Disclaimer: The characters portrayed in this story belong to MCA/Renaissance Pictures. Ive only borrowed them for a short time, and have returned them in good condition.
There is no violence in this story. There is, however, tenderness and caring between two consenting, fictional [to some people they are fictional, to others, they are very real!] adults.
If you live in a place where tenderness and caring is not allowed, or if you are underage, or any other type of constriction inhibits your life, go play Solitaire or Slingo.
The story takes place a few moons after my first story, Ground Rules. It is not absolutely necessary to read Ground Rules first, however this story will make a whole lot more sense if you do!
I wish to thank my beta reader, Portia Richardson. Once again, her editing, rewriting, and general nudging have allowed me to write, and with her help, write well. And also a sincere thank you to my dear friend KB, who is also a world class nudge!
This work is copyrighted by the Author. August, 2000.
Please feel free to e-mail me at Towandababe@AOL.com with any comments, suggestions, or ideas you might feel like sharing.
Xena looked up from her nightly ritual of sharpening her sword. She realized that she hadnt heard Gabrielles voice for a while. This was very unusual, because Gabrielle was always talking, constantly talking, and it generally made Xena nuts. Now, she realized, not hearing Gabrielle talking was equally nerve wracking. Where has she gone, she usually tells me when shes going to make a visit to the bushes, or whatever. I didnt even hear her leave, I must be getting slow in my "old age".
"Gabrielle, where are you?"
There was no response. Xena immediately got up and sheathed her sword. She looked toward the place she had last seen Gabrielle sitting and writing in her scrolls. She realized that not only was Gabrielle missing but also her scroll bag and bedroll.
Now Xena was concerned. There was one personal, material thing Gabrielle held dear; her scroll bag and scrolls. If Gabrielle had just gone to make a visit to the bushes, she wouldnt have taken her scroll bag, or her bedroll, either.
"Gabrielle, if youre playing a game, it isnt funny, and I am not amused!"
Xena heard only the sounds of the day shift of insects and animals trading places with the more nocturnal creatures. Dusk was quickly turning into night.
They had left the comfort and solitude of their special place, their cave only a few moons ago. Since that time theyd spent every night out in the open. Theyd had a number of adventures since leaving the cave, and Gabrielle had committed each of their adventures to her beloved scrolls.
She smiled as she thought of the intense pleasure of discovery that theyd experienced. Of how Gabrielle hadnt wanted to leave the cave, ever. Theyd talked about leaving for a few days before actually doing so, or rather Xena had talked about it and Gabrielle had offered arguments for why they shouldnt. As usual, Xena had the last word, or at least the last word that counted....no one ever really had the last word when dealing with Gabrielle. She had made her point one more time, and when Gabrielle started on another dissertation of why they shouldnt leave, Xena had resorted to "The Look". Gabrielle knew a no win situation when she saw one and began packing their belongings. Xena had heard Gabrielle snuffle a few times, but then when they were ready to leave the young woman had been excited to start out for new adventures. As Gabrielle had said the morning they had left the cave, "I have blank scrolls just waiting to tell of our adventures."
Xena reflected on how Gabrielles excitement created warmth within her own self. Of how her love was so very open, of how giving Gabrielle was, expecting nothing in return.
Xena walked the perimeter of their campsite looking for indications of Gabrielles whereabouts. Argo, resting at the side of the camp, looked up from her grazing as Xena walked toward her.
"Where is she, Argo? Where is Gabrielle?"
The mare snorted and lowered her head to the grass to continue her evening meal.
"Big help you are"
"GABRIELLE, WHERE ARE YOU!"
Now Xena was getting worried. This was so unlike Gabrielle to just disappear without telling Xena where she was going. Besides being worried, Xena also felt that if this were some sort of trick Gabrielle was playing, shed be sorry shed ever considered it. Gabrielle had learned the hard way that she had to follow certain Ground Rules while traveling with the Warrior Princess. She was fairly certain that Gabrielle still remembered being punished for not listening, not paying attention. It didnt seem likely that the young woman would forget the spanking, or the embarrassment of that incident, much less the pain it caused.
Xena redoubled her efforts. After a few moments, she found a boot print--a small foot. Gabrielles foot made the print, of this Xena was certain. She walked a full pace ahead, turned her head and looked down. About a foot behind her heel was another print. It was Gabrielle all right. Xena knew the exact length of Gabrielles stride. The superior tracking skills of the Warrior Princess showed the direction the young woman had taken. But those skills were inadequate in determining why Gabrielle had left.
As Xena tracked through the woods, her mind raced on. What had she done to make the young woman leave like this? She thought back on the days and nights they had spent in each others arms, loving one another, exploring and tasting and touching. Nothing seemed wrong, everything was perfect. Something must have made her do this, why am I so dense to her feelings, maybe she told me something was wrong and I ignored her, like I do so often. Its her own fault, she talks so much, I know I tune her out...I love her so much, I cant even think of not being with her. If anything has happened to her, I will never forgive myself. I might have many skills, but one of those skills is certainly being an insensitive jerk! Come on, Gabrielle, where are you!!
After racing through the woods, Xena came to a small clearing. Sitting on a log in the middle of the clearing, was Gabrielle. Xena was so relieved to see her that she forgot her anger and anxiety, until she saw to whom Gabrielle was talking.
Oh no, not Aphrodite again..oh please, let this be a bad dream...I dont want that goofy Goddess of Love anywhere near me, or Gabrielle, either.
"Gabrielle, what are you doing?"
"Oh, Xena, I just thought Id take my bedroll and scrolls and sit in this clearing a while to write, and look who showed up!" Gabrielles excitement at seeing Aphrodite was evident.
"Whatever made you just get up and leave without telling me? I was worried about you."
"Xena, I told you I was going, I told you twice, as a matter of fact. You were sharpening your sword, and you mumbled at me, I really thought you heard me. Of course, I know you seldom actually listen to me, but I really did think you heard me. Im sorry you were concerned. Are you angry with me?" Gabrielle had a worried look on her face. Xena felt like a fool. Gabrielle probably had tried to tell her she was going to go to the clearing to write.
"Im sorry Gabrielle, I guess I wasnt listening to you. Im just glad youre all right. Now my next question is, what are you doing here Aphrodite? We dont need you anywhere near us!" Xena turned her attention from her lover to the Goddess. "Why are you here?"
"Oh Warrior Princess, you are just so. . .not with it. Hellooooo? Like, I can be such a big help to you, and the little blonde here. Okay, you know I have all the answers, right? Even to some questions that have never been asked!" Aphrodite was dressed, or undressed, in one of her usual Fredericks of Athens outfits. Everything tight and firm was diaphanously covered with mauve see-thru material. She reached into the folds of her flowing gown and produced some sparkly powder, which she then blew toward Xena.
Xena blinked, then stared at Aphrodite. Half of her felt like ripping her luscious blonde head off, the other half felt like ripping off that ridiculous outfit...Whoa, whats happening here! I love Gabrielle, only Gabrielle, for now and forever. But the Goddess is turning me on. I never noticed how hot she is. Why am I feeling aroused by this blonde bimbo luscious creature oh, no, its finally happened! Ive lost my mind! I cant feel anything for Aphrodite..I dont want to feel anything for her...but oh boy, Im feeling something, Im as wet as I can get without drowning! Dont let this be happening! That's the Destroyer of Nations...Taking pleasures wherever she desires, not who I've tried to become. Man, I just can't get away from that part of me. Gabrielle means so much to me, she has helped me so much, I would never do anything to hurt her. An imaginary torch went on over Xenas head, hmmm, she likes Aphrodite, maybe she wouldnt be hurt at all, maybe it would make her even more excited to watch....by the gods, what am I thinking! Xena nodded. Right. Who needs to think, I want some of that blonde. She turned to Gabrielle. She stared at her bewildered, confused and horny. Gabrielle, whats happening to me, dont look at me like that, you cant read my mind. Can you? Oh, I am in so deep now, come on Gabrielle, help me here......
"Xena! Stop staring like that, and for Zeus sake, wipe off your chin. XENA! Youre drooling, and look at your inner thighs, theyre wet, I can see it from here! What is wrong with you? I thought you loved me. And here you stand, the great Warrior Princess, drowning both ends in her own secretions. You really are something, you know? You sure had me fooled, with all your love and devotion stuff. Ha! It was just a ploy, wasnt it, just to add another virgin maiden to your notched belt. Oh, you think I dont know what those notches mean? Well, let me tell you this, Xena, this little girl is gonna go off on her own, because I dont want to play games!"
Xena nearly screamed in anguish, as the words she tried to say came out just the opposite, and each time she tried to explain, she dug herself even deeper with the angry blonde woman standing just about 8 inches below her nose...Gee, Gabrielle is short...whereas that luscious blond woman standing over there is taller by about 5 inches. Whats an inch? Why is this happening, I dont deserve this, oh well, maybe I do, but Gabrielle certainly doesnt. Xena smirked and raised an eyebrow. Why am I worried about Gabrielle, theres more than enough of me to go around. Xenas eyes bulged from their sockets. Who said that? I couldnt have said that. What is going on?
"Oh, how wonderful, the great Warrior Princess is having a real time trying to get a clue!" Aphrodite was obviously very pleased with herself. She loved to use her magic powder on mortals, even though it only lasted a few moments. The effect it had was to produce confusion in the mind of the unlucky recipient, and Aphrodite thoroughly enjoyed playing around with mortals. It really made her day!
"Aphrodite, what did you do? Did you do something to Xena to make her like this? Oh please, tell me you didnt. Youd better fix her. Be glad youre a goddess otherwise shell kill you when she gets back to normal!"
Gabrielle had lost all thought of leaving Xena as she realized that Aphrodite had cast some sort of spell. I should have known that something was not right...Xena loves me, I know she does, and there is no way that she would ever consider another woman. At least I sure hope that is all that has happened. All that has happened, have I lost my mind! This is not just a little godly prank..this is serious stuff, and messing with Xena is not something to be taken lightly. I thought the scene in the cave was dangerous...this is even worse!
"Aphrodite, please! If youve put some spell on Xena, please undo it right now. You know how dangerous Xena can be when shes angry. Please, Aphrodite, please!"
Gabrielle was nearly hysterical as she pleaded with Aphrodite. However her pleas appeared to be falling on deaf ears. Aphrodite just stood there, watching Xena squirm as the warrior tried to make sense of what was happening and which woman she wanted..mortal or god.
"Oh, little blond twit...Dont worry about your precious Xena! I just want to have a little fun with you two. After all, you wouldnt use my help when you were in that cave...Xena was mean to me!" Aphrodite stood in front of a very upset Gabrielle and a totally confused Xena and pouted. " Im gonna teach Xena a lesson, Gabrielle! And as much as Id like you to know my plans, youre gonna be like, way to important in this lesson...so Im gonna make you forget everything Ive said! You wont know anything about the plan, like, how Im gonna make Xena prove her love for you over and over, even though Im gonna throw every obstacle I can think of in her way. Shell either win or lose, but either way, shell learn that it isnt nice to be mean to the gods! And especially to me, the sweetest, most lovely of all the gods! I offered my help to you both, and it was turned down. This time Xena will either use my help or shell lose you completely. Oh, Im sooooo good! So, now my little blond story teller, get ready, because like, now Im gonna wipe out your memory...and youll like, be on a real run for your life! The Warrior Princess is going to chase you until she has you, one way or another!"
Gabrielle had a horrified look on her face. "Aphrodite, what do you mean? Xena already has me, she already loves me, what are you talking about?"
With that, Aphrodite threw out a puff of smoke and was gone. Gabrielle found herself standing in a clearing, holding a bedroll and a bag of scrolls...looking into the most incredibly blue eyes, blue eyes that showed no recollection of ever having seen her before. Blue eyes filled with heart stopping lust and more than a hint of violence. Gabrielle stepped back, attempting to move out of Xenas armlength. The tall, dark haired woman moved into the space as Gabrielle vacated it, staying just within reach of the trembling younger woman. Gabrielle considered running, but felt it would be hopeless, this dark haired woman had very long legs, and could surely run Gabrielle to the ground in a heart beat. Gabrielle had no knowledge of this beautiful womans identity, but certainly understood that she was in some type of danger, some form of jeopardy, if she stayed anywhere near this woman. She again began to take slow, cautious steps backward, attempting to stay just out of reach of this formidable presence. Xena continued to move in on Gabrielle, much as a predator moves in on their prey.
This nice little bundle will be my dessert tonight, maybe I can even get her to cook for me first. I wonder if she's ever been taken by a woman. Well, tonight she will learn what it means to have someone with many skills make love to her. Xena moved closer, and started to reach out to grab Gabrielles arm.
Aphrodite suddenly appeared again, and was obviously very agitated. She flounced around the two women, distraught and distressed.
"Hold it right there, oh great blue eyed, gorgeous package of womanhood! You are like, going at this all wrong! I dont want you to go after Gabrielle like some sort of prize at a fair...the whole idea was to have you seduce and claim Gabrielle like it was the first time you ever met her! Thats why I wiped out both yours and Gabrielles memories. You two fell in love without me, but now, Im in charge. Well see if this is a real love match. I want you to do it my way. After all, I do have a reputation to maintain, and I cant have mere mortals like you going around, falling in love with one another, without my help! Oh, I know you call it interference, but I call it my godly duty! OK, now, Warrior Princess, were gonna start this all over again...and youll do it my way or youll lose Gabrielle."
Xena and Gabrielle had both been stopped dead in their tracks. Aphrodite directed her words toward Xena, while Gabrielle remained motionless. Xena struggled to speak, and Aphrodite, seeing that Xena wanted to say something, imperiously waved her hand in Xenas direction. Xena found that she once again had the ability to have coherent thoughts and voice.
"Aphrodite, what are you doing. Were already very much in love, and its a good thing. Why are you doing this?"
"Because you didn't do it my way," she whined. "I want you to do it my way..thats it! Now get this straight! Gabrielle has no knowledge of your relationship whatsoever, so youre gonna have to start at like, ground zero."
Xena knew she only had moments before Aphrodite would once again wipe out her ability to reason.
"Aphrodite, please, just give me a clue here as to what you..."
Then Aphrodite once again set them in motion.
Gabrielle blinked. Her eyes widened as she stared at the tall, woman warrior with piercing blue eyes. Her head ached and she wasn't really sure where she was. Cautiously she stepped back, not wanting to make any false moves that might cause her injury, or worse, death.
"Hey, don't back away." Xena said tenderly.
Gabrielle stared inquisitively. The woman looked almost familiar, but not really. Her gut was telling her that the warrior wasn't dangerous, but her head was warning her to proceed with care. "Look, I don't want any trouble, warrior. I. . .uh, seem to be lost. I think."
Xena stepped forward, her hands out in front, showing that she carried no weapon and meant no harm.
"What do you remember?"
Gabrielle thought about the question. Raising her head to the sky, she pursed her lips and tried to recall what memories she had. Finally, she shook her head. "I don't remember much of anything. Who are you?"
"My name is Xena. Im a problem solver.... Do you know your name?"
"Yes, I'm Gabrielle and I live in this village. Were in Poteidaia, right?" She asked, begging for reassurance, but realizing that nothing looked familiar.
"No, we're a long way from your town."
"Hmm. I must have been injured. Maybe I was beaten, hit over the head by a bandit?"
Xena had no answer for her that made sense. What was she going to tell her, that she traveled with her, that they had become lovers and that she had just moments earlier had another face-to-face conversation with the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite? She didn't think the young woman would believe it.
"Yeah, I think that's what musta happened. I was chasing a band of thieves and they must have come upon you."
Gabrielle held her bag of scrolls to her chest and eyed the warrior suspiciously.
"Chasing a band of thieves? Are you sure you weren't one of them?" Immediately, she regretted the insinuation for the warrior's eyes narrowed.
"Yeah, they stole my bag." She reached out for Gabrielle's leather container holding her scrolls. "That's mine."
"No, this is mine."
"Are you sure?" Xena raised an eyebrow. She had her!
"Well, no, but I think it's mine."
"Nope." She grabbed the bag from her. "It's mine. These are my scrolls. I wrote them. Those thieves stole them and I chased them here to get back my stuff." Xena's eyes panned the clearing. "I don't know where they went, but I did chase them this way." She stole a glance at Gabrielle peripherally.
Gabrielle quickly searched out the clearing, too. What if the thieves were still lurking? She wouldn't be safe. The warrior hadn't attacked her, so maybe it would be best if she stayed close, at least until she recovered her memory. Those thieves must have whacked her hard. She couldn't remember much of anything except for her name, the names of her family, and some friends.
Xena swung the scroll bag over her shoulder and reached out for Gabrielle. "I've got a fire not too far from here. You can't stay out here by yourself. Those men could come back. Come with me," she didn't exactly ask, but commanded, still reaching for Gabrielles hand.
Whom should she fear more, potential assailants waiting to ambush her or this warrior who could very well be the thief herself? Gabrielle jerked away from Xena's touch. "I'll be fine out here. Thank you, though."
"It'll get cold."
"I've got my bedroll."
"That's mine, too," she said gruffly. Xena didn't want Gabrielle sleeping away from the fire. What she wanted was for her to get her memory back and for the two of them to pick up where they left off. Xena bent and picked up the bedroll which Gabrielle had been using as a cushion and tucked it under her arm. "I can protect you, but not out here. Either follow me or don't, it's your choice."
"I'll do fine until the sun comes up, then I'll head for home."
"Have it your way, kid. Has nothing to do with me either way."
Xena began walking back to her campsite. She could feel Gabrielle's eyes on her, but she kept walking. I don't want to spook her. If I force her, she'll just flee. She can follow. She'll be able to smell the fire.
For several minutes, Xena paced around the fire. She had thought that Gabrielle would have followed just a few steps behind her. She had scoped out the land and knew there weren't any bandits about, but what if Gabrielle got scared or an animal attacked. Slowly, she walked to the edge of the woods and stood just a few yards from the clearing, behind a tree. She could see Gabrielle sitting on a boulder, her arms crossed, hands rubbing up and down her upper arms to keep warm. C'mon Gabrielle, just get up and get over here. Forget your pride.
A candlemark later even Xena wanted the comfort of a warm campfire. She knew the girl must be freezing. Drastic measures were called for. Xena unhooked her chakram from its loop at her side and looked out at the clearing. She saw the boulder where Gabrielle sat, a very short tree stump about seven paces away from her, the only tree in the clearing was about twelve paces on the other side of her and on the ground directly in front of her was a molehill that came up to Gabrielle's shin. She gauged the distances while holding her chakram and looking through it. Flexing her wrist a few times, she smirked and sent the chakram flying through the air. It whizzed past Gabrielle's ear and the young woman flicked her hair beside her ear as if trying to rid herself of a pesky bug. The chakram clanged against the tree, then more whizzing as it traveled across and made contact with the tree stump. Gabrielle heard this second clanging sound and looked at the tree stump expecting to see a squirrel or rabbit, but she saw nothing in the darkness. She did hear, though. She heard that whizzing, whooshing sound again and then a thud directly in front of her. Perhaps a mole was returning to its home, though she didn't really believe it. Finally, the humming crossed very close to her other ear as it nose-dived onto the boulder, then back to the tree. As soon as the mysterious creature hit the boulder, Gabrielle was up and running. She raced across the clearing toward the fire the warrior had invited her to visit. She was running so hard and breathing so loudly that she didn't hear the final whizzing pass her again nor the sound of Xena grabbing her chakram and returning it to her waist loop.
Xena quickly made it through the woods and back to the fire. When Gabrielle arrived, abruptly halting to catch her breath and present a relaxed and brave expression, Xena was seated on a log, stoking the fire with a stick.
"Hey. You decided to join me, huh? Got scared?"
"No, not at all. It's dreadfully cold tonight. Without a blanket or coverings, I was going to catch my death. So, it's okay if I share this fire with you?"
"Knock yourself out."
"Thanks." Gabrielle sat across from Xena and raised her hands to the fire. "This feels great."
"Uh-huh." Now that Gabrielle was back, she could relax her guard, as much as Xena was able.
She picked up her scabbard and unsheathed her sword again to continue the ritual of sharpening she had started candlemarks earlier. When Gabrielle heard the sword being removed, she gave a start and gasped. Was the warrior just waiting for her to come to the fire to kill her?
"What?" Xena asked, oblivious to how her action might be perceived.
Gabrielle's voice trembled. "What are you doing?"
"Sharpening my sword." She answered as if to say, 'duh.'
"Oh, yeah. Right."
While Gabrielle warmed herself, she watched the warrior who was now engrossed in her work. That sure looks familiar, that woman sitting there, by the fire, sharpening that sword...but how could I have ever known her, and why does what shes doing seem so familiar, so comforting?
"What did you say your name was?"
Xena looked up. "Xena," she said, then continued sliding the whetstone across the blade.
"What are you doing here? Out here on your own?"
"To where? Where are you going?"
"Nowhere special. Just traveling."
"Who rides with you? You don't ride alone, do you?"
Xena looked at Gabrielle again. She didn't know what to say or what to keep to herself. She wanted to tell her everything, but Aphrodite could be vengeful. The rule was to win Gabrielle without revealing anything of their recently discovered relationship. Xena shrugged.
"What's that suppose to mean?"
"I'm riding alone right now, I guess. But hopefully that'll be changing soon." Aphrodite, give me a sign for gods sake. How do I do this?
"You're going to meet up with someone? Your boyfriend?"
"No, not a boyfriend."
"Are you married?" Gabrielle couldn't believe she was interrogating this warrior. She was lucky to be alive, yet she knew that these questions might be putting her in danger.
"Oh. I'm not either, but I am betrothed."
"Yeah, Per. . ." Xena caught herself. She had only met the man once and didn't like him. He was everything her Gabrielle didn't need. He lacked adventure, lacked passion, lacked excitement. She was everything Gabrielle could ever need or want. The young blonde woman had told her as much in the cave, had even screamed it out on a few occasions. The memory froze her in her tracks. The whetstone stopping in the middle of her blade.
"What?" Had Xena been about to say Perdicus? Could she know her?
"Yeah, perfect. It's perfect that you're going to be married and he must be perfect for you and you'll be perfectly happy." Why did the name Perdicus make me so mad?
Lowering her head, Gabrielle stared into the flames dancing and leaping from the wood. "It's not perfect, it's just engaged."
Xena stared at her. Please remember me, Gabrielle. Remember something. Don't have memories of him and not me.
"Sorry to hear that." Xena was overjoyed.
"Yeah, well. He's probably worried about me. Do you know how far we are from Poteidaia?"
Xena sheathed her sword, then removed her chakram and placed it on the ground next to her other weapon. "About a four day ride."
"Four days? Gods, how could I have gotten so far from home?"
Xena shrugged and stood. "I dunno." She clumsily unfastened her armor. It hadnt been that long since Gabrielle had joined her on the road, but she had become used to her helping her into her armor and removing it nightly. She loved that ritual and now felt awkward pulling on hooks and yanking on metal. "Aren't you going to go to bed?"
"No, I'm fine. I'm not sleepy." Gabrielle yawned.
"Yes, I can see that." Xena slipped out of her leathers and dropped them onto the ground beside her bedroll. She watched Gabrielle turn away in embarrassment. The woman wouldn't look at the warrior in just her cotton shift. Xena bit her lip. She understood that her memories were erased, but how could all those feelings be gone. Just two nights ago, Gabrielle had pleaded with Xena to 'strip slowly' for her. Xena recalled how Gabrielle's voice had gone all deep and husky and the more attention Gabrielle bestowed on her, the more eager she was to please her. She had stripped slowly; every bit of flesh revealed created another spark catching flame between Gabrielle's legs. By the time she had finished, Gabrielle was like soft clay ready to be molded. Now, Gabrielle turned away, giving Xena a private moment to undress, then slide between the blanket and her bedroll. It was so frustrating. If she wasn't afraid that Aphrodite was hearing her every word and reading her every thought, she would have cursed her up and down Mount Olympus. "Well, I'm going to sleep."
"'Night and thank you, again."
"Yeah, no problem."
Xena sank into her bedroll. Sleep didn't come. She tossed and turned. There has to be an answer somewhere. How do I win her? What can I do or say? She's afraid of me. I took the scrolls that she thought belonged to her, I took the bedroll, I told her there were thieves waiting to pounce on her, I hardly spoke to her this evening unless she said something, but that's my way. Gabrielle knows that about me. She's the talker, not me. Xena sat up with a jolt. That was it. The way back into Gabrielle's thoughts was to talk to her about it, about her life, about her dreams.
"Gabrielle, you should really get some rest, especially if you plan on starting out for your village in the morning"
Gabrielle slowly lowered herself to the bedroll that Xena had purposely placed next to her own. She sat there for a moment, and then cautiously began removing her boots, but not her skirt and top. Xena watched the young womans movements, her eyes hooded, her breathing controlled. When Gabrielle had removed her boots, she laid down on the bedroll and then reached over to cover herself. Xena took this opportunity to help her, and reached over to cover the body that had given her so much joy and pleasure.
"What are you doing? I can do that." She hadnt meant to sound so abrupt, but Xenas attempt to cover her stirred something within her, something that, at least for this moment, confused her.
"I know you can, I just thought Id help you. You dont want to catch a chill. Are you sure you want to sleep in your clothes? Wouldnt you be more comfortable if you took them off?" Xena almost cringed as she said these words. Oh that was good, scare her off before you even have a chance to get her to remember...good work, oh yes, I certainly do have many skills, too bad that none of them are being put to use now!
Gabrielle started to relax, and snuggled down under her blanket. Gabrielles mind was a jumble of thoughts. One, she was at least a four days ride from Poteidaia. So how did she get four days from home? She doesnt have a horse, doesnt even like horses, really. Two, could she have walked? And if she walked, did something so horrible and traumatic happen on the road that caused her to repress her travels? Three, this woman who says her name is Xena is obviously a warrior of some sort, yet she seems kind enough. Four, why was she having these warm feelings about this stranger? Every time the warrior spoke to her, her stomach somersaulted, her heart felt like it skipped a beat, she felt a flush come over her. It was probably all related to fear...but shed been afraid before and it never felt like this. These feelings were different. She felt something akin to a loving warmth....but that was impossible. Why does this woman stir such feelings within me, she touches me in the most casual way and I feel myself get all squirmy. And who is she, I know she said her name is Xena, but I dont think weve ever met before, and yet I feel like I know her! And how in the name of Zeus did I get here, anyway...she said Poteidaia was a four day ride from here, and I dont have anything to ride..how did I get here? Then she realized that she really couldnt get comfortable still dressed...
"Maybe I should undress, I hate to sleep in my clothes. Might you have another shift?"
"No." Xena didnt want her in clothes. She wanted her just the way she had slept with her for moons now, naked, open and warm to her.
One thing hadnt changed. Gabrielle was still modest, and she attempted to remove her clothes while still under her blanket, struggling and twisting, until she finally had removed her skirt and top...and after a few moments of consideration, her britches. She tucked her clothes under her head, and lay down.
Xena propped herself up on her elbow and looked down at Gabrielle. She so much wanted to lean down and kiss her, to touch her, and yet she knew that if she did at this juncture in time, Gabrielle would freak out and the wonderful life they had shared so recently would be a thing of the past.
Aphrodite, I know you can read my thoughts, youre probably sitting somewhere around our campfire right now...
"Youve got that right, warrior babe!" The Goddess of Love appeared in a flash of light, looking luscious, as usual. She was perched on a rock just beyond the campfire, and had the most lascivious grin on her face.
Xena looked at Aphrodite, and then down at Gabrielle, who appeared to be sleeping, oblivious to the fact that Aphrodite appeared.
"I suppose Im the only one who can see and hear you, right?"
"Right again, oh you with the eyes of blue."
"All right, why are you here? What other bit of craziness are you gonna lay on us now?"
"Xena, Xena, Xena, you have such a tude...whatever makes you think that what I do is craziness? After all, love is what makes the world twirl, right? I just like to know that I still have some control here, no biggee, just do it like I say, and things will be OK! Hey, that rhymes..I have such talent, so many skills, just like you, eh, warrior babe? So, how do you think youre doing with Gabrielle so far, think you can get her to love you?"
Xena carefully stood up, reaching down to be sure Gabrielle remained covered, and walked over toward the rock Aphrodite was perched upon.
"Hey, warrior babe, dont get any crazy ideas here, I mean, hurting the Goddess of Love is a definite no-no...I do not do well with pain, not even at all! I mean, I know some of you mortals like a little pain now and then, seems to make a big impression during you know what time, but me, I never could understand how...."
"Aphrodite, Im not going to hurt you, after all, youre a god, and Im just a mere mortal, so youve got the upper hand here. I just thought it might be better if we talked over here, and let Gabrielle sleep undisturbed."
"Not to worry, you of the legs that go on forever. I am only appearing to you, you lucky woman, you! She is totally, like, unaware of me being here, or of us talking! Isnt being a god a hoot? It is soooooo good. Now, what is your plan, what is the deal here, like, how are you gonna do this?"
"You seem to be the one with the plan. You said it had to be your way. Of course, you havent told me what your way means. So, Aphrodite, I am clueless. I love Gabrielle with my entire being, and I want her back, back the way we were. Come on, give me a break here, let me know what you want."
Aphrodite sat on the rock and looked at Xena, almost as though seeing her for the first time.
"You know, warrior woman, youve given me a really gnarly idea here, yeah, I think I know just what Im gonna have you do, or not do, actually. Instead of me telling you what to do, I want you to do whatever you think you should do...if I dont like it, Ill just pop up and wipe it off that little blondes memory."
"Aphrodite, that really sounds unfair, even for you! Youre gonna set the rules? Fine. I have to follow your rules? Fine. Youre telling me to do whatever and if you dont like it, then youll change it? Not fine. Not fine, at all. Understand? If were gonna do this, set the rules and then live with them.
Aphrodite looked as though she was getting really aggravated. She had a pout on her face as she slid down off the rock and began to flounce back and forth in an exaggerated and effeminate manner. She stomped and flounced, until she finally seemed to have it all out of her system.
"OK, warrior woman, Ill set the rules...here goes, wanna take notes? No, Gabrielles the scribe..cant have her doing that, so, anyway, here goes...first, you do whatever you think will work, without telling her outright that you are, or were, lovers. In fact, warrior babe, I dont want you to let on just how close you two really are at all! And second, oh, this is a good one; I am soooooo good....you have to do it before the sun comes up tomorrow! Now, get moving gorgeous, cause youre running out of time!"
And with a flash of light, she was gone.
Xena stood as though stunned. Great. I can always count on the gods for a meaningless exercise when Im just trying to live my life. I have only until the sun comes up...come on, X:WP, this is it, its now or never, and no way is it going to be never! With that, she bolted back to the bedrolls, and practically threw herself down next to Gabrielle. Gabrielle, meanwhile, stirred slightly, turned, and looked at Xena, who was trying to get under the blankets as quickly as possible.
"What are you doing? Why are you thrashing around like that? Are we about to be attacked? Whats happening? Give me back my blanket, Im cold!"
Xena grinned down at the young woman, and continued to snuggle down under the blankets.
"Gabrielle, Ill keep you warm, just move over here and snuggle up against me. And lets talk, OK? We can sleep anytime, but lets spend the night talking. You go first! Tell me about Poteidaia and that guy youre betrothed to and whatever else. Ill bet you like to talk."
Xena almost gagged over what she had just said, and how many words she had used to say it. This is so not like me, oh, this better work. Gabrielle, you dont know how much I want you, how much I want us to be like we were, so please work with me here, I know that if you had any memory at all, you would want the same thing. We were so good together, we're so good for one another.
"You want to talk now? Its late, I was just falling asleep, and I have to start out for home tomorrow, let me go back to sleep," Gabrielle said with a pout, and then yawned to make her point
"Ya know, I dont get to spend much time with people out here. Im by myself right now. Its just so different to have someone sharing my campfire." Xena hoped that this didnt sound as lame to Gabrielle as it sounded to her.
But her statements did persuade the young woman. Gabrielle sat up, covering her naked body with her blanket and part of the bedroll. She looked hard and long at Xena. "Youre lonely!"
"Yes, right now I am. But youre talking....go ahead, tell me something."
The storyteller in Gabrielle was about to be unleashed. Xena could tell by the glint in her eyes.
"Well, lets see." Gabrielle cocked her head to the side as she thought about a good beginning for a story about her lackluster life in Poteidaia. There didnt seem to be even one interesting story to tell. The warrior wouldnt want to hear about the time she and some friends skipped stones in a pond or how she and her sister sneaked looks at their Solstice gifts days before the seasons change. What could she say about Perdicus? That he was stupid and boring and dull and would make a fine husband and their future would be just as boring as her present life in her parents home...Nah, that wouldnt make an interesting story either.
"Im thinking, Im thinking."
"Okay, how about this? Do you have any sisters or brothers?"
"I have a sister. Shes two years younger and her name is Lila. What about you?"
"I have a brother named Toris. Hes a few years older. My younger brother, Lyceus died over ten winters ago. Killed by a vicious warlord who attacked my home village."
Gabrielle listened and something clicked in her brain, but whatever was there was instantly gone. The name Lyceus sounded familiar and him being murdered by a warlord seemed like something she had heard before. She shook her head. It could be that she was just remembering a story once told to her. The village elders were so full of warning tales about evil warlords terrorizing small towns.
"Your parents, Gabrielle? Are they alive?"
"Yeah. My mother is named Hecuba and my father is Herodotus."
"Do you get along with them?"
"My mother and I are close." Gabrielle hesitated, then added. "I really dont like my father."
Gabrielle had never said this before. This was news to Xena. She knew that Gabrielle found her father difficult at times, and from her stories he seemed strict, but she had had no idea that Gabrielle didnt like him. Xena nodded. "Why dont you like him?"
Somewhat conspiratorially with a bit of guilt squeezed in for good measure, Gabrielle said, "He makes me do things I dont want to do. He tries to get me to be something I dont want to be and dont think I could be, anyway."
"A farm girl happy to be marrying a farm boy." The thought of actually having to marry and live with Perdicus gave Gabrielle a chill and she rubbed her hands vigorously up and down her upper arms.
"Im all right."
"Here, come closer. I wont bite you. Or hurt you." Xena reached out for Gabrielle and pulled her down beside her. "You can keep the blanket around you to protect your virtue." Xena laughed.
"Im not afraid of you. I feel like Ive known you for a long time. Thats not possible. Is it? I mean, for all I know maybe we do know each other. I feel like the goddess Mnemosyne or Lethe has cast a spell on me. I dont remember the last four days at all. Im assuming its four days since Im four days from home. Could it be longer?"
"I ...I just met cha. I dont know how long youve been on the road." Xena felt her stomach lurch as she lied to her lover. She had made a silent and personal vow to herself never to lie to Gabrielle, and now she just had.
"So, your betrothed? Whats his name again?" Xena asked as she wrapped her arms around Gabrielle.
She snuggled in closer, allowing Xenas entire body to wrap around her as they lay in a spooning position near the fire. "Perdicus. Thats his name. Its not that I dont like him because hes a good friend, but he just isnt for me."
"Who would be for you?" Xena felt her heart picking up speed. Maybe this would be the turning point. Quite possibly Gabrielle would remember the one person in the world, the woman who was made just for her.
The blonde expelled a sigh. "Oh, I dont know. Someone with a sense of adventure. Smart. Witty. Sexy."
"Sexy, huh? What qualifies as sexy?"
"I never really thought about that until just this second."
"Close your eyes, Gabrielle. Who do you see in your head when you think of the one made for you? What does that person look like?"
Gabrielle did as commanded, but after a few seconds she shook her head. "I dont know."
"Try." Xena whispered into her ear.
Gabrielle turned to face her and when she did, the blanket slipped down slightly revealing her creamy shoulders. Xena starred into her eyes.
"Who, Gabrielle? Tell me."
Another flash, a click and then the image was gone. For a fleeting moment, Gabrielle had sensed something familiar again. This scene in particular, being held by the warrior in just this way had happened before, she was sure of it. But Gabrielle knew that wasnt possible. The moment passed and everything seemed a mystery again.
She closed her eyes and softly repeated Xenas question. "Who? Tall, I think. With long, dark hair and radiant blue eyes. Strong, unbelievably strong. Good with their hands, tough, yet gentle and so smart and interesting. Kind of quiet, maybe. . Id probably do enough talking for both of us." Gabrielle ended with a laugh.
Xena chuckled. "You just described my brother Toris. Maybe I should take you to Amphipolis and introduce you."
"Amphipolis? Thats in Thrace, isnt it?"
Xenas eyes enlarged. This was one of the first things Gabrielle had said to her when they first met. The Bard had eventually followed her to her home village.
"Ever been to Amphipolis?" Xena asked haltingly.
"No, never been. Ive never been out of Poteidaia. Except for this mystery trip Ive taken. She paused. "Your brother really looks like what Ive described? " And so do you, Xena.....so do you!
"Yep, and hes smart, too."
"Hey, youre betrothed." Xena lightly punched Gabrielle on the shoulder. "Yep, he still lives at home."
"Oh." Gabrielle seemed dejected by this news. "Never left?"
"Nope, he never wanted to."
Gabrielle took a deep breath. She was about to make a second confession to this stranger. "You know, Xena, Im going to end up in Poteidaia forever, but by the gods, I dont want to. I might go mad there."
"Then leave Poteidaia. Dont go back. Stay here with me." Xena, with her arm draped around Gabrielles shoulders, began to massage one of them with her hand...making small circles on the smooth skin.
Gabrielle warmed at the suggestion. She liked snuggling with this woman and somehow the warrior of few words brought out truths in Gabrielle that she would have never admitted to another. There was comfort in their present situation and a familiarity that was bordering on the absurd. Of course, she was confused about how she got here and why this woman was protecting her. And she knew that Xena was protecting her, .keeping her out of harms way from bandits, rapists, warlords, slavers, and perhaps controlling her own violent warrior tendencies. A woman traveling dressed in leathers and battle armor, carrying a wicked sword and that round killing thing had to be considered dangerous. Gabrielle knew she might be an innocent, but she wasnt naive...or stupid.
"I have to go back. I have to marry Perdicus."
"Why? You dont even love him."
Gabrielle was almost certain she detected a quivering in Xenas voice, perhaps she was cold as well. The young blonde woman moved in closer, wrapping her arm over Xenas chest. Xena took the opportunity to lightly kiss the top of Gabrielles head.
Gabrielle backed up slightly and stared at the warrior. "Whyd you do that?"
"I..I was just trying to comfort you. I didnt mean anything by it. Im sorry."
"Its okay. I needed it."
"If you stayed with me, I could give you what you need." Xena blurted out and then cringed when she realized how that statement would sound. She knew Gabrielle would see her as a bragging warrior who wanted to prove her sexual prowess to her. "I didnt mean that the way it sounded."
"Its just that I could use some help....."
"Yeah, I noticed that you have two of everything. Dishes, mugs, bedrolls, blankets. Did your friend just recently leave?"
"Why did your friend leave?"
"I cant really say. She just left." Xena didnt want to lie to Gabrielle, but she had agreed to do this Aphrodites way.
"Something you did?"
"No, not at all. We were good friends. Best friends."
"What was she like?"
"I dunno. Just a girl. Funny, kind, a friend to everyone, very pretty, long blond hair, green eyes, very pretty."
Xena pulled back and smiled. "Oh, yeah. Very much so. Thats a strange question."
Gabrielle cautiously sat up, making sure she wasnt exposing too much of her body and reached behind Xenas head for the bag of scrolls. "Well, lets see. You like to write, did you write about her?"
Xena sat up, too, letting her blanket fall as she turned and grabbed the scrolls from Gabrielle.
"No. Uh...I dont let other people read them."
Gabrielle found herself staring at Xenas bare chest. She couldnt tear her eyes from the roundness of the warriors breasts and the taut nipples at their peak. Just as Xena turned to face her, Gabrielle lowered her eyes and stammered, "So youre a warrior and a bard?"
"Uh huh. I guess." Xena smiled.
"But you dont want to share your stories? Cmon, tell me one. I love to hear new tales. What are yours about?"
"Our..I mean my adventures."
"I love adventure stories," Gabrielle said while looking just above the head of the seated warrior. She refused to make eye contact for fear her eyes might travel lower. "Please."
"Uh, okay. Lets see." Xena never covered herself as she sat cross-legged and confident on her bedroll searching the many rolls of scrolls to find a story to tell. She opened one and read the title to herself, Dreamworker. Well, she didnt want to even think about the time she almost lost Gabrielle and practically died herself trying to get her back. The Reckoning. Nope, absolutely nothing about the gods. Ares or Aphrodite, theyre trouble I dont want to think about right now. Chariots of War. Oh yeah. Xena remembered this one, but she didnt want to relive her feelings about that boy that Gabrielle had fallen for. All of these stories focused so much on her as the warrior. She had to find one that featured Gabrielle, but she supposed that the Bard seldom wrote about herself.
As Xena searched the small bag of scrolls, Gabrielle stole furtive glances at the partially exposed warrior. She was a gorgeous creature to behold and the young Poteidaian woman felt her own heartbeat quicken at the vision before her. Gabrielle, in her past with her girlfriends had never really desired any of them, but she had always been curious about what a woman might feel like in her arms. She and Perdicus had hugged hundreds of times and even kissed once or twice. She had found his touch rough, the stubble on his face a bit scratchy, the massive chest too much. She wondered how it would feel to kiss a woman, to sit by the hearth and hold her hand all night, or to run her hands down her body, to feel the curve of her waist, her hips, the softness of her breasts. Whoa. Oh, by the gods, where did that come from? Gabrielle covered her mouth with her hand and looked frightened.
Xena sensed the change in Gabrielles demeanor and looked up. "Something wrong?"
"N-no..Im fine." Gabrielle lowered her eyes again. "Find a story to tell me?"
"Yeah. Here we go. The Titans." Now this was a Gabrielle story. Xena quickly glanced at it and decided it would be too difficult to read it while trying to remember to switch and omit names. She rolled the parchment back into the cylinder and stuffed it into the bag. "Ive got it pretty much memorized."
"The TitansI love the myths about the old gods."
Xena smiled and said, "Oh, but this is no myth. This is true and it happened not too far from here and not so long ago."
Gabrielle scooted closer. "Really? What?" She was wide awake now and eager to hear the story.
Xena knew she wouldnt do it justice, but she cleared her throat anyway. "Uh. Okay. Lets see. I was traveling down a road a few villages from here with my friend..."
"Whats your friends name?"
"She does have a name, doesnt she?"
"Sure. Its..." Xena ran through all the names she could think of. No one possessed the qualities of Gabrielle, no one even came close, but the bard was waiting. "Mavis. Her name is Mavis."
"Umm. Thats unusual. Go on. You and Mavis were walking down a road..."
"Mavis thought I was treating her like a kid again, but I wasnt. I just wanted her to be more cautious on the road. She had made a couple of mistakes that could have been deadly. Anyway, she was kind of mad or frustrated or something so she went off in one direction and I in another. I guess she ran across some villagers who were inside this
cave trying to coax the Titans our of their eternal slumber behind the caves walls."
"Oh yeah. Zeus put them there. Ive heard about this."
"Right, so Gab---Mavis listens to what this young village woman is chanting and realizes that she is not saying the chant correctly, so of course she offers to help them. Mavis is like thatalways trying to help people whenever she can. They needed a virgin to say the chant, and at the time, she was." Xena paused and looked at Gabrielle who sat spellbound.
"So she takes the scroll and does the chant thing and the walls start to crumble and three Titans are released."
"Wow. Shes powerful!"
"More powerful than she even realizes."
"The Titans are grateful to the virgin goddess and try to please her at first, but soon grow tired of being lead around by her. Especially when they realize that shes merely a mortal."
"Uh-oh. What happened?"
"Well they started terrorizing the village and the villagers and thats it."
"Thats it? That cant be it. Where were you? Where are the Titans now? And what happened to that poor village and those villagers?"
"I came up with a couple of plans and things worked out and then we left." Xena said nonchalantly.
"You know, youre not going to make much of a career out of being a bard. Youd better stick to life as a warrior. I bet there was so much more to the story."
"Well, thats basically it."
Xena wanted to hold Gabrielle closer and she reached out to her. She would go slow and if Gabrielle objected, shed stop, but she wanted her warmth. Gabrielle allowed Xena to pull her in and they lay side by side on the bedroll. The younger womans blanket had fallen away and when Xena pulled it up to cover her, she covered herself as well. Underneath the blanket, the two women lay naked, Xenas strong arms wrapped around Gabrielle, providing the young woman with a wonderful feeling of warmth.
Gabrielle surprised herself when she didnt flinch or draw back. In fact, she moved in closer, loving the feel of her skin against the warriors, Xenas breasts pushing against Gabrielles back. The warriors leg was wrapped protectively around her. She was equally surprised that this wonderful contact hadnt made her lose her voice. She just felt very at ease.
"You need to add chaos, fear and jealousy, definitely jealousy! You need for the Titans to really threaten the town and the virgin goddess, I mean Mavis. Im sure youre modest this way, but you probably saved the lives of hundreds of people, so you need to add that. And everyone loves a story about a damsel in distress. Maybe you saved Mavis from sure death."
"Its a thought. If I were Mavis and mad at you for thinking of me as a child, I might want to prove that Im not. Freeing the Titans would be one way, but maybe I might also strike up a friendship with one of the locals. In my case, some boy to make you see what youre missing and to prove that Im not some dumb kid."
Xena detected anger in Gabrielles voice, the same anger that she expressed during the time of the Titan adventure. "You would?" Xena slowly pressed her leg into Gabrielles hip while turning her torso ever so slightly to feel Gabrielles breast against her arm as she held her close. Gabrielle moaned softly, but neither encouraged or turned away.
"Yeah. I would. If I could show you that someone else found me desirable, maybe youd realize that Im not a little girl. Youd want me, the way I want you." Gabrielle whispered the final part of this.
"You know, there was a boy. A young priest that Mavis latched onto. Do you think it was to make me jealous?"
"I dont know. Im just saying what I might have done."
"Ill add that to the story. I like that part."
"No offense, Xena," she said while turning slightly and lightly tapping the warriors shoulder, "but your story needs a lot of work. There just isnt any oomph to it. I hope the others arent like that." The tapping stopped, but Gabrielle didnt move her hand. At least not at first, but after a moment, Xena felt the hand slowly moving down her collarbone and across her chest where it rested.
Xena calmed her breathing before responding. "When I tell them, Im afraid theyre probably all pretty dull."
Gabrielle could feel Xenas long legs against her own, she felt the beautiful warmth emanating from the warriors body, and started to relax. Then she realized that she was truly enjoying the contact, enjoying it in ways that at once seemed familiar and yet also foreign. What is going on here, this feels so good, so warm, so wonderful. I never felt like this with anyone else. Strange, too, it feels like Ive felt it before, but thats not possible, not possible at all. I like this, I could get used to this real fast. Who is this woman, and why do I feel like I know her, and yet I dont. Im so confused!
"Youre imaginative. My stories could use your touch," Xena said and thought, I could use your touch. Please remember me. We dont have much time. Please remember me. Remember what we have.
"So, Gabrielle, tell me about yourself. You got me side-tracked." Xena was having a hard time thinking about talking, she loved the feel of Gabrielle against her, she wanted more. I know I have to do this, but I would much rather be loving Gabrielle, having her love me. I want to feel her respond to my touch, to call my name, to look at me with so much love in her eyes, I could die and never want for another thing.
"I have no idea what you want me to talk about. I mean, Ive never done anything worthwhile, I have no talents, no skills, nothing, actually. Im just sort of a nobody, and certainly Im a nobody out here, since I have no idea how I got here, or why Im here."
Gabrielle sounded distressed. "Gabrielle, you are certainly not a nobody...and as for skills and talents, you have many skills! Sometimes, people dont realize what theyre capable of until theyre face to face with a challenge. Maybe youve just never been challenged."
"Marrying Perdicus is a challenge. Believe me."
"Then dont. Stay."
"I dont...I dont think I can."
Xena bent to kiss her softly on the lips. She buried her face in Gabrielles hair, inhaling the fragrance, feeling her sense take flight. She hasnt pulled away from me. She must have an inkling of something. This must feel right to her. It feels so right to me.
"Gabrielle, you smell and feels so good. Are you warm enough? This is a great idea; both of us keeping warm together like this? I love the way you feel. Your skin is so soft." Xena paused. She was saying too much. She reminded herself to take it slow. "Stay. Okay? Think of the stories Ill never be able to tell cause theyre so lousy."
By the gods, such soft lips she has. I wish shed do that again. Gabrielle leaned in and returned Xenas kiss. She knew she wanted more.
"What are your dreams?" Xena asked as she let her hand slide down Gabrielles body. She smiled when Gabrielles eyes closed and she felt her ease into the touch.
"Thats all I do is dream. Mostly dreaming of getting out of Poteidaia."
"Heres your chance." Xena couldnt take the slowness of this anymore. She pushed her body against the smaller womans and kissed her again. This time her lips lingered and Gabrielle parted hers in acceptance. Xena hungrily kissed her and when they parted, they were both breathless.
"I know you, dont I?"
"Gabrielle, we just met."
"That cant be true," she said as she turned just enough to rub her breasts against the warrior.
Xenas eyes were lost behind hooded lids. She swallowed hard. "It is."
Xenas hand, which had been resting on Gabrielles hip, moved up. Cautiously, she softly stroked just below Gabrielles breast, teasing but never quite reaching her intended goal. Again, she heard a soft moan come from Gabrielle. Her hand hovered over Gabrielles breast as she looked into the girls eyes.
Gabrielles heart pounded in her chest, and despite the cool night she was beginning to perspire. It was a mystery, but hearing Xena talk and touch her this way made her feel so warm and cared for.
Xenas hand continued to hover, waiting for Gabrielle, while Gabrielle held her breath, waiting for what she so strongly sought. Xena heard another soft moan from the young woman. Im getting so wet. I wonder if she can feel how hard my nipples are against her skin. Gabrielles hand came up to rest against her own. She half expected the young woman to move her hand away from her breast, but instead Gabrielle took Xenas hand and squeezed it. Now both of their hands were inches from Gabrielles breast.
"Can I?" Xena asked.
"Yes." Gabrielle gasped.
Xenas hand lowered onto Gabrielles breast and both women moaned with the contact. Gabrielles heart pounded fiercely. She might or might not know this warrior, but she knew she wanted her. She had never wanted anything so much. She was very aware of the dark haired womans hand, squeezing, making circular motions over her nipple.
Glazed-over eyes stared at Xena. Gabrielle bit her lip and whispered, "Im a virgin."
"But..." Gabrielle moaned.
"Do you want me to stop?"
"No, I want more," she answered breathlessly. I love the feel of this womans body against mine. I wish this night would never end. Four nights from Poteidaia. Thats not enough time. Four nights isnt long enough to be away from Perdicus. I have never felt these feelings with Perdicus. Not once. Not even close.
"Ill give you all of me. And take all of me, too. I want to be with you. Ive never been more sure of anything." Gabrielle held the warriors hand on her breast. Xenas hand was large, but soft and warm, not at all like the hand she would imagine belonging to a warrior.
Dueling thoughts fought for control. Gabrielle desperately wanted to continue, but she wasnt feeling quite sure of herself. She felt both disoriented and grounded. For the first time in her life, she felt totally grounded and wasnt sure why.
"Xena, I must have been hit over the head. You seem to know more about me than I know about myself. Tell me, how did I get here? Ive got to know before we...this goes any further." I feel loved. Ive felt that before. Ive felt this warm and loved and it wasnt with Perdicus. Ive felt it just as strong as it is now with this woman. I know this, but when, where, how and with whom? Her hand is so hot on my breast. My hand feels so warm against hers.
"Oh, Gabrielle. That is so good." Xena turned so that she was on top of Gabrielle. "I want and need to be with you."
Xena groaned softly and the younger woman took a deep breath, making herself brave enough to speak her mind. "I like the way this feels. I dont want you to stop. I dont know why all this is happening, but I have to see it through. I dont know what comes after this, but it doesnt matter." Somehow, even though no one has ever touched me before...Im almost certain I have never experienced anything like this before..yet I feel as though I recognize her touch. What is happening to me? And why do I have such complete faith and trust in this warrior woman?
Xena bent and captured Gabrielles lower lip between her teeth. She nibbled at it, then sucked it into her mouth. Gabrielle gasped and her chest rose for Xenas hand. The kiss deepened and Gabrielle groaned in pleasure. She knew she was wet between her legs. She was shyly ashamed and yet filled with wonder at this reaction her body produced.
As Xena began to push her body into Gabrielles, gently sliding between her lovers legs, feeling the juices flowing from Gabrielle, she too moaned with desire.
"Tell me, tell me the truth," Gabrielle requested as she pushed into Xena. "Oh, gods." A pause. "I must know you. This feels right. This is right. Help me to remember," Gabrielle said with a trembling voice.
"I cant tell you more. Just relax, okay? Gabrielle, dont worry. I wont hurt you. I know youre having a hard time trying to understand whats happening. Its hard for me, too. But I think things will become clearer for both of us. Just keep talking to me, tell me what you think, what you are feeling, what you want. Ill help you remember what youve forgotten." I hope Im not going to fast, but time isnt on our side. We have just a short time until daybreak. I have to help her find our love again. This has got to work. Im not going to lose Gabrielle. No god is going to take her from me...this is going to work. It has to work.
Im losing my mind! Gabrielle thought as she ground her center into Xenas thigh. "Oh, sweet gods!"
"Gabrielle, itll all come back. Let me hold you, keep you warm, safe, its what I do." But Xena was doing more than just holding her, keeping her warm...Gabrielle was hot, with a raging white heat, ablaze with beautiful passion.
Gabrielle, I love you so much, I can only say so much right now, but when this is all over I promise Ill never stop telling you how much I love you.
"Oh by the gods...Ive never felt so...your body is so....ohhhh, so very warm." Gabrielle loved the feelings coursing through her.
"Come on, Gabrielle, keep talkin to me, its really important that we talk to one another. Its important, especially is we want to get your memory back!" Xena broke contact, but remained over Gabrielle.
"What does that mean? Have I been enchanted? A sorcerer?"
"Gabrielle, I cant say." Xena bit her lip in frustration.
"Do you want to keep talking or...Will I get any answers from you if I keep talking?"
"Maybe, maybe youll get the answer on your own."
"Will I get any answers from you if we keep doing what were doing?"
Xena laughed. "Well, Im liable to say just about anything in the heat of passion."
When Gabrielle heard Xena say those words, heat of passion, she pulled the warrior to her again, pushing down on the tall womans ass, pushing into her body, making as much contact between them as she could.
"Ah, oh, Gabrielle." Xena rocked against the young womans thigh, her long, dark hair falling onto Gabrielles face.
"Who are you, warrior? Who am I?"
Xena stopped. This was wrong. She couldnt take advantage of Gabrielle in this condition. She wanted her Gabrielle back, not a Gabrielle who couldnt remember the time they had spent together. Not a Gabrielle who couldnt remember their love, and their lovemaking. She pushed back and sat up.
"Wait. We need to work out some things before this continues."
"Wait? You are the strangest warrior I have ever met."
"How many warriors do you know?"
"Well, none, but youre different, thats for certain."
"Youve got to recover your memory, Gabrielle. Before anything else, you need to do that."
"But how can I if I cant remember anything and you wont talk."
"You talk. Thats the key."
"I dont know what else to talk about, I feel so strange, laying here, with your arms around me. It feels so natural, and still so strange! I wish I knew what was going on, I hate this not knowing." And with that she began to cry.
Xena tightened her arms around the young woman, and pulled her even closer. "Gabrielle, its OK to cry, youre confused, you dont know whats happening. Just trust me, please and talk to me."
"I ca..caant taa..alk, I feel soooo ba..d." Gabrielles sobs became even louder, more heart rending.
"OK, then Ill talk and you listen, but you have to promise to stay awake and listen..I know how you are when youre crying, then you get all tired and you fall asleep..."
"So you do know me. Tell me more," she said between sniffs.
Xena realized she had just said something that might just possibly cause the Goddess of Love to have a hissy fit..shed made reference to their past together. But I didnt say anything about us being lovers, so it should be all right. Actually, all that blonde bimbo said was that I couldnt tell Gabrielle that we were lovers, and that I only had until dawn.
" Now remember, you have to stay awake, its important."
"I will, I will, I promise."
"OK, Gabrielle, Im gonna tell you some stories..."
"Not from your scrolls? Theyre not very good, Xena. Im sorry. Im sure you tried, but you dont really tell a very good story."
"The bag of scrolls I took from you isnt mine, its yours! The bedroll is yours, too. I said it was mine just to get you to come back with me so you wouldnt sit out there in the cold all night. Im sorry but it seemed like the only thing I could do to get you to come back here to the fire and safety. Your scrolls are full of poetry and romance." This better work, and work fast, or Im gonna be in big trouble. I love this woman. Last night we made love for hours. Last night I was begging her to release my pleasure. Gods, we started out wrapped in each others arms just like we are now. I love the way she feels, the way she smells. Oh, this is gonna be so hard.
"The scroll bag is mine? How come I dont remember any of that, I mean, I sort of remember, but then, I really dont. Can I see them?"
"Why? Maybe itll trigger something in my memory." Gabrielle continued to weep. She had never felt so insecure, frustrated or stressed.
"Lets just see what we can do on our own together. Remember, not everything you write in your scrolls is the exact truth. See, you and I have been traveling together for a long time, we have been friends for a long time. Does any of this seem to ring a bell?"
Xena held her breath, waiting for Gabrielles answer...only to hear a soft snore come from the young woman in her arms.
"GABRIELLE! You have to stay awake! Come on, now!"
Xena shook Gabrielle, who sputtered and then came fully awake, ready to punch Xena for waking her before remembering the situation they were in. She quickly calmed down, and started to apologize.
"Im so sorry, I know I promised, but when I get nervous or cry or..." she paused, "excited...the only thing that calms me is sleep. And I feel very sleepy. Plus, I felt so comfortable, so protected, that I just drifted off. Please, keep talking, Ill stay awake this time."
"No, this isnt going to work, Gabrielle, you cant stay awake when were lying like this. I know you so well, even if you dont know yourself right now. This isnt going to work. So, I want you to sit up, Ill sit up, Ill keep my arms around you, and you can lean back against me. I wont let you fall asleep again."
"Why cant we sleep for a couple of candlemarks and then well start fresh. I mean, why do I have to stay awake, anyway, why cant we just go to sleep and we can do all this talking stuff in the morning."
What could Xena say? That there would be no tomorrow for them if they didnt get through tonight? It was the truth, but too painful to contemplate.
Gabrielle had positioned herself between Xenas long legs, the warriors arms were around her, she leaned back and could feel the touch of Xenas skin against her own. She began to have strange stirrings within herself. What is with me? Im sleepy. Im confused and I want to kiss her, touch her, and have her touch me. Im losing my mind, I am definitely losing my mind. Maybe the Furies have cursed me for something. Maybe for not really loving Perdicus the way I should. Gods, her skin! Her legs...they go on forever! Her smell! I feel it again, like Ive been here before, sitting like this, with this beautiful womans arms around me.
"Do we sit like this often?"
"Yes, do you remember?"
"Yeah, a little bit, I think I do remember. I have this vision of a cave, of animal skins for a bed..Im losing my mind, Im sure of it!
Gabrielle caressed Xenas legs, massaging the calf muscles, tickling behind her knees.
"Stop it," Xena warned lovingly.
"Dont you think wed get my memory back faster if we acted on these feelings instead of just talking?"
"I dont think we can. I think Aphrodite might..." Xena froze. What had she just said? This could cost her big time. Everything might be ruined because she accidentally said too much. Maybe Gabrielle wouldnt notice?
"Damn." Xena paused. "Yeah, Aphrodite. Gabrielle, listen to me. Youve lost your memory because Aphrodite wanted to play a nasty little trick on us. I cant tell you everything, but I need to keep talking to you, keep you talking to me, so that youll eventually remember everything and then well be free of Aphrodites spell. A lot of this will depend on how well I can fill your head with memories of our life together, but most importantly, you have to remember the most important part, the part I cant tell you! I know this all sounds like gibberish, and actually, the whole situation is nuts, but you know how the gods are, how they love to play with us?"
"OK, Ill try to do whatever it is Im supposed to do..
Xena sighed in relief. As the warrior began the story of the two of them, she shifted her body slightly to create even more intimate contact with Gabrielle.
Gabrielle listened intently, however she found it difficult to concentrate due to the sensations she was experiencing, the feel of Xenas arms around her, the touch of Xenas skin against her own, the warmth of Xenas breath against her neck as the tall woman told Gabrielle of their life together.
"Xena, let me ask you a question, please?"
"Of course, Gabrielle, ask me anything, anything at all."
"Well, I really dont understand everything that is going on here, although obviously I have a good reason to not understand anything, since I dont have any memory...but I think the thing that bothers me the most is why! I mean, why did Aphrodite do this to me? I never did anything to her, did I? I mean, I dont think I did, at least I sure dont remember ever doing anything to her, of course I dont remember anything so it sure is possible that I did something that ticked her off, but..."
Xena interrupted Gabrielles rambling..."Gabrielle, I understand youre confused, so am I, actually, but the fact remains that for whatever reason the Goddess of Love just decided to play around with us. You didnt do anything to tick her off, and I didnt do anything either. Hey, but how are we mere mortals supposed to know what makes them nuts and what doesnt. Anyway, according to the rules Aphrodite set down for this stupid little game shes playing...Im supposed to do something, without telling you what it is Im supposed to do, and I can do it any way possible, but I cant tell you what it is that is supposed to happen after I do the thing that Im supposed to do...." She sighed in frustration, realizing how ridiculous everything she had just said sounded. She tightened her arms around Gabrielle, and put her face into the young womans hair, breathing in the essence of the woman she loved, her eyes closed, tears forcing themselves out behind her closed eyelids.
"Xena, I know you believe what you just said, and I know I have to trust you that you know what youre doing, and what youre telling me. The thing is that even though I have no real memory of having known you, of our supposedly having been together for some time, every few moments I get these flashes, these bits and pieces, but I cant make sense of them. I even believe you, but me? Knowing a warrior? Its incredible. Living with a warrior? Thats just unreal. Well, just let me say that I do sort of remember some other things, too. She blushed. "And those memories or flashes are even harder to believe. Why would you want me?"
"Gabrielle, how could I not want you?" Xena asked honestly.
"Its sort of nice, I mean, some of the things that I sort of remember are very nice! Like right now, sitting this way with your arms around me, this makes me sort of remember, or at least it feels like weve done it before. Does that make any sense, does it help at all?"
"Oh, Gabrielle, youve no idea how much that helps, it means that whatever it is that were doing here is working, we just have to keep doing it!"
Xena continued to hold Gabrielle against her, even as she felt her heart swell with hope upon hearing Gabrielles words. This might just work, it has to work, I wont live my life without Gabrielle, shes my life, shes the light in my life. Not Aphrodite, not any of the gods are going to keep us apart.
"Gabrielle, keep talking, keep thinking about what weve said here tonight. Its gonna work, I promise it will. You need to think about the adventures weve had, think hard, Gabrielle, bring it all back into your memory, you can do it, youre a strong person, just keep doing what youre doing."
"Let me read the scrolls.."
"Nope, way too much information. Youve got to do this on your own, with my help." Xena began rubbing Gabrielles shoulders.
"Remember how we met, in Poteidaia...remember the slavers that tried to take all of you away from your village? Remember how bravely you fought them, how we fought them together? Remember how you followed me, insisting that you wanted to have adventures, you wanted to learn from me, you wanted to have experiences so you could write of those experiences in your scrolls? Remember how I tried to discourage you from following me? You were so strong, and stubborn. You wouldnt give up, you followed me. Does any of this seem familiar to you?"
Gabrielle sat wrapped in Xenas arms and thought about all the things Xena had just said. She thought long and hard, trying to understand the feelings she was experiencing, the things going through her mind, the warmth she was feeling within her body, the tingling sensations she felt wherever Xenas skin touched hers.
"Gabrielle, please answer me, are we getting anywhere here?"
"Yeah, I think we are getting somewhere. Its still blurry, like, I almost have it, and then it fades away. I do sort of remember meeting you, in my village, the slavers, you not wanting me to follow you...Wait a minute! I do remember. You didnt want me around, you didnt want me to follow you, you were really kind of mean to me...I remember following after you. Walking. A LOT OF WALKING!"
Gabrielle twisted around in Xenas arms, and looked up into her face. "Why didnt you want me around? I do remember having to chase after you. Hey, I also remember showing up a couple of times just in time to save your bacon!"
"You did NOT show up in time to save my bacon. Ive always been able to save my own bacon, but youre right, I did try to discourage you. I didnt want you to have to live the life I lived, the fighting, living on the road, having people remember the old Xena, the dark and evil Xena..."
"Dark Xena, yeah, I do remember that, I mean I remember how you were torn by your past! I remember that, I do! You were a warrior, you lead an army, you raped and pillaged, and then you had a conversion....thats when I met you! I remember! Xena, I remember!"
"You were my true conversion."
The young womans excitement at remembering the past was contagious. She grabbed Xenas arms and pulled them around her body, hugging the tall, dark woman with joy and exuberance. Xena responded with equal joy, recognizing the first real break through that had occurred since starting this Aphrodite inspired journey.
"We need to keep going here, Gabrielle, were gonna make it! Come on. Do you remember wanting to learn how to handle weapons, do you remember any of that?"
"Weapons? I dont think so, I dont like weapons, actually, I dont like fighting, Id rather talk my way out of....wait, something is coming back to me, talking my way out of things. I do remember! I remember you told me that rather than fight I should run, and if I cant run, I should get the bad guys to fight one another and then I should run, and if that doesnt work I should talk...you told me Id be good at that because I talk a lot! Yeah, I do remember that. Does that really help us though? Theres more to it than me remembering this. More you cant tell me?"
"I mean, what difference does it make, so we knew each other before, I mean, thats very nice, but does it matter now? Does it make any difference to what has happened now?"
"Gabrielle, it makes so very much difference! Keep thinking, think back and remember how our friendship developed, how much we began to mean to one another. I cant help you very much now, I cant tell you what you need to know, you need to remember on your own. Work at it, Gabrielle, I know you can do it."
Xena continued to hold the young woman in her arms, then she had another idea. I think its time to add some more fuel to this fire. Lets see if this stirs anything in Gabrielles memory. If this doesnt bring her to the brink, I dont know what will!
"Gabrielle, I want you to turn around and face me. Here, just turn, put your legs over mine, I want us to sit face to face for this part."
Xena helped Gabrielle turn, placing the young womans legs over her own, so that her feet were in back of Xena. They repositioned themselves so that they were just inches apart. Xena wrapped her arms around her precious lover, pulling her even closer, while Gabrielle, tentatively at first, and then with purpose moved even closer to this tall, beautiful woman and wrapped her arms around her.. Xena reached out and made sure they were covered by their blankets, tucking the blanket down around Gabrielles butt, making sure her shoulders were covered. The last thing she wanted was for Gabrielle to feel chilled; knowing it would distract her from working on remembering.
"Are you warm enough? Move closer to me, Ill keep you warm, Ill keep you safe. Now talk to me, tell me what else you can remember."
Gabrielle looked down at their naked bodies, at how close they were to one another. She realized that this felt familiar, comfortable, She also realized that she was feeling aroused by their closeness, and that she certainly wasnt embarrassed by it!
"Xena, I want to ask you a question. Were sitting here, totally naked. Im working on getting my memory back, and youre trying to help me without doing something that youre not sposed to do, according to Aphrodite. Do I have it right so far?"
"Yes, Gabrielle, you have it exactly right. Now just keep going, itll be daylight soon, and we have to keep going here! Whats your question? You can ask me anything, anything at all. Ask away!"
"OK, here goes. How come were sitting here, working on my memory, but a part of me wants to work on you right now. Im feeling very warm, very aroused, very...very, sort of, uhh, very...."
Gabrielle felt her face get warm, her cheeks felt flushed, the flush worked its way down her neck and to her chest. She lowered her head, feeling that she had said the wrong thing, and that she had botched the whole thing, attempting to ask such a personal question.
Xena looked down at her lovers beautiful, bright red face and smiled. I think were almost home free, Gabrielle, just stay with me here, were gonna make it! She removed one arm from around Gabrielle and reached in to cup Gabrielles chin in her hand. She raised Gabrielles face up to look into her own. Gabrielle kept her eyes downcast, obviously struggling to keep from looking at Xena, also obviously struggling to hold back tears.
"Gabrielle, look at me! Now! I want you to raise your face and look at me!"
The young woman slowly raised her face and looked into Xenas blue eyes. She saw the beautiful smile on Xenas face, and felt her own doubts and misgivings begin to lift. She began to understand, to remember the way things were, the life they had shared together.
"Xena, its coming back. I think Im remembering. I remember being on the road with you. I was a real pain in the neck; you would get so mad at me when I wouldnt listen. We kept running into robbers on the road, so many times I would make things worse by getting in your way, causing you to trip over me. You were so patient, or at least patient for you. You kept trying to get me to listen to you, to obey you. You wanted me to learn the ground rules of traveling with you. Oh no, I remember something else, too...thats when Aphrodite showed up. I couldnt hear her or see her, but you could. You had me over your lap, you were spanking me, I mean really hard, for not listening! That was awful! I remember after that happened though I really started making an effort to behave, to listen, to obey when you told me to do something. We continued traveling; we were going somewhere special. Thats what you said. I remember being with you. A cave, a beautiful cave. Food, lots of food, a wonderful pool for bathing, food, good food, a big, warm bed, deep with furs, all sorts of wonderful things to eat, a special place for Argo. Argo! Your horse is named Argo! Xena, its coming back! We had this wonderful cave, all sorts of good things to eat, we had..." Gabrielle suddenly became quiet again, and her blush returned in full force.
"Xena, we made love, we made love over and over again. It was wonderful. We had found one another, we became soulmates, we stayed in the cave for a most wonderful period of time, but then, you insisted we had to leave. I remember I tried so hard to convince you that we should stay, but, as usual, we did things your way. Then I remember we had a lot of adventures, I wrote about them in my scrolls. We were on the road. But why...why is it.. why cant I remember anything after that, I mean, were obviously here."
Xenas joy at hearing Gabrielles description of their life together, of her regaining her memory, was nearly overwhelming. The sun was just beginning to lighten the horizon, and the time given them by Aphrodite was nearly expired, yet they had done it, they had gotten Gabrielle to remember their past, their love. She looked down at that wonderful, open, loving face and nearly cried with joy.
"Gabrielle, I love you more than life itself. If this hadnt worked, if you hadnt remembered our love, I dont know what I would have done. Youre my life, my joy, my reason for living."
"Xena, would you please stop talking and kiss me? I honestly dont know what to do with you, you talk way too much." Gabrielle wore a huge smile, as she reached up and pulled Xenas face down to hers.
They kissed passionately; separating only when a stream of white light sliced between them and Aphrodite appeared.
Xena tightened her arms protectively around Gabrielle. "Okay, Goddess of Love. I kept my end of the bargain. Gabrielle remembers everything now."
"Just barely, warrior babe, just barely. There were a few times there when you got way to close to spilling the love beads, as it were. I was like, watching you and so could not believe what I was seeing and hearing! You like, told her everything practically."
"I did not."
"So this is over?" Xena continued to hold Gabrielle close to her, while they both stared at Aphrodite.
"Yeah, its over. I guess. It was fun though, Xena, seeing you struggle with carrying on a conversation of more than two words strung together at a time! Did it hurt? Having to actually, like, talk?"
"Im so glad that you had some enjoyment from all of this, Aphrodite. Now, it would be..." Xena looked down at Gabrielle, who had a moment before pinched the warrior in an effort to shut her up before she said something to irritate Aphrodite and get the Love Goddess all stirred up again.
"What Xena was about to say, Aphrodite, is would you be so kind as to leave us now so that we might spend some private time together...we would be ever so grateful."
Gabrielle smiled up at Aphrodite with an expression of such sweetness that Xena almost felt like laughing, but thought better of it. Gabrielle was right, no sense in stirring things up. She looked down at the young woman in her arms and held her comments to herself. Id like to tell the goddess of love to get lost..but Gabrielles way is better.
"Fine. Im just so out of here...this little game was getting boring anyway."
She disappeared as quickly as she had appeared. The two women looked at one another and laughed.
"Gabrielle? I have one more question. That young temple priest who helped you with the Titans? Was that really just to make me jealous? I mean, when I looked in on you and you were on the same sleeping pallet....that was all just to get back at me?
Gabrielle smiled, then said, "Mavis, how could you possibly think such a thing?"
The two women remained wrapped in each others arms, as Xena said softly, "Praise Aphrodite, even if she is a pain in the ..." Gabrielle silenced her with a kiss.
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