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This is an original work of alternative fan fiction. No profit will be gained from its production. It was written for entertainment purposes only. This piece of fiction is copyright of the author.
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Romantic love between consenting adult women
Hereís something that I started a long time ago. After re-reading what I had already done on it, I decided that it was too much fun to just sit on my hard drive. So, I finished it up, and here it is. Enjoy : )
Forbid the Flesh
Copyright January 10, 2004
Gabrielle looked over her shoulder one last time and waved goodbye to Tara and Andros. "They make a nice couple," she commented to her companion as they crested a rise and began their descent.
Xena grunted noncommittally as she rubbed her lower abdomen. "I'll be back," she groaned as she headed towards an outcropping of rocks that would provide her some privacy. A moment later, she called out, "Hey, Gabrielle, do you have any old parchment that I can use?"
"Sure," the bard replied as she dug into her bag. "How's this?" she asked as she handed over an old scroll.
"Perfect," the warrior sighed. "Thanks."
"No problem...but next time, why don't you stay away from the stuff you don't recognize?"
"Hey, I'm not the one that ordered the food," Xena replied. A few minutes later, she stood and adjusted her britches.
"How was I supposed to know that the mighty Warrior Princess had a wimpy stomach?"
"You watch your mouth, Scabrielle," the warrior warned as she rejoined the bard and they continued down the road. "There is nothing wimpy about me!"
"Uh, Xena...the fungus is long gone, so you can cut out the name calling."
"Make me," Xena taunted as she positioned her fingers for a nerve pinch.
"Big, bad warrior," Gabrielle mumbled with a small grin. Taking one of Xena's hands in her own, the bard asked, "Where to now?"
Scratching Argo on the neck as they walked along the barren road, the warrior shrugged. "We can continue going west...see what we run into. Eventually, weíll make it to the coast and we can catch a ship back to Greece."
Not looking forward to a boat ride, the bard was silent for a moment as she thought about the last town that they visited. "You know, it was strange how those people worshipped Calliope. How do you think a Greek god found followers so far away from Greece?"
"Probably started with a merchant or some soldiers. I wouldn't be surprised if we encountered other signs of Greek influence."
"But it was so weird how they twisted the Muse's message...that dancing was forbidden."
"People create their gods in their images so that their morals can be justified. It's how they live with clear consciences," Xena replied.
Gabrielle chuckled and shook her head. Squeezing Xena's hand affectionately, she remarked, "You get more philosophical every day. I think we better get back to Greece and warn Socrates that you're about to take over his job."
"Sorry, no can do, Gabrielle. I'm not going to spend my afternoons waiting for the boys to come out of the gymnasium. You, on the other hand," the raven-haired woman said as she bent her head to nuzzle her companion's fair hair, "are a different matter."
"You'd wait for me?"
Xena grinned wickedly; her pale blue eyes lit with illicit thoughts. "Nah, if you were inside wrestling naked, I'd come in and join you."
"You're just so romantic, Xena," the bard said with an answering smile.
"Hey, I danced with you, didn't I?"
"You also danced with Autolycus." Gabrielle tried to release Xena's hand, but the warrior held firm.
"I did not dance with him. He danced with me. What was I supposed to do, drop kick him into next week?"
"You could have told him about us."
"Gabrielle, I think he already knows. It was harmless fun. You know how he is."
The bard stopped in the middle of the road and scowled. "Xena, he told me that I needed to get laid."
Xena's eyes narrowed to menacing slits; she growled low in her throat. "He what?"
Gabrielle grabbed Xena by the armor when the warrior spun in place and began to walk back the way they had come. "Wait!" The bard hung her head when Xena turned to look at her. "I'm sorry. You're right. He's harmless. He just took me by surprise when he said it."
"Well, you have been rather ornery lately," Xena said with dry amusement as she hooked a finger under Gabrielle's chin. "So much pent-up energy," she murmured as she lowered her mouth for a gentle kiss.
For a moment, Gabrielle returned the sweet contact, but then she stepped back. "I feel the need to dance coming upon me," she whispered as she raised a trembling hand to push a stray hair from her face.
"As long as you dance by yourself in that general direction," Xena said as she pointed down the road, "then go for it."
The bard's feet began a staccato rhythm as she once more took Xena's hand in her own. "How long do you think these metal patches will last on my boots?"
"You keep this up, it won't be long," the warrior smirked.
"Well, I have to do something," Gabrielle pointed out as she began thumping her staff on the road in time with her feet.
"I told you what we can do, but you want to wait," Xena replied.
"You know why. I thought I explained that to you."
"Gabrielle, we've been together for over three years now. How much longer do you think we should get to know one another?"
"But the first year or so, we were just friends," Gabrielle said. "And the second, we were really good friends, and the third, well, I won't even go there," she finished with a painful look.
"That's all behind us now," Xena said as she laced her fingers with the bard's. "We're only looking towards the future, now. Right?" she asked with a gentle smile.
"Right," the bard repeated, nodding her head for emphasis. "Any way, I want this relationship to be special. I don't want to jump into the bedroll just because we love each other. There has to be some sort of transition time between the declaration and the consummation."
"So you've told me already," Xena said with a sigh. "If you want to wait, then I'll wait. You know what you mean to me, and I promised that I would consider your feelings from now on."
Gabrielle smiled widely and cocked her head. "That is just one of the reasons why I love you so much."
"Are you still going to love me if I say that we should get on Argo and cover some distance before night falls?"
"Oh, I'll still love you, but don't expect my butt to be nice any time in the near future."
Xena leaned back to get a good look at the aforementioned body part. "I don't know, Gabrielle, I think it's real nice."
"Deviant," the bard mumbled as she released Xena's hand and smacked the taller woman on the arm gently. "Are we going to ride, or not?"
"Yep," Xena replied as she rubbed her arm absently. Planting her foot in the left stirrup, she mounted easily in one fluid motion. She offered her arm and pulled Gabrielle up behind her. "Nice round breasts and a firm young ass," she whispered as she kicked her warhorse into motion.
"What did you say?" Gabrielle asked as she tightened her left arm around her partner's waist.
"Oh, nothing, just thinking aloud," Xena replied loud enough to be heard over the sounds of Argo's hooves.
The sun was setting in a dazzling display of hues of orange and red; the flat land far on the horizon shimmered with the remaining heat of the day. Xena and Gabrielle were still on Argo, although their pace was slow as they made their way to a scrub of trees that would offer them some shelter for the night.
"If you aren't going to eat what I bought in that last village, what are you going to have for dinner?" Gabrielle asked.
"There's probably some lizards around that are edible," Xena answered as her eyes scanned the area for any scurrying creatures.
"That is disgusting," the bard commented with a look of distaste.
"Not as disgusting as it would be if I ate more of that foreign food and you ran out of usable scrolls, now, would it?"
"You've got a point." The bard leaned back when Xena reached for her chakram. Her eyes widened when the round weapon whooshed through the air and became lodged in a gnarled tree trunk. Dismounting, she followed the path of the weapon to find the twitching carcass of a large reptile. Holding it up delicately by the tail, she grimaced. "I think I'll stick to what I bought," she said.
Xena smirked knowingly and jumped from Argo's back. Leading the mare closer to the trees and some short, coarse grass, she asked, "Are you sure? There's plenty of meat on that one."
"Oh, I'm positive," the bard replied. "You can get your chakram," she said as she walked towards a clearing and laid the lizard on the ground; she began to gather fallen pieces of wood. "I think this guy's head is still on it," she added with a slight shiver.
"I thought you liked my chakram. You can never seem to keep your hands off it."
"Not at the moment, I don't," the bard replied with a tolerant smile.
Chuckling lightly, Xena retrieved her weapon and pulled a rag from the saddlebags with which to clean it. Once the weapon was clean again, she hooked it to her hip and began unloading their gear from Argo. By the time she was finished, Gabrielle had a fire started.
"Do you think it's going to be cold tonight?" the bard asked as she kneeled in front of the fire and rubbed her arms.
"Yeah, it will be. We'll have to share a bedroll again."
"Just my luck," Gabrielle mumbled. "You are going to keep you hands to yourself then, right?"
Xena's face opened into an incredulous expression. "Me? I'm not the one talking and acting out her dreams. I thought you were, you know, making a move," the warrior explained with a thrusting hand movement. "How was I supposed to know that you were still sleeping?"
Gabrielle opened her mouth to return a sarcastic reply but thought better of it. Knowing that Xena promised to honor her desire to wait for the consummation of their relationship, the bard could not come up with anything to refute her partner's explanation. Instead, she arched a brow and pointed to the lizard carcass. "How should I cook him?"
The warrior shrugged and tossed the bedrolls toward the bard. "I don't know. Put a stick up his ass and put him over the fire."
"Oh, now I see why I'm the cook around here," Gabrielle said with a snort. "Is that your solution to everything? Put a stick up itsÖ."
"Would you like to find out?" Xena interrupted with a taunting grin.
The bard grinned with false humor and nodded. "Maybe later," she retorted as she found a fairly straight piece of wood and picked the lizard up by the tail. With a judicious eye, she studied the possibilities.
"Here," Xena said as she bent to one knee, took the lizard from Gabrielle, and quickly gutted the carcass. "Just be a sweetheart and make me dinner, please?"
"Sweetheart? Dinner?" Gabrielle tapped the stick against a firm thigh and narrowed her eyes. "Did I miss the ceremony?"
Xena chuckled as she stood to care for Argo. "If you don't cook it, I will," she warned.
The bard shrugged until her mind followed the tangent; she winced and then cringed a moment later. "I'm right on it," she replied as she unceremoniously skewered the lizard and arranged a spit from additional pieces of wood. "I'd hate to see this little guy go from one senseless death to another."
"Still the cynic," Xena said with a grin. "What would you do if I ever did manage to cook a decent meal?"
"I'd try hunting again," the bard replied with a short laugh.
That evening after dinner was eaten and the nightly maintenance was performed, Xena and Gabrielle lay in their shared bedroll and watched the stars. The bard's head was cushioned by her partner's shoulder and Xena held her familiarly.
"It's funny how the stars look the same no matter where we are," she said with wonder.
Xena shifted slightly so that she could capture the small Amazon's hand. "Actually, if you were to go far away from here, the constellations would be in different places."
Entwining her fingers with Xena's, the bard guessed, "Like in Chin?"
Although she had been thinking of the recent past when she had gone to find Gabrielle in the Amazon Land of the Dead, Xena nodded. "Yeah, somewhere like that." Unconsciously, the warrior tightened her hold on the other woman; she sighed in relief when the bard rolled to her side to snuggle in for sleep.
The time that she had been without her beloved Gabrielle was one of the worst of her life and she never wanted to be parted from the other woman again.
"Does it bother you that I want to wait for a while before we get physical?"
"Gabrielle," the warrior sighed with exasperation, "we've had this conversation before. I told you that I would wait because I want what you want. If you aren't comfortable, then it won't be very enjoyable for me either."
"Do you want to, you know, with me?"
"Of course I do," the warrior answered quickly. "You know that."
"I suppose," the bard whispered as she tucked a hair behind her ear. "How do you handle the excess energy?"
For a moment, Xena was confused as to what the bard was talking about. Then, remembering the bard's need to dance, she smirked. "Well, it isn't so easy out here in the desert, but I usually just take a cold bath."
"And what do you do when you can't?"
"Well," the warrior replied slowly, "I handle things on my own."
The bard nodded in understanding. "I always thought you used warrior control or something mystical like that."
Xena laughed softly and bowed her head to kiss the bard's head. "Sweetheart, there's nothing mystical about being horny. It happens and I deal with it."
"I'm glad I'm not the only one, then," Gabrielle replied with a yawn. Lifting her head, she smiled sleepily until she was gifted with a slow, gentle kiss. "Goodnight, Xena."
Half an hour later, lulled by the soft snores of her lover, Xena closed her eyes and fell into a dreamless sleep.
The next morning, the couple was walking down the same desolate stretch of road. The desert had little to offer in the way of color or enticing scents, but Gabrielle was still in awe of her surroundings. In the light of the early sun, the landscape was a majestic tapestry. For miles around, there were only sand and large rocks. Few plants were able to survive the hostile environment. The animals, however, flourished. Every so often, the bard would catch sight of some creature scurrying back to its home after a night of hunting through the cold evening.
Just the thought that life could exist in such adverse conditions fascinated Gabrielle; it reinforced her belief that life was sacred and profound. With an added bounce in her step, she followed Xena and the warrior continued to travel down the dusty road.
Some time around noon, they spotted in the distance a walled town. As they came closer, they could smell the delicious aromas of rich food that drifted on the faint breeze. Immediately, the bard's stomach began to growl.
"You could eat anything, couldn't you?" Xena asked with some mirth shining in her eyes.
"I'm so hungry right now," Gabrielle replied without thinking, "I could eat you." When Xena's eyes darkened with a sudden wave of desire, the bard blushed. "Um, maybe not," she recanted with a weak chuckle. "Sorry for drawing that picture for you."
Xena arched a sculpted brow and shook her head. "Let's find you a meal before we get any deeper into this."
Gabrielle laughed, causing Xena to stop. "What?" the warrior asked.
"Are all of our conversations so full of innuendo?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Deeper, Xena? I think there is some subconscious desire that you are attempting to hide here."
"My sweet bard," the warrior replied quietly, for they were entering through the opened gates of the town, "nothing is subconscious. I know what I want to do, how I want to do it, and with whom I want to do it. The only thing we haven't learned yet is when."
"We'll know when the time is right," Gabrielle replied dreamily.
Xena snorted and rolled her eyes briefly before concentrating her attention on the townspeople that regarded them with curious caution.
"It has to be perfect, Xena," the younger woman continued. "There should be wine and good food, a nice, thick mattress, and a hundred candles casting our room with golden light."
"Well," Xena replied under her breath, "that shouldn't be too hard to manage." Nodding towards a dull brown mud-brick structure, the warrior said louder, "That seems to be the tavern."
"Thank the gods," Gabrielle sighed as she pushed the damp hair off her face, "I could use a drink right now. My throat is as dry as this sand that seems to be everywhereÖincluding in my breeches."
"I'll take your word on that," Xena replied with a smirk. "Come on," she said as she tied Argo to a hitching rail, "let's get you that drink before you throat's so parched that you can't talk anymore."
The bard narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Widening her eyes innocently, Xena feigned indignity. "Who, me?" When the bard snorted on her laughter, the warrior flashed a lop-sided grin. "Gabrielle, if I wanted you to shut up, I'm sure I could find much more creative ways to do it than to let you dehydrate." Leading Gabrielle, Xena made her way to the nondescript building from where the aromas of food were emanating.
Gabrielle was quiet for a moment as they entered the tavern. She learned long ago that this was one time to be silent - when Xena scoped out a place for trouble. Briefly, she stood patiently behind her partner and then followed when the taller, more imposing woman led the way to a corner table. Once they were seated, the bard resumed her chatter.
"Well as long as they has something sweet and not warm here, I'll be happy." Looking around, she puckered her brow; her nose creased in a way that Xena found intriguingly adorable. "Where's the serving woman?"
Before the young blonde could let loose with a few mumbled expletives, a reserved woman arrived at their table to take their orders.
She bowed slightly before asking, "What will it be for you ladies?"
Answering the server's arched brow with one of her own, Xena replied, "Two ciders, if you have it."
"That we do. Will you be having a meal?"
Xena grimaced in memory of her last tavern meal and she looked questioningly at Gabrielle.
The bard, fearless when it came to most food, seemed famished as she answered with a hearty nod of her head. "I'll have the special, whatever it is."
"And for you?" the server asked Xena as her gaze became condescending.
"Do you have any bread or fresh fruit?"
"Weíve just run out of fruit, but we do have some bread crusts left."
"Iíll have the bread, then, and some cheese," Xena replied; her face became an impenetrable mask.
"I'll return right away with your drinks. Your food will be ready soon."
When the serving woman left them alone, the bard turned to her friend. "Well, so much for friendly service. What do you think that was all about?"
"Donít know, Gabrielle. Donít care. I just want to eat and find somewhere to wash up. You arenít the only one with sand in her breeches."
When the serving woman came back with their food, Gabrielle inquired about the cost of a room.
Again, the woman eyed them with distasteful scrutiny. "Theyíre five dinars a piece," she replied.
"Oh, weíll share a room, so weíll only need one," Gabrielle replied.
Abruptly, the woman left them to go over to the bar. Gabrielle shared a confused look with Xena as the serving woman spoke with the barkeep. The bard noted the way that Xena's body shifted when the barrel-chested man came out from behind the bar and approached them.
When they underwent the same examination from the barkeep, Gabrielle was about to explode in a tirade. Xena subtly cleared her throat to warn her to behave.
"Mistra says you ladies want to share a room."
"Is there a problem with that?" Xena asked smoothly.
"In this town, if you arenít husband and wife, or kin of some kind, you canít share a room."
"Let me guess," Gabrielle drawled, making an effort to keep the sarcasm from slipping off her tongue, "itís against the law."
"You know of the goddessí law?"
"Weíve heard of it, but weíre a little fuzzy on the details," Xena said as she kicked Gabrielle under the table. The bardís ears were beginning to turn a bloody shade of red, a sure sign of an impending diatribe.
"The goddess forbids the shameless sharing and display of flesh," he lectured with a frown to the womenís dress.
"And which goddess denies friends the freedom of sharing a room to save money?" Gabrielle asked through a smile that barely masked the grinding of her jaw.
"The Virgin Goddess Aphrodite," Mistra replied.
Xena turned her head to spray cider away from the table. Between the barmaidís revelation and the slack-jawed astonishment of her partner, the warrior had trouble controlling the reaction. Seeing that Gabrielleís lips were fluttering with a response, Xena warned, "Let it go, Gabrielle." With the back of her hand, Xena wiped the drink dripping from her nose.
The bard turned incredulous eyes to Xena; her lips continued to move like a fish out of water. "ButÖ."
"Not now. I want to eat and get cleaned up."
"After youíre finished eating, you might want to stop my Estromenesí shop across the square to purchase some proper clothes."
Xena nodded at the barkeep as she chewed slowly on some bread. "Weíll consider the advice."
Once the warrior and bard were left alone with their meals, Gabrielle found her voice. "What is it with these towns? Has the desert totally baked their brains?"
"Obviously, Gabrielle, our Aphrodite isnít the same that these people worship."
The bard snorted. "If they think weíre flaunting our flesh, they should get a look at the real Aphrodite."
"Sheíd never believe it unless she was here to see it," Xena commented as she sliced a chunk of cheese from her plate. "And donít even think of calling her here," the warrior warned.
Gabrielleís hoped that her innocent smile was convincing. "I wouldnít do that, Xena." When she received only a disbelieving snort from Xena, she rolled her eyes and huffed. "Really," she muttered to herself. "Youíd think I was always getting into trouble or something."
"Oh, your heart is in the right place," Xena consoled the bard. "Your common sense just sometimes takes a vacation when your heart gets the urge to do a good deed."
"Ha ha, warrior," Gabrielle deadpanned.
Xena smirked then winked at her lover. "I wouldnít want you any other way, Gabrielle," she stated softly.
"I do make life interesting, donít I?"
"Thatís an understatement," Xena replied. She turned her attention to the crowd of the tavern as she continued to enjoy her simple meal. The patrons at this tavern were very subdued. Other than the occasional odd look towards her and Gabrielle, they kept to themselves. Remembering what the barkeep had said about the shameless flaunting of flesh, Xena studied the dress of the women. Every one of them was completely clothed from head to foot. Mantles covered their hair and faces; long, flowing robes disguised the shapes of their bodies. Only their hands and eyes were visible.
After studying the local women, Xena turned her attention to her lover. The bardís body was sharply defined with firm muscle, which was displayed delectably. Her scanty attire served a purpose with freedom of movement in battle. Among the Amazons, she blended in as much as a queen could. Surrounded by shrouded women, however, her tempting curves were very conspicuous.
Xena brought her attention back to Gabrielle's face. "Nothing."
"Xena," Gabrielle admonished in a quiet voice, "youíve been staring at my breasts. What were you thinking?"
The warrior shook her head at the seductive little smile on Gabrielle's face. "Itís not what you think. I was thinking that maybe we should stop and pick up some clothes while weíre here. The less attention we draw, the better," Xena finished.
"Are you serious?"
"I donít need any trouble, Gabrielle. As long as we go with the flow here, we can enjoy a bit of down time. This seems to be a quiet town. We can get some supplies and I can finally finish the repairs I should have done a long time ago to Argoís bridle."
"When in Rome?" the bard asked with a bit of scorn. When Xena flashed her a warning look, the bard acquiesced. "Sorry, wonít mention Rome." She held up her hands to show her surrender. "I suppose clothes like those could work well for a disguise if we needed it on a mission."
"Thatís thinking positive," Xena replied. She concentrated on finishing her bread and cheese, looking up only when Gabrielle sat back to pat her stomach in satisfaction. Quickly finishing her own plate, she left money for their meals. Silently, she led the bard out of the tavern. Shading her eyes from the glare of the sun, she studied the small town square until she saw the clothing merchant. "Come on, letís get local."
Gabrielle shook her head as she followed Xena. Within a candlemark, they were clothed like the local women.
Xena's brow rose when Gabrielle's eyes crinkled with a smile. "What?"
The bard stepped close to the warrior to whisper into her ear. "I never realized how sexy you could be with all those clothes on. All I see are your eyes. When I look at them, I want to know what the rest of you looks like. I mean, thatís if I didnít already know what you looked like under that robe."
"Of all the places for you to find your libido," Xena commented. "Letís just try to stay out of trouble for once, okay?"
"Oh, Xena," Gabrielle admonished. "I donít always have to go looking for trouble. Sometimes it finds me." Again, the bard thought about the townís belief of Aphrodite.
"Youíre scheming again."
The bard blinked as she looked at Xena. Shaking her head, she replied, "Thinking is not scheming."
"When you get that light in your eyes, itís scheming," Xena retorted. "I want to enjoy some quiet time, Gabrielle. Please donít stir anything up. Setting one town straight a week is my limit. Youíll have to wait until next week to do it again."
Together, the couple left the robe merchant and returned to where they had left Argo. The horse snorted in greeting as Xena untethered her from the hitching post. "Letís go see if we can find a leather smith. I need a couple of buckles to finish these repairs."
As Xena dealt with the smith, she kept stealing glances at Gabrielle. The bard, who usually took an unnatural pleasure from haggling merchants into submissiveness, had let the warrior handle the transaction. Xena could almost see the cogs turning in the bardís brain as she busied herself with other matters. Once the buckles were purchased, Xena nudged the distracted bard and together, they left the smithy. "Whatís going through that busy little mind of yours, Gabrielle?" she asked once they were out in the square.
"Thinking about our last adventure," Gabrielle replied.
Looking into the bardís expressive eyes, Xena resisted the urge to sigh. "Whatever you are thinking, stop thinking it. I am not going to cause any trouble here. I just want to have a day of peace so we can make repairs and stock up."
"Since when is love considered a violent thing, Xena?" The bard raised her eyebrows in challenge.
"Never mind obsessive, abusive, psychotic lovers?"
"I was thinking of a solution for this town," the bard continued, nonplussed.
"Not that Iím going to let you do anything," Xena interjected, "but what plan are you conceiving?"
"Well, if we got the last town to realize their misinterpretation of Calliope by dancing, wouldnít it make sense to teach them about Aphrodite by starting an orgy?" The bard continued walking towards the small oasis where they had left Argo. She did not realize that her companion had stopped upon hearing her question. When she realized that she was alone, Gabrielle stopped and turned. "Xena?" Backtracking, she stopped in front of the warrior; she looked up into shocked blue eyes. "Xena, whatís wrong?"
The warrior blinked as she recognized the concern in her loverís eyes. "Forget it, Gabrielle. We are not interfering."
"We wouldnít have to," Gabrielle argued as she kept pace with Xena, who resumed their trek to Argo. "All weíd have to do is call Aphrodite. Sheíd be more than happy to do the rest. You know how she is about her reputation." Reaching out to grasp Xena's arm, she pointed to the tall granite statue of the goddess in the middle of the square. "See that?" she asked. "Is that Aphrodite? No. That is an abomination of our friend. She has a beautiful body. Why would she cover it up?"
Xena set her jaw and continued walking. Gabrielle still had not helped her see a reason why they should get involved.
More determined than ever, the bard caught up and continued. "Look around, Xena. Have we ever been in a town that has so few children? At least the ones that havenít been raided by scum that kidnap children, that is. All this lack of bodily sharing means no children. And the ones that do come along have no one to play with. Look at the little one over there just sitting in the dirt and playing with that stick. Does he look like heís having fun?"
Still, Xena refused to budge. Finally, they reached Argo and she set about making the repairs on the warhorseís bridle. Grabbing her saddlebag, she found a small bench and sat upon it. She focused totally on her task. She ignored the fact that a small body had just invaded her personal space in a very sensual way.
Breathing towards the spot where Xena's ear was concealed by the thin mantle, Gabrielle asked, "And what if I decided right now that I was ready for us to consummate our relationship? Where would we go? How would we get a room in order for me to give you the gift of my body?"
Xena shrugged as she tugged the bridle strap through one of the buckles. "Iíd throw you on Argo and weíd ride like Hades to the next town."
"Right now, Xena," Gabrielle taunted as she pressed a full breast against the warriorís arm. "I want you to take me, to consume me right here and right now. Make me cum all over your face and hand."
Xena's eyes grew wide as she felt the flush of desire creep up her chest. Her thighs twitched where they longed for fuller contact. Dropping the bridle into her lap, she turned to give Gabrielle her full attention. Licking her lips, she had to clear her throat before she could voice her thoughts. "First, I know that you are just teasing me so that Iíll help you with this plan, which, by the way, is still not a good idea. And second, I am not going to let you use this as an excuse to take that last step. Youíll only regret it later. Making love to you will not be part of some mission."
Seeing the resolution in Xena's eyes, Gabrielle huffed in disappointment. Crossing her arms, she looked over at the statue. "Fine," she relented. "Iíll stop offering you my body and Iíll stop trying to help these poor repressed people." She moved a discrete distance from the warrior and stewed over the townís morals.
Hoping that Gabrielle had truly given up her intentions, Xena returned her attention to the bridle. Whenever she took a moment to watch Gabrielle, the bard was in deep thought, staring at the statue. Despite her words to the contrary, the warrior knew that before their time in the town came to an end, Gabrielle would end up getting them involved in the townís affairs.
Half an hour later, Xena looked up when Gabrielle rose and began walking towards the statue. Behind the veil that covered the majority of her face, her mouth trembled along the lines of a smirk. The bard had surprised her with a constraint that lasted longer than usual.
Gabrielle looked up at the fully clothed statue of Aphrodite. To her, it seemed like a foreign goddess and not one she knew as a friend. The statueís eyes were stern and matronly, unlike the effervescent personality Aphrodite truly was. Walking around the statue, the bard studied the offerings left for the goddess. There were fruits, grains, flowers, and even a side of meat. The bard wrinkled her nose at the sight of flies buzzing all over it. She forced a smile when a young woman approached the statue with a jug under her arm. "Making an offering of wine to the goddess?" she asked pleasantly.
The young woman bowed her head shyly and shook her head. "The goddess does not approve of anything that might lead to revelry. She drinks only water from our oasis and fresh goats cream." Setting the jug at the foot of the statue, the young woman turned to Gabrielle. "Youíre not from here, are you?"
Chuckling at the young womanís wide eyes, Gabrielle shook her head. "No, I travel with a partner. We fight for the greater good."
"Oh," the young woman replied. "There is nothing but good in our village. It is peaceful and quiet."
"So Iíve seen," the bard replied, fighting to keep the sarcasm from her tone. "Is there a temple to Aphrodite here?"
"The Great Virgin is worshipped over there," the young woman replied, pointing to what might be considered the most opulent building among the wooden and mud structures. It was of modest size, but was of carved stone and embellished with shields of gold.
"Thank you." Gabrielle reached out to touch the young woman, but then pulled back when she saw a wary flinch. "Iím sorry. I just wanted to go pray to the goddess. I think I could use a bit of divine guidance right now." The bardís eyes crinkled with a smile.
"May the goddess grant you strength in chastity," the woman replied as she looked at the bard oddly.
As the young woman walked away, Gabrielle muttered under her breath, "Iíd be surprised if Aphrodite knew what chastity was. This is like a town full of Hestian virgins." Seeing that Xena was almost done with her repairs, Gabrielle sauntered back over to her. She sat down with an expulsion of breath.
"Still determined to "fix" this?" Xena asked.
"This is just too odd, Xena."
"Odd does not mean bad, Gabrielle."
"Are we staying the night tonight?"
Xena looked sideways at her lover. A brow rose as she put her tools back into her saddlebag. "I didnít think youíd want to stay," she said as she rose to hook the bag over her saddlehorn. "Besides, didnít you say that we would never be able to get a room?"
"Did I say never? I could get one if I wanted," Gabrielle replied confidently. "I think Iíd rather sleep outside tonight, though. One can never get enough nice hard ground to sleep on."
"Uh, huh." Xena eyed the bard skeptically. "And just where do you want to bunk down?"
"Oh, I donít know," Gabrielle replied as she scanned the small village. Pointing across the square towards the temple, she suggested, "Thereís a nice patch of trees over there. Iím sure we would have enough room for the two of us and Argo."
"What do you think, girl?" Xena asked Argo. The warrior brushed the warhorseís forelock when Argo whinnied softly. Against her better judgment, Xena relented. "All right, Gabrielle. Weíll stay the night. But if you end up in jail over whatever you have planned, do not count on me for any special visits."
"As if they know the meaning of conjugal here."
"I was talking about food, Gabrielle. Jails arenít known for their fine cuisine." The warrior reached into the folds of her robe and adjusted her sword at her side. "What is it with you? Ever since we got here, youíve been a bit preoccupied with sex."
Gabrielle feigned a look of offence. "I am not," she argued.
"Gabrielle, you have come on to me twice already. Youíve mentioned and orgy and implied conjugal visits. Need I go on?"
The bard stuck her tongue out at Xena. "Maybe youíre the one with sex on the brain and just thinking that Iím the one with sex on her brain because you do."
Xena shook her head at Gabrielle's circular thinking. "Have you been dipping into the henbane again?"
"No, what makes you thinkÖ?" Gabrielle stopped and turned to look at Xena with narrowed eyes. "Oh, I get it. Youíre trying to distract me from my mission."
"I knew it had to be coming," Xena commented to herself. "Are you going to share your plans, or am I just going to play by ear once you end up in trouble?"
The bard nodded her head and grinned. "How does it feel to be on the other side of the dinar, Xena? Not knowing what the plan is and trying to go along blindly?"
The warrior tapped her lover playfully on the nose. "First, I havenít said whether Iím going to do anything other than bring you food in jail. Second, who says I wonít beat you to it, just to keep you out of trouble?"
"So youíll help, then?"
"Iím not saying another thing until I hear this plan of yours."
Gabrielle looked around the square. When she noticed the curious onlookers attracted to them as strangers in town, she began tugging Xena towards a more isolated spot. "First," she began, whispering for only Xena, "we need to get Aphroditeís attention. I plan to take a look at the temple here to see how we might get her here, since this is so far from Greece. Maybe I can make an offering that will get her attention. I mean, knowing her, sheís probably hidden away with a dozen muscle boys at a weekend goddess spa retreat or something. Itíll have to be good enough to take her away from that."
"And once she gets here?"
Gabrielle looked perplexed for a moment. "Iím not sure. Thatís the tricky part. Figuring out something without getting us into trouble, yet showing the townspeople who Aphrodite really is."
"Looks like you got some more planning to do, then." Xena shaded her eyes as she looked around the village. "That looks like a bathing building over there. Letís get out of the sun and clean up a bit. It wonít do either of us a bit of good if your brain ends up like a scrambled goose egg."
The temperature dropped from sweltering to merely roasting as the pair entered the bathhouse. Used to seeing communal bathing, they were nonetheless shocked by what they found when they followed the signs to the womenís area. For a village that forbade the sharing of flesh, they were surprised by how openly the women displayed themselves.
"Stop ogling, Gabrielle, and get undressed. This sand is grating on my nerves."
"Among other things, Iím sure," the bard responded faintly, as a majority of her attention was focused on the women that seemed to take a joy in their nudity. As they disrobed and settled into one of the smaller, empty baths, Gabrielle whispered, "Do you think the men know what goes on in here?"
"They probably are doing the same thing, Gabrielle. No matter the culture, bathhouses always seem to be more open."
"Well, if I had to live here, Iíd be the cleanest woman in the village. I wouldnít want to leave this place." Gabrielle sighed as she lowered herself deeper into the cool water. "Maybe Iíll wait until tomorrow before I pull off my plan."
"Iíd rather we pull out at daybreak, Gabrielle. We still have a lot of land to cover before we reach the sea and a boat back to Greece." When she saw that the bard had not heard a single word, Xena snapped her fingers in front of Gabrielle's face. "Warrior to bard."
"Uh, huh," Gabrielle replied, not turning her attention to her partner.
"Gods, you are such a voyeur, Gabrielle."
"Am not, Xena." Gabrielle turned to finally look at the warrior. "Look, but donít be obvious that youíre looking," she said. "Some of them even wear jewelry to draw attention to all that flesh they hide beneath their robes."
Xena quickly glanced around to see several piercings, golden bands wrapped in a serpentine fashion around a few thighs, and even a golden codpiece. Thinking how nicely the codpiece would look against Gabrielle's golden skin, Xena blinked and returned to staring at the small window high on the far wall.
"How could the men here be so foolish as to pass up all this?" Gabrielle asked as she reached around Xena's back for a sponge.
As she grasped the sponge, a passing woman kneeled down into her field of vision. Firm breasts tipped with caramel nipples swayed enticingly, capturing the bardís attention.
"Welcome to our village," she said. "My name is Akinna, and itís nice to see other women like us bathing here."
Tearing her gaze away from the Akinnaís breasts, Gabrielle looked up and noticed the petite woman standing behind the kneeling woman. "Hi, Iím Gabrielle, and this is my partner, Xena." When the warrior refused to acknowledge the greeting, the bard nudged her with an elbow.
"A pleasure," Xena replied almost automatically.
"This is my bonded, Kaleipa."
Immediately, understanding dawned on Gabrielle. "Oh, thatís what you meanÖ like us."
"Do you mind if we join you?" Akinna asked as she handed her lover down into the water, not waiting for a refusal. "Where do you come from?"
"Iím originally from Potedaia," Gabrielle answered. "But now I make the world my home, with Xena."
"Oh, weíre both originally from here," Akinna stated.
"Not to offend you or anything," Gabrielle said as she leaned towards Akinna, "But how can you live in a place that forbids a woman the freedom of her body?"
Kaleipa giggled behind her hand at the strained look on the bardís face. "It is not all that bad," she said, her musical voice laced with amusement. "The men are so concerned about other men seeing their women, that they pay no mind to the women that see their women. There arenít many like us here, but there are many who are curious about it."
Akinna smiled at her mate as she explained. "Here in the bathhouse, where the men and women are separated, the women have much more freedom to express themselves. This is where we can be individuals, and none dare reveal how much fun we have in here, for fear that it will be taken away from us."
"But wouldnít you like to live every day out in the open like this?" Gabrielle asked. "Not naked, of course, but free to be who you are, and not some robed figure with only eyes?"
"Oh, there is some advantage to the robes," Akinna answered cryptically.
"Some of us go about naked underneath them," Kaleipa revealed in a secretive whisper. "You should try it."
"I wonder why I didnít think of that myself," Gabrielle mumbled.
"Iím surprised you didnít," Xena agreed.
Gabrielle turned to see that even though Xena appeared to be resting with her eyes closed, she was listening carefully to the conversation. "You might like that too much, Xena. We wouldnít want me to come on to you again, now would we? I might just manage to seduce the great Warrior Princess."
Underneath the water, Xena reached out and took Gabrielle's hand. "Remind me later to explain to you what happens to little Amazons that play with fire."
A grin spread across Gabrielle's face. "Youíll just have to wait until we get out of this town." The bard turned once more to Akinna. "Iíve learned about Aphrodite. How long have you worshipped her here?"
Akinna began to leisurely bathe herself as she contemplated Gabrielle's question. "The Virgin has been worshipped since before my grandmotherís time."
"Wow," Gabrielle said aloud. "Thatís a long time to be a virgin."
"Oh, there are some of us, the younger ones, who try to follow the Virginís teachings."
"But?" Gabrielle interrupted, impatient to hear the rest.
"But we are beginning to feel that there is nothing wrong with sharing your body freely with another."
Kaleipa smiled seductively at Akinna. "We take great pleasure in each other. Itís never felt bad to either of us."
"So how can a goddess deny her people the opportunity to enjoy that which the gods have given us?"
"But what about the others? Have you ever tried to convince them?"
"Oh, there was a young couple once," Kaleipa replied; her face became troubled with a memory. "They were caught sharing the forbidden flesh prior to their bonding vows."
"What happened to them?"
"He was sent to serve in the Kingís dungeon. She was banished from the village."
"Itís been told that she was set upon by hungry serpents out in the desert."
Gabrielle squeezed Xena's hand and looked at her. "And you said this was a peaceful town."
The warriorís only response was a pursing of her lips. She turned her attention to Akinna. "The barkeep mentioned that only those that are husband and wife or kin could share a room. How is it that you two manage to be together here?"
Kaleipa looked over her shoulder to the other women in the bathing chamber. When she looked back at Xena and Gabrielle, her features were defiant. "The men in town canít believe that two women can be in love like we are. They think we only have a close friendship."
"Yeah, weíve run into that kind of assumption all the time," Gabrielle agreed. "How anyone could mistake us for only friends is beyond me. I mean, could you travel with her," the bard said with a jerk of her thumb towards Xena, "and not fall into at least lust? What do they think Iím made of?"
"We try not to be obvious about breaking the Goddessí rules, just so they wonít look any deeper into what we have."
"I just canít imagine myself hiding who I truly am." Gabrielle turned to look at Xena, whose eyes met hers. They shared a silent understanding. "Akinna, what would you say if I told you that Xena and I can help change a few attitudes around here?"
"Iíd say "good luck"."
"Oh, luck wouldnít have anything to do with it. Itíll all come down to divine intervention." The bardís thoughts turned once more to her plan. She looked to Xena, then to Akinna. "Would you want to help change things around here?"
"Iím not going to get banished to the desert, am I?"
Gabrielle was quick to respond. "No!" She paused in thought. "At least, I donít think so." Scooting closer to the other couple, she bowed her head and whispered. "Itís up to you whether you want to help, but hereís my plan."
Xena was pacing the small grove of trees outside of the temple. The sun had fallen beyond the horizon only a candlemark before, but Gabrielle had already begun putting her plan into action. "I canít believe you talked not only them, but me into this scheme of yours."
Gabrielle watched the entrance to the temple expectantly. She turned momentarily to give Xena an exasperated glance. "Look at it this way, if things donít work out, we can ride out of town." The bard became excited as she watched Akinna and Kaleipa leave the temple. "Here they come."
Breathless, the couple joined Gabrielle and Xena in the grove. "We did what you said."
"But nothing happened."
"You did exactly as I said?" Gabrielle asked as she chewed on her bottom lip.
"Exactly." Akinna looked worriedly at her lover. "You didnít fake it, did you?"
"Of course not."
"Well, thenÖ." A sudden shower of pink sparkles interrupted Gabrielle. "Looks like it worked." When the figure materialized with the four women in the grove, the bard smiled in genuine pleasure. "Ladies, Iíd like you to meet the real Aphrodite."
"Bitchiní offering," the goddess said with a nod of approval to the astonished Akinna and Kaleipa. Turning to Gabrielle, the goddess squealed in delight. "And if it isnít my favorite bard babe."
"Hey, Aphrodite." The bard greeted the goddess with a warm embrace.
"Mmm, and Xena." Aphroditeís hips swayed as she approached the warrior. "So when are you and Gabrielle going to make your own offering to me?"
Xena crossed her arms and tilted her head towards Gabrielle.
Akinna interrupted the warrior's response. "This is Aphrodite?"
"And you know her?" Kaleipa began to circle the goddess, not believing her eyes.
Gabrielle grinned at the couple. "Know her? I more than know her." The bard looked at the goddess, who winked at her. "Well, I donít know her that well. But weíve hung out a bit."
Aphrodite looked around at the grove then moved towards the temple. "I donít think Iíve ever been here before. It doesnít look too happeniní."
"It probably isnít," Gabrielle answered as she moved to stand next to the goddess.
"But I go to all my temples, just to see what pretty things are left for me. But thereís no lovers making out on my altar, no erotic scrolls left behind for me to read. Are these people worshipping the right love goddess?"
Gabrielle attempted to play upon the goddessí vanity. "Uh, I donít think these people here really do things the Aphrodite way."
"Show her the statue, Gabrielle."
The bard looked over Aphroditeís shoulder to see Xena standing behind them. "Right. The statue." Taking Aphroditeís arm, Gabrielle looked out into the deserted square. She tugged Aphrodite behind her towards the statue. "This is what they think of you, Aphrodite."
"Oh, puh-leeze, I do not do rotting meat. And what is up with all the clothes?"
"They say youíre a virgin," Gabrielle whispered, nodding her head when a shocked Aphrodite turned to her.
"No way. Like, I havenít been a virgin for eons. Who is dissing my rep?"
Gabrielle added fuel to the fire. "And they think that the earthly pleasures of the flesh are evil and bad. They say that you donít approve of it."
Standing with her fists on her hips, the goddess pouted. "Something has to be done about this." She paused a second then batted her eyes at the bard. "Do something, Gabrielle?"
"Me?" Gabrielle shook her head. "I got you here, I was hoping youíd do something about it. I mean, it is you that these people are dissing, right? Shouldnít you set them straight?"
"I hate proving myself. It ruins my nails." The goddess examined her flawless nails by the light of the torches set up around the statue.
"You donít have to do anything but be yourself," Gabrielle assured her. "What were you doing before you came here?"
"I was hanging out at a Roman orgy. Boring stuff, really. You know the Romans, eat, puke, eat some more, grope their women. Thatís why those two caught my attention."
"I told you an orgy wouldnít do it for her."
Gabrielle smirked at Xena before turning back to the goddess. "What would you have liked to have been doing, Aphrodite?"
"WelllllÖ there was this new club over on Crete that was supposed to throw a kick-ass party, but the Minotaur got loose and just ruined everything. Way too bummer of a scene now."
"So why not throw the party here?" Gabrielle wrapped an arm around Aphroditeís shoulders and turned her in a slow circle. "We can put the musicians over there and hang lights between the buildings over there," she said, pointing to the four corners of the square. She smiled encouragement for the goddess. "I know you have it in you."
"I can do groovy," Aphrodite said as she threw her shoulders back. Taking a deep breath, she flung out her arms. Within seconds, the square was filled with light and music; the goddess had even included several dancing boys and girls, who began to instantly dance to the hypnotic beat of the music. Within minutes, locals began filing out of their huts to investigate the noise.
"There they are, Aphrodite. Now show them what youíre really made of."
With another wave of the goddessí hand, the statue that had represented Aphrodite became a truer likeness. Gone was the robe and in its place was a diaphanous two-piece ensemble. "Come on, girls, letís show them what fun is."
Gabrielle looked around for Xena as Aphrodite dragged her towards the dancers. The warrior was nowhere to be found. The bard continuing to look for her partner and noticed that the dancers were pulling the villagers into the party. The younger ones were joining willingly, but the older ones were holding back in disapproval.
Suddenly, the music came to a discordant halt and shocked murmurs began to rumble through the crowd. Gabrielle looked to where the people were pointing in disbelief. There, at the end of the square, sat Xena atop Argo. The warriorís nude body glowed in the light of the oil lamps that Aphrodite had strung all over the square. She looked around to gauge the villagersí reaction; she was ready to spring into action should things get messy. The bard was surprised to see more than one look of admiration.
With her shoulders thrown back proudly, the warrior urged her warhorse slowly through the square. Her body was a vision of sculpted power. Her eyes sparked luminescent as she reached the now-still dancers. Looking down at a stunned Gabrielle, Xena extended her hand. "Gabrielle."
In awe of Xena's boldness, Gabrielle could only stare. She became aware of a desire welling within her for the woman that had put the proverbial icing on her cake. Taking her loverís hand, the bard was speechless when she was pulled up into the saddle in front of Xena. She saw the curl to the warriorís lips a second before they met hers in a long, searing kiss. Gabrielle's bones felt as if they had melted.
"Weíre leaving," Xena said as she smiled at Gabrielle. "Let them finish this mission of yours."
"Youíre naked," Gabrielle finally managed as the shock began to wear off. "And youíre beautiful."
"Well, someone needed to show them that a womanís body is a natural gift from the gods."
Gabrielle rocked with the slow rhythm of Argoís gait. She felt cherished as Xena held her securely. "Xena," she began as she looked up into the face of her friend, her companion, and her lover, "you said the mission is over?"
"Thatís right," the warrior drawled as they cleared the square and began riding out of the village. She smiled as she heard the music behind them start up again.
"Good." Gabrielle snuggled deeper into Xena's arms. "Iím feeling an urge come over me."
"An urge, huh? You want to get down to dance some more?"
"No," Gabrielle replied softly. "Dancing was yesterday. What I want now is some sharing."
"You mean that flesh sharing thatís forbidden?"
"Iím talking about you and me, me and you, doing what comes natural."
Xena, teasing the smaller woman in her arms, repeated. "But, Gabrielle, itís forbidden."
"No, Xena. Itís forever."
And as the lovers rode off, Aphroditeís laughter rang through the air.