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

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

COMMENTS: Okay, I’m beyond giving the violence/hurt/comfort warnings. It’s all in here some where - nothing is too extreme. Hope you enjoy Part Two.

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

Building Our World
By Annmaray
August 1999


Chapter Six

Riding her chestnut mare onto the land of her father was uncomfortable for Gabrielle. From the edge of the property both women could see the house and barn were no longer standing. Although the message from Poteidaia’s village council indicated her father was missing, the young Bard could not help but believe Herodotus might jump out any moment. The day was almost over and both women were exhausted from riding all day. The closer Gabrielle got to Poteidaia the grumpier she became and the quicker she wanted to get this all over with. Thus she pushed her horse and she pushed Xena. For the time, the Warrior did not push back and attempted to let her partner lead the way and make the decisions of, when they would stop and rest. Less than a candlemark from Poteidaia the Warrior finally suggested they camp for the night and enter the village in the morning, when they were fresh. Gabrielle would not listen. In fact they argued rather heatedly over that one decision. With tears filling her eyes, the Bard told Xena to camp if she liked, but she planned on going all the way into the village. There would be no way the Warrior would let her travel on alone, therefore she relented and followed.

At the beginning of the path that would lead to the burned out house, the young blonde slid off the mare. Gabrielle grabbed the reins and began walking. The Warrior jumped from Argo and joined her soulmate. Stopping only a short distance down the path Gabrielle let go of the reins. Lowering her head she took several deep breaths in an attempt to try and slow down her increasing heart rate. A warm hand began rubbing her back and she heard a tender, familiar voice. "Honey, maybe we should rest for tonight and come back tomorrow."

Understanding that she had been very difficult to live with these past few days Gabrielle wanted to go on before she changed her mind. "No, lets go. I want us to be gone tomorrow."

Xena was concerned deeply for her soulmate. " are too tired for this right now. Let’s get a warm meal, a bath and find a nice cozy......."

Without warning the Bard spun around and with tears sliding down her cheeks she stared at the Warrior. "STOP XENA....JUST STOP." Pushing into the Warrior’s shoulder Gabrielle shoved her soulmate to the side and vaulted onto the mare. Kicking the mare roughly in the side she galloped passed the Warrior toward the ruins of the house.

Not at all pleased with her soulmates gruff reaction Xena quickly mounted Argo and chased after her soulmate. By the time she caught up with Gabrielle the young blonde was staring at the remains of what once was her home. With her hands covering her face she sobbed. Before Xena could say anything, her soulmate jumped off the mare and ran into the fields behind the house. The Warrior realized her soulmate was filled with rage and needed to run the anger off. "I’m going to give her a few moments Argo, then.....NO! What am I saying - I’m not giving her any time. I’m staying right with her." Suddenly an outcry filled the air sending fear through Xena’s heart. Kicking Argo demandingly the mare bolted toward Gabrielle’s direction. Flipping off of Argo, Xena was immediately by the side of her soulmate who was kneeling at the grave of her mother. Her crying was now uncontrollable. Quickly dropping to her knees behind Gabrielle, the Warrior wrapped her arms around the Bard’s waist and pulled her backward into her chest. The young Amazon Queen did not fight and collapsed into the protective love of her Warrior. Rocking Gabrielle back and forth, Xena felt helpless. Doing everything possible to comfort her soulmate, the Warrior could no longer control her own tears. Together they cried. Unsure of how much time passed, Xena released her hold and returned to Argo for the waterbag. Accepting the water, Gabrielle drank a great deal and quickly reached for the comfort of Xena’s body. "I’m here I’m here."

Gabrielle continued to cry but the tears were not violently controlling her body, as they were earlier. Praying for a way to help ease her soulmate’s pain, Xena started to hum softly. The beauty of Xena’s voice penetrated the pain in Gabrielle’s heart and she allowed the music to take control of her sadness. The sun was setting, when Gabrielle gently pushed away from her Warrior. Diving into the deep blue eyes of her soulmate, Gabrielle could see the uncertainty, worry and the Warrior’s own sorrow. "I’m so sorry Xena, what is wrong with me? I’ve treated you horrible."

Grabbing Gabrielle’s chin, the Warrior kissed her lightly on the lips. "Hey, nothing is wrong with you. We are here together. Remember – we are bonded, as one. Everything we do, both the happy and sad times – we do them together. I love you."

"I...I need to get away from here." Tenderly holding Xena’s face in her hands, she kissed the sadden eyelids of her soulmate. "I need to be with you."

Grabbing Gabrielle by the waist Xena helped her to stand. She whistled for Argo who came quickly with the chestnut mare following close behind. Lifting Gabrielle onto to Argo, Xena vaulted up behind her lover. "Let’s get a room in town. After you eat and have a nice warm bath, then we can decide what to do next."

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

Poteidaia had one inn and a tavern. Realizing it was late, Xena hoped they could still find a room for the night. If not, she would take Gabrielle back out of town to camp. Believing that the inn would be a better choice and much quieter the couple stopped there first. "You stay on Argo, I’ll check and see if we can get a room." Gabrielle was completely exhausted and had no intentions of arguing anymore with her soulmate. The sight of her mother’s grave was too much of a shock; it made it all too real. Within moments Xena came back out. "Come on, I’ve ordered a bath and we have a room for the night. If you want to stay longer we can." Realizing they were in Poteidaia, a village that was not completely tolerant of the Warrior Princess or Amazons, Gabrielle slid off Argo rather than wait for Xena to help. "Hey, you go on in and I’m going to take the horses to the stables. I’ll be right up okay?" Wanting desperately to kiss her soulmate, Xena knew better than to show her affection so openly in Poteidaia. There were still several places throughout Greece where the couple ran into prejudice and she did not want to upset Gabrielle tonight. The Warrior knew she would be able to hold and kiss her Bard later behind closed doors. As she grabbed onto to the reins of both horses, Gabrielle surprised her and reached up kissing Xena directly on the lips. Although the kiss was quick, the Warrior could not help but drop the reins and place her hands on Gabrielle’s hips. This caught the attention of several men standing outside the inn and they protested loudly making derogatory comments. Less than a heartbeat went by, when the innkeeper came racing out the door throwing Xena’s dinars to the ground. The Warrior looked at her soulmate and her heart broke at the sadness she saw in Gabrielle’s eyes. It would appear her hometown had completely disowned the young Bard. Gabrielle reached over with tears rolling down her cheeks and picked up the dinars.

Meeting the blue eyes of her soulmate, Gabrielle could see the distress take over the brave face of her Warrior. Their bond meant the world to Xena and to discover people hating them for their love hurt her spirit and Gabrielle knew this. "Sweetheart I’m sorry. I should have known better. I just had to touch you...let you know I love you so much. You have been so good to me...putting up with all my....."

Moving both sets of reins into one hand the Warrior wrapped her arm around Gabrielle’s shoulders. "No...why are you sorry....for loving me. For not caring what anyone says and loving me. You have nothing to be sorry about. I’m glad you kissed me." To prove her words and to show up the jerks slandering them Xena kissed her soulmate tenderly. As always, Gabrielle reciprocated willingly.


From a small shop close by Lila came running out to greet her sister and Xena. Quickly wrapping her arms around her older sister the young brunette began to babble endlessly. Gabrielle firmly placed her hand over Lila’s mouth. "Lila, stop. I’m tired and not in the mood to talk."

"Sorry Gabby. Do you have a place to stay?" Just then Gabrielle recognized Marlana standing behind Lila and she said hello and introduced Xena.

"No, not yet. I’m actually thinking it might be better to camp in the forest."

", please you can stay with us. We have room, if you don’t mind sleeping on the floor in front of the fireplace. Please consider staying. It is only my mom and Lila and of course, myself."

Gabrielle realized if she accepted this offer, then she might not be able to cuddle with Xena. Right now she needed to be close to her Warrior and she had the feeling that Xena needed to be close to her. This loss was also affecting her soulmate. "Look, Marlana, thank you...but."

"No but’s Gabrielle. Marlana and her mother know you and Xena are married. I told them."

Marlana stepped right into the conversation. "Gabrielle, as far as we are concerned, if people don’t like the love you have for each other....well then they are blind!" The two women giggled and then together turned to the men in front of the inn and stuck their tongues out.

Impressed with the strength and loyalty of the young women regarding their relationship, Xena smiled and turned to her soulmate. "Gabrielle, let’s accept."

Trusting completely in her soulmate’s decision, Gabrielle followed Lila into the house, while Marlana showed Xena the barn where she could leave the horses. By the time Xena got back to the house her Bard was already curled up on the floor in front of the fire and asleep. Marlana’s mother, Jolenta, was a pleasant woman and was quite pleased to have both Gabrielle and the famous Warrior Princess staying in her home. Handing Xena a few extra blankets the Warrior spread them on the floor and gently rolled her soulmate onto the thicker padding. Lost in a deep sleep the Warrior was careful not to wake her. Jolenta whispered that she had some hot tea brewing and raisin bread for the Warrior. Thanking the old woman, Xena indicated she would join her in a moment. Once alone with Gabrielle she removed the Bard’s boots and the daggers from her belt. Gently the Warrior also unfastened the Amazon choker and her wrist guards. Kneeling beside her lover she brushed the blonde bangs to the side and kissed the tear stained cheeks. After pulling a blanket over her soulmate, Xena joined the three women in the kitchen.

"Thank you for allowing us in your home."

"You are most welcomed Xena. I always liked Gabrielle...poor child has put up with too much in her young life." The woman set a cup of tea in front of her guest. "Marlana and Lila grew up together. Couple of little rascals." Jolenta slapped a giggling Marlana on the arm, who right along with Lila instantly remembered the mischief the two would get into. "Ever since that day Gabrielle chased off those wolves and saved my Marlana, I’ve been grateful."

"Really....I had not heard that story." In fact the longer Xena knew Gabrielle she discovered that there was not a lot about her Bard’s childhood that she did know.

Jolenta proceeded to tell Xena how Marlana and Lila ran into some thickets filled with thorns to hide from two wolves roaming the area. Gabrielle was out collecting wood and heard the girls crying. Bravely she picked up several stones throwing them at the wolves who turned and faced Gabrielle. Then something odd happened. Taking a sip of her tea the old woman’s face turned extremely serious. "My husband, who was alive at the time, had been out hunting and came up on the girls having heard the screaming. Gabrielle was standing in front of the wolves and it looked to him as if she was somehow controlling them. Suddenly she waved her hands and the wolves ran away."

This story left the Warrior with her mouth hanging open. "WHAT?"

"Oh yes...amazing I would say. Gabrielle had to be only about six or seven winters then. The girls were about five, I think." Both nodded in agreement.

"What happened then?" The Warrior was extremely proud of her soulmate but was filled with questions.

"Well, the girls had a number of cuts and scratches from the thorns and had to be treated. By the end of the day the whole village heard the story." Suddenly Jolenta lowered her head, as if to gather her thoughts. Finally what seemed like candlemarks to Xena but was only moments, the woman looked directly into the Warrior’s eyes. "We did not see much of Gabrielle after that. Herodotus must have kept her in the house." Glancing over to the two friends Jolenta shrugged her shoulders. "I imagine it was several moons before we saw Gabrielle again."

Xena jerked her head toward Lila demanding an explanation. "Talk Lila. Enough of this silence."

Hesitating, the young brunette did not want to talk about the strange things in her home. She was both ashamed and embarrassed. Ashamed because she never helped to protect Gabrielle and embarrassed because she loved her father and his behavior with Gabrielle disturbed her.

A voice came unexpectedly from behind the women startling all of them. "Xena, please don’t do this."

Pushing away from the table the Warrior reached her soulmate in only three strides. "Hey, how are you feeling?" Without waiting for an answer Xena led Gabrielle to the table.

Jolenta was slightly unnerved that Gabrielle must have overheard them. She did not want to cause the young blonde any further pain. Slipping away from the table she poured a cup of tea adding an herb to help Gabrielle sleep. *I just won’t tell her I put them in.* Returning to the table she observed a once dangerous Warrior appearing tender and concerned over the young Bard. This touched the old woman’s heart and if she had any reluctance about this union between the two, it was now chased away.

Xena accepted the tea from Jolenta and smiled a thank you. Her senses could immediately smell the herb that was added. Hoping Gabrielle might be too exhausted to notice the added property to her tea, Xena handed the cup to her soulmate. "Here...drink this."

Trusting her lover completely Gabrielle sipped at the tea and within several sips could taste the added herb. Glancing with droopy green eyes to her soulmate she placed the cup on the table. The Warrior lifted the cup once again and brought it to her lips. Leaning closely in order to whisper gently to her soulmate Xena could not resist and quickly kissed her cheek. "Come need to rest. Please finish this. Jolenta is only trying to help." The fear in Gabrielle’s eyes was apparent to the Warrior. "I promise I will not leave you." The last statement seemed to help and Gabrielle complied and drank the tea. Putting the cup down Xena scooted her chair closer so her Bard could lean up against her shoulder and chest.

"You saw mother’s grave, didn’t you Gabby?" Concern over her sister’s current state, Lila at first did not realize that while she had the opportunity to see her mother before her death, helped to bury her and then grieve over the loss, Gabrielle did not have the same chances. Anxious to change the topic Lila began to tell Gabrielle that she wanted them to keep the land. "Vanaska said the land is ours Gabby. We can build it back up."

"Lila, you do what you want with the land. I don’t want anything to do with it." Gabrielle laid her head back on the strong protective shoulder of her partner. "I just can’t make any decisions about this right now." The room became suddenly quiet and Gabrielle knew it was because of her. Xena wanted information about her childhood and apparently Jolenta was willing to tell her what she least until she entered the room. Confusion coupled with exhaustion made it difficult for Gabrielle to think straight. A small voice started talking in Gabrielle’s head. ‘Why do you hide your childhood and pain from your soulmate. Hasn’t she told you so many things about her past - the evil deeds, the killings and the betrayals? It is time you shared your life completely with the woman you love and who would give her life to protect you.’ Whoever was invading her thoughts at that moment brought a bit of sanity to the confusion within her spirit. Feeling the warmth of Xena’s body so close to her own, she closed her eyes in order to soak in the love that was radiating from her protective Warrior. *Maybe I can share my life. Maybe she will still love me even after she has heard.*

A deep whispering voice filled Gabrielle’s ears and she recognized it immediately, as her soulmate. "I love you Gabrielle. There is nothing you can tell me that will chase me away."

This statement startled Gabrielle and she tilted her head to look in the sapphire eyes. "How did you know what I was thinking?" Suddenly the Bard realized the two of them were alone. Evidently when she closed her eyes, the three women quietly left the room. "Xena, I...."

Rubbing her fingers across Gabrielle’s tender lips Xena understood the hesitation and fear. She had been in this position many times, debating whether to tell Gabrielle a bit of her history or leave it alone. Eventually over time Gabrielle heard a great deal about Xena. "Ssshh. You do not have to say anything. I know how you are feeling because many times I was afraid to tell you things about myself - afraid you would hate me and leave. Now I know that you would never leave me. I will never leave you Gabrielle." The Warrior kissed Gabrielle several times over her eyes. "Right now I think we both need some sleep. Tomorrow we can talk a bit. I just need to know what you are going through. I love you Gabrielle and I want to help. Don’t shut me out....please."

Securing the smile she had hoped for Xena helped Gabrielle to stand and together hand in hand they returned to the makeshift bed of blankets in front of the glowing embers. Removing her armor and boots Xena laid down and guided her lover into a familiar cuddling position. Kissing her repeated on the forehead, Xena was delighted, when Gabrielle caught her lips and welcomed a deeper kiss. The kiss was comforting and they both craved the security it would bring. For several moments they licked, nibbled and probed each other’s mouth and lips with guarded passion. Knowing they could not take their needs further the kissing helped to satisfy the desires and reassure their bond. The sleeping herb in the tea took hold of Gabrielle fairly quickly and the comfort of her Warrior’s love guided her into a land without dreams. Soon after the Warrior joined her soulmate.

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

The next morning Xena was up early and rather than let Gabrielle sleep she woke her. The Warrior did not want her soulmate waking alone and possibly getting scared because Xena was not there. Surprisingly it only took several kisses to wake Gabrielle who instantly smiled up at her lover and circled her arms around the Warrior’s neck. "I’m going to check on the horses. Want to come with me?" Immediately indicating that she wanted to be with Xena the couple was up, put their boots on, folded the blankets neatly and slipped out of the small cottage. As the couple strolled casually toward the barn behind the house, Gabrielle slid her hand into Xena’s causing the Warrior’s heart to soften. "How are you feeling this morning?"

Gabrielle could feel the protective hand of her lover accept and squeeze tightly. This small response spoke loudly to the Bard of how greatly Xena loved her. "You know, Xena....I really love you. I’m tired and a bit numb but I have you........and you are the most important person in my life." Leaning into the Warrior’s arm, Gabrielle wrapped her free hand around Xena’s forearm and kissed her bare arm. "How are you feeling?"

This caused the Warrior to chuckle and she quickly pulled Gabrielle closer, as they both attempted to walk without tripping each other. "I am totally in love with you and doing okay."

In silence the couple entered the barn to find both horses fairly happy to see them. Falling into a normal routine of brushing and feeding the horses the women talked very little, each consumed in their own thoughts of the other.

Fairly soon after the couple completed brushing the horses and cleaning the stalls, Lila came rushing in to find the women. "Jolenta had the tub filled for you both and when you are done, she will make you both a hot morning meal."

"She is a good woman. I will have to find a way to repay her." Grabbing her young Bard by the hand, Lila followed closely, as the couple walked back to the house.

Jolenta insisted on spoiling her visitors and would not accept dinars or chores in exchange. Chasing the young couple into the back room where they could take a secluded bath, she indicated she would have a hot meal waiting for them.

The water felt wonderful and Xena settled back against the side immediately and closed her eyes. Familiar hands were soon sliding up her legs, passed her hips and now fondling her breasts. Within moments the lips Xena could never get enough of were pressing against her own. Sliding her hands through the long blonde hair Xena let her tongue caress Gabrielle’s top lip and the groan she hoped for escaped Gabrielle. *Oh love...oh yes.*

The kiss turned to fevered desires and Xena lowered her hand to Gabrielle’s center of pleasure. Rubbing her fingers sensually over her Bard, the Warrior jumped suddenly, when she felt Gabrielle’s fingers enter her heated shaft. "Oh, are sneaky."

"Do you want me to stop?" Questioning her Warrior humorously, knowing full well Xena would say no, Gabrielle did not wait for a response and captured the red lips with gentle force. The kisses turned greedy and lustful, as each continued to stroke and tease the other until they both reached powerful peaks. Crossing over the lovers held on to each other tightly, as they shook and trembled filled with each other.

Attempting to catch her breath Xena looked at the glazed covered eyes of her lover. "By the gods, I love that when we come together."

" too. Let’s do it again." With urgency Gabrielle darted her tongue in to capture Xena’s and began sucking the pink muscle with a fevered passion.

The Warrior loved it, when Gabrielle talked seductively and made sexual demands on her. Within moments both women were once again trembling and breathing heavily, as they each fell in love all over again.

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

"I understand." From his knees the long hair man bowed and kissed the ground. His human form still continued to betray his spirit on many occasions throughout his travels. Once again a voice from the air rang through his ears and penetrated his spirit. Leaving his followers by the stream Eli wandered into the forest to find a place of solitude, a place to listen and be still. Now with a renewed word from the one he called Abba, the Devi, returned to the few men and women who had been traveling with him for a few days.

As he approached the stream he thought of his two friends, Xena and his precious Gabrielle. Eli had been crushed by their deaths and for a few moons walked alone, refusing to speak with anyone. The Devi was angry with Abba, angry at destiny and angry with Caesar for taking the lives of his two friends. Struggling with the emotions of betrayal, the young Devi, questioned his faith for many days. Why did he not return with Amarice to find the women? Eli also questioned his value as a man. He should have fought for them.....but then he would go against everything he believed in. The news of their rebirth gave Eli hope but he still believed he betrayed their trust, especially Gabrielle’s. Eli was aware that she looked to him for guidance, for hope and in his weakness he led her to a cruel death. Over time, the Devi tossed his emotions and the facts back and forth through his heart and spirit and ended up without complete answers. Their loyalty to him was overwhelming because they accepted and helped him move from a life of magic and question, to one of love.

Finally the time had come and Eli heard Abba’s guidance loud and clear. While the message was puzzling on many fronts, it also directed Eli to seek out his two friends.

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

Deciding to leave Poteidaia before the end of the day came as a surprise to Lila. While both were appreciative of Jolenta’s invitation to stay longer, Gabrielle needed to leave. Xena was happy to hear that Herodotus was not in the village because at this point, she probably would have killed the man.

Lila could not bring herself to tell Gabrielle that she saw their father in Amphipolis. As they were saying their good-byes, Marlana spoke without thinking. "Oh Lila, did you tell Gabrielle about that strange man visiting your mother’s......." Lila slapped her hand over Marlana’s mouth but it was already too late.

The soulmates looked at each other puzzled over Marlana’s announcement. The Warrior questioned the young girl. "What stranger? Who are you talking about?"

Jolenta swatted Lila on the butt and scolded her. "You promised me you would tell Gabrielle. Lila – you have to start thinking girl!"

Apologizing to her sister Lila explained how they discovered the strange man at Hecuba’s graveside. "The strange part was he had tears rolling down his cheeks. He was crying for our mother."

"Did he tell you his name or where he was from?" Gabrielle allowed her soulmate to question Lila further, as she was at the moment speechless.

"He said he knew mother a long time ago and then he left fairly fast. Rode a beautiful horse. He did however, have a tattoo on his hand and the symbol looked familiar." Realizing she would now have to explain her father’s visit to Amphipolis, Lila pulled a bracelet from the pocket of her dress and handed it to Gabrielle. "This engraving was the design on his hand."

Gabrielle took the bracelet recognizing the piece immediately. Looking over her shoulder at Xena who had her hand on Gabrielle’s waist in a reassuring manner, the Bard showed it to her. "Mother use to wear this bracelet all the time. Where did you get it Lila. The house was destroyed."

"I know." Lila shrugged her shoulders and felt Jolenta’s arm slide around her waist. "I knew it looked familiar." Anticipating the next question the young brunette told her sister and Xena about Herodotus’ visit to Amphipolis. She decided to leave out a lot of the details and just said that he was leaving the bundle for the girls and was moving to Athens. She mentioned nothing of Herodotus’ cruel words for Gabrielle. "You should keep it Gabrielle. Would you like to see the other items father left."

Shaking her head no the Bard did not really want to see any of it right now. "Maybe some other time....but I will hang on to this, if you don’t mind."

"Wait – Lila...did your father say anything about that messenger?" The Warrior’s anger was starting to get the better of her and she was not willing to let Lila off the hook just yet.

The young woman hesitated for a moment before answering. She did not want to lie but then she also did not want to hurt Gabrielle. "He said that man was not suppose to kill Gabrielle. He....just....oh Gabby, father is just upset right now about moth........."

"NO – Lila, do not fill your head or try to fill mine with excuses." The Bard was visibly shaken by her sisters need to defend their father. Covering her eyes with her hands, the warmth and strength coming from her soulmate’s grip around her waist helped to center her. "Lila, that man spoiled you and I can accept that you love him. But he was cruel and......." Shoving her hands out in front to stop Lila from interrupting, Gabrielle continued. "I don’t want us to quarrel over this Lila, it will only push us apart. You better decide whom you are going to stand by. If it is father, than I will respect your choice and will always love you. But I can not be by your side supporting your belief in him."

Suddenly Lila grabbed her sister and hugged her, as if her life depended on it. "I love you Gabrielle. I have to stay here and try to build a new home. I’m sorry father was so mean to you. I just........"

As the young woman’s tears began to fall freely, Gabrielle held her young sister and allowed her to cry. "I know, I know. Just please don’t let him hurt you. Okay. I love you Lila." A hand came around and rubbed the Bard’s back. She instantly knew it was not Xena’s.

"She can stay as long as she likes, so don’t worry about her Gabrielle." Jolenta was pleased, when Gabrielle smiled and nodded her appreciation. "Gabrielle, I never trusted your father very I will watch over her closely."

The Warrior still agitated over the whole incident of Herodutus’ message was proud of her soulmate for finally standing up to her sister and also voicing her opinion so strongly. Still immediately suspicious about the stranger, she thought it would be best to ask questions of Lila now before any important details were forgotten. "Lila, did the man say anything more to indicate how he knew your mother?"

Lila wiped the tears from her eyes and looked over at Marlana, as if this would help to trigger her memories. Suddenly her eyes grew big. "Yes...when we first came up behind the man, he was mumbling something about.....wanting to do things over again. And something about giving up land.....ah...stuff like that."

Marlana smiled. "Yea, in fact he even left flowers. Gabrielle he had the richest green eyes I’ve ever seen on a man."

Quickly Lila nodded her agreement with Marlana’s assessment of his appearance. "He was a very handsome man and he knew father too. He said I looked a great deal like father."

"Yes, in fact Lila, do you said that Gabrielle looked like your mother." Marlana added this tiny bit of information that Xena found intriguing.

"Did he respond or say anything about Gabrielle?" Both girls shook their heads no and told the Warrior that the man just smiled and rode off abruptly.

Just as Xena was about to ask a few more questions, she felt the pressure of Gabrielle’s hand squeezing her forearm. "No more questions....please, let’s go Xena." Gabrielle tucked the bracelet between her breasts and hugged the three women goodbye. Mounting the chestnut mare, the Warrior whispered words to Jolenta, which Gabrielle did not hear and quickly jumped, on Argo. Together the couple left the village of Poteidaia and headed north towards the forest. Although Gabrielle did not really know where they were headed, she trusted her soulmate and knew it would be someplace safe.

Xena recalled the conversation over and over in her mind and decided Amphipolis would be a good stop before they went on to Iason temple. *Is it possible that this man might know who Gabrielle’s father could be.....or maybe this man is her father. I have to get a better look at that bracelet.*

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

"Pack a bag my little Amazon!" Grabbing her young lover from behind Eponin targeted the tender earlobe of the Amazon who commanded all of her attention.

"Mmm...." Enjoying the tender kisses she was receiving, the young redhead closed her eyes. "Why...where am I going?"

Spinning Amarice around Eponin lifted the young woman’s chin to find the familiar look of wonder in her beautiful eyes. "I’m taking you home. Just for a visit. Is that okay? I’d like to meet your mother."

The young woman pulled away from her lover. It had been three winters since she last saw her mother and it was not under the best circumstances. "Eponin....I don’t know. Mother wasn’t too pleased with me, when I left."

Not too surprised, as the Warrior understood how Amarice had quite an attitude, when she first met her, she decided to ask why. "My little peanut, what...."

"PEANUT!" The redhead started to giggle over the endearing little name the big Warrior just used. "Peanut? Really Eponin and just what does that mean?"

Walking over to the bed and removing her boots the Amazon would have punched Xena had her friend been standing there. *Thanks a lot Xena. ‘Use little cute names on Amarice ~ she’ll like that. It always makes Gabrielle feel good.’ Hmpf!*

Just as the last boot dropped to the floor, Amarice tackled the staff master forcing her to fall backwards on the bed. "Yes, why peanut?" Secretly this little mushy word meant everything to Amarice, as she understood that it would take a lot of love for Eponin to use a charming term like that. Pressing light kisses all over her Amazon Warrior the young redhead was completely in love with this woman.

"Hey...slow down will you." Actually enjoying the kisses, Eponin still tried to keep a tough warrior demeanor whenever possible. Occasionally she slipped and showed the soft side of her heart but a part of her was still afraid she’d get hurt. That Amarice would tire of her and find some young woman or young buck to love. "I won’t call you that, if you don’t like it."

"Oh no you don’t. I LOVE IT. In fact...I love you."

"You do?"

"Oh...yes. Let me show you." Not giving Eponin an opportunity to talk further Amarice took control of her Warrior’s heart once again.

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

Two days after leaving Poteidaia the warlord met his friends in Thessaly. Stabling his black stallion the man ventured to the tavern and found his companions enjoying an evening meal. Greeting four of the men with the traditional grasping of forearms, the fifth man he hugged fiercely.

"Father, did you..."

Grabbing his son playfully at the collar he smiled. "Yes, my son, I paid my respects." The young blond hair man was his only son, and outside of Gabrielle was his only child. After loosing Hecuba, the warlord rode northeast unable to allow his heart to return to Korca. There he met a young woman similar in nature to Hecuba. The sad fate that followed the warlord drove him to never marry again. His son was born almost two winters after Gabrielle and his wife was immediately pregnant once again. The healer said it was much too soon and her body never had a chance to heal properly. Both she and the baby died in childbirth. While the warlord loved the mother of his son tremendously, he continued to cherish his lost love. He devoted his life to his son and continued to watch his daughter grow from a distance. Most of the time he sent in his closest friends to check on his daughter so he would not arouse suspicion or upset Hecuba. However, he was so secretive about this that the warlord was unaware of the physical abuse. He assumed the bumps and bruises were a result of normal childhood.

Nikolas could tell his father was lost in memories and quickly brought him back. "Father, did you see Gabrielle?" The young man had known of his half sister for several seasons now and was thrilled to hear he had a sister. A sensitive young man by nature, he enjoyed the idea of having a sibling of his own blood. Now the opportunity was there and he was anxious to meet her and be a part of her life.

"No, Nikolas. I did, however, run into Lila but she does not recognize me nor should she. I’m not sure letting Gabrielle know who I am is such a great idea." The old man polished the food off his plate and indicated to the barmaid that he wanted another ale. Ever since his daughter began traveling with the Warrior Princess he was concerned. But then from the stories he heard the man gained a new respect for Xena. When he discovered his daughter was the Amazon Queen, it took a great deal of restraint not to brag to the world how proud he was of her. Then the terrible news of her death by Caesar shook him horribly. With the rumors of their miraculous rebirth, the warlord wondered if this was his opportunity to correct a wrong and reunite with Gabrielle. What held him back was the thought that Gabrielle would reject him, as her true father.

"I understand that she married that Warrior." Tomas, his most trusted friend had been listening to rumors and asking questions.

The warlord nodded his head indicating he had heard the same. "Xena will love and protect her. She will make a good mate and has my blessing – if it meant anything." Pausing to finish his ale, the warlord wiped his lips with the back of his hand and looked at his best friend. "I want you to send a few scouts to find Herodotus. That man had to burn his own house down. Just remember – no one is to hurt the old man. He is mine to take care of."

Young Nikolas was lost in his own thoughts about his sister and the Warrior. "Father, isn’t Xena from Amphipolis?"

"Yes. After I’ve attended to some business in Gevgelija, we will stop in Amphipolis on our way back home." The Warlord also planned on meeting with his brother, who had recently seen his daughter.

"Will we finally get to see Gabrielle?"

Fully aware that his son was excited about meeting his sister, the old warlord was not yet convinced this would be the proper time, if indeed any time would be appropriate. Patting is son on the back lovingly he smiled. "We’ll see, my son. I’m not making any promises."

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

Across the fire the Warrior sharpened her sword until she felt warm eyes watching her. Looking up she saw her soulmate staring at her. *What is going through that pretty blonde head?* Placing her sword to the side the Warrior stood and walked over to her lover.

*Caught again. Can’t help it my Warrior, you are just so beautiful.* The Bard found herself unable to look away from Xena’s deep blue eyes that seemed to be calling her name and were coming directly toward her.

Taking Gabrielle’s hands the Warrior knelt in front of her while gently kissing the small tender hands. Staring directly into the sea green eyes, words of love came easily. "You have me heart, body and soul. Do you know that?" Xena intentionally kept her voice gentle and low and could not help but smile, when she saw the tears fill Gabrielle’s eyes. "Don’t cry Gabrielle, I...." Lately her Bard cried quickly and the tears would always take a direct path to the Warrior’s heart.

Gabrielle moved her fingers to Xena’s lips, silencing any words of apology. "I love you, Xena. You are so good to me. I’ve been such an emotional wreck since we’ve returned to life."

Sitting down by her soulmate Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle pulling her close. "None of this is your fault or mine. We are here for a reason and we will go on following the path and walking the words that our God wants us too. I think Carrier said stumbling was a part of our growth. We just have to get back up and continue walking." Kissing her soulmate on the cheek produced a smile from the young blonde. "Honey, can I ask you some questions?"

"I’ve been waiting for this....I know you’ve heard too much." Leaning her head against Xena’s shoulders the Bard decided to answer anything her lover would ask.

"First, what did you do to those wolves, when you were so young? And what did Herodotus do to you?"

Lowering her head Gabrielle began fiddling with her fingers until large warm hands covered hers stopping the movement. Sitting straight the Bard turned to face her soulmate. "I’m not sure what I did. At least, I don’t remember. Father said I was evil. I could speak with my mind and that was not right. When Hope came to Poteidaia last summer, well that convinced him I was a monster. I really think that sent him over the edge." Pausing to look into the blue eyes hoping to find them calm and unafraid, Gabrielle was pleased to find Xena’s eyes speak of nothing more than love. "Xena, this is more than just prophecy. I don’t know what it is I was able to do....but after the incident with the wolves I tried hard to stop. I began telling stories instead to keep my mind busy. I got in trouble for that too. Seems I could not do anything right." Looking into the sky at the constellations the Bard suddenly remembered Helena’s words at their bonding ceremony. "Honey, do you remember when Helena spoke in a strange tongue at our bonding? I understood some of the words. Only a few....but some." Rubbing her fingers across the muscles in Xena’s forearms the young Amazon Queen was confused. "What is happening to me?"

Caressing her soulmates cheek, Xena ran her fingers through Gabrielle’s hair enjoying the soft silky feeling it left on her fingers. "I don’t know baby. But whatever your gift is, it sounds beautiful to me. Tell me, why did you stop...I mean after the wolves."

"He beat me terribly that night. Blamed me for the injuries Lila and Marlana received from the thorn bushes. It was my fault they were in trouble to start with. He said I was disobedient and would leave me deep in the woods, if I kept misbehaving." The tears forming in Gabrielle’s eyes started sliding down her cheeks. "Can we stop talking about this for now?" Leaning forward the Warrior pulled her in the rest of the way and held Gabrielle tightly.

"Gabrielle, no...don’t run away from this. Tell me what happened?" Knowing she might be pushing too hard Xena could no longer sit by and not know what happened to Gabrielle. "Baby...there is nothing you can tell me that will chase me away."

Hearing that once again helped and the young woman told her mate how her father broke several ribs and beat her so badly they had to smuggle her out to a healer in Thessaly or she would have died. Her father’s excuse to the healer was that a plow horse trampled her. "If it wasn’t for mother pleading for my life, I would have died then. After that he never beat me as bad....but he still...well, he continued to hit me."

Looking into the young face of a woman that would hurt no one the Warrior’s soul was in deep pain. Squeezing Gabrielle tightly the Warrior could no longer hold back the tears gathering in her eyes. Within moments the pain became so extreme the tears turned into convulsive sobbing and their rolls reversed. Gabrielle held, rocked and comforted her Warrior. It took sometime before Xena could stop and when she did, she looked into her lover’s eyes and saw the strength of their bond beaming from Gabrielle’s eyes.

"Do you realize your father was wrong – your mother was wrong to let this happen. By the gods Gabrielle, you were an innocent child with a beautiful gift from the gods." Kissing her lover on the forehead, Xena felt sick to her stomach and leaned up against a rock close by. "I love you so deeply Gabrielle. Promise me...promise will never leave me."

Maneuvering her body so she could look directly into Xena’s eyes, the young Bard was overwhelmed by the love this Warrior carried for her. "I will never leave you Xena. I need you and I think you need me. We are bonded for eternity."

After a few moments of cuddling and watching the fire die down they decided they both needed to get some sleep. Removing their boots and weapons the couple slipped under the blankets. Holding her soulmate close, Xena rubbed Gabrielle’s back hoping it would ease her heart and help her sleep. In return she could feel the gentle hand of her partner running her fingers through her raven hair. They just needed to touch each other without it turning into passion. "Gabrielle, we are going to Amphipolis. Is that okay with you?"

In return, Gabrielle nodded her head and mumbled that she thought they would be heading there. It was okay with her, as she actually wanted to see Cyrene. Before she fell asleep she heard Xena humming softly. It was something that seemed to help them both center, when the world seemed to be upside down.

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

"Iolaus, you can wait at Cyrene’s, if you like, but you can not come to Iason’s temple."

The curly headed man paced around the campfire. He was irritated with Hercules for not explaining why Iason wanted only him and the two women at his temple. "Herc – we’ve been friends a long time. What is going on?"

"Look, I can’t tell you. You will just have to trust me on this one." The son of Zeus settled down on his blanket and closed his eyes. His heart ached that Iolaus was so upset but he understood that he could in no way tell his friend what was going on.

Grumbling and mumbling Iolaus finally decided that Hercules had no intentions of telling him anything so he too attempted to find sleep. *I hate that, when he says ‘trust me’. Maybe, Cyrene knows what the big deal is with Iason.*

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


Chapter Seven

"Well, what do we have here. Two women all snuggled up together." Cursing herself for not being prepared Xena opened her eyes to find one sword at her throat and one pointing at Gabrielle’s back. The one thing that the Warrior always feared on the open road finally happened and she was caught off guard and unable to quickly defend them. The man pointing the sword at her throat smirked and kicked her in the ribs. "Get up – NOW!!!"

Backing away, the kick was powerful causing Xena to gasp for air. Moving to her knees she slowly stood up. Gabrielle was now lying on her stomach with a sword pushing on her back. "Leave her alone. You always go around hurting defenseless women." Looking around the Warrior noted five men all with swords. Her comment did nothing but gain laughter from the ruffians.

"Oh...some how I don’t think you are very defenseless." The man holding the sword over Gabrielle kicked her in the ribs causing the Bard to yell in pain.

"Leave her ALONE. You want to fight – then fight me."

Three of the men circled around Xena but her eyes kept darting toward her soulmate. The man holding the sword now had his foot resting on her back to keep her pinned to the ground.

Turning her head to the side, Gabrielle saw both her daggers within arms reach from her head. *If I can get to just one of might be enough of a distraction.* The movement of her head caused the man standing over her to yank her hair. This was all she needed because that meant he no longer had control of the sword. Without warning Gabrielle purposely screamed, as the man pulled her hair, which caused the three men surrounding Xena to look her way. Quickly Gabrielle reached over her head with her right hand grabbing the man’s hair and as she ripped it from his scalp she picked up the dagger with her left hand. With a hand full of hair, of which most was still attached, she yanked him forward and rolled over tossing the dagger to Xena who caught it easily. Having already kicked one man behind her in the groin, she quickly positioned herself to defend, as the other two men attacked. Within seconds, Xena killed two of the men and the remaining three ran off into the woods. The Warrior chased them for a while until they mounted horses and escaped.

Quickly she returned to camp to find Gabrielle putting her boots on. " okay." Without asking Xena abruptly knelt down in front of her soulmate and started checking her arms and body for injuries.

Grabbing the Warrior’s hands to keep them still, Gabrielle knew her few bruises would heal quickly. "Xena, I’m fine but you are not." Just then Xena realized in the battle one of the men managed to cut her forearm above the wrist guard with his sword. She sat back and was actually stunned because she did not remember it happening. Quickly her soulmate retrieved the healer supplies and waterbag. "Sit still Xena."

The Warrior did as she was asked and her soulmate cleaned the wound, which ended up needing four stitches. While Gabrielle applied the bandage, Xena looked everywhere else but directly at her soulmate. A small fear took space in her mind and she did not want to be caught by surprise again. "Gabrielle, we should get out of here in case they return."

"In a minute. You took a nasty kick to the ribs and I want to check them." Refusing to take no for an answer Gabrielle automatically unfastened Xena’s leathers. Throwing a blanket over her shoulder to hide her naked body from any possible intruders, the Bard pressed gently around to find severely bruised ribs on her left side. "I don’t think anything is broke....they feel in tact. How do they feel to you?"

"Just sore. I think you are right. They don’t feel broke. Come on, I have a bad feeling about those men. Let’s get out of here."

Quickly the couple managed to pack everything in its proper place on the horses. As Xena placed her foot in the stirrup and lifted her leg over to settle in the saddle, she could feel sharp pains in her side. Grimacing at the unexpected sharpness she let out a small groan and this was caught immediately by her soulmate. Before she could completely settle, Gabrielle had her mare at Xena’s side. "Xena, is it your ribs? Let’s get you back down so I can look at them again."

"No, I want to get us out of here. There are two dead bodies by the fire and their friends might return. I just don’t feel safe about this. You can look later; for now, let’s move."

Completely trusting Xena’s instincts, Gabrielle knew better than to question her soulmate further. For now she would allow Xena to lead them to safety.

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

"Joxer, look I really want to do this. I’m going to ask Gabrielle. She is the Queen and I know she can help me with this."

The bumbling warrior wandered around the camp kicking up the dirt. "Minya you can’t just walk in and tell her you want to be an Amazon!! It doesn’t work that way." Joxer missed Gabrielle dearly. Missed traveling with her, talking with her and just being with her. After the wedding in Amphipolis, he traveled aimlessly for awhile and finally ran into Minya one day. She was out living off the land, attempting to toughen up. She wanted to be an Amazon. When she said something to Shulaba, the Regent explained she needed to go through a great deal of requirements to become an Amazon.

Minya shook her head at the man of many facial expressions. He had changed somewhat since Gabrielle’s death, rebirth and then marriage to Xena. It was like he lost a purpose in living. Minya didn’t mind traveling with Joxer or talking with him because he was a nice guy and had a great heart. "Well, Joxer I don’t know how you can say that. I’m sure Gabrielle will be more than happy to help me out....after all, we’re friends."

Mumbling under his breath, Joxer stared out across the lake. "Yea, so were we....I thought."

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

After riding for most of the morning, Gabrielle stopped the chestnut. Xena turned Argo around to see why her soulmate stopped. Gabrielle was rubbing her ribs where the man pointing the sword in her back had kicked her. *Hades – I knew I should...* Nudging Argo towards her lover, the mare stopped next to the chestnut horse and the Warrior reached her hand out to grab Gabrielle’s arm. "Your ribs are hurting you – let me look at them."

"I’m just stiff and they are fine, just bruised. Your ribs are the ones that need checking." Determination crossed the Bard’s face and Xena could not help but smile. "Oh...stop grinning at me and let me check the bleeding on your arm." Xena had long ago given up on arguing with Gabrielle, when it came to injuries she suffered in battle. Gabrielle was relentless and refused to walk away or ignore Xena’s wounds once the threat of battle was over. Showing Gabrielle her arm, both were pleased to find the bleeding had stopped. "How are your ribs sweetheart?"

"They hurt but other than that I think I’m fine." The sculptured face of the Warrior turned suddenly sad. "Gabrielle, we are almost to Amphipolis, let’s wait and then I promise to let you take care of me."

Gabrielle reached across and caressed the side of her Warrior’s face softly. She knew her soulmate was blaming herself for the attack. "Xena, don’t...please don’t blame yourself." Lowering her head the Warrior fiddled with the reins, as she did feel like it was her fault. Warm hands pulled the reins away. "Come here and kiss me Warrior."

It was a command not a request and instantly it brought a smile to Xena’s face. Both leaned toward the other and their lips brushed gently at first until Gabrielle spread the Warrior’s lips with her tongue. Soon the familiar emotions took control and the couple entwined their tongues together, as lovers do. The horses pulled them apart causing both women to laugh at their apparent chaperones.

Within the next candlemark the couple were standing inside of Cyrene’s place receiving tender hugs and kisses from the innkeeper.

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

They were not home less than one candlemark, when Gabrielle insisted her Warrior strip so she could take a better look at her ribs. In the privacy of the bedroom Cyrene reserved exclusively for the couple, Gabrielle helped the Warrior remove her leathers. Taking complete charge Xena was on her back within moments, while her partner delicately prodded and inspected the bruised ribcage. Watching Gabrielle care so deeply always overwhelmed the Warrior and she reached out to rub her hand along the Bard’s cheek. "I love it, when you take care of me."

Smiling back at her soulmate, she continued her probing. "Yes, well I love you and I will always take care of you." Several of her touches, although delicate, produced a gasp from Xena. "They hurt pretty bad, don’t they?"

Not wishing to appear in too much pain, Xena tried to change the subject. "Well, if you move your hand up just a bit to the a bit further....oh...yeah you’re close...."

A smile began to cross Gabrielle’s face, when she realized Xena was directing her towards her breast. Deciding to play along for now the Bard followed instructions. " mean here.." Slowly and tenderly Gabrielle took Xena’s breast in between her lips and nibbled lightly. With several swipes of her tongue circling the harden nipple she latched on suddenly and sucked firmly causing Xena to moan.

"Oh yes Gabrielle...heal me baby." Wanting more the Warrior reached up and pulled Gabrielle’s lips from her breast demanding entry into the luscious mouth of her soulmate. Complying with her lover’s wishes was simple and the Bard slid on the bed next to Xena and pressed her lips to her soulmates. A knock on the door disrupted the lovers and Gabrielle almost back flipped off the bed. Quickly she threw a blanket over Xena and answered the door.

The innkeeper was on the other side with a cup of hot tea for her daughter and a huge smile across her face. "Gabrielle, exercising again – you’re face is flush."

"Oh very funny mom...leave her alone." The Warrior was now sitting with a blanket over her shoulders and shaking her head over Cyrene’s sense of humor.

Gabrielle started to giggle and Cyrene gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, as she entered the room. "Here my big bad Warrior daughter – drink up!"

Accepting the cup from her mother, she could smell the herbs that were added, as a pain reducer. "And what poison have you added my dear mother?"

"Never mind, just drink it!" Cyrene sat on the edge of the bed. "Are you going to let me see your bruises." Not really anticipating her daughter to agree, she bent over and kissed her on the cheek.

"NO MOTHER. I’m not a little girl anymore."

"Gabrielle?" Looking to the Bard for support, the mood of the three women was playful.

"Sorry mom, don’t look to me for help. She’ll barely let me look at her ribs." Standing next to Xena and Cyrene the Bard reached out and ran her fingers through the soft bangs on her lover. "Mom, could you keep an eye on your daughter. I’m going to get Memnos to come over."

Handing the cup to her mother the Warrior tugged the blanket around her shoulders and stood up. "Gabrielle, I’m okay."

Gently pushing Xena back to the bed the Bard quickly kissed her on the lips. "Don’t argue with me Xena. Behave while I’m gone."

Before Xena could protest further her soulmate was gone in search of the local healer. Cyrene placed her arm around her daughter and kissed her on the cheek. "She loves you a great deal. Don’t fight her."

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

From his position on the top of a hill, a sober Warrior observed the six men on horseback crossing the lush valley below. Tossing several more sticks in the fire he was anxious and a bit nervous. He had not seen his brother since the man kicked him off the land for being so drunk over five summers ago. Since that time, Meleager did not communicate with his brother until he saw Gabrielle in Poteidaia over two summers ago. The old warrior was hired to save the village from a warlord. Meleager accepted the job because it was Poteidaia and because of Gabrielle. The meeting with his niece was purely accidental. At the time, Meleager thought she was away traveling with Xena. The little chance meeting ended up helping him to give up the drink. From that point on, Meleager swore off drinking. The time he was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit, Meleager almost told Gabrielle about her father. *It would have been selfish of me to tell you, my little one.* Had he known his niece was so abused over the years, Meleager would have stepped in sooner – drunk or not. When he received the invitation for Gabrielle’s marriage to the Warrior Princess, he was ecstatic. Since he sobered up, Meleager was amazed at what his eyes really saw. The love between them was obvious and the marriage was inevitable. The old man was pleased and made sure Hawk heard of the wedding.

"Meleager, it’s been awhile." Hawk dismounted and approached his brother without hesitation. Extending his forearm to greet his brother, the man was surprised when Meleager pulled him in for an embrace. Patting the man on the back, Hawk was happy that his brother turned his life around.

"Thanks for meeting with me Hawk." Nodding to Tomas and remaining companions, Meleager turned to his nephew. "You’ve grown boy and by the gods you look so much like your sister."

"Tell father that. I want to meet her."

As the men fell into routine of making camp, the three family members sat around the fire. "How is she Meleager? You saw her at the is she?"

"Happy. Gabrielle is really in love with Xena." Offering the hot tea he had brewing to both men, they accepted gratefully. "The Warrior adores Gabrielle. Xena is not the same warlord of the past."

Holding up his hand to stop Meleager from defending Xena, the warlord smiled. "I don’t have to convince me. I approve of the marriage."

"Look, I know I’m just an old drunk but I think you should let Gabrielle know who you are. Especially now."

The young Nikolas chuckled lightly and looked into the sky as if giving thanks to the gods. "Thank you Uncle, tell father this would be the right thing to do."

Meleager looked directly into the forest green eyes of his brother and smiled. He saw Gabrielle in those eyes and he saw Nikolas also. "Hawk, she has a right to know you are her father. Herodotus has been extremely cruel to her and now that Hecuba is gone..."

A tear came to the big warlord’s eye and he lowered his head in order to collect his emotions. "I have to think about this Meleager. I know Nikolas is anxious and apparently so are you. I just don’t know, if walking into her life at this time is good for Gabrielle."

Placing his hand lovingly on the shoulder of his younger brother, Meleager wanted to have the answer for Hawk, but understood Hawk would have to find his own way. "Listen, I stand behind you with whatever your decision is. In the meantime, I can check in on Gabrielle and she’ll never know the difference. Okay?"

Nodding his head in agreement, Hawk was okay with this solution for the time being. The remainder of the evening was spent catching up on the events in each other’s life. Hawk requested his brother return home and help him run the land. Meleager accepted the offer and found himself overwhelmed by what sobriety has given him.

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

The old healer was proud of Gabrielle’s stitching and Xena would be able to remove them in five days. Once Memnos left, the Warrior allowed the affects of the medicinal herbs to work and slept for several candlemarks. Gabrielle stayed by her side the entire time bouncing back and forth between meditation and writing in a scroll. Deciding that she would begin a journal of her childhood memories was a huge step. The problem was she could not get past the first few words. As she pondered over where to start, Xena started to mutter in her sleep. Before Gabrielle could get next to the bed, her soulmate started shouting and tossing, as if she was in a fight.

Dropping the scroll, she placed both hands on Xena’s shoulders and tried to wake her. "Xena....honey...wake up, you’re dreaming....wake up sweetie."

Waking up with fright the Warrior was shaken and sat up abruptly. "What....where....oh gods." She immediately felt Gabrielle holding and rocking her gently. Recognizing the soft gentle voice of her Bard, it took a few moments for Xena to realize she was dreaming.

"Ssshhh....honey...hey, I’m here. You’ll be okay. It’s just a dream." Rubbing Xena’s back in hopes it would settle her, Gabrielle could feel the heat coming from Xena’s body. "You’re running a fever Xena. Come on, lay back down."

Desperately the Warrior clung on to her mate. "No...don’t leave....please."

Cupping Xena’s face in her hands, the Bard looked directly into redden eyes. "I just want to get you some water and a cool cloth. I promise to come back. I won’t be long – okay?" Kissing her several times over each eye and her cheeks and lips the Warrior released her hold and laid down.

Running to the door, Gabrielle shouted for Cyrene who was there in less than a heartbeat. "What’s wrong Gabrielle?" The Bard explained that Xena had a fever and would need water, and fever reducing herbs. The innkeeper rushed off to get what Gabrielle requested, while she returned to Xena who was watching the entire time.

Sitting on the bed next to her Warrior, she lifted her soulmate to hold and reassure her. "I’m back. Hey...I have to bring your fever down so don’t argue with me – okay."

Xena could do nothing more than nod her head and allow her partner to take control. Soon, Cyrene was standing by her side with cool water and a cloth. Leaving it with Gabrielle, the innkeeper returned to the kitchen to check on the tea.

Gently Gabrielle dabbed the cool cloth over her soulmate’s face, neck and shoulders. As she continued to care for her soulmate, the Warrior reached up and grabbed a handful of Gabrielle’s tunic at the waist. Softly caressing her cheeks and applying the cool compresses Gabrielle smiled at her lover over the apparent need to touch her. "Hey baby, I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I love you so much." Kissing her on the forehead and lips produced a small half-sided grin from her Warrior.

It was not long before Cyrene returned with the fever-reducing beverage for her daughter. Gabrielle maneuvered behind Xena in order to hold her up, while Cyrene held the cup of liquid for the Warrior to sip on. The fever was higher than either woman wanted and while Xena finished the tea, the pair continued to apply the cool compresses to the Warrior. When the Bard tried to lay her soulmate back down, she protested. Xena wanted to be held and so Gabrielle complied happily with her wishes. She did not really want to let go either. Eventually the medicinal herbs took affect and the Warrior drifted off to sleep. The Bard never moved and held her partially on her lap and in her arms. Together Gabrielle and Cyrene continued to spread the cool water over the Warrior’s body. The fever did not get any worse, however it lasted throughout the night and Xena was plagued with nightmares of which her lover was there soothing and talking her through them. By the time the sun began to rise the fever finally broke and Xena was sleeping soundly.

"Mom, why don’t you get some sleep. I think Xena is through the worst of it." The young blonde massaged the innkeeper’s shoulders, as she sat in a chair by the bed. "If anything happens, I’ll call you. I promise."

Stiff and exhausted the innkeeper stood and embraced her daughter-in-law tightly. "What about you? You should really get some rest too."

"I will mom. I just want to be close." Returning the hug was pleasurable for Gabrielle. Not having hugged her own mother or seen her since last summer, she almost forgot how good a mom’s hug felt.

The innkeeper left the soulmates alone and before going to bed ordered some food and tea to be sent to Gabrielle. She hoped the young Bard would try and eat before sleeping. As she sluggishly stumbled to her own bed, Cyrene stopped long enough to thank the one God and all other smaller gods for the bringing the women together and helping their bond grow so tightly. Just before closing her eyes, Cyrene looked up at the ceiling. "Ephiny, watch over them. Thank you my little spirit."

Standing at the foot of the bed, in spirit form, the Regent smiled at her new charge. "Don’t worry Cyrene, I will take good care of them and of you."

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

After Cyrene left, a knock on the door surprised the Bard and when she answered, Adessa was standing with a plate of food and hot tea for her. "Adessa, thank you so much. Could I ask to have some cool water sent in. I want to wash up a bit and I don’t really want to leave Xena."

"Oh yes, I’ll be right back." Adessa liked the young Bard and she absolutely adored Xena. Having been friends with Cyrene for a number of seasons, Adessa remembered when Xena was not so nice a person. She was pleased when Hercules turned her around and when the young Bard came into Xena’s life. Cyrene’s whole outlook on life turned positive and the inn really began to do business. The middle age woman remembers the day Cyrene asked her to come and work for her. Her past occupations made it difficult to obtain steady and dependable work, so she jumped at the chance, when the innkeeper offered.

Gabrielle was quite hungry and pretty much emptied her plate by the time Adessa returned with a cool pitcher of water for the basin. Thanking Adessa once again, the Bard washed up and then sponged the body of her Warrior, hoping it would feel good, even while she slept.

Sitting in the chair next to the bed, Gabrielle laid her head back and rested her hand on Xena’s shoulder. Her eyes burned and became too heavy to keep open; sleep came almost immediately.

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

Gabrielle awoke to a gentle kiss caressing her cheek. Recognizing the texture and sweetness of the lips she opened her eyes to find warm blue ones looking into hers. The Warrior was sitting with her long legs hanging over the side of the bed. Sitting straight the Bard groaned slightly at the stiffness in her neck and rubbed it. "Xena, how are you feeling?"

"Much better." The Warrior smiled, removed Gabrielle’s hand and slipped her hands at the base of Gabrielle’s neck to massage the stiffness away from her soulmate. "How does that feel...better?" Tugging at the Bard, Xena wanted to hold her close and met with no resistance, when Gabrielle stood between her thighs resting her arms around Xena’s shoulders. Not asking for permission, the Warrior began kissing the upper softness of Gabrielle’s breast and through the material latched on to an already firm nipple. "Mmmm...I want you baby."

"I’m all yours....." Pulling Gabrielle’s tunic over her head the Warrior had her mouth wrapped around Gabrielle’s firm breasts quickly. Within moments the Bard was straddling her lover and the heat rising between them was familiar and sensual. Tugging at Xena’s nightshirt the Bard wanted skin next to hers. "Come on...honey...take this thing off."

Propping herself on her elbows Gabrielle quickly had Xena’s nightshirt off and a knock came to the door. The Warrior fell back on the bed disappointed. "Remind me to post a guard outside our door."

Also irritated, Gabrielle quickly slipped her tunic back on and tossed the blanket over her soulmate. Giving Xena a small kiss on the lips, she answered the door.

The healer, Memnos was smiling from the hallway. "Just wanted to check on your Warrior. I understand from Cyrene she was battling a fever last night."

Surprised to find out Memnos knew of the fever the Bard wondered what time it was. She felt like she closed her eyes, only moments ago, before Xena woke her. Letting the healer in, Gabrielle could hear the noise coming from the main room. Looking up the hallway, her eye caught sight of Adessa and she called for the woman. Asking for the time, Gabrielle was shocked to hear it was already midday. Turning around the Bard went back in the room to join Xena and Memnos.

"Well, are you feeling?" The old healer check her ribs and placed a fresh bandage on her arm, as he listened to the Warrior attempt to convince him she was doing great. When he was finished, he patted Xena on the head like a small child picked up his medical bag and headed for the door. "Xena, you need to rest for a few days. I think the danger of another fever is over but I still want you to rest."

"Don’t worry Memnos, I’ll make sure she relaxes."

The old man smiled and rubbed the side of Gabrielle’s cheek in a fatherly manner. "Hmmm, yes....well I do mean rest. Okay Gabrielle!"

This caused the Warrior to burst in laughter, as her soulmate watched with obvious shock over the man’s innuendoes, as he left the room chuckling. Unfortunately the laughter caused her ribs to hurt and several groans replaced the contagious humor of the Warrior.

Gabrielle was by her side quickly, when Xena grimaced at the pain. "Honey, lay back down." As the Bard attempted to shove her Warrior back gently, she was grabbed and pulled down laying half on and half off the Warrior’s body.

"I’ll rest, if you stay with me. You look tired baby." Embracing her soulmate and praying she would not protest, the Warrior kissed her on the forehead. "I’m betting you have not had much sleep." Gabrielle could only agree and actually enjoyed the cuddling. Before long the women fell asleep in their favorite positions, wrapped in each other’s arms.

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


Chapter Eight

While Xena was on the mend from her injuries, the women helped Cyrene around the inn. Uncle Tensandi visited frequently and Gabrielle in particular enjoyed his stories of Xena, when she was small. Although Cyrene wanted to tell Xena about Herodotus’ visit, she also wanted to give the women a chance to settle in, make sure Xena was healing properly and putting some distance between their attack in the forest and the trip to Poteidaia. Then it just seemed, as if the days were filled with customers and friends popping in and out to say hi to her daughter and the little Amazon Queen. The lovers were inseparable until finally on the sixth evening after they were back, Cyrene managed to grab her daughter and told her quickly of Herodotus’ visit which lead into the sharing of information. Unfortunately the Bard walked in on their conversation and the silence that took over the room was unbearable.

Now that she was able to grab Xena, the young woman they were talking about walks into the middle of their anger over her father. This changed the situation and thus Cyrene hoped Gabrielle’s sudden appearance was a way to gently pull her in and get her to talk. "Gabrielle, why don’t you join us."

Unwilling to take part in the topic, Gabrielle’s old defensive action took hold and she simply turned and walked away. Desperately wanting to forget her past, it was apparently going to be impossible. Writing in the scroll turned out to be a bad idea, she had not been able to place one memory down. The Warrior chased after her immediately but Gabrielle would have nothing to do with it and protested that she was tired.

"Why do you always run from this Gabrielle? You have to stop running okay!" Anger was already festering in Xena from listening to her mother talk about Herodotus’ visit and the level of abuse Lila had witnessed and shared. Without thinking Xena grabbed her soulmate’s arm roughly and spun her around. "Hades – you have to face this. You can not go on holding all of this inside!" As quickly as she grabbed her soulmate, she let go. "I’m sorry honey, I didn’t mean to....."

Anticipating that Gabrielle would get angry over her roughness, her soulmate did just the opposite. "No, Xena, I’m sorry. I promised I would tell you anything you asked. I just would all go away." Placing her head against the Warrior’s chest, Gabrielle could sense the confusion in her spirit and it felt wonderful to have Xena wrap her arms around her. Xena promised she would never leave her and why should Gabrielle think different.

Arm in arm the couple that found rebirth and a higher God walked back to the kitchen to join Cyrene. They found the innkeeper wiping the tears from her eyes. Together the three of them hugged before sitting down at the table. The remainder of the night Gabrielle explained her childhood and filled in the pieces she could remember of the relationship between her mother, her father and even her sister. While Gabrielle could not talk about all of the abuse in great detail, as it was too difficult, enough was described to anger both Xena and Cyrene. Neither woman pushed Gabrielle for graphic details. Unspoken glances at each other indicated that in time the young woman might be able to share them. By the time the sun began to shine through the kitchen window Gabrielle realized her family was now in Amphipolis. Soon Cyrene’s employees began showing up for the day and the innkeeper suggested they all freshen up a bit and come back and share a morning meal together.

Back in their room Gabrielle was brushing her hair, while Xena was changing her tunic. "Honey, about that bracelet. Can I get a better look at it? I’d like to show mom."

Taking the bracelet from her bag Gabrielle handed it to her soulmate. "Do you recognize the design Xena?"

"I wish I did but I do not. I was hoping mother might recognize it." Kissing her lover on the lips, the Warrior handed the bracelet back to her lover. Happily strong arms circled around Xena’s waist and she returned the love that Gabrielle was sharing.

The couple returned to the kitchen to join Cyrene who was already waiting with three plates of hot food. The couple showed the bracelet to the innkeeper and retold the conversation they had with Lila about the strange man who appeared to be mourning Hecuba’s death. "I really don’t recognize this but it is very beautiful. You know who might know is your Uncle Tensandi." Cyrene took a sip of tea and handed the bracelet back to Gabrielle. "If this man is some type of warlord or warrior, your uncle might know the design. He deals with so many men, especially in his line of work with weapons."

With unconditional belief in the goodness centered in Xena’s heart, Gabrielle handed the bracelet to her mate. Leaning over Xena gave Gabrielle a kiss on the cheek. To the Warrior this simple act of handing her the bracelet told Xena how deeply her soulmate trusted her and loved her. "I’m going to go talk with him after we eat. Do you want to come sweetie?"

"No....I think I’m going to take a nap. I’m just really exhausted."

Reaching to her lover, Xena tugged on Gabrielle’s arms and without need for words the Bard knew that her Warrior wanted her closer and allowed Xena to pull her onto her lap. "Do you want me to stay with you?"

Gabrielle ran her fingers through the long raven hair and kissed her partner on the lips. "You go on. I’ll be waiting for you, when you return."

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

"Uncle!" The Warrior strolled into the weapons shop owned, as long as she could remember, by her favorite uncle. He was a good man and one of the few that stood by Xena, when she was a warlord. Tensandi was sad, when he heard about Xena’s return to Amphipolis, several seasons’ back. She was unwelcome by all, but the desire in her to change was so strong and so she fought Draco chasing him out of Amphipolis. At the time, the old man was on business in Athens and missed the whole event.

"Xena! My favorite niece! What brings you into my shop – need a new blade?" Holding the bracelet in her hand, the Warrior showed her uncle. Tensandi lifted the piece of jewelry. "Beautiful – where did you get it?"

"It belonged to Gabrielle’s mother. Do you recognize the design?"

Tensandi did not have to look at it a second time to know the owner behind the pattern. Giving the bracelet back to Xena, the shop owner motioned for his niece to follow. Leading her to the back room he pulled out a chair for her. "Sit down Xena." Leaving her at the table he soon returned with two mugs of port. "Drink with me, please."

"Uncle...what do you know?" Sipping at the port the Warrior tried to remain patient.

"It is actually a family crest. Belongs to a landowner north of the property I gave to you and Gabrielle. The man purchased the land, oh I’d say about twenty-one or two winters ago. He is a warlord, or was one. Good man from what I can tell and extremely generous. Very private, typically sends his men out to handle business."

"Have you ever met him? Does he have a name?" Puzzled over what her uncle was explaining the Warrior drank her port fairly quick and soon found her mug refilled.

"Oh, gee...a long, long time ago – maybe eighteen winters or so. His wife died while pregnant with their second child. The baby died too, a very sad situation. He already had a son, who must be a good twenty winters by now. Everyone calls the man Hawk. Must be short for something, not sure what. If you look carefully at the design you can see the shape of a hawk and the claws entwined."

The Warrior pulled the bracelet back out and as she turned it around the bird of prey came into view. A very clever impression turned powerful. "What does the man do?"

"A variety of things. I know he owns quite a few fishing boats and farms the land. He also has his own army."

"WHAT – AN ARMY?" The thought of an ex-warlord with an army made Xena uneasy and she polished off her second mug of port.

Quickly Tensandi refilled his niece’s mug and his own. "Not like you think – he doesn’t attack villages. He actually uses this army to protect the locals in the area and he travels abroad, mercenary type work. Always for the greater good – never for evil." Tensandi took several gulps of his port. "Hawk’s army fought against Caesar and managed to beat him back."

"Well that is a plus, as far as I’m concerned." Musing back to how often Xena went into battle of some sorts against Caesar, she realized that would be one man she would never have to fight again or take Gabrielle into danger over her obsession with.

"Xena, now that I think about it, your friend Meleager has this design on the handle of his sword."

"Meleager?" Leaning back in her chair the Warrior thought back to the wedding in Amphipolis, when Meleager asked her so many questions. In fact they were questions a father might ask of the person getting ready to marry a daughter. Believing the old warrior was just being protective Xena did not think anything of it. Now she wondered.

"Xena...what is Gabrielle’s mother doing with the bracelet?" Tensandi’s curiosity was now at a high level.

"This man...Hawk, was seen mourning at Hecuba’s graveside." The Warrior went on to tell her uncle the conversation Lila had with the warlord, the tattoo on his hand and how the man was apparently grieving.

"Do you think Hawk...could be...." Tensandi found himself feeling anxious and nervous.

Looking across the table at her uncle the Warrior finished her port and asked for another. "Yeah....I do think. Problem is how do I find out for sure. And then how do I tell Gabrielle?"

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

It took several days for the Amazon Warrior to convince her young lover that a visit to her mother was important. The young redhead had been abandoned at the age of six winters by her parents who could no longer care for her in such a harsh environment; she was the only girl in a household of seven. Her parents were at poverty level and her brothers took precedence. They left her with the Amazons and Malissay raised her, as her own daughter. While Malissay had been fair she was also disciplined. As an elder Warrior of the tribe, she followed traditions with loyalty. Amarice was always a bit rebellious, causing mother and daughter to argue. Eventually Malissay suggested Amarice leave the tribe and find out what the real world was all about. Eponin realized this tough love was for Amarice’s own good, however the Warrior did not approve of sending this pretty young woman out alone. While Eponin was familiar with the Amazon tribe to the far northeast, she did not recognize any of the names Amarice spurted out.

"Hello – Amazon – anyone home!"

A playful voice interrupted Eponin’s thoughts and she found her young lover standing in her saddle waving at her. "Amarice, sit down before you fall off!!" Nudging her horse, the Warrior caught up with the ever-feisty redhead. The young woman had no intentions of sitting and Eponin pulled her into the saddle in front of her. "You my peanut are a trouble maker."

A huge smile crossed Amarice’s face as she looked up into the big dark eyes of her Warrior. She was deeply in love with this woman and her desires always surfaced fast, when Eponin was mushy. The little term ‘peanut’ stuck and Amarice loved it dearly. *Just wait until I tell Gabrielle.* Excited about the change and softness in Eponin, the young woman realized the traits were always there – just well guarded. Yes, Eponin was a true warrior in all aspects.

Drawn immediately to the gorgeous red hair and the wild side of the petite Amazon, Eponin’s passions rose and she leaned in to claim the luscious tanned lips of the only woman that ever captured her heart. As always, Amarice responded willingly and slipped her tongue to explore and search for the Warrior’s. "Ohhh..sweet are so good little one....oh so good."

"Mmmm, why don’t you let me show can be." Capturing Eponin’s face in her hands the redhead increased the demand of her kiss and the wetness between her thighs heated quickly. She had to have this strong Warrior now.

Nudging her mare off the trail, Eponin scanned the edge of the forest for a suitable and secure location. She did not want to place them in any danger. It was difficult for the Warrior to concentrate on her task, while the young one was pouring kisses all over her face and neck. Eventually Eponin led them in far enough where the trees were close together and mixed with bushes and boulders. Pushing her pursuer back, the Warrior dropped her gently to the ground and jumped off. Grabbing the reins of both horses, she tied them to a bush and tugged on Amarice’s hand leading her into deeper covering.

Pinning the young one to the closest tree, the Warrior reclaimed the full lips of her lover. Hands were exploring and squeezing with an urgency to touch skin. Lifting Amarice the young woman wrapped her legs around Eponin’s waist allowing the Warrior to push her back up against the tree. She opened her shirt so Eponin could suck on her breasts, which the Warrior did with great hunger. As she licked and twirled her tongue around the dark nipples Amarice started to rotate her hips into Eponin’s stomach. With one free hand, the dark hair woman slipped her fingers between her young lover’s clothing and almost dropped her, as the juices covered her fingers. Amarice cried passionately, when Eponin entered her heated shaft and increased the grinding of her hips. As Eponin’s talented fingers stroked and penetrated her inner sanctuary the young woman quickly reached a climax and cried out her Warrior’s name.

"HELLO – Is that you Amarice?"

A voice in the distance shocked the lover’s back to reality and Eponin quickly let Amarice touch the ground. The young woman quickly straightened her skirt and fastened her shirt. "Who in Hades is that?"

Finding some humor in this situation, Eponin looked at Amarice and began to sensually lick the essence from the young redhead’s passion off her fingers. "By the taste so good."

Amarice’s legs began to buckle and Eponin quickly caught her lover. "Eponin, I really love you. You won’t ever leave me, will you?"

The voice once again came from the distance. "Peanut, you better answer."

As the Warrior grabbed the reins, Amarice tugged on her arm. "Are you avoiding my question?"

"No, I’m not." Realizing that she was not stepping away from Amarice’s need to a commitment, the Warrior wondered why she was so hesitant to verbally let the woman know she could not live without her. Looking directly into the big round eyes of the young woman, she leaned down and kissed her quickly. "Peanut, I will never leave you....okay." A huge smile crossed Amarice’s face and the Amazon understood that for now, her young lover was happy.

Walking toward the sound of the voice, Amarice called back that she heard him. As they broke through the trees and back on the trail, the women saw Eli standing several paces away.

"Eli?" Surprised to see the Devi, she walked up and offered her forearm in greeting. Eli accepted and his smile was infectious and the young redhead returned the grin. "It’s been a while."

"Yes, it has. You look good." The long hair man colorfully dressed in robes looked passed Amarice to the tall Amazon. "We’ve never met. I’m Eli."

Eponin reached out in friendship and nodded her head. "Yes, I’ve heard of you. All good of course." Not sure if Amarice wanted Eli to know of their intimacy, she kept her distance. Suddenly tender arms wrapped around her waist and she was relieved that this man would be accepting of their love. "What brings you to these parts?"

"A few things, one of them includes finding Gabrielle and Xena."

Looking up into her Warrior’s eyes, Amarice was pleased to see Eponin reading her thoughts with a smile. "Would you like to travel with us. We are actually going right by Amphipolis. I know Gabrielle and Xena are suppose to stop by there before heading to Iason’s.......oh, sorry you probably don’t know Iason."

A peaceful aura seemed to surround Eli and he smiled at the women. "Actually I do know Iason. And yes, I would love to travel with you. However, I must make a small side trip before going on to Amphipolis. So I will travel with you until the crossroads. You will of course, let them know I will be coming to see them."

The trio started down the trail and Eponin wondered how Eli would know Iason, and then quickly dismissed it as one of those spiritual connections. Amarice however, was a little more inquisitive and asked Eli how he knew of Iason.

The Devi smiled at the young woman. " has to do with love not fighting. When you are ready, you will understand how I could know Iason."

Rolling her eyes, she realized the Devi had no intentions of giving her a straight answer. Eponin was laughing and soon the conversations turned to Amazons, general topics about the weather and where they would stop for an evening meal.

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

It was late afternoon by the time Xena returned to the inn. Staggering into the front door, she almost knocked her mother over on the way to the kitchen. "H...Hi mom." Sloppily the Warrior tugged on her mother for a hug.

"You’re drunk Xena. Why?" Not pleased with her daughter’s state of intoxication, Cyrene returned the hug and then stepped away. "Gabrielle is not going to be pleased."

With her arm draped across Cyrene’s shoulder the Warrior scanned the room. "Yea, where is my, m....y, my beeeautiful wife?"

"She is in the garden meditating. You leave her alone for now." Dragging her drunken child to a chair, the innkeeper decided to brew some of her special tea and hopefully take some of the edge off her daughter. "Xena, what did Tensandi say about the bracelet?" With her back to Xena, the innkeeper mused that after she attempted to sober Xena up, Cyrene planned to have a serious talk with both her daughter and Tensandi about this drinking episode.

Ignoring her mother completely a young dark hair woman entered the kitchen carrying some empty plates and caught Xena’s attention. The Warrior did not recognize the woman but admired the shapely figure fitting the peasant dress she wore. The woman quickly deposited the plates in the sink, winked at the Warrior and returned to the main room with an extremely seductive sway. Xena stood and decided to follow the attractive figure. By the time Cyrene turned around, Xena was gone. Setting the tea on the table she headed to the main room wondering, if Xena wandered out there. She knew her daughter was very drunk and did not want her to get into trouble or cause any. It was too late. Xena was flirting with the new barmaid, Tifcana, whom Cyrene hired. What upset Cyrene even further was that the young woman was returning the attention and appeared to be pursuing her daughter.

Firmly the innkeeper grabbed her daughter’s tunic and yanked her back. In a low and demanding voice Cyrene glared at the barmaid. "Get out of here!" The woman left immediately and winked in a sexual manner at Xena who just smiled.

Unsure what happened, the drunken Warrior draped her arm around the innkeeper’s shoulder to lean on, as she was having a difficult time standing while the room was spinning. ""

Adessa, who was witness to the whole affair and standing behind the bar, when Xena first came out, gestured to Cyrene to look behind her. As the innkeeper turned, with her intoxicated daughter hanging on she saw Gabrielle standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the bar room section. The tears were already sliding down her cheeks. The innkeeper was afraid of how much her daughter-in-law might have seen. Before Cyrene could say anything, Xena released her hold and went staggering towards Gabrielle.

"Theeree you beauuutiful w, w, wife." Reaching out to grab onto Gabrielle was tricky because the Bard kept moving backwards. "Stay still....pleasseeeeee." Suddenly the Warrior felt her mother’s arms wrapped around her waist, leading her past Gabrielle to the table. Forcefully Cyrene pushed her into the chair and left.

Spinning around to face Gabrielle, the innkeeper rushed to collect a tearful and very hurt young woman in her arms. The Bard did not push her back and accepted the hug. "Honey...she’s drunk. Xena and Tensandi must have been drinking most of the day."

Looking into the eyes of her Warrior Mom, the Bard was extremely crushed by Xena’s actions. "Cyrene, she was flirting with that woman. I’m not blind."

Rubbing her fingers across the soft cheeks in an attempt to catch the tears, Cyrene knew that her daughter’s actions were inexcusable. "Gabrielle, you know in your heart how much Xena loves you. That little harlot I hired has a reputation and I thought I would give her a chance. I’m not trying to justify Xena’s actions, she is just...well she was wrong to drink so much. Please Gabrielle...for me - will you give Xena a chance to sober up, talk to her and THEN let her have Hades for flirting."

"Excuse me, Gabrielle." The women turned towards the whispering voice to find Adessa standing close by. "I know it is none of my business and I don’t want to...."

"Speak up Adessa, it’s okay." The innkeeper prayed that her friend might be able to add something positive to the conversation to help Gabrielle.

Moving close to the women, Adessa took a deep breath before speaking. "The barmaid went right after Xena. When Xena came in the door, Tifcana, said she was going to....well the statement she said was ‘bed the Warrior Princess’ so she really was the source of the problem. It just all happened so fast, before I could stop her or say anything."

All three women looked over at Xena who had her head between her legs in an attempt to stop the room from spinning. Gabrielle looked back at Cyrene. "And I’m suppose to forgive her flirting just because she was drunk? Is that what you are asking me to do?"

Slipping her arm around the Bard’s waist the innkeeper understood that if her mate flirted, she would be angry for quite some time and yet Cyrene wanted Gabrielle to be forgiving. "Well....yes, I guess I am asking you to forgive her." Placing both hands on Gabrielle’s shoulders the innkeeper faced her. "Look – you know Xena loves you. The flirting is the old-warlord personality not your soulmate. Gabrielle, your wife, my daughter would never have given that woman a second, much less a first look, if she wasn’t drunk." Praying that Gabrielle would dig deep in her heart before reacting to this lousy situation, Cyrene kissed her on the cheek and an impish smirk crossed her face. "Of course, I wouldn’t let her off the hook that easily either. I’d make her work for your forgiveness."

Whatever entered Gabrielle’s spirit at that moment was calming and she knew deep within that Xena would never intentionally hurt her. "Okay Cyrene. When she is sober, we will see how much she remembers. If she does not remember flirting – I’m not going to bring it up."

"Well, you are then a lot more forgiving than I would be. Honey, Xena needs to know that she gets...well a bit out of hand when she drinks too much. She needs to learn a lesson."

The women looked over to see Xena with her head on the table and apparently asleep. "Cyrene, I love her so can I possibly stay mad." Glancing toward Adessa, who remained in the kitchen, the young blonde smiled. "Adessa, can you help."

The three women approached the Warrior and Gabrielle began brushing the raven hair that was falling over her face. "Xena, hey sweetie...come on wake up. You need to go to bed."

Cyrene shook her head totally amazed at the young Bard. *Oh Xena...yes – you and I are going to have a little talk.*

Mumbling words no one could understand the Warrior had a silly smile across her face, when she looked up at Gabrielle. Allowing her soulmate to tug and pull her into a standing position, Cyrene and Adessa came and surrounded Xena to keep her from falling. Together the three women managed to get a sleepy drunken Warrior to bed. Leaving Gabrielle alone with Xena, the two women retreated while the Bard pulled off Xena’s boots and rolled her into the center of the bed. Without warning Xena playfully grabbed Gabrielle by the arms and pulled her down so that she was lying on top. "Do"

Trying to squirm out of Xena’s grasp gently, the Bard whispered. "Yes Xena, I love you. You need to sleep this off."

Strong hands released their grip and foggy blue eyes looked directly into concerned green eyes. "I’m sor...sorry, sorry..sor...sorry...I love you."

Placing her fingers to hush her Warrior, Gabrielle kissed her on the forehead. "We can talk later. Get some rest. I love you too." Rolling off of Xena to lay by her side, the young Bard decided to stay with her soulmate until she fell asleep. Lovingly she caressed the Warrior’s cheeks and within a wink of an eye Xena was sleeping. Sliding off of the bed, she bent over leaving a small kiss on Xena’s lips and covered the gorgeous muscular body.

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

That evening Hercules and Iolaus arrived in Amphipolis. The innkeeper was happy to see the men and quickly led them to a table with plates full of food. The inn was rather crowded and Hercules could see Cyrene’s normal help and then also Gabrielle. Looking at the innkeeper sitting across the table from him and next to his sidekick the son of Zeus wondered where the Warrior Princess was hiding. "Cyrene, where’s Xena. Don’t you have her helping?"

"Hmpf...sleeping off a drunk, I hope!" Even though Gabrielle was willing to forgive her soulmate, the innkeeper was rather angry with her daughter and still planned on giving Xena a piece or two of her mind.

Iolaus started to chuckle and Cyrene swatted him, which quickly quieted the curly hair blonde. "Sorry Cyrene, what happened?"

Knowing she could trust the two men sitting before her the innkeeper relayed the story of the bracelet and then how Xena and Tensandi ended up spending the day drinking. She did not tell the men that her daughter flirted with her new barmaid. That was too private for this conversation.

Hercules leaned back in his chair and watched Gabrielle as she waited on tables with a cheerful smile and apparently pleasant conversation with all of Cyrene’s customers. The big man really liked Gabrielle and believed she was the best person in the world for Xena. "So what did Tensandi say to Xena?"

Throwing her arms in the air with frustration the innkeeper shook her head. "Who knows. Xena has been passed out since she returned. I checked on Tensandi and he was in bad shape too."

Hercules continued to keep his eyes focused on Gabrielle, as she moved about the room. It was only moments before the Bard spotted her friends and approached. Happy to see both men she hugged each fiercely and Hercules pulled her down to sit next to him. "How are you doing little one?"

The tone in Hercules voice was one of concern. Not knowing exactly what Cyrene told the men, she looked at her mother-in-law. "What have you been telling them mom?"

"They asked where Xena was...I told them she drank too much and is sleeping it off. I was telling them about your mother’s bracelet. Do you have it?"

"No, Xena still has it. So, Hercules, Iolaus what brings you to Amphipolis?" Not really wanting to talk about her mother or father or for that matter her soulmate’s drunken state, Gabrielle changed the subject.

Jumping in at the chance to find out what was going on, Iolaus spoke. "Why don’t you tell us Gabrielle. It seems the big guy plans on joining the two of you to see Iason."

"Iolaus, honestly – I have no idea what Iason wants us there for. I did not even know Hercules was coming."

"Oh really?" The curly hair man looked at his friend. "Okay Herc, what is going on?"

"I can’t tell any of you, so please do not ask. You’ll just have to have faith." Suddenly, as if a miracle appeared to bail the son of Zeus out of the limelight, the Warrior was cautiously approaching the table. "Xena! Hey good to see you."

Everyone looked up to see Xena standing a few strides away, unsure if she was going to be welcomed or yelled at. Her hair was tousled, she was barefoot and her tunic was in disarray. "Hi Herc. Iolaus." She then glanced at her mother to find a rather scolding expression across her face. "Hi mom, guess I’m in trouble." Finally the person she was the most concerned about the Warrior looked directly at and then quickly lowered her eyes and fiddled with her hands. "Gabrielle, I....I...can I talk with you?"

The Bard’s heart ached for the guilt she knew Xena must have been feeling. Not wishing to embarrass her lover or make her feel any worse Gabrielle walked to Xena reaching for her hand. Without words she squeezed the large hand, tugged and Xena followed. Figuring they would get the most privacy in their room Gabrielle led her partner there. Closing the door and locking it Gabrielle sat in a chair. "Okay, Xena what would you like to talk about." Remembering Cyrene’s words, the Bard decided she was not going to make things too easy for her soulmate.

Pulling a chair in front of her Bard, the Warrior sat and leaned forward on her knees. Unable to look directly into Gabrielle’s eyes, she felt ashamed for her actions. Somehow Xena understood she had to apologize for getting drunk and then find a way for it to never happen again. A part of the Warrior was scared her soulmate would leave her. Wanting desperately to touch Gabrielle, she did not reach out. "Gabrielle, I’m sorry...I – HADES! I know I messed up and....." Glancing up into her lover’s eyes hoping they would give her a clue, the Warrior found sadness. Hating herself immediately, Xena fell to her knees grabbing Gabrielle’s hands. Kissing them repeatedly, Xena could not look into Gabrielle’s eyes. Xena would beg, plead and do whatever Gabrielle wanted to keep her Bard from walking out. Before she could speak any further the tears took control and the Warrior began to cry. Strong hands tugged on Xena’s and soon Gabrielle cupped her hands around Xena’s face.

"Xena, I love you – okay. Come here." It only took a single breath before Xena had her arms wrapped around Gabrielle and her head buried into her soulmate’s breasts. Rubbing Xena’s back, the tears pooled in green eyes. "Honey, love is not about pain – it is about trust. Sssshhh...Xena, it’s okay. Talk to me...please."

Pulling herself back Xena remained on her knees and looked into the green eyes of the most beautiful woman in the world. To the Warrior, her soulmate was the part that made her life complete and she desperately did not want to cause Gabrielle any pain. "I’m so sorry Gabrielle...I was so stupid to get so drunk. I never meant to hurt you."

Wondering what the Warrior thought or remembered doing, she knew Xena would give her an honest answer. "Xena, what is it you think you did to hurt me?"

Rubbing the warm soft hands in hers Xena tried to remember what happened. "I imagine I embarrassed you like I did when I was drinking with Hercules. You know...attempt to seduce you in front of everyone."

*She doesn’t remember flirting with the barmaid.* Kissing Xena’s hands, she smiled at her lover. "Honey, what happened, can you remember anything?"

Looking into the understanding eyes of her soulmate, Xena attempted to remember the events. "Well, Uncle Tensandi and I talked about the bracelet and we started drinking port. Then we talked about the land he gave to us, as a wedding gift. We just kept drinking and I’m not sure what happened." Taking Gabrielle’s hands and holding them to her heart made Xena feel safe because her lover did not pull away. "I’m not sure how I ended up back here but I remember mother being mad, I remember looking for you....then the next thing I knew, I was in bed."

Gabrielle ran her fingers through the silky tousled hair. "You did nothing wrong Xena. Why don’t you wash up and get something to eat."

Pushing her chair back the Bard stood up and was followed by Xena. "Gabrielle...what can I do to make things right?"

Circling her arms around the powerful shoulders of her soulmate, she pulled Xena down to kiss her on the lips. "Just watch how much you drink. Know when to stop."

The Warrior accepted the invitation and was quickly lost in the love Gabrielle was offering. The kiss was gentle and reassuring for Xena. Tasting the succulent lips of her soulmate the Warrior wanted more but knew this was not the time. Feeling dirty from being drunk she wanted to clean up before making love to Gabrielle.

To Gabrielle it did not matter that her soulmate tasted of port. She was in love with this woman and nothing would ever keep them apart. Believing that Xena did not remember flirting, Gabrielle was willing to forgive and not bring up the subject. Desiring much more than a simple kiss, she pushed Xena backwards until the bed caught the Warrior by the legs and she dropped to the bed pulling the Bard with her. As she tore Xena’s tunic away from her body the Warrior protested. "Xena...I want you now...I do not want to wait any longer." Quickly moving her lips to capture the voluptuous breasts of her mate, the Warrior stopped fighting and with heavy moans gave in to the love Gabrielle was covering her heart, body and soul with.

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

"Iason, what do you want with me?" The Goddess sworn to protect the Amazons scanned the temple and the adjacent rooms. The old priest summoned her and as usual, Artemis made a quiet entrance. In fact the only time she’d add on the light, thunder and sparkles was when she was trying to make Xena mad. Then it was fun to enter and exit like many other gods enjoyed doing.

The old priest rose from his knees after spending a great deal of time meditating in prayer. "Artemis, no wonder your young spirits have attitudes." With his back still to Artemis the priest went to the altar and kissed the surface before facing the goddess.

"And just what does that mean?" Crossing her arms with annoyance, Artemis wanted an answer.

Chuckling at just the right tone, which only caused Artemis to become a bit more irritable, Iason smiled at her. "They are just like you – impatient and always interrupting a man when he is trying to pray."

Shaking her head at the old man, Artemis learned over two hundred seasons ago not to underestimate this priest. However, she was still determined not to let him get the best of her. "What Aphrodite sees in you is way beyond me!"

"HEY – my ears are burning baby!" With her normal sparkles and flashes the Goddess of Love appeared and stood next to Iason. "Art, you’re not making fun of my priest are you?" Walking towards Artemis, she spun around and held out her hands gesturing back at Iason. "Come on Art, look at him. Isn’t he the cutest thing you’ve ever seen."

"Whatever. Look I’ve got things to do, so let’s get on with it. Why am I here? The summer solitise is still several days away." Neither Artemis or Aphrodite completely understood what Iason was planning for the women and thus thought it might have to do with their rebirth or bestowing some special powers to them. They realized Iason asked them each a special question but neither knew what the question was or the answer.

Sitting on the pillow he was previously kneeling on, Iason smiled at the goddesses. "Artemis, did you train Ephiny like I requested?"

"Yes, why?"

"And how is Solari coming along?"

"Good, she is a quick learner."

Getting impatient Aphrodite started tapping her foot to show Iason her frustration. "Come on Iason, what gives!"

"Have Solari go to Gabrielle and Xena. Tell them to go into Cyrene’s garden at the midnight mark before the summer solitise day. They are to form a circle of flower petals similar to the circle they were married in. When the circle is complete, they are to stand in the center and hold hands. Artemis I want you to bring them to me."

Artemis nodded her head in understanding and glanced to Aphrodite who seemed to calm down.

"Aphrodite, sometime during the day I want you to bring your brother, Hercules to the temple. Once he is here, we will complete what is necessary." Looking back at Artemis, the old priest wanted to complete his instructions for her. "Artemis, you are to have Ephiny here before you go after Gabrielle and Xena."

"Iason, can you please tell us what is going on?" Although Artemis trusted Iason completely, she needed to know what he had planned. This was her Chosen One that he was talking about and Artemis would protect her at all costs, even if it meant her godhood.

"Yes...come, let’s go outside and look at the stars." With that both goddess’ followed the old priest who had become more than either ever imagined.


Continues here...

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