Disclaimers! The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess do not belong to me. But Cleopatra obviously did as she damned well pleased. And apparently she took Xena and Gabrielle with her.
Where did that come from? A very seductive Cleopatra issued the Invitation to Egypt to Xena at the end of the episode "The King of Assassins" in season 3. I'll admit the rest was a frantic leap on my part.
WARNING! As usual this story contains explicit, consensual sex between women, sometimes. And certainly romantic involvement between women, always. Because thats the way I like it. If this kind of thing is not to your liking, then go away. Its an infinite Internet out there.
Dedication: For my beloved New Yorkers, whose unique personalities and huge, giving hearts enabled me to blast through my writer's block.
I am forever grateful.
Invitation to Egypt
The ship's bow sliced evenly through the water of the Mediterranean Sea. The warm breeze ruffled Gabrielle's hair. 'Why am I doing this?' she asked to herself again. She'd repeatedly debated with herself about making this trip. As Queen of the Amazon Nation, she knew that it was her prerogative, even her duty, to visit and establish diplomatic relations with other cultures. When she had accepted the request to attend this meeting, the reply had been enthusiastic. But she knew that the invitation to Egypt had not originally been extended to her or to the Amazons. It had been distinctly issued to the Warrior Princess. Cleopatra herself had sensuously, seductively invited Xena to come to Egypt as the Queen's special guest.
Gabrielle looked back at the steerage platform where the captain of this sailing vessel was talking to Xena. The captain was a very attractive woman. An ex-pirate, with untamed hair, laughing eyes, and a killer smile. She was quite striking in tight leather pants and a revealing halter top that showed plenty of her smooth, coffee-colored skin. The kind of woman that always seemed to be drawn to Xena. Women who were exciting and powerful, not women like herself. And whether they loved her, hated her, or both, they always passionately wanted the warrior.
At that moment in her reverie, Gabrielle heard Xena laugh. She smiled at the melodic sound that most would never suspect the warrior capable of making. But she knew Xena better than anyone. She had traveled with the Warrior Princess before she became the Queen of the Amazons. And they had remained together during all the years she'd ruled over the Amazon Nation. As Gabrielle watched her closest companion dazzle the captain, Xena turned and looked in her direction as if Gabrielle had actually called out to her. The stunning blue eyes in Xena's beautiful face focused directly on her. When the Queen acknowledged the warrior with a smile, Xena returned her attention back to the captain. The rush of feeling that coursed through her at that momentary glance did not surprise Gabrielle. She'd been aware for years that Xena could melt her with even as short a connection as a glimpse. They were linked together like no other two people she knew.
Under Gabrielle's reign, the Amazon Nation had flourished. There was peace among the various tribes and prosperity throughout the land. Many credited the new Queen for the nation's progress. She was fair-minded, popular, and smart. And some still thought of the Warrior Princess as her protector and champion. It had been many years since Xena had defeated Queen Melosa in a challenge and thwarted Velascas attempt to overthrow Gabrielles rule. But the Amazons had not forgotten the events. No one in their right mind would make a challenge to Gabrielle's reign if they thought there was even the slightest chance that they'd face Xena instead. So Gabrielle had every opportunity to make decisions and judgments for the good of the nation without interference from dissenting factions. It was not a planned arrangement, nor was it a fact that was actually apparent to Gabrielle. But it did help keep peace within the nation.
The city of Alexandria came into view, sparkling above the Mediterranean like a jewel in a tiara. The magnificent lighthouse that they had seen from miles away gleamed in stunning splendor. Standing 400 feet high, it was a masterpiece of architecture. The brilliant reflective light from its giant mirror could be seen three days before arrival at Alexandrias port. As the ship approached, Gabrielle stood at its bow marveling at the beauty of the busy metropolis. The columns, the buildings, the market place bustling with activity, all indicated a lively, prosperous community. The opulence and grandeur that was Alexandria exemplified what she remembered about Egypt's Queen.
There was a large committee waiting on the dock. Gabrielle was not accustomed to being received as if she was royalty. Part of the Amazon Queen's charm was her contention that no royal blood flowed through her veins. She knew shed come to rule by circumstance, not by birthright. One of many differences she felt between the Queen of Egypt and herself.
Xena turned her gaze away from the waiting entourage and observed Gabrielle. The sunlight rebounded off the sea onto the Queen's face and hair. Xena thought she radiated a loveliness no one else possessed. After all their years together, the warrior was still taken aback at her friend's charisma. Excusing herself from the company of the captain, Xena joined Gabrielle to disembark the boat. A handsome woman stepped forward to greet them. She was taller than Gabrielle was, fit, confident, with an easy smile and intelligent eyes. The sun made the highlights in her dark auburn hair sparkle. Her clothes and carriage intimated wealth and position.
"Welcome, Queen Gabrielle," she said. "I am Stacia, friend and confidante to Queen Cleopatra." Nodding her head respectfully to Gabrielle, her gaze drifted surreptitiously to the tall, dark-haired, dangerous-looking beauty beside her. 'So', she thought to herself, 'this is my Queen's savior.' To the visitors she said, "It is my privilege to accompany you to the palace. Queen Cleopatra has planned a celebration for you all."
Gabrielle noticed the way Stacia subtly scrutinized Xena. Again she felt as if she and her Amazons were not really the objects of Cleopatra's hospitality. If Xena had come to Egypt alone, the welcome would have been the same.
Upon arrival at the Queen's residence, they were treated to splendor such as the Amazons had never seen. The obvious wealth and style of Cleopatra was quite evident in the intricate artwork, the magnificent architecture, and the beautiful furnishings and displays. There were female aides, escorts, servants, as well as other women of distinct position. But no matter what their station in life, these women were all attractive. Gabrielle was certain that this was by design rather than by chance. If Cleopatra wanted to make every effort to please the Amazons during their visit, it was an indirect, but effective ploy.
Palace servants accompanied the Amazons to their quarters in a spacious section of the palace. Stacia personally directed Xena and Gabrielle to two large, luxurious, but separate rooms. When they realized this, both the Queen and her Warrior Princess looked at each other in what could only have been deemed as mutual dismay. Stacia observed the discreet exchange. She knew Cleopatra had wanted to see to the utmost comfort of her guests. And though there was no outward indication, it was possible that the Queen of the Amazons did not sleep alone. 'I can certainly see why', she thought.
Xena smiled at Gabrielle and shrugged her shoulders slightly. It might be considered rude to thwart the Queen's attempts to provide them with the finest of accommodations. Gabrielle understood this, but realized that she would get very little sleep during her visit. Suddenly their stay in Egypt could not pass quickly enough for Gabrielle.
After they were settled and rested, the Amazon delegation was escorted to the first event of their trip. It was an elaborate welcome dinner to honor the guests of Egypt. There were women of prestige from other countries, but the Amazons comprised the largest group.
As they entered the Grand Banquet Room, Cleopatra observed the contingent of Amazons from her platform across the room. They were an impressive group of women. Of course, she recognized Xena immediately. The warrior was just as magnificent and beautiful as she had remembered. Cleopatra could almost feel the strength and power radiating from her. Smiling, she decided shed been right to extend Xena an invitation to Egypt.
However, it was her companion that surprised the Queen. When Cleopatra had last seen Gabrielle, shed been barely more than a girl. The bard had played a courageous role in thwarting her brother Ptolemys assassination attempt. And yet Cleopatra had barely noticed her. The woman entering the banquet hall as the Queen of the Amazons today would indeed be impossible to ignore. Gabrielle had matured into her regal role. Cleopatra watched Gabrielle take in her surroundings. Intelligence and poise emanated from the Amazon. Her presence, while less obvious than Xenas, was just as compelling.
Through all her travels, Gabrielle had never been in such a marvelously ornate room. It was larger than any temple shed ever seen. Much of the structure was in deference to Cleopatra's ancient Greek ancestry. There were huge columns and arched doorways laden with ivory. But the décor of the room was strictly Egyptian. The ceiling was encrusted with precious stones and the rafters were plated in gold. The walls were marbled with hundreds of artist's renditions of what Gabrielle could only imagine was Egypt's rich history. When she looked across the room to the raised platform, she realized Cleopatra was observing her. She was slightly embarrassed to be caught so enthralled by the beauty of what the Queen of Egypt had created. This was a woman to be admired and respected.
Xena also caught Cleopatra's eye. Her pulse quickened slightly as her memory of the Queen's allure collided with the present. Though Cleopatra was not a classic beauty, there was something irresistible about her. She commanded the attention of those around her. And she got it.
At the dinner, Cleopatra was seated at one end of a large banquet table with Xena at her side. The hostess monopolized the Warrior Princess completely. Gabrielle sat at the opposite end with Stacia. While she was acutely aware of the attention Cleopatra showered on her companion, she was enjoying the company of her dinner mate. Stacia was charming, witty, and seem to know absolutely everything there was to know about her country. Her father had come from Greece as a young man seeking his fortune. Alexandria was a vital port in world trade, so he had built an export company. From the rich lands along the Nile; Nubia, Sudan, Syria, and Egypt, the company specialized in sending silk, spices, precious stones and grain to Rome and Greece. Stacia now ran the prosperous enterprise. Soon Gabrielle found herself captivated by the merchant's anecdotes and humor. At the end of the evening, Stacia offered to show Gabrielle the highlights of the city. Eager to be with someone she could more easily relate to, the bard readily agreed.
In the morning, the collection of dignitaries had a brief conference with the Queen. After the meeting, Gabrielle accompanied Stacia through Alexandria. She was amazed at the beauty of the port. Greek style was in every structure. The most impressive sight was The Lighthouse of Pharos. It was even more incredible up close. Gabrielle could not even imagine how the three separate sections of the monument had been built to stand so high. But in a land where the Pyramids were built, she should not have been surprised. Stacia promised to show her more the next day.
Xena had spent most of the day in Cleopatra's company. It was fairly clear to her that the Queen's suggestive invitation made some years ago had not lost its implication. And while the Egyptian ruler was still just as dazzling as she'd been then, Xena had changed.
That evening, a note was quietly slipped under the door of Xena's room. She opened it and pondered its message. With a rueful expression, she left her room.
Cleopatra looked up from her reading when she heard a light rap at her bedroom door. Xena entered the lavish quarters quietly. Gabrielle would have immediately noticed the opulent surroundings. She would have appreciated the stirring colors, the luxurious décor, and the fine material. But Xenas unconscious survey centered on the security of the room. Mentally noting flaws and strong points for the Queens protection.
"Ah, Xena." Cleopatra smiled at the warrior as she set her scroll aside. "I wasnt sure youd come."
"Far be it for me to ignore the summons of so gracious a host." Xena approached the table where the Queen still sat. She observed some of the unfurled scrolls. They were written in several different languages unfamiliar to her. "Not to mention that it comes from the Queen of Egypt."
"Somehow I think that no queen commands the Warrior Princess to do anything she doesnt want to do."
Xena merely nodded and waited for the Queen to continue.
"I invited you to Egypt in appreciation of you saving my life. But I invited you here tonite for a more personal reason." The Queen stood and circled around behind Xena. Her hand wandered lightly up the warriors arm.
"Youre an intriguing woman, Xena. I would very much like to get to know you . more intimately."
A small sigh escaped the warrior. She shifted slightly to look at Cleopatra. The Queen evaluated Xenas expression. Something in the warriors eyes gave her a moments hesitation.
"I desire you, Xena. But I dont love you. Does that make a difference?"
Xena looked pensive. "It didnt used to ."
Cleopatra stepped back around Xena and sat down again. "Hmm, perhaps Gabrielle holds more than the heart of the Amazon Nation in her hands."
An arched eyebrow was Xenas only response. The indirect acknowledgment might have deterred most women. But Cleopatra was not like most women.
"Im accustomed to obtaining what I desire, Xena."
"If the Queen of Egypt finds me interesting, then Im both flattered and honored."
Light laughter followed the declaration. "You should have been a diplomat instead of a warrior, Xena." Shaking her head, Cleopatra felt a touch of regret. "Go now, before I override my better judgment and attempt a more active seduction."
Later that night, a figure arrived in the dark hallway outside Gabrielles door.
"I wouldn't, if I were you...."
Stacia froze without turning the handle on the door. She turned and saw the Warrior Princess standing next to her. She had not heard her approach.
"Ah, Xena. And why is that? Are you and Gabrielle lovers?"
The coldness in Xena's eyes remained unchanged. She did not answer.
"Well then," Stacia turned back to the unopened door. "I fail to see how what I do with Gabrielle concerns you."
"Everything about Gabrielle concerns me." Xena leaned in close. "And if you so much as touch her," the cerulean eyes blazed with the threat, "I will make your life a living hell..... as short as it will most likely be."
It was an insolent threat for Xena to make to such a powerful woman. Stacia was highly regarded in Cleopatra's court, as well as an intimate friend of the Queen herself. And though Stacia knew that she was capable of giving Xena a challenging fight, she pondered the wisdom of her quest. The Amazon Queen was indeed a lovely woman. But she was not worth incurring the displeasure of Cleopatra, or to her lesser concern, the possibility of losing her life.
"Well," she quipped as she turned to leave, "it's quite easy to see why the Queen of the Amazons is without a mate."
Gabrielle stared into the fire inside her bedroom. Either by the trick of acoustics or architecture, she had heard the confrontation outside her door. She waited to see if Xena would come into her room instead of the woman who may have wanted to seduce her. After a moment of silence, she heard Xena's steps retreating toward her own room.
Could Stacia be right about how Gabrielle was perceived by others? At times she'd admired several women for their strength of character or their charm. She appreciated a lovely face or an enticing physique as much as any woman. But she realized now that it had been ages since she'd been approached by a woman seeking to be intimate with her. She had assumed that her station in life was too intimidating. Or was the intimidating factor really Xena? A momentary feeling of indignation flashed through her. But the words 'just who does she think she is....' died just as quickly in her mind. Certainly the assumption that Xena was her consort had protected her and helped her wield her authority when necessary. If she were to be honest with herself, Gabrielle knew that she was not truly interested in meaningless encounters. That was not her style. She'd allowed only one woman into her heart. And how could she possibly want anyone else when she had..... when she had.....
Yet she didn't actually have Xena . By the gods . Why had she even come to Egypt?
Stacia gave no indication of her altercation with Xena the next day when she brought Gabrielle to the Great Library of Alexandria. It had been the vision of Alexander the Great to build a Center for Universal Learning. Alexandria had become everything he had foreseen. Cleopatra had preserved and expanded on the educational vision.
When she entered the library, she paused in awe. Gabrielle had never seen so many scrolls collected in one space. The Amazon Queen was immediately taken with the immense structure. The library was as affluent and splendid as any of the marvelous buildings she'd seen in Alexandria. There were men at large tables consulting many unfurled scrolls and writing on new ones. The sheer magnitude of Cleopatra's endeavor was unimaginable. She was sending the knowledge and history stored in this repository to other countries, written in their own languages. Gabrielle walked slowly around the scholars working diligently on their translations. She could tell that languages she had never seen before were being translated into her native Greek. The subjects of mathematics, science and medicine were being written as if for teachers. The works of great philosophers and poets, such as Plato, Socrates, Homer, Aristotle, Euripidies, and Sophocles were being translated as well. The bard knew that the majority of the populace of any country could not read. But if one could pass on the knowledge of science and history to future generations, it might be possible to change that. It was a brilliant and philanthropic concept. She suddenly felt a profound respect for Cleopatra's ideas. It made her realize that being a bard might be just as important as being a queen.
They walked through the building past more rows of tables where scores of men and women sat reading or writing on scrolls. Assistants moved all about the great rooms, gathering, dispensing, cataloging, retrieving, or replacing scrolls, books and papyri.
"This is astonishing." Gabrielle whispered. The beauty of the building would occur to her later. But now she was completely enthralled by the store of the written word.
"Come, Gabrielle. I want you to meet someone."
Stacia directed Gabrielle to a table placed a small distance from the others. At this table sat an exquisite woman with thick dark hair. She was preoccupied with reading a scroll and did not even look up as they approached.
"Terisis." Stacia spoke the woman's name softly and touched her lightly on the shoulder. When the striking brunette looked up, Gabrielle found herself looking into the deepest, darkest eyes she had ever seen. And even though the woman smiled openly, her eyes projected a serene and discreet nature.
"Gabrielle, this is Terisis. One of Queen Cleopatra's finest historians."
Terisis glanced at Stacia for a brief moment before nodding to Gabrielle in respect of her position.
"She exaggerates. It's a pleasure to meet you, Queen Gabrielle. I've heard a great deal about the Bard of Poteidaia and her wonderful scrolls. Is it too much to hope that you might have brought some of them with you?"
Gabrielle was surprised that her reputation had reached as far as Egypt.
"No, Terisis. I'm sorry. I didn't know about the library."
Terisis took Gabrielle on an extensive tour of the library. She explained how books and scrolls were cataloged, translated and reprinted. There were floor to ceiling shelves that contained over one million works of literature. Terisis explained that the catalogue alone for the contents of the library numbered twenty volumes. It was the largest collection of manuscripts in the world. As she warmed to the subject she loved, Gabrielle could see the passion that lay beneath the historian's calm exterior.
At the tour's end, Gabrielle was amazed at the undertaking. "This is an incredible venture, Terisis. Queen Cleopatra has a marvelous vision."
"This is how we will learn about our past, Gabrielle." Terisis replied. "Our Queen has an inherent passion to preserve the knowledge of our past for future generations." Terisis paused. "What about you, Gabrielle? As a bard you've recorded adventures and events of fascinating times in Greece and exotic lands. Have you ever thought of starting your own library? I'm sure it would be important to the Amazons."
Gabrielle had often thought that she would someday find the time to chronicle and organize her scrolls and to collect scrolls from other bards she had known. Xena's amazing feats throughout their years together were indeed fantastic. She had witnessed and recorded every moment of that remarkable life.
"Yes, Xena's life story is well worth preserving."
The historian's expression was indulgent. "I'm sure it is, Gabrielle. But you are not a simple observer. From what I've been told, you have been an equal participant in that life story. A partner who has shared and influenced each and every event. It is your legacy to pass on as much as it is Xena's."
The next morning in the library a blonde blur of motion practically flew toward the table where Terisis was working.
"Well? You met them! Aren't they amazing?" Kari was so excited. "And their Queen, what did you think of her?"
"Good Morning, Kari." Terisis looked up from the scroll she was translating. "Yes, I saw them. And yes, they are amazing." She shook her head trying to suppress a smile.
Kari was the best assistant that Terisis had. She was blonde, blue-eyed, tall and athletic. A genetic throwback from an ancestry clearly not Egyptian. Kari knew that what made her even more unconventional was her desire to go to Greece and become an Amazon. She knew people considered her crazy to think that she could travel to that faraway land. But she longed to be a part of that noble community. A trick of fate had somehow placed her here, in Egypt, owned by a wealthy family. She just knew it. Where she truly belonged was in Greece, with the Amazons. It had to be so. Or why would she have always felt like such an outsider here? And why had she wanted to be an Amazon since she'd first learned about them as a little girl?
Seeing her blonde protégé frown as she retreated into thought, Terisis decided not to chastise her for her dream.
"Maybe someday, Kari." she said. "History is full of unlikely possibilities that came true."
Kari began to walk slowly back and forth in front of the table as Terisis resumed her work. Her fingers brushed aimlessly across the polished surface.
Looking up, Terisis could sense her young assistant's tension. "What is it Kari?"
Without looking up, Kari said. "I heard you talking to the Amazon Queen about setting up a library for the Amazons."
"Well, I thought that it would be a good idea to offer to send someone who was experienced in such things to assist the Amazons."
Terisis could immediately see where this line of thinking was going.
"Oh no, Kari. Absolutely not." she stated. "You going with the Amazons is out of the question."
"But why?" Kari looked up exasperated. "I could do it, Terisis! I've been a part of this library for as long as I can remember. You've said yourself that I'm one of the best assistants youve ever had."
Terisis kept her voice calm. "It's not that, Kari. I know you would be of great value. But Stacia would never let you go."
Kari's shoulders drooped. She had been born in the house of Stacia's father. And while she had never been treated like a servant, she was not free to leave it.
"She would release me if you asked her."
"What makes you think I have any influence over Stacia? You are her favorite."
Kari considered how far she could step beyond her boundaries. But she had already gone this far .. "Terisis, it's true at times I've shared Stacia's bed. But we both know I'm not the one who holds her heart."
A slight blush was all that gave away the librarian's careful composure.
Gabrielle spent the next several days at the library. Terisis showed her every aspect of the enterprise. While examining the library's section on Amazon history, Terisis broke their companionable silence.
"Gabrielle, have you given any more thought to opening a library?"
Gabrielle looked up from the scroll she was reading. "Yes, I have." She replied. "I think it would be of great benefit to the Amazon Nation."
"May I make a suggestion?"
"I think it would be to your advantage if one of the assistants from the library here accompanied you. Someone experienced with the work to help you design and structure your inventory."
"Terisis, that's a wonderful idea. Do you have anyone in mind?"
"Well, yes . I do." Terisis paused slightly. "Kari."
Gabrielle searched her memory for a moment. The image of the attractive blonde assistant came back to her. She smiled thinking that Kari already looked like an Amazon.
"I'm sure she'd do well with us. Is she free to leave Egypt?"
Again the historian hesitated. "Not exactly."
To Gabrielle's puzzled expression, she said, "Kari was born to Stacia's house. She's not free to leave it without Stacia's permission."
"I see." It was becoming clear to Gabrielle that there might be some kind of problem. "Stacia doesn't know anything about this, does she?"
"Not exactly." Terisis smiled sheepishly. "But if you requested Kari's help, I'm sure that Stacia would let her go. Do you think Xena might be willing to help you persuade Stacia?"
Obviously Terisis was unaware of the animosity Gabrielle had witnessed between the two women.
The Queen of the Nile provided that evening yet another feast for her guests. Gabrielle broached the subject of the library's assistant.
"I've decided to create a library in Amazonia, Queen Cleopatra. And I would like to model it after the marvelous work you've done here in Egypt."
"That's wonderful." Queen Cleopatra beamed. "I'm sure you'll find it an extremely worthy venture."
"However, it would be easier if we had someone with experience to assist us in beginning the work."
"I'm sure that can be arranged, Gabrielle." Stacia smiled at the Amazon Queen. "I'll ask Terisis to suggest someone."
"She already has." Gabrielle tried to sound casual. "Kari."
Xena, who had remained silent during the exchange, detected a minute change in Stacia's posture. Apparently Gabrielle had hit a nerve.
"That's impossible." Stacia replied.
Stacia glanced at Xena who'd posed the question. "Kari's been a part of my family since the day she was born. I have no intention of allowing her to leave us."
"It seems to me that a person should be free to choose her own life."
Stacia regarded Xena carefully, the two Queens at the table momentarily forgotten. The Warrior Princess was goading her, embarrassing her in front of her Queen and the beautiful Amazon. She briefly remembered their exchange outside Gabrielle's door. Her temper flared.
"May I suggest a contest, Xena?" Stacia's voice did not betray her anger.
This surprised Gabrielle. Even Cleopatra raised an eyebrow. Xena remained stoic.
"What kind of contest?" Gabrielle was becoming concerned.
Stacia looked back at her. "I propose a contest of weapon skills with Xena. If I lose, Kari may go to Amazonia."
"And if Xena loses?" Gabrielle had to ask, though she received a piercing glance from Xena.
"Ah well then I would ask to enjoy an uninterrupted evening in the company of the Amazon Queen."
Xena's glance shifted from Gabrielle back to Stacia. Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Agreed." It was a contest Xena had no intention of losing.
The following afternoon, a small arena was fairly crowded with spectators. All the Amazons were present, as were a large number of friends and supporters for Stacia. Queen Cleopatra and Gabrielle were there, as well as Terisis and Kari. The night before, Gabrielle had not been able to talk Xena out of this absurd competition. Terisis had been equally unsuccessful in persuading Stacia.
The weapons Stacia had chosen were knives. Although she was an expert in many different kinds of weaponry, knives were her favorite. She was deadly accurate with them. A mediator instructed the two women on the scoring of the contest. "Three knives apiece. The knives thrown closest to your opponent wins."
Stacia, as the challenger, was first to throw. Xena leaned back against a wall thirty paces way from Stacia. She was expressionless as she faced her competitor. Stacia picked up the first knife and weighed it in her hand for a moment. Then in a single fluid motion, she released it. It landed no more than an inch above Xena's right shoulder. The second attempt embedded itself above Xena's left shoulder strap, touching but not cutting the leather. Her last knife pierced the wood directly above Xena's head, barely touching her hair.
"Bravo, Stacia!" Cleopatra applauded enthusiastically. "Excellent as usual."
Stacia smiled at her Queen. Then she stepped back against her own wall and waited.
Gabrielle caught Xena's eye as her three knives were being presented. Her expression pleaded with Xena. Loss of pride would be a small price to pay for Stacia's safety.
Stacia was indeed a worthy adversary. She had a sharp eye and a steady hand. Xena admired her skills. However, the Warrior Princess was at her best in battle. That was when her reactions freed her own skills to work their magic. In a blur of motion, Xena grabbed all three knives. She let out her warrior yell, whirled and fired her weapons with such speed, that they all appeared to land at the same time. When it was over, there was one knife at each of Stacia's shoulders pinning her to the wall by the material of her shirt. The knife above her was embedded in the wood atop her head, a lock of auburn hair resting gently over the blade.
The assistants rushed forward to free Stacia. She approached Xena, aware that the warrior had bested her. "Well done." was all she said before she turned and left the arena.
"Well," Cleopatra commented to Gabrielle, "that was .. entertaining "
Terisis accompanied Stacia home. "That was absolutely one of the most asinine things you've ever done, Stacia." Her fear for Stacia's safety overwhelmed her normally calm demeanor. "What was the matter with you? You could have been killed."
Stacia knew that Terisis was right. She had let her temper and her pride overrule her good sense. Stacia had never seen Terisis so upset. And while the competitor in her was content with the match, it pained her to see Terisis so distraught.
"And for what?" Terisis still raged. She was about to say more when she noticed several packed bags in the entryway near the door. She stared at them for a moment and then looked back at Stacia.
"You were planning to let Kari go all along."
Stacia stepped closer to Terisis and let her hand gently caress the historian's cheek.
The contest brought an end to an already long week for Gabrielle. The Amazon Queen had spent the majority of time questioning her position, her choices, and her life. Even though Gabrielle had done her best at the conferences and the festivities, she still felt somewhat like a fraud. When she thought too long and hard, or when she was in the company of real royalty, she often felt this way. Cleopatra was descended from a long line of kings. The blood of the common people did not flow in her veins. The Amazon Queen was glad to be going back home. She did not belong here.
The brooding blonde hadn't heard the Queen of Egypt as she approached the balcony overview. Gabrielle turned toward the direction of the silky voice. As always, she found Cleopatra's presence intimidating. But that was something her respect and strength of character wouldn't allow her to reveal.
"Your country truly is inspiring, Queen Cleopatra. Our visit here has been an enlightening experience."
Cleopatra regarded the young Amazon Queen standing in front of the spectacular view. They had met over conference tables laden with the riches of her domain. They had discussed their own cultures, as well as those of countries they had each experienced. Yet there was something about this woman that concerned her. Gabrielle had indeed matured since the only time they'd met. After Xena had saved her life from assassins, she had learned of the important role Gabrielle had played in her rescue. She owed her life to this amazon as much as she did to Xena. She wanted to help her if she could.
"I feel that you are usually more forthright in your discussions than you've been with me, Gabrielle. Why do you find it so difficult to relate to me? Is it because of Xena?"
Gabrielle should not have been surprised by Cleopatra's astute observations. One didn't become the queen of such a magnificent country without the ability to accurately assess those she encountered.
"I owe you my life, Amazon Queen. Won't you tell me what you're thinking?"
"I don't belong here." Gabrielle confided, turning back to the vista. "Unlike you, I'm not a true queen. I'm not of noble birth. I'm the daughter of common people. It's only by way of tragic circumstances that I'm here as the leader of the Amazon Nation at all. I've not your grandeur nor Xena's magnificence."
Cleopatra leaned on the solid balcony wall and breathed in the sea air.
"Gabrielle, we are all put into our positions by the fates. Our destinies are presented to us to do with what we will. It's true that I am born of a long lineage of kings. But my right to rule over this country is no less precarious than your claim as the leader of the Amazons. Egypt has become the jewel of the Nile under my reign. Yet I've had to use every means available to me to protect her and keep her that way."
"But I'm not even sure that I would be able to lead the Amazon Nation if it were not for the Amazon's strong belief in tradition and an underlying fear of Xena."
"Well, it doesn't hurt to have powerful allies, Gabrielle. I will soon be meeting with Caesar to secure an alliance with Rome."
Gabrielle shuddered briefly at the mention of Caesar's name and the mental flash of Xena's history with him.
"Listen to me, Gabrielle." Cleopatra rotated Gabrielle toward her with a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Even with a commitment as strong as mine, my reputation is not without its critics. I am beloved and respected by some and regarded as little more than a desert whore by others. No amount of prosperity, knowledge, or peace will be appreciated by all. There will always be those who are discontent. All that I can do is to try to plan a great future for my country and to use whatever power I possess to ensure it."
The Egyptian Queen brought her hand up to Gabrielle's face and cupped her cheek in an unusual display of affection.
"We are both at the mercy of the fates, Gabrielle. It matters not the circumstances of our birth, nor even the direction of our futures. It's what we do today that's most important. This time I spend with you, the understanding we accomplish right now, is my best moment. My finest hour among many of the finest hours of my past and of those yet to come. I have no idea how history will perceive me. I will leave that to the scholars and historians. But I am the Queen of Egypt today. You are the Queen of the Amazon Nation today. It is the most fulfilled that one can be..... today."
Gabrielle smiled at the simplicity of how Cleopatra presented the mysteries of life. She knew very well that the Queen was anything but simplistic. Cleopatra was an extremely intelligent, fascinating, and complex woman. And for the first time since she'd arrived, she felt a kinship with the alluring monarch. She covered the Queen's hand with her own.
The Queen nodded, smiled slightly and turned to leave. She stopped at the doorway and looked back at the young blonde beauty.
"You have much more power than you realize, Gabrielle. And it does not come solely from your relationship with Xena. Use your compassion, your intelligence, and your integrity. They are gifts as potent as any that belong to Xena. But Xena's loyalty is a valuable asset as well. Use her love for you to bind her to your reign. It will benefit you both, I promise."
Gabrielle was contemplating Cleopatra's advice when she felt strong hands on her shoulders. She didn't need to turn to know who was standing behind her. But she cocked her head back slightly to catch the scent of leather that always accompanied Xena.
"Cleopatra said you wanted to see me. Are you all right?"
Gabrielle smiled at the obvious ruse. "Did she?"
Without saying any more, Gabrielle took Xena's right hand off her shoulder and tucked it under her own arm. The motion pulled Xena closer until she could feel the brass breastplate against the skin of her back. Xena brought her left hand around to brace herself on the balcony wall. She didn't trust her sense of balance when she was this close to her partner.
The Queen clasped Xena's hand in both of hers. With her left hand she measured their difference. She inspected the warrior's sensual fingers, longer than her own. She brushed her fingers over the calluses of the palm and softly followed the lifeline. Her right hand caressed the smooth opposite surface, tanned and scarred by years of sun and battle. Gabrielle thought of all she'd seen this hand accomplish in the past. She'd watched the Warrior Princess heal the injured, the sick, and bring peace to the dying. She'd observed feats of combat that could only be believed because she'd actually witnessed them. This woman had been blessed with such power and ability. Yet she'd also been cursed with violence and rage. And the Queen of the Amazons knew that she'd be nothing, would have achieved nothing, would not even be alive today, without her.
Xena moved her hand from the balcony and wrapped her arm around Gabrielle. The exploration of her hand felt as intimate as if Gabrielle had been using her lips for the examination. It seemed as if the bard was looking at her hands for the first time. Yet over the years she'd seen them and experienced their touch many times, in many ways.
Gabrielle traced her hand up Xena's forearm. She brought that arm across her waist so that the warrior totally encompassed her. She covered the strong arms with her own. Feeling Xena's arms around her reminded her that nothing could ever harm her as long as she was surrounded by this warrior's love.
"You know I love you."
It was something that Gabrielle said often. But this time Xena heard something different in the Queen's voice. There was an unfamiliar inflection in the words. But she would not misinterpret this closeness or the tender declaration.
"Yes, I know." She hugged the bard possessively and waited for Gabrielle to go on.
"Cleopatra is a remarkable woman, don't you think?"
"Yes, she is."
Gabrielle rested her head back against Xena's shoulder.
"She's so bright, so perceptive. And shes one of the few people Ive ever known who precisely defined the destiny of our relationship."
"Is that right?"
"She said that I should bind your love to my reign. She said it would benefit us both."
The warrior remained silent, not trusting herself to speak.
"But what she didn't say, was that my love for you already binds you to my very soul."
Xena's reaction to the revealing disclosure was minuscule. A brief suspension of her breathing was all that gave her away. But deep inside her, Gabrielle's account released a torrent of emotion. Xena's head dropped down until she touched the blonde head propped against her.
"Xena, are you in love with me?"
"Yes." There was no other possible answer for the Warrior Princess to give.
Gabrielle sighed contentedly as she felt Xenas cheek softly nuzzle her hair.
"Do you know what is one of my most favorite things to hear you say?"
The blonde turned within the circle of Xenas arms. She braced her hands on the warriors biceps and gazed up into sapphire eyes.
"Yes," She admitted softly, locking her sea green eyes with Xenas. "I love to hear you say Yes."
As they searched each others faces for confirmation, their minds already knew the outcome of this discussion. The embrace they shared left little room for avoiding a sensuous connection. They had no interest in rationalizing the attraction they'd had to each other since the day they'd met so long ago. They both knew that they were more intimate with each other than any of the lovers each of them had known. Together they had endured birth and death, heaven and hell, betrayal and forgiveness. The bond between them was as vital as mentor and student, as inseparable as sisters, as unbreakable as mother and daughter, as intertwined as soulmates. If they had not become lovers until now, it may have been because they already felt as united as it was possible to feel. This consummation, this pleasurable act, would not make them feel any closer to each other than they already felt. It merely confirmed the fact that they belonged to each other in every sense of the word.
Gabrielle reached up and kissed Xena softly. As she continued, the kisses became more expressive, more insistent. She started to back the warrior toward her bedroom. Under the determined, yet pleasurable onslaught, Xena wasnt even aware that she was moving into the Queens boudoir. She was having trouble catching her breath between the siege of kisses. Maneuvering her prey closer to her bed, Gabrielle unhooked the chakram from the warriors waist and let it fall to the floor. Without breaking stride or contact with Xenas soft lips, the scabbard too was deftly unbuckled and tossed aside. Almost to the bed, more buckles were released and Xena's breastplate also fell to the floor. Reaching the side of her bed, the Queen abruptly released Xena, put her hands on her shoulders and sat the warrior down. Then she knelt in front of her and unlaced her boots. The boots slid off and Gabrielle stood again.
"Do you want me?"
Blue eyes looked up, snapping with sexual energy. "Yes."
Gabrielle slid her fingers into Xenas hair. "How long have you wanted me,
The warrior was not thinking of anything but wanting this woman. Her response was vague.
"You've desired only me, Xena? No one else has caught your attention?" Gabrielles fingers continued to comb lightly through the dark, soft tresses.
"What can I say? I like blondes."
The Queen smiled. Her fingers stroked Xenas neck. "As I recall, youve been involved with dark-haired, dark-eyed, women in your past."
Xena was trying to think. But the soft exploration was distracting her. "Well, that was before I met you. Since then, you have been the only .blonde ."
Gabrielle's fingers parted Xenas hair in the back and brought the strands forward across each shoulder. "Callisto was beautiful."
"She was a crazed maniac .. when she was alive, that is." Xena tried to concentrate on the Queen's words.
"Najara was attractive." Gabrielle bent forward and reached around Xenas back to loosen the ties of her leathers.
"Fanatic whacko." Gabrielles soft cleavage was inches away from Xenas eyes.
"What about Grinhilda?" The leather gave way as she slowly separated the supple garment covering Xenas back.
"Too horse crazy." Xena could feel Gabrielles fingertips caressing the skin of her back.
"Oh, please!" Xena sat up straighter as Gabrielle again stood in front of her. "Adorable, yes, but extremely fickle."
Gabrielle laughed at the warriors reaction.
"Well, then I guess that does just leave me."
"Yes." The desire in Xenas eyes left no doubt about that. "It most certainly does."
The bard stood Xena up and searched her face. Her hands pushed the leather straps off the warriors shoulders. With a slight pull, the battle dress and the sheath underneath easily came down Xenas body. They joined her weapons on the floor. Gabrielles fingers lightly traced the waistband of Xenas breeches. Then she slipped her fingers underneath and lowered them to the floor as well. With a gentle nudge, Gabrielle guided Xena onto the bed. It never ceased to amaze her how Xenas beauty had remained constant over the years. No other woman, younger or older, held the allure this woman did. She knew this body better than she knew her own. Each scar, every muscle was familiar to Gabrielle. But seeing the warrior lying in anticipation of her touch was absolutely intoxicating.
Xena observed her soulmate appreciating her body. Many times she would have given anything for Gabrielle to love her, touch her as she was doing now. She watched her bard unlace and remove her own boots. With a sly grin, Gabrielle reached underneath her skirt and slid off her breeches. It was a discreet move that showed the observant warrior very little. Then she crawled onto the bed and straddled Xenas hips. Their sudden connection inflamed them both. Gabrielle loved the feel Xenas soft hair brushing against her own. And the heat generated from between the bard's legs intensified Xena's own warmth. Gabrielle let her fingertips softly glide over Xena's chest. Longing to feel more, the warrior reached up and cupped Gabrielle's breasts through her halter top.
"Take this off .. " Responding to the escalating sensations, Xena's voice was almost brusque.
"Not yet." Gabrielle's hands covered Xena's for a moment before removing them both from her breasts. Then her own hands returned to making more insistent caresses over the warrior's pliant breasts and hardening nipples. She relished how soft and smooth Xena's skin was under her stroking. She let her hands wander down Xenas sides. Her stomach tensed slightly as Gabrielle's fingers moved around to graze the soft hair between her legs. Looking back up at Xena's face, she was pleased at the expression of hunger she saw. Reaching behind her back, Gabrielle released the clasp that held her halter top firmly in place. Slipping it off her shoulders and tossing it aside, she displayed her breasts to her appreciative audience. Then dropping her hand to Xena's hips, she slipped her fingers down between her legs. She could feel her own tender skin as her fingers slid past. With the backs of her fingers she could also separate the fine hair covering Xenas smooth skin. She stroked them both briefly.
Xena slid her hands up Gabrielles back and pulled gently. The Queen responded by leaning forward and lying on top of her lover. The cool metal of her ornate silver belt should have been a shock to Xenas heated skin. But she was too aroused to notice. Stretched out atop Xenas body, Gabrielle began another passionate assault of kisses. Her lips and tongue waged a war for possession that once again left Xena breathless.
Needing more, Xena brought her hands to the backs of Gabrielles thighs. She felt the strong muscles beneath the velvet skin and traveled up underneath the skirt still hiding her lovers beauty. She grasped the firm cheeks, alternately fondling and clutching them.
Gabrielle sat up and once again let her eyes wander over Xenas body. From her vantage point, she let her gaze travel down the lovely lines of her lover's neck and shoulders. Her eyes followed the gentle curve of each breast, down past the slope of the flat midsection that disappeared underneath where she straddled the warrior. With a sly glance back at her mate, she reached out her middle finger and drew a light line from the base of Xenas neck to where she was sitting across Xena's hips. Again she dipped her fingers between her own legs. This time she passed through the wetness she herself had created in anticipation of making love to Xena. Coating her fingers, she withdrew her hand and displayed the glistening intimacy.
Xena watched the decadent maneuver. She was mesmerized by every move Gabrielle made. Love and lust came crashing down together. Her senses overloading.
Gabrielle relished the fact that Xena was transfixed on everything she did. She brought her wet fingers to her breasts. With deliberate eroticism, she made a show of painting her nipples with her sexual juices. Xena intently watched the seductive procedure as Gabrielle slowly, purposely spread the abundant essence on each nipple.
"Do you want me?" Gabrielle repeated the question, though the answer was more than obvious.
Xena wanted to reply. She may have even thought she had whispered, yes. She slid her hands up the Queens sides until she reached the outer softness of the tempting breasts. Pulling gently, but firmly, she brought the glistening nipples down to her lips. Gabrielle braced her arms on the sides of Xenas head and let herself be lowered to the waiting mouth. The warriors first taste of Gabrielle was just as she had imagined. When she had indulged in sexual fantasies about her partner, she had known Gabrielle's essence would be delicate and slightly sweet. Xena licked gently at the first nipple, savoring the taste and learning the feel and reaction of the rose tinted areola. The second nipple had already reacted in pleasurable anticipation by the time Xena got around to that beautiful bud. She swirled her tongue over the hardened surface, then sucked the nipple into her mouth possessively.
Whatever plans Gabrielle had made for providing Xena with pleasure first were disappearing under the onslaught of that insistent tongue. Her gasp and quiet moans gave away her willingness, her eagerness. Always reading Gabrielle so well was Xenas forte. She released the nipple she had captured and sat up with her seductress. Bringing herself eye to eye with the beautiful bard, Xena kissed her voraciously. Gabrielle straightened her legs out, still spreading herself upon Xenas lap. Their hands roamed over each other's strong backs and into silken hair. Kisses deepened and tongues danced with each other. The warrior brought her hands to the satiny skirt that her partner still wore. She unbuckled the silver belt and unwrapped the cloth covering what she most wanted to touch. The garment was pulled away and the bard gave in to her warrior.
Xena lowered Gabrielle back down to rest upon her legs. The Queen reclined her back on Xenas thighs. Her shoulders and head rested on Xenas shins. She bent her knees up in an enticing presentation of complete surrender. The warrior took in the magnificence of this woman she had grown to love so deeply for so many years. Her beauty was surpassed only by the passionate power of Gabrielles total trust. Xena would not disappoint her. She first explored the Queen with gentleness. She opened the soft folds and learned the contours of her lover. Gabrielle's skin was soaked with her sexual readiness. She couldnt stop the involuntary upward tilt of her hips. Xena enjoyed the vision of the exposed bard as much as her futile attempt to control her excitement. The warrior used her fingers to stroke the sexual shaft and then to open the inner warmth of her bard. Fingers slid in easily as Xena learned Gabrielles depths with slow and deliberate penetrations. Gabrielle ceased trying to be still under Xenas invasion. Her hips surged to the rhythm Xena set. Xenas fingers were long and reached deeply with every plunge. With her other hand, the warrior of many skills began to stroke Gabrielles stimulated node. The combination of the alternating pressure inside and the demanding stroking outside pushed the Queen toward an exhilarating climax. Her fists clenched at her sides as a pulsating river of heat began coursing through her body like flames ravage a forest. She had to watch as the warrior focused so completely on her pleasure. At that moment in time, Gabrielle knew without a doubt that she had always been Xena's focus. Through danger and joy, and now with passion and extreme intimacy, she knew she was the center, the heart and soul of the Warrior Princess. That thought drove her beyond the fire racing through her body. She cried out as she was overtaken by an intense orgasmic eruption.
Xena looked up into her lover's face when Gabrielle exuberantly called her name. She didn't stop her manipulations until the bard's bowed body released its tensions and fell back exhausted onto Xena's legs. She reached down and pulled Gabrielle back into a sitting position still straddling her lap. The Queen was in an euphoric state, a sexual daze. Xena kissed her with all the possessiveness she felt. Her fingers began to move again at a steady pace inside her lover. Gabrielle could not distinguish between coming down and climaxing again. She was just aware that Xena was creating more fiery sensations within her body than she had ever known. Excited, appreciative, but not surprised, she orgasmed again in moments. With her arms wrapped tightly around Xena, her lips close to Xena's ear, she murmured her craving for her warrior and her profound love.
When the bard had quieted, Xena slipped out from within her depths and lay back taking Gabrielle with her. The smaller woman rested her head on Xena's shoulder, stretching out her body once again upon the warrior's torso. For a moment, Xena may have thought that Gabrielle was asleep. Her breathing became steady and even. But the bard was just savoring the experience. Wanting, needing, she let her desire to touch Xena grow hot again.
After a moment of quiet, she began to kiss the shoulder where her head had been resting. She continued up the long, velvety neck to Xena's ear and astute hearing. Words of longing and love, promises of seduction and hunger, whispered past the attentive ear again. The warrior took Gabrielle's arms in her hands and tried to push the bard toward her breasts. As she slowly started to work her kisses lower, Gabrielle was amused by Xenas attempts to direct her actions. She kissed her way down Xenas neck, across her shoulders to her chest. The kisses were at times sweet and explorative. But the bard occasionally used her teeth, nipping lightly at Xenas skin. The warrior was more than ready when Gabrielle finally reached the full mounds. Soft lips suckled her and a demanding tongue flicked repeatedly over her nipples.
"Be patient." Gabrielle replied between licking one nipple and the other.
"For how long?"
Gabrielle stopped for a moment and looked up at her lover. "Until youre desperate."
Xena released a sound that was somewhere between a sigh and a groan.
"Gabrielle, Im already on the other side of desperate."
Laughing softly, Gabrielle ignored the request to provide more intimate stimulation and continued to enjoy Xenas breasts. Soon she heard a barely audible whisper.
It was as close to surrender as Xena would get.
Gabrielle glanced up at Xena with a sympathetic smile. She used her knees to gently push Xenas legs apart. Positioning herself between them, Gabrielle knelt above her. It stimulated the warrior even more to admire the firm breasts, the solid body, the strong hips and thighs that she had just enjoyed.
"Yes..." was all she could say.
Gabrielle nestled herself between Xenas legs. She brushed her right hand down her warriors thigh. The long expanse of warm skin and firm muscle was intoxicating. At the same time she nuzzled the tender skin of Xenas inner thigh with her cheek. Turning her head, her lips grazed the delicate surface inside one leg, then the other. It occurred to Gabrielle, as her lips brushed back against Xenas hair, that she belonged here. This intimate exploration allowed only to her. She had barely separated the soft hair when she placed her lips directly onto Xenas hardened node. The warrior's hips twitched in response to the intimate contact. Xena reached down and ran her fingers through her lover's short blonde hair. Gabrielle had found her. And now she was absolutely lost.
The strength of Xena's desire delighted Gabrielle. Following the warrior's lead, she took her time and let her tongue explore and learn. Every stroke tested Xena's endurance. Gabrielle brought her hand underneath her and began an additional search. Sliding along the abundant wetness Xena provided, Gabrielle wanted to be inside her, wanted to own this woman completely. She brought two fingers close, then slid them into the receptive opening. Xena bucked and moaned at the intimate invasion. It was beyond what even she could take. Gabrielle could feel the climax begin from deep inside her lover. The sexual burst opened Xena and Gabrielle filled the expansion with thrusts as deep as her fingers could reach. She held on tightly and her tongue continued its pleasurable offensive until the warrior had given up all she had to give.
Climbing up Xena's resting body, Gabrielle fitted herself into Xena's arms. She withdrew from her lover, but inserted her leg between the warrior's to keep her warm. Xena turned and kissed the blonde head. She felt sated and peaceful. As she drifted, she realized that peace was something she had only known through Gabrielle.
Hours later, Gabrielle sat on the side of the bed looking back at a relaxed, contented Xena. The warrior wore a smile on her beautiful face that was not quite a smirk.
"What is it?"
"I was just thinking how unlikely it is that Stacia, or anyone else for that matter, is ever going to get to enjoy an uninterrupted evening in the company of the Amazon Queen." Xena was now grinning openly.
Gabrielle swatted Xenas arm, then immediately soothed the site with her fingers. "She didnt mean it like that, Xena. Besides, I dont think a woman like Stacia will be alone for long."
"Oh.... you mean the historian..... Terisis....." The continued caress of Gabrielles hand up her arm and across her shoulder made it hard for Xena to follow the conversation.
"Yes. Theres something there, Im sure of it." Gabrielle turned completely and started a slow crawl toward Xena. "But I may have made a mistake in asking her to send Kari back with us."
"Why?" Xena wouldnt have really cared if the Queen answered or not. Gabrielle threw one leg over the warrior and braced herself above Xena. Those lovely breasts were tantalizingly close.
"Because shes a blonde...."
Xena laughed out loud. The moment broken, but not the spell. She pulled Gabrielle down on top of her. The warrior loved this blonde, Battling Bard, Amazon Queen with all her heart. And Xena knew that she was never going to be able to get enough of her.
The next day, the Amazons loaded and prepared the ship for their return voyage. Kari had been aboard all morning, securing the material donated from Alexandria's library. Together with the scrolls of the Bard of Poteidaia, they would be the beginning of the Amazon Historical Library. She waved at the dock before disappearing below deck.
On the dock, two women faced each other amid the activity. Xena offered a warrior's handshake to Stacia. When Stacia took her arm, Xena said. "Queen Cleopatra has enemies. People who can't be trusted."
Stacia held Xena's gaze. "She also has friends who can be."
Xena nodded and released her. With a smile to Terisis, she turned toward the ship.
Gabrielle hugged the historian. "Thank you, Terisis. What I experienced here has given my life new meaning. And you were an integral part of that."
"It would seem that it's never to late to find your destiny." Terisis smiled at the bard, after glancing briefly at Stacia. "You'll have your place in history, Gabrielle. And I have no doubt that it will be a rich and enduring legacy."
The Queen smiled and walked toward Stacia, touching her arm gently as she passed. Before joining Xena on the gangplank she turned and took one last look at Alexandria. In the distance she could see a figure dressed in white on Cleopatra's balcony. She raised her hand once and then followed Xena onto the ship.
Several hours later, Gabrielle stood at the side of the ship watching the brilliant light from Alexandrias lighthouse. Even though they were miles away, it was still visible in the darkening sky. Xena joined her, standing close to her back.
"Did you enjoy your visit?"
In a rare public display of affection, Gabrielle brought Xenas arms around her into a warm embrace.
"Yes, I did. And I think Ive learned something about my place in this world from Cleopatra."
"Something she said?"
The Amazon Queen was pensive. "No. It was more like something I felt... in her soul."
Xena held her tighter. "Hmm. Well, I'm feeling something too but it's not in my soul."
Gabrielle laughed softly and turned her head toward Xena. She reached up and threaded her hand through the raven hair. When her fingers found the back of the warriors neck, she pulled her down into a kiss. It was a simple gesture, as much proprietary as it was romantic. And shortly upon their return to Greece, the entire Amazon Nation would know the answer to the question of whether Xena would forever be their Queens chosen mate.
And the answer would definitely be, "Yes."
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