Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and all of the characters associated with the production belong to MCA/Universal and are used here without the permission of TPTB.
I just like to take 'em around the block for a spin occasionally to see how the handle. Xena corners like she's on rails and Gabrielle can go from 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds. <GBG>
I always wash and wax 'em before I put 'em back.
The poem accredited to our favorite little bard actually belongs to Debbie Gibson and Atlantic Records. The piece that our warrior puts forth belongs to Dan Hill and was performed by Celine Dion on her album Falling into You. If you've never heard the song I highly recommend it. It definitely fits our favorite couple. Both pieces are also used without permission.
There is absolutely no speculation about subtext here. It's all out in the open and a very beautiful thing. So needless to say there are depictions of two consenting adult women making love. There's also a little light bondage (hey it's plot point, really). If you're offended, go away. If it's illegal where you live, move. If you're under 18, don't even think about it.
There is also a mild amount of violence and one heart shattering conversion to Ares.
There are several spoilers in this piece although it doesn't really fit into the television time line. Then again that's what fan fiction is all about, isn't it?
I'm always interested in feed back and can be reached at KMcc430937@aol.com
If your comments are constructive criticism, I'm always ready to hear it because I like to keep my audiences happy. If it's homophobic keep it to yourself and don't knock it until you've tried it.
Finally, I have to dedicate this piece to my "Gabrielle". Without her tireless efforts in matters of editing and (ahem) inspiration for various scenes, I never would have finished.
It had been an unusually quiet day for the warrior and the bard. Most of it had been spent leisurely wandering the countryside. They had just left a village where the warrior had found the need to convince a few local thugs their presence was no longer desired. A small fight for Xena but, just as important as any other conflict where the innocent would suffer at the hands of a tyrant.
Gabrielle took notice of the fact that Xena seemed particularly pleased with herself as she watched the bandits flee from the village. It had not been a difficult fight, they weren't the best of the bunch as far as bandits were concerned and the warrior always enjoyed a fight more when she could be creative. The fact that she had beaten this particular group of thugs with fresh produce would certainly be considered creative. Gabrielle hadn't considered what could be done with a carrot, but apparently Xena had.
They walked next to each other in relative silence. Occasionally a snort from Agro could be heard behind them.
"So exactly where are we headed now?" Gabrielle asked as they cleared a small grove of trees into grassland.
"Does it matter?"
"By the Gods, you can be the most frustrating person sometimes. If you don't know where we're going, could you just say that."
"That." The warrior stated with a big grin as she stretched her long legs and strode ahead of the bard.
Gabrielle stopped and just stared at her friend. "Amazing." She said under her breath. She shook her head and then realized that she was going to have to run to catch up.
Xena looked back over her shoulder, a quick glance just to make sure that Gabrielle was catching up. When she was sure, she stopped as if to survey the road ahead.
"I think we should stop for the night." She said as Gabrielle stepped up beside her. "It's going to be dark soon and I'm hungry and if I'm hungry you must be starved." She finished with a grin.
As Gabrielle prepared the campsite, Xena went out in search of the evening meal. She wanted something different tonight. She was tired of fishing and rabbit stew was getting old.
"Something different." She muttered to herself as she crept through the grass. "But what?"
Gabrielle had prepared the bedrolls and moved Argo's saddlebags over to the sleeping area, just the way Xena liked it. She stood up after smoothing out the warrior's bed and smiled. She had never before considered how much pleasure it gave her to see to Xena's needs. It required an expert eye to remove all the little rocks that would poke in the most unpleasant places in the middle of the night. Xena had never really been any good at it and Gabrielle had a small scar on her backside to prove it.
Next came the fire. The fire had to be prepared just so. That was one of the first things Xena had taught her. Big enough to cook on, at first and then it needed to be smaller through the night. Just enough to keep them warm without drawing unwanted attention. She had gathered the wood and had it ready to be lit when Xena returned to the campsite.
"Do you want to clean dinner or start the fire?" Xena asked, holding up two furry something's that were still very much alive and wiggling about.
"Given the option I'll start the fire." The bard said with a grin.
"Wimp." The warrior said in a teasing tone. She handed Gabrielle her sword, which would be struck with a flint stone in order to start the fire.
As Gabrielle took the sword she knew how much trust this showed on Xena's part. There seemed to be three things in Xena's life that one did not fuss with, her weapons, her horse and her friends. She couldn't help but smile as she crossed the campsite and fetched the flint stone from the saddlebags.
She couldn't get back to the fire pit fast enough once the sound of small necks being broken reached her ears. "Couldn't you have done that before you came back to camp?" She asked as she struck the stone against the blade.
"When I bring fish back they're generally alive and you don't seem to have any problems cutting their little heads off." Xena said as she began skinning dinner.
"Somehow that's just different." Gabrielle replied as she gently blew on the embers to fan the fire.
"I don't know it just is." She sat up and watched the little fire come to life. 'Not bad', she thought as she carefully laid Xena's sword down.
She continued to build up the fire and prepared it for cooking. Xena came to the fire pit and laid dinner on a rock and picked up her sword and the flint stone. She moved over to the bedrolls and sat down. Tucking the flint stone away she pulled out her whetstone. Gabrielle didn't even turn around. She knew what was next. There would be the rhythmic sound of the warrior preparing her weapons. It was the same every night no matter where they were or what they were doing. There was something comforting about the routine they had created together.
As dinner cooked, the bard took advantage of the light to write. This was her routine, writing, keeping track of her friend's heroic deeds. Tonight was different. Tonight she needed to write her own thoughts. Maybe writing them down would help her understand them.
I don't understand what I'm going through lately. Things seem so different to me. Whatever it is, it revolves around Xena. Every since I lost her
Every time I look at her, my stomach drops, my palms sweat and I feel all funny inside. I long to be close to her, feel her breath on my skin. Just a shadow of a touch from her hand and I go weak in the knees.
It's odd. The last time I felt this way
She looked up, past the fire, to the warrior who was still busy sharpening her sword and humming softly to herself. Gabrielle looked back down at her scroll.
I've never really felt this way before.
"Gabrielle. Gabrielle." Xena's voice pulled the bard back to the reality of the campsite.
"Huh? What?" She said obviously distracted.
Xena pointed in the direction of the food cooking over the fire. It was well on its way to being well done. She dropped the scroll and her quill in the dirt and tended immediately to the food. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. She worked quickly to get the food off the spit but it was difficult as her tears streamed freely down her cheeks. Between the smoke in the air and the salt in her tears her eyes began to sting. She tried wiping them it only made it worse.
Xena looked at her friend and saw what was happening. In an instant she was on her feet and next to her side. "Gabrielle what's wrong? Did you burn yourself?"
Gabrielle couldn't speak. She could only make the gulping sound so often associated with hysterical crying. Xena took the meat and laid it on the warming stone. She then put her arm around Gabrielle's shoulders and led her back to the bedrolls. She sat down with her and cradled her in her arms.
"What's wrong?" The warrior asked again.
Gabrielle still unable to speak just clung to Xena and continued to cry.
"It's okay Gabrielle. Whatever it is, it's okay." Xena said softly as she gently rocked her back and forth.
"No " she said gasping through her tears. "No, it's not okay."
"Sure it is. Nothing is that bad."
"I ruined dinner."
"No you didn't."
"I wasn't paying attention " still gasping for air.
"It's only dinner and it's not ruined. It'll be fine."
"I'm so sorry."
"There's more to this than just dinner. What else?"
"No there's nothing else. I swear." Gabrielle said, taking the chance that Xena wouldn't catch her in the biggest lie she had ever told.
The bard scrambled to her feet, leaving a bewildered Xena to sit and watch as she returned to the fire pit and finished preparing dinner.
"Hey, I just remembered." Xena said reaching into her saddlebags. "Look what I got for dinner tonight."
Gabrielle wiped the tears from her cheeks and looked over. Xena was holding a loaf of bread, a round of cheese and a wineskin. She smiled, then realized she was doing it again, she was staring at Xena.
"Not good?" Xena asked, her face a little crest fallen. Her gifts hadn't gone over the way she had hoped they would.
Gabrielle picked up the warming stone and returned to Xena's side. "No it's wonderful, thank you."
Gabrielle was generally not much of a drinker, but tonight Xena had encouraged her to sip on the wine to help her relax. She had said it would help her sleep better. Gabrielle began telling herself that's all that was wrong. She simply needed a good nights sleep. Everything would be clearer with the light of day.
She looked over and Xena was tipping the skin to her lips. Everything thing seemed a little fuzzy and out of focus, but she could see a trickle of wine escaped the warrior's lips and run down her chin. It was then that she realized things were as clear as they were ever going to get. The need to go over there, and kiss that wine away, made every thing perfectly clear. She was in love with the warrior. She just shook her head and lowered her eyes as Xena wiped the wine away with the back of her hand.
"See Gabrielle dinner was fine. Giant rat is good a little over done."
Gabrielle looked back to her friend, shocked. "Rat? You fed me a rat?"
"No you ate it yourself."
"Oh Gods Xena, a rat? That's disgusting."
"You never would have known if I hadn't told you."
"Next time don't"
"Okay." Xena said with some whimsy in her voice as she stretched out on the bedroll and took another drink of the wine. "It's going to be cold tonight. Why don't you bring your bedroll over here next to me."
Gabrielle wanted to go screaming into the woods. Things that used to be so innocent now seemed so wrong. She couldn't very well say no. They had done this a hundred times before on cold nights. To say no now would be odd. She slid her bedroll over next to Xena and stretched out. Xena handed her the wine. She started to protest then decided against it. 'Why not get good and drunk at least I'll be able to sleep' she thought to herself as she took a big gulp.
"Easy does it my little one. You're not accustomed to this and it can effect you in odd ways." Xena said as she retrieved the skin from the bard.
"Did you hear yourself just then?" The bard asked, her speech slightly slurred.
"Did I say something wrong?"
"You said, and I quote, "Easy does it my little one", end quote."
"Yeah what of it. It's a pet name. I call you that all the time."
"I know. Why do you call me that?"
"I don't know. I never really gave it any thought. I like it and you've never said anything before. If you want me to stop I will. I didn't mean to upset you."
"Oh Xena I'm not upset. I'm just curious. I mean I'm not little "
"You're littler than I am." Xena interrupted, beginning to feel the effects of the wine herself.
"Okay I'll give you that one, but most people are."
"Littler than you." Gabrielle paused. "You know that's a funny word when you're drunk."
Xena pondered it for a moment then let it go.
"But," The bard continued "I digress."
Xena propped herself up on one elbow and gave the bard her full attention. Any time Gabrielle started using words like 'digress' the warrior knew she was in for a long one.
"You said 'my' little one."
"Okay." Xena said still not making the connection.
"Do you consider me property, to be owned?"
Xena sat up now and looked deeply into the bard's green eyes. "No of course not! How could you think such a thing? It was only meant as a sign of affection. I never meant "
Gabrielle couldn't take it anymore. It was now or never. She leaned in and cut the warriors words short with a kiss. It wasn't the 'You're my friend' kind of kiss they had shared before. It was a kiss that said 'I am your little one'.
At first Xena didn't know how to react, then she simply let herself go with the moment. She returned Gabrielle's affections. The kiss was long and lingering. Every time it seemed that their lips would part one of them would recapture the moment.
When it was finally over they just stared at each other. Both of them afraid, to be the first to speak, afraid of saying the wrong thing.
"You were right," Gabrielle finally said. "The wine has had a very odd effect on me."
"It was the wine then?" Xena asked.
"Of course. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. We're together so much I suppose something like this was bound to happen sooner or later."
"It was only one kiss." Gabrielle reasoned. "Could have happened to anyone."
"Absolutely." Xena agreed, trying not to sound as aroused as she felt.
"Let's get some sleep." Gabrielle said as she lay down on her bedroll.
The warrior looked at the bard in the ember light of the fire. She watched her as she fell into a deep slumber. Xena then wrapped Gabrielle up in her strong arms and fell into a deep slumber as well.
Her last thought being. 'The wine my foot'.
The large crowd of people stood outside the palace waiting for word. Their beloved King Mysalies had been ill for so long. Recent word from the palace was not good and they knew the end was near. The people gathered for many reasons, to be first to hear the news, to wish their monarch well and to be supportive of the young princes' who would be left to rule upon the death of their father.
Prince Jordon sat stoically at the table as the healer came into the room. His younger brother, Prince Kaylan and the royal advisor Andicles chatted quietly by the fireplace. All three heads turned.
"King Mysalies has gone on to the Elysian Fields. The king is dead." The healer said quietly and then turned and left the room.
The three remained quiet for a moment. Kaylan crossed the room and knelt down next to Jordon's chair. "My brother, my king." He said lowering his head to honor his brother and show his respect. "My sword and my soul are yours to command."
"Kaylan," Jordan started, as he rose from his chair. "Get off your knees. No man ever knelt before father and no man shall ever kneel before me. Besides that we haven't decided that I should take the crown."
Kaylan was to his feet in the flicker of a candle. "Of course you will be king. It is your birth right."
"It's also your birth right brother."
"You're the oldest. You have been in power since father became ill. The people love you. You're as wise as father ever was "
Andicles spoke for the first time. "Wise beyond your young years Jordon. It only makes sense for you to take the crown."
"With the spring festival coming up it would be the perfect time." Kaylan said with excitement in his voice.
Jordon couldn't help but smile. It was this kind of youthful enthusiasm from Kaylan that had always endeared him to his elder brother.
"And what of your wedding Kaylan? Don't you think that my coronation as king will over shadow "
"Nonsense," Kaylan said trying to sound as wise as his older brother "It will only add to the celebration of the spring festival." Think of it Jordon, the festival, my wedding, your coronation. It will be a celebration never to be forgotten. Scribes and bards will write of this in the coming seasons."
"Now I know your exaggerating." Jordon said with a smile.
"Actually," Andicles spoke up after clearing his throat "There could be a double wedding."
"A double wedding?" Jordon questioned, obviously confused by the comment.
"Yes Your Highness. In order to take the crown and become king you must take a wife first. The lands require a queen to ensure the royal line."
"Oh how ridiculous is that." Jordon said, surprised by this sudden turn in events. "I haven't even begun to think of marriage yet. I don't even have any prospective candidates for a," Jordon paused "wife."
"I am well aware of that Your Highness but it is the law of the land. Knowing of your father's impending fate, the council of elders and I have sent word into the lands that you will be married. We have requested that maidens come for the so that you may choose a queen."
"But I " Jordon protested, but the old advisor just raised his hand.
"No disrespect intended Your Highness. This is just the way it has been and it is the way it shall remain. You will choose a wife before the spring festival and then you may be crowned king."
"What you're telling me Andicles, is that I have two weeks to fall in love."
"Love has nothing to do with is Your Highness. You simply need to find someone who suites your needs and will serve well as queen to your people."
"I don't believe this." Jordon muttered.
"At least you are free to choose. We could have chosen for you."
"Any woman then?"
"Any woman. We trust your judgement."
"Well thank you so much." Jordon replied sarcastically. His tone was not lost on the advisor.
Kaylan could tell that things were about to get ugly. "Jordon we should go tell our people of father's crossing."
Jordon turned to his younger brother. "Yes of course."
Gabrielle was awake for sometime before she had the courage to open her eyes. Between her memories of the night before and the headache of headaches she was sure that there was probably no reason to live. As she lay still and quiet she realized that she didn't hear anything at all. Had she gone deaf? No that wasn't it because there was a breeze gently rustling the leaves and the grass. Exactly what was she listening for then? She knew. Deep down inside she knew. She was listening for any sound that told her Xena was up and about.
She knew that the warrior was no longer lying next to her. She couldn't hear her breathing. Still it was oddly quiet. She didn't hear any movement. No fidgeting about, no Argo snorting in the distance. Fear began to creep over her. Had Xena left her in the middle of the night? Had she made such a fool of herself that the warrior needed to end the relationship?
Gabrielle slowly opened one eye and turned her head towards the fire pit. A rush of relief swept over her when she saw Xena. The warrior smiled.
"Good morning sleepyhead," she said rising up and pouring a cup of tea for the bard. She walked slowly and quietly over and helped Gabrielle sit up.
The bard flinched as the weight of her own head settled down on her shoulders.
"Hurts doesn't it?" Xena said placing the tea in Gabrielle's hands.
"Un-huh." The bard mumbled, gratefully accepting the steaming liquid. The smell made her feel a little better she was sure the actual drink would work wonders.
"The first time is always the worst." Xena said stroking Gabrielle's hair, softly and gently.
Gabrielle wanted to tell Xena that even her hair hurt but she knew that then she wouldn't have the contact she so desired. She decided to sip her tea and let her hair hurt.
"Will you believe me if I tell you you're going to live?"
"Un-huh." Gods the tea was good this morning.
"We don't have anywhere in particular to be. So take all the time you need, okay?"
"Un-huh." Gabrielle closed her eyes and thought of the night before. How could she be so stupid? To take a chance like that. Not only could she have destroyed the only friendship that had ever really meant anything, but had Xena taken it badly . She didn't even want to think of that possibility.
"I'm not even going to ask you if you're hungry."
"Good." The bard said between sips.
"Another word. This is a good sign."
"I'm glad." Xena said, leaning back against a rock and slowly pulling the bard back with her. She folded her into her arms allowing her enough movement to continue drinking her tea.
"Just rest and finish your tea. It'll make you feel all better. I promise."
"I'm sorry." Gabrielle whispered.
"Don't be. You have nothing to be sorry for. We decided that last night."
"Are you sure?"
"I was afraid I had ruined everything."
"Never. We will be together for as long as you want us to be together."
'Oh sure' Gabrielle thought 'lay everything on my shoulders'. "That's good," She said aloud "I'm glad you still want me around after I made such a "
Xena laid a finger across Gabrielle's lips to stop her words. "Don't say another word. I don't think I'll like it."
"Even if it's the truth?"
"Woman am I going to have to gag you to get you to be quiet?"
Gabrielle looked up. A smile spread across Xena's face.
"I'm ill remember." Gabrielle replied trying to take up Xena's happier tone.
"You're hung over. There's a difference."
"And what would that be?"
"You, my litt," Xena stopped in mid sentence.
"It's okay." Gabrielle said as she rested her head on Xena's shoulder waiting for the words to come.
"You, my little one, have a self inflicted wound. It doesn't count as an actual illness."
"Oh that's just dandy. What's the point if you can't get any sympathy the next day?"
"What do you call this? Tea in bed and all the comfort I can offer. If that's not sympathy I don't know what is. But just this once and only because this is your first hangover. After this you're on your own."
The bard looked deeply into the warrior's blue eyes. Among the things she saw there, on this 'morning after' was a tenderness she had never seen before and a completely mischievous twinkle.
Prince Jordon walked through the streets of Seranasia. He walked alone, as was his custom there were no guards to protect him. He didn't need them. The sword strapped to his side was all the protection he needed and he was quite proficient with it. It had been said there was only one other mortal alive who was better with a steel blade. Jordon was quite grateful that this particular person was a friend of the royal family.
His subjects approached him quietly and offered their condolences. He accepted them graciously and sincerely. His father had taught him long ago that there was no need to be standoffish with the people of their kingdom. The people loved them both, king and prince, and thrived under their rule. There was no conflict in the kingdom, no war or strife. The people prospered and because the people prospered the monarch remained strong.
Jordon made his way to the temple. He paused briefly before entering. There were several people present. A priest immediately took notice of the young monarch and came forward.
"Your Highness," the priest said, bowing slightly at the waist "you honor us with your presence."
"Thank you Lidicus. I have come for my father. To make my offering for his safe passage."
"Of course Your Highness."
"I have a request, I don't know if you can grant it."
"If it is within my power it is yours."
"I would like to be alone. Could you clear the temple? Just for a few minutes."
"Of course Your Highness."
The priest left the prince and spoke with the people in the temple, one at a time, quietly. Each in their own turn left the temple, paying their respects as they did.
When Jordon was sure no one was left he approached the altar and knelt down, removing his sword and laying it on the marble slab. He raised his head and looked about. As he drew a deep breath and took in the sights of the Temple of Athene.
"Mother Athene? Mother where are you? I need your counsel and your wisdom at this time in my life. Please come to me."
Without another moment passing there was a shimmering and standing before Jordon was a beautiful woman wearing magnificent armor but no weapons. She smiled down on Jordon and stepped down, taking his chin in her hand.
"Yes my child what is it that you need?"
"Mother, I am confused and lost. I need your guidance."
"What disturbs you so? If it is your father, I assure you that he has passed easily and I have already seen to his needs."
"I never had any concern of father. I knew you would be waiting for him. I have been told that I must marry to be crowned king."
"Yes I know."
"How am I supposed to do that?" Jordon asked rising to his feet and reclaiming his sword.
"I will tell you this. There is a woman. She will be here in two moons time. She will become your queen."
"But how can I "
Athene raised her hand. "Listen my child, as I can only tell you these things once. You must understand what you are about to hear."
"This woman who comes to you. She will love and care for you, but in her heart, soul and mind she will always belong to another. There is nothing you can do about that and you should not even try. She will be a good and true wife to you and perfectly suited for you."
"This is good to know." Jordon said with a sigh of relief.
"Continue to listen child." Athene said, with the tone that only a mother could have.
"You must tell her all. Everything that you and your father have held inside. She must be totally aware. All must be clear to her before you ask her to be your queen. Do you understand?"
"Yes of course. It would only be fair."
"You should know that this woman is your destiny, but you are not hers. You will have to make sacrifices for this woman that will change everything for you."
"What kind of changes?"
"That, I can not say?"
"Can you tell me who this woman is?"
"Nor may I tell you that. You will know her when you see her. Know that no matter where this path takes you, it is best for all. Do not be concerned. You will do what you must, without hesitation."
"Thank you Mother."
"You are welcomed my child." With that the Goddess was gone.
As Jordon turned to leave the temple, he heard her voice faintly in his ears. "Be watchful for a stranger on a golden war horse."
Jordon smiled, that last piece of information had been a gift.
An entire days travel had been lost due to the bards 'self inflicted wound'. Every time she thought she could travel the mere act of standing up proved her wrong. Xena seemed quite content with staying out for an extra day so Gabrielle could recuperate.
As Xena saddled Argo Gabrielle approached and laid a hand on the warrior's shoulder. Xena turned and looked down at her.
"Could I well could I ride today?"
"Should we stay another day? Are you well enough to travel?"
"Travel yes. Walk while doing it, no."
"Then so be it. Argo down." Xena commanded.
The horse knelt down on her knees. Xena helped Gabrielle into the saddle. "Argo up, gently."
The horse carefully stood back up and shook her head up and down awaiting praise from her mistress.
"Good girl Argo, good girl. Now I want you to take it easy."
Xena handed Gabrielle her staff. "Aren't you going to ride?" The bard asked. She had hoped she would be able to put her arms around the warrior's waist and rest her head on her shoulder as they traveled.
"No I'll walk for awhile. You'll be more comfortable that way."
"Thank you Xena."
"Anytime, little one, anytime."
"Do we know where we're going yet? The bard inquired.
"Well actually I was going to make it a surprise but, "
"Where Xena, where are we going?" Gabrielle asked with some excitement in her voice.
"I thought we would go to Seranasia for the spring festival."
"A festival? Really Xena?" Her excitement faded, "Wait a minute you hate festivals. What gives?"
"Nothing. I just thought that maybe, just this once, we could do something you enjoyed doing." She paused and looked down at the ground. "Maybe make a little vacation out of it. Just the two of us." She said quietly, looking up for approval from the bard.
She didn't have long to wait. She hadn't seen a smile that big on Gabriele's face in a long time. "I gather it's a good idea?"
"It's a wonderful idea."
"I know some people there and I'm comfortable, so I just thought we could have some fun."
"Fun? Did I just hear the word 'fun' come out of your mouth?"
"Yeah," Xena said looking up at her. "What of it?" Gabrielle reached down to check for fever and got her hands slapped away. "What are you doing?"
"Are you feeling alright?"
"I am currently in better shape than you are, my hung over little bard, so if I were you I wouldn't start something I might regret later." She said with a wicked little sneer on her face.
Gabrielle took the point and decided to behave herself. "So tell me about Seranasia. Who do you know there? Come to think of it, is there anyplace where you don't know someone?"
"I think there's a small village on the southern tip "
"Very funny. Now about Seranasia."
Xena drew a deep breath. "Well it's a very content little kingdom. The people prosper and the king is a gentle and wise soul "
"Who is it you know there?" Gabrielle interrupted in her excitement.
"If you would just let me finish "
"King Mysalies, as I said before, is a good and gentle man. He has always welcomed me to his kingdom." She paused and exhaled a harsh memory. "Even when I was less than desirable to have around."
Gabrielle knew that Xena was speaking of her warlord days.
"I never caused Mysalies any trouble. For some reason I just couldn't do it. Even when my armies were the strongest in the area. I could never bring myself to sack his kingdom. There was just something about this man and his family, his people "
Xena trailed off. Gabrielle was touched to find out that there wasn't as much darkness in the warrior's past as she had believed. Xena had stopped talking and the bard decided it was for the best to let her be.
Jordon stood with a small group of men from the village as they surveyed the empty field before them.
"So Your Highness if we build here, it will be localized for the entire village. All of the children should be able to reach it with out any long walks."
"Do we know how many children to expect the first season?"
"At least twenty. Maybe more."
"Let's make sure the building is large enough to house at least fifty children and a half dozen teachers."
"Your Highness that will take us "
"Galen, if you mention dinars I'll break your arm." Jordon joked with his Minister of Finance. "You know money doesn't matter when it comes to our children. Give these men whatever they require. My father's last wish was that this school be built and we're going to see it through."
"Yes Your Highness."
Jordon walked over and examined a stack of timbers that was about to be unloaded from a cart. "Wood? Wouldn't stone be better?"
"Wood is more cost " Galen decided against it. Jordon turned and smiled. Galen smiled back and just shook his head. "So much like your father." He muttered under his breath.
"I heard that." Countered Jordon, without even turning around. The young prince turned to the architect. "Let's do the frame in wood and then finish it in stone."
"Yes Your Highness."
"Let's get to work. It's not going to build itself and if we want it finished before festival we're going to have to put in some long days." Jordon stated in an as matter of fact tone, rolling up sleeves and beginning the task of unloading the wood.
Suddenly from a watchtower a sentry called down. "Two coming our way. One walking, one riding."
Jordon left the wagon with a quick apology and ran to the stairs of the watchtower. Taking the steps two at a time was finally in a position to see who was coming. A huge grin broke out when the prince realized who approached. "Open the gates!" Jordon called out excitedly "And bring me a horse. A fast horse."
Barely touching the steps on the way down from the tower Jordon realized the answer to his problems was approaching. The requested horse was awaiting the royal rider near the heavy gates that were creaking open. The prince was ready to go before the gates were open far enough and this was first time all day any impatience had registered in his voice. "Get those damn gates open!"
When there was enough room to maneuver the horse, Jordon was through the gate and riding as fast as the mount would carry him. Xena saw the rider immediately her senses went on full alert until she realized who it was pushing the animal forward.
"Gabrielle watch out." With that warning, Xena was on Argo's back. "Hold on." She said reaching back to make sure the bard had a good hold. Very soon they were on their way towards the rider. Xena was pushing Argo as well, but she knew her mare could take it. Gabrielle who was not yet fully recovered, was not enjoying this.
The distance between the two horses closed rapidly. Xena began to reign Argo. The bard was grateful, her stomach had just about had it. Xena stopped Argo and dismounted before Gabrielle had even realized they had come to a halt. It was sometime later before her stomach realized it as well.
Xena reached out and grabbed the approaching rider by the shirt and pulled him off. He landed on the ground with a resounding thud. Xena stood over him. He looked up with a mixture of surprise and anger. "Didn't I teach you better than that?" She asked Jordon as he blinked his eyes trying to clear his head.
"What?!" Jordon asked as he sat up and began dusting himself off.
"Never, never, never push your horse like that unless you absolutely have to." She said offering a hand and pulling him up.
"I saw you coming and I "
"We would have gotten here soon enough. You didn't "
"Xena " Gabrielle said in a small voice.
"Have to treat that animal like that." The warrior continued.
"Xena " Gabrielle tried again.
"I'm sorry I just wanted to be the first " Jordon offered.
"XENA!" There was no mistaking it this time this was a cry for help.
The warrior turned around in time to see the bard turn at least two, possibly three shades of green. She rushed over and lifted her sick friend off Argo's back. Jordon came immediately to see he could be of any assistance and was promptly rewarded for his efforts, Gabrielle threw up all over his boots.
Xena couldn't help but smile because she realized how horrified the bard would be when she found out whom she had just thrown up on.
"Oh I am so sorry." The bard managed to croak as she stared at the ground.
Jordon shuffled and took a step back. "It's alright. I can clean them. I've had worse than this on 'em."
Gabrielle looked up at Jordon, who through it all still managed a smile. She smiled weakly. "At least let me pay to have them cleaned properly."
"No really it's okay. Don't worry about it. I'm more concerned about you. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, now." She said sheepishly.
"Oh I can fix that." Xena said with and evil chuckle. "Gabrielle would you like a proper introduction?"
"Yes please." She said, smiling at the unwilling victim of her upset digestive system.
"Gabrielle of Poteidaia " Xena began
Suddenly the bard got a sinking feeling. This was an awfully formal introduction.
"Queen of the Amazons " She continued
Oh Gods, this was going to be bad wasn't it.
"May I introduce Prince Jordon of Seranasia, eldest child of King Mysalies."
Jordon took a quick look to make sure the coast was clear and immediately dropped to one knee, head bowed to Gabrielle.
"Your Majesty my kingdom is honored by your presence."
Now Gabrielle felt even worse. First she throws up on this poor man. Then she finds out he's royalty, and now he's down on one knee before her. She looked over at Xena who was doing everything she could to contain her laughter. It was all the bard could do to keep from crying.
"Please get up." Gabrielle said softly, offering her hand to Jordon.
Jordon took the queen's hand and gently kissed it. Now she really felt like slug slime.
"My kingdom and my sword are at your service Your Majesty." Jordon continued, staring into Gabrielle's green eyes.
Xena cleared her throat. "She has a sword at her disposal." She said stepping forward. "Mine."
Jordon looked up. That look and that tone were unmistakable. "Only a figure of speech, my friend."
"Just keep it that way." Xena said as she put a protective arm around Gabrielle and handed her the water skin. "We'll be right back Jordon. Why don't you try to catch your horse?"
Jordon was having difficulty concentrating because of the trance those emerald green eyes held him in. The spell was broken when Xena turned Gabrielle around and the two walked off into the woods together.
"What was that all about?" Gabrielle asked as she took some water and did what was necessary
"What? Xena asked as she leaned against a tree.
"If I didn't know better I'd say you sounded jealous out there."
"Why shouldn't I? Jordon was flirting with you and I didn't like it."
The bard's heart pounded in her chest. "You didn't?"
"No, I didn't?"
"Okay let's get this over with. This isn't particularly how I envisioned this moment, but sometimes you just have to go with what life offers you." Xena drew a deep breath and took Gabrielle's hand in hers and looked deeply into the bard's green eyes. "I love you Gabrielle. No, I don't mean love as in a friend. I mean I am in love with you. I've known it for a long time now and I've just been waiting for the right time to tell you."
"And you thought this was the right time? After I've been sick and throwing up all over the local monarch. You don't have a romantic bone in your body do you?"
"Like I said, this is not how I wanted this to happen, but with prince charming out there offering you the keys to the kingdom my plans had to be altered a little." She paused, her voice softened, "I was going to tell you over dinner tonight. You know after we'd both had a bath, a clean change of clothes and a nice glass of wine."
"I see. So you were jealous?" The bard asked still not quite believing what she was hearing.
"Absolutely. Jordon touches you and I'll be forced to break every royal bone "
"That won't be necessary." She said, stepping forward and caressing Xena's face with an open hand. "I know when I'm spoken for."
Xena took Gabrielle's hand, kissed her palm softly and smiled. "Does this mean I didn't just stand here and make a complete fool out of myself?"
"No you didn't. I love you too." She smiled up at the warrior "I meant to say, I'm in love with you too."
"You have no idea how glad I am to hear that. I'm not afraid of much Gabrielle, but I was afraid "
The bard put her fingers to the warrior's lips to silence her. "Don't say another word. I don't think I'll like it."
Xena smiled her blue eyes shining. "Do you remember everything I say?"
"From this moment forward, yes."
Xena gave the bard a kiss on the forehead and they walked arm and arm out of the woods. Jordon still hadn't managed to capture his horse. Every time he tried to get close to her she would run away from him. Xena whistled and the horse obediently came to her. She took the reigns and handed them to Jordon.
"You have to be nice to them." She said with a grin.
"Shall we go back to the palace so you can get settled?"
"The palace?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yes of course."
"Actually we were planning on getting a room at the inn." Xena said quickly.
"Nonsense. We can't have the Queen of the Amazons staying at the inn." Jordon turned to Xena and smiled. "You, of course, are free to stay where ever you like."
Although they no longer walked arm in arm, Gabrielle could feel the tension building up in her warrior. She was about to cause an incident. Gabrielle decided those two incidents in one day, five minutes after arriving could set off a war.
"Your Highness," Gabrielle began. "Xena is my champion. Where I go, she goes."
"Do you even share the same sleeping chamber?" Jordon asked with a sly grin. He knew the warrior's reputation and various appetites.
"Where she goes I go." Xena repeated through clenched teeth.
The fact that these two were friends was the only thing that was keeping the warrior in check and the prince in one piece. As they made their way to the palace. Jordon told Xena of the King's death. Gabrielle could tell that the warrior was truly upset by the news.
Upon arriving at the palace, Jordon announced the arrival of the amazon queen to the palace staff, setting forth orders that the queen and her 'champion' were to be denied nothing. They were shown to luxurious quarters and left to rest from their trip.
Before leaving them, Jordon turned to Xena and smiled. "I'm glad you have finally found peace after so many years my friend. Father would have been overjoyed for you. He could always see the good in your warrior heart, even when you couldn't. And I'm glad you're happy with the amazon queen," He paused, his grin turning mischievous. "But give me half a chance and I'll steal her from you."
"Try and I'll break every bone in that skinny little body." Xena said, grinning back.
"Seriously my friend, after you've rested I do need to have a word with you."
"I'll find you later. I promise." The two embraced forearms, an unspoken pact had just been made.
Jordon turned to Gabrielle, "Your Majesty, my palace is your home, please accept it as such. If you require anything at all, just pull on the cord near the door. And should you get tired of looking at this," gesturing towards Xena "tired old face, mine is available."
Xena playfully grabbed Jordon by the arm and led him to the door, opened it and shoved him through it. "Out!" She yelled, then slammed the door and bolted it shut. Jordon just stood on the other side smiling. He chuckled to himself as he turned and walked away.
Gabrielle stood for a moment and took in the shear expanse of their chamber, no chambers. She realized for the first time that there was more than one room here. They were in a main sitting room, there were two other rooms off of this one. Xena simply began to unbuckle her armor and get comfortable as Gabrielle explored.
"Gods Xena it's huge."
"Yeah. Jordon's family always did know how to treat a royal guest." She said as she draped her armor over a wooden stand designed for just that purpose. She grin as she adjusted it so that it wouldn't hang crooked. 'Nice no to pile it up in a corner for once', she thought as she took a seat to remove the rest of the armor.
"Xena?" Came the voice from another of the rooms.
"Yes, my little one." Xena called back.
"Could you come here?"
Gabrielle sounded confused. Xena strode into the room where Gabrielle was sitting on the edge of the oversized marble tub. Xena leaned against the doorframe, crossed her arms and smiled down at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle looked up and motioned over her shoulder with her thumb. "Is this what I think it is?"
"Well what do you think it is?"
"I hope it's a bathtub."
"Yeah, looks like a bathtub to me too."
"Could we get someone to fill it for us."
Xena pushed off the doorframe with her shoulder and took a seat next to Gabrielle and turned toward the tub, mumbled something about Jordon and willing and then said, "We don't have to. Watch."
Gabrielle turned. Xena pulled up on one lever and then another. Slowly the water level started to rise in the tub. Gabrielle sat the amazed. Xena put her hand in to test the temperature. "Perfect as usual."
"But how "
"Above us there's a boiler room. Water is kept boiling all the time for the purpose of bathing and cooking. It's fed through the castle in a series of conduits. When you want to stop the flow of water just flip this lever, okay?"
Gabrielle nodded as she sat mesmerized at the water flowing into the huge marble tub. Xena doubted that she had heard a word. The warrior left and went back to the sitting room. It was getting late. Her meeting with Jordon would just have to wait until morning. Now she wanted a bath, a meal and a soft, warm bed. She unlaced her boots and slipped them off. She looked around the room, thinking it was time to light some candles. She could hear Gabrielle turn the water off in the tub. Good she had been listening. The knock at the door jarred the warrior back from the places her thoughts were about to go.
She crossed the room and opened the door to find four members of the royal staff. Two men and two women entered the room and silently went about their business. The men brought in trays of food and put them on the table in the sitting room. The women began lighting the torches and candles to illuminate the room as evening began to settle. One of the men built a fire in the fireplace.
One of the women approached Xena. "Should I ready your sleeping chamber?"
"Yes please." Xena smiled. It was nice to be treated so well. Even though it was only temporary, she could enjoy it for a few days. Especially now, she and Gabrielle would have so much to discuss.
"What of the bathing chamber?" Asked the other woman.
"Oh well Gabri, I mean Queen Gabrielle has all ready started bathing "
"Then will there be anything else?" Asked one of the footmen as he opened the door.
"No I think this should do it."
"If you or her Majesty require anything further, do not hesitate to ring. I am Darrius and I will be serving you."
"Thank you Darrius. I think we'll be fine for the rest of the evening."
Darrius waited for the maid to come out of the bedchamber, and then just as quickly as they had arrived, they were gone. Closing the door behind them. Xena bolted the door and then turned her attention to the trays on the table. It had been a long time since she had seen this much food. Fruit, vegetables, meats of all kinds, breads and cheeses, two bottles of wine.
Xena popped a strawberry in her mouth and went into the bedchamber. Just as she had remembered it. There were two long white robes lying on the end of the bed. Xena gathered them up and returned to the main room. She picked up one tray of food and balanced on her right hand and then slid her left hand under the second tray lifting it from the table. Balancing the trays she headed for the bathroom.
Gabrielle sat in to tub of steaming water, eyes closed and completely relaxed. The room was darkened and only the light from a few scented candles danced on the walls.
"Hungry?" Xena asked, bringing Gabrielle out of her own thoughts. She turned and looked up.
"Gods Xena what's that?"
"Dinner." Xena said placing the trays down on the over sized ledge of the tub. Gabrielle couldn't believe her eyes.
"I've never "
"Jordon has a tendency to over do things a bit."
"Oh I don't know this is kind of nice. I could get use to this." Gabrielle said taking a strawberry and taking a gentle nibble off the end.
Xena felt herself inhaled involuntarily as she watched the bard eat the fruit. "Gabrielle stop that."
"What? I was just eating."
"Trust me you were doing more than that."
Gabrielle looked at the defenseless little strawberry wondering what it could have possibly done.
"It wasn't the berry Gabrielle. It was you." Gabrielle looked up and once again wondered how the warrior had managed to read her thoughts. She hated it when she did that
"Me! I maintain that I was only eating."
"Un-huh." Said the warrior unconvinced. "Mind if I join you?"
"Since when do you need an invitation?" She asked, finishing off the berry.
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