The following story contains adult themes depicting sexual relations 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 do not read any further. The writer as well as the person whose webpage this work appears on accept no legal responsibility for noncompliance with this warning.
The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo are copyrighted to MCA/Universal and Renaissance. 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 May 8, 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.
No mermaids, trees, or cross-dressers were harmed in the writing of this story but a perfectly good silk shirt was inadvertently ruined.
by L.N. James
"..I know there is strength in the differences between us
and I know there is comfort where we overlap.."
The countryside was hilly and green, groves of trees scattered about the land. Small plots of land separated by crude fences could be seen far in the distance to the right of the two travellers. On the left, the rolling plains of a Grecian countryside seemed to stretch forever. Further up in the distance on the horizon, the slightest bit of a pinnacle from a castle’s towers was visible. While the road led into and past the kingdom in the distance, there were few people at the moment in either direction.
However, the dusty road that lead to Gralius didn’t seem quite big enough for a warrior and her bard at this particular moment. Indeed, Gabrielle was wishing she could hide behind the small pebble she was kicking along. It’s truly amazing the kind of detail one can see when one’s attention is focused on each grain of dust and sand and stone that make up a road. Of course, trying to avoid the eyes of a certain warrior princess helps one’s focus immensely.
Xena’s voice boomed down at her young bard lover, not quite believing what she just heard. Xena stopped Argo and stared at Gabrielle, her eyes narrowed.
"I told them we would come."
The bard’s voice was small, her eyes never leaving a rather spectacular little piece of rock that looked like white crystal. Momentarily, Gabrielle wondered where this little stone had come from...maybe from a deep cavern in the middle of Greece that slowly over years was ground down to dust by the incessant force of ancient waters pounding against it and somehow managing to find it’s way to this lonely road. The young storyteller pondered whether or not she could find that deep cavern and hide in it right now.
Xena swung down from the bronze colored mare and walked over to Gabrielle, her long legs making quick work of the short distance between her and the bard. Despite being Gabrielle’s lover, Xena was still an imposing figure when she was irritated. And right now, Xena was most definitely irritated at this blond.
Xena stopped in front of Gabrielle and took the young bard’s face in her hand and slowly lifted it so that green eyes were forced to look into penetrating blue.
"You told them we would come."
Xena’s questions always seemed like statements and this was no different. It demanded an explanation. The warrior’s mouth and jaw were set at the bit of unpleasant news her bard had just relayed.
Gabrielle thought quickly, how could she diffuse this potential powder keg in front of her. Xena’s lessons on tactical warfare came in handy as she attempted to use Rule #8: Disarm your opponent by any means possible.
The bard put on her best and cutest smile possible and batted her eyelashes up at Xena, her green eyes looking forever like the innocent farmgirl she most certainly was not. Her hands slowly slid around Xena’s leathered waist as she quickly leaned her head down and placed a soft, sweet kiss on the inside of the warrior’s hand that held her face.
"Xena, I couldn’t very well turn down King Manius’ invitation. He and Queen Naria were so thankful that you rescued poor Prince Albertus from that ferocious beast yesterday."
Xena’s eyes narrowed as the young bard took Xena’s other hand and placed it on her half-bare hip, just above where her skirt rested. Turning her head to lightly kiss the inside of muscled forearm, right above the warrior’s leather gauntlet, Gabrielle came in closer to her lover.
"They were so worried..."
The bard leaned up and placed a tiny wet kiss in the hollow of Xena’s throat.
"And you were so brave..."
A soft bard kiss found it’s way down between the warrior’s cleavage.
"And I was so proud..."
Xena’s eyebrow raised as she looked down at Gabrielle, her expression softening with each touch from her lover’s soft lips. She almost gave in as she felt Gabrielle’s tongue lightly lick along the edge of the leather covering her right breast...
"Oh, no you don’t."
Xena smiled as she pulled Gabrielle back from her, chuckling at the hurt expression the young bard feigned. For someone who wrote the rulebook on tactical warfare, Xena knew Rule #8 better than anyone else. But she had to give the Amazon queen credit..it almost worked.
"Gabrielle, you know as well as I do that I didn’t "save" the Prince. I only picked up that little Tartarus of a dog yapping at the boy so he would stop whining. That "ferocious beast" was no bigger than your satchel and you know it!"
The last words were punctuated by one of the warrior’s long fingers lightly tapping on the creamy skin above the bard’s left breast. Hooking her finger in Gabrielle’s low-cut green top, Xena pulled the bard to her. With her eyes dancing, the warrior leaned down and kissed her bard on the lips, effectively disarming her opponent with a delicious swipe of her tongue.
Gabrielle agreed as she leaned up further to taste her warrior’s mouth. Xena slowly moved her hands around and down Gabrielle’s back and rested them behind the bard’s hips, hooking her thumbs in the leather belt that held up her skirt. Xena broke the kiss and moved to Gabrielle’s ear, breathing and kissing at the same time.
"So, I didn’t really save the Prince.."
Xena’s warm breath moved across the soft, wispy hair behind the bard’s ear as she buried her face into that wonderful golden-red softness, her tongue dancing along the sensitive skin on Gabrielle’s neck, biting softly on the tiny blond hairs at the edge of the bard’s hairline.
Gabrielle agreed again as she leaned her head to the side, letting the warrior take whatever she wanted. Her hands pulled Xena closer, feeling the hard cool breastplate against her breasts and loving it.
"So, we really don’t need to go to this party.."
Xena breathed into Gabrielle’s ear as she once again claimed the bard’s earlobe with her mouth and lips and tongue. Her right hand slipped further down between the leather belt of the bard’s skirt and her young lover’s soft skin....
"Mmm hhhey! Wait a minute!"
Gabrielle pushed back from the warrior princess and put her hands on her hips. She tried to put a stern face on as she looked up at Xena. The taller woman held up her hands and raised her eyebrows as she shook her head, effectively trying to proclaim her innocence with a "What did I do?" look.
"Xena, I promised the King and Queen we would come to the party they’re having tonight. They said it was an annual event and they would be honored if we attended. I couldn’t very well turn them down when they were so grateful for you saving the Prince."
"Remind me never to save another Prince.." Xena muttered under her breath.
"Besides, we can just make an appearance and go...after dinner.."
Gabrielle licked her lips unconsciously at the thought of a huge royal dinner. Xena smiled at this familiar gesture and shook her head.
"It could be fun, you know. You remember that, right? Fun?"
Gabrielle smiled up at Xena, taking hold of her warrior’s hands. Her green eyes sparkled as she watched Xena shake her head again, chuckling.
Combining Gabrielle with that word always won any argument the two lovers had. Still, Xena didn’t want to appear as if she gave in too quickly to the young bard or else she’d get grand ideas about who made the decisions in this relationship. Of course, both of them did, but each liked to think they were the one. The warrior grinned down at Gabrielle.
"Gabrielle, the last time we went to a "fun" party, you passed out at the dinner table and I had to carry you up to our room."
The young bard narrowed her eyes at Xena.
"Xena, how was I supposed to know it was a wine tasting party? If I had known I was going to sample from every darn vintage barrel that king had in his palace, I would have eaten more for dinner."
Xena cocked her head and raised an eyebrow.
"Well, ok, I’m not sure I could have eaten more than I did for dinner but still..."
Xena pulled Gabrielle into an embrace, loving this young bard more than anything in this world. There was no denying, though—Gabrielle was a lightweight, pure and simple.
Xena’s lips found the bard’s ear again as she spoke in her most sultry voice, making the light blond hair on Gabrielle’s arms and legs stand on end.
"And I had such plans for you that night, my love.."
The warrior quickly but deeply kissed Gabrielle on the lips and pulled back from her, leaving a rather dazed bard standing there, her eyes wide at the implication.
Walking over to Argo, Xena swung up into the saddle and took hold of the reins draped around the saddlehorn. She smiled down at her young lover, seeing the flush on her face. Xena licked her lips slightly as her eyes burned into the bard’s.
"Yes, Gabrielle. Really."
Gabrielle closed her eyes at her warrior’s voice, melting just a little bit on that dusty lonely road out in the middle of nowhere.
"C’mon, my little bard, if we’re going to make it to this party in time, we’d better get going."
Gabrielle was broken out of the spell she was under by the sound of Argo’s hooves slowly making their way down the road to Gralius. She quickly caught up and continued on their way. She decided it was best to quicken the pace as she prepared to drop the last bomb on her warrior princess.
"Xena, did I mention it was a costume party?"
The short trip into Gralius was peppered with muttered curses from the warrior all the way. Gabrielle knew to keep her distance behind Xena as she smiled with each word her lover said. She tried not to laugh aloud when snippets of phrases made their way back to her ears "...damned costume party...rather be in Tartarus...free ride for that little... Charon’s boat.." The bard blushed at a few more colorful curses Gabrielle had never heard before.
Once inside the gates, Xena’s temper had finally cooled just a bit, but Gabrielle decided it was best to tread lightly around her just the same. They were met inside the gate by the stable boy who took Argo’s reins to lead her to the stable.
"Make sure she gets a good brush down and charge whatever it costs to the blond here."
Xena pointed in Gabrielle’s direction and smirked as she walked towards the palace. Gabrielle smiled down at the stable boy and handed him a dinar as tip.
"Please make sure this horse gets the best care possible. She tends to get unpleasant when her horse isn’t groomed well. And believe me, she’s upset enough with me now, it’s best not to make her any madder."
The young bard winked at the young boy as he started towards the stable.
The stableboy turned around as Gabrielle pressed another dinar into his hand.
"A little extra insurance never hurts.."
Gabrielle laughed and turned towards the palace, making her way to meet up with Xena.
The warrior stood just inside the palace doors, in a little alcove that held a tall wooden stand. From where she was, Gabrielle could see that Xena was arguing with the man who stood behind the stand. He seemed to be ignoring her while the look on her face was getting darker by the minute. Just as she was reaching behind to pull out her sword, Gabrielle ran up and put her hand on Xena’s arm to stop her.
"Wait! Wait! Xena, hold on! What’s the problem here?"
Xena glared at the little man who continued to ignore them while he checked through a stack of parchments on the stand.
"He’s the problem, Gabrielle. Now if you’ll just let me lop off his head, I’ll solve it."
Gabrielle gave a nervous smile back to the man who made no appearance of having heard the threat. Turning back to Xena, she lightly took hold of the warrior’s forearm and looked up at the seething woman.
"Xena, let me handle this. Calm down."
Gabrielle turned back around and faced the man. He was skinny and blond, his thin face held a haughty look. He seemed to be preoccupied with the papers in front of him as if he held the most important job in all the palace.
"Excuse me, sir?"
The man ignored her and turned to pick up another stack of parchments behind him, shuffling and pulling out his quill to make various notes.
Gabrielle moved closer and smiled as she leaned against the stand, clearing her throat and making her voice a little louder since the man had obviously not heard her the first time.
"Excuse me, sir?"
Without looking up from the papers, the man’s voice sounded bored.
Progress! Gabrielle turned toward Xena whose eyes still blazed and nodded.
She smiled and turned back towards the man.
"We’re here for the party."
Shuffling more parchments, the man kept writing as his eyes never left those ever-important lists in front of him.
"And you are...?"
The condescending tone of the question caused Gabrielle to falter just a bit, however, she put a cheery expression on her face and continued.
"I’m Gabrielle and this is Xena."
The man finally looked up and gave them both the once-over, expressing his displeasure at having to put effort into dealing with these two women who so clearly were not worth his bother.
"Gabrielle and Xena....right."
He gave them a patronizing little smile and head nod and turned back down towards his parchments, their presence obviously forgotten.
The young bard turned and looked at Xena, disbelief at the dismissal evident on her face. The warrior had to smile just a bit despite her anger at how Gabrielle put on a determined look and turned back towards the man. It was time to pull some rank on this guy.
"Listen, this is Xena, Warrior Princess and I’m Gabrielle, an Amazon Queen and we’re here for the party."
The little man sighed and looked up at Gabrielle, the quill in his hand stilled.
Gabrielle put her hands on her hips and cocked her head. This little weasel of a man was trying her patience. Glancing back at Xena who had since crossed her arms in front of her and decided to watch the scene unfold with a half smirk on her face. She wondered how much more Gabrielle would take of this.
"And so we’d like to come in and meet with the King and Queen before the party starts."
"And you said your name was Gabrielle?..and Xener?"
The bard’s exasperated word practically echoed through the alcove.
"Well, no need to get huffy, let me check my list."
The man started half-heartedly looking through his parchments, shuffling papers, shaking his head.
"I’m sorry, but I don’t have either one of your names on the list. You’ll just have to be a dear and come back next year..."
The last of his words were said softly in one of the most patronizing ways Gabrielle had ever heard as he smiled condescendingly and waved them off with his puny little hand.
"Be a dear...ba-bye"
Gabrielle took a deep breath and counted to five. The man had gone back to checking his papers and Xena held back a slight chuckle.
Gabrielle closed her eyes and turned back around. She calmly took a deep breath, using her hands to bring the air in and help the air out. She looked up at Xena and nodded once.
"Lop his head off, Xena. It’s the only way."
Just as Xena was reaching back to pull out her sword, a stocky tall blond-haired woman came rushing out into the alcove.
The woman rushed over to the warrior and bard and started to pull them into the palace door. A nervous smile was on her face as she eyed Xena’s sword and chakram and glanced over at the little man.
"I’m so sorry, my name’s Annia, Queen Naria’s assistant. Please, come in, come in."
Her nervous laugh followed as Xena looked back at the haughty, pretentious weasel of a man and gave him the ‘look’. Funny though how the ‘look’ really doesn’t work all that well when the person receiving it is ignoring the looker. Xena was just about ready to check out the trajectory her chakram would take when Annia continued to pull them into the palace.
"I’m so sorry about Davidius’ behavior. He tends to be a little.. um..cranky at times. I am truly sorry."
Annia smiled at Gabrielle and Xena, concern clearly evident on her round face.
"It’s ok. The important thing is that Xena and I made it past him without any bloodshed."
Gabrielle and Xena laughed and Annia looked at both of them, trying to decide how serious they were and laughed nervously.
"Yes, well, Queen Naria and King Manius are truly honored that you will attend the annual Garb Gala of Gralius."
Gabrielle held back a chuckle as Xena rolled her eyes. Indeed, the little bard would pay grandly for dragging Xena to a costume party that was for sure.
"Well, we’re both certainly looking forward to it, aren’t we Xena?"
The bard smiled over at Xena, who stood there, lost in her thoughts of how she might exact her punishment on Gabrielle. The young storyteller gently elbowed Xena and smiled back at Annia.
"Hmm? Oh yes, I can’t wait."
Xena sweetly smiled at Gabrielle, her blue eyes promising her young lover that there would be Hades to pay soon enough. Gabrielle laughed nervously and turned back to the Queen’s assistant.
"Yes, well, we were hoping to meet with the King and Queen before the party to get an idea of what we should expect tonight."
Annia smiled at both of them and started to lead them towards a hallway off the palace’s main entrance room. The white marble floor was shining as the torches and lanterns that lit the entranceway glowed orange. It was just starting to get dark outside and there were few windows in this room with a high ceiling. A large marble staircase led upstairs and Gabrielle could hear voices coming from various parts of the palace. She guessed that the party would take place in some sort of ballroom on the second level as the stairway was decorated with brightly colored streamers and flowers. The hallway they walked down was long and at the door to each of the rooms along it, a lantern was lit. The large wooden doors were old but the wood had been polished smooth and dark. As they made their way down to the end of the hallway, the Queen’s assistant explained the customs of the party to the warrior and bard.
"Queen Naria and King Manius need to attend to some last minute details but they instructed me to fill you in. The party and dinner will start in two candlemarks so it should give you enough time to get your costumes prepared."
Gabrielle warily looked at Xena out of the corner of her eye and gently took the warrior’s hand and held it in her own, squeezing it just a bit.
"Everyone comes together at the dinner dressed in their costumes and a big banquet is laid out."
Xena squeezed the young bard’s hand back at this statement, knowing full well the words "big banquet" were two of her bard’s favorites.
"So, I’ll take you to each of your rooms."
Annia stopped as both Gabrielle and Xena had stopped. The Queen’s assistant looked back at both of them questioningly.
Gabrielle asked quietly, hoping this wasn’t truly the case. She dare not look at Xena.
"Yes, each guest has their own room. That way, when they come together at the banquet, their costumes will be a surprise to everyone...including their partners."
Annia glanced down at the entwined hands of the warrior and bard and had long ago guessed they were together. She smiled as she watched the struggle each woman was having at the revelation they would be separated before the party. She surmised that the warrior woman was not particularly fond of crowds and parties and chuckled a bit as Xena nodded at her and pulled Gabrielle aside for a second.
"Gabrielle, you know how much I really don’t like this."
The young bard looked up at the warrior and smiled softly as she took Xena’s other hand.
"I know, Xena. Thank you for agreeing to come. It won’t be so bad, really.
Besides, after the party, we can just come back to one of our rooms."
Xena looked down at the beautiful green eyes of her young love and melted. In those eyes, Xena saw everything. She would never deny anything to this woman who she loved deeper than the ocean blue. She sighed and touched Gabrielle’s face, running her fingers lightly over the smooth skin of the bard’s cheek and lips. Glancing over to see that Annia had taken a keen interest in the painting on the hallway wall, Xena leaned down and softly kissed those lips and pulled back.
"You know I’ll do anything to make you happy, Gabrielle."
The young bard’s heart skipped at beat as she heard the depth of Xena’s soft words. Even though they were only talking about attending a party, Gabrielle knew that Xena’s words referred to everything in their lives. Gods she loved this woman. Leaning up, she softly spoke in Xena’s ear, her breath warm against the warrior.
"As will I, my love, as will I."
Gabrielle smiled at Xena as she pulled away and they turned back towards the Queen’s assistant. Walking towards her, Annia turned around and smiled at the two woman. It was clear to her that both held the other’s heart tighter than the strands the Fates wove together.
"Xena, your room is around the corner and three doors on the left. Gabrielle, your room is right here. Here are the keys and I’m sure you’ll find the selection of clothes inside to be adequate to make a costume."
Annia gave them each a large golden key tied on a red velvet string. Gabrielle smiled at its size and weight as she tossed it up and caught it in the palm of her hand. Xena took her key and tucked into between her breasts as the Queen’s assistant continued.
"The King and Queen have seamstresses sewing year round to make an assortment of items for our guests to wear. Luckily, the Queen sized you both up yesterday when you helped the Prince so we have a general idea and have made appropriate arrangements. If you should need anything, please ring the bell outside your door and one of the staff will see to it. The party will take place upstairs in the grand ballroom, you won’t miss it. I hope you’ll have fun tonight. I’ll be looking for you both."
With a gleam in her eye and a wink to both of them, the large woman turned and walked back down the hall.
"Well, Xena, I guess I’ll see you in a couple of candlemarks."
The warrior smiled down at Gabrielle, the sudden reluctance at letting Xena go was clearly evident in her voice.
"Yes, I guess you will."
"So, how will I know it’s you? What are you going to be dressed as?"
Gabrielle moved in closer and smiled up at Xena, her small hands once again finding their way into larger, strong hands.
"Gabrielle, if I told you that, we wouldn’t be following the customs of the Garb Gala of Gralius now would we?"
A teasing sound found its way in the warrior’s voice as she chuckled down at Gabrielle. The bard just shook her head as she smiled.
"So I’ll see you soon, Xena?"
Xena nodded at the young bard, softly smiled at her and placed a light kiss on her cheek.
The warrior turned to make her way down the hall to her room. With her back to Gabrielle, she felt a small hand on her arm, at her elbow and she stopped. Another small hand found its way to her waist as she felt Gabrielle move in close behind her. The young bard pressed close against Xena’s back and ran her hand down the warrior’s arm, tracing lightly over the leather and metal of her gauntlet. Gabrielle’s hands then traced a path over every inch of leather on the warrior’s back, noting each crease, smooth spot, or cool piece of metal. Xena closed her eyes at the bard’s touch, smiling just a bit at her love’s tenderness.
Gabrielle’s eyes took in each detail of Xena’s back and shoulders, the way her jet-black hair fell down to cover brown leather and bronze metal. Standing behind Xena and taking note of her warrior’s height, the young bard felt small leaning against this woman. As her hands brushed over the bands of leather that covered the warrior’s biceps, Gabrielle nuzzled her face into the sweet scent of Xena’s hair.
The contradiction of her lover always startled her; a soft woman beneath the exterior of a magnificent warrior. Gabrielle pulled back to allow her eyes and fingers to lightly trace up Xena’s sword scabbard, the feel of worn leather shielding cool metal met her gaze and touch. She closed her eyes as her hand briefly grazed over the hilt and pommel of Xena’s sword. The bard memorized with her fingers every tiny detail of what made the warrior, a warrior. She loved every part of it and the idea of Xena’s power excited her immensely. This power was represented not only in the warrior’s body, but also in the tools that she chose to carry. The sword and the chakram were a part of Xena and each came to symbolize her power and strength just as her physical body did. In the back of Gabrielle’s mind, she knew that one day she would wield this power herself.
Taking a deep breath, Gabrielle took Xena’s arm and bent it up so that she could lean forward and lay a soft kiss in the palm of the warrior’s hand. She closed her eyes as she ran her other hand back down the scabbard’s soft surface and remained quietly with her lips pressed in Xena’s hand, lightly placing small kisses against the warm palm.
Xena leaned her head back with her eyes closed at the feel of Gabrielle’s hands and lips on her. She took a breath and turned around to face her young love. Gabrielle remained still, eyes closed, lips against the warrior’s palm. The bard’s breathing had increased a bit at how much and how deeply this woman moved her. Xena’s eyes burned as she looked at the bard, knowing that Gabrielle loved to surrender to her strength just as much as Xena loved to demand that acquiescence. It would have been so easy to fall into that role and take her young love into her room and passionately make love to her, to excite Gabrielle with her power. Xena drew in another deep breath and moved both of her hands to the side of Gabrielle’s face, her fingers softly moving through the bard’s golden hair. Gabrielle tilted her head up and kept her eyes closed, afraid of looking into the passion in Xena’s eyes, knowing she would give in to that look easily. Her resolve was almost gone as it was.
Xena leaned down and placed a soft kiss on the bard’s lips, lightly tasting Gabrielle’s sweet mouth with her tongue. She steeled herself against the soft moan that came from the young bard and pulled the woman close into a strong embrace. Her arms went fully around Gabrielle as she held her tight. Gabrielle’s face was buried into Xena’s neck as she felt the heat of the taller woman’s skin. She lightly placed a wet kiss there as she hugged Xena back. She felt the warrior’s breath against her ear and heard the deep, low voice she knew so well.
"Soon, my love, soon."
With that, they pulled apart and turned to go to their rooms. Gabrielle still had not looked into Xena’s eyes and the warrior had understood. She herself wasn’t sure she could handle seeing the desire so clearly expressed in those green eyes of her love. Building their passions through such exchanges was something that each of them loved to do: It made the time they were together that much more intense. The two lovers had turned delayed gratification into an art form. Now, if only they could last until the end of the party tonight...
After Gabrielle closed the large wooden door behind her and bolted it, she leaned back against it and closed her eyes. By the Gods, what Xena could do to her just by her mere presence was truly awesome. With her hands flat against the smooth door, Gabrielle took a number of deep breaths, trying to calm herself down. Her face was entirely too warm and she was positively too aroused. ‘Breathe, Gabrielle, breathe...’
Sighing, she made her way over to one of the tables in the room and poured some cool water from the wooden pitcher into a large basin. The young bard contemplated simply dunking her entire face in the bowl but instead opted for splashing the cool water over her heated skin. Walking over to the other side of the room, Gabrielle opened up one of the windows in the room and was rewarded with a cool summernight breeze coming in, splashing over her still-wet face.
Her ground floor room looked out into the courtyard garden. Nighttime was slowly descending over the lush bushes and flowers that grew haphazardly throughout the garden. Smiling, she was pleased to see that, while the garden appeared to have some semblance of order, there was still the look of wild, abandoned growth: Her favorite type of garden. She closed her eyes as the sweet scent of honeysuckle flavored the air. It was going to be a full moon tonight and Gabrielle smiled at how many moons she had spent with the only one she would ever love with all her heart and how many more moons they would have together. These quiet moments alone reminded her of how together she and Xena really were.
Turning to survey the room, she smiled at the huge wooden wardrobe, smooth and dark, that stood in one corner of the room. That was most likely where all of the clothes for her costume could be found. Before going over to take a peek through the selections, Gabrielle simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run headlong and jump into the huge bed occupying the rest of the room. The soft linens billowed up around her as the young bard lay face down smiling with her eyes closed. As much as she had gotten used to sleeping outdoors and occasionally sharing a hard pallet in some no- name inn, a royal bed was to be appreciated with much gusto and abandon.
She giggled into the sheets at the thought of the last time she and Xena had shared a royal bed. Right before the rather unfortunate wine-tasting incident, she and her warrior had the good fortune of a few hours of rest and relaxation. Xena had laughed when the young bard had stood up after a particularly heated lovemaking session and jumped up and down on the bed, jostling the naked warrior all over the place. The young bard had even attempted an imitation warcry before falling back down into Xena’s arms. Gabrielle’s philosophy was that one must seize every opportunity to revel in a comfortable, bouncy bed that one gets.
Rolling over, the young bard smiled contentedly at the thought of the party tonight. She adored such affairs and she knew that Xena would do her best to act as if she also enjoyed being there. Gabrielle knew, though, that as long as she was with the bard, Xena enjoyed wherever they were. Hopping up, Gabrielle decided to rummage through the wardrobe and see exactly what her options for tonight were...
After leaving Gabrielle, Xena had actually decided to give the palace the once-over to make sure everything was on the up and up. She knew that Gralius was a peaceful kingdom and there was very little trouble, but she still felt the need to make sure she and her bard were safe. A quick peek in the stables confirmed that Argo had gotten the royal treatment. Good thing for the bard, Xena smiled. Walking through the halls of the palace, she had to simply shake her head at some of the more outrageous costumes people were wearing as they meandered back and forth through the halls. But, if she had to hear one more ‘Great outfit!’ directed her way, heads would roll. Thinking it wise to make it back to her room and satisfied things were secure, Xena strolled past the door of the room that held her bard.
Running her fingers lightly over the wooden surface as she walked by, the warrior smiled as she thought of her young love. Gabrielle was everything to her and would always hold her heart. Xena couldn’t even keep count of the times that she thanked the Fates that she had this woman in her life. She didn’t know how or why she had been lucky enough to be blessed with Gabrielle, but she knew that her own mission in life was to make this woman happy and to make her proud. She chuckled at this thought as she turned the corner to her room. Never in her warlord days would she have ever bowed down to the wishes of another or cared to make someone else a priority. There was simply something so honest and real about Gabrielle that made Xena want to do everything in her power to make her happy and keep her safe. Knowing that the young bard felt exactly the same way made the woman inside the warrior feel loved and protected. Gods she loved this woman.
Opening the door to her room, Xena grimaced at the site that greeted her. As much as she loved the young bard, she shook her head at the Tartarus that would be her existence tonight. The closet door in her room was open and piles of clothes were stuffed inside, all waiting expectantly for a guest to choose them for their costume. After reaching around and unclipping her scabbard, Xena threw her chakram and sword on the small trunk at the foot of the bed. Collapsing on the bed, Xena let out a big sigh and put her hands over her eyes, shaking her head all the while. Gods, what in Hades was she going to wear tonight...
Smiling, Gabrielle fingered the soft fabrics of each of the pieces inside the wardrobe. Blues and greens and reds and yellows and purples all were represented in some article of clothing or another. Each had a different feel and look; the choices were almost overwhelming. The bard was looking for something different, something she might not normally wear. Looking up and crossing her arms, a huge grin began to spread over her face. She had come up with the perfect outfit to surprise Xena with and to fit her mood. She reached into the wardrobe and searched out the pieces that would transform the young bard for a night...
Reluctantly, Xena got up and stripped off her armor and leathers and washed up over the water basin. Getting undressed wasn’t half as fun without Gabrielle. Not able to put it off any longer, the warrior walked over to the closet and began to look over the items of clothing. Each appeared functional and nice enough. She had gotten so used to the comfort of her leathers that the thought of wearing anything else was unappealing. Sure, she had worn other clothes on their various adventures, but the feel of her own clothes always made her feel more secure. Just as she was about to simply put her leather back on and say to Hades with it all, her eye caught on something. Wedged between a hideously colored orange something-or-other and a rather racy-looking black leather outfit that was entirely too small to cover anything on Xena’s body, she saw it. Smiling, she pulled it out and held it up. Gabrielle would love this...
Gabrielle buttoned up one of the buttons on her shirt and ran her hands down over her thighs. Smiling, she looked down at herself and chuckled. She could pull this look off if she could just find one more accoutrement to finish up the costume. Walking back to the wardrobe, the bard opened one of the deep drawers on the side and rummaged through it. Feeling metal in her hand, she pulled back and smiled at the object of her search. Reaching back in, she felt a leather belt and pulled it out as well. Perfect. As she turned to go back towards the mirror, she glanced back into the drawer, as a afterthought, she dug through and found what she was looking for. She wasn’t surprised it was there since the people who had stocked the wardrobe seemed to have thought of everything.
Turning to face the long mirror, Gabrielle had to smile at how she looked. Black, mid- calf boots adorned the bard’s feet. Tucked inside the boots, the soft black suede breeches Gabrielle wore were tight and form-fitting. They tied up with black laces on her right side and snugly rested low on her hips, just below her navel. She wore a white, long-sleeved silk shirt with pearl buttons, the sleeves of which ended inches above her delicate wrists. She had tied the front tails of the shirt in a knot well above her navel, still effectively showing off her well-defined ab muscles. She knew Xena would appreciate that. The bard had decided to throw caution to the wind and only button a few of buttons on the shirt, the last of which was nestled in low between her breasts. Certainly, she’d have to be careful if she bent down to pick anything up, but she figured Xena wouldn’t argue very much. Around her neck, she had fastened a thick, linked silver chain and had one large silver hoop in her left earlobe. On the wrist of her left arm, various silver chains and black leather chords tangled lightly around Gabrielle’s wrist; a silver chain with sapphire-colored stones imbedded in it stood out against the rest, adding the color of Xena’s eyes against the bard’s skin.
With small fingers, Gabrielle wrapped a thin black leather belt around her waist and fastened it, slinging it low around her hips. A short black leather scabbard and silver- hilted dagger rested against her left side, attached to the belt. The bard had been somewhat relived to see the dagger was essentially a prop and had a dull wooden blade. Of course, if she were going for authenticity, she would have preferred a real dagger, but she suspected it was by royal orders that no weapons were allowed in the ball. Plus, she figured she might lose her blood innocence should she run into that weasel reception boy from their arrival at the party if she had a real dagger. Pulling out a royal blue silk bandanna with streaks of silver strands running through the material, Gabrielle tied it around her head and fashioned a head covering of sorts. Most of the length of her blond-red hair fell down her back and was free, but the bandanna went across the top of her forehead and tied behind her head with one end trailing down and mixing with her hair. One last detail and Gabrielle would be ready for the party.
Reaching over on the bed where she had laid it, the bard took the thin leather ties that held a swatch of black material and tied it around her head. When she was finished, she looked in the mirror and laughed. Gabrielle had been transformed into a saucy little pirate complete with eye-patch! She was sure Xena would be surprised and pleased by her outfit if she did say so herself.
Spinning around once in the mirror, the bard felt the weight of the dagger bounce against her thigh and a strange sensation came over her. Feeling her legs covered with black suede instead of a skirt and seeing how the weapon looked against her thigh, Gabrielle almost felt a sense of power unlike anything she had ever experienced before. Maybe it was the full moon, maybe it was the costume, or maybe it was a part of Gabrielle she didn’t know she had inside, but whatever it was, the young bard no longer felt like a young bard. She felt like a powerful and dangerous swashbuckler, confident, determined, and in charge. She suspected this is what Xena felt like during her warlord days and still felt now. Steeling her gaze in the mirror, Gabrielle turned and strode over to the door. Her goal was to find her lover amidst the party-goers, to search for her treasure in a sea of people and to sweep Xena off her feet...
Making her way down the lantern-lit hall, Gabrielle nodded at various guests who strolled through the hall. With her hips swaying just a bit, her gait was even and confident, not unlike that she used when she was preparing to receive the mask of Amazon Queen. The walk was one of a woman who knew what she wanted and was not going to be denied. Heading towards the large entrance room that lead to the marble steps upstairs, the blond soldier of fortune rested her hand against her dagger hilt as she made her way towards the party. Despite one eye being covered, her vision was keen and her senses were aware. Every nuance and subtle detail came clearly into focus. Her jaw was set and her expression was serious. She oozed confidence and determination; the combination of that look with her young smooth face made for one sexy pirate.
Climbing the marble steps that lead to the banquet room, Gabrielle’s expression changed instantly. She warmly smiled and her uncovered green eye lit up as she spotted Annia, the Queen’s assistant coming down the stairs. She was dressed as a court jester, complete with pointy shoes and a long hat. Waving down at Gabrielle, Annia whistled once and winked at the bard turned pirate.
"Don’t you look dashing, Gabrielle!"
The bard blushed and smiled as she moved up the stairs to meet Annia.
"Thank you. It’s just something I threw together.."
The Queen’s assistant laughed and put her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder, her large body moving in time to her chuckles.
"And you expect me to believe that?!"
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Annia started to continue down the stairs to attend to the Queen’s request that more wine be ordered up from the cellar. As she was leaving, she felt the bard grab her arm and stop her.
"Wait! Annia..I was hoping you had seen Xena and could tell me where I might find her?"
"Oh-ho...you want me to tell you what Xena’s wearing don’t you?"
Annia’s eyes sparkled as Gabrielle’s thwarted effort was accompanied by a slight pout.
"Gabrielle, I did see Xena and believe me, you won’t have any trouble finding her."
Annia’s words hung mysteriously in the air as the court jester winked at Gabrielle and chuckled to herself as she moved down the stairs. Of course, that did nothing but fuel the bard’s natural curiosity. Taking the steps two at a time, she hurried to the grand ballroom, anxious to find her love...
One candlemark later, Gabrielle had cased the joint from wall to wall and had yet to run into Xena. Of course, that wasn’t saying much as the huge room was literally packed with party-goers dressed in all sorts of attire, most of them with masks of various kinds which hindered the bard’s search. At one point, Gabrielle had to refuel her engines with some food and sat at a long table next to a mermaid, a man dressed as a tree (willow, she guessed), and an unidentified person wearing red from head to foot. The mermaid had leaned over and whispered to Gabrielle that she thought the person was dressed as the fires of Tartarus. The bard had only cocked her eyebrow and nodded her head at the mermaid as she scooted over just a bit and continued to eat her meal. She would have much preferred to share this lavish banquet with her lover, but sometimes, her belly simply made demands she could not ignore. Besides, if Xena was looking for her, she knew where the bard would be during the meal. So far though, she had yet to spot her tall, dark warrior woman.
After finishing off her third helping of an exquisite chicken dish, Gabrielle finally pushed herself back from the table and decided she would scout a little more in hopes of running into Xena. Before leaving the table, she grabbed her silver goblet and refilled it with the sweet purple wine she had been drinking during her meal. Having learned her lesson moons ago, she decided to go easy on it and only have a few glasses, lest she miss out on any plans the warrior might have for her tonight. Making her way through the crowd, Gabrielle spotted two people dressed in the clothes of royalty. King Manius and Queen Naria! Finally, Gabrielle would get a chance to speak to them.
Walking over, she placed her hand on the Queen’s arm, the feel of the royal silk and lace of the gown was soft against the bard’s hand. Smiling, she spoke as the Queen turned around.
"Queen Naria, am I glad to see...King Manius in your dress."
The bard’s eyes were wide as her jaw dropped just slightly. King Manius laughed heartily as he turned to face Gabrielle. Dressed in a rather elegant white evening gown, the King’s beard and obvious lack of cleavage made him look that much less like Queen Naria. Moving up beside him dressed in the King’s attire, Queen Naria smiled at Gabrielle.
"Gabrielle, how good to see you. I’m sso glad you and Xena decided to attend our party. It means sso much to us."
Gabrielle stood dumbstruck, not sure exactly what to say but hoping the words would come out correctly.
"It’s good to see you both, your highnesses."
The king and queen laughed and toasted her with their wine glasses. The young bard simply went with it and toasted them as well, shaking her head at the sight. Queen Naria moved over and put her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder and brought her close.
"I would like to apologize for our staffperson, Davidius, and his behavior at the front door. Annia told me about it and I am truly sorry. His father was one of the first doormen we had and when he died, well...we felt it was only right to let Davidius stay."
The Queen leaned in close and whispered into Gabrielle’s ear, her breath suggesting a delicate bouquet and rich, full-bodied aroma.
"Between you and I though, the poor man has never really had an intimate "friend" and so we suspect that has much to do with his cranky demeanor."
Gabrielle nodded as the Queen laughed heartily. It was obvious that the King and Queen had possibly consumed large quantities of their royal wine reserves and it was showing on their rosy faces and loose words. Not to mention the fact that the strap to the King’s evening gown had fallen down and exposed half his breast and he seemed oblivious to that fact. Turning to the King, Naria laughed and tried to adjust the gown, almost spilling her wine down the front of his dress.
Gabrielle wasn’t sure quite how to proceed, but she wanted to know if either one of them had seen Xena.
"Your royal highnesses?"
Both turned and sheepishly looked at Gabrielle, each trying to keep a straight face, knowing they were supposed to be official and royal.
King Manius smiled as he took another sip of his wine and steadied himself in the delicate sandals he wore. The bard smiled back and put her hand on his arm to help him.
"I was hoping you had seen Xena?"
The king and queen looked at each other and then looked back at Gabrielle, the Queen shaking her head vigorously.
"Have we ever! Who could miss her, Gabrielle? Don’t tell me you haven’t seen her <hiccup> yet?"
The queen blushed and put her hand over her mouth, her hiccups now taking on a life of their own. King Manius took over the conversation for her.
"She was just over by the food table last time I saw her, Gabrielllle. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding her."
Turning to the Queen, King Manius started to lead her away in search of a cure for Naria’s hiccups. As he walked away, his shoulder strap fell back down his arm and one of his sandals slipped off his foot, unnoticed.
"Thanks, I’ll just...uh..yeah.."
Gabrielle’s end of the conversation died on her lips as she was forgotten. Raising her eyebrows and shaking her head, the young bard simply chuckled and turned again in search of Xena. When she got a hold of that warrior woman, she was going to be in big trouble, that’s for sure...
Scanning the room, Gabrielle spotted a man standing near the lavishly supplied table, nibbling on the delicacies and sipping sweet wine. The easiest way to find out if Xena had passed by recently was simply to ask. Making her way through the crowd, she stopped and tapped the tall man on the shoulder.
"Hi, excuse me.."
Turning around, Gabrielle was struck by his rugged good looks and muscular build. He was dressed in black from head to toe; a soft black silk short-sleeved shirt opened down the front in a V, revealing the well-toned muscles of his chest. Soft, curly blond hair peeked out against the fabric. Black leather pants were tucked into black boots and a black velvet cape completed the ensemble. His blond hair and goatee contrasted well against the dark outfit he wore, making him look quite dashing. His soft warm blue eyes told Gabrielle she could trust this man. He smiled down at the young bard, thinking she looked adorable dressed in her pirate outfit.
"Hi, there. Very nice costume."
His soft voice was sincere, with no hint of the tone she had gotten used to hearing from the men in the taverns they had frequented. Gabrielle blushed at the compliment. Too bad she didn’t meet more like him on their travels.
"Thanks. Um, my name is Gabrielle."
The young bard reached out and shook his offered hand. He smiled at her, her small hand dwarfed in his large one.
"Nice to meet you, Gabrielle. My name is Wellan."
She smiled at him. His blue eyes were deep and his grin was infectious.
She liked him immediately.
"Wellan, I’m looking for a friend of mine, I can’t seem to find her here in the crowd. I was wondering if you had seen an amazingly beautiful woman walk by with...?"
Gabrielle’s sentence was cut off by a voice behind her.
"I assume you’re talking about me."
Gabrielle turned as Aphrodite herself walked past her and put her hand on the tall dark man’s muscular arm. Her diaphanous gown hardly covered anything under it and Gabrielle’s jaw dropped. Every time she encountered a God or Goddess, it still surprised the young bard to no end.
"Who’s your little pirate friend, Wellan?"
The man in black laughed warmly, Goddesses could be so jealous sometimes.
"This is Gabrielle and while you most certainly are an amazingly beautiful woman, Aphrodite, I think Gabrielle was looking for a friend of hers."
Satisfied that this little slip of a girl wasn’t trying to make a move on her man, Aphrodite gave Gabrielle a sugary smile and nodded to the young bard.
"Like, what’s your friend dressed as? Let me guess, she’s dressed as a damsel in distress and you’re her pirate in shining armor."
Aphrodite laughed at her little joke while Gabrielle rolled her eyes and shook her head at the Goddess. A smile on her lips, the young bard looked up at Wellan.
"Actually, I don’t know what she’s dressed as but she’s tall, dark hair, amazing blue eyes..."
Gabrielle blushed, the red of her cheeks making her look that much more cute. Aphrodite and Wellan smiled down at the young bard. The Goddess could tell a woman in love from a million miles away.
"Ah, I think I know who you’re talking about. Xena, right?"
Gabrielle smiled up at Wellan and shook her head.
"Yes, how did you know?"
The taller man smiled back at Gabrielle, shaking his head and chuckling.
"Who doesn’t know the Warrior Princess? Besides, how many tall, dark haired women with blue eyes are there in here?"
"Anyway, I saw her walk out towards the balcony a little bit ago."
Wellan nodded to the other side of the room where a door led out to the balcony. His hand slipped around Aphrodite’s waist. Who was he to argue when the Goddess had asked him to attend this party with her? King Manius and Queen Naria had always held the Goddess of Love in high regard and she was perpetually invited to the castle. An occasional dalliance among the silly mortals was always worth a good laugh for the Goddess. Besides that, Aphrodite herself was always a sucker for blond haired, blue eyed men with muscles wearing black. The two of them presented a rather striking sight together.
"Yeah, and like, if I were you, Pirate Girl, I’d get myself out there pronto. Some babe in a mermaid costume was practically drooling all over herself following your friend around. She SO had the hots for her."
Aphrodite laughed and turned towards Wellan, slipping her arms around her catch of the day. Gabrielle had effectively been dismissed by the Goddess. Wellan looked over at Gabrielle and smiled a warm smile, nodding to her.
"It was nice to meet you, Gabrielle. I hope you find your fri..."
Aphrodite leaned up and covered his lips with her own, silencing whatever else he might have wanted to say. It’s not everyday one gets kissed by a Goddess and he was not complaining. Gabrielle smiled at him as she turned from the two.
"Wellan, honey-cakes, let’s blow this joint and find us a nice secluded little love nest.."
Gabrielle shook her head, hearing Aphrodite’s words as she left. This night was turning into one surreal, frustrating experience after another. She was going to track down Xena come Hades or high water and when she did find her, she’d better have a good excuse for why she was keeping company with an overgrown fish of a woman...
Pushing through the increasingly drunken crowd, Gabrielle was tempted to pull out her wooden dagger and muscle her way to the balcony. It was getting later in the evening and people were beginning to start wandering off throughout the palace. The bard wouldn’t be surprised if the next day, the King and Queen’s staffpersons found passed out cyclopes, harpies, and mimes in every nook and cranny of the palace. After bullying her way past a rather drunken sea nymph who insisted Gabrielle dance with her, the bard turned pirate finally found her way to the door of the balcony. Thank the Gods!
As she was reaching to open the door, the mermaid pushed the door open and stumbled into the room, running into Gabrielle. It was clear that her dainty hairdo had been effectively rearranged on her head and was now a tangled mess of shells and strands of hair and net. Muttering, the mermaid pushed past Gabrielle and continued on her way, her drink spilling across the ballroom floor as she slipped her way through the crowd. Her slurred words trailed behind her.
"Thas the last time I put the moves on ssomeone at one of these damned parties..."
Smiling, Gabrielle could just imagine that if this mermaid had really been trying to put the moves on Xena, she was lucky that her hair was the only thing rearranged on her. Just as she was turning to go out on the balcony, a rather tall, imposing figure stood before her.
It was the willow tree.
Looking up, Gabrielle tried to move past the branches and leaves that were attached to the man and find the balcony door.
"Whoa there, little pirate, what’s a pretty little thing like you doing in a place like this?"
The tree nonchalantly placed one branch on it’s hip, trying to look suave, while another brown, gloved hand held a glass of wine. Gabrielle almost didn’t have the heart to tell this guy that not only was he not at all smooth, but that he also looked ridiculous. Unfortunately, the bard’s sense of humor had all but left her during what was beginning to feel like an eternal quest to find Xena. She had neither the patience nor the time to deal with this bark-covered loser. Her voice was low and dangerous and her one eye squinted at the tree as she pointed her finger at him.
"Look, either you move out of my way right now or I’m going to make firewood out of you and you’ll wish you were still a sapling out in the piney woods, you overgrown bush."
Sensing that this young pirate meant exactly what she said, the willow man mumbled a "sorry" and shuffled off after the mermaid, not realizing that this was yet another lost cause.
Sighing and closing her eyes, Gabrielle tried to regain some sense of composure. ‘Breathe, Gabrielle, breathe’. Taking a deep breath, the young pirate steadied herself, adjusted her leather belt and dagger, lifted her eye-patch and rubbed her itchy eyebrow, pushed her sleeves up to her elbows, and took a long drink of wine before she murmured a soft request.
"Please, Artemis or Athena or even Aphrodite, whoever is listening, please let Xena be out on this balcony or I will go completely insane. Thank you."
Setting her empty goblet down on a table next to the balcony door, the young bard took hold of the handle and turned it. Closing her eyes, she stepped through the door and pulled it shut behind her...
Opening her eyes, Gabrielle nearly fell to her knees at the sight. Forgotten was everything that came before this moment and forgotten was anyone who had crossed her path this night; All that existed was the beauty before her. Catching her breath, Gabrielle’s heart thumped against her chest and she swallowed involuntarily, barely able to withstand the emotional wave that nearly overtook the awestruck bard. Instinctively, her hand latched the lock on the balcony door before letting it go to take one shaky step forward on the white marble balcony floor on this cool summernight.
The full moon illuminated her in a bath of blue-white light, her figure glowing against the whiteness of the marble half-wall where she stood. Her back was to the bard as she leaned against the balcony wall and looked out over the courtyard garden. Her bare arms stretched out on either side, her hands gently resting around the white marble rail that was attached to the top of the half-wall. The light breeze that blew across the courtyard and up over the wall caught her night-sky hair as it practically flowed behind her in dark waves and gently lapped against the shores of her back and shoulders. Small, white flowers were entertwined in a thin braid that met in the back of her hair and softly blended with the rest of the strands in their dance on the wind. As if this sight wasn’t enough, it was the gown that she wore that stole the last remnants of Gabrielle’s breath. Even in the white-light of the moon, the bard could see the silver strands shimmering as they lay entwined in the royal blue fabric of the dress. The bodice of the dress clung closely to her body while most of her back was exposed by the U-shape of the back of the gown. Thin straps rested lightly on the edge of her shoulders, almost on the tops of her arms. At her hips, the delicate material flared out and down in light layers of thin sheer royal blue, the silver strands running throughout. The wind rustled these long layers as they gently billowed around her legs, showing off the delicate silver sandals she wore on her feet.
By the Gods, if this was how her love looked from the back, the young bard was not sure she would be able to remain standing at the sight of her from the front. Swallowing again, Gabrielle took another step forward, her hand unconsciously pulling the eye-patch over her head and letting it drop to the floor, both eyes now transfixed on the woman standing twenty paces from her.
Xena stood tall against the alabaster wall, her eyes focused on the courtyard garden and the way the moon shone down through the roses and the lilacs and the irises, well aware that her young love had finally found her. A slight smile played across her lips as she sensed the hesitation in Gabrielle’s step. Her choice of costumes was affirmed by the slight gasp she had heard the bard take when first opening her eyes. She would wait for Gabrielle to come to her, for the young bard to make the move, for their delicate dance to begin.
Taking a deep breath, Gabrielle’s hands nervously moved over the front of her thighs on the pretenses of smoothing out the material but really was more to calm her beating heart. Feeling the thin leather belt slung low around her hips, her hand moved over the dagger on her left. Remembering how she felt in her room when she had completed her outfit, the bard smiled a bit as she straightened herself up. Her shoulders square and her jaw set, Gabrielle became the confident and powerful master of the seas. Before her lay the treasure that she would so rightfully claim as hers. This princess she saw would be by her side as she sailed the ocean blue forever, her love and her life shining bright before her.
Sensing a purpose in the bard’s steps, Xena demurely leaned her head back just slightly and shook out her hair to let the wind flow through it, the scent of bergamot and arnica wafting back to the approaching pirate. As she closed the distance between them, Gabrielle stopped two paces short of the princess and stood silently, her eyes taking in the delicate line from the top of Xena’s arm down to the tips of her fingers as they held the marble railing. She smiled when she noticed an identical silver and sapphire bracelet on her wrist, not at all surprised they were of like minds tonight in their color selections. These mysterious things happen to lovers who are destined to be together and who are of one soul.
Moving in closer, Xena felt the warmth of the bard’s body and caught the familiar scent she knew to be her lover; she also smiled at the faint hint of leather coming from the bard and couldn’t wait to see what the young woman was wearing herself. Closing her eyes, she waited for the first contact, the first touch.
And she waited.
Gabrielle smiled to herself as she stood as close to the princess as she could without touching, Xena’s bare back scant inches from the silk fabric of Gabrielle’s shirt. Moving in closer still, the bard’s warm breath lightly danced across the soft skin of Xena’s left shoulder. The bard smiled when Xena nearly jumped at the feather-light touch of the very tips of Gabrielle’s fingers as they traced a path down the back of the princess’ arm. The fingers of Gabrielle’s other hand lightly entangled themselves in the mass of dark hair, luxuriating in the silky, softness. With the most gentle of touches imaginable, Gabrielle leaned forward and brushed her lips against Xena, placing a soft, sweet kiss against the warm skin of her shoulder, almost losing her balance as her tongue lightly tasted the familiar flavor of her lover’s skin. Pulling back, the bard steeled herself again, trying to regain the control she needed to play her part.
At the touch of her bard’s lips against her skin, Xena had nearly turned around and grabbed the bard in a fierce hold and kissed the daylights out of her. But, knowing that tonight was not the night for her to overpower the bard, Xena clenched her teeth and held back a slight gasp at the feel of Gabrielle’s soft tongue lightly licking against her skin. She wanted to give in to Gabrielle, she wanted to relinquish the self-control she always had to have as a warrior. Because she trusted this young bard more than anyone in all her life, she willingly gave herself completely to this love. Never would she have imagined that she would be standing on the balcony of some palace during a costume party and feel like a schoolgirl who had never been kissed before. She almost laughed at the thought that she could ever be considered an innocent schoolgirl, but sometimes with Gabrielle, the bard brought out things in her that she never knew existed. And with Gabrielle, she felt safe and secure and protected enough to let those feelings surface. She loved this woman more than she could ever imagine and right now, she was practically shaking at the touch of her young love. Gone was the warrior, here was the princess.
Gabrielle stepped forward, making sweet, delicious contact with Xena. She heard Xena’s low moan at the feel of the bard’s breasts through the silk fabric of her shirt as they moved against the princess’ back. Smiling to herself, Gabrielle sensuously moved back and forth just a bit, her nipples becoming erect at the contact and rubbing against Xena. The princess grabbed the railing a bit tighter as she felt the bard move against her, her eyes closed tight at the feel of the hardness through the silk against her sensitive back. Gabrielle’s hands moved to each of Xena’s outstretched arms and her fingers lightly danced across the princess’ wrists and up her arm, feeling the whisper-thin hair on Xena’s arms against her fingertips. She smiled as she felt goosebumbs form over all over as she moved her hands lightly up and down each arm. Pausing at Xena’s biceps, the bard squeezed lightly as she felt strong muscles beneath the smooth skin, hardened by the fact that Xena was holding on to the railing very tightly, trying to maintain her own balance. Running her hands back down her love’s arms, Gabrielle’s hands gently pried Xena’s fingers from the rail and entwined their hands together. Moving to Xena’s right side, Gabrielle bent Xena’s arm up just a bit and leaned forward to place a warm kiss in the palm of her hand. Taking the princess’ other hand, the bard pulled it back and placed it on her own leathered hip, smiling at the shock registering in Xena’s slight exclamation.
Withdrawing her lips from Xena’s palm, Gabrielle placed that hand back on her own hip as well and let go, sliding her own hands around her love’s belly. Moving in close, she let Xena’s hands reach back and run along her hips, upper thighs and bare waist as the princess tried to see what the bard was wearing with her hands. She felt Xena’s hand stop when it rested on the silver-hilted dagger, curious as to why the bard was wearing a weapon. Putting her hand on Xena’s, Gabrielle removed the searching hand and entwined their fingers once again. (No need to dispel all the little pirate’s mysteries). Grabbing the princess’ other hand and entwining their fingers, Gabrielle reached both hands around Xena against her smooth stomach and pulled her into a fierce embrace, her face burying itself in the mass of dark hair, relishing the comfort of holding the woman she loved close to her. Laying soft kisses across Xena’s back, Gabrielle rested her head against the smooth, warm skin and closed her eyes. She could remain forever just like this.
Up until this point, neither the princess nor the pirate had said a word and neither had felt the need to either. However, the bard’s curiosity and desire to see all of Xena was getting the best of her. She needed to look into the blue eyes, she needed to see the face that could launch a thousand of Gabrielle’s ships. And she needed to see the front of this incredible dress right now.
Leaning up on her tip-toes, the bard nuzzled her way to Xena’s ear, smiling just a bit as her lips met a small silver hoop looped in the earlobe (earrings being a luxury a warrior could never afford to wear lest she lose said earlobe in some fight or other). Her voice was barely above a whisper, but Xena heard it of course.
"Turn around, my love."
Letting go of Xena’s hands, Gabrielle stepped back and prepared herself for the sight that would greet her. What she didn’t anticipate was the impact of that sight on her ability to remain standing on her own two feet. The moonlight danced across Xena’s skin as she turned to face the bard, her eyes sparkling, her lips in a soft smile.
Gabrielle couldn’t contain the breath that escaped as she gasped at the sight of her warrior lover. She was so unused to seeing Xena dressed in anything but her leathers (or nothing at all) that she took a slight step back to take in the full effect. As she imagined, the gown’s bodice clung tightly to Xena’s muscled abdomen, showing off the well-defined plane despite the soft material. The thin straps of the dress came down to the side of the material that framed Xena’s breasts. If she thought the leather the warrior had worn was low-cut and revealing, this dress beat that hands down. Cut in a V deep down in Xena’s cleavage, the soft royal blue material barely covered the princess’ ample breasts and silver piping ran along the edge of the material and Xena’s breasts. The bodice itself pushed those breasts high as the blue moonlight illuminated the soft creamy skin.
Gabrielle’s instinct was to either fall to her knees or dive into Xena’s cleavage, neither choice being suitable for the in-control swashbuckler she fancied herself to be. Tearing her eyes away, Gabrielle looked for the first time into Xena’s eyes; it seemed like an eternity since she had done that. Swallowing involuntarily again, the bard was pulled into the sapphire blaze that burned in her love’s eyes, her lips moving unconsciously as she attempted to remember exactly how it was that one’s thoughts moved from one’s brain to one’s mouth and out.
Her whispered words were met by a magnificent smile on Xena’s face. The bard’s simple words carried a sentiment as deep as the green of Gabrielle’s eyes. Each stood looking into the other’s eyes, drinking in the love that could not be denied. Slowly, Xena’s blue eyes moved down over Gabrielle’s body, taking in every detail from the silver hoop in her ear to the laces of her black kid-skin boots, muscled thighs covered by black suede to the familiar and delicious expanse of muscled flesh of her bard’s stomach. Seeing Gabrielle stand tall in her pirate garb, Xena smiled widely. Candlemarks earlier after their exchange outside of Gabrielle’s room, she would have thought the bard would have been the princess for the night and she, the pirate. This, however, was good. Very good.
Taking Xena’s hand, Gabrielle raised it to her lips, softly kissing.
Raising one eyebrow, Gabrielle smiled a playful smile.
"May I have this dance?"
Xena placed her other hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder and smiled down at her, her eyes sparkling at the young pirate.
"You most certainly may, my love."
And together they danced a slow lover’s dance around the white marbled balcony, Gabrielle leading. Slow turns and circles emerged as they moved, each pulling the other closer. As they danced in each other’s arms, the wind began to pick up around them, wafting honeysuckle through the air and a hint of moisture as well. Clouds had started to move across the moon but the lanterns along the wall of the palace lit the balcony just the same. Of course Xena and Gabrielle could have been picked up by a raging thunderstorm and neither of them would have known it; they existed only in this moment with each other, every thing else was secondary. Even when light sprinkles of rain started falling on them, they danced still, clinging to the other like a raft in the middle of a tempest. By the time they had stopped dancing, each one was covered in a fine mist of water and the light rain continued.
Seeing the flush of Gabrielle’s cheeks, Xena took the bard’s hands and lead her over to the railing once more, her back to the low wall as she held both of Gabrielle’s hands. Smiling at her wet little pirate, she leaned down and whispered in Gabrielle’s ear, a soft, low sensuous whisper.
"Kiss me, Gabrielle."
Remembering that she was the one who was supposed to be making the moves without being reminded, Gabrielle straightened up once again and looked into Xena’s eyes, her hands moving up to touch the princess’ smooth face, lightly tracing over Xena’s cheekbones and down along her jawline. Letting one hand slip behind into her dark mane of hair, Gabrielle pulled Xena down to her lips. The first kiss was tentative, shy, each of them seemingly had forgotten that they had kissed each other a million times before.
When Gabrielle first tasted the sweet on Xena’s lips, her passion got the best of her and a hungry kiss followed as she pulled Xena closer. Pushing the princess back against the wall, the bard continued her urgent kiss and let her tongue move decisively against Xena’s. Her hand moved down and her palm pressed against the swell of Xena’s breast, driving her kiss with the princess deeper. Pulling back and gasping for air, the bard’s face was flushed a deep red, her cheeks warm. Her hand still lightly moving against Xena’s breast, she pulled her love down to speak in her ear, her words clearly insistent.
"I need to make love to you, Xena. Now."
And with that, the princess could hardly argue as the bard pulled her over to the side of the balcony and sat her down on a marble bench. Standing above her, Gabrielle caught her breath again as she looked at her love. The light rain had dampened Xena’s hair, leaving wet tendrils falling down against her shoulders, and drops of silvery rain on the royal blue dress. A light mist still filled the nighttime air, but the brief summer shower was over.
Reaching her hand up towards Gabrielle, Xena’s own eyes were taking in the wonderful sight. The white silk was clinging to Gabrielle’s skin and the dark circles around her nipples were clearly visible through the fabric. Just as Xena was about to place her fingertips against those lovely dark circles, Gabrielle smiled and took her hand.
"It’s my turn tonight, Xena."
Leaning over and placing the palms of her hand on Xena’s thighs, the bard smiled seductively into electric blue eyes. From where she sat, Xena had an unobstructed view down the bard’s shirt, Gabrielle’s intention of course. Catching her breath, the princess’ face warmed quickly as the beating of her heart increased. By the Gods, there was nothing she loved more than when Gabrielle played the tease. Raising both eyebrows in a wiggle, the bard winked at Xena and slowly descended to her knees in front of the princess. Xena’s blue eyes widened and her mouth opened as she realized exactly what Gabrielle intended to do.
Darting her eyes over to the balcony door and to Gabrielle, Xena looked like she might have been a deer caught in the candlelights of a hunter. The bard put her hands reassuringly on Xena’s and chuckled.
"Relax, Xena, I locked the door. No one’s going to come out here... except...."
Gabrielle pointed her finger at Xena and a saucy wink followed as the young pirate grinned widely. The princess narrowed her eyes at Gabrielle and shook her head at the bard.
"Gabrielle, that pirate costume is making you positively surly tonight."
Gabrielle ran her hands over the royal blue layers of fabric covering Xena’s thighs and then moved her hands down against the muscled legs of her princess, her fingers playing softly against the straps of Xena’s sandals around her ankles. Gabrielle smiled again and raised her eyebrows in a playful manner.
"Mm hmm. And I get even surlier."
Laughing, Gabrielle pushed up the fabric on one of Xena’s legs and took a little nip at the princess’ kneecap.
The other knee was quickly exposed and a little tongue lick and nip was given to it as well.
Xena chuckled as she smiled down at her young love, her heart swelling at the passion and playfulness Gabrielle always exhibited in their relationship. She would have never thought it when she first had seen Gabrielle so many moons ago it seemed, but each of them had changed so much since then, she shouldn’t be surprised. What she was feeling was thankfulness though...that and a certain bard’s tongue on the inside of her knee, moving up.
Gasping, Xena put her hands over Gabrielle’s where they held the fabric of her dress up to her mid-thigh. Her eyes closed as she felt the bard’s lips place soft kisses against the smooth skin of her thigh. She suppressed a soft moan as she felt the bard nip and kiss on the other side, halfway up the inside of her thigh.
Pulling back, Gabrielle looked up at Xena, smiling at the princess whose eyes were closed. When those blue eyes opened, the bard looked in them deeply as she pushed against the inside of Xena’s knees, moving them apart, making room for Gabrielle to kneel between them. Smiling, she inched closer, her hands lightly running across the white-hot skin of Xena’s thighs.
Gabrielle smiled as she spoke up to Xena and moved her hands and Xena’s dress to her love’s hips, pulling her to the edge of the marble bench. Her green eyes sparkled as she looked at Xena’s face, loving the fact that she was the cause of the red flush that overcame those wonderful cheeks.
As she leaned to her right to kiss the inside of Xena’s thigh, the princess’ hands moved to Gabrielle’s head. Impatient to move her fingers through the golden-red silkiness, Xena pulled off the royal blue bandanna that had covered the bard’s head to this point. In the back of her mind, she made a mental note to herself to compliment Gabrielle profusely on how great she looked in her pirate outfit..and to reward her handsomely for it as well. Just as Xena’s fingers started to move through the golden tresses, Gabrielle’s lips came dangerously close to their intended destination.
Gabrielle had moved in close to her love and had kissed her way up her thighs, Xena’s scent becoming stronger as the bard moved further up. As she had gotten closer, her lips and tongue moved over slick, wet skin on Xena’s thigh. Both the pirate and princess let out an audible moan as Gabrielle tasted Xena’s arousal for the first time and Xena felt Gabrielle’s warm breath against her heated center. Both were thankful that Xena had chosen not to wear anything under her dress, a tip she had picked up from the bard, of course.
Xena’s soft, low voice purred out the bard’s name like a song. Looking down between her legs, she smiled as she saw Gabrielle’s green eyes look up at her. Softly, she moved her fingertips across the bard’s forehead and over her eyebrows and down the side of her face, one hand remained tangled in the blond-red hair. The fingertips of her hand moved behind the bard’s ear to the side of her neck and lightly pulled Gabrielle forward, gently insisting on more contact from Gabrielle’s lips and tongue.
Smiling against the side of Xena’s thigh, the bard moved forward and closed her eyes, anticipating the ambrosia that awaited her. The heat coming from the princess was palpable. Just before giving the sweetest of kisses, Gabrielle turned her head and let her cheek rub softly against the wetness of Xena’s arousal, loving the feel of the precious liquid against her skin. When she heard Xena’s low moan at this contact, she turned and placed her mouth full against Xena, her tongue moving up the entire distance in one stroke.
Xena’s cry was loud as she felt the exquisite sensation of her love against her most sensitive skin. She had to restrain herself from roughly pulling Gabrielle in to her closer, afraid her passion might suffocate the bard. When two fingers suddenly slipped inside of her without warning, Xena’s hips nearly jerked off the bench she was sitting on and both hands engtangled deeply in Gabrielle’s hair.
Xena’s pants did nothing but inspire the bard as her fingers easily slipped in and out of her princess. Her tongue lapped up all of her lover’s wetness as she greedily captured every drop, contentedly making soft noises as she moved her lips against Xena. She gripped the side of Xena’s hip tightly with her free hand as the princess rocked her hips against the bard. Moving to the most sensitive of areas, the bard slowed the pace of her fingers inside of Xena and her tongue against her. In slow deliberate circles, Gabrielle pressed down against Xena’s nerve center and slowly moved her fingers in time with her circles, nearly driving Xena crazy in the process.
Xena’s low, sensuous words hit the bard like a tidal wave as she started to feel the princess tighten around her fingers. Summoning the last of her surly pirate reserves, Gabrielle stopped all movement and pulled her lips away from Xena but left her fingers deep inside. Xena’s eyes flew open and looked down at Gabrielle.
"No! Don’t stop!"
Gabrielle smiled at the desperation evident in both Xena’s eyes and voice. She knew this was a dangerous move, but sometimes danger is a good thing she figured.
"Don’t worry, I’m not going to stop. But I want you to do one thing for me, Xena."
Still clutching Gabrielle’s hair, Xena looked down in the playful green eyes smiling up at her. Taking a deep breath and swallowing hard, the princess nodded. Of course, at this point, if Gabrielle had suggested the most insane of things, Xena would have done it willingly, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she needed her bard’s lips against her and she needed it now.
"Anything, Gabrielle, anything."
Smiling again at those words she so often heard Xena say to her, Gabrielle slowly began to move her fingers back out of Xena, eliciting a groan from the princess as they moved slowly back inside her warmth.
"I want you to say ‘please’, Xena. Can you do that?"
Leaning in she bit against the soft flesh of Xena’s thigh and slowly moved a third finger inside of her princess. Closing her eyes and taking another deep breath at how full her bard made her, Xena looked down into the sea of green in Gabrielle’s eyes. Her voice thick with need, Xena’s expression was incredibly serious and incredibly sexy.
Gabrielle’s heart beat faster at that word as she felt the wetness around her fingers increase. Swallowing against the passion she saw and heard from her lover, Gabrielle moved in close again, the tip of her tongue lightly dancing over Xena’s most sensitive spot.
Xena threw her head back as the length of the bard’s tongue once again pressed down against her, Gabrielle’s three fingers moving a steady rhythm, slipping in and out, in and out.
With each circle Gabrielle’s tongue made, Xena’s low, deep desperate word urged the bard on, her fingers working faster as she increased the speed. The princess’ growls and moans now filled the air as she rocked her hips against the bard’s pressure.
Gabrielle’s hand moved faster in and out of Xena, her hand slickened by the wetness. The tightness and the increase of liquid told the bard that her love was very close now, very close. Her tongue pressed harder and circled faster, Xena’s hands in her hair urging her on. Suddenly, she felt Xena’s hips still against her and the slight vibrations against her lips and tongue told Gabrielle that the princess was about to let go and release against the bard. Pushing her fingers as deep as they would go and pressing down slightly with them, Gabrielle’s tongue moved one last time against Xena’s center.
With that final plea, Xena came against the bard’s fingers and against her lips and tongue, wave after wave rippled through both women as they hung on to Xena’s orgasm with all their might. The princess had practically raised up from the marble bench as she crashed over the edge of her release. Her hands gripped the bard’s hair as she locked eyes with her love, maintaining the blue-green contact throughout her orgasm. When the final wave rolled over her shores, Xena closed her eyes, drawing in one large deep breath.
When she felt the bard still move slightly against her, she tried to move Gabrielle back from her.
Smiling against Xena, the bard took one last long swipe with her tongue and pulled back, resting her check against the princess’ warm thigh. She still felt contractions against her fingers as they lay still, deep inside her love. Groping for Gabrielle’s hand, Xena blindly took the bard’s wrist and pulled her back slowly, wincing in pleasurable pain as the bard’s three fingers slipped out. Taking deep gulps of the liquid night air, Xena shook her head to move the hair that had fallen into her eyes back. Swallowing, Xena slowly opened her eyes.
The sight that greeted her filled her heart. Her young love’s green eyes sparkled and the smile on her face was huge. It was clear that the bard was pretty pleased with herself and Xena had to smile in return. She loved this young pirate sitting in front of her more than all the known world. Reaching down, Xena took hold of Gabrielle’s hands.
Laughing, Gabrielle happily scrambled up and straddled Xena’s lap as she sat facing her warrior lover. Strong arms embraced her as Xena pulled her into a fierce hug, nearly taking the bard’s breath away. Xena’s warm, solid warrior arms and body held the pirate close and tight. Pulling back, Xena softly placed her hands on either side of Gabrielle’s face, smiling at the bard’s smooth flushed skin.
"I love you, you know that, don’t you?"
Xena’s soft words were spoken directly to Gabrielle’s heart. Looking deep into blue eyes, Gabrielle nodded, her expression serious.
"And I love you, with all my heart and all my soul."
Smiling a soft smile, Xena pulled Gabrielle close and kissed her on the lips, a kiss that told the bard that this warrior was hers forever and ever. Pulling back from the kiss, Gabrielle leaned her forehead so it met Xena’s as she smiled into those wonderful eyes, her arms snaked around Xena’s neck and her hands clasped behind.
"I was pretty surly, wasn’t I?"
Gabrielle felt one of Xena’s eyebrows raise against her own as the warrior laughed and tickled the exposed skin of Gabrielle’s sensitive sides, loving how her bard giggled. With mock seriousness, Xena responded.
"Oh, yes, Gabrielle, you were very surly."
"Hey! I was!"
Pulling the bard into another strong embrace, Xena’s lips found the bard’s ear for soft words.
"My surly little pirate..."
Gabrielle smiled against Xena’s shoulder and thought about how lucky she
was at this very moment. That was, until Xena stood up and picked the bard
up with her and started walking to the balcony door
"Hey!! What th..?"
Just as they made it to the door, Xena easily let Gabrielle slip down, her blue eyes narrowing dangerously down at the bard.
"Paybacks are a bitch, Gabrielle, and you owe me big time."
Smiling menacingly, Xena’s hand gently took Gabrielle’s as her other unlocked the lock and opened the door. The bard’s green eyes went wide as one minute she was standing on the balcony and the next she was propelled into the glare and glitz of the Garb Gala of Gralius...
Xena lead Gabrielle by the hand through the less-crowded ballroom, pushing past drunken cupids and a siren or two. As they made their way down the staircase towards Gabrielle’s room, the warrior was no longer playing the demure princess. No, Xena was the one who called the shots now and she had plans for her young bard turned pirate and those plans included ripping off each and every item of Gabrielle’s costume and finding a little buried treasure of her own. Paybacks, indeed.
As they descended the last step and turned towards the hallway, a blur of red filled their vision as an unidentified object tumbled into them, almost knocking over Gabrielle (but not even moving Xena). Composing themselves, they looked at the offending bright red object, realizing it was indeed a party-goer. A slurred "sorry" came from the person as it stumbled to right itself. Xena looked at Gabrielle, who looked at Xena and then back at the person dressed in red from head to toe. The warrior raised her eyebrow in a question and Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders. Just as they started to make their way back towards Gabrielle’s room, the bard’s curiosity won out. She stopped them as she turned back towards the person trying to make it up the stairs, calling out to the red thing.
"Excuse me, could you tell me what exactly you’re supposed to be?"
The red person stopped and turned, both Xena and Gabrielle realizing at the same exact instant that this person was the SAME weasel man, Davidius, who stood at the door when they arrived. His irritating voice confirmed it.
"I’m a cherry, of course, you fools!"
And with that he stumbled up the stairs and Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other and shook their heads and rolled their eyes. The surreal Garb Gala of Gralius would be forever etched in their heads, that was for sure. But, there was no time to contemplate the philosophical implications of the entire evening and its events; they had a date in a royal, bouncy bed and off they went.
Colophon: The writing of this story was greatly aided by the fact that my real life stopped rudely intruding on my writing, the music of Ani Difranco—the song "Overlap" in particular (used without permission) helped as well, and a few sips of wonderful Pony Express Nut Brown Ale made it all sound and feel so much better...;)
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