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Disclaimer: The characters all belong to Renaissance Pictures, MCA/Universal Pictures and Xena Warrior Princess. No copyright infringement is intended. There is absolutely no profit for me in this. Any characters mentioned that are not in the syndicated television show are of my own creation, as is the story line.

Content Warning: This story contains references and descriptions of intimate activity. If you do not wish to read about this type of relationship or are under 18, please feel free to go elsewhere.

THANKS TO: Iíd like to thank Joyce for her beautiful poetry. The poem in this story is titled "Only You". Thank you my friend; you are extremely talented. Please feel free to write Joyce directly at jcoker@idir.net

AND TO: I would also like to thank Kitiara for her inspiration. In her enthusiasm for life Iíve developed a new character for my story, which will be briefly introduced here.

COMMENTS: Okay, Iím beyond giving the violence/hurt/comfort warnings. Itís all in here some where, nothing is too extreme. Hope you enjoy Part Three. annmaray@yahoo.com


Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Building Our World
By Annmaray
August 1999

 

Chapter Nine

A bird flew in the open window chirping loudly causing the Warrior to wake up startled by the sound. Reaching to her left and right the bed was cold and empty without Gabrielle. Rubbing her eyes, she got out of bed and shooed the little bird back out the window noting that it must be close to midday. Realizing her lover let her sleep in after a night of gentle love, the Warrior remembered the previous day and how drunk she was. *Why...why did I allow myself to get to that point.* Most of the night she questioned her lack of control. Had the past events just overwhelmed her to the point where she wanted an escape, even temporarily? Gabrielle had forgiven her easily and Xena was grateful for the unconditional love of her soulmate. Last night, when Gabrielle insisted on making love to Xena, the emotions by both were strong and needy. Later they were slow, soft and caring. Pulling a nightshirt over her athletic frame, she needed a bath. Whatever it was she would deal with it later. Grabbing her hairbrush, a clean tunic, her soft brown boots and a towel the Warrior opened the door slowly. Peeking out in the hallway before entering, she could hear the sounds of the noon crowd but no one was in sight. The bathroom was empty and she was surprised to find the tub filled with hot water. A note was attached to the side and addressed to her. ĎDear Sleepyhead, Thought you could use the sleep. The tub is for you. Hope it is still warm, when you get in. Mom needed some special herbs so Iolaus is accompanying me. I love you so much. See you when I get back. Love Gabrielleí

Kissing the parchment her soulmate touched so lovingly, the Warrior placed it off to the side with her nightshirt and slipped into the still hot water. "Ooooo aaaaaaa....yes this feels sooooo good." Leaning against the side of the tub, the Warrior stretched out her long legs and just enjoyed the sensual warmth of the water surrounding her aching muscles. Dipping her head under the water, Xena washed her hair and continued on with her body. Just as she decided to relax again, a knock came to the door. Before she could answer, it was opened and her mother was standing there. "Hi mom, come on in."

Closing the door behind her, Cyrene was still perturbed at her daughter. "Donít you hi mom me! I see you managed to get off the hook from yesterday. Gabrielle does not appear angry or hurt in anyway. I hope you begged forgiveness and promised to do just about anything she asked."

*Okay...looks like Iím not going to get a chance to relax, mom is on her warrior path.* Getting out of the tub, Cyrene threw the towel at Xena and turned her back to offer privacy. "What are you talking about mom. Yes I apologized and yes she forgave me. I promised to be more aware of how much I was drinking."

"Xena, you were out of hand yesterday. And Iím really angry with you." The Warrior Mom spun back around to face her daughter, who was already dressed and in the process of pulling on her boots.

Pulling the plug from the side, the Warrior was proud of how her mother came up with an ingenious idea to let the water drain down a pipe partly buried under the ground and emptying far in the back of the property. "Look, mom Iím sorry if I embarrassed you. Iím not sure why I allowed myself to..."

Cyrene stepped forward grabbing one of Xenaís arms. "I already yelled at Tensandi, that man should know better. It is you that really surprise me. Xena why? That is all I want to know Ė WHY?"

Removing her motherís arm gently the Warrior left and returned to her room to drop off her nightshirt, towel and Gabrielleís note. She was not in the mood to be scolded like a child.

Cyrene was relentless and followed. Closing the door behind them she directed her daughter to sit. "Xena, donít you dare walk away from me. I am still your mother!"

"Okay mom, calm down." Rolling her eyes Xena muttered under her breath. "No wonder Gabrielle calls you Warrior Mom..."

"WHAT Ė WHAT DID YOU SAY!" Xena turned to find her mother with her arms crossed, foot tapping and a stern look across her face. "YOU my dear daughter should mine your manners before I...."

Quickly Xena rushed to her mother grabbing her by the shoulders and kissing her forehead. "Mom, calm down...I just said the little love name Gabrielle calls you...well it fits!"

"Oh....well...yes...hmmm, I suppose it does." Cyrene lifted her head very proudly and smiled at the thoughts of her young daughter-in-law. "Yes, she....Xena....your wife is adorable."

"Mmmm, yes I know." Leaning back in the chair, the Warrior motioned to her mother to also sit down. "Now, what has you so upset with me?"

Taking the chair across from Xena, Cyrene realized Gabrielle must have never mentioned the barmaid. She did not agree with the Bard. Xena needed to be aware that she did flirt and chase after that woman. "Xena, do you know a young woman by the name of Tifcana?" The Warrior shrugged her shoulders in a negative manner. "Well, I hired her to work as a barmaid. Well yesterday Ė the day YOU were so DRUNK Ė well it was her first and last day. You openly followed her and then my dear Warrior daughter you openly flirted with her and accepted her brassy ways towards you."

The Warrior understood exactly what her mother was telling her and a huge pain struck her heart. "WHAT! Are you saying I tried to seduce the barmaid? Was Gabr.......oh no, mom....please....donít tell me Gabrielle saw me."

"I donít know how much she saw. I donít think she saw you follow the woman but she did see you at the bar with Tifcana.....and you were flirting."

Abruptly standing the Warrior started to pace the floor. "Why didnít she say something to me? Mom....by the gods what did I actually do?"

"She didnít say anything to you because you obviously did not remember. Your beautiful wife is letting it go. And you never actually touched the barmaid....at least according to Adessa."

"ADESSA Ė YOU MEAN OTHER PEOPLE SAW ME TOO!!!!"

"No, just Adessa. She said that Tifcana planned on seducing you. BUT THAT STILL IS NO EXCUSE! Xena, you are suppose to be faithful, when you make a commitment with someone like you did with Gabrielle."

"I know, I know! Gods Iím so stupid Ė what is wrong with me!!!!" Still pacing the floor in circles the Warrior was disgusted with her actions. "I have to find Gabrielle....I have to apologize." Rushing for the door, Cyrene stepped in front to stop her.

"Xena, wait until later, you donít need to go traipsing after her. Donít do it in front of Iolaus. He only knows you got drunk." Holding her arms out, Cyrene was pleased, when Xena hugged her. "I love you my daughter. You just have to be more careful."

"Mom....I wonít lose Gabrielle. I love her so deeply." While Xena was concerned earlier about her lack of control the sudden information that she was seriously without control disturbed her deeply.

"You wonít dear. She loves you like no other...you need to be careful. You just better beg for forgiveness...and I do mean BEG!!!" As they walked to the kitchen, the Warrior wrapped her arm around her mother and whispered words of a daughterís love.

Hercules was in the kitchen and encouraged Xena to join him. Over a good meal and wonderful company Xena told Hercules what a jerk she was. Shaking his head side to side, he reminded the Warrior the road she had traveled to get where she is today. He also reminded Xena of the beautiful soulmate she was bonded with and that forgiveness in a relationship was important in keeping the love pure. Then laughter erupted from the son of Zeus and he suggested that she better crawl back to Gabrielle.

Leaning back in her chair, the Warrior covered her eyes. "I canít believe I allowed myself to get so drunk."

Placing his hand on his friendís shoulder, Hercules stopped laughing. "Xena, you need to forgive yourself and then behave. If I were Gabrielle, I would make you crawl. But Iím not her...and that is probably good for you."

Xena smiled at her friend realizing the man was right and so was Cyrene. Deciding she needed some time to think this through the Warrior left the inn saddled Argo and rode into the forest to think.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

Unsure why Abba sent him to the temple at Kolpos Bluff, the young Devi did as commanded. Entering the temple Eli noted the frescoís painted on the walls, the food left as tribute, the furnishings and trinkets left to honor the goddess Aphrodite. While he did not doubt the existence of Olympian gods, Eli did question their purpose in the cycle of creation. Now as he stood in a temple devoted to the goddess of love, Eli snickered with delight at the ironic symbolism. "Goddess of Love...interesting. More like the Goddess of Vanity from the looks of this temple."

"Hey Ė like whatever Ė you poking fun of me?"

Eli turned to find an extremely beautiful woman, scantly dressed talking to him. Bowing his head slightly, he smiled at the goddess. "I meant no harm. You must be Aphrodite?"

The twinkle in Eliís eye caught her off guard. With a small smirk she strolled up seductively to the robed man. "Youíre actually kind of cute.....but those dreadful robes have got to go."

Before she could say anymore Artemis entered the temple. Not one for mixing a lot of words together she approached the Devi. "You are Eli and I am...."

"Yes, Artemis." Extending his hand, the goddess accepted the greeting. "Why am I here...with both of you."

Aphrodite joined Artemis and the pair surveyed the man standing in front of them. Iason said he could be trusted and would be able to assist them. For now that would have to be good enough. "We need you to act as a channel for life."

Shaking his head questionably the Devi was not sure he understood. "A channel? You have to be more specific, if I am to help you."

Artemis closed the distance between them. "We need your help to bring someone back from the spirit world."

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

It was close to dusk before Gabrielle and Iolaus returned. The Warrior had been pacing the floor of the kitchen for several candlemarks anxious and worried. "Xena, will you settle down. Iolaus is with Gabrielle. She will be safe. It is a simple day trip to Kavala." The innkeeper was amused by her daughterís anxious state.

"I realize Iolaus will protect Gabrielle....I just...well I really must talk with her." While Gabrielleís safety was first and foremost on her mind, Xena was also worried about confronting her soulmate.

Just then the friends came through the back door of the inn with Cyreneís bundle of herbs. "Oh, thank you so much for..."

"Gabrielle!!" Before Cyrene could finish her statement the Warrior rushed passed her to Gabrielle.

Happy to see her soulmate, the Bard circled her arms around Xenaís neck and then saw the unexplainable concern in the blue eyes. "Whatís wrong Xena?"

Iolaus shook his head and left the couple alone. Joining Cyrene, the pair went in search of Hercules.

The Warrior could not find her voice and remained silent. Lowering her eyes, she had a difficult time looking directly at her soulmate. A soft hand tipped her chin and even softer lips found hers. Falling into the love Gabrielle was spreading through her heart with a simple kiss the Warrior increased the hold on Gabrielle and returned the kiss. Finally guilt took over once again and Xena pulled her lips away. "Baby...I need to talk with you."

"Xena...what is it?" Not too sure what was going through her loverís thoughts, the Bard did not think Xena was angry over her trip to Kavala. Leading Xena to the garden the couple sat underneath a shady tree on the far end.

Rubbing her hands over Gabrielleís, the Warrior felt terrible. "Honey, itís about yesterday. Mom told me about the barmaid and my....my..."

"Flirting?" With a deep sigh of sadness, Gabrielle wished Cyrene had left it alone. She knew the innkeeper was extremely angry but she hoped Cyrene would not say anything to Xena.

Looking anywhere but at Gabrielle, the blue eyes pooled with tears. "Yea....I donít remember....and I know that is an excuse...and.....gods Gabrielle, what can I do to...."

Leaning back against the tree Gabrielle tugged on Xenaís arms. "Come here honey." The Bard guided her soulmateís head to her lap. "Lay your head down Xena. I want you to listen to me."

Too fearful not to obey the request Xena found her body in the same position it was in, when they were in Caesarís prison waiting to die. Gabrielleís lap was soft yet strong and Xena enjoyed the physical closeness and aura of protection her Bard offered. "Gabrielle, I......"

Caressing her fingers across the Warrior pliable lips, Gabrielle bent down and kissed them gently. "Listen to me. I know in my soul that you would never cheat on me, that you would never leave me. You were drunk Xena and from what I could tell that woman was taking advantage of it. Yes, I admit I do not like you flirting with anyone but me." Xena was ready to interrupt and Gabrielle covered her mouth delicately. "Let me finish. I also love you completely, even when your pass history comes out and tries to confuse everything. Xena....I love you. It is real easy for me to forgive and forget any crazy things you may do."

"Honey...I do love you. I donít want anyone else. Please tell me what I can do to make it up." The Warriorís tone was pleading and frantic. "I donít want to lose you baby."

Brushing the hair from Xenaís face, Gabrielleís eyes took on a green glow and they were soft and loving. "Xena, Iím not going anywhere." Taking Xenaí hand and rubbing her finger across the wedding ring, Gabrielle reminded the Warrior of their promises. "It would take a lot more than a drunken Warrior to break our promise to each other."

Sitting up Xena reached inside of the pocket in her tunic and handed Gabrielle a small piece of parchment.

"Whatís this?" Gabrielle accepted the parchment and raised her eyebrows with a puzzling expression.

"Just read it. I...I wanted to...well I didnít know if you would talk to me...and well....oh Hades...please just read it." The Warrior rested her head in Gabrielleís lap, while she read the poem Xena had taken all day to write and rewrite until it said exactly what her heart was feeling.

My dear Gabrielle,

Only you see past my faults when I fall short of the mark.

Through your deep abiding love you are my light through the dark.

Only you read between the lines when my words come out wrong.

Giving me a place to feel safe and loved, somewhere I can belong.

Only you understand my thoughts sometimes better than I do myself.

You bring a richness to my life stronger than any power or wealth.

Only you look into my heart and see all that I am, and accept me anyway.

You complete me. Please forgive me. And I promise from your love I'll never stray.

Love, Xena

As Gabrielle read the poem, several tears slipped from her eyes. "This is so beautiful Xena. I...I Ė oh...." Unable to get the words out, the Bard read the poem a second time. "What did I ever do to deserve you." Folding the parchment, Gabrielle placed it in her pocket. Xena reached up and wiped the tears from Gabrielleís face and the Bard quickly latched on to the strong hand and kissed repeatedly. "I love you Xena....I am so in love with you." Well aware that Xena was not one to express her emotions so openly in writing made this poem even more special to Gabrielle. As she kissed the strong hand, the Bard mused that her Warrior has indeed become a mushy woman and she loved every moment of it.

This was once again the woman that Xena fell so deeply in love with. In spite of Xenaís damaged past, Gabrielle did love her and this overwhelmed the Warrior so many times. "Honey, what can I do to apologize. I still feel so, so...guilty and Iím ashamed for how Iíve hurt you."

"Xena, it is not like you to get so Ė well out of control. What happened?"

The Warrior paused tugging at the grass in attempts to gather her thoughts. All day she debated over her reasons for getting so drunk Ė to the point of no self control. The answers did not come easily. Sure she could blame it on circumstances and the trauma the couple had been through, but that seemed to be an easy excuse. No something else was going on and she could not quite figure it out. A soft hand lifted her chin and Xena looked into loving and concern green eyes. "I...Iím not sure Gabrielle. I was with Uncle Tensandi and...well one drink led to the next."

"Were you talking about something in particular? I know you said you were going to ask him about my motherís bracelet. Is there something you are not telling me?"

Realizing she would eventually have to tell Gabrielle about the source of the bracelet and Meleagerís involvement with Hawk, the Warrior decided that this would be as good a time as any, to tell her soulmate what she discovered. Sitting in front of her lover, the Warrior relayed the story Tensandi told her about Hawk. She also watched the expression on Gabrielleís face change from curiosity to sadness.

"Gabrielle, are you okay?"

Staring past Xena off into the distance the Bard felt strange. Warm hands turned her face. "Xena, is this man my father?"

"I donít know." Pausing for a moment, Xena wanted to pursue the topic with Gabrielle but was unsure how. "Gabrielle, we need to spend some time thinking about whether you would like to find out if Hawk is your father."

Cupping Xenaís face in her hands, Gabrielle pulled her in for a loving kiss. "Xena, not now. Maybe after we come back from Iasonís. Please....I need some time." Pulling her soulmate close, the couple sat in silence and just held each other. No words were necessary.

 

"Gabrielle, I really am sorry for getting drunk. I promise to never let this happen again. Iím not too sure why...it was irresponsible. And as far as the ...flirting...baby I was stupid....you are all I want. Please let me make it up to you?"

Realizing that Xena was still a woman of action, Gabrielle smiled and kissed her on the nose. "Okay, tonight when Iím helping Adessa at the bar....you can flirt with me."

"Youíre kidding?" Not sure how to take the comment, Xena wondered if Gabrielle was really serious. "Donít you want me to be tortured or something. I really deserve it you know."

The seriousness of the conversation turned playful, which was what Gabrielle was hoping for. "Well, I didnít say I would be receptive to your flirting."

Xena rolled to her side, propping herself with one hand so she could be face to face with her soulmate. "You mean you are going to play hard to get? That is my torture?"

Slipping her hand around the base of Xenaís neck Gabrielle pulled her closer. Whispering between tiny kisses to Xenaís lips, Gabrielle giggled. "Yea....you are going to have to work at it my love. And in front of an inn full of people too."

Raising her famous eyebrows and returning the small kisses with occasional nibbles on Gabrielleís lips the Warrior thought this would not be a bad punishment at all. "How will I know, if my flirting catches you?"

With an extremely seductive purr Gabrielle smiled at Xena. "Oh, believe me, I donít think youíll have anything to worry about there."

"Then what is the punishment?"

"You canít touch me, when you are flirting. But I can touch you."

The Warrior smirked at her soulmate. "That is torture. Can I kiss you, as long as my hands donít touch you?"

"Mmmmmm.....yes, kissing is okay." Massaging the strong shoulders in front of her, Gabrielle began to wonder if she could handle Xena not touching her.

"When can I touch you?"

"You canít." With a wickedly playful tone the Bard added more challenge to the punishment. "At least not until I surrender to you....and I donít plan on loosing. Are you game?" Slipping her fingers up the back of Xenaís neck and into the raven hair, the Bard once again guided Xena to her lips. Sliding her tongue over the Warriorís ruby lips, Xena opened her mouth to allow Gabrielle entrance into the heated cavern. All talking ceased and the soulmates spent some time doing nothing more than kissing and exploring the love that bonded them.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

That evening Xena joined Hercules for a meal. Iolaus decided to join several of the local men for some night fishing off the coast and this left the two friends alone.

"Whereís Gabrielle?" The big man glanced around the inn but did not see the young Bard.

"She promised mom to help Adessa tend the bar."

Cyrene stood by the table and placed two huge plates of food in front of her daughter and Hercules. "It is going to be crowded tonight. Hercules, you really bring them in. Maybe I should put you on the payroll." Kissing her daughter on the top of the head, Cyrene let her anger go after voicing her concerns. "I love you dear."

"I know mom." Grabbing her mom around the waist the Warrior pulled her in and laid her head on Cyreneís waist. "I love you too and Iím really sorry."

The innkeeper chuckled at her daughter and returned the hug. "Yes, well I think you will have your hands filled tonight. I heard about your punishment." Bending down to kiss Xena on the nose, Cyrene laughed mischievously. "Good luck."

As Cyrene scooted across the floor heading toward the kitchen, Hercules and Xena watched her leave. "So, you spoke with Gabrielle about the flirting?" With that comment from Cyrene, the son of Zeus was now curious.

"Gabrielle told me she knew I was flirting. In fact, she watched me do it." A few tears weld up in the Warriorís eyes. "She forgave me immediately Ė no threads attached Ė just like that, she forgave me." Lowering her head still feeling the shame she caused her soulmate the Warrior fiddled with the food on her plate. "I love her so much."

"Your bond is strong Xena." Patting his friendís hand, Hercules was amused that Gabrielle was not making the Warrior crawl back. He would. "So.....Xena....sheís letting you off the hook?"

Smiling up at her friend, Xena wasnít sure just how to answer. "Well...yes and no. I have to flirt with her tonight."

"That should be easy."

"Yeah, well you havenít heard the rules yet." As the Warrior explained the rules, Hercules began laughing. He came to the conclusion that Gabrielle had indeed turned this into a comical torture of sorts. Screaming and laughter interrupted the pair and they looked toward the front door to see Eponin and Amarice coming through and Cyrene hugging and squeezing them.

Both Xena and Hercules waved at the couple and soon hugs and greetings were being exchanged. The Amazons joined them and Cyrene was right behind with more food. Following the innkeeper was Adessa with four mugs of ale. At first Xena hesitated and then decided she would just limit the number she drank. If she could not do that, then going forward she would just never drink anything stronger than tea or water. Cyrene flashed her a look of caution before leaving the foursome to chat and enjoy the evening.

"So, whereís Gabrielle?" Amarice was almost on top of Eponinís lap and the Warrior found this scene familiar. Her thoughts turned to how Gabrielle always managed to scoot close to her. In fact, even before they were lovers, her Bard sat extremely close to Xena frequently. This thought produced a huge smile. "Iím not sure. She is helping Adessa out tonight. We should see her later."

"What brings you to Amphipolis?"

"Iím taking Amarice to visit her mom and we thought we would stop by and say hi to Cyrene. Didnít expect to see either of you, so itís a pleasant surprise."

"Where does your mom live Amarice?" Knowing Amarice was not from the same tribe, as Eponin, Hercules was curious, as he knew many of the tribes from his traveling.

"My tribe is scattered throughout the Moldavia Range, north of here."

"That is what about a twenty day journey?" Hercules was fully aware of the northern tribe, although he never visited the land. The land was harsh and the weather cold. "When was the last time you were home?"

"About three winters ago." The young redhead missed her adoptive mother but this became a double-edged sword for her. On the one hand she wanted to see her mother and on the other she did not.

"You donít seem enthused Amarice, is something wrong?" Able to read faces pretty easily, Xena could see that this trip was not Amariceís idea.

"Yea, well Ė whatever I suppose."

The Amazon Warrior heard and sensed the uncertainty in her loverís voice and grabbed her by the waist pulling her tighter. They struggled back and forth about this trip and Eponin decided to push Amarice into agreeing. She had hoped that this would mend the disagreement between mother and daughter.

Just then Xena caught sight of her soulmate standing next to Adessa. Gabrielle had a silly smirk across her face and was directing it right at Xena. Eponin and Amarice watched Xena become distracted and turned around to see what she was looking at. That was all it took for the Bard to see her two friends sitting with Xena and Hercules. Immediately excited, Gabrielle came rushing around from behind the bar and was met half way by Amarice. The two hugged and giggled and talked for a few moments before they came back to the table. Eponin stood up grabbing the Amazon Queen and hugged her fiercely. That was when it dawned on the four friends that Gabrielle had on a peasant dress.

"Gabrielle Ė what do you have on!!!!" Amarice squealed over the dress her Queen was wearing. "That is definitely not Amazon clothing."

The Warrior pursed her lips, raised an eyebrow and grunted a few undistinguishable sounds, which told Gabrielle that she made the right decision in wearing the peasant dress. Gabrielle moved close to Xena without touching her and directed her attention to the Amazons. "Iím happy to see you both! And the dress, well...you know. Probably a better choice since Iím working tonight."

Hercules began to laugh and was poked instantly by the Warrior in the ribs. "Sorry Xena, I canít help it. Gabrielle you are really causing this woman torture!!!"

Smiling playfully at Hercules a small giggle came from her lips. "So, you like the dress Hercules? Good. Xena what about you? Last time I wore a dress like this was....oh probably about four summers ago."

Bending over to take Hercules empty mug, Xena could smell the rose oil from Gabrielleís body invade her senses. *Ohhhh, baby...you are playing unfairly.* Temporary lost in the thought of grabbing hold of her soulmate and kissing the playful lips teasing her so badly, the Warrior did not hear Gabrielle talking to her. Suddenly Eponin kicked Xena under the table.

"What....sorry, I didnít hear you."

"Do you want another ale? Iím getting one for Herc and Eponin?" The Bard really did not mind if her Warrior drank, she just didnít want her to get so drunk that she became unaware of her surroundings. Looking at the mug of ale, the Bard could see that it was still half full.

"No honey...Iím fine for now." Grabbing hold of the mug, Xena knew that would be the only way she would not reach out for her lover.

Gabrielle smiled and left the foursome with the two empty mugs. Eponin leaned over glancing at the son of Zeus who was attempting to control his laughter. "Okay Xena, what gives. First, Gabrielle is always affectionate with you and neither one of you touched the other. Second, if Amarice was wearing rose oil, Iíd take her right here in front of everyone." This little comment caused Amarice to raise her eyebrows and she made a mental note to talk with Gabrielle about this exotic little fragrance.

"I canít touch her." The Warrior watched her soulmate walk away, stopping to talk with several men along the way who called out for her attention.

"Itís a challenge, right?" The young Amazon leaned on the table attempting to find out more information.

"No, itís my torture for getting too drunk the other day." Explaining the circumstances to the Amazons, both women roared with laughter over the punishment Gabrielle set up for her soulmate. By the time Hercules added in a few extra comments, the trio had tears of laughter rolling down their faces.

Xena tried to ignore them and watched her lover. The peasant dress was a powder blue, soft and inviting. The top portion of the dress hung off Gabrielleís shoulders seductively, while the laces in the front held her breasts in place. Just enough of Gabrielleís breasts were showing to worry Xena somewhat; she did not want anyone admiring them. They were hers to squeeze, fondle and love, not anyone else. Gabrielleís hips filled out the dress, as it clung sensually across her body and the Warrior licked her lips as she thought about the treasure hiding underneath. At this point, Xena was not sure which was more torture, her Bard showing her muscular legs or hiding them. Her beautiful blonde hair was wrapped up in a bun with several wisps clinging softly around her face and falling on bare shoulders. The rose oil only added fuel to the fire that was burning in Xenaís heart and body. This was now going to become more than torture it was now a challenge for the Warrior. Feeling like she was pursing Gabrielle for the very first time, the heat began to take hold of Xenaís body and the wetness and desire built quickly.

Eponinís voice pulled the Warrior from her musings. "So, Xena...what are you going to do?"

Before Xena could respond Gabrielle returned with ale for Hercules and Eponin. As the small talk filled the air, Gabrielle reached across Xena to place Herculesí mug on the table. It would have been easy for the big guy to just reach up and take it but he enjoyed the way the Bard was torturing Xena. And from looking at the expression crossing the Warriorís face, it was indeed torture.

As Gabrielle placed the mug on the table, she intentionally brushed the Warriors hands with hers. After all that was part of the rules. She could touch - but Xena could not touch her without asking. Looking directly into Xenaís sapphire eyes Gabrielle could see the lust pouring from them. She almost caved in there and sat on Xenaís lap. "Well, I have to get back to work. If you need anything just let me know."

Wanting desperately to touch her soulmate, Xena remembered that she was allowed to kiss her but she could not put her hands on her without permission. Already feeling conquered, Xena knew that if she asked to touch Gabrielle this soon, her lover would have won. *I need to turn the odds so you my love will be the one surrendering.* Quickly Xena decided she needed to talk with her soulmate. "Gabrielle, how long are you working?" As soon as she asked and saw the smile cross her Bardís lips, the Warrior knew it was the wrong question. *Hades, I walked right into that one!*

Gabrielle bent down in order to be face to face with her lover. Intentionally closing in so she was only a breath away. "Until closing." The Bard wanted to kiss Xena and her body ached for the tender lips of her sexy lover. *No, not yet. By the gods, what have I done Ė this is torture for me.* With a seductive wink, Gabrielle spun around and left.

The trio watching the play of emotions between the soulmates decided this was extremely entertaining. Gabrielle was definitely teasing and coaxing, while Xena was trying with great strength to not touch her lover. That was when, Eponin decided this was indeed betting material.

"Excuse me...Iíll be right back." Giving Amarice a quick kiss on the lips, the Amazon went in search of Cyrene to set the betting in motion. The interruption caused the soulmates to break the hold they had over each other and Gabrielle backed away from the table, winked at Xena and returned to the bar.

Hercules nudged Xena in the arm. "Okay Xena, you can breathe now."

Unaware that she was indeed holding her breath the Warrior released it and leaned back against the wall. "By the gods, she is going to kill me."

Hercules and Amarice started to laugh and soon Xena joined them. That little vixen wife of the Warriorís had complete control over her and the Warrior had to admit she loved every bit of it.

As the night went by, Gabrielle did not return to the table and instead sent Adessa. The group watched the Bard serve drinks and food to other tables and Xena in particular was extremely captivated by her soulmate. She was proud of Gabrielle in so many ways and she also knew the young woman possessed every bit of her heart and soul. The Warrior also noted that many of the patrons flirted with her soulmate, but Gabrielle remained true to Xena and politely pushed away suggestions and comments. Xena understood how she must have hurt Gabrielle with her loss of control and promised that she would never again be so foolish and risk or abuse Gabrielleís love. *Yes my wise wife, you chose a good punishment for me.*

Cyrene agreed immediately to the betting. By the middle of the evening a number of locals, who were close friends of Cyreneís were also interested in the wager. Uncle Tensandi came in after several candlemarks and was soon included in the bet of who would chase whom. Eponin wanted to get Hercules and Amarice in on the wager but had to wait until Xena left the table. No one wanted the couple to know about the wager. The inn became extremely crowded, as the night progressed and Xena decided rather than wait to be served, she would go to the bar to secure her tableís drinks. Plus this would be a good excuse to start flirting heavily with her soulmate.

"Iím going to get us some refills." The Warrior left and headed towards the bar without an argument from anyone.

Looking at Amarice and then Hercules, Eponin explained the bet. Each agreed. Amarice put up three dinars for Gabrielle and Hercules three for Xena. Now, with everyone included they only had to wait.

Gabrielle was rather busy talking with the patrons hanging around the bar. The Warrior found her laughter and smile infectious. Although Xena was talking with Uncle Tensandi and her mother, her eyes were locked on Gabrielle. *You are so beautiful my love.....god, so beautiful* Feeling the weakness take over her body, the Warrior realized the lesson was over and the challenge began. Chuckling to herself, the Warrior was aware this would not be a challenge she could hope to win but she would sure have fun trying. *Okay Xena....breath deeply...youíre suppose to be flirting with her.*

Spotting Xena standing at the end of the bar, Gabrielle excused herself and approached her soulmate. "Hi, do you need some more ale for the table?" The Bard smiled playfully at her Warrior. She knew Xena was staying away in order to gather some strength. And she stayed away from the table hoping the Warrior would give in and come to her.

"Actually yes." The problem with Xenaís body was that it was automatically drawn to Gabrielle. The rose oil mixed with the scent of her lover invaded her heart once again and she stepped behind the bar and almost reached for Gabrielle to hug her. Shaking her head the Warrior quickly regrouped. "Yes, actually only three ales will be fine."

Gabrielle smirked sensually at her Warrior and turned her back to pour the ales. Unable to control the lust racing through her body Xena stepped up behind the Bard and wanted desperately to kiss the exposed shoulders. The trouble was if she kissed them, she would want to touch them. She would need to hold Gabrielle and she could not do that without permission and once she asked Ė she lost the game. Moving to stand extremely close to her soulmate, the Warrior tipped her head to whisper in Gabrielleís ear without touching her. "I want you....I want to kiss you.....hold you....taste you slowly."

The lustful words invading Gabrielleís ears made the heat rise in her body and the wetness and throbbing in her loins was close to being uncontrollable. Glancing over her shoulder at her lover, the Bard let a sensual smile cross her face. "Really...and how do you plan to do this, when you canít touch me."

Deciding to increase the level of play, Xena purred slightly and heard the tiny moan coming from her soulmate. "I plan to use my tongue all over your body. Starting with your lips, I plan on sliding it slowly....heavily....sucking and licking until I can bury it deeply...."

Gabrielle turned around abruptly filling Xenaís hands with two mugs of ale. With a smile that told the Warrior Ďyesí, Xena could see the glaze of surrender filling the green eyes of her soulmate. Turning away to fill a third mug, Gabrielle quickly stepped away from her soulmate and headed toward the table of her friends. Xena chuckled softly, as she had won this round. Passing by her mom and Tensandi, the two were laughing. It would seem a number of people were enjoying this little game.

The Bard quickly dropped the ale at the table and said a brief hi to her friends. She knew Xena was right behind her and wanted to get away quickly before the Warrior trapped her. *You, my love, almost had me back there.*

Fortunately the table next to her friends called to Gabrielle and she went over to them without looking back at Xena. They wanted Gabrielle to tell a few stories and she agreed. This would definitely give her a chance to regroup and in fact she knew just what story to tell. Informing Adessa she would be telling a story, the barmaid passed along the information to Cyrene, who was always pleased, when Gabrielle told stories to her customers.

Moments later the Warrior observed, as her beautiful mate was positioned near the fireplace to tell a story. As she listened to Gabrielle tell the story of Cecrops and the curse of Poseidon, Xena had to admit the peasant dress brought certain softness and comforting appeal to the Bard. With the crowd laughing and cheering at all the appropriate places Xena was proud of Gabrielle. *How could I have ever allowed myself to flirt with anyone else Ė even if I was drunk. Hades Iím so stupid.* When Gabrielle completed the story the crowd insisted on a second tale and her lover indulged and chose the story of their trip to India, when they first met Eli. This fascinated the people and Xena wondered what became of Eli.

Whispering across the table to catch Amariceís attention, the young Amazon knew exactly what the Warrior was going to ask her. "Xena...I forgot to tell you. We ran into Eli. He is coming to Amphipolis to see you both."

"Did he say why?" The young Amazon shook her head no.

By the time the trio was finished with their conversation, Gabrielle thanked her audience and went back to the bar. "Well, time for another round of flirting." Hercules and the Amazons chuckled, as the Warrior left and headed back over to the bar. By the time she got through the crowded inn and politely stopped to answer questions from the local villagers Gabrielle was no longer in sight. "Adessa, where is Gabrielle."

"Oh your mom wanted a vintage bottle of port, so she sent Gabrielle to the cellar for it." Adessa smiled toward the innkeeper and winked. That foxy old woman actually sent Gabrielle for a bottle that did not exist. Figuring her daughter would not be able to stand being separated from Gabrielle, the agreed upon trap among the participants of the bet would determine the winner, as long as they guessed who kissed whom first along with the length of stay in the cellar.

Cyrene was sitting at the end of the bar still engrossed in her conversation with Tensandi but could see Adessa wink at her and watched her daughter approach. "Mom, you sent....."

Before she could finish, Cyrene smiled and interrupted. "Oh yes...itís only one bottle and itís pretty dark in the cellar."

Xena suspected her mother sent Gabrielle on a wild goose chase but wasnít sure. Either way it did not matter. At this point she was very willing to surrender to her soulmate. "Thanks mom."

Going out the back door and past the garden, her mother had a small cellar dug deep into the earth for only the special port. During bad storms the cellar also acted as shelter, from possible funnel clouds and heavy winds. Several candles were lit and Xena could see her soulmate rummaging around in search of the port. Slowly Xena approached her soulmate.

Startled by the movement behind her Gabrielle jumped and dropped the candle. "XENA, you scared me!"

"Sorry, did you find what mom sent you for?" Not meaning to scare Gabrielle, the Warrior bent over picked up the candle. "Can I help?"

The glow of the candlelight reflecting off the tan sculptured face of her lover was almost too much for Gabrielle and she wanted the Warrior to touch her. Forcing herself to look away, Gabrielle again glanced over the ports lining the shelf of the cellar. "Your mother sure has a good supply of port." A warm breath brushed over her shoulder and Gabrielle could smell the cinnamon that was her lover. "Xena....."

Before she could finish her sentence soft lips were kissing her bare shoulders and moving up to her ear. Gabrielle turned around and backed away soon finding the wall stopping her movement. Xena placed the candle on a small table and leaned towards her with both hands on the wall surrounding the Bard. Sea green eyes quickly glazed over and stared directly into the strong sensual blue that captured her heart so easily. Slowly Xena leaned down and brushed her lips over Gabrielleís. With a deep moan Xena licked Gabrielleís upper lip grabbing it and sucked gently. The moan of surrender that Xena waited for happened instantly and she slid her tongue deeply into Gabrielleís heated mouth. The pressure and intensity of the kiss and exploration and dancing of tongues increased rapidly. The Warrior knew she had to have her lover now and could no longer play the game. Accepting defeat would only mean she would also win. Breaking away she looked and found Gabrielleís eyes still closed. "Honey."

Slowly the green eyes opened. It was impossible for Gabrielle to stay standing much longer and she was ready to throw the game and let Xena win. Placing her fingers to the Warriorís luscious red lips, Gabrielle would give in and be conquered by this powerful woman. "Sssshhhh....please touch me Xena....I need you......"

Before she could finish her thought the Warrior had her arms wrapped around her lover and was kissing her passionately. Lifting her into her arms she took Gabrielle to the small pallet Cyrene had in the cellar. Laying the Bard down gently, Xena removed her clothing and helped Gabrielle take off her dress. Moments later the couple were entwined and needy for the feel of the other.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

Early the following morning Xena and Gabrielle came out of the cellar arm in arm and slipped back into the inn and their room. Crawling into bed, both women were tired after a night of working, flirting and finally loving each other to the point of exhaustion. Snuggling together under the cool sheet sleep claimed them quickly.

Cyrene heard the soulmates enter the inn and decided to get out of bed. *My beautiful daughter....Iím so lucky to have you.* She chuckled to herself. *And you are lucky to have someone as devoted and forgiving as Gabrielle.* The innkeeper was proud of Xena. She drank only two ales last night and seemed to have no difficulty refusing any more, when they were offered. Admitting she was worried that Xena might have a small drinking problem, the innkeeper did not say anything about those fears to her daughter or Gabrielle. Time will tell.

Walking into the kitchen she found Eponin and Amarice kissing and enjoying each other. "Well good morning! How about something to eat?" Without anticipating a response the innkeeper set about preparing a meal for herself and the two Amazonís. Cyrene felt like she was blessed with a house filled with daughters every time the Amazonís visited. She loved them all dearly.

Amarice immediately rushed to Cyreneís side to help her prepare the meal. "Cyrene where is Lila?"

Realizing that the two women probably had no idea of the events that recently passed, Cyrene told them what she knew. In fact she told them everything from Herodotusí visit to Amphipolis, to Gabrielleís grief at Hecubaís graveside, to the mysterious man mourning their Queenís mother and the bracelet. Last night Cyrene was able to get some information from Tensandi about the owner of the exotic design. The name Hawk was familiar to Cyrene, but only in a positive fashion. When Lyceus died in battle, Amphipolis sent runners to Hawk hoping to gain his help. Unfortunately the man was abroad and only a few farmhands and guards were left behind. Thus, upon his return, he sent condolences and apologies to the village of Amphipolis.

"So...does Gabrielle know about this man?" The young redhead took a sip of her tea and wondered if this man was Gabrielleís real father.

"Yes, but she needs time to think about it."

"Cyrene, is there anything we can do to help? I mean...." Eponin slammed her fist on the table. She was angry over the amount of abuse and the foolish reasoning behind it. "How could ANYONE abuse our Queen like that."

Gently Amarice wrapped her arms around Eponin claiming her lips for a gentle kiss. "Hey, calm down. Herodutus is a really sick man."

The innkeeper reached across the table and patted Eponinís hand. "Youíve already done so much Eponin. You are her friend and that is so important to Gabrielle."

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

 

Chapter Ten

With the summer solitise getting closer, the excitement among the villagers started to grow in anticipation. Both summer and winter solitise were big times of celebration and gratitude. Uncle Tensandi enlisted the help of Xena, Hercules, Iolaus and the two Amazons to help with the raising of a new community stable in honor of the celebration. Gabrielle was quite happy to help Cyrene around the inn with all preparations for the upcoming event, which lasted for several days. Even though Xena, Hercules and Gabrielle would be going to Iasonís temple, they would be back in plenty of time to join in. The first day of raising the stable began early with a large number of men and women coming out to help. Cyreneís inn, along with Alexos Tavern and several farmers and shops help to feed all the volunteers and basically make it a fun time for all involved. A lot of work was involved and by the end of the first day most of the logs had been cut and hauled into the village. Xena and the others literally bathed, ate and fell asleep. Gabrielle was also working to the point of exhaustion and when they had a break, they kept missing each other. That night, when the Bard crawled into bed, her Warrior was already asleep. In the morning when she awoke, Xena was already gone for the day.

This schedule continued into the second day. Just past midnight, Gabrielle finished washing the plates, mugs, pots and utensils that were piling up in the sink, when strong arms suddenly embrace her. The Bard winced slightly and took a deep breath to relax. Immediately a few tears slid from her eyes.

Noticing her mate flinch, the Warrior assumed she startled Gabrielle. In an attempt to rest any fears she whispered in her ear, while caressing an exposed shoulder with her lips. "Iím looking for my wife...would you know where she is?"

Circling around in Xenaís arms, Gabrielle wiped the tears away with the back of her hand and wrapped her arms around the strong shoulders of her soulmate. "Hi....Iíve really missed you."

Resting their foreheads together, the couple just gazed into each otherís eyes. Slowly their lips brushed gently and soon the kiss turned deeper.....softer and completely delicate. They wanted the love to be slow and caring. The magic and power of their bond made it possible to foresee the needs of the other and they fell deeply into each otherís hearts.

Pulling her lips back for only a moment the Warrior whispered alluring. "I have a hot bath waiting, can you join me?"

"Oh yea." Giving the luscious lips a quick kiss, Gabrielle let her arms slid down the Warriorís shoulders. "Let me finish up here, so mom doesnít get stuck. Iíll only be a moment, so save me a spot."

"Okay...but donít be long." The Warrior kissed her soulmate quickly and patted her on the butt. "Oh..yes, that feels real good."

Playfully Gabrielle slapped Xena on the arm and the Warrior headed towards the bathroom. The Bard finished up the remainder of the washing and quickly said goodnight to Adessa who was heading out the door. Stopping by the room to pick up the couples nightshirts and towels Gabrielle noticed a single red rose laying on the pillow. Overwhelmed by her lover, the Bard picked up the rose smelling the romantic aroma of this powerful flower. The thorns had already been removed and Gabrielle giggled over her Warriorís mushy side. Placing it between her teeth, Gabrielle left the room to join her soulmate.

Xena was lying back in the tub, moaning over the warmth and comfort of the tub. The room was dark except for a few candles. Peeking up at her soulmate coming through the door she smiled, when she saw the rose between Gabrielleís lips. Setting the clothes and towels to the side the Bard came to the side of the tub removing the rose from her lips. Bending over she kissed Xena with a sweetness that caused a deep growl from her Warrior. "Thank you honey for the rose. Nice touch actually."

"Anything for you baby." The Warrior remembered the night Gabrielle had the rose oil dabbed in all the right soft spots on her body and when Xena saw the roses, she could not resist bringing one to her mate. "I love you...get those clothes off and come here." As Gabrielle slipped the peasant dress off the candlelight bounced off her body casting exotic shadows. The Warrior followed the clothing as it dropped from the arousing body standing in front of her. As the Bard slid into the warm water, strong hands pulled her close. In moments the soulmates were snuggling together like they had been apart for moons. They laid that way for a while each soaking in the love from the other. "Baby, whatís with the dress? Itís beautiful on you, actually extremely sexy."

"Oh, your mother thought the leathers were a bit too distracting so she suggested the dress, then changed her mind once again. But since I already had it on, I left it."

Xena tipped her head to look into the sea green eyes of her wife. "Why?"

"She said this was just as suggestive as the leathers."

"Well, sheís right. You were showing way too much cleavage. Youíll need to bring that up some...you know cover it a bit more." Knowing full well that she would get a rise out of her Bard, Xena laid her head back and waited with a small smirk across her face.

"Xena!! How come itís okay, when you show yours all over the place, but I canít?"

"Thatís different."

Gabrielle sat up in the tub and splashed Xena with some water. "No itís not."

Xena returned the splash and looked into her loverís smiling face. "Oh...yes...it...is." She quickly splashed more water on her soulmate and within a wink of an eye the couple were in the mist of a water fight. It went for several moments until the Warrior reached across wrapping her arms around Gabrielleís waist pulling her on her lap. "Letís wash up and get out....I want you.

More water ended up on the floor than either anticipated and Gabrielle slipped when she stepped out of the tub. Her Warrior was right there to catch her. As Xena reached out, the Bard gave out a small cry when her lover caught her. At first Xena just thought Gabrielle was startled and then she began to wonder. "Honey, are you okay? Did I hurt you?"

Grabbing the towels and tossing one to Xena, the Bard dried off. "No, just startled me thatís all." There was no way Gabrielle was planning on telling her soulmate that her ribs were bruised by a fight she had with the barmaid during her absence. Tifcana attacked her first and Gabrielle decided to finish the fight. Grabbing her nightshirt, she quickly slipped it on and picked up the rose. "Come on Warrior.....Iím in a huge mood for YOU."

Quietly the soulmates cleaned the bathroom and tiptoed back to their room. The night was as both hoped, each loving the other slowly and gently. It was just the style of love the women needed tonight. Both were exhausted and eventually fell to sleep wrapped in each otherís arms.

Morning came quickly and by the time Gabrielle woke, her Warrior was already gone. In her place was the rose.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

It was midday when Minya and Joxer wandered into Amphipolis. The Amazon hopeful came directly to Cyreneís in search of Xena and Gabrielle. Joxer decided to stop at Alexos Tavern. He was still not comfortable with Gabrielleís marriage to Xena and at this point in time, was not ready to once again face the young blonde. His emotions were torn. The Bard was in the mist of packing lunches for the crews building the stable. She was already missing her Warrior who returned to the forest to help cut down a few more trees. Apparently the stable ended up being larger than they first anticipated and Tensandi, who was leading the project, sent a crew back up into the forest. The crew included Xena and himself.

Without warning Minya grabbed Gabrielle lifting her in the air and giving her a strong hug. The pressure on her bruised ribs caused her to cry out. Quickly Minya dropped her and Cyrene was right by her side. Both women held on to her arms so she would not fall. Immediately the woman began apologizing.

"Itís okay Minya...you didnít know. I just bruised my ribs thatís all." Gabrielle grabbed Minyaís face and gave her a huge kiss, which help to calm the overly active woman down.

"Gabrielle, did you show Xena your bruises?"

"No mom....what would be the point. She would only worry." Gabrielle sat down in a chair to try and regroup somewhat. "Iíve caused her enough problems already....I donít need to add this one on."

"My young beauty...how did you manage to hide them?" Cyrene was suspicious that Gabrielle did not tell Xena and was puzzled over how the Warrior could have missed them.

"Mom Ė Xena had other things on her mind." This bold comment caused laughter. "And anyway...it was dark. One or two candles do not offer a great deal of light."

Unable to contain her excitement any longer, Minya interrupted and spoke directly to Gabrielle. "I want to become an Amazon. Can you help me?"

Smiling at the woman who became a wonderful friend to both Xena and herself, Gabrielle patted her hand. "Minya...I know you really want to be an Amazon...but it...well there are traditions."

The sturdy woman shook her head extremely determined. "Oh please...Gabrielle. Iíve been practicing...living off the land...trying to climb trees....I really really...."

Summing all her willpower the Amazon Queen held her giggles over Minyaís begging determination and patted her on the shoulder. "Wait...wait...okay, listen. After summer solitise, I will read through the traditions and laws...but Minya...I donít.."

The dark hair woman started pacing the floor in circles obviously frustrated. "What do you mean! You werenít born an Amazon and you...."

Grabbing her friend by both shoulders Gabrielle looked her directly in the eyes. "MINYA...settle down. The right of caste was passed on to me....itís different. Youíll just have to let me look into this Ė BUT NO PROMISES. You just canít walk in and tell people you want to be an Amazon. But Iíll tell you Ė the first law is to obey the Queen."

With a friendly smile and a playful wink at her friend, the woman calmed down somewhat. "Okay Gabrielle, okay....Iíll wait for you...okay."

The innkeeper invited both women to sit and enjoy a cup of tea with her. At this point, Minya realized there was no need to pursue her quest further until Gabrielle said so. Thus she inquired more about Gabrielleís injury. The innkeeper laughed at the intelligence of this woman to realize Gabrielle would only avoid the answer. Once Minya heard how this barmaid attacked and Gabrielle beat the crap out of her, the dark hair woman was slamming her hand on the table and praising Gabrielle like she was a god of some sorts. Soon Minya was recruited to help Cyrene around the inn and everyone once again fell into a routine of sorts. They had several days until the solitise celebration began. The Bard began to wonder, if they would make Iasonís on time.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

The Warrior was not pleased that a crew had to return to the forest. She had originally planned on calling it an early day, scoop up Gabrielle and spend some time alone. The trip to Iasonís temple was fast approaching and she knew they would have to leave within a day or at the latest two in order to make the temple on time. Hercules stated he knew of a shorter route through the mountains but they would have to go on foot due to the climbing involved. The Warrior also wanted to talk to Gabrielle a little more about Hawk and had not found the right opportunity or time. *My little wife, I want you to face the possibility that this man might be the key to your past or at least some of it.* Sitting on a fallen tree the Warrior polished off the meal that was brought up from the village for the workers. Tensandi was by her side and appeared to be lost in his own thoughts. Just as Xena was about to nudge him in the arm, he grabbed her knee.

"Xena...look...over there. The barmaid..." The Warrior glanced over in the direction of the woman to see she was sporting a huge black eye. "Do you see her? That was the one you got into so much trouble over."

"Youíre kidding, right? Sheís not even my type. Hades, I must have been drunk. Looks like someone punched her good."

Memnos approached the duo sitting on the log and this distracted the pair. "Good day Memnos. What brings you way up here?" Tensandi and Memnos had been friends a long time and always had a mutual respect for each other.

"Xena, Tensandi Ė good to see you both. Actually, I volunteered to drive the wagon that brought up your meal. Just letting the women know it was almost time to head back down the mountain. I understand the crew is staying for the night."

"Yes, we want to work, as long as we can and figured it would be safer to camp." Standing in order to stretch his back, Tensandi let out a big grunt, as he rolled his shoulders and neck. "What happened to Tifcana?"

Xena stretched the stiffness from her muscular frame and Memnos looked right at her. "Oh come on....you mean you donít know? Didnít Gabrielle tell you......oh, hmmm, that means she probably didnít tell you about a few other things?"

This comment had Xena and Tensandiís attention. "Memnos, what does Tifcana have to do with Gabrielle?"

Realizing he just opened his big mouth and inserted both feet, Memnos knew he would not be able to retreat from this conversation. His thoughts quickly debated to whom could hurt him worse. Gabrielle for telling or Xena for not telling, the Warrior easily won that contest. "Well, it seems your wife was in the butcher shop and Tifcana went right in after her. Took a broom and cracked her in the ribs from behind forcing the young one to the floor. Then Tifcana kicked her in the ribs a few times before Gabrielle could regroup. After that....well it was all over." The healer poked Xena playfully in the shoulder. "Your wife beat the tar out of that girl. Black eye, three broken ribs and variety of hidden bruises."

Uncle Tensandi was now chuckling and extremely proud of the little Amazon Queen. "Well, my niece, I guess you better not upset your wife....sounds to me like she can be pretty fierce."

The Warrior was shaking her head in disbelief. Instantly Xena remembered the flinching and small cry that Gabrielle let out, as she grabbed her around the waist and it now made sense. "I canít believe I didnít notice!" As is often typical, when Xena was frustrated, she started to pace. "I canít believe it Ė she hid the bruises from me Ė why?" Although the Warrior was not mad she was concerned and not especially pleased that Gabrielle was hurting and didnít tell her.

"Hey, Xena Ė calm down. Tifcana had that coming." Uncle Tensandi grabbed his pacing niece and patted her back. "Iím actually proud of Gabrielle. That barmaid causes a lot of problems for a number of relationships."

"Well, Iím off...have a good night my friends." The healer left the pair behind and chuckled over Tensandiís efforts to calm the Warrior down.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

All in all the third day of preparations for the celebration came to an end and the Bard went to bed alone that night. She was missing her Warrior terribly and had tried to keep a smile on her face throughout the day and evening. The village was just so busy that Gabrielle was grateful for the activity to help pass the time. As she grabbed Xenaís pillow and pulled it close to her body, her loneliness took over and the Bard cried until she fell asleep.

The Bardís dreams were strange that night. Thoughts of her childhood returned, as well as the abuse by her father. The disruption kept waking her and eventually she got out of bed and wandered into the main room of the inn. The embers were still burning and she threw a log on and sat in the rocker.

"Gabrielle, are you okay?" A voice from the shadows by the kitchen came into view.

"Hi Mom. Iím okay....I just miss Xena."

Pulling a rocker up close to Gabrielle, Cyrene quickly kissed the young woman on the cheek. "How are your ribs? You really should tell Xena."

"I know, when we have some time alone."

The Bard stared off into the flames and Cyrene knew there was something deeper upsetting Gabrielle. "Are you sure you are okay?"

A few tears slid from green eyes, as she looked at Cyrene. "I miss my mom....Iím having dreams...Iím confused about who my father really is."

"....And you look pretty exhausted." The innkeeper stood and reached out for Gabrielleís hand. "Come on, sleep with me tonight. It helped the last time. Please Gabrielle...for me?"

The Bardís needs were great at the moment and she accepted the innkeeperís offer. As they lay in bed, Cyrene held her close while Gabrielle sobbed until she eventually fell asleep. Only moments later, Cyrene sensed a presence in the bedroom. It was overwhelming and felt haunting. Slipping her arms out from the young woman, she sat up in bed to scan the room. "Hmpf...nothing. Must be my mind is tired." Deciding to peek in the hallway, Cyrene slid out of bed. The hallway was empty and the inn seemed quiet. Shaking her head, Warrior Mom returned to bed. Just as she sat on the edge a chill entered the room followed by an overwhelming feeling of warmth and love. Turning her head rapidly and feeling a bit unnerved, Cyrene wondered if it was Ephiny and called out for her. There was no answer and suddenly an apparition of sorts began to take shape at the foot of the bed.

"Ephiny...is that you?" Calling out at the strange formation it began to take shape. "By the gods.......Hecuba!!"

The spirit of Gabrielleís mother held up her hand and moved it to her own lips indicated Cyrene should remain silent. No words passed between them and Hecuba moved up alongside the bed towards Gabrielle. The spirit looked down at her daughter and smiled. In Cyreneís eyes that smile meant Hecuba was happy for Gabrielle and proud of her daughter. The spirit then looked into Cyreneís eyes. Whatever passed between them the innkeeper knew she promised to care and watch over Gabrielle and Hecuba was pleased with the innkeeperís guardianship. As quickly as she appeared Hecuba left. The innkeeper caressed the young blondeís cheek. Giving her a light kiss, Cyrene joined her daughter-in-law in sleep.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

The following morning, the Warrior, Tensandi and the loggers moved out of the mountains early. Xena was anxious to get back to Gabrielle and see exactly what, the extent of her injuries were. By the time they got into Amphipolis the village was in full swing for the days activities in preparation for the solitise. The Warrior had to admit that in all her travels, Amphipolis, was probably one of the most exciting villages to be in for this celebration.

Gabrielle was fairly tired, not having slept more than a few candlemarks. This morning when she awoke, she thanked Cyrene and admitted it was easier sleeping once she was next to the innkeeper. Cyrene laughed and hugged her mumbling words of the Bard being such an emotional softy. For the moment, the innkeeper never told Gabrielle of the visit from her motherís spirit.

Most of the morning was spent baking pies, breads and cakes, which was a huge job considering they had so many to bake. As Cyrene went out the back door to the cellar for some of her special blend of port that she enjoyed adding to the nutbread, her daughter sneaked up on her.

"XENA....Hades girl! You scared the Ares out of me!!" The Warrior laughed and grabbed her mother bouncing the woman around. "Put me down....go take a bath before you find that wife of yours Ė gee Xena..."

"Oh come on mom....am I that bad?" The Warrior playfully sniffed under her armpits and then fell backwards to the ground, as if she passed out.

"Oh...I donít know how Gabrielle puts up with you." Cyrene offered her hand to Xena and the Warrior accepted.

"How is she mom? How are her ribs? And...where is she?"

"Mmmm....so you know about the barmaid? Well, she says she is doing fine...but you know Gabrielle." The innkeeper walked to the back door with her daughter. "She had a rough night. She misses you. Go on, clean up and grab her...get her out of here for the day."

With a huge kiss to her momís cheek, the Warrior agreed to do just that and sneaked into the inn in order to clean up. Opting for a soft green tunic rather than her leathers, she quickly finished getting ready and slipped out the back door to saddle Argo. Bringing the mare around front of the inn, the Warrior entered through the front door and except for a few hellos she headed directly for the kitchen in search of her lover. Stopping in the doorway to admire the beautiful woman who captured her heart so long ago, the Warrior found a few tears pooling in her eyes. Drying them quickly she approached Gabrielle, who looked up just in time to see the Warrior coming at her. *Thatís my girl...I love it when you smile because you see me coming.* Only a few steps were necessary before Gabrielle had her arms wrapped around Xenaís waist.

"Come on...Iím taking you away for the day."

"Xena...there is so much to do, I canít just go."

Xena lifted her soulmateís chin and delicately kissed her on the nose. "Oh yes you can. I need some time alone with you....now...and later...but I canít wait until later. Now go change into some riding clothes. Iíll meet you in the stables."

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

The Warrior insisted Gabrielle ride Argo with her and the Bard did not argue. She enjoyed the chestnut mare, however still preferred riding double with Xena. The couple headed north from the village toward the land Uncle Tensandi gave them as a wedding gift. For the most part they rode in silence the Warrior just enjoying the feel of her soulmateís arms wrapped around her waist. Occasionally Gabrielle would lay her head against Xenaís back and this melted the heart of the Warrior easily. Eventually Xena chose a grassy area with several trees right next to a stream. Without asking she stopped Argo and the couple unpacked a lunch, threw a blanket under the tree and snuggled up closely.

"Gabrielle, why didnít you tell me about the fight you had?"

The Bard looked up into Xenaís blue eyes and saw concern. "It was not a big deal Xena. I did not want you to worry."

"Donít you know by now that I am going to worry no matter what. Please donít keep things like that from me." Giving her lover a kiss on the lips, the Warrior tugged at Gabrielleís tunic. "Let me see your ribs."

Knowing full well that arguing would be pointless, the Bard complied and opened her tunic for Xena to check her ribs. A frown covered Xenaís face and a few tears pooled in her eyes. Gabrielle lifted Xenaís chin and kissed her delicately on the lips. Responding to her lover, the Warrior pulled Gabrielle closer and the two melted into one. Gently they made love under the afternoon sun and renewed their devotion to each other.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

A sudden flash of colorful light filled the air and a flirtatious voice rushed into Hercules head. "Hi!"

"Hello sis, what do you want?"

Aphrodite scooted up next to her brother and grabbed his arm. "Why do I always have to be up to something? Why canít you just once believe I am here to see how you are doing?"

The son of Zeus chuckled lightly at his sister. "Okay.....Iím doing well. Now what do you want?"

Giving Hercules a playful slap on the shoulder the Goddess of Love grabbed his hand and led him away from the inn. "Listen bro Ė I have a message from Iason."

The Goddess of Love proceeded to relay the message from Iason about the events, which will take place at his temple on solitise eve and the following day. Hercules was grateful that they would not have to climb the mountain, as this would give them more time in Amphipolis. Moments later the siblings noticed Eponin and Amarice leave Cyreneís place heading toward the stables.

"Well....looks like they are infatuated with each other." Nudging Hercules with her shoulder, the goddess began giggling. "Let me tell you Ė that was a tough pair."

Hercules shook his head in frustration. "Donít tell me you set them up? Sis, when are you going to learn to leave people alone?"

"Oh no Ė it is not like you think......well, maybe Ė but just a little tiny bit." Aphrodite held up her fingers to show what her interpretation of a little bit meant. "Aaaa come on Herc Ė they are a match. All the gods know that! They just needed a little encouragement, thatís all." Smiling up at her brother, the goddess grabbed his hands and batted her eyes with loving glances. "Pleaseeeeee donít be mad. You have to admit...."

Looking into the sky, Hercules began to laugh. "Oh Zeus! What am I going to do with you sis? Yes, they do make a wonderful couple."

Brother and sister laughed together while watching the two Amazons enter the stables and soon they saw Amarice run back out with Eponin in pursuit. It was obvious to both that Amarice was upset.

Aphrodite started to move toward them and Hercules grabbed his sister around the waist to stop her. "Let it go sis, sometimes people have to solve their own problems WITHOUT interference from the gods."

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

"You better never let me catching you flirting." Amarice poked Eponin in the ribs. "You got that Amazon!"

Eponin pushed Amariceís hand away. "Oh please Amarice! It will never happen. But...if it does just what do you think you are going to do about it." The Amazon moved away from the young redhead toward her horse. "Letís face it......HEY STOP HITTING ME." The Amazon turned around to in time to catch the shovel that was being thrown at her and watch Amarice run out of the stables. Slamming the shovel to the floor Eponin started out after Amarice. "Hades! I was just teasing Ė AMARICE COME BACK!"

By the time Eponin was outside of the stables, she could see Amarice running toward the forest. Without hesitation she bolted out after her. It did not take long for the Amazon Warrior to catch the young woman. Grabbing her from behind by the waist Eponin pulled her close.

"PUT ME DOWN EPONIN Ė JUST LET ME GO!!!" Amarice started kicking and struggled in an attempt to get Eponin to release her. Unfortunately Eponin had an excellent hold on the young Amazon.

"Peanut...come on stop fighting me. I was just teasing!" With her arms wrapped around Amarice, which pinned her arms to her side, the Warrior nuzzled her head into Amariceís neck and gently whispered in her ear. "I love you baby, please donít be mad. I would never flirt with anyone....donít you know that?"

Amarice settled down and Eponin released her hold only long enough to spin the young woman around and claim the young tender lips of her lover. Together in one delicate kiss the couple became one heart. As Amariceís fears calmed down, she returned the passion that was so easily offered to her. Breaking the kiss, the Warrior looked into the big soft brown eyes of the young woman she loved more than life and wiped away the tears falling from those same eyes.

"Iím....Iím sorr...."

"Ssssh...hey...no. I should not have teased you. I love you Amarice."

Picking Amarice up in her arms, the Warrior carried her back to the inn, through the back door, passed a smirking Cyrene and Minya and straight to their room. Kicking the door shut, Eponin set Amarice down. There was no need for conversation or permission and their love needed no words. Slowly and sensually the women melted into each otherís arms, into each otherís hearts and souls.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

 

Chapter Eleven

A day later, the Warrior and Bard were sitting at the kitchen table doing nothing more than enjoying each otherís company and taking a break from the preparations for the solitise. The bulk of the baking was completed and Cyrene demanded everyone take a day to relax. The foundation and walls of the stable were up and currently the craftsmen were building the interior stalls.

"Xena, what do you think Iason wants?" Popping a grape in her mouth, Hercules had informed both Xena and Gabrielle that someone would come for them with instructions and they would eventually be transported to Iasonís temple. This pleased Gabrielle because she hoped Iason would send either Ephiny or Solari to come for them.

Reaching over to grab the grape from her loverís hand, the Warrior smiled when Gabrielle pretended to be surprised. "Iím not sure what Iason wants. I guess we will just have to wait and see." Taking the grape elicited a friendly swat of the hand to Xenaís thigh. "Oh please baby...wonít you share the grapes with me?"

"Oh stop looking so sad Xena." The Bard giggled and scooted closer to her soulmate with the bowl of grapes. Xena had a way of looking so non-warrior, when she pouted. All this did was guarantee the Warrior that Gabrielle would give her whatever she asked for. Gabrielle realized her soulmate had this power over her and actually loved every moment of it. Pouting always meant the Warrior would be soft and emotional and Gabrielle liked to see this side of her soulmate.

Wrapping her arm around Gabrielleís waist the couple fed each other grapes in a playful manner, and unbeknownst to them Joxer was observing from the doorway. Suddenly the Warrior sensed someoneís presence and looked up to see the scarecrow man. "Hi Joxer, come on in."

Gabrielle smiled and greeted Joxer, as he tripped through the doorway into the kitchen. "Aaa, hi, sorry....I was looking for Minya?"

"Well, I think she is trying to get Eponin to teach her how to use the staff. They should be over near the stables." Gabrielle realized Joxer was not happy with her marriage to Xena, but there was nothing she could do about it. To her Joxer was more like a brother and she would never be able to feel the type of love he craved.

"Aa..oh...okay..thanks Gabby." Joxer spun around and started to head out of the door with his head hung low, when Xena interrupted.

Giving Gabrielle a quick kiss on the cheek and a wink she called out for the man. "Hey, Joxer...do you have some time? Iíd like to talk with you."

Looking over his shoulder at Xena, he was somewhat surprised by her request. "Yea, sure...what about?"

Approaching the tousled hair man, the Warrior grabbed him by the shoulder. "Come on, letís go outside. There is something I want to show you."

Gabrielle watched as her soulmate and friend left the kitchen. As they went out one door, Amarice came through the back door and joined her Queen. "Where is Xena going with Joxer?"

"Iím not entirely sure. I know he is still upset with us for getting married. Iím hoping she plans to talk with him."

Amarice helped herself to a few grapes and her hand was patted playfully by Gabrielle. The two giggled and proceeded to finish the bowl of grapes.

"How is Eponin doing with Minya? She driving your Amazon crazy yet?" Thoughts of how Eponin was required to train her many seasons ago now caused laughter to rise in the Bard. "I sure was clumsy when Eponin tried to train me."

Realizing this was one of the golden opportunities to tease her Queen, Amarice smiled. "Oh....so thatís why Eponin kept saying how much Minya reminded her of you."

This caused the reaction Amarice had hoped for and as she glanced over at Gabrielle, the young blondeís eyebrows were arched, a half smirk spread across her face and soon chuckling erupted from the Queen. "Oh very funny Amarice. Oh...by the way...who won the bet?"

Choking on a grape the young Amazon found Gabrielle slapping her back in order to catch her breath. "You know about the bet?"

Gabrielle looked at her young friend blushing and smiled mischievously. "Yessssss....I know about the bet. So obviously, someone must have won and to win that means someone had to see or hear."

Shifting in her seat Amarice was becoming extremely uncomfortable and wondered how Gabrielle guessed that a bet took place. "Well.....I drew the short straw, so...well....I uhhh....followed Xena to the cellar...or at least the entrance. Then...uh...well...Cyrene saw you two entering the inn the next morning." Waiting for Gabrielle to get angry because they all agreed to spy on the couple, she began to feel somewhat ashamed.

"Okay....so, you heard...and Warrior Mom saw. Now who won the bet?" The Bard was not angry but decided she would continue to play a straight role until Amarice told her who won.

"Actually....Hercules won....but only because YOU gave in."

Gabrielle remembered how she surrendered to Xena first and began to giggle. Seeing that her Queen was not really angry Amarice joined her in laughter.

"And where did this place you in the betting?"

"Well....if you stood your ground....then I would have won. You are just too good with Xena. I think I would have made Eponin crawl to me."

Placing her arm around Amariceís shoulder, Gabrielle pulled her close. "Oh...Amarice....believe me...Xena did come crawling. Remember you occasionally have to let them think they have the upper hand once in a while. They are much more willing then." The Bard gave her friend a quick kiss on the cheek. "Itís a warrior-thing....so soften up some Amarice. Youíll be surprised how weak Eponin will become around you." Together the women giggled, hugged and shared stories about the warriors they were so in love with.

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

 

Chapter Twelve

The moon was bright the night Solari came to her friends. As she stood across the room observing the sleeping couple, Solari smiled at the love radiating from the beautiful bodies entwined and cuddling with each other. Approaching the foot of the bed, the Amazon spirit intentionally tried out her newfound power of sending a message to the Warrior. Subtle and tender, Solari hoped she completed the message correctly. Within moments of transporting the message Xenaís eyes opened and a huge smile crossed her face.

"Getting pretty good at that Solari." Xena nudged Gabrielle. "Sweetie, wake up we have a visitor."

Gabrielle grumbled and nuzzled her face into Xenaís shoulder while increasing her hold around her soulmates waist. Mumbling unknown words, the Bard had no intention of opening her eyes.

Xena rubbed the blonde hair from Gabrielleís face and kissed her lightly on the nose. "Hey....Amazon Queen...one of your Amazonís wants to see you."

"Mmmm....tomorrow...please." Sliding her head so she could burrow it under Xenaís chin, Gabrielle suddenly opened her eyes and looked up into the blue eyes of her Warrior. "What did you say?" Xena motioned away from the bed and Gabrielle saw Solari. Immediately sitting up in bed the eyes of Queen and Amazon met with happiness and friendship. "Oh...Solari....it is so good to see you." Gabrielle slipped out of bed grabbing her nightshirt putting it on before attempting to hug her friend. Solari was pleased that she was able to accept the loving hug from her Queen.

"It is good to see you both. I have a message for you both from Iason." Gabrielle released Solari. "The night before the summer solitise day you both are to form a circle of flower petals similar to the circle you were married in. You are to do this at the midnight mark. Once the circle is complete you are to enter into the center and hold hands. Artemis will come for you."

The Warrior rolled her eyes. "Oh great...that means the ride will be bumpy for me."

Gabrielle moved back over to her soulmate and sat down next to her. "Xena!"

Giving her wife a kiss on the cheek the Warrior chuckled. "Just kidding. Solari can you tell us anything more?"

"No I canít. Just be on time and when you get to the temple, Iason will explain the rest." Solari started to fade but not before smiling and bowing her head in respect. "Until then my friends." The Amazonís words lingered on the air, as she disappeared.

Xena pulled the nightshirt off her soulmate and the couple curled back into each other arms. "You little one better get some sleep. Solitise Eve is tomorrow and then.....well and then...."

~~~ ~ ~~~~~ ~ ~~~

High on an isolated mountainside in the Moldavia Range, a lone Warrior perched high in the treetops watching with humor, as a rare black puma paced the ground below. *Yes, my friend....see if you can find me.*

As the puma, circled around in circles occasionally lifting her head to the night sky, the moon glistened and sparkled off her pure jet-black coat. Yes, she knew the scent of this human Ė the familiar touch of her master. Once again the woman she would remain loyal too was testing her skills as a predator, helping her to grow and become a skilled hunter and protector. This woman was a mystery to the young puma. This woman was not of her kind. This woman would always belong to the puma, as much as the puma would belong to the woman.

 

Continues here...

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

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