The Heart Of A Queen
by LJ Maas
The dinner Gabrielle and her Amazons prepared for the young Princess and her entourage was extraordinary. Xena had little chance to catch her lover alone before the dinner started, and so their smiles seemed tight and forced. Xena was amiable enough and did enjoy chatting with Jordan. The dark-haired warrior was simply thankful that Adrian was seated at another table. When Adrian's eyes did capture Xena's, the warrior simply glared and unconsciously moved her seat closer to Gabrielle's chair.
Gabrielle thought she was doing a good job, all things considered. The news had rocked her to be sure, but now she sensed Xena as being distant. Perhaps it was just the strangers that sat at their table, which caused the attentive lover in her Consort to go into hiding. There had been no time to talk, between the time she'd been surprised by this old lover of Xena's and the banquet. She tried to pretend that nothing was out of the ordinary, but she couldn't make her heart believe that.
Suddenly she felt the familiar warmth of a hand grasping her own under the table. Gabrielle looked up into well-known pools of blue that drew her in. A small smile nervously appeared on the warrior's face as Gabrielle's quickly mirrored that action. Uncharacteristically Xena reached over and brushed her lips gently against her lover's forehead. Showing affection in public had always been difficult for the proud warrior, but she looked into Gabrielle's viridian gaze and the rest of the people at the table ceased to exist. For that moment there was only the two lovers.
"I do love you, Brie." The warrior whispered into the smaller woman's ear.
Gabrielle reached up and touched the warrior's cheek. They would still need to talk, but at least the two didn't feel so distant anymore. The two lovers became so lost in themselves and keeping their guests happy, they never saw the auburn-haired woman rise abruptly from her seat and leave the party.
Xena sat in only her cotton shift, relaxing on furs and cushions in front of the fireplace. She watched out of the corner of her eye as Gabrielle removed her clothes, pulling a sleeping shift over her head. The warrior closed her eyes and took deep breaths, trying to pull her thoughts away from her lover's body. Their test of abstinence was only a day and a half old, but already the warrior felt a desperate need to feel Gabrielle under her. It was the forced celibacy that necessitated the need for sleeping shifts.
Gabrielle walked to the fire, stopping to close a shutter on one of the many windows to the hut. The evening had turned cool and suddenly the warmth of the fire, and her lover's arms became a welcome idea.
"Brie?" Xena held out her hand, waiting to feel Gabrielle's smaller hand in her own.
The young Queen moved slowly and the moment her fingertips met the callused digits of her lover, a log split in two, popping loudly while sparks jumped within the stone fireplace. It only took a moment for Gabrielle to find herself wrapped in a strong embrace, her Warrior's warm lips kissing her temple. The small blonde felt shivers run along the length of her body.
"Cold?" Xena asked.
Gabrielle shook her head back and forth. She was afraid that once she heard her own voice speak this delicate spell would be broken. In this hut, here in Xena's arms, they were the only two that existed. This was the extent of Gabrielle's world. In this moment in time, neither woman had a past, nor was there ever anyone else to deal with. The young woman snuggled deeper into her lover's embrace.
Xena felt her bard's body quiver once again. She smiled this time, realizing what caused the reaction.
"Is it me?" She asked hesitantly
This time Gabrielle nodded without looking up. Xena wrapped her arms even tighter around her lover, burying her face in the sweet smell of her long blond locks. Once again the warrior repeated her words from earlier in the evening.
"I love you, my heart."
Gabrielle knew that the time for her silence was over. "Did you love her?"
Xena pulled back and cradled the small face in her hands. "Gabrielle," the warrior drawled.
The young Queen lifted her eyes to meet the azure gaze that burned fire into hers with its intensity. The bard adored hearing her lover say her name that way. She had a way of making it the most seductive sound in all the known world.
"Gabrielle, I never loved anyone until I met you. I never even remembered what love was until you reminded me. And, I have never, ever felt for anyone the way I feel for you." Xena completed the statement with a kiss that was soft and passionate at the same time.
"Oh, Xe, I'm sorry. I was just so angry--"
"Honey, It's me that should be sorry. Adrian did that on purpose just to get a rise out of you." Xena tilted the Queen's face up to her own again. "Thank you for not giving her what she wanted. She can be a spiteful woman. I'm so sorry that she hurt you."
They shared another kiss and Gabrielle nestled into her Warrior's strong arms once more.
"Tell me, Xe...about Adrian."
Xena took a deep breath knowing that Gabrielle would want to know. She rested her chin on top of the small blonde's head and closed her own eyes. There wasn't much to tell, but Xena found it easier to say if she didn't have to look into her bard's eyes. She had never yet seen the harsh glare of judgment in those beautiful green eyes, but it was something she always lived in fear of.
"It was the season before I...well, before I met Caesar. There's not a lot to tell. She was a warrior in my army. Not a great warrior, but decent enough. I was lonely and she was available. She didn't want to go to sea so we parted three or four moons before I ran into Caesar. That was all there was to it, Brie."
"How long were you lovers?"
"About a season, maybe less. Brie, we were never lovers in the sense that you might be thinking. She met a physical need and that was all. We never talked; we weren't close. It was only about--"
"Sex." Gabrielle answered.
"Yea." Xena said in a voice that was barely a whisper.
"Thank you, Xe, for telling me. I know how hard that is. I also know you're not
proud of that part of your life and you'd rather forget about it, but sometimes there are
things I need to know."
"I just get afraid sometimes." Xena said, her brows furrowing together and her voice becoming raspy with emotion. "I worry that someday you'll hear something that I've done and it will be so bad that you won't be able to forgive me." Xena finished as tears filled her eyes.
"Xena, you don't ever have to be afraid of that happening." It was Gabrielle's turn and she soothed her Warrior with gentle tones and a loving touch. "The past can't hurt us anymore, my love. Not as long as we have each other."
"Come to bed, Xe and let me hold you for a change." Gabrielle said rising and pulling the warrior along with her.
Xena allowed herself to be enveloped in her bard's embrace. Placing her head upon Gabrielle's chest, she listened to the steady, even heartbeat, its rhythm pulling her into the realm of Morpheus.
"My heart," she whispered softly, just as sleep claimed them both.
Gabrielle and Princess Jordan watched as Eponin finished leading a class of young girls in staff drills. Jordan seemed very impressed with the practice facilities the Amazons used. Adrian appeared to always be at her charge's side and this morning was no different.
"I have to admit I'm only versed in hand combat. Everything I know was taught to me by Adrian." Jordan commented to Gabrielle.
"Well, if the Queen is willing, I could show her a few moves. That way she wouldn't need a Champion to fight for her." Adrian said. The comment could have been interpreted as quite innocent, but Gabrielle saw the look in the Captain's eye as she finished.
"Queen Gabrielle is already highly skilled in the art of self defense, especially with a staff." Eponin added, suddenly disliking the taunting tone in this stranger's voice.
"Oh, is that so? Forgive me your Majesty, I wasn't aware that you were also a skilled warrior. Perhaps then you would care to spar with me. I happen to be rather well-trained with the stave myself." Adrian again taunted.
To anyone else the conversation would have seemed like simple friendly banter. Gabrielle and Adrian both wore fixed smiles on their faces, their voices never raised above a normal level. The Captain kept prodding and Gabrielle politely refused. Finally Adrian struck her mark.
"Very well, your Majesty. I guess I'll just have to allow the Warrior Princess to show me a few of her moves then." Adrian said with a smug grin.
The desired effect was attained. Gabrielle's eyes filled with a green fire at the innuendo in the woman's words.
"Come on." Gabrielle said hotly, leading the way to one of the practice fields.
"Gabrielle, is this a wise thing to do?" Eponin questioned the small blonde as she briskly made her way onto the practice area.
"Sure, Ep. After all," the Queen looked in the Captain's direction, "it's just a little friendly sparring, right?"
"Absolutely." Adrian said with a very serpentine smile.
The two women walked onto the field as a helpless Princess watched. Eponin called a youngster of about nine summers over.
"Go get Xena, she's with Ephiny on the far field." Hades, why me? The Amazon cursed to herself.
"Your Highness?" the young girl called out as the Regent and the dark-haired warrior took a breather. Xena thought the girl was after Ephiny until she realized the youngster was looking at her.
"What is it, little one?"
"Eponin asked that I come for you right away. Queen Gabrielle is on the practice field."
Xena and Ephiny looked at one another and immediately followed the young girl.
"You know it has been a week of no...well, you know," Xena said to Ephiny.
"Maybe she finally snapped under the strain." Ephiny replied in a comic tone.
The Regent and the warrior came up just as Gabrielle and Adrian were each doing a few warm-up routines.
"I'm glad you showed up," Jordan sounded worried. "Maybe you should talk them out of this."
"She's a big girl. If she gets her butt whipped it's her own problem." Xena said matter of factly.
Jordan looked at the warrior in shock. "I would think that you would have a little more compassion for the woman you're about to marry. Is that how you think of Gabrielle?"
"Gabrielle?" Xena's face expressed complete surprise. "I was talking about your Captain! Gabrielle is gonna kick her ass." The warrior chuckled.
Sure enough, in three moves the young Queen had the Captain flat on her back. Gabrielle could tell immediately that her skill was far superior to the taller woman's. She stepped back, giving the Captain time to regain her feet once more. The small blonde looked over to see Xena watching with some concern and a hint of amusement on her features. When the warrior winked at her lover, Gabrielle knew she had the upper hand. Xena would have never let her continue if there was the slightest chance she would be injured.
Gabrielle slowed the pace a bit. She was going to beat the smirk off this woman's face, and she was damn well going to enjoy it, too.
Again and again the Queen knocked the Captain to the ground, but each time the auburn-haired woman refused to yield. She had a bloody lip and her ribs would be a mass of bruises in the morning, but each time Gabrielle bested the woman, she got back up. A little slower each time until she groaned with the pain of rising.
"Stay down." Gabrielle ordered as the woman rose to face her once again. Just as easily, Gabrielle took the woman's legs out from under her.
"Yield!" The Queen hissed through her teeth. "I don't want to hurt you anymore. Yield." Gabrielle pleaded, her staff pressed close to the fallen woman's throat.
"Never." Adrian sneered.
"Very well," Gabrielle stepped away from the prone woman and threw her own staff to the ground. "I yield."
All sound stopped as Gabrielle turned and walked off the practice field. Then just as suddenly those around the area applauded their Queen.
Gabrielle stopped in front of Xena, a tiny grin on her lover's face. The Queen shook her head back and forth. "Some warrior's have such hard heads."
Xena laughed and pulled the smaller woman into her arms. "Come on, killer...I'm hungry." She said as she steered her bard in the direction of the food hut.
Adrian rose to one knee, holding her arms close to her left side.
"That was some display." Princess Jordan said flatly.
"Hey, I won." Adrian responded.
"Then you're the only one in this village who thinks so, Adrian." Jordan replied, turning on her heel and walking away from the injured woman.
"Mmmm" Xena moaned into her lover's kisses. "Gods, Brie...do you know how much I want you?"
"Oh, Xe...you feel so good" Gabrielle said as she began to kiss the particular spot on Xena's neck that always caused the warrior to writhe in pleasure.
Xena groaned at the feel of her lover's lips on her already heated skin. She pulled the small blonde's hips tighter against her, her own grinding down in an almost unconscious gesture of need. The warrior's hand began to knead a firm breast through the fabric of Gabrielle's shift. Xena could feel the nipple grow hard under the cloth.
"Xena...we need...to stop." Gabrielle panted.
"Oh, baby...not now." Xena groaned as if in pain.
"Yes. Right now."
"I know, I know. My head agrees. My heart agrees. It's just my body, that I can't get to go along with the other two." Xena responded between kisses.
Finally the warrior pushed her body away from the small blonde's. Xena lay flat on her back, her forearms across her eyes as her chest heaved. Gabrielle's small body mirrored the warrior's as both women fought to get their emotions, and their bodies under control.
"You gonna be okay?" Xena asked.
"Sooner or later. You?" Gabrielle returned.
The two women looked at one another and could only laugh at their predicament.
"Come on," Xena said jumping to her feet and scooping her lover into her arms. "Let's see if we can get some sleep without having to go jump in a cold lake. You are going to be the death of me woman, you know that, don't you?" Xena remarked as she slid under the sheets and cradled her lover in her arms.
They shared a brief kiss, which only served to remind the dark-haired warrior of what she was missing out on. Her low growl rumbled through her chest and Gabrielle felt the vibration of it against her skin.
The young Queen heard her lover's growls in every shape and form. There was the rumble of anger or intimidation, the sexy purr of seduction, and the growl, way back in her throat of lust and passion. The one she listened to now was definitely new. It turned out the reverberation in the dark-haired beauty's chest was simply the absolute sound of frustration.
Gabrielle leaned her head against the high back of the Queen's chair, her tired eyes closing for a few moments. She thought she would just close her eyes while she waited for her tea to cool down. The few sounds in the food hut melded into the background as the small blonde felt herself falling asleep. Movement next to her alerted the Queen and she quickly straightened herself in her chair. Gods, if I can't get any sleep at night in the same bed with my Warrior, I'm going to become a zombie!
"Rough night, Queen Gabrielle?" Jordan smiled down and indicated the empty seat next to the bard with her free hand; the other wrapped around a steaming mug of tea.
"Jordan, good morning, please call me Gabrielle, yes, you may sit, and trust me...you don't know the half of it." Gabrielle smiled at the young woman.
The young Queen noticed right off, the resemblance the young Princess bore to the warrior Devlin. Gabrielle chose not to say anything until Xena brought it up one night over their evening meal. Gabrielle was happy that Xena could think of the gentle blonde-haired warrior with fondness. The young Queen surmised it was Jordan's similarity to Devlin that had Xena treating the young Princess like a kid sister. It soon became apparent that Jordan had as much to learn from the Warrior Princess as she did from the Amazon Queen. So much so, in fact, that Jordan actually spent half her day with Gabrielle and at least a few candlemarks with the dark-haired warrior.
Jordan looked a little rumpled herself, barely able to keep her own eyes open.
"I hope you don't get offended, but you don't look that much better than I do." Gabrielle chuckled.
"Well," a sheepish grin stole across the young woman's features, "a pretty Amazon asked...who was I to say no?"
"Jordan." Gabrielle feigned shock. "I don't think I even knew what sex was when I was your age."
The Royal pair smiled at one another conspiratorially.
"Actually, I've found that sleeping alone can help one get a little rest." The Princess teased.
"That's pretty much my problem. You see Xena and I, well we can't...we're not allowed to...oh, Hades this is embarrassing."
"Gabrielle," Jordan said gently, placing her hand over the Queen's. "I know I may be a little younger than you, but I'd like to consider myself your friend."
The young Queen gave the hand over hers a squeeze. "I feel the same way."
"So, if I can help just by listening, well, sometimes it helps merely to be able voice certain concerns."
"Well," Gabrielle leaned closer to the Princess. The last thing she needed was the entire village knowing their predicament. Although anyone who had to deal with the short-tempered Queen or her Warrior lately, realized something was up. "Xena and I have to endure a test of abstinence until our wedding night. It's been a Fortnight and we're beginning to snap at each other, aside from everyone else around us. I never would have thought the denial would affect us this way, but here I am...a frustrated mess and Xe seems to be getting crankier by the minute."
"Hmmm, I'm not sure I can really come up with any alternatives. Although, well, uhm...self-involvement does come to mind."
"Jordan, if I become any more involved with my self, I'll forget how to do it the other way."
The young Princess leaned back and laughed at the expression the Queen had on her face. "Oh, Gabrielle, I'm sorry, but you are absolutely priceless. Let me ask you, is that why you nearly took my Captain's head off yesterday? I mean, that and she was acting like an arrogant ass?"
Gabrielle grew slightly serious. "Actually, Jordan, Adrian and I have been at odds since the day she came into the village. It seems she and my Consort have somewhat of a...history."
"Gabrielle, I'm so sorry. You should have told me. I'll have Adrian sent back home immediately, I don't want there to be bad feelings between us because of that."
"Jordan, consider this one of the lessons your father sent you here to learn. We can't always run from the difficulties in life. Sometimes we have to face them."
It was at that moment that Adrian decided to enter the nearly deserted food hut. The auburn-haired woman sported a bruised mouth and cheek and it was apparent that she was nursing the left side of her body. She came toward the Queen like she had a purpose.
"Queen Ga--, Gabrielle," The Captain inquired haltingly. "I would like to take a moment and apologize to you about yesterday."
"Apology accepted, Adrian." Gabrielle said perfunctorily.
The Captain searched the Queen's eyes then, with a slight bow to both women she turned to go. After about half a dozen steps the Captain turned back.
"You're not really accepting my apology, are you?" Adrian inquired.
"Jordan, I wonder if you would excuse us? Adrian do you feel up for a walk?" Gabrielle asked.
"This has always been a favorite place of mine." Gabrielle indicated a log the two of them could sit down on. "Especially in the spring, like it is now. Everything just coming to life again."
Gabrielle remembered back to over a season ago when she and Xena had stayed in the Amazon village after the young Queen had been attacked. There were days that were so dark that the young woman didn't think she would ever see the light of another day. This was the small pond she came to sit by, watching the fish swim in lazy circles in the clear water.
"You accused me of not really accepting your apology." Gabrielle stated.
"I don't think you were sincere in your acceptance." Adrian's eyes never left the emerald gaze of the Queen.
"I don't think you were sincere in your offering." Gabrielle countered. "I think you made the offer to save your job in front of the Princess, not because of any contrition you really felt toward me."
Adrian stared at the small blonde whose gaze burned with an intelligent fire far beyond her years.
"What...what is it about you?" The Captain found herself smiling. She didn't know whether she was really asking the young Queen or trying to fathom the answer herself.
"Your people love you, yet I understand you don't live here in the village year 'round. Any one of them would die, right now, defending your honor or your throne, even if you begged them not to. Your size can lull an adversary asleep, but you've got the punch of a bull. And, you've managed to take the fiercest warrior in all of Greece and wrap her around your little finger." Adrian stopped to shake her head.
"I guess the thing that bothers me the most is that I find myself liking you when I really want to hate you." Adrian finished, surprising even herself at the honesty in the words.
"I have to admit to that sentiment myself. It's not an easy thing to accept, that you knew Xena before I did." Gabrielle said.
"Gabrielle, what Xena and I had back then, it was...well, it was what it was, nothing more than that. I see what the two of you share now and it's like she's an entirely different person."
"She is." Gabrielle answered quickly.
"I guess my pride had a hard time dealing with that. I do apologize, Gabrielle. That's not the kind of petty woman I am and I'd like to offer you my friendship, if you'll have it. I offer it to you and Xena. I hope you two have a wonderful life together." Adrian said.
"I accept your apology, Adrian, and your friendship. I hope you'll stay with the Princess' party for the wedding." Gabrielle smiled.
"I wouldn't miss it." Adrian returned the smile.
"Gabrielle?" The low alto of Xena's voice seemed strained and tense.
Gabrielle turned at the sound of her lover's voice and found a glare on the warrior's face as she gazed at the two women seated on the log. The young Queen quickly stood and wrapped her arm around Xena's waist.
"We've signed a truce." Gabrielle stated simply.
"Well, good." Xena hesitated. "I thought you might like to share a midday meal with me." Xena asked, speaking to Gabrielle, yet looking back at the still seated woman.
"Of course, love." Gabrielle replied.
The two lovers left the small pond, not saying much until they were safely in the privacy of their own hut.
"Wow, what did I do to deserve all this?" Gabrielle said, indicating the food that Xena had brought to their hut.
Xena poured her partner a cup of cider before she sat down next to the woman.
"Well, it's just my way of apologizing for being a little short-tempered last night." Xena sat softly.
"Xe, it's okay."
"No, Brie, it's not okay. I shouldn't be acting like a temperamental child just because I haven't had sex in a fortnight."
"Allright," Gabrielle responded with a wry smile. "Why don't we just say that we've both been a little on edge and leave it at that. I know all these preparations, having Jordan visiting, and now this Adrian thing, well, they haven't done anything to ease the burden, have they?"
"Speaking of Adrian, what were you two doing out there?"
"She wanted to apologize, for everything. Plus, she offered her friendship to both of us. I didn't want to believe her at first, Xe, but she came across as very sincere." Gabrielle finished as she began eating an assortment of dried fruit.
"I still don't trust her, Brie. I know that sounds a little vindictive, after all this time, but it's a feeling I have. I don't want you to end up getting hurt again by my past."
"Well, my hard sell Warrior, I don't trust her either. That's why I'm taking the advice of a certain Warrior Princess."
"Which is?" Xena was intrigued.
"You once told me the best way to keep tabs on an enemy--"
"Is to invite him into your camp." Xena finished. "When did you get so smart?"
"I think no sex must do that to you." Gabrielle countered with a mischievous grin.
Xena leaned across the table to place a warm kiss on her lover's soft lips. Pulling back, her blue eyes seemed to sparkle with humor.
"Frankly, I'd rather be dumb." Xena quickly countered.
"Gabrielle, please ask her for me."
"Jordan, it's not very attractive when a Princess begs." Gabrielle responded, tilting the candle in her hand while the wax dripped onto a scroll she held in her other hand.
"Oh, I don't know...that's not what I was told last night." Jordan replied with a grin that even made Gabrielle blush.
The Queen raised an eyebrow at the young woman just as she finished pressing her amulet into the soft wax, sealing the scroll together. "Jordan, are you trying to sleep your way through my subjects?"
"Wanna here what happened?" Jordan asked, teasing her friend.
"No! The only thing worse than hearing about incredible sex second-hand, is hearing about it and not being able to do it." Gabrielle shot back.
"Back to the subject at hand. Why don't you ask Xena to teach you yourself?" The small blonde inquired.
"Because I know how she felt about teaching you the sword. When she told me about that she had such regret in her voice. I know she doesn't like teaching others how to kill, but I'm not a little girl, Gabrielle."
"No, you're not, but carrying a weapon, especially a sword, bears certain responsibilities with it. Xena taught me a long time ago that the minute you pick up a sword, you're a target."
"But, you know the ways of the sword, Gabrielle, and you don't carry one. That's all I want to be a confident ruler. Just to know that I have the skill to use one if ever the need should arise."
"So, what's the real reason you want me to ask for you?" Gabrielle asked.
"Well," Jordan hedged. "It's no huge secret that the Warrior Princess finds it hard to deny you anything."
"Allright," Gabrielle couldn't keep from laughing. "Let's go find my Warrior."
It became quite a heated discussion on the practice field that morning. Xena's usually reserved manner and Gabrielle's expected pleasant demeanor had been altered of late. Their sexual frustration was spilling over into their everyday actions. Even though they pulled apart from the others, you could hear their raised voices across the whole practice area.
When it was finally decided that Xena would teach Jordan a limited amount of moves for her to practice, the Queen and her Warrior broke apart from one another without their customary kiss. It seemed as if they'd both been under more strain than usual. They lost their patience with those around them easier than they had in the past. Now, it was beginning to affect how they treated one another.
There was one woman on the practice field that watched the exchange between the two lovers with enormous interest. She had heard the rumors about the test of abstinence the Queen and her Consort had been undergoing. She had a feeling that the Warrior Princess' libido couldn't hold out forever. She just had to maneuver it so she was the one around when the dark-haired beauty's inner time bomb exploded.
"Don't you ever get tired?" Jordan asked the dark-haired warrior.
"Okay, I can take a hint." Xena replied. This had been the third day that she and Jordan had been practicing and the young Princess had a natural aptitude for it.
"Go take a hot bath, you smell." Xena smiled, wiping a sweaty forearm across her brow.
Adrian tossed a waterskin at Xena. "Is it possible that you're getting better as you get older?"
Xena took a few mouthfuls of the water, spitting the last one out on the ground.
"I think there's every possibility of that, but I think the more likely explanation is that you're just getting slower." The warrior laughed back.
Xena tried not to give in, but she found herself liking this new Adrian. The auburn-haired Captain was polite and amusing. She talked to Gabrielle as a true friend and she sparred with Jordan and the Warrior Princess as good-naturedly as the rest of the Amazons. She and Xena were even able to share a few of their lighter moments from the old days. Of course, that didn't sit too well with Gabrielle.
It seemed nothing Xena did lately was right with Gabrielle. They'd begun to fight more often than not. Last night had been the first time the two lovers ever slept in the same room, but not in the same bed. Xena made the mistake of saying something about how much Adrian had changed. The young Queen acted as if the warrior had committed a serious breach of loyalty. Xena ended up falling asleep, what little sleep she did get, on the furs in front of the fireplace. Gabrielle was wrapped in a blanket on the bed and Xena thought she could hear her bard crying, but for the life of the warrior, she couldn't make herself get up and apologize. It was like there was an unwarranted anger building inside her and it was being directed at the woman she loved. She didn't want it to continue, she loved Gabrielle, but she seemed powerless to stop herself. When she was away from her bard, she felt miserable about their petty squabbling, but when they were together Xena got a feeling of unease, not her usual experience of comfort and security.
Xena promised herself she would talk with Gabrielle this evening and make her understand that she was being slightly unreasonable. With all the wedding preparations the warrior barely saw the young Queen during the day. The evening seemed to be the only time they had together and then they fought during that time. In the past Xena would try to secret the bard away during the midday meal, but now every time she surprised her lover, Jordan was there ahead of her.
Another sore spot. The amorous young Princess seemed to go beyond the call of learning by always hanging around Gabrielle. Xena began to feel that the young girl was beating her time with her future bride. Xena knew in her heart that was an unreasonable fear, but her head told her differently. The warrior lost a bit of control today, clashing swords just a little harder than she should have with her young protégé. She couldn't rid her mind's eye of the picture of Jordan and her bard together. She pulled up just in time, too; otherwise someone could have been seriously injured.
Xena shook her head and turned back toward Adrian. She and the woman were the only people left on the practice field. The Captain said something that Xena must have missed, so she simply smiled back at her.
In the meantime a very tired Queen left the council chambers, intent on a hot bath and the swirling waters in the bathing pools. Gabrielle pinched her brow together to try to forestall the headache she felt coming on. She thought she would concoct some of that Willow bark tea that Xena used that seemed to work so well. Maybe I can even drag Xe off to the baths with me and apologize for last night.
It was then that Gabrielle saw the two women standing on the practice field. They were laughing together and Xena reached out a hand to help the Captain to her feet. To Gabrielle's eyes, Xena held on to the Captain's hand a few heartbeats longer than was necessary. The small blonde's eyes watched their interaction before turning and heading off toward the baths alone.
The young Queen's eyes weren't the only stares the pair brought about, as they joked with one another. The Queen Regent watched as Gabrielle turned eyes filled with hurt and pain away from the two warriors. The Amazon unconsciously clenched her fingers into fists at the side of her body. She continued to watch the two in serious conversation until they went their separate ways. Xena passed mere feet in front of the Regent, but the warrior practically ignored the Amazon. The dark-haired woman was headed for the bathing pools, a deep scowl etched on her face.
"You really gave the kid a workout today. I thought you were going to take her head off a couple of times." Adrian said from her seated position on the ground.
Xena shook her head as if to get back into the conversation. Why was she having so much trouble staying focused lately? "Yea, I guess I was kind of hard on her."
"Give me hand, will you?" Adrian held out an arm, which Xena grasped an effortlessly assisted the woman up.
"You might want to keep an eye on her when she's around Gabrielle, though." Adrian stated matter of factly.
"What's that supposed to mean," Xena sneered.
Adrian quickly held up both hands. "Look, Xena, I'm not trying to start trouble, but I've known Jordan since she was a child. She has a way with women and she loves a conquest. She's just young enough to think that love is still a game. I'm saying that it wouldn't be the first time she started making moves on someone else's wife. I still have the battle scars to prove it too. We had to fight our way out of an inn at Pelios because the innkeepers wife became a little too enamored of the Princess' charms."
Xena didn't say anything; but then again she didn't have to. Adrian knew what the warrior's temper was like these past few days. It wouldn't take much for her to explode. She could see the dark-haired warrior's brain working overtime.
"Look, Gabrielle must not have seen us over here. It looks as if she's headed off to the bathing pools." Adrian commented in an offhand manner.
The Captain never gave it a second thought when Xena stalked off in the direction of the bathing pools. The place she sent her young protégé a quarter of a candlemark ago and the spot her bride to be seemed headed.
"Gabrielle, are you allright?" Jordan asked.
The warm spring baths were nearly empty at the end of the day. Steam curled throughout the cavernous expanse. In the center of the large cavern was one large, deep pool. Further back, smaller pools were elevated on stair-stepped levels. At the far end, water from a hot spring cascaded down a small waterfall, draining into the Queen's pool. It was here that Gabrielle sought her solitude.
The afternoon sun had moved to the point where it was barely visible through the numerous round holes carved into the cavern's ceiling. The thick candles housed on the cavern ledges bathed the room in eerie shadows that flickered and jumped on the walls and the surface of the water.
Jordan pulled herself easily from the large pool and wrapped a short robe around her body.
"I'm getting a little worried about you. Maybe all these wedding preparations are too much. Don't you have someone that can help take a little of the burden off of you?" The young Princess inquired as she sat on the stone ledge to the Queen's pool.
"I'll be allright, Jordan, thanks" Gabrielle replied, resting her hand over Jordan's. "I think I will ask Ephiny to help me out. I guess I'm just tired is all."
"Well, if I'd known you came to bathe with my soon to be wife, I would have drilled you longer." Xena's low alto sounded ominous reverberating against the walls of the cavern.
Jordan turned abruptly, suddenly not sure how to take the frozen look in Xena's eye. The Princess looked between the two lovers, first looking at Gabrielle then back at the warrior.
"Perhaps I should go." Jordan said.
"Perhaps you should." Xena agreed.
"I'll see you both in the morning." Jordan said before leaving the cavern.
"I think you scared the poor girl." Gabrielle said as she watched Xena remove her garments and slide into the hot water.
The warrior dipped her fingers into a hollowed out spot on the stone ledge that contained a soapy mixture. She ran it through her hair and across her body before submerging under the water again and breaking the surface in front of the young Queen.
"Well, what was I to think? I come in and she's holding your hand."
"Xe, it wasn't like that." Gabrielle answered as the warrior drew herself closer to the small blonde.
Xena arms wrapped around the Queen's waist and pulled her body tightly against her own. She kissed the woman hotly, her mouth quickly swallowing any protest Gabrielle may have tried to voice. She moved her kisses down her bard's throat, Gabrielle's eyes closing to the pleasurable sensation.
"Who do you belong to?" Xena rasped.
"What?" Gabrielle pulled apart slightly to look on her lover's face, only it wasn't the face of the woman she loved. Gabrielle wasn't sure who this stranger was, but her eyes held a hard, lustful look that Xena had never fixed on her bard before.
"Who do you belong to?" Xena repeated, biting a small portion of flesh on the Queen's neck before continuing. "Who does this belong to?" The warrior said, cupping her hand over the blonde curls between Gabrielle's legs.
The young Queen swallowed once and gave her response immediately. It would do no good to reason or question right now.
"You, my love...it's all for you."
Xena's eyes seemed to clear momentarily, and then she took the Queen's mouth in another
scorching kiss, while her hands began to roam across soft flesh. Xena's hands moved to
part the bard's thighs further apart.
"Xe, please stop." Gabrielle whispered.
The warrior continued on as if she hadn't heard the impassioned plea. Her fingers moved closer to their prize.
"Xe, stop, right now."
The dark-haired warrior had no intention of stopping and her body language made that apparent. She moved both hands up to grip the young Queen's shoulders to hold her in place.
"Xena, you're hurting me!" Gabrielle cried.
Xena froze, and then she released her grip, moving her hands and body back a few inches from Gabrielle's. She didn't meet her lovers gaze, but Gabrielle could see that the blue eyes of her lover had returned, although the eyes now filled with tears. Xena looked at the reddened marks on her lover's arms where the warrior had held her so tightly.
"Gods, Brie, I'm so sorry...I--I don't know what came over me."
Gabrielle could see that Xena's whole body was trembling. At first she thought it was from desire, but she quickly realized it was fear. The warrior was heartbeats away from committing the most unpardonable sin against her lover.
"Xe...Xena?" Gabrielle tried to get her Warrior to look into her eyes. She gently placed her fingers under the woman's chin. When Xena raised hers to the bard, she had tears streaming down her face. Gabrielle beckoned her into her comforting embrace. "It's allright love...shhh, it's allright."
The young Queen held her Consort that way for what seemed like candlemarks. She too, realized what they had narrowly avoided. For the space of a dozen heartbeats, Gabrielle had no idea who the stranger in front of her was.
Xena's body shook in absolute fear because she indeed realized who she had become. For that short space in time, when she was about to take her lover by force, simply because she could, because she owned her, she had become the Conqueror of Nations. The woman who took her pleasure whenever and wherever, with whomever she pleased.
The blood in Xena's head pounded in rhythm to the erratic beat of her heart as she realized that for those heartbeats in time, she had absolutely no control over her body or her mind.
"Xe, do you want to talk about it?" Gabrielle asked as she attempted to sit down by the uncommunicative warrior.
"No. Gabrielle, I am so sorry, but I don't know what came over me...I don't know what else you want me to say."
Gabrielle stood up and paced across the floor, her own anger at the situation was beginning to show through. "Dammit, Xena I want you to say that there was a reason you almost raped me tonight!"
If there could have been a way for Gabrielle to mortally wound her Warrior, without striking a blow, that would have been it.
Xena's face looked like she'd been slapped, the words stunned her with their intensity. She didn't jump up and bolt from the room, slamming the door behind her. Instead she slowly stood and without looking up at her lover she walked outside, pulling the door closed, without a sound behind her.
Gabrielle woke suddenly to the light of the moon shining into the hut. She had fallen asleep with her clothes on waiting for Xena to return. The warrior never came back, and as Gabrielle wiped the drowsiness from her eyes, she stood to go find her lover.
Opening the door, Gabrielle didn't have to look far. Curled into a tight ball on the bench outside the door, was her Warrior. Her arms were hugged around her own body for warmth; she shivered even though the evening was warm.
"Xe, my love...come in to bed." Gabrielle said, pulling the tall woman into the hut with her.
"Gods, my head hurts, Brie." Xena said as she allowed herself to be led to the bed, her clothes removed and warm blankets wrapped around her.
Gabrielle quickly made some Willow bark tea and helped the warrior to sip most of a mug before the pain began to subside. The bard removed her own clothes and held her lover in her arms, gently rubbing her fingers in small circles against the warrior's temple. It was quite a while before Xena finally relaxed into her lover's embrace, both of the women at last drifting off to the realm of Morpheus.
Gabrielle opened her eyes to a gentle touch on her arm. When she focused her gaze, she found her Warrior leaning over her, a worried look on her face.
"Hey," Xena whispered.
"Hey, yourself." Gabrielle smiled.
That smile meant more to Xena than anything on this earth could. She didn't deserve her lover's forgiveness for her brutal actions of yesterday, but she breathed a sigh of relief when the absolution was offered.
A knock on the door to the Queen's hut interrupted their thoughts. Gabrielle stood and pulled on her robe as Xena opened the door.
"Morning." Jordan smiled at the dark-haired warrior. The young Princess didn't quite know what to make of Xena's moods lately, but she sympathized with the reason.
"It's a little early, isn't it?" Xena said to the Princess in a flat, humorless voice.
"Well, Gabrielle asked me to come get her this morning, the seamstress needs to do another fitting for her wedding gown and she's got a list as long as my arm of petitions to wade through." Jordan finished while Xena simply glared at her.
"I'm sorry, Xe, I forgot about making it an early morning with Jordan." Gabrielle apologized to Xena.
Xena's contrite demeanor seemed to change before the Queen's eyes, the warrior never taking her eyes off the young Princess. Gabrielle could see the tight line of the warrior's jaw clenching and unclenching as she ground her teeth.
"Why don't you give us a few minutes." Xena said in a thinly controlled voice. The Princess looked at Gabrielle before the door was closed in her face.
"I am sorry, Xe, I do need to get all that work done. It's all beginning to pile up on me with everything else I have to do."
"I understand your obligations, Gabrielle, but do you have to spend every minute of the day with her?" Xena hissed.
"She's here to learn, I'm trying to be a good teacher." Gabrielle rose and stood toe to toe with her Warrior.
"Just remember that being a good Queen is the only thing you're supposed to teach her." Xena sneered down at her lover.
The slap to the warrior's jaw surprised both women. Xena could still feel the sting, her eyes narrowing, the blue color turning pale. Gabrielle didn't hold anything back with the powerful strike, her hand smarting from the force of the blow. The young Queen's eyes burned with a fire that was just as intense as the blaze that smoldered in the warrior's. Both women let their anger sweep them away; neither wanted to be the first to acquiesce. Xena raised her hand to her own temple as a stab of pain shot through her head. Gabrielle flinched and unconsciously moved back a step. The warrior's brow furrowed, her eyes darting back and forth as she watched her lover.
"Did you think I'd hit you, Brie?" Xena barely whispered.
Tears filled the Queen's emerald green gaze. "I'm just not sure anymore." Gabrielle replied in a voice so low that even Xena's hearing barely made it out.
Xena felt a jolt of anger rush through her veins, coursing through her body until it settled as the furious pounding of her blood in her own ears. For a split second she did want to hit Gabrielle. That was the feeling that shocked the warrior into awareness. Looking down at the clenched fist that shook slightly, Xena felt her nails digging painfully into the palm of her hand. Realizing how close she'd come once more, the warrior turned and without a word she stalked out of the hut. She pushed Jordan out of her way, striding off into the woods.
Jordan sat on a small stool not really hearing the young Queen and her seamstress in the corner of the hut. The Queen had given the Princess a petition to secure a judgment on, but the tall blonde was having trouble coming up with a solution that would be equitable. Gods, I'm going to make a terrible ruler.
While Gabrielle's rule didn't usually extend to anything or anyone outside of the Amazon borders, there were non-Amazons who leased land from the tribe, usually to farm its borders. Sometimes disputes arose and it was up to Amazon justice to prevail.
Jordan put her elbow on one knee and cupped her chin in hand. She was finding it difficult to concentrate on a farmer and a plow that wasn't paid for. Her mind kept going back to the scenario in the Queen's hut about two candlemarks ago. Xena had looked at her like she wanted to run her through, it was the same feeling she got at the baths the other afternoon. The fight was so loud, the Princess moved off the veranda so it wouldn't look like she was spying. The slap that resounded from the Queen's hut caused the young Princess to move toward the building in a hurry. She stood on the porch ready to stop Xena if she had to; also knowing the warrior would probably kill her with one blow. Watching the dark-haired woman fly by her, Jordan noticed the red mark on her cheek. The Princess breathed a very audible sigh of relief that she wouldn't have to defend Gabrielle's honor against her own betrothed.
Jordan sighed and shook herself from her musings. She wondered what kind of trick of the Gods could take two women who loved each other as much as these two, and turn them against one another so thoroughly. The Princess looked up and her breath caught in her throat. Gabrielle stood straight and proud in the gown that she would wear on her wedding day.
"You're breathtaking." Was all Jordan could manage.
"Thank you, Jordan. Now let's just hope I get to wear it." Gabrielle said sadly as her eyes misted over in tears.
"Gabrielle, I'm sure what you two are going through is just a little pre-wedding jitters. It seems perfectly normal."
"Do you think so?" She sniffed, smoothing down the silk of her dress.
"Sure." the Princess lied. Jordan couldn't bear the look of heartache on her friend's face. She could only hope Xena was somewhere feeling miserable enough that she would see what she had and come apologize.
"Oh, yeah...right there." Xena groaned.
How many times have you popped this thing out of its socket?" Adrian asked, indicating Xena's sore shoulder.
"Lost track a long time ago," Xena grunted at the soothing feeling the Captains strong fingers were having on her shoulder, then her neck.
Xena's breastplate lay on the ground at her feet, pulled off so that she could pop her shoulder back into its socket. The warrior closed her eyes and barely recognized that Adrian wasn't just massaging her injured shoulder anymore. The Captains fingertips began more of a caressing motion, slipping under the leather strap and pushing it off the warrior's shoulder in one swift move.
Adrian bent down to the seated woman and brushed her lips against the bare shoulder. Xena moaned slightly and inclined her head as a non-verbal command to continue. Adrian cupped a hand over the warrior's breast and could feel the nipple grow hard even through the thick leather bodice. Finally, she pulled the warrior to her feet and pressed her mouth hard against Xena's, backing the dark-haired woman against a tree.
Xena felt herself slip away to Gabrielle's caress. It was odd, but they didn't feel like Gabrielle's fingertips on her skin, but the sensation was only one caused by the warrior's lover. The hands caressing her grew strong and forceful. Gabrielle never had to demand; she knew Xena always gave in to her exquisite touch. At last, lips covered Xena's own, hot, imperious, searching. The sensation was purely sensual, but the warrior felt her brow furrow in confusion. She must be dreaming because the terrible pounding in her head was gone. Gabrielle's lips never felt like this when they made love. They were never rough and cruel. Xena's eyes finally opened. These were not her bard's lips!
"What in Hades do you think you're doing?" Xena rasped, pushing Adrian away from her with a force that the Captain didn't think she was capable in her state.
"Don't pretend anymore, Warrior Princess. You know you want this as badly as I do." Adrian pressed her lips firmly against the warrior's.
Xena abruptly pushed the woman away and held her at arm's length. Her brain was still foggy and she was having trouble switching gears.
"Excuse me," Ephiny's voice pulled Xena's eyes to where the Regent stood leading her horse. "Just thought I'd get away from it all, didn't know someone beat me to it."
Ephiny continued to move, shooting a withering glance at the warrior who still had both her arms around Adrian's shoulders.
Xena roughly pushed the smirking Captain away from her. She quickly grabbed her weapons and armor and ran to catch up with the Regent.
"Eph, that wasn't anything like what you saw back there." Xena explained.
Ephiny stopped and turned to face the warrior. "Xena, you've become a good friend over the seasons, but remember one thing. Gabrielle is my friend too, more than that she is my Queen. Don't think for a moment that I will allow you to hurt her. She deserves better than that Xena, especially the fortnight before her wedding. Don't break her heart." Ephiny finished, turning to leave.
"I would never betray Gabrielle." Xena said pulling on the Regent's arm to stop her.
Ephiny looked down at the strong grip that held her forearm. "I swear, if you do, Xena...there won't be a place far enough away for you to hide from me." Ephiny whispered the threat that made Xena release the Amazon's arm and step away.
"I'm sorry, Brie," Xena whispered, nuzzling the back of the soft blonde hair of her bard.
Gabrielle sat at the table in the hut they shared, her back to the closed door. She put down the scroll she was reading and reached up to entwine her fingers within the warrior's ebony locks. The long hair was damp and smelled faintly of cinnamon.
"I'm sorry too, Xe. Seems like we spend a lot of time saying that lately."
"Yea, I know." Xena replied softly.
"I missed you for the evening meal."
"I was soaking in the baths. Thought you wouldn't mind me staying out of your hair." Xena said wryly.
Gabrielle rose and turned to embrace her lover. The kiss they shared was the gentlest act they had experienced in weeks. The bard kissed the warrior's jaw where she placed the stinging slap earlier that morning. The Queen froze at the sight of the bruise at the base of her Warrior's throat.
"Did it get a little rough on the practice field today?" The Queen asked in a tight voice.
Xena's hand immediately went to the mark on her neck. She reflexively covered the bruise with her hand, reminded that the small bite and red mark was from Adrian's mouth. She'd seen her reflection in the baths and thought that perhaps Gabrielle wouldn't notice. The warrior should have known better.
"Brie, let me explain."
"Oh, now you want to talk. Perhaps if you'd done more of that earlier, you wouldn't have this!" Gabrielle shot back.
"Gabrielle," Xena drawled in her warning tone. The warrior wanted to tell her lover what had gone on today and that Adrian's trusting little friend routine was a ruse, but Gabrielle was being unreasonable again and that accursed pounding was back in her head. "Are you going to let me explain, or act like a child?"
Gabrielle seethed at Xena's reference to her. She wanted to slap her and a whole lot more this time.
"I at least hope your neck was the only part of your body that she made a meal of."
"Oh, Hera's tits, this isn't even worth it!" Xena exclaimed as she turned and walked out, slamming the door soundly behind her.
A knock on the door to the Queen's hut brought Gabrielle from her thoughts and back to the here and now. Xena never came home last night and as much as Gabrielle didn't want to believe that her warrior would ever betray their love, she just didn't know anymore.
"Come in," The Queen called out, clasping together her belt that was more a decoration than a functional.
"Morning," Eponin smiled, coming into the room. The Amazon noticed the red, puffy eyes and could tell what Gabrielle spent most of her night doing.
"She spent the night in my hut. I figured you'd want to know that she wasn't out, well...we just had a few skins of wine and she eventually passed out." Eponin finished.
"Thanks, Ep...I owe you one." Gabrielle said in a broken voice.
"You're damned right you do," the Amazon said as she turned to leave. "She snores!" Eponin winked before closing the door.
Gabrielle finally finished her tiring day. There was a bustle of activity in the center of the village as she passed by. Today was Jordan's twentieth birthday and she was being given a party this evening. Gabrielle made her way back to the Queen's hut and opened the door. To her surprise the room was darkened, candles flickering in the low light. Xena, who always faced the door of a room, lay stretched out in a steaming tub of water. The warrior's head was tilted back, her eyes half closed. Seeing her warrior like this, relaxed and calm, the day's previous anger and tension seemed to melt away. Xena's eyes opened fully and her sapphire gaze told Gabrielle all she needed to hear.
"Is their room in there for me?" Gabrielle asked.
"Absolutely." Xena replied.
Gabrielle started to move off to the other end of the hut to remove her garments.
"Please, let me watch you, Brie."
Gabrielle turned at the sound of her warrior's voice. The intensity of Xena's blue gaze drew Gabrielle back in front of the woman and she slowly began to remove her clothes. Xena watched as the young Queen slowly let her garments fall to the floor. As Gabrielle stepped closer to the tub, Xena extended her hand in invitation. Gabrielle excepted the offered hand and moments later found herself wrapped in the strong embrace of her warrior.
Gabrielle sat between Xena's parted legs, her own head leaning back, resting upon the warrior's shoulder. Xena placed a feather light kiss upon every area of Gabrielle's exposed body. She ran a sponge along Gabrielle's fair skin, more caressing taking place than actual washing. Gabrielle ran her hands along the top of the warrior's muscled thighs, letting her fingertips barely graze the inner portion of the dark-haired woman's legs. Xena let out a sigh at the touch and with an arm slipped around Gabrielle's waist; she pulled the smaller woman's body closer against her.
Xena began a simple exploration of her lover's body, her fingertips leaving long trails of fire along the young Queen's skin. Xena's moves were slow and deliberate, taking the time to make a memory of the feel and the taste of her lover's skin. The warrior's heavy-lidded expression wasn't only from the state of pleasure she felt. She had to drink three mugs of Willow bark tea, adding a slight pinch of a heavier painkiller to the draught before the pain in her head subsided to a slight throb.
The warrior's hands took gentle possession of the Queen's breasts, cupping them so lightly, the hard points of flesh barely tickled her palms. Her lips and tongue grazing the length of her lovers ear, she softly whispered the words that Gabrielle's heart ached for.
"Only you, Brie...No one else."
Gabrielle let out a small moan as Xena's lips blazed a trail down the young woman's neck, stopping to let her tongue caress the erratically beating pulse point. The Queen placed her hands over the warrior's, pressing them against her breasts in a firm, insisting manner. Xena was breathing hoarsely now, her kisses becoming more purposeful in their intent. She released one hand from its prize and used her fingertips to guide the small blonde's head to tilt back in her direction. Her mouth covered Gabrielle's in a kiss that spoke of desire and passion, and when their tongues touched, it was like a release of energy bounced back and forth between the two.
"Gods, Xe, I don't want to stop." Gabrielle groaned in frustration.
Xena's free hand led Gabrielle's across her belly, stopping just above the honey colored curls. Xena's hand moved away as she whispered.
"Touch yourself." She gently commanded.
"I--I don't know if I can." Gabrielle responded breathlessly. In all their lovemaking, the two had never shared this before.
"Please, Brie. I want to watch you." Xena pleaded in a sultry voice.
Xena brought her hands up once again to caress Gabrielle's breasts, her fingertips drawing small circles around the pale pink, pebbled flesh. She grasped the hard nodules between thumb and forefinger, squeezing and pulling at the same time.
Gabrielle gasped as her head fell back against Xena, her fingers unconsciously sliding into the slick folds of her sex. Feeling her fingers stroking her own flesh while her lover gazed down the length of her body caused a wetness to cover her hand that had little to do with the water that surrounded them.
Xena leaned back against the high wall of the tub, pulling Gabrielle to lie against her. She spread her own legs wide apart allowing Gabrielle the access she needed and the warrior, the view she desperately desired. The dark-haired woman turned her head, nuzzling her face into the intoxicating scent of her lover's hair.
Gabrielle could feel the hard points of aroused flesh that pressed into her back. She watched as Xena clutched the outside rim of the tub to keep her hands away from temptation. The warrior's knuckles grew white with tension. Gabrielle could feel the warrior's warm, ragged breath in panting spurts against her neck and blowing into her ear.
Gabrielle could stand the slow torture no longer. She spread her lips apart and placed two fingers at her opening, teasing the wet flesh. Her thumb began to flick across the swollen bundle of nerves at the top of her cleft and she found her hips rocking against the sweet sensation. Xena began moaning and suddenly the Queen felt the warrior's hand reach between their bodies and bury itself in between her own dark curls.
Both women were moaning and rolling their hips as they brought themselves closer to their own climax. Gabrielle was the first to feel the waves of pleasure crash around her. Xena's eyes snapped open as she felt the first tremors of her lover's orgasm begin. The moans of pleasure accompanied by the quivering body against her sent her crashing over the edge moments later.
"I sure hope that doesn't get us in trouble with Artemis." Xena commented dryly when she finally had her breathing leveled out.
Gabrielle laughed and let her lover wrap her arms tighter around her. The only disturbing note was that she just now realized that was the first humorous thing her often, dry-witted warrior, said in weeks.
The warrior lifted the smaller women from the tub easily, drying her off with a delicate touch, and then the two lay down on the bed and fell instantly asleep.
"Xe, honey, we need to get ready for the party." Gabrielle whispered in her sleeping lover's ear.
Xena groaned when she opened her eyes. The pounding in the warrior's head returned with a vengeance. She sat on the end of the bed and lightly massaged her temples.
"Xe, is your headache back again?" Gabrielle asked, with concern.
"Yea." Xena groaned.
"Maybe you should see one of the healers." Gabrielle said.
"It's just a headache, Brie." Xena responded gruffly.
Gabrielle turned away from the warrior and Xena immediately regretted her harsh words. She fought to push back down the anger that seemed to be rising abruptly from nowhere. Xena's eyes watched as Gabrielle spun away.
"I promise, first thing in the morning. If I still have this pain I'll go see Sartori." Xena managed a weak smile.
Gabrielle returned her lover's smile and let the backs of her fingers glide gently across the warrior's high cheekbones.
The Amazon village breathed a collective sigh of relief when they saw the Queen and her Consort join the party hand-in-hand. In a small village such as this, it became hard to keep relationship woes a secret. Ephiny was still the only one, however who was aware of the illicit kiss shared between Adrian and Xena. Xena wanted to tell Gabrielle about Adrian's forced kiss, but there never seemed to be a good time. The two were sharing what seemed like a precarious truce right at the moment and Xena didn't want to do anything that might topple their house of cards.
The pounding in Xena's head grew stronger as the night wore on. She switched from drinking Amazon wine to the stronger port in hopes that she could beat the pain back to a dull ache. The laughter from those around her and the beating of the drums did nothing to ease her discomfort.
Adrian came up to the Queen and tried to entice her into a dance. When Gabrielle politely refuse to, Adrian made the same offer to Xena. The warrior simply glared at the Captain of the Guard and the auburn haired woman walked off smiling.
"What was that look all about?" Gabrielle asked.
"I'll tell you later." Xena said shortly.
"Is there something I should know about?"
"I said, I would tell you about it later." Xena hissed, instantly regretting the way her words came out, but finding herself unable to stop them.
"Fine." Gabrielle answered in a tight voice.
The young Queen rose from her seated position next to the warrior and joined a group of young Amazon's surrounding Princess Jordan. Xena watched as her intended laughed and joked with her subjects. The small blonde always seemed to have a smile for everyone and that was part of her charm. Most times Xena would watch the young Queen and become mesmerized by her ability to beguile those around her. This was not one of those times however.
The more Xena's head hurt, the more quickly she began to consume large mugs of port, which hastily began to cloud her perception of Gabrielle's activities. Xena's eye became heavy lidded, as she leaned forward, her shoulders slumping. The Warrior Princess never let her eyes leave the graceful form of her Queen. The blue orbs burned with an electric fire as she watched Princess Jordan lead Gabrielle into a slow dance. Part of Xena's brain fought to tell her that her anger was misplaced, but that tiny voice could barely be heard over the incessant pounding in her skull. Had she been a little less inebriated, she would have stood and challenged the Princess as the Queen's Champion. As it was however, she had to narrow her gaze just to be able to focus on the two dancing women. The warrior simply brooded and continued to consume the alcohol before her at an alarming rate.
Gabrielle thanked Jordan for the dance, turning down the offer of another. The young Queen watched as the evening wore on and her warrior became more sullen and uncommunicative. Gabrielle went about the evening mingling and socializing with the other Amazons; always keeping one eye fastened on the still seated warrior.
Once the party had dwindled down to a scattered few, the young Queen braced herself to approach her now drunken warrior.
"I think I've had all the party I can handle for one evening. Xena?" Gabrielle asked gently.
It was late and Gabrielle desperately wanted not only to go to bed, but also to be alone with her warrior. The Queen watched as those around the table looked to see what Xena's response would be. Adrian, Eponin, and two or three other warriors sat at the long wooden table.
Xena knew that the best thing for her right now would simply be too allow her Queen to assist her in returning to their hut. She could barely stand and she didn't have to look up to realize that Gabrielle's eyes were very nearly pleading with her. Leaving would have been the reasonable thing to do. Of course, the amount of liquor the warrior had consumed during the entire evening left her feeling anything but reasonable.
"I haven't finished my port, I'll be there shortly." Xena replied gruffly without looking up.
Gabrielle's pride wouldn't allow her a hurt or humiliated look. She stood there for a few heartbeats, willing her warrior to look up and into her eyes. Xena's gaze however was fixated into the bottom of her mug. The young Queen was left in the position where all she could do to save her dignity was turn and walk away.
It started out as a drinking game. Solari was the first to go, then Eponin, until the only two combatants left upright were the Warrior Princess and her nemesis. Xena made a move for her mug and, seeing three of them on the table before her, grabbed at the one in the middle. Unfortunately, her depth perception being what it was at this point, the mug tipped over, the contents of the cup spilling onto the table.
"Here, I'll pour us one more to get home by." Adrian slurred, placing a full mug in front of the warrior.
"Bottoms up." The Captain raised her glass and downed the whole mug in three long swallows, encouraging Xena to do the same.
Xena knew she had to get herself in motion. Gabrielle would be mad as Tartaurus as it was. The warrior pushed herself away from the table and walked, moving more sideways than forward, the twenty feet to the horse's trough. She kneeled herself in front of the basin and dipped her face into the cool water. Leaning heavily on the stone trough, she felt the pounding in her head escalate to the sound of a thousand hoofbeats. She tried to rise from her kneeling position on the ground and suddenly felt her knees go out on her. Besides the noise in her ears, her eyesight narrowed until it felt as if she were looking through a tunnel. Half-lying on the ground, she felt as if something came flying into her brain and exploded into a chaos of sound.
"Hey, Warrior Princess, let me give you a hand." Adrian said, attempting to help Xena, but not much steadier on her own feet.
"Thanks...I--" Xena shook her head, but the cobwebs remained. "Need ta get home." She slurred heavily.
"Queen's hut, huh?" Adrian asked.
Xena could only nod; her power of speech seemed to be absent. Her brain knew what she wanted to say, but the thoughts wouldn't filter down to her tongue. She looked at Adrian and for a moment and thought she looked just like Gabrielle, but that wasn't right either. She remembered that she should be mad at Gabrielle, but couldn't think why...mad at Adrian or Gabrielle...why?
She fell heavily to one knee, bringing Adrian along with her.
"Shit, warrior, work with me here a little." Adrian rasped, trying to lift the nearly dead weight of the warrior off toward the huts.
Xena sat up sharply from her prone position. She had passed out, but the sharp pain in her head brought her to with a start.
"Sssh, you're okay."
"Brie?" Xena questioned. The haze in front of her eyes made it difficult to make out her lover's form.
"Yes, love." The voice answered.
Xena felt the soft, naked flesh of her lover move on top of her. Soon she felt exquisitely soft lips on her skin, teasing, biting and sucking all the flesh they came in contact with. The warrior knew there was a reason they shouldn't be doing this, but suddenly her body felt like it was floating along in mid air. She wasn't even sure if she was moving her own arms, but her brain said she had. She kissed the woman above her, letting her lover take possession of her mouth in a way she never had before. The mouth left hers and sucked hard on the taut flesh of her neck.
"Gods, Brie." Xena groaned.
Adrian lifted her body up and tossed her hair from her face with a shake of her head.
"Whatever you want to call me...it works for me." The Captain leered at the naked woman below her.
"No one seems to know where she went." Ephiny said to Gabrielle. "I send for Eponin, she was there, she'll know." The Regent finished in that reassuring tone the Amazon always seemed to reserve for her small friend.
Two of the Royal Guard walked in practically holding Eponin up between them. The drunken Amazon was soaking wet. It was apparent the Guard had been given orders to get the warrior awake enough to talk to the Queen. It looked as if a midnight swim in the cold lake had done the trick.
"Ep," Ephiny pulled the warrior's chin up to meet her eyes. "Where's Xena at? Wasn't she with you?"
"Uhm...we were playing sworzz," she answered.
Gabrielle looked confused and Ephiny rolled her eyes. "She means, swords." She said to the Queen. "It's a drinking game."
"Ep, what happened? Who else was there? Were you there when Xena left?" The Regent questioned.
"Yea, I mean no. Uhm, me and Sol. Oh, and Adrian too, I think. I--I don't know where they went...sorry, Gabrielle."
"It's allright, Ep, go get some sleep." Gabrielle said, looking at the Guard and motioning them to help the warrior back to her own hut.
Once the Queen and her Regent were alone Ephiny began to pace the room. "I'm going over to that slut's quarters and I swear, Gabrielle, if Xena is there I'll--"
"You'll do nothing." Gabrielle said as she looked out the window into the village.
"Eph, please. Let me do this my way." Gabrielle's voice shook and it was obvious to the Regent her small friend was trying to hold on to some semblance of dignity through the whole ugly situation.
"Gabrielle, at least let me go look and see if Xena is there. I guess something actually could have happened to her and we need to know if she's hurt somewhere or not."
The Queen nodded. "If she's not there, come and get me so we can form a search party right away."
"And, if she is there?" Ephiny asked.
"You're to do nothing tonight." Gabrielle held up her hand to stop the Regent's protests. "Eph, if Xena is with Adrian, she went there of her own will. If that is what's to become of us every time we run into one of her old lovers, then I suppose it's better we find out now."
"Gabrielle, I'm so sorry." Ephiny turned to the young Queen before she left, giving her a strong hug.
When the door closed behind the Regent Gabrielle stood in the middle of the large room alone. She looked very small and felt nothing like a Queen. She felt like her own death was beginning. She crossed the room and sat in the chair that faced the open window. After a candlemark of time had passed her gaze fell on Xena's weapons and armor, placed neatly beside the bed as always.
Ephiny hadn't returned and so the Amazon Queen sat and waited, shedding no tears, instead willing her body to wait until it was safe to fall apart.
Xena rolled over and fought off the nausea that rose and threatened to overtake her. Her eyes could barely open and her head felt like it teetered ominously on her shoulders, but she knew last night she would have one Tartaurus of a hangover this morning.
"Brie?" She nudged the still form next to her.
"Gods, go away and lemme sleep."
Xena's eyes were open now. She flew out of the bed so fast she felt as if she'd left her aching head behind. Once her brain registered the fact that it was Adrian's naked body in the bed, she looked around the room and for the first time realized she wasn't in the Queen's hut. Then she realized she too was naked.
"By the Gods, what have I done." She croaked.
The warrior threw on her clothes and boots and made it out the door just in time to lose the contents of her stomach over the porch rail. Her muscles continued to heave until the alcohol she consumed the previous evening was expelled. Rising cautiously, she noticed the sun was barely rising. The warrior made her way to the stables to try to clean up before attempting to enter the Queen's hut.
Xena removed her shirt and dunked her whole torso into the barrel of rainwater around the back of the stable. She looked down at her own body and cringed when she saw the evidence of her betrayal. Her chest and breasts were covered in bruises and bites and, she could see in the water's reflection, that her neck wasn't any better off.
Her hands shook and she knew the nausea she now felt had nothing to do with a hangover. She had betrayed Gabrielle in the worst way possible. Not only a lover's deception, but the humiliation the young Queen would suffer in front of her people.
"Oh, Gods..." Xena bent over the barrel. "Artemis, please help me." The warrior uncharacteristically prayed. "Oh, Brie..."
"Maybe you should have thought of her last night." Ephiny said from inside the stable.
Xena quickly reached for her shirt, but it was gone. Ephiny held out the cloth and Xena snatched it from her hand. The warrior covered her body as quickly as she could, turning her back to the Regent's disgusted look.
"I don't remember what happened...I was drunk."
"You're right, you could barely stand. Oh, but it doesn't take a whole lot of standing to get fucked now, does it?" Ephiny sneered.
Xena pushed past the Amazon to go back to the village. They were nearly in front of the Queen's hut when Ephiny's voice rang out.
"I warned you Xena. I told you not to hurt her." Ephiny said in a throaty ominous tone.
"I didn't mean to...I don't remember!" Xena turned back just in time for Ephiny's backhand to connect with the warrior's mouth.
It rocked the warrior back a step, but she didn't even raise her hand to protect herself from the next blow or the next. It was a small enough punishment for her crime.
"Stop." Gabrielle's voice cut through the discord.
Ephiny's arm was raised in mid air, her fist clenched and unclenched trying to decide whether she would obey her Queen or not. Obedience won as she turned on her heel and stalked away.
Xena fell down to one knee, her lip and nose bloodied by the Regent's beating. Gabrielle motioned to a member of the Guard to help the injured warrior into the hut. Xena accepted help rising, but brushed off the Guard's assistance after that. She walked past Gabrielle, but never had the courage to raise her eyes from the ground.
Gabrielle walked up and stood on the veranda, listening to the sounds of water as Xena poured some in a basin and wiped the blood away. The young Queen took a few deep breaths and realized that as with anything painful, this too, would be over soon.
Xena stood in one corner of the room; her back against the wall and her arms folded around her torso. She fastened the laces of the shirt as high as she could to try and hide the marks of her disloyalty. Her hands still shook, but it was with fear. It was a new experience for the warrior and when she stopped to think about it, fear wasn't something she was even aware of until this small farm girl from Potidaea came into her life. Once the warrior fell in love with Gabrielle, fear became a very real entity. Xena feared for the young woman's safety, feared for her life, but most of all, she feared losing her love.
Gabrielle walked into the room and stood there looking rather lost. Xena's heart broke as she realized that this time, she was the sole source of her bard's pain. Xena wanted to say something, but she wasn't sure what, if anything, would make a difference. She decided to be honest.
"I don't--I don't know what to say, Brie."
Gabrielle turned and looked at the warrior as if just noticing that she was in the room, too. She walked over and stood in front of the warrior; whose eyes couldn't even meet the pain filled emerald stare. Gabrielle reached up and tenderly touched the cut lip that trembled slightly. The Queen let her fingers follow the throat and stopped when she reached the collar of the shirt. Slowly Gabrielle's fingers began to unlace the leather ties.
The warrior never tried to stop her; she simply stood there and let Gabrielle untie the laces. Xena's lowered gaze could only watch, tears falling from her eyes to splash onto the Queen's fingers. When Gabrielle pulled the shirt open she squeezed her eyes shut momentarily. It had happened after all. There would be no explaining it away and Xena didn't even try to. The warrior reached for the small hand that still rested on her chest.
"Don't..." Gabrielle pleaded, pulling from the warrior's grasp. "Don't touch me."
Gabrielle turned away and walked to the open window. The sun finally rose over the treetops, but its light seemed like a harsh glare today.
"Why, Xe?" Gabrielle asked in a shaking voice.
"Oh, Brie, I don't know. I'm so sorry. I--I don't remember, I...I was drunk." Xena couldn't stop the tears now.
She wanted so much to fall on the ground and beg for Gabrielle's forgiveness; to do something, anything to make this right again, but she knew that right now none of that would help. Maybe later, in a day or two when the pain wasn't so fresh for her bard.
"Xena?" Gabrielle interrupted the warrior's mental ramblings. "Where is your amulet?"
Xena's eyes met Gabrielle's and the warrior's hand slid up to her throat, her fixed gaze never breaking from the Queen's penetrating stare. She hadn't even noticed it missing, it had become such a part of her, always dangling just below the hollow of her throat.
"My heart," Xena barely whispered.
That's when the warrior knew. There would be no time to explain; no reconciliation. She had taken the token of Gabrielle's love for her and simply lost it. It didn't matter why or how, but the symbolism behind her action was clear. She had paid so little attention to its care that it slipped from her grasp. The emblem of her heart and she had thrown it away.
Xena's blue eyes continued to stare at her lover, even as they filled with more tears, to roll silently down her cheeks. Gabrielle's tears started then; just as silently streaking down her own face.
"I want you to leave, Xena." Gabrielle said, watching the warrior wince inwardly as though struck by a blow.
"I--I can stay with Ep...at least until--"
"No. I want you to leave the village." The Queen said turning her back on the woman. "You're not welcome here anymore." Gabrielle finished in a heavy voice.
It took a moment for Xena to realize what Gabrielle was saying. She had prayed against this coming true, but hadn't she known it would? If the positions were reversed, would Xena offer forgiveness? Didn't Gabrielle deserve the best, especially in a lover? Xena had known all along that she didn't deserve a love such as Gabrielle's and now, Gabrielle knew it too. The warrior had proved last night that she was far from the best.
Gabrielle looked out the window, too afraid to turn around to see the shock on her lover's face. She knew that if she turned, she wouldn't have the strength to do what she must. Instead she looked out the window as she heard Xena slowly move around the room and collect her belongings.
Once she had her saddlebags and weapons in hand, she moved up behind the young Queen. Xena still couldn't stop the tears that fell as she thought how small and vulnerable Gabrielle looked right now.
"I know you don't want to hear this right now, but I do love you, Brie. I'd give anything if I could go back and undo this...anything. I never meant to hurt you. I didn't...I don't even remember what happened. I know that's a pathetic excuse, there can be no excuse." The warrior wiped her tears with the back of her hand.
"I never thought I'd be the cause of this kind of pain for you." Xena's voice was now so broken it was only a whisper.
She moved closer to the young woman and saw her shoulders shaking with her own sobs. She wished she could at least hold the woman in her arms one more time.
"Remember, you'll always be my heart...I love you, Brie." Xena wrapped a hand around Gabrielle's left arm and pulled her back to her. She pressed a kiss onto the top of the small blonde's head. Turning abruptly, she walked through the still open door.
"I love you too, Xena." Gabrielle whispered around her tears as she watched through the open window as Xena strode to the stables.
The warrior came out moments later leading the golden mare. She vaulted into the saddle and turned the horse's neck. She looked back at the young Queen, her small body framed within the hut's window. Bringing her fingertips up to her lips, she placed them over her heart and quickly spurred her mount away from the village.
The Bard's Corner