This story contains adult themes depicting a sexual relationship between two consenting adults of the same sex. If you are under the age of 18 or reading this material is illegal where you live, please stop reading now. The writer as well as the person who maintains this webpage accept no legal responsibility for noncompliance with this warning.
The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, & Argo are copyrighted to MCA/Universal. They are used here without intent to profit from or infringe upon this copyrighted material. The rest of the story is copyrighted to me (posted February 15, 1997--L.N. James). Absolutely no original aspect of this story may be used elsewhere without the expressed prior written consent of the author. This story may not be altered in any way and this copyright information must appear with this work at all times.
Finally, many great and wonderful XWP FanFic authors out there have inspired and influenced me in countless ways. I thank them each by offering my own contribution.
By L.N. James
The scene was familiar of course-a rich green meadow, small wildflowers growing, trees here and there, a crystal clear blue lake, beautiful sunset, and a warrior and her bard.
Xena led Argo down towards the valley while Gabrielle walked next to them and chatted endlessly. Yes, the scene was very familiar and Xena had to smile at that thought. As much as she hated to admit it, she loved the young bard's way with words and how her stories tended to distract Xena during those times when her mind could have just as easily drifted to less than pleasant thoughts. Even though they travelled constantly, the familiarity between the two made the journey feel that much more like home.
"Gabrielle, let's stop here. We're halfway between Cyrna and Henthrice. We might as well make our camp and finish the trip tomorrow." Xena stopped Argo and started taking off her saddle to let the mare enjoy a nice drink and the fresh field.
"Halfway between Cyrna and Henthrice?" Gabrielle cocked her head and looked around. If Xena chose to notice, she would have seen Gabrielle looking a bit perplexed-her brow crinkled and mind working overtime to pull something out of the past.
"So this must be the Valley of Azure. Have you heard of that Xena?"
"Azure..no, can't say as I have" Xena turned and looked at Gabrielle as she started to unload the packs. She handed the bard the bed rolls and began to organize the firepit. She raised an eyebrow at Gabrielle who was still just standing there holding the blankets with a far away look on her face, not making any move to help set up camp.
"Gabrielle, I know how much you love setting up camp. I'd hate to take away all of your fun by doing everything. Care to help?"
Gabrielle was startled a bit out of her revery and smiled at Xena apologetically. "Sorry Xena. I was just thinking about something I once heard about this place." She started to unload the packs and get things ready for dinner. "Maybe after dinner, I could tell you the story...?"
Xena looked up at Gabrielle and smiled. She knew it was no use fighting a bard with a story to tell so she just nodded and continued unpacking.
Gabrielle looked pleased that she had talked the warrior into letting her tell a story that she found hard to believe but yet intrigued her the minute she heard it. If any of the story was true, it would be an interesting night to be sure.
The fire was happily burning any and all wood it was offered and showed its appreciation with an occasional crackle and sigh. Gabrielle layed back on her blanket with her hands behind her head and her feet propped up on a convenient log nearby that eventually would become a bright ember before the night was over. With her belly full and her friend nearby, she couldn't think of a more satisfying way to spend an evening. Well..that wasn't entirely true, but that was beside the point right now. She had a story to tell and a warrior to entertain. She had her priorities you know.
Xena sat with her back against the saddle bags. Her armor was off and she was cleaning it up with polish and an old rag. It was a neverending process but one she actually found comforting. Funny how the mundane tasks of life sometimes offer the best respite. Xena glanced over at Gabrielle and half-smiled at how relaxed the young bard was. Of course, she knew that nothing made her bard more happier than when she was relating some tale she had heard or had made up while they unwound near the fire. These moments were actually some of Xena's most treasured..though she would never admit it.
"I have always wondered what our dreams tell us."
Gabrielle began as she turned on her side to face Xena. Xena looked up to assure Gabrielle that she was listening and then went back to her polishing. Ever the bard, Gabrielle took note of how carefully and gently Xena handled her armor. Thinking it quite the contradiction--rough battle armor being lovingly cared for-she would be sure to use this as a metaphor in some future story. Gabrielle turned her head and went back to looking up in the starry sky and continued her story.
"Some say dreams are the messages of Gods, sent down from Mount Olympus like letters to the mortals. Most times the dreams are cryptic and their meanings are obscured because the mortal who receives them is unaware or unwilling to understand the messages the Gods are trying to tell them. But sometimes the dreams are crystal clear, like seeing stones at the bottom of a lake. The meaning of the dream and the message of the Gods become one. The mortals who sense this can use their dreams in ways they never thought possible. There are others who say that dreams, while they may be sent by the Gods, are crafted by the soul of the individual to reflect their deepest thoughts and fears and desires."
Gabrielle paused while Xena took her footrest and put it on the fire. So much for kicking one's feet up. Gabrielle sat up and continued her story while Xena watched the fire and stirred it with a long stick.
"An old woman once passed through our village when I was about 12. She was a traveller who had seen many things and who had lived a great and adventurous life. I was sitting out near my house practicing my pan flute when....what?"
Xena had simply chuckled and was shaking her head.
"Xena, I'm in the middle of a story here. Your silent commentary on my pan playing is not necessary!"
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I was just having a hard time imagining what your playing must have sounded like in the beginning. I'm surprised your parents let you keep doing it."
Gabrielle laughed and smiled as she threw a stone at Xena, who instinctively caught it.
"One day, Xena, you'll be begging to hear my pan playing. Some say it's very healing. Why, just two weeks ago in that village we stopped in, I soothed a savage heart when I started pla.."
Xena's glare told the young bard that she best not slip into another story in the middle of the one she was telling. Gabrielle smiled as she threw up her hands and gave in.
"Ok, ok..now where was I? Oh yes...a road-weary traveller had stopped to rest near my house. As we were sitting there, she began to tell me a story. Xena, the minute this woman started talking, I was completely enthralled by her words. She had such a rhythmic way of telling a story, almost like a lullaby. While I was sitting under that tree with her, she told me the most fascinating story I had ever heard. Which, at the time, it didn't take much to fascinate me since of course I hadn't met you yet and all of our adventures hadn't yet occurred."
Xena looked at Gabrielle and smiled. "Go on Gabrielle." Gabrielle smiled back and continued.
"Well, even though it might not be up to our standards in terms of excitement, it has stayed with me all these years. And what makes it all the more interesting is that it was about this very valley that we are staying in. The Valley of Azure. According to this woman, this valley is blessed by Athena. It is said that those with hearts pure and souls open can see beyond what is visible. This vision is presented through the dreams of those who sleep in the valley. The dreams may reflect what is buried deep within a person and what the person is least likely to see on their own. However, this vision comes at a price. This price is often the innocence and ignorance with which a person views themselves. Ignorance is bliss for those who choose not to see and accept the darker or more difficult truths while innocence is lost when those truths suggest our deeper desires and fears. So it is said that those who dream in the Valley of Azure are never the same people they were when they arrived."
Gabrielle finished this last bit up with a dramatic touch in her voice to suggest the life-altering potential of her story. She looked over at Xena to see how she responded to her story. As usual, Xena's expression was basically unreadable, but Gabrielle could sense a tiny bit of concern on the warrior's face. Gabrielle got up and sat next to Xena.
She put her hand on Xena's arm. She could sense the warrior's moods and thoughts more than the warrior cared to admit and said softly, "I forgot to mention that the dreams and visions that are given are never of one's past, only of one's present and future. You won't have to worry about reliving those things about yourself that you have already faced and confronted. You aren't the same person you were."
Xena was touched by Gabrielle's concern and soft words. She was thinking about her past and the nightmares she has already had. She certainly didn't need any more insights or visions telling her the horror that had already occurred.
"Gabrielle, I enjoy your stories for the most part" She gave her bard friend a little smile to show she was kidding. "But you know how I feel about blessings of the gods, Athena or otherwise. I am sure that the old woman you met told you a story she believed to be true. For me, this valley is just a way to get to Henthrice from Cyrna, dreams or not. I, for one, expect to get a good night's sleep before we move on tomorrow. I suggest you do the same."
Gabrielle looked a little hurt that Xena didn't believe the story, but then again, she herself wasn't quite sure it was true or not. She got up to go over to her blanket when Xena grabbed her by the wrist, surprising her. She looked down at the warrior and those blue eyes and the grip on her wrist.
"Thank you Gabrielle...for the story. You have quite a way with after dinner conversation." And with that she smiled and released Gabrielle to make her way to her blanket. She checked one last time on the fire and started getting settled under her blanket.
Gabrielle, in the meantime, was still a bit taken aback by Xena's hold on her arm. Usually with her, Xena was gentle. "She must not know her own strength tonight. Some valley of truth!" Gabrielle thought. She shrugged as she smiled and situated herself on her bedroll. Pulling the blanket to just under her chin, she looked one last time across the fire at Xena.
"Goodnight, Gabrielle." came the muffled reply, already sleepy-sounding.
"Sweet dreams..." Gabrielle whispered. "I hope.."
Xena's voice was harsh and her statement was a command. Her face was blank yet her blue eyes flashed danger. She looked amazing in her well-polished armor and her height. Her sword was visible behind her back, her muscles well-defined on her arms and legs. A slight wind blew her long mane of jet-black hair back from her face. Her jaw was set and her cheekbones were high. Those eyes, however, expressed that she meant business and that she was in control. She was warrior personified.
Gabrielle couldn't move, she could barely look into those eyes. The power and presence of Xena was overwhelming and completely disconcerting. She felt small. She felt young. And she felt fear.
"I said, come here."
This time, Xena emphasized her command by grabbing one of Gabrielle's wrists and pulling her along with a hard tug. The feel of Xena's grip on her arm was electric. To say she was surprised by what it did to her would be an understatement. She nearly stumbled but Xena's powerful arm held her up. She looked at Xena's arm and the muscles that were visible made her shudder. By the gods, her strength was no match should Gabrielle want to struggle. The power of the warrior's hands made the young bard's face flush.
Xena stopped them short next to a large tree where she spun Gabrielle around and pushed her back against the tree. Still holding on to one of her wrists, Xena grabbed the other and held it at Gabrielle's side. Xena's eyes looked right into Gabrielle's, the blue of her eyes were brighter than the bard had ever remembered them being. She had to look up at Xena's face and was suddenly taken by the dramatic differences in their heights. This made Xena appear even more imposing...even larger than life.
"When I tell you to do something, you'll do it. Do you understand?"
Gabrielle gulped and swallowed at the words. She looked down at the ground, unable to keep the warriors eyes. She wasn't sure if the racing of her pulse was due to the words spoken or to the proximity of the warrior that stood before her, holding her tightly. Trying to explain her rising temperature would be impossible without making claim to something she was not prepared to claim.
"Do you understand?"
This time, Xena took Gabrielle's face in her hand and tilted it up to the warrior's own. The touch was not all that gentle, but it didn't hurt either. It suggested to Gabrielle exactly who was in charge here and any questions could be directed to the tall, dark woman in leather. Blue eyes waited confidently for the young bard to answer.
"Y-yes.." Gabrielle's own voice was barely audible. Her face was flushed. Her heart was pounding.
Xena leaned down and spoke quietly into Gabrielle's ear. Her voice might have been soft, but her words made their point.
"I didn't hear you, Gabrielle. I asked you if you understood that you will do what I tell you to do. Is it too much for you to answer a little bit louder so I can be sure that we are clear on this issue."
Xena's breath was hot against her ear. It sent shivers down Gabrielle and made it hard for her legs to support what was quickly becoming a bard on sensory overload.
"Yes, I understand." Gabrielle somehow found the will to force out a response that was a little louder and a whole lot more throaty.
Xena flashed an amazing smile down at the young woman that nearly sent the bard to her knees. Such beauty combined with such strength made for a rather awestruck Gabrielle. There was a hint of danger suggested by that smile and that suggestion excited Gabrielle with a spark of recognition she dare not explore. If she chose to look more closely, she would have seen that she was also feeling fear. Fear that the warrior in front of her was going to overpower and take her, fear that maybe the warrior in front of her wouldn't overpower and take her, and fear that she desperately wanted to be overpowered and taken by this warrior, by Xena.
Xena took both of Gabrielle's wrists and held them above her head with one hand. If it wouldn't have shocked the young bard so much so that she may never have recovered, Xena would have tied her hands like this instead of holding them. If it wouldn't have shocked the warrior princess so much, Gabrielle would have loved this. As it was, both made due with this silent musing and made a mental note for some other time and some other place.
"You want me to kiss you don't you?"
Xena's voice was low and menacing. She stared directly into Gabrielle's face. She already knew the answer of course, but this wasn't about making things easy for Gabrielle. Quite the contrary, this was about making things very difficult for the young bard. Sweet discomfort was the name of the game. Looking back at her was a young woman with flushed cheeks and weak knees. Already she was beginning to feel the effect Xena was having on her. Every inch of her body was burning, her neck and ears warmer by the minute. The sides of her face tingling near her temples. Heart pounding, body responding in kind. She felt Xena's free hand roughly grab her waist. She caught her breath.
Only a fool would not answer this particular question in the affirmative especially when the tone of Xena's voice almost suggested that regardless of the answer, the action would become a reality whether or not the bard liked it. Fortunately for Gabrielle, every cell in her body screamed "Yes!". Unfortunately for Gabrielle, her voice was not cooperating quite as well.
Spoken so softly that had not Xena such incredible hearing, she might have missed it. But what she heard was distinct. Neither she nor Gabrielle could deny the sound of want and need in Gabrielle's voice. What the young bard also hoped to communicate was that she wanted that kiss to be as dangerous as Xena's smile, as dangerous as the warrior that stood before her, towering and powerful. Good thing Xena could read lips because she understood exactly what Gabrielle wanted and needed. Of Xena's many skills, Gabrielle at that moment considered this understanding to be her greatest.
"I thought so."
With that, Xena leaned down towards Gabrielle. Gabrielle closed her eyes in anticipation of what was coming. She could feel the warrior so close to her it drove her wild. She was trembling, waiting for what she needed. And she waited. She knew Xena was inches, if not closer, from her mouth. Gabrielle's body was tense and on edge. Every nerve was working overtime. Every sensory system was tuned into the presence of a leather clad woman so powerful and strong. She could in fact smell the sweet scent of leather; she would later remember that smell for years to come. This sweet discomfort burned in her memory. She waited what to her felt like eternity but was in reality only a moment or two.
And she waited...
When she could stand it no more, she opened her eyes. Xena's face was in front of hers, so close she could see into the very depths of those crystal blue eyes. Her lips so close to Gabrielle's, it was torture for the young bard to wait like this. And the warrior knew it. She deliberately came as close as she could without so much as touching any part of Gabrielle's lips. Xena drew back just a bit, her eyes never leaving the young bard's. Calculatingly, the warrior wet her own lips with her tongue just slightly. This small, sensual act nearly drove Gabrielle over the edge with frustration. Luckily Xena was holding her arms up or she would have fallen to her knees in pure anguish. She realized Xena was doing this on purpose, making her wait for a kiss she needed now more than air itself. She hadn't breathed in a full 5 seconds.
"You didn't say please, Gabrielle."
A slight smile grazed the lips of one so confident in her ways. Gabrielle knew that, at that moment, she wanted nothing more than to be taken by this warrior. And she knew that she needed to be taken by force..by Xena's strength. She needed to feel that power unleashed on her. Other times and other places her gentle soul might not have allowed such an admission. But she now dared to accept that she desperately needed to be ravaged by this woman. The truth was that Gabrielle wanted the warrior to battle her, to conquer her, to own her, and to possess her. This realization, this vision ran so counter to how Gabrielle saw herself that she almost shook her head violently so as to knock the thought from her head. But when she looked up into the steady, confident, powerful blue eyes of the woman that stood above her, she knew this was her truth. Her heart and her mind and her body all agreed. This was Gabrielle's innermost desire and this she could not deny.
Xena hadn't taken her eyes off of Gabrielle the entire time and she made no apology for staring.
This word came from Gabrielle's very being, breathless. There was no mistaking this sounded as if she were begging, and to be honest, she was begging. She didn't care if Xena knew or not.
"Please, Xena...I..I need..."
"I know what you need Gabrielle."
With that, Xena brought Gabrielle's arms down and held them to her side. She stepped closer to the young bard so that Gabrielle felt the warrior's armor against her breasts. Her heart pounded a rhythm no one could have danced to, so fast and unpredictable. She felt Xena's weight leaning into her. One of Xena's hands let go of her wrist and went behind Gabrielle's ear, around her neck, in her hair. The touch was more gentle than anything Gabrielle had ever felt. A calm before the storm perhaps. She felt her head being tilted up towards the warrior in front of her, Xena's thumb under her chin guiding her head. Xena's hands were large and even her fingers suggested controlled strength and power. That thought made Gabrielle weak and her pulse raced in response.
Gabrielle watched as the warrior moved in towards her. She watched as those blue eyes took her own eyes and commanded they obey. And then, the anticipation greater than Gabrielle could bare, came to an end. Xena, eyes still open, placed her lips gently on Gabrielle's and kissed them lightly. She withdrew and returned. Her lips took in Gabrielle's lower lip and she sucked lightly. Gabrielle could feel Xena's tongue on her lower lip and she could no longer hold the eyes of the warrior above her. She closed her own eyes as Xena took her mouth in earnest. This time, Xena's tongue parted Gabrielle's lips with force and the young bard accepted this willingly. Xena leaned in more, pushing Gabrielle against the tree a little harder. She let go of Gabrielle's wrists and put both hands on the sides of the bards face. The kiss had continued as Xena moved her tongue wherever she wanted it to go, over Gabrielle's lips, across her teeth, fighting the bards own tentative tongue for space. And winning.
All the while, Gabrielle could feel the warrior's weight pressing against her, armor against her breasts, cold. If she had been able to think, she would have put her own hands on Xena's leather clad waist and pulled her closer. Instead, she let herself be held in place and kissed strongly and powerfully by a woman who moved her more than she knew. All her hands could do was hold onto the tree behind her for support.
When Xena's lips withdrew from Gabrielle's, the young bard took a deep breath as the warrior's mouth found its place on the side of her neck. Xena roughly moved the bard's head to the side so she could have better access to the sweet, smooth skin below Gabrielle's ear. Gabrielle leaned her head back just a bit when she felt the warrior nip at her neck with her teeth. The slight pain of it was exquisite and left her wanting more. Her breath was ragged as her eyes closed tightly.
Suddenly, she felt a rough hand on the front of her shirt, right above her breast. Xena's lips had moved to where her neck met her shoulder while her hand had grabbed the bard's green top. Gabrielle watched as Xena's bicep flexed briefly before her powerful hand easily ripped the shirt open, exposing her breasts. To be open like this for the warrior was almost more than the bard could stand. She needed Xena's lips and teeth on her, and she needed it now.
Just as Gabrielle was about to reach for Xena's head with her hands to guide her where she wanted her, Xena stood and grabbed her wrists again. Smiling at the young bard's bravado in assuming she could make the warrior do her bidding, Xena made a point to first make contact with Gabrielle's eyes and then allowed her eyes to rest on the bard's breasts-full, with nipples erect.
"Mmm, I don't think so Gabrielle. I'll decide when and where I kiss you."
Gabrielle's face flushed under the scrutiny of Xena's eyes. Gabrielle could wait no longer under this kind of pressure.
As if Xena could read her mind, the warrior leaned down and took one of her nipples in her mouth. So quickly had this occurred that all Gabrielle could do was intake a small breath. Xena's mouth was rough on her breast, sucking and biting and pulling. Gabrielle reacted by letting out a small cry and leaning her head back with her eyes closed. Her hands would have been in the warriors hair had they not been held in place. She even attempted to struggle just a bit to free her hands, but Xena responded with not only a tighter grip on her wrists, but also with a small bite on the tender flesh just under her nipple. She sucked Gabrielle's nipple and pulled it with her teeth. Xena repeated this on her other breast which only served to quicken the bards breathing and increase the liquid flow between her legs. The intended effect of course...
Gabrielle's pleas were becoming desperate now. She needed Xena's hands, Xena's power. She needed everything all right now.
Xena heard the bard's begging. And she smiled just a bit as her mouth took in Gabrielle's nipple one last time. She stood up once again, still holding Gabrielle's wrists. Reluctant to take her eyes from breasts that were reluctant to have lips leave them, Xena slowly followed the smooth skin of Gabrielle's neck with her eyes and finally caught the young bard looking back at her. She released her wrists and now rested her hands on either side Gabrielle's waist. Her gaze was steady and her patience was unnerving for the young woman who was breathing hard and having a heck of a time standing. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she realized that she could no longer trust her legs to hold her. She only hoped Xena could help her stand.
Again, the command was quiet and forceful. Gabrielle hardly had to think twice before she turned and faced the tree she had seconds before been holding onto for dear life. She felt the warrior move close in behind her, but not touching. Soon she felt one of Xena's hands slip around her stomach, slowing moving across it and up. She closed her eyes as the hand found its final destination and cupped her breast. Her nipple became erect in the warrior's palm. She felt the armor of Xena's breastplate begin to press into her back as Xena leaned in towards her. She turned her head a bit so that the warrior could reach her neck with little problem. Xena's breath in her ear made her lean back against the tall woman, hoping and waiting for her lips.
Xena's lips did find her ear, but not for a kiss. Instead they whispered another command.
"Put your hands on the tree"
As Gabrielle reached out for the tree, which was not more than a foot or so away, the warrior's mouth moved to the back of her neck and nipped and bit it lightly. If Xena's arm hadn't been around her, she would have sank to the ground. Instead, Gabrielle allowed herself to be held and let her head lean forward, her hair falling to the side of her face just a bit. Who knew the back of her neck was this sensitive? (One warrior princess would later argue she knew it all along).
As she stood there, Xena continued leaning into her so that most of Gabrielle's back was pressed against armor. While she may have thought this uncomfortable, she was actually surprised at how the pressure of the metal on her back felt quite pleasant. As Xena's mouth continued to nip and kiss on the back of her neck and shoulders, she had almost forgotten about Xena's hand until she felt a slight twist on her nipple and a tug. This immediately bought out a small moan from Gabrielle that certainly suggested that she liked this very much. And she did. She pressed back against the warrior while her hands gripped the tree. She moved her legs slightly apart in hopes of inspiring her warrior to go on the offensive.
Xena smiled at this action. She knew the young bard could not stand much more waiting. And she certainly wasn't going to keep her bard waiting much longer.
Her lips went to Gabrielle's ear, breathing and kissing combined. Her free hand went to the side of Gabrielle's hip, taking hold of the cloth of her skirt. She reached down and pulled the side of the fabric up so that her hand was now on Gabrielle's thigh. The bard's skin was incredibly warm to the touch and covered with a slight down of blond hair. Xena ran her hand over the front of her thigh, feeling the muscles that had developed.
Xena's hand on Gabrielle's thigh drove the bard wild. She leaned her body back further into the warrior, her head to the side so her ear would not leave Xena's warm mouth and lips. And she held onto the tree for balance. Balance being a thing Gabrielle was finding hard to come by these days it seemed.
Lips on her ear and neck, hands on her breast and thigh, Gabrielle could barely stand this sweet seduction. Her breath had quickened and every cell in her body wanted release. She looked down at the warrior's hand on her thigh and closed her eyes. By the gods, this woman was driving her crazy and if she didn't have that hand on her..in her..she would surely die a slow agonizing death.
"You're mine, Gabrielle."
It was a simple statement from the warrior in Gabrielle's ear and an obvious fact to anyone who cared to notice. Gabrielle had conceded the battle long ago and was prepared to make her surrender complete.
Make no mistake, the warrior was not going to go into battle gently and she was not going to go slow. She knew what Gabrielle wanted and needed. Gabrielle let out a low groan as Xena's finger slipped all the way inside of her at once. Of course, because the young bard was very wet by this point, Xena's finger slipped in quite easily. Gabrielle felt herself contract on the warrior's finger and knew this was exactly what she needed.
Two fingers more and pleasure mixed with pain for Gabrielle. Xena kept her mouth on her neck and ear while one hand held a breast and squeezed a nipple and the other hand forcefully moved its way in and out of the bard. Gabrielle could no longer keep herself quiet and let out small cries that coincided with each of Xena's strokes. She could feel the palm of the warrior's strong hand rub against where she was most sensitive. She was on the edge and she knew it.
These words from Gabrielle's lips were desperate. She thanked the gods that the warrior was holding her up because this time for sure she knew her legs were far too weak. Holding onto the tree for extra support, she looked down at the warrior's hand on her, under her skirt. The sight of Xena's muscled forearm and strong hand moving against her, in her, made the bard close her eyes tightly and hold her breath. She needed release and she knew the warrior would have her soon.
Xena held the young bard up while she worked her fingers inside of her. The amount of liquid Gabrielle produced made Xena's work that much easier. She could tell Gabrielle was getting close, she could feel her getting tighter and wetter. Her cries were becoming more desperate and the bard was shaking against the force and pressure the warrior was placing on her.
The last command Xena would give came softly in Gabrielle's ear, sending the bard over the edge. The strength of Xena's arms holding her up and the power of this woman commanding her and taking her sent one final tremble down Gabrielle as she held her breath.
She leaned back into the warrior and cried out as she felt herself release.
Gabrielle sat up with a start. She looked around her and saw a dying fire and her friend sleeping peacefully across the way. She blinked her eyes and shook her head, unsure of where she was and what had happened. A look of sudden realization crossed the young bard's face. Her face became hot at the thought. She had seen her truth...
"Now you are not going to get up and make yourself worse. You and I both know that you're sick and feverish and you need your rest. There's no point arguing."
Gabrielle was adamant. Xena knew she was right, she barely had the strength to lift her head. She drifted back to sleep as the young bard sat next to her putting cool water compresses on her head and checking on her from time to time.
She dreamed of a large battlefield, the wind whipping her hair back. She smiled at the thought of the sure victory before her. Her smile quickly vanished as clouds began to cover the sun.
The next time she came to, she saw Gabrielle over by the fire, stirring something. She looked around her and realized they were in a cave of some sort. She barely remembered stumbling into it the day before. She recalled that she was riding Argo and then all of a sudden, she was falling off of Argo. Luckily, Gabrielle had been watching her become more pale and realized that Xena was not acting like the healthy young woman she was. She had just about suggested they stop for camp at one of the caves in the hills next to them when she saw the warrior start to slide off the horse. She reached out and was able to shoulder most of Xena's weight so she didn't fall completely. As it was, holding up someone of Xena's stature was a bit of a stretch for the smaller woman. But she did manage to get Xena down with little damage and help her walk into the cave.
Gabrielle looked over at her friend stretched out on a blanket not too far from the fire and got up and came to her. She put her hand on Xena's forehead and noted it was still rather warm. Gabrielle's touch sent a cool shock through the warrior's head which normally would have surprised Xena had she the strength to notice.
"Xena, how are you feeling?"
Xena wished she knew.
"I'm fine, Gabrielle."
This came out as a hoarse whisper. She wouldn't have fooled even the most naive of people with that response given the most obvious of clues that pointed otherwise, let alone a bard attuned to her warrior's (almost) every mood.
"Xena, you are not fine..tell me what I can do to help you?"
The concern in the bard's voice was evident. Her eyes were soft and her brow was wrinkled as it was obvious she was worried about the well-being of her warrior friend. Xena could have melted in those eyes.
"Gabrielle, I'll be fine. You don't need to do anything."
Xena's voice was barely audible. Gabrielle sighed at the warrior's stubbornness. But looking at Xena in such a state of complete physical incapacitation convinced her that she did in fact need to do something to help the fallen warrior.
"Xena, you are not fine and you do need my help whether you like it or not. Quit arguing and save your strength. I'm going to make you some broth. Sleep for a bit."
Xena would have continued to argue her case against such fussing, such mothering, but she didn't have the strength to keep her eyes open. She so rarely was as drained physically as she found herself to be now that she drifted off to sleep easily.
As she slept this time, she dreamt she was laying on the battlefield, next to bodies of dying or dead men. She looked at herself and saw she was bleeding profusely. Her wounds seemed beyond repair. Time and space were disconnected, blurry. She looked up and heard birds singing as they flew overhead. The sun beat down on her. She knew her time was near. Suddenly, she felt someone's hand putting pressure on her wounds, someone was covering them. Someone picked her up and was carrying her from the battlefield. They had come to rescue her, save her. But her thoughts became jumbled, paranoid. She felt fear that while this person had rescued her, this person might also wish to imprison her. Maybe it was one of her enemies, keeping her alive to torture her later. Her mind raced at the thought. She could no longer defend herself. She was vulnerable. She was weak. And she was scared. She tried to open her eyes to see who this person was. She looked up, squinting into the sun to see. She had to know her fate.
"Xena, here. Drink some of this. I've put some healing herbs from
our pack in it"
Gabrielle was sitting against the cave wall with Xena's back against her chest, holding her and trying to help her drink some of the broth she had made. Her voice was like honey, quiet and smooth. The warrior blinked at the light coming from the fire and tried to sit up a little. Her attempt was futile because neither her body nor the young bard's would allow it. She relented and sank back into Gabrielle's arms. Gabrielle was cradling her whole upper body and head in her arm and holding the drink with her other hand.
"Shh..here, take a small drink."
Gabrielle's words were soothing and quiet. Xena felt Gabrielle lift the glass to her lips and closed her eyes as the warm liquid filled her mouth. She drank. As she swallowed, she felt the young bard tenderly stroke her hair away from her forehead. In this woman's arms, she felt safe. Gabrielle had her take another sip of the broth, some of which spilled and ran down her chin and throat. She watched as Gabrielle softly wiped away the liquid from her with her fingers and closed her eyes again. The touch of Gabrielle's hand comforted her. Next to the fire, she felt herself sink into the softness of the bard's arms, cradled. She drifted off...
The fallen warrior lay helpless in the arms of the unseen person. Try as she might, Xena could not open her eyes to see who this person was that had covered her wounds on the battlefield and was now carrying her away. Friend or foe she did not know. She only assumed it was someone with great strength to be able to pick her up and carry her. She hated how weak she felt and she hated not knowing exactly what was going on. Her head hurt and her thoughts were cloudy. All she knew was that she had to trust that the person carrying her would not drop her or worse, would not exploit her weakened state. As self-reliant as she was, Xena found this to be extremely hard to do. But at some level she had no choice. Her body weak, her vision blurry, she was vulnerable and at the mercy of her would-be savior or possible arch-enemy. She struggled to open her eyes, to do something. She needed to know who she was surrendering to even if this surrender was beyond her control. Her blue eyes squinted as she managed to open them just a bit. The bright light of the sun was partially blocked by the outline of the person carrying her.
Xena woke to Gabrielle's fingers lightly stroking her face. The bard was humming softly to mask her own worry and concern. Xena reached up and touched Gabrielle's hand. She felt some of her strength was coming back just a bit...maybe from the broth, maybe from the sleep, maybe from her bard's arms.
"How do you feel Xena?"
Gabrielle's voice was soft and comforting. The bard's arms around her held her gently but firmly. The look of caring and concern on Gabrielle's face made Xena smile a little. Sometimes the young woman could look so much older when she was worried, her brows wrinkled, eyes serious.
"I'm feeling better Gabrielle. Thank you."
Even though Xena was awake, Gabrielle did not move her hand away from the warrior's face and continued lightly running her fingers over the curves of Xena's face and through her hair. With each charged touch, the warrior could feel her body regaining its strength. Xena looked up into the bard's eyes and could see far into the pale blue-green depths. Oceanwide, the sea, salty water, fresh spring, liquid and pure.
"I was hoping that somehow I could figure out a way to help you feel better. I didn't know what else to do besides hold you."
Gabrielle's voice cracked. Xena could sense that the young bard was extremely worried and concerned that she would not be able to make Xena feel better. Laying in Gabrielle's arms, allowing herself to be cared for, to be touched, Xena knew that the only one that could heal her was this young woman. She hated to admit that she needed anyone, so solitary had most of her existence been. Even if that person was Gabrielle, depending upon another person was not the warrior's style. She fought the urge to bolt emotionally. She was not the kind of person that needed someone to look after her, to care for her, to heal her, to rescue her. She was the warrior princess. She depended on no one but herself. But as she felt the electric touch of Gabrielle's hands on her face, stroking her hair, soothing her, she realized her truth. She did need this woman, Gabrielle, to carry her, to lift her, and to hold her. The truth was that she needed and wanted to surrender to this young bard. Only through this truth would the warrior be free. Only through Gabrielle would she be healed.
"Gabrielle, please...I..I need.."
The warrior stumbled over the words she could not speak. "My most stunning defeat is by my own tongue"...the words of a poem she knew in some other life, some other time came back to her now. She looked into Gabrielle's eyes and hoped beyond hope that the young bard would know what she needed, what she couldn't put into words. Gabrielle stopped stroking Xena's face and looked back into the deep blue before her. Luckily, being a bard attuned to her warrior's (almost) every mood, she knew exactly what Xena needed and could not say. She needed to be healed.
"Shhh...I know what you need Xena.." Gabrielle softly whispered.
Xena closed her eyes as her redemption began.
The young bard shifted the blanket away from Xena's shoulder. Xena was laying with her back against Gabrielle, her head against the bard's smooth, firm stomach. Gabrielle ran her fingertips lightly over the top of Xena's warm shoulder and down her upper arm. Xena shivered at the touch, feeling its effects far and wide. She only wore her thin underslip, having earlier apparently surrendered her armor and leather unconsciously. Gabrielle's hand rested on one of Xena's forearms, lightly massaging it. Xena felt Gabrielle shift just a bit as she leaned down to kiss the warrior's shoulder. At first, Xena could barely feel the feather-light touch of the bard's lips on her skin, soft and tentative. There was no mistaking though the effect of those lips on Xena. When she felt Gabrielle's tongue lightly lick the part of her shoulder where it met her neck, she could not deny the energy that surged through her.
"Mmmm..." was all the warrior could manage as she pushed off the rest of the blanket and moved herself up a little in Gabrielle's lap with her back still against the front of the bard's chest. Feeling Gabrielle's breasts against her partially bare back sent a shockwave through Xena's entire body. She suddenly felt she needed her whole body to be in full contact with Gabrielle's, she needed to absorb everything the young bard could give her.
Gabrielle's other hand slipped across Xena's shoulder and down her collarbone. Xena felt the light touch of Gabrielle's fingers across the front of her throat and down the middle of her chest. Gabrielle looked down the length of Xena's body and took a deep breath. The glow of the fire beside them cast a golden light on the woman clad only in a soft slip. Gone was the look of a physically weakened warrior she had seen just hours before. Her body seemed to shine with warmth, like the sun has bronzed it with its rays.
Gabrielle moved out from under Xena and gently lay the warrior back on the blanket they had been sharing. Not that Xena was in any position to argue the arrangement, but she was so unused to looking up and seeing Gabrielle above her, hands on the ground on either side of her shoulders. The way the bard's honey-red hair fell down to lightly touch Xena's bare shoulders and neck was perfect. Gabrielle's knees were on the ground, straddling Xena's hips. If only the warrior had recovered enough strength to pull Gabrielle down on top of her, but the bard had other plans.
Looking down into Xena's blue eyes, Gabrielle knew exactly what the warrior needed. She planned to cover every inch of her with the healing touch of her lips and fingers and skin. Xena could only wish that the young bard knew what she needed. Luckily, the two were of one and the same mind on this issue.
Xena closed her eyes as Gabrielle slowly leaned down to lightly touch her lips to the warrior's own. Remembering what Gabrielle's lips had done previously to her shoulder, Xena shivered before Gabrielle even touched her. She felt the warm, soft kiss of her bard on her lips, much like the gentle breeze of a morning kisses her cheeks when she wakes. The bard's mouth tasted sweet, just like one would expect. Nectar of the gods, Xena thought. And much like the healing properties of that nectar, Gabrielle's soft kiss made Xena feel immortal, healed.
Before Xena could catch her breath from that simple kiss, Gabrielle had moved her lips to Xena's eyelids, lightly kissing each of them with such tenderness, the warrior forgot all about any physical weakness she might have had. When the bard's lips moved to her jawline and neck, Xena felt a surge of electric energy pass through her. As soon as Gabrielle's lips were on the tops of her breasts, Xena felt a jolt move through her. Gabrielle's kisses down each of her arms made the warrior shudder uncontrollably. When Gabrielle pushed up her slip to reveal the firm stomach of the warrior princess, Xena's strength had returned to the point of being able to put her hands in Gabrielle's soft hair and pull her down towards her. Lips across her ribs and sides and bellybutton started a slow fire deep inside the warrior. Basically, her entire body responded to every single touch of Gabrielle's and it responded with renewal.
Her recovery would have been remarkable had she even cared to notice, as it was she felt her entire body react to the power of a young bard's touch. Gabrielle looked up at Xena who had her eyes closed and a small smile playing on those wonderful warrior lips of hers.
"Shh...save your strength. You're going to need it."
Gabrielle smiled to herself as she said this and moved her lips to the top of Xena's thighs. This action brought a quick jerk from Xena, who wasn't all that accustomed to feeling both long hair tickle her legs and a soft tongue lightly lick the top of her thighs. She also didn't expect to feel that tongue work its gentle way all down her leg and end up at her ankle and the top of her foot. When this action was repeated on the other leg, all of Xena's lower extremities were tingling from the touch. She could have run a marathon (yeah, like she even wanted to right now).
Xena looked down the length of her body at Gabrielle who looked up the length of this same body at the warrior. She smiled at the gentle ways of the young bard; Gabrielle's words and presence had healed part of her, but Xena's physical salvation could only come through the soothing, comforting touch of her tenderhearted bard. Only through letting go and accepting her dependency and need could Xena become whole. To fight like a warrior against this would be futile and she knew she would lose. She only hoped and trusted that Gabrielle had the strength to carry her through the final surrender.
Gabrielle moved up Xena's body, placing herself between the warrior's knees. She knelt in front of the woman who earlier seemed near death almost. Her vibrancy and health had returned as if by magic. If Gabrielle had been the warrior type, she would have sensed easy victory, a silent concession perhaps? As it were, the poet's heart only saw the beauty of a woman who had let her demons be conquered and who had acknowledged and accepted her weaknesses.
These whispered words were barely audible from Xena's lips, but Gabrielle heard them loud and clear. For Xena, her surrender was complete. As she closed her eyes, she felt the bard move closer to where the warrior was all heat and fire. Eyes closed, Xena could see in her mind a bright light, as if the sun had found it's place into the warrior's head. As she felt Gabrielle's warm breath against her inner thigh, the outline of a figure passed in front of the bright light, blocking out the rays. When she felt the bard's tentative tongue lightly touch her, her body became whole as she shook under the touch of her healer. When she felt Gabrielle's finger slip inside of her and her body release, she began to see the face of the person in her dreams silhouetted against the sun. She now knew her savior...she cried out as she let go.
Xena's eyes flew open, body alert. She jumped up immediately and was in a warrior's stance, instinct and reaction taking over her body. She looked around her in the dark right before dawn. She saw the remnants of the night's fire, Argo laying not too far away in a clearing, and Gabrielle sleeping...
For once, the warrior and bard woke up at the same time, late and both rather exhausted from a full-night's sleep. They wordlessly began the routine of cleaning up camp and packing up their belongings, each lost in her own thoughts.
"Would you like some tea before we get started?"
Gabrielle's words startled Xena, who had been trying for the last 10 minutes to saddle Argo, a task that normally would have only taken the warrior princess a minute or so.
"Um..yes, that does sound good."
Xena finally finished getting the saddle situated, loading all of their packs, and putting her now shiny armor back on. She was adjusting her sword as she sat down next to the fire that Gabrielle had rekindled to heat the water for tea. She avoided looking directly at Gabrielle who was doing exactly the same thing. She held out her hand and gave Gabrielle some fruit and bread from the packs.
"Here, we should eat before we start traveling."
As Gabrielle took some of the food, she looked over at Xena who now looked back at her. When Gabrielle's hand lightly touched the warrior's as she took her breakfast, their eyes caught, pale blue met sky blue. A brief moment in time, each knowing but not knowing. As quick as it came, it left. Xena quickly moved to the fire to pour the tea.
Each sat silent in their own reveries, quietly eating their meal and sipping their tea. The morning breeze moved through the trees around them. The sun was creeping towards the middle of the sky, no clouds in sight. Birds did their best at making music. The valley around them was dotted with light purple flowers and green grass that waved in the wind. This morning would have been like so many others they had experienced, except this morning found the warrior and the bard changed. This sun seemed to herald the arrival of something new, of something deeper than just another day.
Gabrielle's voice was quiet and tentative. She dared not look at her warrior friend as she spoke.
Xena's own voice was low and quiet. She stared at the fire, beginning its slow decent.
"Did you dream last night?"
The young bard paused. She hoped the answer would be the same as hers.
"Yes, Gabrielle. I did dream last night."
Xena's response came out quietly and slowly. She hoped she didn't convey what the dream had been about in the way she spoke.
"So did I."
Gabrielle looked over at Xena. Her features were unreadable. She of course knew that if the warrior looked at her, she would know exactly what the bard's dream had been. Fearful of this, she got up and started putting out the fire and preparing to leave. Xena followed suit, neither one speaking much or looking at the other. Xena led Argo through the grass and flowers while Gabrielle followed along side of her.
After they had made their way out of the Valley of Azure, they stopped and looked back. The abundance of light purple wildflowers spread throughout the valley made it clear why it had gotten it's name. It was serene and beautiful. No wonder a god had felt the desire to bless such a place.
"You know, Xena, I believe this valley is blessed."
Gabrielle stood beside the warrior and looked up. Xena returned the look with a small, warm smile and looked back across the valley. She gently put her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and looked up into the sky as the rays of the sun warmed her face.
"So do I, Gabrielle, so do I."
Colophon: The writing of this story was greatly aided by an occasional warm glass of Sangiovese red wine, utter neglect for other things I should be working on instead, and the music of the Spinanes..the song "Luminous" in particular.