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The Bardís Tale

Warning! These characters (and sadly, the actors who portray them) do not belong to me. They are the sole property of Universal/MCA. This story contains subject matter which those under 18 (or those with little tolerance) have no business reading. This story may contain themes which some would term "alternative" in nature. Beware reader! Beware!

It had been a rather uneventful day, really. Xena and I had done little but travel, and she was her usual monosyllabic self, occasionally grunting a response, but offering very little in the way of actual conversation. If I had known then what a truly remarkable day it would become, I think my whole frame of mind would have been different.

We were slowly (and I do mean slowly), making our way northward, where Xena had received word that an army was being amassed. The details were sketchy, but knowing what she did of the warlord who was in command, she was fairly concerned about what might transpire if the army were unleashed on the neighboring townships.

As always, I accompanied her. In the early days I tried to convince her my main purpose was as a bard, so that I might perpetuate her heroic deeds in atonement for her past evil ones. But soon I began to develop self-defense and strategy skills (with her guidance, of course) that had enabled me to be of real help to her. I fought by her side, and we had become a team.

Xena had become more to me than I think even I had realized. Being with her, and feeling as though we were really making a difference, made me happier than I had ever been. There had been times when I had questioned that, but they were never long periods of doubt, and I always came back to her.

She said I gave her focus, and she gave me purpose... and the best friendship I had ever had.

"You know that it would not delay us at all," I mentioned off-handedly as we both walked down the path, Xena leading Argo by his reins.

She sighed in exasperation. "Tell me whatís at this festival again?" she grudgingly asked.

"Itís the Dionysian Festival of Latium," I explained eagerly. "Thereís actors performing plays, food, spirits, bards recounting tales--"

"And is that why you want to go there, Gabrielle?" she posed with one eyebrow arched at me suspiciously. "Do you want to join in the story telling?"

I shrugged lamely, trying not to look interested. "I guess I... wouldnít mind."

Xena smiled and turned back toward the road. "Well if itís no big deal--" she began.

"Perhaps I could make a few extra dinars," I suggested in another pathetic attempt to hide my enthusiasm.

"Weíre not low on money right now," she countered.

"But surely it wouldnít hurt to stop for a short time, to rejuvenate ourselves."

"I feel great."

I sighed and blew my bangs out of my eyes in frustration.

"When we get to Latium youíll need to find us lodgings. Festivals have a way of filling all the inns," she finally said with a smile.

"Really?" I asked excitedly. "You mean it?"

"Itís just tonight, right? We leave in the morning?"

"Absolutely, Xena-- bright and early."

I think Xena liked to toy with me in that way. And over the last couple of years getting to know her, I had gotten better at deciphering her subtle cues and tone of voice. But she was still a great enigma to me.

She was a woman of very few words, that was certain, but her actions spoke volumes. There were times when I thought her silence would kill me, but I had come to accept that economy with words was simply Xena, just as loquacity was simply me.

When we arrived at the outskirts of Latium, there was no doubt that there was a festival going on. The sounds of musicians and merriment could be heard from far beyond the vast gates that greeted us.

"You see, Xena. Doesnít this look like a good time?" I asked as we advanced into the perimeter of the city. A man off to my left suddenly bent over and retched with such feverish abandon he surely expelled a good deal of his internal organs in the process.

"Oh yeah," she answered sarcastically. "It doesnít get any better than this."

I chose not to reply, in the hopes that even stoic Xena might be caught up the merriment and actually let loose a bit. We walked further into town, looking for a stable in which to board Argo for the night.

I was stunned at all I saw. There were people wandering the streets, so profoundly inebriated that it was a wonder they were able to move about under their own power.

There was a lot of kissing and dancing and drinking going on (Dionysus was the god of wine, after all), and Xena looked suitably unimpressed by it all. She strode through the crowd without so much as a casual glance at everything that was going on around us.


We both turned to see a very attractive woman closing in on us rapidly. She looked... happy, actually. I donít mean to be unkind, but when we had encountered people who had known Xena before, it usually was not very pleasant (remind me to tell you about Callisto sometime). But I guess thatís an unfortunate precipitant of spending a number of years massacring great multitudes of people (but I digress).

"Celia?" Xena asked, looking very much like this was not someone she had any interest in speaking to again.

"Yes!" Celia exalted, placing her hands on Xenaís leather-clad shoulders fondly. "You look great! How have you been?"


Celiaís face fell a bit at Xenaís less than verbose response. "Good." She looked to me and smiled, her amber-colored eyes most striking against her pale skin. "Iím Celia," she introduced.

"Hi, Iím Gabrielle. Itís good to meet you."

"You too," she intoned cheerily. She looked back to gauge Xenaís response before she spoke further. Xena looked irritated. "Well, it was nice seeing you, Xena." She turned and moved back into the crowd.

"Who was that?" I asked.

"Someone from a long time ago."

"I guess you two had a falling out?"

"Of sorts."

"Want to talk about it?"


Sometimes I felt that Xenaís armor wasnít on the outside, but somewhere deeper than flesh.

"Thereís the stable," she observed. "Iíll board Argo and meet you at the inn." She nodded behind me and I looked to see a nice-looking inn sporting a sign that read "The Kingís Arms".

"All right," I said, and I ventured across the street.

Inside the inn was a colorful collection of characters-- some loud, some dirty, some both. In the corner was a man playing a lyre (though perhaps he was more suited to other work). Before me I saw the curvy back of the serving wench (though I am not fond of that job title).

"Excuse me," I began, tapping her lightly on the shoulder.

She turned around and there was a silent moment of recognition between us.

"Gabrielle, was it?"

"Celia? I didnít see you come in here."

"I work here. My uncle owns the place."

"Do you have any rooms?"

She shook her head. "Sorry. When itís festival time everything fills right up. Youíll be hard pressed to find a room anywhere in Latium."

"I was afraid of that. I just convinced Xena to give the festival a try, too."

"Well, Iím sure you two can find a place to camp just outside of town. Perhaps you can stay through dinner."

She seemed awfully sweet, and I wondered what had transpired between Xena and this beautiful woman that could have made Xena so callous toward her.

Just then, a woman stumbled into the inn. She looked very unclean, and she had a large, red sore on her top lip. "Hey! Hey!" she shouted drunkenly. "Whereís the Kingís Arms?"

"Around the queenís ass!" someone from a table bellowed back.

"She doesnít look to be very popular," I noted as I watched the woman storm back outside.

"Yeah, well the townspeople say sheís cursed," Celia explained.

"Really? How?"

"Every lover sheís ever had has either died, or gone blind."

"Wow. Whatís her name?"


"Hmm," I remarked in thought. "Itís a good thing I donít live in a town like this. My luck with men is not much better."

Celia looked surprised for some reason. "Your luck with men?"

"Well, Iíve never had any go blind on me," I explained. "Letís just leave it at that."

She stared at me wide-eyed. "You and Xena arenít...?"

"Arenít what?" My curiosity was roused.

"Never mind."

I squinted at her, though she no longer made eye contact with me. "How do you *know* Xena, anyway?"

"... Well, that was a long time ago," she mumbled at the floor.

"Now you sound like Xena. Did you two used to fight together?" I asked, not really being able to picture this dainty woman wielding a sword.


"Against each other?"


"Grow up together?"


"Sleep together?"

Her face flew up to stare at mine. "Well Gabrielle, itís been nice chatting, but I need to go."

My jaw dropped what felt like miles. "You two *slept* together?!"

"I never said that!" she barked defensively. "Look," she said, a look of panic washing over her. "I know what Xena can do to people."

"I guess you do," I replied almost unconsciously.

"Please donít tell her I told you."

She looked so afraid. "Of course I wonít." I smiled to put her at ease, and touched her hand in comfort. "Xena wonít hurt you. I promise."

She smiled back with some reservation. "Thank you."

As I turned and walked back out into the street, my mind was racing uncontrollably. Xena and Celia had been lovers? How could that be? Xena was so... into men.

Wasnít she?

True, there really had been no men to speak of for a long time... since she and I had met.

Since she and I had met?

It was rather hard to believe, now that I considered it all. Xena, by her own admission, had made a whirlwind tour through the beds of most of the great leaders of Greece, Rome, Crete, and Mesopotamia. Usually it had only been a strategic move in a bid for power, so I guess I never really stopped to consider her lack of ... companionship now.

Besides, there had been Marcus. She had truly loved him... right? Perhaps he had been the great love of her life and now that he was gone, no one measured up to him (well, not *measured.* You know what I mean, right?).

But what if that wasnít the reason? And as I thought more, I realized it really couldnít be. How could I then explain people like Ulysses and Rafe? Casual flirtations? Just a woman with a strong sexual appetite channeling her energy?

I stopped and thought about my deceased husband for a moment, and what Xena had been like when I had left her to marry him. Things between us seemed so... sad then. Was it possible she had feelings for me and that was why?

I thought about my marriage to Perdicas. I had loved him, yes. But there were no stirrings of fire between us, not on my part anyway. He had been a good man, and I regretted marrying him on several levels. Most importantly that it cost him his life, but also that he never really owned my heart.

I needed to be on the road, fighting for the perpetuation of right and honor... with Xena. That was what owned my heart.

I glanced up and saw the warrior princess walking toward me across the street. It was so very strangeóas though everything around me moved in its typical fashion, but Xena seemed to be in slow motion. She was smiling as she gradually advanced toward me, and I felt my breath catch as I was overcome by... something. My heart seemed to race, my face felt hot, and I felt a fluttering in my stomach.

My eyes grew wide in speculation.

Perhaps it was she who owned my heart.

That would have explained so much! There was so much I gained from doing noble deeds, but I had no interest to do them with anyone but Xena. I knew I loved her, and that the feelings were returned, but I had no idea how deeply they ran.

I would die for her, I thought as I continued to watch her walk toward me. My knees suddenly felt weak.

"Did you get us a room?" she asked, her cerulean eyes seemingly boring deep into my soul.

"They have no vacancies," I whispered back, terribly self-conscious that I was staring at her, but unable to stop.

"Hmm. I was afraid of that." She scowled slightly, and I watched the subtle changes of her brow. "What would you like to do? This is your evening."

"It is?"

"Yup. You call the shots tonight."

Suddenly, my mind was filled with the most lurid and provocative thoughts of the two of us... doing things I imagined Xena had done with Celia. But was it the first time I had had such thoughts? No. It was just the first time I thought it was a true possibility that they might actually happen.

"Are you all right?" she asked me, her face filled with concern.

"Sure, why?"

"Your face just got so flushed. Are you hot?"

I smiled at the question. "Iím fine," I said, regaining my composure. "Iím calling the shots?"

"You are."

"Then I think we should stay for dinner, and camp outside of town for the evening."

Xena nodded. "Yes, Queen."

Her reference to my Amazon title made me laugh, and made me a little uneasy. What would it be like to have this restrained warrior as a lackey? At my bidding?

"I am starved," I declared.

"How surprising."

"Letís get some food."

There were so many places to choose fromópeople with carts set up selling food of every kind: fruits, meats, stews. Xena and I bought a little something from everywhere, sort of sampled the wares, if you like. And some of the exotic things I had never seen before were truly remarkable flavors indeed.

Or course, the whole time in the back of my mind I was replaying my conversation with Celia. Did Xena regret it? Was that why she didnít want to tell me about it? Or was she simply afraid to tell me? Afraid my reaction would be one of disapproval?

But the main question that returned to my head again and again was this one: Did Xena feel the heat between us? Could she not sense what lay beneath the love, respect and devotion we shared? But more importantly, could I?

Was I just fabricating all this based on my new-found information? Was this something I was creating out of jealousy that another woman had shared something with Xena that I had not?

Perhaps I did feel a little jealous, I decided. But I also felt... well, inadequate. What was wrong with me? Did Xena not find me attractive? Was there something about Celia that ignited her passions that I did not possess?

All these questions swirled around in my head until I thought I would scream with the frustration of it all. There was only one thing for me to do, I decided.

I was about to seduce Xena, and put all my questions to rest.


"Are you sure you want to by that wineskin?" Xena asked, her hands on her hips.

"Well, we are celebrating Dionysus, arenít we? Shouldnít we have wine?" I rationalized.

She shrugged and I paid the merchant for the oversized wineskin that he assured me was a very potent spirit indeed. I had read stories about seduction, and I knew that step one was to get your victimís, er, intendedís guard down. Xena *never* had her guard down, so I was already at a distinct disadvantage.

We walked by a merchant with many ornamented bottles laid before him on a brightly colored veil.

"Perfume for the lady?" the merchant suggested.

I smiled. "Might I try some first?"

He grinned back in a most sinister way. "But of course." He reached down and selected a bottle made of exquisite blue glass. "Try this one, my lady."

I took the perfume and applied it to the left side of my neck. "Here, Xena. What do you think of this?"

She bent in to smell it, and my heart began to race.

"Itís okay."

"Oh," I mumbled. I pointed to a tiny green bottle. "Well how about that one?" I inquired, determined to find a fragrance that impressed her.

The merchant placed the bottle in my hand and I applied the perfume to the right side of my neck.


Again she bent in to smell it, and as she did, I inhaled the scent of leather and soapóXenaís own fragrance.

"Yuk," she said, her face contorted in a horrible mask of distaste. Now I was getting disheartened. "Are you ready to move on yet?" Xena posed in impatience.

"Look," I directed to the merchant. "What do you have that will really do the job?"

He looked confused. "Job?"

"What fragrance will bring a suitor to their knees?" I clarified.

"Ah!" he exclaimed in recognition. He put his finger to the side of his nose as though he and I were exchanging some great trade secret, and then bent down and arose holding the most ornate red bottle I think I had ever seen. "This!" was all he said, extending it to me carefully.

I removed the top and inhaled. It *was* a divine scent. I put some on the tip of my middle finger and then slid it slowly from my throat down between my breasts, until my hand met fabric.

"Xena?" I questioned off-handedly, pointing my breasts at her.

"Hmm?" she asked, apparently not paying attention.

"Tell me what you think?" I requested softly.

"Is this the last one?" she muttered in annoyance.

"Yes," I replied, unable to hide my disappointment.

She relented, and looked at my body as though she was unsure which part of me to sniff. I brought my hand to my bodice to elucidate, and she seemed to roll her eyes a bit, but leaned in to smell me and make me happy.

As she did so, I thrust my chest out a bit further and her face actually made contact with my breasts. Now, I donít think Iím the most amply-breasted woman in Greece, but I can hold my own among the average female (well, not *hold* my own. Itís a figure of speech.) Besides, Celia had more cleavage than most women would ever know what to do with.

"Well?" I asked, in my best husky voice, enjoying her close proximity.

Xena straightened back up and opened her mouth to speak. Her eyes darted behind me and then lit up with excitement.


Before I knew it, my warrior had darted away to go fondle the wares of another. I looked at the merchant in disgust. "That was the best you could do?"

"What do you seek?" came a deep female voice from over my shoulder.

I gave the merchant back his bottle and turned to see a gypsy woman, addressing me.

"What do *I* seek?"

"You wish to bring a suitor to their knees?" the old woman asked.

I smiled and walked toward her stand. "Yes."

"That warrior you were with?"

I nodded.

"I have just the thing, dearie." She reached into a pouch dangling from her belt and extracted a small piece of fabric that contained something, but was tied up with a piece of string.

"What is that?"

"A fetish."

"And what does it do?" I asked skeptically.

"It is a love charm. Whomever you bestow it upon will reciprocate your feelings."

I was hesitant. Xena had warned me of these types of people before, promising spells and amulets that possessed certain powers. She said most were simply out for a quick dinar-- that their wares were usually nothing more than common dirt or birdís feathers or some such stuff.

"Trust me, my dear. Give this to her, and your warrior will not be able to get enough of you," she explained with a wink.

I blushed a bit, but her words conjured up the right images.

"How much?"

"Four dinars."

I negotiated down to two dinars, and she even threw in an amulet as a bonus. She said that if I wore the brass medallion around my neck, my true colors would be visible to my loverís eyes.

"How long will it take?" I asked eagerly, putting the medallion around my neck.

"Not long," she answered. "Youth can be so impetuous," she noted, shaking her head.

I thanked her and found where Xena was brazenly eyeing some fancy weaponry.

"Only one prior owner," the merchant was telling her, as she held the dagger up to examine the angle of the blade. "And he fell on it himself. Very little wear."

"Too rich for my blood," Xena said, setting it back down and turning to me. She eyed my medallion. "Whatís that?"

"Just an amulet. I haggled for it."


"Well, really I got this for you," I elaborated, handing her the fetish. "The amulet was free."

Xena eyed the charm warily. "And what is that?"

"A fetish."

"Gabrielle, donít tell me--"

"Come on, Xena. Indulge me," I purred. "You said this was my night." I tied the fetish to the waist of her armor.

"Yeah, whatever."

I looked up and saw a stand with very sheer clothing. "Oh, letís go over here!" I dragged Xena over and began looking through the finery. "How about this?" I posed, holding up a blouse that was totally transparent.

Xena choked. "For what?" she asked wide-eyed.

"Havenít you ever wanted something that was, I donít know... kind of revealing?" I questioned, putting the first one down and picking up a sheer gown of purple.

"More revealing than what you wear now?" she sputtered.

I grinned but did not look up. "Exactly."

"Gabrielle, have you lost your mind? You canít fight naked."

"It would be a brilliant diversion, donít you think?"

Xena walked up to me and took the fabric out of my hands, setting it back on the table. "What has gotten into you?"

I looked up into her eyes, wondering if that fetish had done anything for Xena other than irritate her. "Nothing," I said finally.

Her expression softened. It seemed for an instant that there was some spark there between us. But then it was gone.

"Come on, Gabrielle. Itís time to do your bard thing."

We walked over to where there was an older man on a stage, telling a story to a rather small group. He had good special effects, I guess, but his plot was lacking. There was no intrigue. He received minimal applause and a few dinars tossed his way.

"Who wishes to spin a tale next?" a man asked, stepping up to the newly vacated platform.

"I will," I said loudly. Everyone turned to see where the voice had emanated from, and at the hostís urging, I too ventured up on stage.

I looked out to the crowd, which seemed to be growing. Everyone seemed skeptical that a slight woman could be a captivating bard. I glanced to Xena, who looked at me with an air of confidence and ... perhaps even pride. That gave me a great idea.

I told a story of a great warrior, "dark and intense, with eyes of blue fire." I did not mention this warriorís gender, or name. And naturally, everyone assumed it to be a man.

My fictitious warrior was an evil warlord who, in an uncharacteristic show of compassion, rescued a young maiden from slave traders. But instead of returning her back to her betrothed and her family, the warrior gave the maiden the option to return home, or stay, and be by the warriorís side forever.

The maiden of course, chose to stay with the warrior, and in time, the maiden tamed the warrior. In turn, her life was forever enriched from the depth of their love for each other.

"It had been fate," I concluded. "Their destiny was to be together. Divided they were incomplete. Together they were one."

I stopped speaking and bowed my head to the audience, which had grown quite large over the course of my story. I was given a thunderous response, and dinars flew at me like hailstones.

Without making a move, I looked to Xena. She was no longer there. Sullenly, I collected my dinars and made my way off the stage to look for her.

I checked back at the weapon merchantís table, but she wasnít there. I didnít see her anywhere, and a horrible flash went through my mind.

What if she had met someone during my story? What if that fetish had pointed her to someone else? What if it only held grass and pebbles and Xena was right now sitting at a table across from Celia... looking at her huge, mountainous orbs of flesh?


I spun around to see Xena, smiling before me.

"Where did you go?" I asked, sounding more angry than I intended.

"I saw something I had to get. I didnít want anyone to snatch it up."

"What was that?" I snapped. "A battle ax?"

"No," she said softly, pulling something from behind her. "This... for you."

In Xenaís hand were the most beautiful hair combs I had ever seen. They had delicate stone inlay and intricate carvings on them. My eyes flew open at the sight.

"Thank you!" I gasped, overcome that not only had Xena bought me something for no real reason than just to make me happy, but that she had known so well what my tastes were. I hugged her tightly to me, and she hugged me back (the latter of which did not happen that often).

I was hesitant to release her, but I wanted to try out my new combs. "Help me put them in?" I asked, my eyes tearing up a little.

"Sure," she answered as I turned away from her so she could begin. "So how was your tale? I heard a lot of applause."

I sighed. She hadnít even heard it. "It went well, I guess."

"Maybe you can tell me the story later."

"I think you probably already know it," I said sadly. This seduction stuff was a lot more work than I had imagined. The great lovers never seemed to have these kinds of problems. Was it just me?

"There you are," she said as she finished, resting her hands on my shoulders. "They look good."

I involuntarily leaned back into her and rested against her. "Thanks."

Xena pulled away from me then, the lull in our conversation apparently making our contact seem disquieting. "So, now what?" she asked nervously.

I was becoming very depressed. This was progressing as an intensely disappointing day for me, indeed. "Now, itís time for wine," I muttered, and opened the wineskin for a swig.

I had run out of ideas.



It was a shock for me to open my eyes, but still see darkness. After a brief moment of panic-- of having no idea where I was, stars came into focus, and I realized I was lying on the ground, and that night had fallen.


"Iím right here, Gabrielle."

I was relieved to hear her voice, and I tried to sit up, but I found I was very dizzy.

"Oh, my head is not on straight," I complained as I managed to slowly shift my weight so I was upright. "What happened?"

"You donít remember?"

I squinted to see Xena better in the darkness. The only light came from the glowing embers of a now long-defunct fire. I tried to recall how I had gotten there. "Um... no."

Xena leaned in closer to me so that I could now see her face by the faint moonlight. "Whatís the last thing you *do* remember?" she asked softly.

I cast my mind back. "We saw a juggler," I recalled slowly.

"Uh huh."

"We... watched some dancers in the square," I added.


I squinted. "Did I drink too much?"

Xena nodded. "Oh, yeah." She held out a small bowl with some herbal mixture in it. "Here, drink this. It will help."

As I did so, I was suddenly filled with a horrible sense of dread. What had I said or done? I knew what I was upset about when the drinking began. Had I confessed my feelings to her?

Or even worse, had I accosted her?

I winced, preparing for the onslaught. "What happened?"

"Do you remember the fight?" Xena asked casually.

"Fight? Was I in it?"

"Mmm. And you did remarkably well for someone who could barely stand. You were a force to be reckoned with, Gabrielle." She paused and glanced down. "Of course, you *were* the one who started it."

"*I* did?! Why?"

"Iím a little hazy on that part myself," she explained as I rubbed my forehead. "Some drunkard came up to me and made a remark. Then the melee began."

"Oh, gods," I whimpered, covering my eyes. My head was pounding less, but my heart was pounding more. "Did I hurt him?"

"Well, letís just say you had a few choice words-- slurred as they may have been... and that he wonít be using that hand again any time soon to make any more obscene gestures."

I was mortified. "And that was the end of it?"

Xena started to nod again. "Until his wife appeared."

"She was angry at him for harassing you?"

"Yes, but not as angry as she was at you for dislocating her husbandís shoulder," she clarified.

"And she is--"

"Healing nicely. Once her nose stopped bleeding, she calmed right down."

I couldnít stand much more. How could I have done all that? "Xena, I am so sorry."

She smiled, and brushed the hair away from my forehead. "Donít be. You simply saved me the trouble of doing it myself. I must admit, I was a little surprised, but if I had thought you were out of control, I would have stopped you."

The tender tone in her voice calmed me, and I stared at her in wonder.

"How did I end up here... and where is here?"

"Weíre not that far outside Latium. I carried you here. You werenít able to make it on your own."

I glanced down to my body. "Was I... injured?"

"Nope. Just too drunk to walk," she informed me as she moved to sit beside me.

"Xena, why didnít you stop me?"

She sighed, and put her arm around my waist. "To be honest with you Gabrielle, I kind of liked having you defend my honor."

"YóYou did?"

"Actually, I was very flattered. You said some things that... really touched me. No oneís ever jumped into the fire to protect me like that before."

"Because you are capable of taking care of yourself," I explained, "much better than I can." I leaned my head on her shoulder, and she began to trace soft circles on my back.

"No I canít. I need you, Gabrielle."

A gust of wind hit me that chilled me, and Xena protectively pulled me closer to her.

"For what?"

"You make me happy, Gabrielleólike no one else ever has."

My heart felt as though it stopped. I turned to look into her eyes. "Really?" I asked, incredulous. "What about--"

Xena touched her index finger to my lips. "You," she repeated. "No one else."

I was unable to speak, or even breathe. All I could manage was to search her face for subtle signs that what she said was true.

"It is fate, Gabrielle," she whispered. "Divided we are incomplete. Together we are one." She leaned in and kissed me then-- a soft, pliant union that made me feel as though my insides were melting.

It was all so right-- so amazing. The feelings her kiss evoked in me surpassed anything I had ever felt prior to it. It was as though I had been waiting my whole life for our lips to meet.

She pulled away from me slowly, and my breathing was ragged.

"You heard my story after all," I finally said.

"I never miss your stories," she whispered. "Even when you think Iím no longer listening." She leaned in to kiss my shoulder. "You smell incredible."

"You didnít think so earlier," I pointed out as goose bumps ran up my back. Her mouth was not far from my ear.

"I was trying not to give myself away."

I pushed her away lightly. "Well that was damned thoughtless of you. I thought you just couldnít see me."

She smiled. "I have always seen you, Gabrielle. I have seen the gentle young girl, the stubborn woman, the compassionate nurse, the eloquent diplomat, the capable warrior, and the loving friend. I have seen it all."

"Have you seen the passionate lover?" I asked, boldly.

"I want to."

Our lips met again, though more urgent than before. If I had been feeling poorly, there was no sign of it now. My hands held her beautiful face as I tasted her mouth. It was more intense than I had even imagined it could be.

Her hand went down to my throat, and she touched the medallion I wore.

She rested her forehead on mine as she looked at it again. "What is this really supposed to be for?"

I laughed. "Your fetish is to reciprocate my feelings, and the amulet is to make my lover see my true colors."



"Your true color must be green. Thatís what color this has turned your neck."

I shook my head. "No matter. It has served its purpose."

She pulled her head back to look into my eyes. "Come on, you donít think that stuff actually did anything, do you?"

"I know one thing it did," I whispered, tracing light kisses around her lips.

"Whatís that?"

"It made me need a bath," I said as I continued lavishing my affections on her.

"Thereís a lake just over that hill," she rasped in my ear.

"Letís go."

The rest, Iím afraid, I must leave up to your imagination. And while I have never had wine since then, I give my thanks to Dionysus every minute of every day.

The End

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