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Disclaimer: The characters Xena, Gabrielle, and Ephiny are owned by Studios USA, and are used here without permission.
Note: This story portrays a loving relationship between two women. For some reason, that makes it unsuitable for television. Go figure.
Beside the singing mountain stream, where the willow grew
Where the silver leaf of maple, sparkled in the morning dew
I braided twigs of willow, made a string of buck-eyed beads
But flesh and blood needs flesh and blood, and you're the one I need
Flesh and blood needs flesh and blood, and you're the one I need
"He was cute." Xena remarked as she finished with her stew.
"Excuse me?" Gabrielle asked, looking up.
"The boy you talked into helping us." Xena continued, peering at her under veiled eyelids. "Don't you think he was cute?"
"Uh, I guess." the strawberry-blonde shrugged. "The only reason I struck up a conversation with him was to get rid of some jerk bothering me."
"Oh." Xena nodded. That probably didn't mean anything, she thought to herself. Get over it, Xena. She wants to see the world, not your sleeping blanket.
"He does drive a mean chariot, though." the girl laughed.
"That he does." Xena nodded, feeling along the bruise on her back. Just one of the side effects of falling out of a moving chariot. Gabrielle had only been traveling with her for a few days, and already she had been nearly killed several times. Couldn't she see how dangerous it was to be with her? Xena looked up to notice that Gabrielle was watching her.
"Would you like a backrub?" the girl offered. "You must be as sore as I am after all that."
Xena thought for a moment. A moment too long, she decided. "Uh no, I'll be fine. Better get some rest. We have a long ride tomorrow morning."
"I'll walk, if it's just the same to you." Gabrielle said enthusiastically.
"Whatever." Xena shrugged, getting up. "Good stew."
"Thank you!" the girl beamed. "I told you I was good for something."
Xena turned away so she couldn't see her poking her tongue around in her cheek.
Not getting a response, Gabrielle tried again. "I'll uh, clean up. Okay?"
"Fine." Xena replied.
Gabrielle nervously clasped her hands together. It was now or never, she decided. She turned around to face the Warrior Princess. Xena was laying out her bedroll within safe distance from the fire, and was going to settle down for the night.
"Can I sleep with you?" Gabrielle blurted out.
Xena stopped in her work and looked up at her. Then she adopted an amused expression.
"What brought this on?" Xena asked. She noticed the girl was shaking.
"It's just a..." Gabrielle paused, unsure of what to say. "I just want you to know you can trust me, that's all."
Xena nodded. "But can you trust me?"
Gabrielle stared at her for a moment, and then nodded. "I trust you. You saved my life."
"But I'm a warlord, Gabrielle." Xena continued in that dangerous voice of hers. "Or used to be. You've heard about us warlords, haven't you? What we do with young girls like you?"
Gabrielle's eyes grew wide. Xena smiled.
"Yeah, you can sleep with me." Xena said, patting the fabric beside her. "Come here."
Her heart pounding, Gabrielle walked around the fire and gingerly sat down on her knees in front of the warrior.
Xena laid down fully, and propped her head up with her arm. She looked up at Gabrielle significantly.
Gabrielle smiled nervously, and laid down beside her.
Xena continued watching her. Gabrielle was staring straight up at the firmament above, and seemed to give no indication of relaxing.
Gabrielle felt the warlord's eyes on her, and felt her willpower melting. She turned over to look at her.
"Have you ever been with a woman before, Gabrielle?" the warlord asked, her expression inscrutable.
Gabrielle shook her head, her eyes wide.
Xena tsk-ed with her tongue. "You haven't even been with a boy before, either. Ha."
Gabrielle slowly turned red as Xena chuckled at her. "W-What's so funny?"
Xena shuffled around, and stood herself up. "I think I'm going to sleep on the other side of the fire tonight."
Gabrielle sat up. "Was it something that I...?"
Xena turned around, her blue eyes flashing. "It's not you, it's me! You don't know me, and you don't want to know me. In my time I used to chew up pretty girls like you, and spit 'em out. Do you get me?"
Gabrielle blanched at that, but continued looking at her.
"I don't see how this is going to work out." Xena said with finality.
"You could get me killed, for one thing." Xena continued. "I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I just can't see you tagging along with me."
"Who said that was your decision to make?"
"Excuse me?" Xena asked, placing her hands on her hips.
Gabrielle stood up, glowering. "You heard me. How dare you?!"
Xena watched the girl storm around the campfire to her.
"I have gone out of my way for you, risked my life for you, and-and I've bled for you!!" Gabrielle steamed, knowing she was facing the most dangerous woman she had ever met. "You're so full of yourself with your experience and wisdom. Let me tell you something, you don't know a good thing when you see it!"
"Is that so?" Xena said in a low growl.
Gabrielle nodded her head, her mouth hanging open in defiance. "Yeah, that's so. And don't you forget it. You wanta get rid of me? Go ahead and try."
Xena stared at her for a few moments, watching the young woman pant from her exertions. Then she spoke.
"You finished?" Xena asked, her face stern.
"Yes, Ma'am." Gabrielle sighed, exhausted.
"Good." Xena said, closing the distance between them. When she spoke, her voice dropped to a whisper. "Do you know how long I've been waiting for you to say something like that?"
Gabrielle shook her head. This was not the reaction she had expected.
"Well it's about time." Xena continued. "I could only put up with the 'I worship you' stuff for so long."
Gabrielle took a step back, astonished. "Well, you could have said something."
"Oh." Gabrielle responded awkwardly. "To the point, that's you alright."
"If I ever get on my high horse again," Xena continued, "I want you to knock me off. Is that clear?"
"As crystal." Gabrielle said, allowing herself a small smile. She was positively giddy.
"Splendid." Xena inclined her head. "C'mon, let's get some sleep."
Xena walked around the fire and laid down on her bedroll. Gathering up her blanket, Gabrielle laid it alongside Xena and did the same.
Xena clasped her hands on her chest. "I... want you to trust me, Gabrielle. Do you trust me?"
"I trust you, Xena."
"Good." Xena said softly. "I want you to know that I would never... take advantage of you."
"I know." Gabrielle said.
"Goodnight." Xena said, turning her back to her companion.
"Goodnight, Xena." the girl from Poteidaia said softly.
Some moments passed.
"Do warriors snuggle?" the girl asked.
Xena sighed. "Only on special occasions. But don't tell anybody."
Xena's breath caught as she felt Gabrielle snuggle into her back, and then follow with the rest of her body.
"Gabrielle, that's called spooning, not snuggling."
"Sorry." Gabrielle apologized, moving the rest of her body away. But she still hugged her chest to Xena's back.
Xena suppressed an inward shudder as Gabrielle's warmth seethed into her back. It's going to be a long night, she thought to herself. Then her eyes shot open. Make that many long nights.
"Now hold on." Xena said, looking around. "If that wasn't your voice, then whose was it?"
Gabrielle shook her head, for once speechless.
"C'mon." Xena said, drawing Argo ahead. "This place gives me the creeps."
"You said it." the strawberry-blonde responded. "My head still hurts from that henbane."
"Are you having any other symptoms from that stuff?" Xena asked. "It's pretty bad."
"Not that I know of." Gabrielle replied. "I think the worst of it has passed."
The worst of it, Xena thought. "Do you uh, remember anything?"
"Every bit of it, sad to say." the bard said. "I remember leading a rock chorus. And thinking that you were the most beautiful woman I had ever met."
"Yes." Xena nodded as she walked her horse.
"Fortunately, that wore off." Gabrielle noted. She waited until Xena turned before she busted out laughing.
"I think someone needs a dunking up at that watering hole."
"Race you there." Gabrielle offered.
Xena thought a moment, and then tapped Argo twice on her side. The horse whinnied and took off, leaving the two women in her wake.
"Ready?" Xena said.
"Go!" Gabrielle exclaimed, racing off the dirt road and into the woods.
A Frantic Minute Later...
"Waa-Hooo!!" the bard yelled as she ran into the lake. When the water reached her waist, she jumped into a dive and swam the rest of the way. Waiting for her at the other end of the shore was Xena, who had beaten her quite handily.
"I won." Xena observed, slicking her hair back.
"That you did." the bard replied, splashing out of the water.
Xena struggled to look at her face and not her breasts, but it wasn't easy. Especially with the way the water was running off them in interesting little rivers. Snap out of it, she chided herself.
"What did we agree on you winning?" Gabrielle playfully asked.
"Oh... You'll think of something." Xena replied, unable to think of anything that wasn't improper.
"Well, a hug will have to do." she decided, sweeping the warrior into a hug.
"Um." was all Xena could manage as she felt Gabrielle's wet breasts mash against hers. Struggling for rational thought, she decided that she was utterly helpless until the bard released her.
As soon as she was freed, Xena dipped into the water slightly and locked her legs around Gabrielle's. Giving them a flip, she yanked the girl off her feet and completely underwater.
Xena drifted back as her companion came sputtering up to the surface. If she was going to try to hug her again, she'd at least have ample warning this time.
"What'd you do that for??" the bard sputtered, brushing the hair out of her eyes. "Sometimes I don't understand you."
"You understand me too well, Gabrielle." Xena mysteriously replied. Then she flipped onto her back to begin a series of backstrokes. "Now if you don't mind, I'm going to continue my swim. And Gabrielle?"
"If any villagers come running up with a mission for us, kill them would you?"
"Got it." Gabrielle said as she went past. "I will slay them all if need be."
Gabrielle watched her warrior swim. Her warrior. It felt nice to think that. But what didn't feel nice was the growing feelings she had for the Warrior Princess. She had given it her best shot just now, and gotten a dunking for her efforts. What could she do to get Xena's interest?
"I could cover myself in honey." she said under her breath. "Or wrap myself up in a ribbon for her birthday. If I knew her birthday, that is. Fudge."
Gabrielle continued watching the warrior swim, unaware that Xena could hear every word.
"Xena, we need to talk."
The raven-haired woman looked up from her work. "I'm a woman of action, Gabrielle, not talking."
She did her best to ignore the pest, but she felt a hand steal into hers. She turned to face Gabrielle.
"No, we need to talk, now."
Relenting, the armor-clad woman walked over with the bard and sat down. She adopted a serious expression.
"What's on your mind, Gabrielle?"
"I uh, I've rehearsed this so many times, and now I-I don't know what t-to say." the bard stammered.
"Then don't say anything."
"Please, I need to finish." Gabrielle said, raising her hand. "For me?"
"For a long time now," Gabrielle began, "I've had these... feelings for you. At times, I thought that you reciprocated, and other times... I don't know."
"You sound real confused."
"I am." Gabrielle agreed. "That's why I need you to help me. So I'll just ask. Am I reading too much into our relationship?"
"You tell me."
"Okay." the bard continued nervously. "I love you, Xena. Not like a mother, not like a sister, but as a lover would. I-I don't know when it started, actually. But somehow I feel that on some level, I've always felt this way about you. And I hope that you feel the same way, too."
Gabrielle let out a huge breath. There it was, she had said it. It was out in the open now. She closed her eyes, hoping for a response from Xena, but not knowing what. She waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then she felt the other woman withdraw her hand. Gabrielle opened her eyes.
"I'm sorry, Gabs." she said. "But I just don't go in for that kinky stuff."
"What..." Gabrielle managed, her voice a squeak. "What do you mean?"
"I mean I'm not your type, kiddo." the raven-haired woman responded. "I'm not one of those thesbians or anything."
"Y-You're not?" she said, her world falling down around her. "But the way we sleep together, the backrubs I've given you. I thought-"
"Oh, that." the other woman said, cleaning a tooth. "Well that's just sidekick stuff, you know, part of the duties."
"Duties?!" Gabrielle exclaimed, getting up. "What kind of person do you think I am? I just admitted that I desire you, Xena. How can we even travel together knowing this?!"
"Hey, don't let it bug ya." she replied, desperately trying to think her way out of this. She really didn't plan on having this conversation. "We can still be friends."
"Friends?!" Gabrielle nearly screeched.
"No good, huh?"
"Ooooooooo!!!!" Gabrielle exclaimed, turning to storm off. It was then that she caught sight of Xena.
"Meg, what the Hades is going on?" Xena asked the woman who was still sitting.
Gabrielle whirled to look at her, and then back at Xena. "You?!"
Then Gabrielle noticed that Xena was holding something, it appeared to be a cake. But that was inconsequential compared to the expression on Xena's face.
"I asked Meg to step in for me while I got you a birthday cake." Xena sheepishly explained.
Gabrielle did another double-take, and then slowly turned back to Xena.
"Do you like it?" Xena lamely asked. "They didn't spell Gabrielle right, though. I was hoping you wouldn't mind."
"How-How much did you hear?" Gabrielle asked, scarcely believing her eyes.
"Uh, enough." Xena said quietly, looking down at the cake she was holding. It was very ornate, with artsy shingles of frosting and the bard's name spelled out in blue. Yet somehow it seemed less attractive than it did a few minutes before.
"Sorry, Xena." Meg squeaked out, standing up. "Guess I'm not very good at plans, huh? I think I'll be going."
Gabrielle could hear the Xena impostor leaving, but it didn't register on her at all. Instead, her gaze was locked steady on the Warrior Princess, a gaze of death.
"Well," Xena said awkwardly, "you know we'll look back on this years from now and laugh..."
Gabrielle continued to stare at her.
"Although maybe not right now, I imagine." Xena admitted. She held the cake out at arm's length. "Here. You can hit me with it, if it makes you feel better."
Gabrielle looked down at the offered cake, and took it gingerly. With one look up at the Warrior Princess, she dropped it down on the ground. Then she turned and walked away without a word.
Xena stared after her, and then looked down at the ruined cake on the ground. "I knew I should have gotten Diana in on this instead of Meg. Blast her to Tartarus!"
Then she looked up in the direction of the trees that Gabrielle had stormed through. "I would have given you a different answer, Gabrielle."
Nothing but silence answered her whispered words, as she knew it would. She leaned over and ran a finger through the cake. Lifting the icing up to her mouth, she sucked her finger clean. "Time to go to plan Beta."
"Are you sure you know where you're going?" the blindfolded woman asked.
"Have I ever led you down the wrong path before, Gabrielle?" Xena replied.
"Do you want a bitchy answer to that?"
"Yes." Xena said, guiding the blind bard around some roots. "Anything to hear your melodic voice."
"That's the problem with snappy banter," Xena said, ducking under some branches, "no one can tell when you're serious. I like to hear your voice, Gabrielle."
"And I like the way you say my name." the bard replied as Xena led her deeper into the forest. "Even more, I'd like to know where we're heading."
"We're here." Xena said, stopping. "You can take your blindfold off."
Gabrielle reached up to the loose fabric. "This had better be worth it."
She removed the cloth, and was taken aback. At first, she didn't see anything, just some fireflies. Then more, and more, until it dawned on her that she was in the presence of thousands of fireflies.
"Xena, they're... beautiful." Gabrielle said in wonder. "How did you know?"
"The fireflies come here to this area every year." Xena said in hushed tones. "It is their dance of mating."
Gabrielle continued looking around her in wonder. It appeared as if the air itself was alive with the flashes. "No, I mean, I know appreciating nature isn't your thing. How did you know they come here?"
"-Sigh- If I tell you," Xena said in her low voice, "do you promise that it won't spoil the mood?"
"Amazon Princess' honor." Gabrielle swore, crossing her fingers on her chest.
"When you crush them up and rub them along your hand," Xena explained, "they allow you to read maps at night. A great tactical advantage when lamplight could give you away to the enemy."
Gabrielle chuckled, and tapped Xena on the shoulder.
"I didn't want to break the mood." the warrior continued. "I want this to be a special night for us."
Gabrielle turned to her, her face illuminated in a hundred green flashes. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that I want to be with you Gabrielle, in all ways." Xena explained, taking her hand. "You know I'm not much for words, so let me say this. You are life itself to me, Gabrielle. You give me life."
Xena placed her hands on the bard's shoulders, and leaned over to take a kiss. The kiss was well-received, and warmly returned. Xena took that as an encouraging sign, and proceeded with more. Her kisses peppered the bard's chin, and wandered down her throat.
"I want to -smack- give you hickeys, Gabrielle." Xena breathed between kisses. "I want people -smack- to see you walking down the -smack- street, and know that it was me who gave them to you. Do you -smack- know that?"
"Yes....." Gabrielle said slowly, acutely aware of Xena's passion. It was what she had dreamed of the day she had met the mysterious woman, and tonight that dream was coming true.
"Remember this, Gabrielle." Xena purred as she pulled the bard's shoulder straps down. "Remember this when we're old and gray. Life gets no sweeter than this..."
"I promise." Gabrielle gasped, as Xena drew her down to the soft grass at their feet.
"Miss me, girl?" Xena asked her horse. Argo whuffled in response.
"I missed me, too." she continued, brushing her mane in slow strokes. Then she chuckled. "Course now I know what it's like to pee standing up."
Xena shook her head at the memory of taking over Autolycus' body. It had been quite a shock for both of them, yet somehow they managed. And Gabrielle. Gabrielle had become far stronger in the past few days than she had imagined possible. Xena smiled again. How the bard had managed to cart her rotting corpse around those several days, she could never guess.
"I should die more often, huh girl?" Xena said under her breath. A broken sob interrupted her thoughts.
Dropping her brush, Xena walked back through the forest to the log where she had left Gabrielle sitting. There she found the bard cradling her face in her hand, sobbing.
"Hey, hey." Xena said, quickly coming over to sit next to her. Gabrielle fell onto her chest, and rubbed her nose against her shoulder. "Everything's going to be alright."
"I-I lost you!" the bard cried. "You were dead! And I was alone, so alone."
"Shhhh..." Xena soothed, gently rocking her. "You're not alone now."
"@#$%!" Gabrielle cursed, mad at herself. "Didn't mean to fall apart on you."
"I figured the dam would burst sometime." Xena said softly. "What with you saying 'Xena, don't ever die on me again' and all that."
"Yeah, pretty silly." the bard admitted, swallowing. "I'm the one always telling you to let your feelings out. Now here I am, bawling my eyes out."
"That's what I'm here for." Xena replied, hugging her. "Think of me as a giant sponge."
Gabrielle lifted her head up, and cupped her chin on Xena's shoulder. She sniffled for a bit, and then sighed loudly.
"Look at me, the Amazon Queen." the bard said thickly, leaning back. "Warriors aren't supposed to cry."
"Aren't they?" Xena asked, looking at her through watering eyes. Few things could make her cry, but the tears of her companion always did the trick.
Gabrielle glanced at her for a moment in surprise, and then looked away, embarrassed.
"What would the Amazons think if they saw us like this?"
"They'd think we were in love." Xena whispered to her. "And they would be right."
Gabrielle forced a smile as Xena wiped a tear away from her. "You gonna kiss me again?"
"Yeah, just without the mustache." Xena deadpanned, and then winked at her.
Gabrielle leaned forward to kiss her companion, and it was a good kiss. Finding the need to breathe, she separated.
"Want more?" Xena teasingly asked.
"Yes." Gabrielle breathed, moving in. "A lifetime more."
"Mmm." the warrior murmured as she scraped her whetting stone along her Chakram.
"What's the most important thing in a relationship?" the bard asked.
"Sex." Xena replied simply.
"I'm serious." Gabrielle chided, grinning.
"Okay." Xena adopted a mock serious expression. "The full and equal exchange between partners of trust, openness and commitment."
"You're making fun of me."
"Am not." Xena shook her head. "Besides, I already gave you my answer."
"I'm dead serious." Xena replied, tilting her Chakram to inspect its edge. "Go ask any woman who thinks sex isn't important to a relationship, ask her how happy she is being single or divorced."
"Huh." Gabrielle nodded. "So what you're saying is, if a relationship is on the rocks, chances are the rocks are in the bed."
"Something like that." Xena continued her sharpening. "That's why you're the bard."
Gabrielle thought for a moment. She's got me. There's got to be some way I can work this to my advantage...
"So sex is the most important part of a relationship." Gabrielle repeated.
"In so many words."
"And if that duty is exercised," Gabrielle continued, "then other duties are not that big a deal."
"I'm not following you." Xena said, ceasing her work.
"Were a certain bard not to collect any firewood," Gabrielle hinted, "or make Cypress stew, well that would be alright, cause at least she's meeting her obligations towards sex, right?"
"That's pretty much it." the warrior replied, reaching forward. "Sex is certainly better than your stew, that's for sure."
"Owww!!" Gabrielle yelped, more in surprise than pain. Xena had just snapped a hair off of her head, and was holding it up to her Chakram.
"Make that two things you're good for." Xena said under her breath as she brought the hair down. It parted without a whisper against the round killing weapon.
"I think someone here is looking for some abstinence." the blonde said dangerously, sitting back.
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Xena replied.
Gabrielle adopted a harsh expression, and then raised an eyebrow. "Hmm. I should write that down."
"Glad to inspire you." Xena said dourly.
Gabrielle whipped out a scroll. "Oh you do, you do."
The bard pulled out her quill, and squeezed it. A bead of ink appeared at the end. "I love these Persian quills."
"Oh, me too." Xena replied, hooking her weapon. "They taste pretty good."
Gabrielle frowned, and looked up.
Xena paused a beat, and then smacked her head. "Oh quills. I thought you said something else."
The bard bit her lower lip. "Fuuunnnnnny."
Xena broke out in a grin. "Alright, that was my joke for the night. And people wonder why I never say much. If only they knew the truth."
"Hush now, the muse is upon me." Gabrielle replied, setting her quill down to parchment. "I must clear my mind."
Xena stood up. "That shouldn't be too hard."
It took all of Xena's many skills to outrun a certain irritated blonde, but it was worth it.
The wind shifted, and Gabrielle buried her face into Xena's chest to avoid the stench of burning flesh. Ephiny's flesh. Her friend was gone, she had died as she always wanted to. As a warrior. But what a terrible thing for a child to lose his mot-
"Xena?" Gabrielle asked, lifting her head up suddenly. From the sharp impact, she realized that Xena had just lowered her chin over her head. "Sorry."
"It's okay." Xena replied, rubbing her jaw. She wasn't much for funerals, she had attended too many in her time. But this was Gabrielle's moment, and so she stayed here for her. Always for her. "What is it?"
"What about Ephiny's son, Xenon?" Gabrielle asked as the wind picked up. "I forgot all about him."
"Oh, I asked about that." Xena said, nuzzling her forehead against Gabrielle's. "The Centaurs were watching him at the time she was... killed. I suppose he'll stay with them from now on."
"The poor thing." Gabrielle mused. "Xena, do you think we could maybe..."
Xena leaned back to look at her.
"You know..." the blonde continued.
"Do what?" Xena asked. "Adopt him? That may not be the best thing for him. Remember my vision? You saw it, too."
"I remember." Gabrielle said darkly.
"Leave him to his path." Xena said. "It's better that he not follow ours."
"Yeah." the blonde agreed, returning to Xena's embrace. "It's funny. I was just thinking of the times we had together. Remember just before we had been enchanted by Cupid's arrows?"
"I remember." Xena murmured into her hair. "It seems like a lifetime ago."
"Hold still." Xena instructed, smacking the back of Gabrielle's thigh.
"I feel so stupid." Gabrielle said dejectedly as she laid across Xena's lap. "Go ahead and say it, since I know you want to."
"I told you so." Xena said, bringing her hand down to Gabrielle's bare bottom. "We're almost done."
"Owww!" Gabrielle cried in exaggeration. "You don't have to take off my whole butt, just the splinters."
Xena paused in her efforts, and turned her head slightly.
"Xena?" the bard asked.
"Shhh." Xena shushed. "Someone's coming."
"Let me up." Gabrielle urged, starting to flip up. But Xena's steady hand held her down.
"No, wait." Xena said. "Hoofbeats."
"Xena, I do not want a horse-rider to see me like this."
"It's okay." the warrior replied as the disturbance grew louder. "It's not a horse-rider."
Gabrielle looked up from her position to see the brush part, revealing a Centaur child.
"Xenon!" she exclaimed. "How did you get here?"
"I brought him here." another voice said. "We were just taking a little walk."
This time it was Xena who looked up, to behold an Amazon warrior.
"You're getting soft, Xena." Ephiny chided, walking into view. "Can't distinguish my footsteps from a Centaur's?"
"Not when they're yours." Xena said, smiling. "It's good to see you again."
"Well met." Ephiny nodded, looking them over with an amused expression. "Somehow I expected to find you two thus."
"Xena, quick!" Gabrielle urged. "Cover me up! Xenon can see me."
"Oh, Gabrielle." Ephiny tut-tutted. "He's not even a year old. He's still trying to figure out why Amazons wear clothes, for Artemis' sake."
"He's so tall. Aren't cha?" Gabrielle noted, beaming at him. The child smiled back.
"Centaurs just grow very fast." Ephiny explained. "And I for one am glad he's doing all of his growing outside the womb, if you take my meaning."
Xena raised an eyebrow at that, knowing what she meant all too well.
Xenon sauntered up to Gabrielle and Xena. He looked at his mother, and then pointed at the prostate bard.
"Gab?" he asked.
Ephiny nodded, smiling. "Yes, my love. That's Gabrielle. Gab-ri-elle."
Xenon looked back at Gabrielle, and then at Xena. "Gab been bad?"
Gabrielle turned a bright red, and Xena simply laughed. "No, Xenon. I'm not spanking Gabrielle. She's not being punished."
"That's what you say." the bard grumbled.
"Know that creek over to the west?" Xena asked, nodding past Ephiny. "It's got this real steep drop-off, and there was this rotted-out log laying down it. Because it looked smooth, Gabrielle decided it would make a great water slide."
Ephiny covered her mouth to keep from laughing, although it was very difficult.
"So I get to fish out the splinters." Xena said, clicking her tweezers for emphasis. "I have to admit, I've had better patients."
"Ha ha." Gabrielle opined.
"See what I mean?" Xena said airily. "Still, you can't knock the view."
"I could." Ephiny said deliberately. She looked over at the strawberry-blonde. "You hear that, Gabrielle? Xena ever gives you too much gruff, you know where to look me up."
"I hear you." Gabrielle called out. "I might just take you up on that."
"Hey, remember now." Xena warned. "I'm the one with the tweezers."
"Would you two like to come back to the village with me?" Ephiny asked. "You're always welcome in your village, my Queen."
Xena squeezed the bard's thigh just where it met her rump. "We'd love to take you up on your offer, Ephiny. But we've just received word that an old friend of mine is on the move, Draco."
"The warlord?" the Amazon asked.
"The same." Xena nodded. "Whatever he's up to, it's bound to be no good. Gabrielle and I are going to check it out."
"Do you want the Amazons to help?"
"No." Xena replied. "But thanks for the offer. I think Gabrielle and I can handle him, right Gabrielle?"
"Besides," Xena continued, "I think his bark is worse than his bite."
"Okay, that does it!" Gabrielle said hotly, arching her back up. "Ephiny, you'd better leave with Xenon now, before things get ugly."
"We'll be going." the Amazon laughed, gesturing her son over to her. "And give a yell if you need us. The Amazons are here whenever you need us, my Queen. Take care."
"We will. And thanks!" Gabrielle called out, as she heard them depart through the brush.
"Goodbye." Xena said, looking down to the task before her. "I don't know if I can finish this now, though."
"What do you mean?" Gabrielle asked, tired of hanging in position. "We've got to get going."
"I don't know..." Xena said soothingly. "All that talk with Ephiny, now I feel jealous. As if I have to justify my love to you. And I can think of a lot of things to do with you right now..."
"In my delicate condition?" the bard asked, indignant. "Xena, I can't even sit down."
"There are other positions." the warrior seriously intoned. "Besides, remember when I had those broken ribs, and I still managed to perform my duties."
"Arggh." Gabrielle groaned. "I can never win a game of one-upmanship with you."
Xena brought her tweezers down on a faintly visible splinter, and yanked it out. "That's not so bad, Gabrielle."
Xena brought her mouth down to where she had drawn out the splinter, and planted a wet kiss. "Because you'll always end up the winner in such contests, if you get my drift."
"If you can do that for every remaining splinter." Gabrielle suggested. "I might be open to your idea."
"Deal." Xena agreed, already beginning the search for her next target.
Xena and Gabrielle drifted through the aether. Time had no meaning, for they could not sense its passage. They had left behind the trappings of life, and all the pains that went with it.
Xena looked over at her soulmate as they drifted. Gabrielle returned her gaze. They were heading for some sort of afterlife, Xena didn't know what. But as long as they were together, it didn't matter. Nothing else mattered.
"Xena, look down." the blonde prompted.
The warrior in life looked down. She could see her waist, but everything below that was blurred in a sort of misty radiance. "I don't see anything."
"Exactly." Gabrielle said. "You can't see your feet in a dream, either. This explains so much."
"Uh huh." Xena replied, looking over at Gabrielle's equally featureless lower half. "I just hope it doesn't stay that way forever."
Gabrielle chuckled. "Xena, we're dead! How can sex be important to you, now?"
"All I'm saying is, if there's no sex in paradise, then I'm heading to the wrong place."
"I didn't mean it." Xena said, glancing around at the nothingness they were passing through. "Remember when Callisto switched bodies with me?"
"For a time, I was where she was." Xena continued. "In Tartarus. It was... interesting."
Gabrielle was silent for an interminable time, then she spoke. "Well, I know one thing for sure about the afterlife."
"Callisto won't be a part of it." the blonde responded happily. Xena returned her smile.
"Don't be so sure about that." a voice echoed. The two warrior women looked up, and Xena recognized an old friend.
"M'lila!" Xena exclaimed. "Gabrielle, remember the friend I told you about? She saved my life, twice."
Gabrielle took in the sight of the beautiful woman floating before them. "Pleased to meet you."
"Likewise, Gabrielle." M'lila inclined her head. "I wish it were under better circumstances."
"Really?" Xena asked. Then her expression grew pained. "M'lila, the last time you saved me, you said that I had a destiny to fulfill."
"What sort of destiny is this?" Xena asked in exasperation.
"I never said you'd fulfill your destiny in life, Xena." she replied. "You still have a destiny. You and Gabrielle both."
"That might be difficult in our present condition." Gabrielle chimed in. "What are we supposed to do, haunt someone? Callisto maybe?"
M'lila looked at the hopeful expression on the bard's face. "No. Her destiny lies along another path."
Xena held up her hand. "Is there some answer we can get that doesn't end in a cliché?"
"Xena, with death there is always rebirth." the shade replied, her eyes twinkling.
"Ask a stupid question." Gabrielle laughed, clutching Xena's hand all the harder.
"Okay." Xena admitted, drifting up against Gabrielle to bump her shoulder. "What do you want us to do?"
"No rush." M'lila smiled again. "There are many people who would like to meet you first. Old loves and friends from times past."
"To be honest," Xena began, wondering if lying in the afterlife would get her in trouble, "Gabrielle and I would like to spend a little time alone, if that's alright."
"But the two of you will be together for eternity." M'lila said. She looked back and forth between the women. "Didn't you know that?"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other, and smiled.
"We do now." Xena said.
"Well..." M'lila waved her hand out. "Let's be on our way, shall we?"
They traveled together for an unknown length of time. Does time even exist here? Gabrielle wondered. Then it occurred to her to ask a question.
"M'lila," she asked, "Xena wants to know if she'll get her uh, lower parts back."
The spirit spun around.
"You know, like legs, and uh, so forth?" Xena prompted.
"Oh." M'lila raised an eyebrow. Gabrielle leaned forward.
"She still wants to... you know." Gabrielle raised her eyebrows suggestively.
M'lila nodded in understanding. "Yes, I remember. Quite well, in fact."
She and Xena shared a knowing glance.
Gabrielle turned to look at Xena, who suddenly had a peculiar expression on her face.
"I didn't know shades could blush." the blonde remarked, looking Xena over.
"We can talk about it later." Xena whispered, motioning at their guide to continue.
"Having second thoughts?" Gabrielle lightly asked, bumping her shoulder against Xena.
"You know that person who said the afterlife was bliss?" Xena asked.
Gabrielle looked over at Xena questioningly, then saw her smiling face. Everything was going to be all right. For even death herself couldn't keep them apart. Hand in hand, the two woman followed M'lila to the destiny that awaited them.
Author's Note: Flesh and Blood was a very unusual basis for a Xena and Gabrielle story, being a love song by Johnny Cash. He wrote it after spending a lazy day with his wife on a countryside picnic. It made me think of Xena and Gabrielle, and just goes to show that love is universal.
Flesh and Blood by John R. Cash, Song of Cash, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Firefly dance affectionately lifted from Elfquest, by Wendy and Richard Pini.
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