena squinted at her. Now maybe she would get to the bottom of this.
“I just I can’t. It’s too confusing.”
“Come on.” Xena dragged the wave rider forward, but the blonde twirled around, faced Xena and looked her dead in the eye. “No!” Atthis was firm. “Please, I can’t.”
Xena sighed and let go of the woman’s arm. “Stay here, as in ‘don’t move.’ I’ll be right back.”
Atthis nodded, rubbing her arm where Xena had held her.
Xena eyed her before making her way over to Sappho who was still sitting on the rock, her back to them as she looked out upon the moonlit sea.
“Sappho?” Xena spoke softly as she approached the poet, so as not to alarm her.
But Sappho’s face, as she turned, was naked, clearly not expecting any company. Xena could see the melancholy etched upon her features.
“Oh, Xena,” Sappho started, composing herself immediately. “How are you? Is everything all right?”
“Everything’s fine,” Xena said gently, realizing the woman was hurting, yet was still gracious enough to concern herself with Xena’s well-being. The poet was growing on her, sappy songs, or not. “But I think there’s something going on. Gabrielle’s acting strange. And Atthis—”
“Yes, Atthis is acting strange too,” Sappho finished Xena’s sentence.
Xena sat down next to her. “Your relationship with Aphrodite is well known. Do you think—”
Again Sappho finished Xena’s thoughts. “No, no, I’m sure of it. Don’t bother asking twice. I couldn’t be more sure.” Sappho stood, walked to the edge of the cliff and looked down at the rocks and surf below.
“What makes you so sure?” Xena realized she was doing exactly what Sappho asked her not to.
The poet turned with a smile for the warrior. “Couldn’t resist? It’s okay; it’s your nature. All I meant is that I’m quite sure about Aphrodite’s innocence in this matter. Our relationship is honorable and trustworthy. I have her word she would never interfere with me,” Sappho paused, a look thrown over her shoulder at Xena, “unless, of course, I wished it.”
Xena walked over to Sappho. She wanted to see deep into the women’s eyes for her next question. “And did you wish it?”
“No.” Sappho let the warrior inspect her, opened herself up so Xena could see into her soul.
Xena relaxed after that. She could see that Sappho was as much a pawn in all of this as the rest of them. “Well, someone’s up to,” Xena’s eyes flickered, “what about Cupid? What’s your connection with him?”
“Hmm, tenuous, only through Aphrodite. But you don’t understand. I’m favored by Aphrodite, no god would dare—”
“Oh, wouldn’t they? One thing I know about the gods is that they agree on little and get along even less. I think whatever happened, happened at dinner. That’s when ” Xena paused because she wasn’t sure how to proceed.
“Yes, when Atthis noticed you,” Sappho said with a sad smile, as if she begrudged Xena little, though it clearly pained her. “What makes you think it’s not genuine? I mean, my dear, you have looked in a mirror recently, haven’t you? You’re not exactly without merit.”
Xena gave Sappho her stern look, the one usually reserved for warlords or Gabrielle when she was being annoying. “You know perfectly well that Atthis is not in love with me.”
“Well,” Sappho granted, “it would seem to be a little sudden. I really thought we were headed well, there’s no need to go into that. What can we do now? Even if it was the handiwork of a god?”
“You need to call Aphrodite. Tell her what’s happened and that you need her to champion you.”
“Yes, I’m hoping that will work. If she’s as possessive about you as legend has it, then she should do all the footwork for us. Right now, we need to get Atthis and Gabrielle into closed quarters until all this is over with.”
“Gabrielle? So she’s been affected the same as Atthis?”
“I think so.”
“Who has she fallen for?”
Xena looked away from the poet’s dark intense eyes. “I don’t know. Yet.”
“Then how can you be so sure she’s enchanted?”
“Just a feeling. We better go.” Xena turned back the way she came and Sappho fell into step beside her. The warrior had not expected to feel so uncomfortable by the poet’s frank gazes and questions. The woman was really very unsettling when it came right down to it, like she could see beyond the flesh and bones and into the hearts of those around her.
“I was under the impression that you and Gabrielle were romantically involved?” Sappho added, almost as an after thought.
Xena hesitated before answering. Were they? She felt the kiss they shared was honest enough. But was it? How long had Gabrielle been under this spell? Xena didn’t know how to answer the question so she chose not to answer it at all. The poet at her side must have understood because they continued down the path in silence.
When they came to the spot where Xena had left Atthis, the wave rider was gone. “I was afraid of this,” Xena said, as she scanned the area. “She’s aware enough about what’s going on to be troubled by it. She doesn’t want to hurt you but she can’t control her feelings, or her actions, for that matter. I’ll find her and get her into a safe place while you call Aphrodite.”
“Do you think that you looking for her is the best idea?”
Xena put a comforting hand on the poet’s shoulder. She was the same height as Gabrielle. Strange that two such strong women, their presence so powerful, could occupy such slight frames. “Don’t worry, I’m clearheaded, and I don’t think there’s much chance of someone taking advantage of me.”
Sappho smiled and turned to go, but before she did, she asked—again—almost as an afterthought, “Tell me, Xena, for my own piece of mind you do love Gabrielle, don’t you?”
Xena struggled with the disclosure, but she knew the poet already knew anyway. “Yes,” came the simple truth.
Sappho’s shoulders sagged with some relief and she turned towards the temple of Aphrodite. The warrior headed in the opposite direction, in search of the wave rider that Sappho loved.
* * * * *
A square, with a garden, trees, benches for the young women to sit on as they discussed art and learned at Sappho’s side, was nestled between the living areas on two sides, a long ceremonial hall, and finally Aphrodite’s temple.
Xena had been unable to find Atthis, so doubled back for the square, hoping to find her in that area. She was getting edgy about leaving Gabrielle alone and so was getting a bit testy with the wave rider. Most of the women were asleep, as night was getting longer. There was still a good night’s sleep left until morning and Xena hurriedly strode along the path until she came to the square. She decided to check Atthis’ room first, though she found it unlikely the woman would be there. She would have to wake someone up for directions. As she entered the first living area a shadowy figure moved from behind the trees, the moonlight catching her blonde hair.
Gabrielle looked up at the full moon and the clouds that passed over her. The moonlight was fading. “Xena!” She called in an urgent whisper. “Xena!” Unsure which direction the warrior had headed, she started towards Aphrodite’s temple.
Atthis watched the bard cross the square from behind the protective covering of thick foliage. Her heart was pounding and she could feel a fine film of sweat on her upper lip. She sprinted across the square and into the same living area Xena had entered.
Sappho was placing an offering on Aphrodite’s altar when Gabrielle burst through the double doors. Usually more reverent, the bard wasn’t in a mood for proprieties. “Sappho—thank the Gods! Have you seen Xena?” Gabrielle asked, not lessening her swift pace until she stood directly in front of the poet.
“Gabrielle,” was all Sappho managed to say before Gabrielle’s eyes glazed over, her eyes scooping up the sight of poet from head to toe. And not believing what she was doing, even as she did it, she took Sappho’s face in her hands and with a decisiveness and speed that surprised them both, the small blonde kissed the small dark-haired woman for all she was worth.
So stunned was Sappho, that she could only stand there like she was being run over by a stampede of wild animals. And, in fact, in Gabrielle’s enthusiasm, she lost her sense of balance, landing them both on the temple floor. And what was worse, to Sappho’s surprise, she could feel her own body responding to the attractive bard.
Her weakness for comely blondes being well known.
* * * * *
Xena was just about to knock on a door and wake someone up when she caught sight of the tall blonde watching her from the end of a long hallway. Atthis, knowing she had been caught, ran down the hallway and leaped out of an open window. Xena, stifling her war cry (not wanting to wake the sleeping Lesbians), somersaulted through the window after her. Once out of the building and under the night sky, Xena could sense the woman nearby.
“Atthis? Come on out. Something’s happened to you, that’s why you’re feeling this way. It’s not you. We need to get you in a safe place until we can get everything back to normal.” Xena spoke to the bushes and trees, all the while listening for the tiniest movement.
Atthis listened to Xena, but all she heard was ‘safe place,’ which in her fevered state meant confinement. Just the thought of it sent her mind screaming, which in turn activated the rest of her body. She ran from the bushes toward Aphrodite’s temple.
Xena sighed and shook her head before going after the tall blonde who was proving to be more slippery and agile than most warlords—their style to stand and fight. This Atthis was like a sudden breeze, there and gone. Xena found herself admiring the wave rider. Though chasing her was getting tedious. It was time to end this game playing.
As soon as Atthis ran through the open door of the temple, her eyes caught the distressing sight. The small blonde bard on top of the poet. And she raged. For even though her love for Xena was intense, nearly painful, her love for Sappho had not diminished. She roared. Gabrielle and Sappho looked up in astonishment just as Atthis raced toward them, her fury written on her face. Gabrielle, staff-less but having learned a thing or two from watching Xena, rolled onto her back, and as the wave rider approached, pushed out her legs catching Atthis in the midriff, sending her flying through the air and landing with a crash on Aphrodite’s altar—offerings flying everywhere. The bard hopped to her feet, ran to the nearest window and disappeared into the night.
Xena entered the temple, just missing Gabrielle’s breakneck departure. In less than a second, she had Atthis by the neck and pulled to her feet. “There you are. Up you go. What happened here?”
Sappho was still on the ground, everything had happened so fast. “I was about to call for Aphrodite when Gabrielle—”
“Gabrielle! Gabrielle was here?” Xena’s voice was urgent, even as it lowered in cadence.
Atthis spoke then, her face stained with tears. “I caught them here, together.”
Xena looked from Atthis to Sappho, her eyes as dangerous as a wild animal’s. It alarmed Sappho, so much so, that she found it hard to explain. “Xena, it’s not what you think.”
“Why don’t you enlighten me.” Xena’s voice was even lower, if that was possible, her body tensed.
“It isn’t her, it’s the enchantment,” Sappho said, the poet’s eyes pleading with Xena to understand.
“They were on the floor kissing when I came in,” Atthis added.
Xena glared at the Sappho, knowing she was sending fear down the woman’s spine. “And I suppose you just couldn’t help yourself?”
“It happened so fast. I—it isn’t what you think, Xena. You’re wrong. I love Atthis.” She looked at the at the tall lean blonde, but she was holding onto the warrior, her eyes closed, forehead pressed into Xena’s arm. A clear expression of pain on her face.
“Is that right?” Xena asked and took Atthis by the chin, tilting her head up so that the wave rider looked back, her eyes pleading for help. Xena brought the woman’s mouth to hers slowly. Torturously slow, she kissed Atthis, until her body began to writhe under the penetrating kiss. But the torture wasn’t meant for the wave rider.
“Stop it.” Sappho’s voice was cold and hard.
Xena removed her lips from Atthis and cut her eyes at the poet. The poor wave rider was now in a state similar to Gabrielle’s earlier.
“You made your point,” Sappho said flatly. “Gabrielle left through that window. I suggest you find her before harm comes her way.”
Xena sat Atthis gently on the floor. She was in a bad way and slumped against the altar. Xena looked up at Sappho. “She needs your help. It won’t be the way you wanted it, the way you envisioned it. But then we don’t always get what we want, do we?”
Sappho made her way over to Atthis and cradled the blonde’s head in her lap. The poet looked up at the warrior. “I’m sorry, Xena.”
Xena said nothing in return but rather made her way to the window with one backwards glance. “You still need to call Aphrodite, but you better take care of her first.”
Sappho nodded and watched Xena take off into the night, after the small blonde bard she obviously loved.
* * * * *
Gabrielle could hear the blood as it made its way from her heart down to her legs, through her aching lungs and up to her ears where it rivaled the pounding of the waves against the sheer cliff below. Her lungs felt like they would burst, she had ran so fast and so hard. Now that she was far enough away, out among the jutting cliffs, she stooped over to catch her breath. In front of her a lone tree. She made her way over to it. It was situated near the edge of the steep cliff; below the surf-ravaged wall of rock.
Tears stung her eyes in the same way the air stung her lungs. She could feel the mist from the turbulent water below settle on her skin, creating a second layer of dampness that coated her perspiration. She leaned against the tree and then turned and hit it twice, one hand, then the other, in open-palmed frustration. She held the tree then, like a lover she had wronged, holding her cheek desperately against it as a single tear slid down her flush cheek. “What am I doing? What’s wrong with me?”
“Would it be me you’re talking to?” A voice answered her, clear as a bell in the dark. And not too far away.
Gabrielle swung around, every fiber alive with alarm. Fear igniting her protective impulses. She readied herself for a fight even without her staff.
“Easy, love,” a woman said, as she appeared from the darkness and looked at Gabrielle with compassion and interest.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Gongyla. And who are you? Besides being a lovely blonde out for a moonlight stroll.”
“Gabrielle.” The bard wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry, is this your spot? I’ll go.”
“No!” Gongyla stretched out an arm to keep Gabrielle from leaving, but stopped short of actually touching her. “I like the company, if it pleases you?”
Gabrielle could feel warmth radiate from the woman, and for once the driving desire was gone from her blood. This woman didn’t seem to command Gabrielle’s passion like Xena, and strangely, Sappho. Gabrielle shook the thought of the poet, and the impulsive kiss, from her head. “I’d like to stay, but I’m, I need to get back. I have a friend who needs me.”
The bard smiled politely and was about to turn away, when the other woman, clutching at the straws that would keep Gabrielle there, said, “Is that what your crying was about?”
Gabrielle nearly teared up again at the thought of her misery being seen by this stranger. “No,” was all she could manage.
“I’m prying,” Gongyla said. “But sometimes it’s the stranger who can see your deadliest enemy hidden in the trees. To them it’s like a perfect black outline. To you it will only be camouflage and deceit.”
Gabrielle watched the woman step closer. She was clearly dressed in what most of the women from the island wore. She was nearly breathtaking in her beauty, though hardly a conventional one. Everything about her was wrong: her hair curly to the point of unruliness; a small bump on her nose; her lips exaggerated in their fullness; even her eyes seemed too large, somehow. But taken all together, these ‘wrong parts’ made the most perfectly divine whole. The woman was a goddess to rival Aphrodite herself. Not that Gabrielle found the goddess of love more beautiful than, say, Xena.
“Are you real? Are you a goddess?” Gabrielle asked.
“No,” Gongyla looked down at the earth, humbled, “I am in no way a goddess.” She looked out beyond the cliff at the sea. “Have you heard the story of this place?”
“No.” Despite herself, Gabrielle was unable to resist the temptation of a story. She took a step toward the woman and looked out at the distance with her, as if the story was out there to be seen.
“You’re a bard, it should interest you.”
Gabrielle looked up, surprised. “You have me at a disadvantage.”
“Not at all.” Gongyla smiled sweetly. “I hear things, that’s all Anyway, the story goes that those in heartache come here to this cliff, the Rock of Desperation, to throw themselves into the sea. Here, it is rumored, is where the heartache can end.”
“You mean with death?”
“Perhaps,” Gongyla shrugged, “or with life. It is said that if a person survives the fall that their heartache will come to a sudden end.”
“Is it true?” Gabrielle asked, assuming the woman would know.
Gongyla smiled sadly. “I’ve heard there are people who survived, and that the legend is true, their burden was lifted. But as for the dead? Can the dead really let go of their suffering? If a person were foolish enough to throw herself off this cliff, it would be in her best interest to pray for her life. Death is a long misery for the heartbroken.”
Just as Gabrielle was going to ask how she could possibly know that, there was the sound of fast approaching footsteps. She turned to see Xena emerging from the trees and standing not ten feet away, her face a mask of frustration and concern.
“Xena,” Gabrielle started and turned to introduce Gongyla. But she was gone.
* * * * *
“You don’t believe me,” Gabrielle stated.
“Why wouldn’t I believe you?” Xena countered, scanning all the markings along the trail, trying to find their way back to the cottage.
“She was there and then you showed up and she was gone—just like that! I mean, Xena, she couldn’t have been mortal.” Gabrielle considered the stoic warrior at her side. “Or else. Xena, have you ever considered you scare people off?”
Xena gave Gabrielle a sideways glance. “Maybe she wasn’t mortal.”
“Okay.” Gabrielle stopped walking and laid a hand on Xena’s arm, getting her to stop as well. “You know something you’re not telling me.”
“I’m not sure what’s going on, but there are definitely other forces at work. The gods? Which gods?” She shrugged. “That’s another matter.”
“So, are you saying you think she was a goddess?”
“No goddess I’ve ever heard of.”
Gabrielle stumbled and Xena took her up in her arms. Gabrielle could feel her head swimming and could no longer keep her eyes open. She leaned into Xena, resting her cheek against the warrior’s neck and fell fast asleep.
* * * * *
Sappho held Atthis to her. They lay on Sappho’s bed with Atthis’ head resting in the poet’s lap. The sweat on the tall blonde’s brow, the immobility that struck down the otherwise vibrant, active woman, made it clear just how devastating this love sickness was—how serious.
The small dark woman smoothed the hair back from Atthis’ forehead, as blue eyes looked up at brown ones, a pleading there that couldn’t be mistaken. But Sappho wondered, could she take Atthis to her in this way? Her conscious tore at her—was this right? Would Atthis awake from this madness feeling she had been taken advantage of? Then her dark blue eyes and eyebrows—straw colored—drew together. Her lips trembled.
And Sappho decided. Laying Atthis out on the bed, she undressed her and quickly discarded her own gown. Atthis could do little more than watch with frenzied eyes; the rest of her seemed to be in a sort of paralysis. Sappho laid down next to her, then settled herself onto the long body, the feel of the skin on hers like a burn. And she imagined a wildflower on fire. That was Atthis. Her Atthis.
She placed delicate lips on the woman below her, gently opening her mouth, and Atthis received it like a life giving procedure. It was as though the poet had blown life back into the wave rider, as she was able to move her arms around Sappho’s waist with more strength than she thought she possessed.
“Save me,” Atthis whispered.
“I love you,” came the reply.
And when it was over, both women held the other, not moving. Holding from the inside as well as the outside.
“Again,” whispered Atthis. “This time slower.” And she rolled over onto the poet.
Don’t Screw Around With Her Lesbians
The sun came through the small square windows, lighting up the sparse, whitewashed walls. Gabrielle was tangled around Xena’s limbs. The way it used to be before everything happened. Xena awoke with the bard’s blonde locks half in her mouth and she could almost believe, at that first moment of consciousness, that nothing had ever happened to separate them. She could taste the saltiness of the sea on Gabrielle’s hair. She pushed out her tongue and gently tasted a strand. Then moving the hair gently away from the sleeping woman’s forehead, she touched her lips there, causing the bard to stir. Her arms and legs draped over the warrior moved gently, slowly, over Xena in the most languorous way, causing the warrior to catch her breath. As if Gabrielle could sense the budding tension, she made a pleasant little noise and burrowed deeper into the taller woman. She turned her face inward and softly pressed her lips against Xena’s neck. All the built up arousal from the night before was too much, and Xena made a little moan-sigh in the back of her throat, waking Gabrielle completely.
The smaller woman climbed on top of the dark-haired beauty, willing herself not to look at Xena in the eye for fear she would be stopped by the warrior and not allowed to do what she intended with every last ounce of her will. She ran her hands up Xena’s soft, warm stomach, pushing the shift up as she went. Xena arched to help her. Aww, that’s good, Gabrielle thought. That’s what she wanted from the woman beneath her. She paused only long enough to pull off her own shift, then quickly cupped Xena’s breast and kissed her softly. She took the nipples in between finger and thumb, gently kneading and bringing Xena under her control. The warrior’s breathing was getting shallow and the bard smiled inwardly. So, Xena thought this wasn’t about her own desire for the warrior? She would have to see about that.
Gabrielle whispered in Xena’s ear, licking it as she did so, “You’re mine.” She went back down to Xena’s neck and bit and nipped until she heard a low growl deep from within the woman’s throat and her torso moving invitingly under the bard’s own. Then Gabrielle went back to the wet ear and whispered, “Say it.”
Nothing. She squeezed the breasts under her hands again and brought them to peaks under her fingers. Xena squirmed and tried to move her arms around the bard’s waist, no doubt to try and turn the tables, but the bard would have none of it. She held the warrior’s arms over her head. Xena could easily escape from the smaller woman’s grasp, but Gabrielle had a hunch she would get her way.
And she did.
Holding Xena’s arms above her head, Gabrielle rubbed her own breasts over the warrior’s, eliciting a, “Mmmmm,” for her trouble. Again she whispered in Xena’s ear, “Your mine. Say it.”
A pause. Then in a barely audible, low throaty tone, came the reply, “I’m yours.”
Gabrielle leaned down and took a nipple in her mouth, scraping it between her teeth before coming back up to the writhing warrior. “I didn’t hear that,” came the playful, erotic retort, as Gabrielle, still avoiding eye contact with Xena, licked and nipped at Xena’s mouth, a tongue meeting her in reply. After a long, deep kiss that had Xena squirming, Gabrielle went back to the unforgotten ear. “Tell me what I want to hear.”
Xena didn’t hesitate this time. “I’m yours.”
That’s when Gabrielle pulled back enough to catch Xena’s eyes. The Xena that looked back at her was nearly as helpless as she was the night before. The bard’s voice shook a little. “And this is about my desire for you. About my love for you.” She paused to let the warrior under her take it in. Then softly, she commanded, “Say it.”
Xena hesitated, emotion getting the better of her, tying her tongue up in knots. After swallowing twice, she attempted to speak, but not able to trust her voice she reached up and grabbed Gabrielle, crushing the bard against her chest. Tears came to Xena’s eyes though she fought to keep them back. Using Gabrielle’s method, she whispered into the blonde’s ear, “Do you mean it?”
Gabrielle gave into Xena’s need and let the woman hold her, letting her weight rest comfortably on the warrior’s; mindful of the familiar feel of the woman’s longer body and how hers fit right into it. “I mean it,” came the gentle reply.
Xena pressed her face into Gabrielle’s hair and felt a million things. But it was relief, love, and intense desire that were pressing into her chest, making it hard for her to breathe.
The bard pulled away and looked down at her, her own eyes wet. “You don’t get out of it that easy, you know. You’re going to have to say it.” She managed to wipe her nose, proving that she had been in tears herself.
At the sight of the bard trying to regain her emotions, Xena’s heart gave way. Now Xena knew that Gabrielle’s feelings were as deep as hers were.
“Gabrielle loves me,” the bard prodded the warrior beneath her.
Xena managed a small smile but said nothing.
Gabrielle raised her eyebrows. “Holding out on me? Okay, we can play it that way. But in this case it’s me who holds all the cards, not the warrior princess. So, if you know what’s good for you—”
Putting a finger against Gabrielle’s lips, she silenced the bard. “Gabrielle loves me,” she said, her voice breaking, it nearly undoing her to say it out loud.
She was, in her vulnerability and need, a Xena that Gabrielle had never seen. Nothing in their past relationship prepared her for the Xena she could break with a word or a gesture. She kissed the fingers at her lips with fierceness and urgently moved to Xena’s mouth, her cheeks, her eyes, anywhere her lips touched down so that she might assure her lover. Almost feeling she needed to coddle the woman in her arms. But Xena captured Gabrielle’s mouth again and let the bard know what she most wanted from her. And like that, the torch in Gabrielle was lit again, brighter and hotter than before. She smiled against the warrior’s mouth.
“Now, there are two things I want,” Gabrielle said against Xena’s lips, “need,” she corrected. She ran a hand down Xena’s taut stomach, causing the other woman to flinch, and continued downward through dark hair and into the wetness there, causing a sudden catch in Xena’s throat. Gabrielle continued, “I need to be here,” she indicated with her hand, one finger barely entering Xena, “but I want to watch you, every movement. I need to see everything.” Without moving from the mouth she was worshipping, she moved a couple pillows behind Xena, propping her up, then made her journey down the dark skin, stopping along the way to pay homage to the breasts who had been her allies in winning Xena back. She gave them fair treatment, enough to cause Xena to entangle her fingers in blonde hair and swear to the gods. Licking and kissing her way down the warrior’s stomach until she could smell the musky scent getting nearer. And before her tongue reached out for that first taste, she remembered how sweet Xena tasted. The contradiction of Xena: the rehabilitated warlord who tasted as sweet as honey. And it was exactly as she remembered. She almost lost herself in the smell and taste, closing her eyes and forgetting what else she had wanted, but when Xena began to whimper, she grabbed hold of the warrior’s hands, urging Xena to be with her.
Xena could barely concentrate, thinking she would come out of her skin. She sensed the bard taking her time, lost in making love to her, and that just made it more sweet and unbearable. Her calves were so tight that she expected them to give out completely. Gabrielle pulled on her hands, urging her to be there with her. She could see the blonde hair covering a brown thigh. Then Gabrielle gave her something to watch, moving her tongue all the way through Xena, stopping just long enough to enter her with quick but deep jabs. Xena knew that part of the bard’s need was to see the pleasure she gave, and this too drove the warrior to new heights. She needed Gabrielle now. Taking her hands in that gold blonde hair, she took from Gabrielle the contact she needed.
Gabrielle couldn’t resist another smile as she saw Xena lose control and grab her. She had pushed the warrior far enough. Taking her cue, she found the spot that would make Xena’s legs shake and watched her carefully, her own heart beating out of control as she watched Xena struggle with whether to give in or hold out. And when Gabrielle sensed that there would soon be no choice in the matter, she slid a finger inside. Feeling Xena clamp down on it, she worked in another finger to join it, finding that delicate spongy spot inside that would turn the warrior’s knees to liquid. With her free hand she held onto Xena’s, imploring her to stay with her. But she needn’t have bothered, Xena was there with her, up to the end, until she could no longer control arching her back and crying out.
Gabrielle saw a long, beautiful sweaty neck, etched in muscles and veins—pulsing with life. In less than a second, before Xena could even relax back onto the bed, Gabrielle was on top of her kissing that neck and smoothing back the hair from Xena’s forehead. Kissing her cheeks, her jaw, her lips.
“I love you. You’re so beautiful.” Gabrielle buried her face in Xena’s neck.
Aphrodite appeared as Sappho knelt before her altar. “What’s up chicky-babe? No poetry exulting the Goddess of Love?”
“Forgive me Cyprus-born. I was in haste,” Sappho explained, bowing her head as she did so.
Aphrodite smoothed her sheer gown, adjusting her breasts as well. “Well, what is it? More girl trouble?”
Sappho stood. “Actually, yes.”
“I thought we were on the honor system, here. Ya know, ‘no interference’ thing. Have a prob landing the babe?”
“It’s more complicated than that. It seems she’s already been tampered with. As well as a young visitor to our shores named Gabrielle. I’m at a loss as to whom, or why. The Warrior Princess, Xena, I believe you have made her acquaintance—”
The Goddess of Love rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, piercing eyes of blue.” She waved Sappho to continue.
“Yes, well, umm it was she who suggested I contact you. She feels someone, a god most likely, has interfered.” Sappho could see Aphrodite was getting angry, her cheeks were crimson and her eyes narrowed. “She was in hopes that you might ‘champion me’, as she believes I am in your favor.”
“That little weasel! That little winged-weasel!”
The poet remained silent at the outburst, knowing it was better to wait it out.
Aphrodite paced the length of the temple. “Who was the other love-struck mortal?”
“That would be Atthis.”
“The same Atthis that you’ve been trying to bag?”
Sappho nodded hesitantly. Sometimes the Goddess’ language eluded her.
“Sooo? Is she hot for you?” Aphrodite pressed.
“It seems, she is ‘hot for me’, as you say, in her natural state—at least that has come out of all this. However, it is Xena who she’s enchanted with. And, if I’m not mistaken it is I whom Gabrielle is spellbound by.”
“So, let me get this straight, uh, so to speak Gabrielle’s chasing you? He even screwed that up?” She spat upwards to the heavens. “Zeus on a stick!”
“The thing that strikes me as strange, is that it doesn’t seem like the typical Cupid’s arrow enchantment. Rather, it’s more severe than that—almost like the person is sick,” Sappho explained, her dark features drawn into a frown.
“That’s because the island’s already enchanted. It’s like a double whammy. He needs me to lift my spell before he shoots, other wise it will produce a Love Fever.” Aphrodite leaned forward in a conspiratorial tone, “Totally intense.” She straightened up and became all business. “Just chill until I get back oh, and keep the babes apart.” Aphrodite disappeared in her usual burst of glitter.
The poet sighed once the whirlwind, Goddess of Love had vanished. She was her goddess—there was no doubt—but the woman was a mystery.
* * * * *
Sappho sent a runner to Xena and Gabrielle’s cottage. In the note she explained to Xena about the Love Fever and that they were to stay put until she heard from Aphrodite again. Hopefully, that way, neither Atthis, nor Gabrielle would be afflicted with the love sickness again.
Xena quietly worked on the wave riding board. There had been a moment when Gabrielle discovered the note was from Sappho when her cheeks colored and her eyes glassed over. It had taken some serious distraction to get Gabrielle’s mind elsewhere.
At that moment, the bard was counting the berries on a bush.
Gabrielle looked at Xena with annoyance. “Three hundred and twelve. Yes, Xena…three hundred and twelve berries. Would you like me to start counting the nuts on this tree?”
Xena shrugged, looking at the tree. “Couldn’t hurt.” She continued to rub the board with some candle wax.
“Hmm, that’s funny.” Gabrielle watched her, and for no particular reason, found herself getting further annoyed. “What are you doing anyway?”
Xena’s eyebrows raised in a twinge of excitement. “Wax.”
“Uh, huh,” Gabrielle noted with some serious sarcasm. “Why can’t we get out of here? It’s a beautiful day, Xena. The birds are singing. The sun is shining. Why don’t we head down to the beach for a swim? Whadda ya say?”
“Nope.” Xena turned the board over and looked at her handiwork with pride.
Gabrielle’s eyes flashed in anger before a hidden smile replaced it. “Well, what about that thingie? Aren’t you even going to try it out?”
“Are you saying,” Gabrielle used all her bardic nuances to snag the warrior; lowering her voice and taking a step towards the hapless Xena, “that you’re not remotely interested in getting this beautifully crafted, well waxed, long boardy-thing into the water for a try?”
Xena’s eyes sparkled a little at the thought. She looked at Gabrielle and gave in. “Maybe just a little,” her face turning serous immediately, “but we stay on the deserted part of the beach. No wandering.”
Gabrielle raised an innocent hand to her chest. “Would I wander? Do I look like a wanderer? And why would I wander from you? Whose beauty—”
“Alright, Gabrielle. I said we were going.”
* * * * *
Sappho watched as Atthis swung her long legs off the bed and strode to the window. She stretched, showing a tanned, muscled torso, and pulled her long blonde hair back before facing the poet. “I can’t stay here, Sapph. I can’t do it. You know I can’t stand to be inside for long.”
She extended her hand out and Atthis walked back to the bed and took the offered hand, but didn’t move to join Sappho on the bed. “Have you tired of me already?” The poet playfully asked her lover.
“You know that’s bogus. You’re it for me, you know that. Even with all this hocus-pocus, you know you’re the one. I’ve waited an eternity. Especially after Gongyla ” the wave rider blanched, “sorry, I didn’t mean to get into that.” Atthis walked back to the window and looked out.
The mention of Gongyla was inevitable. But the poet realized how lucky she was. To have loved, like she did, the beautiful Gongyla. She figured that once she had lost that gentle soul, that was it. But now, looking at Atthis’ nude body framed in the window, surely she had been given a second chance at that deeper, soul-connecting love she thought had died when Gongyla left her. Atthis sat on the windowsill and chewed on a fingernail and it nearly stilled the poet’s heart. The simplest gesture was like a gift from the gods. When that happens, there’s no denying your heart has flown from your chest and now belonged to another. How did this sneak upon her? After Gongyla, she didn’t think she would survive.
Atthis turned to her, blue eyes restless. She was a wild bird caught in a cage. She would never survive this room. Sappho knew it, but what else to do?
The wave rider crossed the room and laid her head in Sappho’s lap, curling up into a ball. “Let me go to the ocean, just for awhile. I’ll be careful. You’ll come with me. I need to be out there, Sapph. Please.”
The poet ran her fingers through the blonde hair, no longer able to deny Atthis anything. “We will have to be very careful. We can go to the deserted side, but we can’t stay all afternoon. And then, when Aphrodite returns, all this will be over with. You’ll be free.”
Atthis lifted herself up and kissed the striking dark-haired woman. “I love you! I love you a hundred times over! And when we get back I’ll make love to you at least that many times.”
“Well,” said Sappho, cupping the wave rider’s beaming face, “we better get going then. The sooner we leave, the sooner we return.”
* * * * *
“You are so dead!”
“Take it easy, sis. What did I do?” Cupid cringed as Aphrodite twisted his wing.
“How could you mess with my babes? That island is mine!”
“It was just one little arrow. What could it hurt? They were already falling in love, anyone, even a mortal, could see that.”
“You numbskull! You made Gabrielle fall in love with Sappho, and Atthis fall in love with Xena. You’re like a walking disaster maker or something! Oh, you know what I mean.”
“So, I did miss,” Cupid muttered under his breath, removing his sister’s vise grip from his wing.
“Miss? You knew you missed and you didn’t do anything?” The Goddess of Love was getting a headache. “Do I mess with your schemes? Like when you try and get warring families together by enchanting their over-sexed brats?”
“Alright, just take a chill pill already. I said I would fix it.”
“You screw around,” Aphrodite pushed Cupid in the chest, moving him backwards with each smack, “with any of my Lesbians ever again, I’ll mess up every love match you make. Don’t mess with the Goddess of Love!”
“Alright! I said I would fix it, didn’t I?”
Cupid rolled his eyes. “And I won’t mess around with anymore Lesbians.”
Aphrodite backed up and patted her hair. Hands on hips. “Well, let’s go. We have to undo some bad romances.” She disappeared in a firework show of sparkling colors.
“What a drama queen.” Cupid followed with a frown.
A Blonde In Each Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush
Xena surveyed the beach. Not a soul in either direction for as far as the eye could see. She carried the board under her arm, her other hand entwined with Gabrielle’s. The bard had convinced her to take this trek to the water but she wasn’t about to let her little blonde troublemaker out of her sight. She would try out the board to see what this entire wave riding business was all about, and then spend the rest of the time on the beach with Gabrielle. She wasn’t exactly sure what this new twist in their relationship meant in the long run, but until this Cupid stuff was taken care of, there was no sense in broaching the subject.
Gabrielle leaned against the warrior’s arm and ran a finger up the smooth skin until she felt Xena’s biceps under her fingers. She squeezed the hard muscle and leaned her cheek against the warrior’s shoulder. It felt so good to feel Xena again. She had never realized how calming it was to touch the dark-haired woman. So much had been forgotten over the past few months. Too much. Everything had gone crazy and left her without a feel for her home. Until now. She could feel it returning. But she wasn’t sure if Xena felt the same way. She hoped that it wasn’t just this enchantment, that Xena felt sorry for her.
Xena dropped the board on the sand when Gabrielle lifted the simple gown she was wearing over her head. Xena looked up and down the beach again, just for good measure. She raised an eyebrow. “I see we’re getting used to Lesbian custom.”
“When in Rome ”
Xena sucked in her breath sharply and narrowed her eyes. “Bad choice.”
Gabrielle chuckled and took the hem of Xena’s loose fitting shirt and pulled it over the taller woman’s head. Standing back and eyeing Xena, she shook her head. “Oh yeah, that’s better.”
Xena smiled and affected an innocent tone. “Why Gabrielle, are you trying to seduce me?”
“Uh huh.” Gabrielle moved closer.
In one swift move, Xena laid the bard down on one of the discarded shirts.
“What are you doing? I thought you were going wave riding?” It was Gabrielle’s turn to bat her innocent green eyes.
She covered the sweet blonde’s mouth with a soft generous kiss, slow and hypnotic, the kind that made a person lose track of the time. “Oh,” Xena whispered into the bard’s mouth, “I,” sucking on her bottom lip, “am.”
“Mmmm,” was the answer.
* * * * *
“This looks good.” Atthis pointed out the deserted beach to Sappho. “No one ever comes out here. It takes too long to get back.”
Sappho judged the sun. “You’re right. It’ll be nightfall by the time we return. I hope this wasn’t a mistake.”
Atthis took Sappho by the waist and pulled the poet into her body. “How can being out here on such an awesome day be a mistake?”
She kissed the wave rider. “I hope you’re right.”
The two women walked towards the ocean, arms about each other when abruptly Atthis lost her balance, her feet knocked out from underneath her. “What the—”
“You almost stepped on us,” Xena said with a menacing growl, glaring at the two women.
Atthis was now on the ground, just the other side of a naked Gabrielle. Sappho was only a foot away from Xena’s head, her mouth still hanging open. Not paying attention, they had nearly walked right over the two lovers.
“Xena,” said Atthis.
“Sappho,” said Gabrielle.
“Great,” said Xena.
“What in the name of Zeus are we going to do?” A frantic Sappho asked Xena.
Xena and Gabrielle being naked didn’t help matters any. The fever had been kindled in both women again. In a flash, their eyes glazed over.
“Okay, nobody moves!” Xena abruptly stood to her full height, every head moving with her.
But it was too late. Atthis sprang from the ground like an animal and landed around Xena’s middle. The naked warrior was simply too much for the lovesick wave rider. All her mind could fathom was how to rub her face all over that dark curly patch.
Xena caught Atthis by the face, holding her mere inches from the place she most wanted to be. The tall blonde’s eyes were wild.
But not quite as wild as Gabrielle’s. “Hey, what the—what do you think you’re doing?” And the bard was in a fury! She grabbed hold of the wave rider and pulled her backwards.
Sappho, seeing her lover so out of control and being pushed and pulled, could take it no longer. She tried to ply Gabrielle off of Atthis. Xena saw the move and knew it was a mistake. But before she could blink, Gabrielle saw the poet and hurled herself at Sappho. The bard, stronger than the poet, threw the legend onto the ground and proceeded to mount her.
Sappho, upon realizing her mistake, held her hands away from the naked bard. “Xena!”
Atthis swiveled around at her lover’s cry and was enraged to find the small blonde on her poet again! She lunged at Gabrielle, knocking her off Sappho and onto the sand. The fever had been channeled from lust into anger, turning the two blondes into furious wrestlers.
Each grappled for the better hold as Sappho watched in horror. “We have to do something!”
Xena crossed her arms and observed the two with a clinical eye. She reached down and picked up her shirt. Sappho watched the warrior with an incredulous expression. “Xena!”
“Just wait a minute.” And she held the poet back with one strong arm.
“What are you doing? They’ll kill each other!”
“No they won’t. It’s not in their nature. Has Atthis ever hurt anybody?”
“Gabrielle’s the same. They need to get some of the fever out. This will help them. If it gets out of hand, I’ll stop it.”
And so they watched the two women wrestle.
It went on longer than Xena would have expected, the fever pushing their stamina past the usual limits. Sometimes Gabrielle would have the larger woman in a good headlock and the warrior had to hide a smile. The bard’s muscles flexed as she worked her body to keep up with each move the wave rider made. And it was a rather compelling sight, raising Xena’s eyebrow more than a few times. A naked Gabrielle and Atthis, all but unclothed, her simple throw she had been wearing, hanging in tatters and strips where the bard had grabbed it. As they moved and counter-moved, the scenery became, uh, interesting. Xena even caught Sappho agape, as the two women struggled.
Their breathing was labored. They were tired and moving slower, their energy spent. Though they had never been in any real danger, Xena stepped in. She knew what she had to do; though neither woman would like it. She grabbed them both by the hair and separated the heaving bard and wave rider, which wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be. She turned them towards the ocean, a blonde in each hand as they stumbled along, each out of breath and exhausted. Sappho followed behind, having been silent throughout the wrestling match.
Xena entered the ocean, letting the water hit Gabrielle and Atthis, cooling them off essentially. Sappho came from behind and took Atthis from Xena. With that responsibility out of the way, she picked up Gabrielle and walked further out until the water came to her waist. Utterly drained and winded, the bard let her body lean into Xena’s.
“You okay?” Xena kissed the ear she spoke into.
“No one, no one touches you there,” Gabrielle managed between her labored breathing.
Xena smiled in spite of herself. She lowered her body until Gabrielle was in the water too. She could see the cool water was having the desired effect, as the bard’s green eyes were now open. Her cheeks were still flush, but she seemed more herself as they bobbed up and down with the ocean’s rhythm. Gabrielle looked at her with an earnestness that told Xena something important was about to happen. Xena consciously swallowed and held her breath.
“I love you, Xena. I want you back. Not just on this trip, but forever. I miss you. Not having you with me. Near me. Loving me. It’s like being homeless. I feel like I’m a lost soul, just wandering aimlessly. I want to come back now, Xena. Please, let me come home.” Gabrielle pressed her face into Xena’s neck.
She held the smooth, gentle body close as Gabrielle’s body shook. Xena felt a lump in her throat and a burning in her eyes. She pulled Gabrielle from her neck and cupped her chin, forcing away the shyness, the insecurity that Gabrielle felt, by looking at her deeply. Finding those green eyes, she looked further into them than she ever had before. Gabrielle could feel the penetration of the pale blue eyes into her own, and so she stilled her body and her breath, demanding herself to be present.
And Xena said the one thing, really the only thing there was left to say, “Welcome home.”
I Get Around, Round, Round, I Get Around
“Are you sure it’s safe out there? Those waves are the size of Titans.” Gabrielle sat on the shoreline and dug her toes into the sand. Sappho sat next to her. Behind them, on either side of them, hundreds of women.
“Oh, Gabrielle, this is what the wave riders wait for! Nothing could keep them out of the water now. Today’s a perfect day for the big competition.”
“Actually, I’m concerned about Xena. She’s a warrior, not a wave rider. But if anyone can take care of themselves, and learn to do something brilliantly, it’s Xena.” Gabrielle smiled just thinking about her big warrior.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine. And all the other wave riders are out there. Atthis will keep an eye on her.” Sappho patted Gabrielle’s arm; their first physical contact since the enchantment had been lifted—and rather unceremoniously, at that. Aphrodite appeared on the beach with Cupid and everything went hazy for a moment then back to normal. The only residual effect was a pounding headache that the bard was just getting over. The awkwardness of Sappho’s touch didn’t go unnoticed by either of them.
The sun had reddened the bard’s cheek, but remembering her actions had her blushing a brighter shade. “I can’t tell you how embarrassed I am by—”
“Gabrielle, we’ve already discussed this. There’s no need for you to apologize again and again, especially when you have nothing to apologize for. Consider the matter closed and fodder for a good story.” Sappho paused in thought. “A change of names to protect the innocent might not be a bad idea.” The poet grinned, letting the bard know, in fact, she considered herself and the story to be fair game.
“It will be a good story,” Gabrielle thought, out loud. “Thanks for being so great about everything. You could have had us thrown off of the island.”
“And miss the big wave riding competition?”
“I’ve been thinking doesn’t surfing sound better?”
The poet considered it. The bard continued her line of thought. “I mean riding the waves sounds exciting, but surf surfing, it sounds sort of romantic. Still, exciting, but it also has an emotional appeal. I’ve noticed most of the wave riders, surfers, feel a strong emotional pull towards the sport.”
“You make a good case, and the word has a more aesthetic appeal. I’ll speak to Atthis about it. Since she is the inventor, it’ll be up to her.”
“So, why aren’t you competing?”
“Oh, I’m not that good. Only the best participate. I’m just a lowly poet.”
“Hmm,” Gabrielle smiled. She watched the wave riders, er—surfers, as they paddled their way out to sea. Not everyone would catch the same wave at the same time, so it wasn’t difficult to watch all the women surf. The bard was duly impressed. They made those boards do some amazing things. They did some sort of maneuver that allowed them to go up and cut back. Some even walked around on the boards. It was all very impressive to the bard.
“These women come from all over for this event. And since this is where wave riding, or surfing,” a smile for Gabrielle, “originated, this is a very important competition. Afterwards, we have a big party on the beach. It’s quite festive.”
“I’m looking forward to some real relaxation now that all this crazed-libido stuff is in the past. By the gods!” The bard’s eyes nearly bugged out of her head as she watched Xena, tall, bronzed and naked as the day she was born, stand up on her surfboard and ride a large swell of the ocean. My gods, the woman is magnificent! It’s too bad about the tan from her armbands, but other than that…wow!
“Gabrielle, your mouth is hanging open,” Sappho said with a mischievous grin.
“Yeah,” the bard muttered.
Xena rode the wave in pretty standard, from what Gabrielle could make out, not much different than the other surfers. Which was amazing in itself considering it was her first time on one of the contraptions. Gabrielle knew—knowing her warrior like she did—it would only get more interesting. She knew Xena’s compulsion for excellence was obsessive.
It was clear that Atthis was one of the best surfers, if not the best out there. It was as though her body and the board were one. She seemed to sense the ocean itself and what she needed to do in order to become one with it, or to play with it. Poseidon must love these surfers, Gabrielle thought, perhaps even in spite of himself. They were more like creatures of the sea than creatures of the land. Cousins of the dolphin, perhaps.
Sappho, Gabrielle, the judges, and hundreds of women watched the competition unfold. It was clear that some surfers were getting better rides than others were. To Sappho’s amazement—though not Gabrielle’s—Xena was one of the better surfers.
“Is she always this good at everything?” The poet was incredulous after watching the warrior’s last ride.
“Have to say a big ‘yes’ to that. It’s disgusting, really.” Except that it makes me want to eat her alive—dear gods. “Here she goes again.”
The wave was huge, bigger then any of the other ones. The bard swallowed nervously, her body was as much out on that board, on that huge wave, as Xena’s was. When she saw how high it was and how small it made the usually large warrior look in comparison, Gabrielle caught her breath and held it. The sun beating down on her, the last of her headache, the giant wave, it was almost too much for the bard. Then the familiar sound met her ears.
And Gabrielle’s stomach jumped into her throat as she watched Xena somehow ascend to the top of the wave, catch air and spin more times than anyone could count. Everyone on the beach cried out: “Owwww Ahhhh.” Then the sounds of people groaning, their heads dizzy after trying to watch the surfing warrior spin around. She came back down the gigantic wave, furiously fast, headed towards the beach. Spectators ran in all directions, sensing what was coming. The warrior was going too fast to stop, her board sometimes not even touching the water! As she approached the shore, she crouched, and as the board hit land, coming to a screeching halt, she sailed into the air, somersaulting and landing directly in front of the bard.
And there she stood. Naked. Wet. A shit-eating grin on her face. Then a wicked eyebrow tossed in for the sake of the bard. Gabrielle swallowed as a slow smile replaced the dumbstruck look Xena had just seductively smirked at. Xena, with a dripping wet body, had always made her, uh, happy yeah, happy. She cocked her head at Sappho, whose mouth was still hanging open. “Pretty amazing, eh?”
“Amazing? Do you have any idea the understatement to which you aspire?” The poet asked.
Gabrielle thought about it and nodded proudly. “Yeah, I do.”
* * * * *
Fires burned at varying intervals all along the shore. There were hundreds of women up and down the beach. Around each campfire there were stories, or music, or at least genial conversation. The sun was just setting as the party geared up. Atthis, at first furious that her title was taken from her (she had never lost the competition, much less to a beginner!), cannot begrudge the sheer talent and ability that everyone, including herself, witnessed from the warrior. And like anyone, who truly has a passion for something, she could not refrain from the love of it—especially at such exquisite execution. So now, she and Xena, way past the point of sober, were the best of friends. Arms around each other as though they had been childhood pals.
Gabrielle watched all this with a leery eye, as Xena sat next to the bard, but had her arm around Atthis, talking animatedly about wave riding, er surfing. Sappho, sitting next to Atthis, raised her eyes to Gabrielle and shrugged.
“The thrill of it. It’s almost like the feel of going into battle,” Xena spoke in passionate tones, only slightly slurred, to Atthis, who leaned closer to catch every word the warrior uttered. Their newfound bond was impenetrable. “Only it’s better because there’s this ” Xena struggled to find the right word.
Atthis jumped at the chance. “A peacefulness. It’s like there’s this awesome rush and this totally unbelievable calm in the middle of it, like everything just makes sense.”
“Yes!” Xena slapped the wave rider in her excitement, knocking her off of the log they were all sitting on.
Sappho looked at Gabrielle with an amused grin. The bard got up, leaving the two bonding surfers, and sat next to the poet. Desperate to get a break from the two drunken women made her think of the Rock of Desperation and the woman she had met there. “Sappho, do you know of a woman named Gongyla?”
The poet’s head snapped up. “What do you know of her?”
“Well, I met her last night.”
“That’s impossible, Gabrielle.”
“Because she’s dead.”
“You’re wrong. I spoke to her. When I left, umm,” embarrassed, the bard looked at her shoes, “Aphrodite’s temple, I was pretty upset. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Plus, there’s all this stuff going on with Xena,” Gabrielle quickly added. “Anyway, I ended up on this cliff. I think she called it Desperation Rock. She told me this fascinating story.”
Sappho spoke in a slow stilted tone, “That lovers go there to rid themselves of their pain. They throw themselves over the side, and if they live, it’s believed their suffering will end. And if they die ”
Sappho avoided the question. “What did she say to you?”
“She seemed to know I was in pain—I don’t know how. I think she wanted to help me, like she was afraid I’d come there to throw myself off the cliff. And, really, I was pretty upset, what with ” Gabrielle trailed off, thinking about how truly desperate and hopeless she had been. “Maybe it was good she was there.”
The poet put her arm around the bard. “I’ve heard tales that she was the guardian of Desperation Rock, but I never believed it until now.” Tears freely fell down Sappho’s cheeks.
Gabrielle admired how Sappho showed emotion without self-consciousness or recriminations. “Are you telling me she’s really dead?”
“I sang at her funeral. I saw her body and I mourned her death. What you saw was something else, Gabrielle. Some other part of her that still lives.”
“How did she die?”
“She jumped from where you were standing. Hoping for some kind of release. But she didn’t survive the jump. I’ve heard others say that now she’s sentenced there as some kind of punishment, but I don’t believe that.” Sappho’s tone was reverent and loving. “The Gongyla I know would be there out of kindness, to protect others, to oversee the fate of those who end up perched on that dangerous cliff. That’s what the Gongyla I know would do.”
As Gabrielle listened to the poet talk of Gongyla, one thing was painfully clear. “You loved her.”
“She was to be married. We would have to be separated. She saw no other way out.” Sappho looked up at the bard. “There’s always another way out, remember that, Gabrielle.”
The bard nodded. She thought about Xena and all they had been through. Surely there was a way out…if they willed it. Insisted upon it.
“I never even had a chance to say goodbye. She left our room, went directly to the cliff and jumped. By the time I heard ” Sappho dropped her face into her hands and Gabrielle held her. Still such a raw memory for the poet, she let Gabrielle ease the anguish out of her.
After a moment, Sappho sat up and relaxed out of the bard’s embrace. Gabrielle ventured a suggestion. “Why not go talk to her?”
Sappho sat silently for a moment and stared at the fire. “It never occurred to me. I suppose I didn’t think the stories were real.”
Xena and Atthis, their arms about each other, distracted Gabrielle as they sang some song: “I get around, round, round, I get around I get around, round, round, I get around.” Their harmony slightly off.
The bard and poet sat there, Sappho considering the action. Finally she nodded to Gabrielle with a grim but determined face. “What about Atthis and Xena?”
Gabrielle threw a thumb over her shoulder at the other two women. “It’s not like they’re going to even notice we’re gone.”
“East Coast girls are hip”
* * * * *
They made the walk to the cliff. Sappho had Gabrielle approach first, as the poet stood in the shadows and waited.
“Gongyla? It’s me, Gabrielle.”
The vision, the same beautiful woman stood before her. “Gabrielle,” she smiled, “how are you feeling?”
“Much better. I wanted to thank you for your kindness the other night.”
“You came back to thank me?” Gongyla smiled, touched by the gesture.
“That would be nice of me, wouldn’t it? Umm, actually, I brought someone else to see you.”
“Oh?” Gongyla looked behind the bard, puzzled.
“I have a friend who’s pretty upset and I wondered if you would talk to her?”
“Of course, where is she?”
Gabrielle gestured and Sappho moved out into the open. The poet saw her old lover and put her hand to her mouth to stop from crying out, then in a shaky voice, “Gongyla?”
The spirit dropped to her knees and covered her face. At the sight of her distress, Gabrielle tried to reach out to her, but her hand moved right through the apparition.
Sappho kneeled in front of Gongyla. Realizing she couldn’t touch the beautiful woman in front of her, she begged her with words,
“Your lovely face.
the pain of unpleasant
O Gongyla, my darling rose,
put on your milk-white gown. I want
you to come back quickly. For my
desire feeds on
your beauty. Each time I see your gown
I am made weak and happy. I too
blamed the Cyprus-born. Now I pray
she will not seek
revenge, and may soon allow
you, Gongyla, to come to me
again: you whom of all women
I most desire.” *
Finally, the curly-haired beauty acquiesced, and with tear-stained cheeks looked at her love. She reached out to touch Sappho’s face, though she could not.
And though it was impossible, they pressed their lips together.
And as hopeless as it was, they held each other.
The bard, now interloper, turned away from the lost lovers and made her way back down to the beach.
* * * * *
“Gabrielle, stop moving the bed!”
“Xena, I’m not anywhere near the bed.” The bard walked over and gently smoothed dark hair away from tanned, now rosy, skin. The sun had given Xena an even darker shade and her cheeks were red from the after-effects.
“Zeus on a raft, I’m never going to live through the end of this day,” the warrior moaned.
Gabrielle drew a face of concern. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you hungover, or at least admit to it.”
“It’s that damn wave rider—”
“She had some concoction—damn it to Tartarus, my head hurts!”
“She was your best friend last night.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh?” Gabrielle clears her throat, getting in tune (sort of) and sings, “I wish they all could be Lesbian girls—”
“Alright, alright. I don’t want to hear the second verse.”
“Are you sure? It gets even better.”
“Are you here to torture me?”
“Something like that.”
“Hmm then you should get in bed and torture me properly.”
“Xena, you’re completely hung over. If I even sit on the bed, you’re likely to—”
“Don’t even say the word. That’s all it will take.”
The bard placed her hands on her hips and surveyed the prone beauty. “I was hoping to get outside today, but it doesn’t look like you’re in any shape for that.” She took the warrior’s hand and stared lovingly into the bags under her eyes.
“I have an idea that might get me out of this room.” Xena’s bloodshot eyes brightening a little. “Can you go see Atthis? Tell her I need the materials we talked about last night.”
“Xena, she was pretty drunk too, what if she doesn’t remember?”
“Then I’m fucked.”
Gabrielle didn’t know what to say to such an uncharacteristic reply. So she laughed.
A few candle marks later Gabrielle returned with some very thin strips of metal and some dark glass. Xena, well enough to sit up in bed and get down a sampling of their breakfast, worked with the material. Gabrielle occasionally glanced over as she wrote on a scroll about their latest adventure with Sappho. Finally, not able to take anymore of the suspense that Xena seemed to thrive on, Gabrielle asked, exasperated, “What exactly is that supposed to be?”
“You’ll see.” Xena worked the thin dark glass into the circular bent metal. She held them up to her face, measuring, then continued to work the fine metal.
Semi-annoyed and half-amused, Gabrielle went back to her writing until Xena tapped her on the shoulder. There she stood with the metal and glass covering her eyes, the silly looking thing balanced by her nose and her ears. Gabrielle laughed causing Xena to frown.
“What’s so funny?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Do you want to go out?”
Gabrielle chuckled and reluctantly nodded. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
“Then let’s go.” The warrior stepped aside and gestured, rather sarcastically, in a wide arc that led to the door.
They walked to the beach with Gabrielle stealing sidelong glances at Xena. Actually, the funny looking invention was growing on her. It was sort of appealing in that it created a mystery—just what exactly was Xena looking at behind those dark ovals of glass? Xena turned to look at her, an eyebrow raised and Gabrielle felt a slow blush move up her body.
“So, it’s our last day here,” the bard stated. “At least that was the original plan. Unless, of course, you would like to stay longer?”
“No fair, I asked first.”
They were at the water’s edge, only a couple layers of clothing between them, the ocean, and the sun on their skin.
“I’m afraid to leave here, Xena,” Gabrielle said, as they both sat down on the sand.
“Why?” Scrunched up eyebrows showed above the dark glasses.
“Everything’s going right here. I mean, there was all that crazy stuff with Sappho and Atthis, and well, that was weird, but everything with us has been so much better. I feel you again. You’re part of me, in my life. I don’t want to experience that disconnection from you again.”
“We can’t spend the rest of our lives afraid to leave this island, Gabrielle. Running from our problems isn’t the answer.”
Gabrielle let out a frustrated sigh and reached for Xena’s hand. She entwined their fingers, softly rubbing the smooth skin between the warrior’s finger and thumb. “What do you think we should do?”
Xena shook her head. “You’re usually the one with the answers to these questions.”
“I think I’ve run out of answers,” the bard said with a sardonic smile.
After a moment, Xena said, “Maybe it’s the wrong question.”
“What do you mean?”
Gabrielle had that very earnest expression on that always swept her heart away. Xena smiled a little and said, “Maybe it’s not ‘what should we do,’ but ‘what shouldn’t we do.’”
“Hmm,” Gabrielle nodded, understanding. “Like not blaming each other…holding grudges.”
Xena took the bard’s chin in her hand. “Then maybe we can start trusting each other again?”
Gabrielle looked down at their joined hands. “I want us to trust each other again, Xena so bad.”
“I know,” Xena said so softly that the bard barely heard her. “We both need to find our way back.” Her hands cupped Gabrielle’s face. “We’re on our way there, Gabrielle. Don’t leave me before we get there.”
She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around the dark-haired woman’s neck. “Let me see your eyes.”
Xena took off the frames and squinted as her pale blue, hungover, eyes took in the gentle blonde sitting next to her. Gabrielle kissed her so softly it was a tickle. “I’ll never leave you.”
She took Gabrielle to her with a delicate ease and wrapped the bard up in her arms. She played their (serious) game. “Say it again.”
Gabrielle closed her eyes. All the feelings were returning to her: being loved; being happy; being safe. “I’ll never, never leave you, Xena. I love you.”
She turned her face into blonde hair when she heard the words that took her home again, and she felt the woman she loved, would learn to trust again, in her arms. “Love you too, Gabrielle.”
After a moment, Xena looked out at the ocean. The swells were growing. Her heart started to pound. “Gabrielle?”
“What is it, my love?”