Convert this page to Pilot DOC FormatWarnings:
This story involves scenes of sexual activity of a lesbian nature
between two consenting adults. If this sort of thing offends you
or is illegal where you live, stop reading.
This story involves scenes that are graphic and bloody.
This story contains examples of atrocities of what a human being
is capable of committing on another when they have them at their
mercy (or lack of it).
Standard disclaimers and warning apply for alt. fanfic
Xena tried to get a look into the stranger's campsite
in the dark, but the tree she had posted herself behind did not afford
a clear line of sight. A few branches sagged low from the heavy rain that
had been going on for the last two days now. And, much to her annoyance,
Gabrielle had joined her... uninvited... behind the same tree to her left.
Xena grabbed the bard by the arm and glared into her eyes. With fierce
movements, Xena indicated to Gabrielle that she was to stay put. Not move.
Not an inch. The bard rolled her eyes with exasperation and then closed
them and looked away from the angry warrior. Xena jogged the bard's arm
make sure she understood and Gabrielle responded by pulling her arm out of Xena's grasp. There was just enough light in the darkness for Xena to see the bard's defiant glare.
The warrior held up a warning finger and then turned away. She crouched down and began a stealthy crabwalk towards a tree that was barely outside the dark circle of the fire's glow. As she crept forward, she could see a robed figure sitting on a rock stirring the low burning coals of the fire, and another figure, a woman, threw a log onto the embers. Flames began to rise just as Xena positioned herself behind the tree and as the lighted circle expanded itself; she was relieved to see that she was still well hidden outside the circle.
The woman made a curious movement with her hands and the robed figure laughed lowly... a woman's laugh. The woman moved very calmly to stand behind the rock while the robed figure sat rigidly... formally... the head held high.
Very calmly, the robed figure bent forward to pick a sword up from the ground. Xena watched as the sword was held at the ready and then the figure pulled the hood back and exposed a face.
"You are welcome here, warrior woman. The rain has made all the wood wet, and you are welcome to share our hearth."
Xena's heart pounded, the blood thundering in her ears. Surely, this woman hadn't detected her? Sounds of the forest seemed to come at her all at once as she stood frozen and silent. The woman leaned forward, seeming to sense and stare right at Xena. Her face came into the light and Xena very nearly gasped at the foreign features and the exotic beauty.
"There are two of you...one light...one dark...do not be afraid," the woman urged. She stood up gracefully and threw her sword into the darkness not two feet from Xena's feet. "See? I am unarmed. You could kill me with my own weapon if you chose."
Exposed, Xena decided to retreat and reposition herself in order to gain the advantage. She stepped back and felt Gabrielle's foot under her heel. She stumbled slightly as the bard yanked her foot away.
The first sight this woman had of them was Gabrielle one-hopping into the fire light and then tumbling to the ground. Xena drew her sword and moved to stand guard over Gabrielle as four other women, dressed in black, gathered around the white robed woman and her companion. Xena smiled inwardly as all the women began to smile and laugh shyly at the bard.
"You can come out now, Gabrielle," Xena said mockingly as she raised an eyebrow. She was so angry with the bard that Gabrielle turned her eyes away.
"We'll talk about it later, Gabrielle," the warrior said evenly. "Right now, we'll put on our best and talk to these people." She watched Gabrielle's crestfallen expression as her terse words hurt the one person she loved more than anything.
The white robed woman approached them as Xena sheathed her sword. Xena could see the deep reddish-yellow skin tone more clearly...and those deep black almond shaped eyes and the long, straight ebony hair. The cat-like movement of the woman took Xena's breath away. She watched her with a keen warrior's eye and made note of the body language. There was no danger here. The woman retrieved her sword and sheathed it in a scabbard at her waist. She then unbuckled the belt and handed the sword to a woman who took it from her, bowed and backed away.
"We could smell the smoke from your camp, and I wanted to meet the person who could start a fire after the rain we've had for the last two days," Xena said warmly, surprising Gabrielle.
She stepped back from hovering over Gabrielle and
offered her hand to the bard.
"Who are you?" Xena asked as she felt the bard's hand timidly enter hers. "I'm Xena, and this is Gabrielle."
Gabrielle gripped the familiar hand and was pulled to her feet. She looked into Xena's eyes but not for long. Had she done it this time? Had she pushed Xena too far?
The robed woman looked pensive for a moment and then smiled wryly. "We have no names, only positions."
"You don't have names?" Gabrielle asked incredulously as she began to approach the robed woman. She took a few steps and cried out in agony, her left foot giving out.
"You're hurt, please sit down and we will help," the woman said urgently.
At first Gabrielle wasn't going to argue, but she noticed the women begin to point at her and one bold woman approached her. She circled the bard, her almond shaped eyes studying her with acute interest. The woman reached a hand out and touched Gabrielle's hair, glanced at Xena, and then sniffed the lock of red-gold hair.
"Hey!" Gabrielle protested as she hobbled backwards into Xena's embrace. Xena gripped the bard by the waist to steady her and chuckled.
"Relax, Gabrielle, they are only as curious about us as we are about them," Xena chided. She gave the bard a reassuring squeeze before she helped her to a blanket the robed woman lead them to. Gabrielle screwed her face up in agony as she tried to walk, her left foot causing her terrible pain and Xena's touch causing her some uneasiness. She and Xena hadn't touched in months without it being hostile...and she didn't know why.
"We have cold water from a nearby spring and cloth to bind the foot," the woman offered, the concern in her voice genuine.
Xena stayed crouched in front of Gabrielle after
she had helped her to the blanket and began to remove the bard's boot.
There seemed to Xena to be quiet activity behind her, but she sensed no
danger. Instead, she studied how Gabrielle avoided her eyes, which was
just as well. Ever since Perdicus and Callisto died, Xena had been unable
to face the bard's eyes. Simple conversation was a strain. There was no
touching. No smiles.
Everything was polite, but it all verged on the edge of explosion.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle, but I have to see if it's
broken," Xena explained before she began to flex the bard's foot in her
hands, manipulating the muscles and bones as she felt for anything unusual.
As she touched the bard she had to push down her rising emotions that the
simple touch invoked. It wasn't long after Perdicus died that Xena admitted
to herself that Callisto had brought them back together again. She pushed
away the agony she felt as she rode away from the town on Gabrielle's wedding
night. The thought of the bard laying with Perdicus...leaving her...tore her heart. The stabbing pain in her entire being made her seek out Callisto that night hoping that maybe *she* could end the pain for her. And when Perdicus died on Callisto's sword, Xena felt she had killed him herself, so great was her jealousy. Gabrielle must never know this, she had vowed.
"So, are you going to at least tell us where you're
from or are you going to keep that a mystery as well?" Xena asked the woman,
hoping any conversation would take Gabrielle's mind off the pain of what
she was putting her through. Unexpectedly, Xena looked at the bard and
saw her looking at her...right into her eyes. The pain in her face soften
Xena's heart and she suddenly felt like she was torturing a small animal.
Her hands stopped moving when Gabrielle reached up to grip her wrists.
"Please...Xena...no more...please..." the bard whimpered, tears sliding freely down her face. They shone in the fire light, and Xena imagined she could almost count them. She had seen Gabrielle cry before, had heard her cry in her sleep after Perdicus died, and it always gripped Xena's heart, but never could she show Gabrielle. For a time, she would listen to the bard talk about how it felt to loose Perdicus, but never could she talk about what Perdicus' dying meant to her. She knew these secrets were driving the two of them apart, and looking into Gabrielle's eyes, she knew it would destroy them.
"It not broken, but it's badly sprained," she said softly, almost whispering. "Oh, Gabrielle, I'm so sorry." She reached a hand to softly stroke the bard's cheek, her heart squeezing tightly when Gabrielle closed her eyes and leaned her cheek into the warrior's caress.
"I'm sorry...Xena?" Gabrielle whispered back. "I've been so...defiant. I just wanted you back." Gabrielle put her hand over Xena's and held her hand there. The long lost familiar touch felt good after being absent for so long. This was the first 'real' communication the warrior had exhibited in many weeks, and Gabrielle was relieved to feel her touch once again.
The robed woman witnessed the quiet exchange and smiled to herself. She touched Xena's arm as she stood beside her to get her attention. She held out the waterskin and several heavy strips of cloth.
"We're from the islands of Nippon, in the far east," the woman answered finally. She noticed Gabrielle's attention was drawn to her and she smiled. "Do either of you know of it?"
"No, not really," Xena answered as she wrapped the cloth around the bard's foot. "I've seen your race before, but I never got to know any. I'm afraid I don't know anything about Nippon."
"Then, I will tell you," the woman said emphatically as she watched Xena pour the cold water over Gabrielle's foot.
"Another bard," Xena said wryly, her eyes meeting Gabrielle's nervously at first, but then with great relief when the bard smiled with her eyes at the warrior.
"How did you know Xena was there, besides my bumbling behavior?" the bard asked.
The woman shrugged and looked away into the distance to her one remaining companion. "We practice the art of invisibility. In my society, a selected few are sent to the mainland and taught the secrets, and it is used to gather information about others...one of its' *many* uses." She turned her gaze back to Xena, and the warrior could read the sadness in the soft features of the woman's face. It was an expression that Xena had seen in the mirror many times. Haunted. But there was something else, too.
"You...knew..." Xena stumbled for words. With stark realization, she knew that these women knew of the two of them before they had even approached the camp. They had been everywhere.
The woman nodded. "The air changes...the smell of your leather; the perfumed herbs you washed your hair with this morning; your breathing. You are probably recalling little signs you should have noticed but just didn't pay much attention to?"
Xena shook her head in awe and admiration. "You two were the only ones in camp when we approached, weren't you? All the others were all around us...with us."
"When I spoke to you, I knew the blood would pound in your ears and hide any sounds of the others returning into camp. You must learn to be calm...unexcitable. An enemy might hear your heartbeat as you hide just inches from them in the dark, and it would give you away."
The silent woman brought two bowls and set them down close to Gabrielle. She retrieved a small keg and four exquisite silver goblets from a stash of nearby supplies and set them down as well. The robed woman poured a goblet of clear liquid for the bard and handed it to her.
"For the pain," she announced as she filled the other
Xena sat down to Gabrielle's right after she finished soaking the cloth with the cold water and relaxed next to this fragile person that she loved so much. Instinctively, she reached out with her hand and rubbed the bard's shoulders. Her back was cold to the touch and the muscles knotted from the pain. She rubbed down the bard's back, warming Gabrielle as she stroked heat into the weary body. Gabrielle closed her eyes and gave herself over to the pleasure of being touched once again by her protector. The sensations carried Gabrielle back to a time not
long ago...when was that? When did Xena stop touching her like this? She moaned in pleasure, and then shook her head to clear the heady feeling the touching caused in her. She gripped the goblet tightly in her hand, trying to not drift too far away with intimate thoughts.
Gabrielle opened her eyes and suddenly turned to look at Xena. The movement caused Xena to stop, and the bard cocked her head curiously. Xena hadn't touched her like this since she had married Perdicus. The realization shocked Gabrielle and she turned her attention to the goblet. She raised the cup and took a long draught of the liquid.
"You might want to..." the woman interjected quickly but it was too late.
Oh, gods, was that fire coming from her nose? Gabrielle couldn't even gasp as all her breath left her. This wasn't Greek wine...no...this was unlike any wine she had EVER had. Her throat was closed off and it took a moment before she caught her breath, and when she did, she coughed and hacked until tears came to her eyes. Xena patted her on the back and the robed woman grinned at her.
"What...is...cough...this...cough...called?" the bard choked as she returned the grin despite herself.
"It's rice wine. We make it from fermented rice grain. Sorry, I should have warned you."
To Xena's surprise, Gabrielle took another...smaller...drink of the wine and laughed. Xena rarely saw the bard have more than a little wine, and never anything strong like what Xena drank, but when the bard did indulge, she usually giggled and babbled a lot and then passed out early. It was one of the things about her that Xena loved.
"Thank you...umm...I don't know what to call you...I'm sorry."
The robed woman looked pensive again and then cocked
her head. "What do I look like?" Her good nature exposed a playfulness
in her that Gabrielle, and especially Xena, found attractive and relaxing,
like meeting an old familiar friend.
"What...I don't know what to say?" Gabrielle answered in confusion. She shrugged and took another drink.
"A bard at a loss of words," Xena chuckled, her hand resuming the touching of the bard.
Gabrielle took another drink and shook her head as the liquid went down. She knew that people sometimes resembled animals or other people that she had met. "Okay, I'm up for this and I accept the challenge."
The robed woman laughed and showed her face more openly to the fire as Gabrielle studied her features. The woman stood and whirled around in the fire light, the robe flaring out around her. Unexpectedly, she dropped her robe as she continued to spin, her arms extended out from her well muscled body. She wore a girdle of cloth, like a baby's diaper and nothing else. If Xena and Gabrielle were shocked by the woman's unabashed disrobing, they were even more horrified by the scars that extended from her shoulders to the smooth skin of her buttocks.
"Oh...Xena," Gabrielle moaned as she looked away and sadly hung her head. Xena got to her feet but kept her hand on the bard's head.
The smile faded and the woman slowly came to a halt facing away from her two guests. She folded her arms across her breasts and turned to face them, hiding the scars from their view, but not the sadness on her downfallen face as she tucked her chin to her chest and retreated a step.
Xena stood by, unsure of what to do and not knowing
what to say. She watched the silent woman quickly approach and gather up
the robe. Gently, she turned her friend to face her as she reached behind
and draped the robe over her companions shoulders, hiding the scars. Her
arms stayed around the woman and she held her lovingly, their foreheads
resting against each other. Her hand came up and stroked a cheek followed
by a soft kiss as she held her close. The saddened woman slowly raised
her chin and accepted a soft kiss on the lips...a lover's kiss of comfort.
They kissed softly again and then she stepped back slightly to
put her arms through the sleeves.
Xena waited a few heartbeats...not wanting to disturb the two women. They were obviously lovers. Not unusual, Xena thought. Women warriors often took female lovers for very practical reasons when they were traveling which was almost always. There was the warmth and companionship on the road and it was impossible to become pregnant. Xena's thoughts turned to Solan, her son, now living with the centaurs. Even if Solan's father had lived, it was no life for a child traveling with an army. She had sacrificed her right to be a mother 10 years ago so that her son could be raised in safety and in peace instead of being with a mother who had a warrior's heart.
The woman's lover departed with a nod and Xena stepped up to her and put her hand gently on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, friend. Who did this to you?"
"It was my Lord," she said balefully as she turned to face her guests. Tears stood in her eyes, and anger as she spoke.
"Your Lord?" Gabrielle snorted. "What kind of man whips a woman?" She had still not looked up.
The woman glanced at Xena and then sat close to the bard. Gabrielle felt a warm, gentle hand on her arm and she received a soft reassuring squeeze.
"I like your hair, Gabrielle," the woman said. She
swivelled her head to glance at Xena. "And your eyes."
"Our pale eyes and Gabrielle's red-gold hair... you don't have that where you come from," Xena said more for Gabrielle's benefit than anything else. She sat down on the other side of the bard and put her arm around her shoulders. Gabrielle raised her head and look from one to the other.
"The coloration is new to us."
"Yes but, how did you get those...scars? How can a Lord have any right... were you a slave?"
"In a manner of speaking. I belonged to my father who lived on the Lord's land, and there is very little farmland on the islands. Everyone who lived on the land provided goods to the Lord and food to feed the warriors. If the Lord lived well, we all lived well."
"And where did you learn this art of invisibility?" Xena asked.
"The Lord had a standing army of warriors, but sometimes
there are places an army cannot go or things they cannot do. The Lord required
a small squad of people for our stealth abilities to gather information
and...secretly kill...his enemies. These assassinations couldn't take place
openly or all out war might take place. So a select few were trained in
schools on the mainland in different countries to learn this art. After
training we returned to our homeland with our Master, our teacher, and we lived and trained under him after that. It was dishonorable to disobey the Master or the Lord."
"You've killed then?" Gabrielle whispered in awe. She couldn't imagine this smiling, playful and loving woman assassinating anyone. But one look into those sad eyes told her it was true.
The woman's lover handed Xena a blanket and then tended to Gabrielle's throbbing foot by pouring fresh cold water over the cloth that bound it.
Xena moved behind Gabrielle and straddled her legs around the bard and wrapped the blanket around them as best she could.
Gabrielle wasn't about to give up her goblet and held it in her left hand as she drank. But as Xena put an arm around her waist, Gabrielle's right hand settled on Xena's thigh under the blanket, and softly held the warrior. Xena held Gabrielle close and lay back against the rock. The sensation of the bard in her arms was undeniably powerful and sweet. The scent of Gabrielle's hair drew her attention away from the conversation and she nuzzled her nose into the tresses. How she had missed touching this wonderful woman!
Gabrielle felt the warm body behind her soften and mould to her. This was the Xena she longed to have back...the reluctant affectionate warrior. She closed her eyes and stroked the thigh she held in her hand, her fingers raising gooseflesh as they trailed along the skin.
"Comfortable?" Xena asked close to the bard's ear.
"Mmmm, well, that sword, the breastplate...not to mention that chakram," Gabrielle laughed, her point well made. She leaned forward slightly and felt Xena struggle to remove the weapons and the armor. Xena tossed them to the side and then drew Gabrielle back into her arms.
Gabrielle settled back against the softness of Xena's breasts, the warmth sending a shudder through her body. The closeness of the warrior made her heart ache like it had never done before and she trembled as her hand began to tease the warrior under the folds of the blanket. It had been so long since Xena had let herself be touched by her, and Gabrielle couldn't help herself. Maybe it was the wine, and maybe this was all she ever wanted, but Xena's body touching her's sent ripples of pleasure through her entire being. The bard leaned her head into Xena's shoulder and glanced up at her face tentatively.
"How is your foot?" Xena asked.
"It's fine...as long as I don't move it."
The silent woman refilled the bard's goblet, which Gabrielle had emptied as they talked. The warrior looked at the bard and knew by her flushed face that she was feeling the wine. She also watched as the woman settled in behind her lover, her long legs going around the woman to straddle her, and she drew a blanket around the two of them, her arms going around her waist to hold her.
The robed woman watched The Game being played out before her. She noticed the reluctant uneasiness of the warrior and realized she was witnessing something that both women were unfamiliar with. Neither one looked entirely comfortable with what was happening...like it was all new for them.
"You look so sad when you talk about your *art*," Gabrielle noted to the woman.
The robed woman sighed. "I was honor-bound to obey. I killed innocent people...and I did it without question...until I fell in love." She turned slightly to smile a smile just for the woman who held her. "My lover doesn't speak. Her voice box was shattered four years ago when she was just 19. But we communicate very well."
"How did you come to be here in Greece," Xena asked, "this is a long way from your home." Xena tried to concentrate on the conversation, but Gabrielle's fingers on her leg was making it difficult. Where did you learn this, Gabrielle, she thought. Did you lay like this with Perdicus after you made love? Again, there was that soul consuming pain to her core and she held the bard tighter. You're in *my* arms now, Gabrielle. Xena nuzzled her face into the bard's hair and suddenly had to fight the urge to kiss the earlobe she found in the tresses. She drew her head back suddenly. What was she doing with Gabrielle...no, better still...what was Gabrielle doing to *her*?
"Raven!" Gabrielle announced suddenly. The story of how these women arrived in Greece would be delayed.
"What?" Xena chuckled at the somewhat inebriated bard's outburst.
Gabrielle waved the goblet around in the air and looked at them incredulously for not seeing the obvious. "Don't you get it...the name!" she began enthusiastically but then her voice trailed off into silence.
"I'm sorry...it was insensitive of me, but the markings on your back look like the folded wings of a bird, and your dark hair..."
"Raven, huh? I like that... do you like that?" she smiled at the woman who held her. "Raven it is, then, Gabrielle. And don't feel sorry for me that I have these scars. They were worth it."
"What do you mean?" Xena asked, hoping that *someone*
concentrate on the conversation.
Raven poured more wine for the bard and then handed Xena the drink she had yet to sample. Xena saluted Raven and her lover with the goblet and took a healthy drink, preparing herself to choke like Gabrielle did. To her delight, the rice wine *was* strong, but very smooth. No wonder Gabrielle was enjoying it so much.
"I was taken at a very young age from my parents... just an infant. I was raised with the other students. Learning... learning from sunrise to sunset all the arts from our Honorable Master. We had no names, no families, no identities. If we were ever caught on assignment, we were told, there could be nothing that would link us back to the Lord... only our Master. It was discovered that I had re-established contact with my family when I returned from the mainland, and I was beaten."
"By the gods, that seems extreme."
"That... is how it is," Raven finalized sadly. Xena and Gabrielle recognized the haunted look again.
Gabrielle finished her wine and put the goblet on the ground beside the two bowls. She reached inside a bowl and came up with a cherry which she popped into her mouth. A little expert work with her teeth and tongue and she spit the pit into her hand and threw it into the fire. She chewed the sweet meat lazily as she absent mindedly played her nails along Xena's thigh, her leisurely stroking raising more gooseflesh on the warrior body. She felt Xena shudder and a wicked smile crept onto her lips.
Raven and her lover watched The Game with amusement.
The bard selected another cherry and put it between her teeth. Again, she bit the pit out of the pulp and threw it into the fire. Gabrielle rolled the cherry between her fingers and then reach back and held it to Xena's lips. She gasped as she felt Xena's lips brush against her fingers when she took the offered fruit.
"Thank you," Xena said to her softly. Gabrielle turned her head to look up at her.
"Are you hungry?" she asked slyly. "Do you want more?"
Panic showed in Xena's face at he double meaning of the bard's question. Raven could see that Xena had been strained unmercifully by the bard's uninhibited advances.
"Xena," Raven butted in, "perhaps you and I should go to your camp? Gabrielle can't walk."
Xena raised an eyebrow and half smiled at Raven.
"I really should get Argo," Xena sigh in mock resignation.
Her gratitude to Raven showed in a slight smile on her lips.
"Oh, no, I'm not getting on a horse tonight... even if it is Argo," Gabrielle argued. Gabrielle leaned forward out of Xena's reach. She jolted her foot in doing so and the pain angered her. Dammit, Xena, just when we were starting to get close, Gabrielle muttered to herself.
"Then we'll bring Argo and all our gear here," Xena answered back a little harshly. She stood up quickly and tried to put the blanket around Gabrielle's shoulders but her hands were slapped away by the dejected bard.
Raven witnessed the hostile withdrawal but indicated nothing in her voice. "My lover... and my team... are here. Nothing will happen to Gabrielle."
Xena thought she heard Gabrielle say 'big dumb warrior' under her breath. With much anger, Xena picked up her sword and marched off in the direction of their camp.
The warrior was well into the bush, hacking through any vines or brush that got in her way before Raven caught up with her. She felt Raven's hand pull on her arm.
"Why are you so angry?" Raven inquired as she moved her shorter legs rapidly to keep up with the warrior.
Xena suddenly slowed down and Raven almost ran into her.
"THAT...ALL that should never have happened."
"Why not?" Raven challenged.
Xena laughed at Raven's scrappiness. "That's not who Gabrielle and I are to each other, for one thing. It was just the drink..."
Raven laughed and Xena became curious with her reason. For the first time in two years, Xena *felt* like talking about her feelings, and it surprised her that it wasn't Gabrielle who made her feel this way. I'm just going to have to trust myself on this one, Xena thought.
"Okay, explain that chuckle, Raven," Xena demanded.
The wide grin Raven displayed infuriated Xena's sense of loss of control. She rolled her eyes and shook her fist in a mock display of a threat at the woman from Nippon.
"It has always been my experience that drinking wine doesn't make you do anything you wouldn't naturally do... it just lowers your inhibitions that kept you from doing so," Raven quipped nonchalantly.
Xena was amused. "Are your people always so good humored?"
"Once the formalities and the business end of things are taken care of... I suppose so." Raven hesitated. "I was at your camp earlier... I watched the two of you."
Surprisingly, Xena wasn't bothered by this. "And?"
"What has happened between the two of you that you say such hurtful things to each other? When one isn't looking at the other, there is such longing in both your eyes. What is this Game of love and hostility that you play?"
It was Xena's turn to laugh this time. "I don't express my feelings very well, I'm afraid."
"And... you hold your lover at a distance so that you don't have to talk about your feelings?" Raven asked slyly. "This is your solution?"
"Gabrielle and I are NOT lovers!" Xena groaned in exasperation.
"You both want to be..." Raven teased. "Big dumb warrior."
Xena's ears burned. "Can we stop talking about this now?"
"If you want," Raven said with a shrug, "but it won't go away. The Game can either be hostile...or it can be intoxicating. The choice is up to you. It's obvious Gabrielle has been doing things to get any sort of reaction out of..."
"Enough!" Xena pleaded loudly. This was worse than listening to Gabrielle practice her bardic skills for hours and hours. She turned to make sure that Raven understood that she did mean 'enough' and found that she was alone.
Xena looked into the dark forest for the white robe that Raven wore but saw nothing.
"Are you trying to give me an invisibility lesson, Raven?"
No answer. Xena sighed.
Gabrielle shifted uncomfortably as Raven's lover unwrapped her foot. Despite the wine, the pain throbbed hard.
"Where are the other women?" the bard asked.
The woman pointed to various positions around the main camp and indicated they were sleeping or talking. Her hands spoke for her well.
Gabrielle watched the woman work and realized she was very good at what she was doing. She was trained to do it.
"You do that very well...very gentle," Gabrielle said to her. She wasn't sure how to have a conversation with someone who couldn't talk, but there was no harm in trying.
The woman held up seven fingers.
"Seven years? You've been a healer for seven years?"
No, shake of the head.
"Since you were seven?"
Yes, nod of the head, and a smile.
This was easy, Gabrielle thought. A lot easier that trying to talk with Xena, lately.
"Xena is a healer. She..."
The woman held a finger to Gabrielle's lips to shush her. With her other hand she pointed to Gabrielle.
"Oh? What do I do?" Gabrielle smiled happily, "I'm a bard. I tell stories."
Xena and Raven arrived back at the campfire with Argo in tow while Gabrielle was in the middle of telling the tale of Goliath. Raven stuffed all the gear except some blankets under the cover of the main stash of camp gear and dry wood. Xena attended to Argo by removing the saddle and bridle.
Gabrielle continued talking as Raven joined her lover in the listening. The bard was at her finest, the wine making her very animated in the telling of Goliath. As she spoke, she would glance at Xena, willing her to join her at the fire, but Xena delayed her arrival by brushing Argo down. When she was finished, she further delayed her arrival by washing her hands and face.
Gabrielle was just finishing up when Xena came over to the fire.
"Nice of you to join us," Gabrielle chortled with mock cheeriness. She sipped some wine to wet her throat.
"How much wine have you had?" Xena smiled. She stood on the opposite side of the campfire facing Gabrielle after she selected a blanket for herself.
"None since you two left quite a while ago," the bard answered soberly, but Xena could catch the slurring sound in her voice.
"I want to know how Raven and her team arrived here in Greece. Nippon is not exactly a discus throw way."
Xena sat down across from them and drew the blanket around her shoulders. Raven noticed the battle stance the two women had taken with each other and smiled to herself. Xena could use the excuse of wanting to keep an eye on the area behind them for intruders and even make it sound believable.
"My team has the area surrounded, Xena. There is no need to sit opposite," Raven explained innocently. Her eyes didn't betray her intentions at all even when Xena raised an eyebrow at her.
"Now, if I am to talk, I don't want to compete with the sound of a campfire... so join us, won't you?"
The warrior squinted evilly at Raven, but a smile played at the corner of her mouth. "I'll get you back, Raven. I swear I will." And she finally smiled.
"Just think of it as another player entering in the Game."
Gabrielle pondered Xena's good humor which wasn't one of her stronger points, to say the least. `I'll get you back?' What was up with *that*? She held her breath as the warrior got up and came around the fire to stand beside her.
"Are you still cold?" Xena asked lamely, as she loomed awkwardly over Gabrielle.
"Yes," the bard answered meekly, not sure of anything. She took her blanket from around her shoulders and covered her legs with it.
Ah, the Game has resumed, Raven smiled to herself. She caught Xena's eye and indicated for her to get on with it.
Resigning herself, Xena resumed her previous position with the bard. Gabrielle covered both their legs and leaned back into Xena when she felt her arms go around her.
Raven waited a few moments while Xena settled herself.
Gabrielle drained her goblet one last time and put it down, ready to hear Raven's story of their voyage.
"We set sail four years ago from Nippon. It wasn't entirely our choice, and so we kept to the coastline for a time, coming ashore to hide for a few weeks and then continue on. We stayed for two years in the north of India, traveling west."
"Why did you leave?" Gabrielle asked.
"Our Lord was in trouble and he sailed to the south end of the island to meet with an ally. There were eight of us... my team and the General of the Army, and the Lord. While we were at the home of the ally, my Lord was killed in his sleep. The General was murdered as well. Knowing that the host Lord would probably accuse us, we took the boat and fled in the dark."
"Why come here?"
"Legends told of an island of women, and our charts showed such and island. Many sailors and travelers from India returned with maps and stories."
"You must mean Lesbos where the great poet Sappho lives,"
Gabrielle chattered. "It's an island of women."
Xena could feel Gabrielle's hand return to her leg, and this time the caresses were firm and unmistakable. She shuddered and buried her face in Gabrielle's hair until she found her earlobe.
And this time, she let her lips rest against the skin as she listened to the conversation. Despite all her protests to Raven, Xena couldn't help herself. Her fear of losing this woman of her heart shocked her soul, and she couldn't help but hang on to her.
"The storm front blew us west very quickly, past the island. We were able to set up camp before the rain came, and we've been here for three days now."
Gabrielle could feel Xena's need and fear. She turned in her arms and looked into her clear blue eyes. "Are you okay?"
Xena threw her head back and laughed outright. "I'm fine, Gabrielle...never better." She kissed the top of the bard's head and hugged her tightly. "I'm usually asking you that."
"Yeah, but I usually answer you...you've been avoiding the question for months now."
Xena kissed the bard's head again, slowly this time, "I won't avoid it anymore, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle studied Xena's eyes for a moment. "What were you two doing out there for so long?"
"Being taught a couple of lessons about invisibility and secrets."
"And what did you learn?"
"Mmmm, I'm tell you later," Xena smiled.
Gabrielle frowned and then smiled. She turned to Raven.
"Tell me about this school where you learned these arts?"
The almond eyes of the women faltered in their liveliness. Still, there was spirit there.
"As I've said before, we were taken from our families. My father had no sons to offer for service, so I was offered to my Lord instead when it was decided that my father would only produced females."
"How many females?"
"Three...I was the last born. At the school, I was trained from early morning...educated in academics...and in the afternoon, combat. At night, stealth.
My teacher was a stern but fitting father. He loved me as a favorite student and only punished me minimally."
Gabrielle frowned. "The beatings were minimal?"
"You must understand...we have a code of honor...to respect our teachers, our Lord, our parents. We do as the Lord dictates, and we do nothing without asking for permission first."
"Permission to do what? What sort of things? Like killing someone?"
"Yes...even ourselves. In Nippon, we practice ritual suicide."
"You fall on your swords?" Gabrielle delved further.
"No, not quite. Sepuku is ritual suicide performed with a second. A warrior owns two swords, a long one... a katana...and a short one. The katana represents our soul... our essence. The shorter one's pommel is wrapped in the sash of our robe, and then, while kneeling, the blade is inserted and drawn across the belly. There is much pain while waiting to bleed to death... the second is there to end the suffering."
"Have you ever done this...been a second," Xena asked, the morbidity of the story drawing her in.
"What does the second do?" Gabrielle whispered, her voice hollow and fearful.
Raven squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. When she opened them, tears brimmed them and glistened on her lashes. She looked to Xena, unsure of continuing for the bard's sake. Xena nodded to her.
"After the cut, the second... removes the head with the katana before you cry out in pain and dishonor yourself."
There was utter silence as the visual of this sunk in.
Xena looked at the sad eyes of the eastern warrior. "Who was it you did this for?"
"By the gods, you decapitated your own sister?" Gabrielle whispered, the wine confusing her thoughts.
Raven nodded. "My sister was raped by the Lord's own son and a son of an allied warlord. My father was denied permission for revenge and my sister couldn't live with his shame."
"HIS shame?" the bard sputtered.
"The entire village knew of the event and that my father was denied justice and revenge. The crime against her was being used to keep the warlord as an ally. My sister could not live with that mockery. Her honor was being denied."
Raven looked at Gabrielle and Xena, the tears finally winning out. "I loved my sister. She went through so much to find me when I returned from the mainland after all those years. She was kind, and gentle... and she would listen to my poetry as I lay in the comfort of her arms. How could I let her die in such agony... and alone?"
Xena cleared her throat, the emotions of the moment filling her heart. "I guess love and honor take many forms."
Gabrielle turned again to face Xena, her own tears flowing. "Xena, could you ever do that for me?"
Xena was stunned by the bard's question. "Oh, Gabrielle, would you ever do something like that for me?"
"Have you ever felt that much despair, Xena?" the bard whispered hoarsely, her eyes searching Xena's. She so desperately wanted Xena to be honest with her. Her eyes pleaded with the warrior for an answer... an answer for the first time in months.
"When you married Perdicus... left me.. I wanted... hoped... I'd find Callisto and she would kill me... stop the..." Xena choked on her words as the tears finally came.
Gabrielle put her arms around the warrior, her head on her chest. "We're you afraid that I might want to die?"
"Yes... but I wouldn't have let you... You are everything to me... and you left me for *him*."
"I loved him, you know," Gabrielle warned her gently.
"Oh, Gabrielle... the way you love me? Why do you think you followed me from your village... stayed with me? You've spent two years trying to break down the defense I've built to guard against someone like you."
Xena kissed the top of the bard's head and laid her cheek to rest there. Her hand came up to stroke Gabrielle's cheek, the tears covering her fingers.
And Gabrielle knew it was true. She had followed the big dumb warrior because she had fallen in love with her power and her hidden vulnerability on sight, but it was so hard getting through those defense.
"What do you mean `someone like me'?" she whispered.
"Someone who would own my emotions... someone I couldn't say no to... someone I wasn't worthy of... I'd loose control and love you"
Mmmmm, my work here is done, Raven mused. She was pleased that the exchange had yielded so much information in just a few moments.
"Why did you let me marry him? If you had only said something, I would have chosen you, not him," the bard countered.
Xena raised Gabrielle's chin with her fingers and kissed her lightly just at the corner of her mouth. She hesitated for a heartbeat and then kissed the tears on her cheek. Gabrielle had closed her eyes as the feelings she had for this warrior welled up to the surface.
"Why did you lie to me and say it was okay to marry him,
Xena?" Gabrielle persisted.
Xena touched her tongue to Gabrielle's tears and tasted the salty dew. Her heart tightened with a desire and love she had never felt for any woman ever before. She kissed Gabrielle's cheek again, fascinated by the desire she saw there.
"I can't concentrate with you kissing me... and I'm trying to have a fight with you about this and..."
"WE'RE not going to fight, Gabrielle... and you wouldn't have listened anyways."
The bard laughed slightly and buried her face against Xena's bare chest, "Probably not."
With a boldness she didn't know she possessed Gabrielle touched her lips to the warrior's skin and she heard and felt the sharp intake of breath. She kissed along the edge of the leather armor, her tongue dipping softly into the cleavage
"Mmmm?" the bard acknowledged between mouthfuls of the warrior's flesh.
"We're alone. They've left us to ourselves."
Gabrielle looked around sheepishly, the wine still affecting her. "Well, then...."
"Gabrielle, we're with people," Xena whispered back, a little embarrassed by it all.
Gabrielle sat back and listened, her head cocked slightly
"Xena, my guess is that they're either sleeping or pretty darned busy themselves."
"But here? Right next to a fire?"
As if on cue, the logs broke apart and the fire became glowing embers. They watched the embers for a moment and then giggled at the absurdity of it all. It felt so good to laugh with Xena again.
Gabrielle turned back to Xena, the wicked look on her face startling the warrior for a moment... but just for a moment. She drew the warrior's mouth down to hers and opened her lips. Xena felt the blast of desire deep from within her as she gathered the bard closer to her. Gabrielle felt Xena's moan against her lips and it ignited her own desires to the point where stopping what was happening was out of the question.
"Gabrielle," Xena groaned softly against the bard's ear, "if we make love, for me it will mean tonight, tomorrow... and forever. For me, this will be like our wedding night."
"Xena, I love you... only you. It should have been our wedding night months ago... don't make us wait even one more night, please, just let's be together, finally."
Xena picked the bard up and gently rotated her until
she sat between Xena's legs. Gabrielle's legs rested on top of Xena's thighs...
any bumping her foot endured was barely noticed, but nevertheless, the
warrior paid careful attention to any pain Gabrielle might encounter. The
bard was kissing Xena where ever she could during the movement... her arms,
her chest, neck, face... it didn't matter.
Gabrielle tugged at the leather armor. Her hands went around Xena's back and fumbled with the lacing.
"Please... please... take this off," she whispered hoarsely.
She felt some of the lacing loosen on its' own, but not enough to satisfy her lips.
Xena reached behind herself and loosen the rest before she began to fumble with the lacing on the bard's skirt. She kissed the bard where ever she could while they frantically worked at the laces of each other's clothing... neither one of them getting very much accomplished.
"Whooaa," Xena said as she began to laugh, the bard joining her. They each lay back and let the laughter have it's way with them, both of them helpless to do anything else.
After the quiet returned and their breathing calmed, Xena looked down their bodies to see if Gabrielle had succumbed to the wine. She watched through half closed eyes as Gabrielle unlaced her top.
"Xena... ummm... I want this to be... well..."
"What?" Xena encouraged. "Tell me what you want." She ran her hands slowly up and down the bard's well muscled legs, feeling her tremble under her touch.
"My wedding night with Perdicus was my first time... and it wasn't very... rewarding. When he was riding me, I felt like I could have been anyone he had ever been with. But he needed me, and I convinced myself that *that* was enough."
Xena sighed. "After my men would win a battle, they
bed *anything* that moved... even each other. Sometimes, the battlelust would grip me as well. And a lot of the men had wives that they loved waiting for them at home. Men are sexual, Gabrielle, and women are emotional. Sex just seems to be a way of releasing the battlelust. Or, if the men lost dear friends, sometimes they found consolation in sex."
"Do you think Perdicus ever really loved me?"
"Maybe, Gabrielle. I don't want to speak for the dead who can't defend themselves. But I don't think you ever felt anything but sorry for him, and that by marrying him, you thought you could be his savior from all his sorrow."
Using Xena's leg, Gabrielle pulled herself upright and shrugged the top away from her body, letting it fall to the side. She leaned forward and met her lover's loving gaze.
"Finally telling me the truth," the bard smiled. She reached for Xena's hand and entwined her fingers with the warriors.
Xena reached out and traced a finger down Gabrielle's cheek.
"I didn't want you to know how jealous I was of him. I didn't know if you and I could be anything more than just friends. And I very nearly destroyed my chances at both."
Gabrielle turned her head and captured Xena's finger with her teeth. She shut her eyes and closed her mouth around the gentle finger, her tongue tasting the flesh. The bard became weak knowing that she was taking the warriors body inside hers and the thought of the pleasures to come.
"I've seen you a hundred times, Gabrielle, but tonight you're the most beautiful I've ever seen you." Xena's voice was low and husky, desire thickening her tongue.
Xena timidly explored the inside of Gabrielle's mouth with her finger... the tongue, the lips. She felt the bard squeeze her other hand. She trailed her wet finger down the bard's throat until she circled her delicate pink nipple.
"When you touch me... Xena..." Gabrielle trailed off for a moment, the desire mounting again. The bard lifted Xena's hand to her other breast and pressed it firmly against herself.
"Just... touch me... Xena... touch me."
The warrior withdrew her hands and held up a warning finger to the impatient bard who tried to reclaim the caressing fingers. She sat back a bit and watched Xena pull her leathers loose, sliding them over her head as she sat up. She felt the bard's arms go around her waist and her mouth was met by soft lips. She kissed Gabrielle softly at first, her tongue exploring where her finger had just been. She tasted the wine on Gabrielle's lips, and the bard gently sucked on the warriors tongue as it touched hers.
Gabrielle stroked the warriors flesh where ever she could reach. She ran her fingers along the scared and muscled flesh, feeling the muscles flex under her caresses. Where her fingers traveled, her lips followed. She tasted the warrior, imprinting the taste, the feel, the scent of her into her very soul.
With gentle movements, Xena shifted the two of them until the remainder of their clothes were in the heap of discarded items beside them. She pushed the bard back down and wrapped her fingers around her throat. She smiled.
"I can feel your heart pounding," she whispered as she leaned as far over Gabrielle as possible. She dipped her head between her arms and kissed the bard's abdomen, her mouth opening over the flesh and sucking on the skin.
Xena pulled back bit by bit, her hand massaging in slow, languid movements down the bard's body. Gabrielle began to moan as her body arched to meet the warrior's hands. Xena felt Gabrielle's hands pull her raven hair to the side so she could watch the warrior's tongue on her body. She held Xena's head more firmly and the warrior could hear her breathing become deeper with every moment.
Gabrielle met Xena's eyes as the warrior princes brought her hands together over the bards mound of silky curls. She could feel Gabrielle's surrender.
"I want to watch you, Gabrielle," Xena tried to say in a normal voice, but her desire for this woman took her breath away and made her head spin.
Xena still held the bard's eyes as her thumbs came together and parted the folds of the labia. Gabrielle's hips rose up to meet the caress and she gasped at the shocking intensity of the pleasure. When Xena felt the slick moisture, a consuming blast of lust hit her body and she closed her eyes as the unexpected orgasm took her breath away and made her shudder, but it didn't stop her quest. She brought her thumbs along either side of the hard little bud she so eagerly sought and rubbed the slickness all around.
In the low glow of the fire's embers, Xena could watch the bard's face contort, the eyes closed, and her body as she writhed and moaned. With a wicked look in her eyes, Xena brought the bard to the edge several times only to slow her stoking.
"Xena... please... please... I have to," Gabrielle could barley talk between her gasps for air. Despite the chilled air, sweat covered her body and shone on her face and breasts.
The bard's single plea was enough for Xena. She increased the stroking of her thumbs and watched in fascination as Gabrielle's face took on an expression of pleasure/pain and her fingers curled at her sides to resemble talons. Her hips began to do a slow rise as her legs tightened around the warriors waist, getting tighter and tighter until her whole body went rigid. She drew in one long draught of breath and held it, her back arched so that only her shoulders were on the ground.
The breaking wave of the orgasm hit Gabrielle hard. She dropped back down and moaned Xena's name loudly with every exhale of pent up breath until she was beyond coherency. Xena smiled widely and wondered if anyone could hear all this. She watched the bard loose consciousness and the legs loosened from around her waist.
Careful of the injured and probably tortured foot, Xena unwrapped Gabrielle's legs and extracted herself. She crawled up alongside the passed out bard and lay down beside her. She propped herself up on one elbow and studied the relaxed and deeply flushed face of this amazing woman. Her own heart pounded at the beauty and excitement of the bards body.
Gabrielle opened her eyes and turned her face to Xena. A slow, happy smile beamed from her at her warrior. Xena leaned over to kiss her bard, and as she tasted her mouth once again, Gabrielle pulled her over to lay halfway on top of her.
"You were being mean," Gabrielle chided her.
Xena laughed, burying her face in the bard's neck, nipping at the flesh. "I was hoping you wouldn't notice... I was having so much fun with you."
"Mmmmm, well, I noticed," Gabrielle countered. She offered her neck more openly to Xena and shivered at the feel of the warriors sucking mouth.
Gabrielle sighed deeply, her breath and heart returning to normal. She kissed Xena's shoulder and nibbled her ear. Her hands began to explore wherever she could from this position, and she began to get demanding.
Xena let her go on long enough, enjoying the attentions. But when Gabrielle tried to push her onto her back, she looked into her face and smiled. "Mmmm, it's still my turn, my Amazon Princess."
Xena silenced her with a kiss as she moved over top of the bard. "I've watched you, now I'm going to taste you."
Xena kissed Gabrielle until she felt the bard's hips press up against her. Slowly, and deliberately, Xena kissed Gabrielle's neck. She ran her tongue down to her chest, her hair trailing over the gooseflesh of the bard's skin. Slowly, Xena rose up and repositioned herself so that her knee rested against Gabrielle's wet mound. When Gabrielle rolled her hips, Xena pressed into her and the bard's eye widened. She rolled her hips again and Xena responded. Gabrielle pulled Xena's mouth to hers, kissing her urgently.
"Bend your leg," Xena instructed the bard. Xena had to hunch her body slightly to accommodate her shorter lover, but she comfortably pressed herself against Gabrielle's thigh. Gabrielle rolled her hips against Xena's knee and then Xena rolled her hips against the bard's thigh.
Gabrielle felt the slick moisture from Xena as she slid along her thigh. Xena trembled and shook and the bard heard a groan come low and strained from Xena's throat.
"You..." Gabrielle whispered.
Xena threw her head back as she sought release. She slid up and down the length of the bards thigh with abandon, her concentration focused on one thing only. Gabrielle held her leg firmly in place as Xena struggled hard.
"Gabrielle," was the single word Xena cried, tears streaming down to her face. She trembled on all fours as the orgasm consumed her and guttural sounds came from her throat.
The bard looked up at the warrior trembling above her. A tear fell and splashed against her shoulder, the warrior still not moving. Gabrielle remembered a time at a campfire when she had the chance to kiss away her warrior's tears, but shyness and timidness prevented her. This time, she pulled her warrior close to her and kissed the tears, the eyelids and her lips.
Xena nuzzled against Gabrielle, whispering into her neck 'loveyouloveyouloveyou' over and over. She rested for a moment and resumed her ultimate quest.
Xena slid down the bards body until her lips hovered over the nipples. She closed her eyes and flicked her tongue over the hard pink flesh, first one then the other. She heard Gabrielle moan softly as her tongue swirled over the entire breast. She sucked on each nipple, bringing it up big and rigid. Again, she felt the hips buck against her abdomen.
She continued her journey, tasting, savoring, listening, feeling the bard grind against her. She slid further down until her face hovered over the red curls, the bards hands pushing her head towards her goal.
Xena lay flat and brought the bards knees over her
shoulders, and then she rose to her knees bringing Gabrielle with her.
Gabrielle yelped in surprise but locked her knees in place to prevent herself
from sliding off. Xena brought her hands under and over the top of the
bards thighs until her hands met at the curls. Her fingers pried apart
the folds once again and the aroma only intensified Xena's desire to taste
her. She lowered her mouth onto the hard little knot, covering it completely.
let the flavor flow over her tongue, swirling it around in the slickness, tasting, feeding. She sealed her lips in place and slowly began to suck the knot.
The reaction from the bard was intense. She cried out as the suckling became more demanding but still gentle. Gabrielle's body caught up easily with the increasing intensity of the warriors mouth. She shook uncontrollably, her body and legs having a life of their own. Xena opened her eyes and studied Gabrielle's face before lowering both of them back down. Frantic fingers clutch at Xena's head as she sucked fast and steady until once again
Gabrielle drew in the huge draught of breath, her fingers gripping Xena's head.
Xena followed the arching bard with her mouth, never
losing contact no matter how she twisted. Xena felt the pulsing against
her lips and she flicked her tongue against the bud with each wave. Gabrielle
struggled to be quiet by it was just too much for her. Xena sucked the
knot into her mouth one last time and held it softly and waited for Gabrielle
to come to rest, and when she did, she released the suction. It sent a
jolt to the soles of the bards feet and she involuntarily pulsed a few
Xena closed Gabrielle's folds and gave her a departing kiss. She wished she could stay there and feast again, but she needed the rest, too. She crawled up the bards prone body and saw that Gabrielle was fighting to stay conscious. Xena smiled with self satisfaction and kissed Gabrielle's lips lightly.
"Was that what you wanted to feel?" she smiled.
Gabrielle smiled dreamily and kissed her warriors mouth deeply, tasting herself deep within. Knowing that this was her on Xena's lips and chin intoxicated her and she kissed Xena's lips and scraped her teeth over her chin.
"You are what I feel, warrior-mine. My soul belongs to you and will only be complete with you," Gabrielle whispered as she held Xena tightly.
Xena silently hid her face in Gabrielle's neck, and for a moment Gabrielle thought Xena had fallen asleep. The bard stoked her head and kissed her, and then she felt Xena sobbing.
"Did I say something wrong?" Gabrielle cried in alarm.
Xena lifted her head an smiled through her tears. "No. Far from it, my love."
For a tentative moment, their eyes locked and Xena swore she could feel the transferring of souls. Gabrielle blinked, a little startled by the intensity between them.
"This is real... this really happened," Gabrielle cried with a joy she had only dreamed of.
"Yes!" Xena laughed.
"And we'll be like this forever?"
"I think so, Gabrielle." Xena kissed the bards nose. "Call me that again."
"Mmmm, I like that."
"Well, you aren't completely...yet"
Xena frowned, sudden fear crept into her heart. Gabrielle noticed and smiled. She pushed the warrior princes over onto her back and carefully moved over her until she was straddling her waist.
"Is it my turn, now?" she smiled wickedly at her big dumb warrior.