"I don't know how you can all stand there and tell me that everyone looks the same," Sappho spoke in exasperation.
Rosie turned to her. "This is no time to be getting politically correct, Sappho. We've got bigger problems on our hands at the moment!"
Sappho sighed. "But that's just it! Don't you see! We're just as bad as them. And, since when did it become us and them?" Sappho grabbed the chair closest to her and stepped up onto it. All the artsies eyes followed her. "I mean, isn't this exactly what we rage against? Labeling. Judging people by the way they look, their outward appearance? We are all just people, as individual as-"
"GET DOWN, YA BLOODY ARTSIE! I CAN'T SEE!" someone cried from the stands.
Sappho turned to the crowd. "Sorry." She slunk down off the chair, shaking her head.
"Label, smabel!" Rosie cried. "We gotta find the furkin doll!"
"You're right." Sappho sighed.
Gabrielle came up behind her, putting her arm on hers. "No, you're right Sappho. I didn't realize I was doing it, but I guess I was. I, we, we're all guilty of-"
"ILLEGAL, OVERSIZED RACQUET! GAME FOUR GOES TO XENA, WARRIOR PRINCESS!"
The crowd drowned out any more musing by the guilt-ridden artsie faction, as the Xena contingence burst into boisterous cheering with renewed hope.
"Getting pretty desperate, warrior," Martina shot across the net as they returned to their respective positions.
"Desperate!" Xena snorted back. "Have you looked at yourself lately?"
Martina's eyes narrowed. "Just serve it up or we'll have to cut that doll in half."
Xena seethed. "Go ahead. It would be fitting, for a coward such as yourself!"
"You're reaching now, warrior."
"Oh," Xena quipped lightly, then darkened. "I think I'm finally getting closer. Coward."
"Coward," the warrior whispered across the net. Though the crowd was loud, it was unmistakable.
"Two can play at that game, Xena."
"TIME VIOLATION WARNING!"
"Serve it up, red shirt killer."
"What did you say?"
Martina smiled. "You heard me. Everyone knows about Perdyboy... It's quite legendary on the island."
"What are you saying??" Xena seethed as she headed toward the divider of the net.
"You let him die, just like you let Callisto-" Martina's words died in her throat as the warrior threw her racquet down and launched herself over the net.
"Think!" Gabrielle cried to the artsie huddle.
"Maybe if we announced she'd won some door prize or something?" Ellen offered.
Rosie turned to Ellen, her mouth hanging open. "I can't believe it, but I think your idea might be a good one!?"
"Really?" Ellen stammered. "I guess I wasn't thinking."
"That's the oldest trick in the book," Sappho sighed. "Football fans maybe... But.."
"Well, we have to try something!" Gabrielle cried in growing frustration. Her panic was broken by singing coming from behind her.
"You are digging for the answers until your fingers bleed.. ," Melissa started.
"Yeah we are!" Rosie shot back. "Got any better ideas?"
"I could. I won't. I can't. I don't," she retorted.
"Ah, forget her!" Rosie growled. "She's tuned out!"
Gabrielle looked over at the musician, gazing gently upon her. She broke from the huddle and walked towards her. "No, wait. I think she's trying to tell us something." The others watched Gabrielle position herself in front of the musician and break into song. "Tell it softly to me, baby."
Melissa hesitated, then strummed a chord. "You make it hard, talk down my guard…"
"Don't be afraid. Close your eyes. Lay it all down," the bard coaxed as the others watched in disbelief.
"This town thinks I'm crazy, they just think I'm strange."
The bard sighed in understanding. "I know your heart has held its own fear. It's perfectly clear. What they did to you."
Melissa melted from the lyrics of the bard. "They will never understand."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Rosie cried in growing frustration. "We're standing here, wasting time, while you two sing a furkin duet!"
"Rosie!" Sappho halted her with a gentle hand to her chest "She's communicating with Melissa. No one has been able to do that for months." She walked over the Melissa and Gabrielle. "I'm sorry, Melissa. If there's something you want to say..."
"How could you be so selfish, why can't you get along?" Melissa sang soulfully.
"I tried to talk reason," Sappho replied in her own defense. "You know that!"
"They don't listen to your reasons…" Melissa offered.
"Exactly," Sappho sighed. "And it turned into rage."
"They wonder where they went wrong," Melissa added.
"You think so?" Sappho asked, as she pondered her words.
Rosie stomped over. "Do you really think we could *reason* with a bunch of single-minded muscle heads that pump iron twenty-four furkin hours a day and-"
"Rosie!" Sappho snapped back. "Just listen to yourself!"
"Whut?" Rosie flinched.
"I think she means... er, that," Ellen interjected, coming up behind them, "that you're kinda, just as bad, sort of when you think about it cuz, we can't see passed the label…" Rosie leered at Ellen and silenced her.
"A voice from behind calls up anger and fear. We can silence that scream. It's simple and clear," Melissa explained. "Nothing must die only if failed to mend…"
"BY THE GODS!" Gabrielle turned to the court in a panic. They had been so preoccupied with the singing that they'd failed to see the brawl that had broken out on the court. Xena was taking the officials down, one by one. And the look she saw on the warrior's face brought fear to her heart. "XENA!"
"How dare you let such lies cross your lips!" Xena growled as she lifted Martina's throat up towards her with her outstretched hand, the other knocking down anyone who dared interfere.
"Strategy!" Martina choked, as the air passage to her lungs was rapidly closing. For the first time in a long time she had a taste of real fear. The warrior was in a blinding rage and her ice blue eyes held not one single drop of mercy. It would appear as if she'd struck a nerve; one far deeper than she'd imagined. And there was a good chance she'd be paying for it with her life. "Part of the game…", she wheezed.
"Yes, but now you're playing my game," the warrior seethed through clenched teeth. An irrational rage had welled up in her, so intense it had removed everything. Her sole purpose for existence at the moment was to crush this woman's larynx. A searing pain shot through her body but she didn't flinch, instead relishing the agony that swept across her brain as it washed away the last semblance of rational thought.
Gabrielle bounded toward the warrior, screaming her name, but it was drowned out by the chanting of the crowd, which had erupted into a frenzy in the last few moments spurred on by the aggressive display before them. The gathering, no longer of human origin, had reverted to their primate beginnings, as they cheered on the fray. The first group of spectators began to climb over the barriers and make their way toward the court in a frenzy.
"RIOT!" Rosie screamed, as she turned to see a wave of women heading for them. "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!"
Sappho turned around, her eyes widening as the crowd descended upon them.
"PLEASE REMAIN SEATED!!!" the announcer screamed over the wailing of the crowd. "DO NOT RUN ONTO THE COURT!! FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN A DOUBLE TICKY-" She turned in horror to see the first of the woman surging towards her; a tidal wave of primal aggression and excitement. Once again, she silently scolded the organizers for not providing adequate coverage. Her musings stopped suddenly for self-preservation reasons as she dropped the loud talking thing. She dove for cover under the table a split second before the wave washed over her. She decided then and there she would switch to lawn bowling. Tennis was simply too primal.
Hands were kicking and punching all around the warrior now, but she felt and heard none of this. She was far away, in a dark place. "You're right, Martina." Xena spoke softly, all light having been extinguished from her eyes. "I let Callisto die. I watched her sink into the sand, her cries falling on merciless ears, just as your feeble attempts will fail to reach my blackened heart."
Gabrielle shoved through the mass of arms and legs, as she tried to make her way toward the warrior. She was suffocating under the pressure of the tangled bodies, now swinging blindly at one another in raucous glee. She continued to call to Xena, but to no avail. She turned to see Sappho disappear under the sea of women, but she was too far away to help. Then she, herself, was pulled down, and the first real pangs of fear hit her. She was sucked down to the turf, as they began to trample over her. She tried to look up but there was no light and no air. A body pushed onto her and she tasted dirt, landing on something hard. She reached under to feel what was sticking into her side and grabbed on to it. It was Xena’s racquet!
"Pull harder!" Tess screamed at the assistant from the edge of the exit ramp, where she'd been discreetly hiding for most of the third set.
"I am!" she cried back. "It's not working!" She pulled hard again on the tiny right arm of the miniature replica of the actual arm that was holding Martina in a death grip at the moment.
"Give me the tartarus doll!" Tess bellowed as she went to snatch it from the assistant. "I'll tear it apart if I have to!"
"Wait!" The assistant lunged back, grasping it towards her breast. "You'll kill her!"
"Well, she's gonna kill the boss!" Tess lunged at her again. "Give it to me!"
"NO!" the assistant cried, running backwards. "I can't be a party to murder!"
Tess's eyes narrowed as she walked slowly toward the assistant, who walked backwards with each step. "Hand it over."
"There has to be another way...," she stammered.
"There is." Tess grinned widely. "I'll kill you, then tear the doll apart."
"Tess!" the assistant screamed. "Get a hold of yourself!"
"I knew I couldn't trust a xenafan," Tess seethed as she launched herself at the assistant. Sweat flew everywhere as she landed hard on her. They battled fiercely for control of the doll.
"You can have the island...," Martina gasped, her face turning purple. "Please..."
"I don't want the island," Xena mouthed back, her arm flexing as she struggled to hold Martina in a firm death grip. The invisible force of the doll holder was the only tether keeping her from crushing the tennis great. But she no longer even knew where she was, having slipped into a warlord fugue, her eyes seeing only blood red before her.
The bard pushed upwards, but arms and legs held her down. Her breath was coming in short gasps now as she fought the panic that threatened to suffocate her. She brought around the handle of the racquet she now gripped in her hands, and began shoving it up into the mass to break her way free. Sweat was pouring off her from the exertion and lack of air. Bodies pressed against her, whiting her vision but she raged on. Her body was now a rack of pain, but she ignored it. If she didn't get out of this and stop Xena from doing something awful she'd never forgive herself. With renewed strength, she shoved hard and caught her first glimpse of light, as a passage broke open for her. She gripped arms and legs and lunged through the opening, springing high up and catching her first breath of air in over a minute.
Tess squeezed hard on the assistant's arm, which was holding the doll away from her. She was drawing blood, and the assistant squealed in agony, her grip faltering on the doll.
"Tess! No!" she gasped. "Stop this madness!" The assistant was no match for the larger, stronger woman, and she knew she could only hold on for a few more unbearable seconds. Despite the desperation of the situation, she was feeling horrible guilt for having been party to such a thing. Xena had been her idol and she had let her own selfish wants take over. What had she become? Well, it was too late to right that wrong, but there was something she could do. That was to make sure this madwoman didn't gain control of the doll. She kicked out, but Tess was slowly gaining the advantage, pressing hard on her chest, squeezing the air from her lungs as she reached over her toward her arm. She could hold on no longer, and her arm began to shake from the pressure of Tess's grip, as searing pain shot toward her trembling fingers. She was near abandoning all hope, when a flash of blonde hair and casual clothes came into vision. She turned her head to see the chatterbox from Xena's room lunge at Tess. With renewed hope, she began to fight Tess off as Ellen attempted to pry the larger woman off her struggling form.
The bard's eyes widened and her heart froze. The look of sheer madness she saw coming from her love's eyes nearly paralyzed her. The distance between them was less than ten feet now, but she feared she was already too late. Martina's eyes were rolling back in her head. "XENA! NO!" the bard cried, but once again, her voice was drowned out by the roar of angry screams coming from the brawling mass of women. Progress was slow as the wave was against her. She’d never get there in time. In a last ditch effort she raised herself up and jammed her feet into someone's shoulders, using them as a vault, launching herself through the air toward Xena. The racquet was raised high in her hands. She flew by, swinging hard at Xena's head with all her body's force. A loud smacking sound resonated through the air, and the warrior went down. The force of Gabrielle's launch propelled her farther and she landed hard on top of heads and arms. She was buried immediately.
Darkness swirled across Xena’s vision as a blinding agony tore through her head. Her knees gave way and she slid into blackness, arms and legs trampling her barely conscious body to the floor of the coliseum. Weight from above pressed down on her, and the air left her lungs. She could not protect herself as unconsciousness began to take her to another place.
The bard crawled on hands and knees as a sea of legs and feet crushed into her but she had to get to Xena, instinctively knowing she was straight ahead. She caught a glimpse of her shift and pushed with everything she had left. Reaching the unconscious warrior, she positioned her body over hers in a protective stance. She knelt over the warrior, while bracing her hands on the turf on either side of her. The weight on her back was immense, but she battled it, refusing to go down. Within seconds, her arms and legs were quivering and she knew, though she raged against this, she couldn't hold on.
Rosie's head popped up, as her body moved with the wave of the crowd. She was powerless to fight it. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of Sappho, resurfacing beside a semi-conscious Martina, whose body was being carried with the crowd. She reached out with her hands to try and make contact with Sappho, but was pulled in the opposite direction. A surge of Xena fans descended on a group of Martina fans to their left, and a fresh clash erupted. Sappho tried to reassure her with a nod. Rosie watched her grab hold of Martina and wrap protective arms around her form. Then the wave of people began to suck the poet and tennis great underneath. Rosie's heart immediately seized at the act of altruism before her . Sappho was risking her life to save someone who had taken everything away from her.
With renewed strength and a new purpose, Rosie lunged back towards Sappho and Martina, in a desperate attempt to save them from being sucked under Reaching across the crowd, she grabbed both women's arms and tugged hard, but the force of the crowd was too great. They went under. Rosie's look of desperation fell across the sinking Sappho, who's eyes smiled a thank you as she was buried beneath. Then Rosie felt a pull from behind, and she went under into the blackened sea of hysteria.
The bard had no air left in her lungs. Her breath coming in tiny, short staccato gasps. Stars began to cover what little vision she was afforded at the bottom of the fray. Her arms and legs slowly gave way as she sank down on top of her Xena’s unconscious body, the pressure finally too great for her tiny form. She felt the familiar feel of Xena's body pressed against her, as she began to slip into unconsciousness herself. Her lips brushed against the warrior’s as darkness descended on her. Her last waking thought was not of her fear of death, but of what a fitting way this was to die, wrapped around the body of her love in a final embrace.
A solo voice broke through from above the raging sea of women, rising high across the air.
"Take take a look at the sky
Sometimes your heaven seems so far away
Take take a look under here
Where deprivation turns into decay
I've stood under this rain
Felt it seep into my brain
I've shut my eyes and crawled around this mud
I'm scared of growing old
I shiver when I'm cold
Don't you think I bleed the same"
Melissa belted out the tune, screaming into the loud talking thing that she'd grabbed from the announcer's table. She strummed hard and loud, her words falling across the crowd like rain.
I I could have been you
You could have been me
One small change that shapes your destiny
If you want the proof
Cut me and you'll see
I could have been you
You could have been me
Slowly the crowd began to turn away from fists and screams, their souls drawn towards the singing musician who raged against the swell of hate and misunderstanding, her voice a lyrical salvation.
Wait wait before you turn off
Maybe there’s a chance we can relate
Wait everybody turns on
Why deny a fact that’s so innate
Its not so easy anymore
They way you used to keep score
Not so black and white the color of your sin
Take a walk inside my shoes
A path I didn't choose
Spend the night inside of my skin
Melissa cried loudly, her passion spreading itself across the sea of women who had all stopped fighting and were turned towards her, held enraptured by her words.
Change is turning into fear
Fear is melting into hate
With hate you justify you crime
A crime compassion can erase
Tess, Ellen and the assistant stopped their struggle and listened as the singing food server belted out a tune for all her worth.
Touch touch what I feel
And know I believe everything I say
So go go if you must
Remember one thing as you walk away...
She finished, and the coliseum was silent.
The bard felt arms around her, lifting her up, and she gasped for air. A blinding light hit her face as she was pulled to the surface.
"Give her air, let her breathe," someone instructed.
"Xena...," the half-conscious bard mouthed.
"There's someone under her! It's the warrior! She's not breathing!" another cried.
"Hey! We have Martina and Sappho! Give them air! Everybody move back!" a jock cried from behind them.
The bard rolled over on her side as her eyes adjusted to the brightness. There were two women bent over a lifeless Xena. "Xena!" she screamed and tried to rise, but her limbs weren't cooperating.
"Hey, the little one's moving. She's awake," a voice called from over her. A circle of panicking women tried to tend to the injured.
The bard reached over with her hand and touched the warrior's arm as a woman bent over Xena, breathing air into her lungs.
"Again," someone instructed to the woman tending to the warrior.
The bard rolled to her knees and with the help of someone's gentle arms crawled over to the fallen warrior. The crowd parted for the distraught Gabrielle. She bent down, placing her hands on either side of the warrior's face and called to her. "Come on, Xena. Breathe in." She placed her lips on the warrior's and filled her lungs with her own air. Now, whether it was pure luck or the touch of her lips, she'd never truly know. That mattered little. The warrior's chest heaved and she breathed in on her own for the first time in over a minute. The bard burst into tears of relief, as she stroked her hair, coaxing her awake. Finally, the warrior stirred and her eyes fluttered open, deep ice blue looking intently up at her bard. Gabrielle choked back more tears and wrapped her arms around the confused warrior.
"What happened?" Xena asked in a daze, as she tried to recall how she had ended up lying on her back, surrounded by a sea of concerned faces.
"You fell asleep, hon." Gabrielle smiled into her ear, squeezing her harder.
"I what?" Xena asked.
"It's alright now." The bard spoke soothing words to her. Some things were better left unsaid, as Gabrielle knew it would break the warrior's heart if she knew what had happened. She silently hoped the memory of it would never come.
Xena looked around, trying to recall her last waking moments to no avail. "Um, who won?" she asked tentatively.
"Nobody did." A shaky voice came from behind her.
Gabrielle and the warrior turned to see Sappho, her arm linked over Martina's shoulder, helping her stay upright, while Rosie held her from the other side.
"Hey!" The bard smiled with relief. "You're all ok."
"Thanks to these guys." Martina looked back and forth between Sappho and Rosie.
Xena looked intently at the deep finger marks on Martina's neck, but said nothing.
Martina turned to Sappho. "I'm dropping the lease business." The crowd erupted into a glorious cheer as Xena and Martina fans and artsies began shaking each others hands and slapping each other on the back. Then she kneeled down by the warrior. "You were right, Xena. I couldn't see past the boundaries of this court." She held out her hand in a gesture of peace. "You swing a mean racquet."
"So does Red!" someone called from behind.
Xena pondered this as she held out her hand in a gesture of friendship. Then she turned to look into the bard's eyes. Gabrielle immediately averted her gaze, and her heart sunk.
Martina rose and addressed the crowd. "Tonight we will have a feast of friendship. It will be the beginning of a new island. One of diversity." She looked over at Sappho, who nodded approval. "And one of understanding." The crowd cheered.
Don't you know the battle's raging
And you got to join the fight
There's an army of the darkness
And an army of the Light
...and on this battle field there are no rusty swords
No Rusty Swords
"Xena, if you sharpen that sword much longer it’ll be an ice pick!" Gabrielle cried in frustration as she listened to another sweep of stone against blade. The warrior did not respond. Gabrielle sighed and walked back over to the window to gaze out at the now twilight sky. This insane sharpening had been going on for well over an hour and the bard was nearly insane from the deafening weight of the air in the room and the maddening rhythm accompanying it. She drummed her fingers on the sill and headed back over. "Xena, you have to go! You're practically the guest of honor, and we’re going to be late." The bard coaxed as she bent down over the warrior, seated on the bed, staring down at her sword in stoney silence.
Gabrielle sat down beside her, sighing heavily. "Alright, Xena. What do you want to know?" No reply came from the warrior’s lips. "Xena, we need to talk." The warrior closed her eyes and continued the incessant sweeping. "Xena, please," the bard pleaded to deaf ears. Finally she covered Xena’s hand in midstroke and held it strong. "Okay. We don't have to talk," Gabrielle whispered. "When you're ready." She kissed her head softly, feeling the bump still present from the whack of the racquet at her own hands. She immediately felt weak. "I'm sorry, Xena. I… didn't… Did that hurt?" she asked tentatively. The warrior shook her head in reply, and placed a hand over the bard's own. Gabrielle kissed her softly again, tears beginning to form at the corner of her eyes "It's okay. Nothing happened," she offered. No response. She could think of little else to say that would make the situation any better. Instead, she urged the warrior's gaze to turn towards her. There was resistance at first, but slowly Xena gave in and looked up. Finally she was face-to-face with a distraught warrior. Their eyes locked onto each other’s in a silent exchange.
"Tell me," Xena whispered.
The bard had the urge to avert her gaze, but held strong as Xena needed to see the truth. There was no getting around it. If she looked away, she would surely lie and it would forever leave a wound in their relationship; one that would never heal, but only deepen with the passage of time. She steeled herself. "You almost killed her." She watched the warrior's pupils flicker slightly, but her gaze held. "I tried to call to you, but the noise of the crowd was too great." The bard breathed deeply and finished. "Your darkness had covered you."
Xena swallowed. "Go on."
"Well, I hit you with the racquet and we both went down," Gabrielle explained, glad to be past the most sensitive part of the matter. "I found you at the bottom of the crowd and tried to protect you...," she stuttered, as fresh tears began to fall across her cheeks. "I couldn't hold them off. The weight was too great..."
Xena's eyes closed as she fought hard to remain in control of her emotions. Her heart held such a heaviness that it was difficult to breathe.
"Xena," the bard broke through. "What did she say to make you so...." She didn't know quite how to word it, for she knew of nothing that would describe such a state.
Xena braced herself. Unfortunately, her memory had not failed her here. "She called me a killer."
"Well, Xena." Gabrielle reached up and touched her cheek. "You can't keep blaming yourself.."
"A killer of Callisto," Xena replied, her voice shaky, "And…"
"And what, Xena?" Gabrielle coaxed.
Gabrielle's eyes widened. "Xena, you didn't kill Perdicus... That's ridiculous." She shook her head. "Callisto killed him. I was there. I saw it, Xena, with my own eyes."
"I don't know anymore, Gabrielle," Xena replied. "I froze. If it had been you, I think I would have stopped her." The bard's eyes widened in confusion.
"No, Xena! You can't think that... you can't!" Gabrielle replied, her voice choked.
"My reflexes, Gabrielle, never fail me… for you." She spoke quietly.
"Xena please…," the bard started. "I can't… You can't think that it... You just can't.. because…"
"Because why, Gabrielle?"
"Because…" The bard struggled. "Because it would mean..."
"I let him die, because I wanted him dead," Xena finished for her. "Because I couldn't bear to see you in his arms," Xena whispered. "And not in mine."
"You can't mean that." The bard shook her head.
"I don't know, Gabrielle," Xena replied honestly "I really don't know. I was an emotional wasteland that morning, going through the motions, but so dead inside." Xena whispered as she stared out at nothing, as her thoughts played back to that day. And then she turned back to Gabrielle. "And when I heard Callisto was going after you, I saw only you, thought only of protecting you."
"I…" Gabrielle didn't know what to say. What words would make everything all right? Xena carried so much guilt. This was more than anyone should have to carry. "Xena… look…"
A knock sounded at the door and interrupted the tension that had filled the air.
"I'll get it...," Gabrielle stammered, pulling away from Xena and rising from the bed.
Xena watched her walk towards the door, her heart black with a heaviness she hadn't felt in years. It was pulling her down to a place she couldn't face.
"Yeah," Gabrielle stammered. "We're coming. We're running behind. Yeah, I know. NO, we'll be there. Ok. Right, in five. Got it." She closed the door and leaned her head against it. "We have to..."
"I know," Xena replied and lifted herself from the bed and sheathed her sword.
It's my party and I'll cry if I want to,
cry if I want to, cry if I want to.
You would cry too if it happened to you.
It's my party
"Again!" Martina cried in laughter, clapping her hands together from her seat at the large feasting table. "It's too funny. Just one more time."
Rosie frowned. "It's not supposed to be funny. That's my rendition of Zeus's Lightning."
"Oh." Martina's eyes widened. "Um, well it was great, really it was." And she rose to her feet, clapping, urging the others to follow suit. They did and the crowd clapped boisterously.
"Well, I'm funny," Ellen piped up from her seat across the table. "I could tell some jokes... Do a few…" Her voice got quieter as eyes averted from hers. "Um, well, maybe later." She sat down, frowning.
"I'd like to hear your jokes later," the assistant offered from her seat beside Ellen. The comedian looked over and blushed.
"How about a poem, Sappho?" someone cried from the back.
"Yes, Sappho, I'd love to hear one." Melissa spoke and the entire table turned towards her.
Sappho peered down the length of the table. "Melissa! You're talking!"
Melissa's eyes widened. "Hey, I am. Yes I am!"
Sappho frowned. "Well, it's a start anyway."
"Yeah, Sappho!" the assistant cried. "A poem for the crowd!"
"Oh I don't know..." She smiled shyly. "And I don't have my lyre anymore."
"You can use my guitar!" Melissa offered, lifting it off her neck and passing it down the table towards Sappho. The crowd clapped in approval of the gesture.
"How about a love poem?!" Tess cried from the back. "In honor of Xena and Gabrielle, our newest couple and most… er, energetic pair." The crowd burst into raucous laughter and all eyes focused on Xena and Gabrielle, who were seated opposite each other near the back. Both Xena and Gabrielle looked down at their dinner plates.
Finally, feeling the intensity of the crowd's gaze, the bard looked up. "I'd… I mean we'd be honored." She looked over at Xena, who was looking at her plate, as if there was something extremely interesting crawling around on it. There wasn't, as it appeared the vegetarian rule would remain intact.
The guitar was passed to Sappho and she graciously accepted it, She rose and walked up onto the stage. She looked down at the guitar for a brief second to make the necessary adjustments, and readied herself. She looked down the table towards Gabrielle and Xena and sighed inwardly. Something was wrong, and she suspected it was related to the fury Xena had been under this afternoon on the court. She had also caught the glimpse of the dark Xena, and knew all too clearly what that would mean for the lovers. She knew no words would soothe this silent discomfort, but she did her best to choose them carefully, selecting some of her most precious poems. She strummed the guitar and began.
Come to me now again, release me from
this pain, everything my spirit longs
to have fulfilled, fulfill, and you
be my ally
The warrior shifted uncomfortably in her chair as the melody drifted towards her, the words stirring up emotions she was desperately trying to hold back.
For you, love has brought the brightness
And the beauty of the sun ...
Tears began to fall down the bard's cheeks as she listened to the beautiful song. She carefully watched the warrior across from her.
May you sleep on the breasts
Of your tender companion ...
Xena lifted up her hand nonchalantly and pretended to wipe dirt from her eyes.
For if she flees, soon she'll pursue,
she doesn't accept gifts, but she'll give,
if not now loving, soon she'll love
even against her will."
Gabrielle reached across the table and clasped the warrior's hand in hers. Finally, Xena looked up at her.
Believe me, in the future someone
Will remember you ...
Because you love her
Stand with her face to face
And unveil the softness in your eyes ...
Xena's eyes met Gabrielle's, the gaze intense, fierce and revealing, stripping both heart's bare for the other to see. The song finished and the room went quiet, as they watched the silent exchange between the two women. There was a second of hesitation. The warrior rose from her seat, breaking the moment. She waited as the bard rose and walked around the table. All eyes, now teary from emotion from the song, watched as Gabrielle came towards her. The warrior held out her hands as Gabrielle reached her. They entwined fingers and Xena bent down, kissing her softly on the lips. The entire room sighed.
Then Xena, with a nod to Sappho and Martina, turned and left the room, taking the bard with her.
They all watched the young couple leave, quietly staring at the tent opening for what seemed like an eternity until finally Rosie broke the moment. "Ya don't think they're doin it again, do yuz!?"
"It's good exercise," Martina piped up from her end of the table. Many of the jocks chuckled, nodding in agreement.
Sappho rolled her eyes. Oh, they had much work to do. "Melissa!" she called. "Get up here and let’s show these jocks what hard rockin music can do for those forearms."
"I'd love to!" Melissa replied, and the crowd broke into a fresh wave of laughter.
I can't trust the waves to float me,
I can't trust the moon that shines on you.
But when I'm with you, I'm the ocean.
And when I'm with you, I've come home.
Can’t Trust the Waves
"Where are we going, Xena?" The bard finally broke the silence as they walked across the meadow, away from the main tent but not in the direction of the hut.
"A special place." Xena spoke quietly, giving the bard a reassuring squeeze.
"Where you and Sappho used to…"
"No," Xena replied. "Where I went when I wanted to be alone to think about things."
They reached the base of a slope and began the ascent. The sea air thicker with each passing step. After a few moments they reached the top of the cliff. The bard immediately gasped at the beautiful view before her eyes. The moon shimmered breathlessly across the ocean as a sea breeze swept across the warrior's still features. There was only water for as far as the eye could see, and it was the most beautiful sight the bard had ever witnessed. The quiet lapping of gentle waves as they made their way to shore, echoed off rocks that had felt their embrace for millenniums before they were ever born. And would continue to feel that embrace long after they were gone. It was timeless in it's beauty, and honest in it's soothing whisper. The ocean had only been frightening to Gabrielle, but tonight, for the first time, it was a calming gentle companion. "It's beautiful, Xena," she finally whispered.
"Yes, it is." Xena sighed, stroking the bard's soft tresses with a shaking hand.
The bard turned to gaze at her. "Thank you for sharing this with me."
"It's a waste, if not shared." Xena smiled. "I didn't know that then, but I know that now."
Gabrielle stepped closer to Xena, slipping her arms around her waist and pulling her body tight to her own, as sweet shivers swept across her. She reached up, asking quietly for a kiss. Xena let her hands travel up the bard's back, crossing her shoulders where she buried them in her wind swept hair, and leaned down to greet her lips. They stood there for a moment, each seeking solace in their shared passion. The kiss deepened, tongues explored further, as a building hunger rose from deep within them.
Xena pulled her lips away reluctantly to gaze into Gabrielle's soft green eyes. "I don't…"
"Xena." Gabrielle reached up and covered her lips with her fingers. "What's past is past, and nothing can change that. Maybe you'll never know if you hesitated, but it matters little now. We're here, together in each other's arms, and that's the only truth there is. You have to believe that."
"But, what happened on the court... I can't trust myself anymore." Her eyes looked away, but the bard guided her back with a gentle nudge of her hand.
"If it happens again, we'll deal with it together," Gabrielle whispered, letting her fingers play across the warrior's lips. "But, hey, I swing a mean backhand, don't I?"
"Yes, you sure do." The warrior nodded, taking the bard's finger and gently sucking on it, her eyes closing instinctively as her tongue danced across the soft skin.
"And now I want to make wild and passionate love under the stars. Are you with me on this?"
Xena exhaled slowly, her eyes opening to see an impish grin spread across her love. "I'm with you."
"Maybe we should go see if they want dessert." Ellen leaned over to Rosie, who was listening to a heated rendition of 'I Want You', sung by Melissa, with Sappho singing the harmony.
"Ellen, sometimes you are a complete idiot. Did anyone ever tell you that?"
"Well, yes, come to think of it, many times. In fact, um, when I as younger, back in camp days…You know, summer camp, my parents always insisted on sending me. Come to think of it, they always scraped up the dinars no matter how bad harvest had been, I mean it wasn't cheap, you know, to send you away. Anyway, as I was saying, the other kids, well we had nick names, I mean you weren't anybody if you didn't have one. You know, a second name, and I was pretty excited when I finally got..."
Rosie sunk deeper into her chair, letting out a huge sigh. "Somebody bring me a Xenarita! Wait, make it a double. No wait, triple that..."
"We should have brought a blanket…" Gabrielle frowned as she tried to get comfortable on the tall grass at the edge of the cliff. Her bare skin was already feeling itchy from the damp strands brushing against it.
"I know," Xena sighed. "But, then it wouldn't have seemed as romantic."
"To stop at the hut, you mean..."
"Well let's flip a dinar then."
"Gabrielle, no more games today."
"Zeus's Head, I get top, Harpie tails, you get the bottom."
"Hmm... sounds about par for the course." The warrior sat, up taking the bard with her. "I tell you what. Just sit on top of me and I'll suffer for both of us."
"That sounds reasonable." The bard shifted and straddled Xena's thighs, placing herself gingerly against her love's stomach. "Ok?"
"Very nice." Xena sighed and pulled the bard in tight to her.
"Hey, you seem pretty used to this... What's up with that?"
"Gabrielle. I was a warlord for a long time..."
"Right. I keep forgetting... Don't elaborate." Gabrielle replied, slumping against Xena. "And we forgot the fire."
"Fire? It’s too humid and with the grassy slope..." Xena’s voice died as she felt the bard slump further into her shoulder. "Look, do you want me to build a fire?"
"No, no, nevermind." The bard shifted slightly right so that she could gaze out at the ocean. She was, once again, mesmerized by it's dark beauty.
The warrior frowned, sensing her love was no longer with her. "Listen, do you want to go back to the party?"
"NO! This is what I've been fantasizing about all week. Forget it."
"Well, be careful about what you wish for, Gabrielle," the warrior warned as she stroked the bard's hair playfully.
"Xena, I'm the bard. Stop coming up with catch phrases... It's unnerving."
"Ok, Gabrielle. I promise to keep quiet," she whispered softly as she buried her head into the bard's neck, drinking in the scent of her love as her lips brushed against soft skin.
"Alright then," Gabrielle murmured as she leaned into the gentle caress of Xena's mouth, savoring the tingling warmth emanating from wherever lips touched skin. "You do that." A shiver of desire spread through her as Xena's tongue ran along the nape of her neck, and she threw her head back hungrily asking for more. Xena sucked delicately, causing a soft pressure against her sensitive flesh. Goose bumps rose, not from cold, but from a deep anticipation that was beginning to take Gabrielle's breath away. She closed her eyes, enjoying the sensations, as she listened to the quiet lapping of the ocean waves. She felt a connection building with the first ripples of desire coming from inside her. She was already beginning to lose herself to a world that consisted of only the two of them, as the peaceful ocean breeze gently caressed her nakedness. She sank her hands into Xena's hair, letting fingers entwine with velvet locks, her fingertips gently massaging the warrior's head. She pulled away and guided Xena's lips to hers, needing to explore her mouth, needing to connect on a deeper level like nothing else could. A quiet moan escaped from the warrior as their tongues danced together hungrily, seeking each other's soul through this sensuous act of shared desire. Gabrielle wanted to taste every part of Xena. She deepened her kiss, then pulled teasingly away to nip gently on parted lips, only to cover her once again with a sensuous caress that left the warrior trembling.
Shivers rippled across the warrior's back as the cool breeze of the ocean caressed her. Her hands traveled down until they rested in the small of Gabrielle’s back. She pulled the bard closer, enjoying the heat coming from her naked form. With eyes smoldering from a deep fire, she gazed silently at her small companion, just basking for a moment in the beauty of the moonlight spilling onto her love's curves and hollows. The vision created was breathtakingly erotic Both women stared at each other for a long time, drinking in the sight before them; windswept hair, eyes dancing with passion, high on a cliff at the edge of the sea.
"Gods, Xena," The bard broke the quiet moment, her voice shaky with emotion. "You look so incredibly beautiful."
Xena's eyes smiled back at her. "I was thinking the same thing about you."
"Who needs a blanket? Right?" The warrior nodded in agreement and they both shared a soft laugh. After a moment, both women went quiet, as each began to trail their fingers gracefully across one another's back. "Xena?" the bard asked, her brow furrowed in sudden seriousness.
"Yes?" The warrior stopped her caresses and settled her arms around her love's waist, waiting.
"Will lovemaking always be this…" The bard struggled for words. "This special?"
The warrior raised an eyebrow and pondered the question. "Gabrielle, it will be as special as we make it. And no, it won't always be this new. But it will always be beautiful."
Gabrielle nodded in silence, letting the words cover her heart with a warmth only Xena could provide. "Kiss me again, Xena," she whispered, and the warrior immediately covered her lips hungrily. The bard lost herself, just as she always did when Xena kissed her this way. Her body tightened around the warrior, her legs wrapped around her waist as a dull ache began to build inside.
The warrior groaned as her love squeezed in closer. She felt the wetness of her desire against her stomach. This, in turn, sent shivers down her back, as a fresh wave of wetness pooled between her own thighs. No one had ever come close to exciting her in ways the bard did now. Just the thought of Gabrielle pressed against her could send a wave of dizziness through her. And that was how she felt at the moment. Dizzy from the heightened sexual desire and deep intimate connection they were now experiencing. She lifted a hand to Gabrielle's breast and let her fingertips dance across her nipple, sending a fresh wave of goosebumps across the bard's sensitive flesh. Their kiss deepened as the bard pressed into her further, urging deeper contact. Xena understood and placed her hand across her breast, taking it and massaging it deeply. She was rewarded with a low quiet moan.
"Xena, that’s.." Gabrielle tried to remain coherent. Every time the warrior touched her like this, she was swept away. She so badly wanted to take the warrior on this cliff; take her to heights she'd only dreamed of. She fought the urge to be taken over by the sensations crashing through her before she could do just that. She reached up and gripped Xena's head in her hand, while taking the other and raking her fingers across a hardened nipple, eliciting a sensuous moan that traveled across the warrior's lips onto her own. Her kiss took on a deeper hunger, as she held the back of the warrior's head, her tongue deepening it's explorations. She wanting to taste every part of her now. The bard pulled back slightly to gaze into half closed eyes, intoxicated from the power of her touch. Gabrielle's heart skipped a beat as she placed her hand on the warrior's chest, feeling the racing heart beneath her fingertips. She guided the warrior down with a gentle push of her hand, and both women slowly lowered to cool grass. They started for a brief second as Xena's shoulders rested against the edge of the sheer rock cliff. Gabrielle cupped Xena's head in her hand for support as she gazed over the edge, where the ocean met rock and sand. It was a drop of at least a hundred feet. For a split second, Gabrielle experienced vertigo. Or perhaps it was her going dizzy from the sight of her love's hair whipping around her face, dark blue eyes staring into her soul, as she held her delicately in the palm of her hand.
Xena swallowed back a lump that had formed in her throat from choking emotions welling up inside her. She reached up to grasp the loose strands that covered her love's face, fighting the wind, as she wanted to see all of her. Gabrielle smiled and leaned down to trace soft kisses down her face and throat. Xena's pulse raced wildly now with a growing passion that was heightened with each graze of lips against skin. Closing her eyes, she let the sensations carry her, as her love slowly worked her way down towards her chest. For a breathless second there was hesitation, and then wet lips covered her nipple, sucking hard, her tongue pressing deep. Another quiet moan began in the warrior as her back arched instinctively to greet the bard's hungry mouth. Xena grasped the bard's head, a quiet urgency in her hands, flexing fingers through tangled hair.
With exquisite slowness, Gabrielle made her way down her abdomen, her tongue trailing a wet line, pausing to suck gently on sensitive flesh before moving further. Gabrielle's hand left her head as she reached her thighs. Xena leaned back, her hair falling gently over the edge as an intense desire to be tasted overtook everything. She felt delicate hands trail across her inner thighs, and she groaned in anticipation of Gabrielle's tongue deep inside her. For a torturous second Gabrielle waited. Her trembling thighs echoed the ache coming from within her. All at once, the sweet sensation of a wet mouth covered her and she cried out in pleasure. Gabrielle's tongue was everywhere, as she sucked gently, each movement eliciting another gasp from Xena. Within seconds, Gabrielle had brought her to the edge, and her body began to writhe underneath her. Gabrielle gripped her thighs harder, burying her tongue inside softness, wanting to taste of her completely. A wave of orgasm began its slow ascent from the warrior’s core, her hips raising with desperate urgency towards the warm wet mouth of her love.
Gabrielle felt the tremble of thighs and the beginning of the waves, but wanted to prolong this timeless moment. She pulled away., The warrior groaned, and she kissed inner thighs to quell the heat of her for a few more pleasurable moments. Xena's hands gripped her hair hard with silent insistence, and once again, Gabrielle covered her with a deep kiss, met with a cry from the warrior's lips. Within seconds the warrior was nearing the edge, but Gabrielle wanted to take her, to own her, have her completely. She lifted herself up, and crawled back towards her love, who now watched her intently. She placed her hands on either side of the warrior's shoulders, and gazed down into eyes that burnt with such an intense passion that it seared her soul. A silent exchange passed between them, as they hovered above crashing waves and dizzying heights. Their hair whipped wildly now as the wind had picked up in the last few moments, almost as if sensing the electricity between the two souls building. Seeing a quiet pleading for contact come through those beautiful blue eyes, Gabrielle slowly lowered herself and covered her love's mouth with her own.
Xena trembled as soft lips captured hers, experiencing the familiar taste of Gabrielle mixed with her own sweet taste of desire. It was a sensual feast and she hungrily thrust her tongue deep inside, to be greeted by an equally passionate one. Once again, Gabrielle placed a gentle hand under her head for support, and Xena fell into its embrace as another moan swept through both of them. She basked in the feel of the bard’s hot skin against her own.
Gabrielle shifted, straddling Xena's leg as she trailed fingertips down the warrior until she reached her delicate, quivering thighs. She stroked her softly, as she deepened her kiss and Xena's hips immediately bucked underneath her. Gabrielle held her strong, savoring the powerful connection she now shared with this woman. With each gentle caress of her hand, the warrior groaned more insistently, and each time a wave of desire would crash over Gabrielle. Her own passion threatened to consume her and she fought hard against it as her own wetness built against the warrior's thigh. Her hips began to rock instinctively against the well-muscled thigh. She could not stop herself, and no longer wanted to. Her hand began to stroke in time to the quiet rocking of her own hips, as both passions now built together, echoing the waves of the ocean beneath them. She slipped fingers inside while continuing to stroke the warrior slowly. Her strokes became more insistent as the rhythm of their shared passion increased.
Her eyes were shut tight, as her muscles tensed. Xena slowly began to give in. There was nothing else in this existence except her lover pressed against her, as she hovered above crashing waves that matched her own. Her hips bucked one final time, as the urge to let go overwhelmed everything and she stepped over the edge. A deep orgasm spread through both woman simultaneously, as Gabrielle sensed Xena’s release and gave in to its powerful surge. They each cried into open mouths as Xena’s back arched from the cliff's edge, taking the bard with her, as she wrapped her arms tightly around her shaking form.
Tucking herself into her love's embrace, Gabrielle wrapped her legs around her once again. Her heart beat loudly against the warrior's as she nuzzled into an inviting shoulder. Her chest still rose and fell rapidly, as she tried to catch the breath that had left her in the explosive exchange. She felt shaking hands stroke her hair as the warrior cuddled into her shoulder. Xena held onto her as if she were the center of a universe that had simply spun out of control, fearing that if she let go she would float away into nothingness and be forever lost. And even though it was only in her mind's eye, it was the truth in that quiet moment on the cliff's edge, where two souls embraced as one.
Could I have this dance for the rest of my life
Would you be my partner then every night
When we're together it feels so right
Could I have this dance for the rest of my life
Could I have this Dance, Anne Murray
Sappho sighed as she sipped on a Twisted Callisto, twirling the little sword swizzle between soft fingertips. She had been talking to Melissa - an actual conversation - on tennis, no less. Well, actually they’d been talking about the muscular attributes of Martina, when a warmth had spread across her heart, causing it to skip a beat. She smiled inwardly, a contentment covering her, and she raised the glass to her lips to taste of sweet wine and sensuous passion.
"I want to roll you in sawdust, ‘til they run us both out…" Melissa whispered.
"Na." Sappho turned to her. "Martina would never go for that. It's too, I don't know… crass." Her eye caught the tennis great walking by, and her heart fluttered.
"It's meat and potatoes, Sappho." Melissa sulked, following her gaze.
"Well, she doesn't eat meat, and frankly, I don't either." She smiled, her eyes locking briefly with Martina’s.
"To each his own," Melissa grunted, and raised a Green Gabby to her lips. "But, I think it's sexy, raw, passionate."
"Sawdust," Sappho snorted. "Passionate. Hah."
"I think it would make a great song," Melissa shot back.
"I don't know." Sappho shook her head. "Tell me about the snow cones again. That has possibilities. She might have a sweet tooth."
"I really don't think you're a complete idiot. I mean, that's too much, don't you think?" the assistant asked Ellen as they slow danced on the floor, arms encircled.
"I was thinking that as well, that you know, complete, sounds so, well, complete actually, but at least I had a second name, I mean if you didn’t have one, well then, you were in serious trouble."
The assistant nodded. "Yeah, kinda like being the last to be chosen for a pick up game. Now, you want to talk social ostrasization, that'd be it, right there. Oh yeah."
Ellen nodded seriously. "Yeah, you're not kidding. Whew! Last call, I mean, hey, I hear ya. Course, come to think of it, at camp, I don't think I ever got picked, you know, I'd wander around the grounds, looking for the other kids, cause somehow we always got separated. Funny, that really. Anyway, by the time I'd finally find them, the game would be nearly ending. Course they let me carry the equipment back, I was good at that. Hey, they didn't call me a complete idiot for nothin. I mean I knew where every item.."
"Do you always talk this much?" the assistant broke in.
"Yeah. Why?" Ellen asked tentatively. "Do I talk too much?"
"Nope," the assistant replied, pulling her closer. "I think it's kinda sexy."
"You do?" Ellen asked incredulously. "Well, that's, I mean, great really. You think I can talk, I had this cousin, we go way back. Well, I guess so, til birth really when you think about it, he had a funny hairdo, pulled back, with a little wisp at the front, it bobbed every time he spoke excitedly, and you'd find yourself following its rhythm, course as we got older, he started to bald, you know, and eventually all that was left was the little..."
"Merry go round?" Sappho snorted, sucking back another stiff slug of Callisto. "I'm sorry Melissa, but you're losing me now. What is a merrygoround? Sounds insane!"
"Well, it's round, and it's merry, and you go around and it makes you real dizzy, and if you stay on too long you sometimes pu-"
"Excuse me." Martina came up behind both women, and they jumped visibly in their chairs. Sappho nearly spilled her drink down her flowing gown. Both artsies turned to gaze up at the beauty before them, decked in a short top and skirt, revealing muscular arms and legs.
Sappho choked on her spit. "Um, yes?"
"Would you like to dance?" Martina asked, tentatively.
Sappho and Melissa exchanged a look. "I would love to." Sappho smiled and rose from her chair.
"Have you thought about a carnival for the island?" Sappho asked as they strode towards the dance floor, arms linked. Martina shook her head in confusion. "Carnival… Like a fun place for the women to go?, Rides, games, treats, that sort of thing?"
"Games." Martina nodded in approval.
"Yeah, I think it has real potential. We could use the extra revenue to erect…"
Tess slumped down beside Rosie. "Ya look a little tight? You alright?"
Rosie frowned, then downed another stiff Xenarita. She looked over at Tess. "Who you calling tight?"
Tess wilted, but forged on. "Well, I thought you might be in need of a massage. Loosen those muscles up a bit. No?"
"Whut? Do I look that easy?" Rosie cried.
"No," Tess stammered, the first droplets of sweat forming on her furrowed brow. "No, I was just, thinking you looked like..."
"Ya got a lot of nerve coming over here and putting the moves on me like I wuz a wallflower at some sweet sixteen prom. Well let me tell you something-"
"I do feet as well."
Tess nodded. "And hands."
"Hands? As well?" Rosie asked. "Ya do hands?"
"Yes, the entire body is connected through the hands and feet. The corresponding organs of the body can be accessed through the various areas on the-"
"Feet. Ya do feet?" Rosie repeated. "With oils?"
"Hmm." Rosie pondered this. "Well, maybe later..."
"You sure?" The warrior snuggled up behind the bard outside the entrance to the tent, her strong arms wrapped tightly around her waist.
"I'm sure." Gabrielle sighed, covering Xena's hands with her own and sinking into her back. The warrior leaned down and kissed her neck, sending a shiver of fresh desire through her. "I think," she whispered, "it's just that we never get to dance, and once we're off the island it will be..."
"I know." The warrior nuzzled into her shoulder further, basking in the feel of her body tucked neatly into her own. A perfect fit. "I'm just not sure I'll be able to control myself."
Gabrielle sighed deeply and leaned back into the gentle caress. Then she shook her head, trying to come back down to earth. "Well, you're going to have to. Our reputation is practically ruined already on this little island We don't need anymore ammunition."
"I love ammunition." Xena smiled into her neck, breathing in the scent of damp hair, fresh with a faint trace of ocean salt. "Let's go back for another swim, make love again, then dance," she offered.
"Xena," Gabrielle sighed. "We'll drown, *and* miss the party."
"Well, I'm not sure how I'm going to keep my legs from collapsing as it is." Xena laughed. "I can barely stand up at the moment."
"I hear you."
"You know, we're going to need a vacation after this vacation."
Gabrielle nodded in agreement. "Isn't it crazy? Why is that, anyway? That you come back so tired from a vacation?"
"It's the sex, Gabrielle," Xena mused.
"Well it's something, that's for sure. I could sleep for days right now."
Xena squeezed her softly, whispering in her ear, "Then let's go to bed."
"No," the bard stated firmly. "This is our last night and I want to make sure I don't miss out on a thing. And frankly Xena, I think I'm all sexed out."
"Impossible," snorted the warrior.
Gabrielle chuckled softly. "Yeah, you're right. What am I thinking?"
"You're thinking of me." Xena cuddled in further.
"I'm thinking of dancing with you. Slow and seductively, our hips joined together in a quiet…"
The warrior sighed and pulled away. "Alright. You know, I'm not one to deny you pleasure." She led her by the hand toward the entrance. "Let's dance."
"Well, if wishes were horses, this beggar would ride," Melissa exclaimed, elbowing Rosie and interrupting her foot massage. "Look who just walked in."
"Will wonders never cease," Rosie snorted. "Must have got cold outside."
"Look at all that wet hair." Melissa sighed "I think I'm feeling inspired."
"Oh boy." Rosie rolled her eyes, then turned to Tess. "A little harder on those adrenals. Yeah, that's it. You’re gettin it now. Yeah, and pass me another drink. Ooh, a Xenarita. She's readin my mind, ya see that?" She turned to Melissa, who was still staring dreamily at the couple. "Earth to Melissa. Earth to Melissa."
"I'd have my cake and eat it, with a little on the side..." Melissa hummed quietly.
Xena guided Gabrielle to the middle of the dance floor, pausing to take in the scene at the table with more than mild amusement. Then she noticed, with further surprise, that Martina and Sappho were slow dancing in a tight embrace. And so was that Ellen with... by the gods! She quickly guided the bard to the opposite side of the dance floor. A small band of artsies that Xena recognized from the kitchen were playing a slow tribal waltz. She turned to face Gabrielle and pulled her close, taking her hands and guiding her across the dance floor to the rhythm of the drums.
Gabrielle smiled up at her love, and then rested her head against her breast before she got caught in those ice blue eyes again.
"What's the matter, my love?" Xena leaned her chin on her bard’s head, smiling.
"Wet hair and blue eyes," Gabrielle murmured into her breast. "And I want to get at least one dance in here before I lose it."
Xena chuckled and cuddled Gabrielle in her arms, squeezing her as she modified the waltz to accommodate her need to bear-hug the bard. She caught soft eyes gazing at her from across the dance floor and she smiled at Sappho. The poet nodded approvingly and then signaled at Martina's head with her eyes, giving the warrior a wink and a thumbs up. Xena responded with one of her own before they both turned away, as the dance led them round. They danced like this for another few songs until the warrior realized the bard was sleeping against her, the sounds of gentle snoring echoing off her breast. She smiled and lifted the bard, taking her into her arms carefully so as not to wake her gentle sleep. The bard stirred and nestled into her warrior as Xena walked over to the table to say their goodnights.
"Whoo hoo!" Rosie wupped, raising another glass. "Ya finally did it."
"What?" Xena asked in confusion, instinctively clutching Gabrielle tighter.
"Ya tired her out!" Rosie smiled. "Bout furkin time, eh grrls." She nodded to the others. "Ooh, that's... Sweet Zeus, Tess! Where did you learn that?"
"You pierce your nose, and I'll tattoo my arm," Melissa slurred, as she raised another glass to her lips, eyeing the raven haired beauty before her.
Xena rolled her eyes. "I think I'll pass. Goodnight. And don't anyone, and I mean ANYONE," she threatened, looking menacingly over at Ellen, who was seated in the assistant’s lap, playing with her brush cut, "knock on our door." They all swallowed. "Have I made myself clear?" They all nodded and downed another stiff drink as they watched the intimidating figure leave the party, carrying her world in her arms.
"She really needs to loosen up a bit. She sure has a bug up her butt," Rosie grunted as she turned to the others. "A round of Xenaritas with Green Gabby's on top for everyone!"
"Another waltz..." the bard murmured in her sleep, as the warrior lay her down gently on the bed.
"Another time, sweetie," the warrior whispered as she began to remove the bard's clothes. She felt the tiredness now beginning to seep into her own weary bones. She sighed heavily and removed her own clothes. Her muscles were starting to stiffen already from the unnatural act of tennis, and perhaps some crazy acrobatics on the cliff. She wasn't sure; she didn't care, and she really just needed to lie down beside her lover and fall asleep in her arms. Nothing else really mattered much when you got right down to it. At least not when the darkness of the night had blanketed them, and saving the world was on hold for another day. She lifted the covers and slipped in beside her sleeping bard, who immediately nuzzled into her. She toyed with her hair, twirling strands in her fingers as she replayed the last few days in her mind, lulled into contentment from the rising and falling of her love's chest. It was in the quiet of the night, when all had stilled, that she experienced her deepest thoughts and darkest fears. But the fears seemed less these days, and she found herself close to tears far more often that she would like to admit. Fresh emotions, buried deep inside her for many years out of a need to feel protected from pain, were making their slow ascent to the surface of her heart. And even though she'd never show it, she was actually softening. And all this came from the deep healing love this woman in her arms was giving to her so willingly, so selflessly. Tears welled at the corners of her eyes, and for the first time in a long time she didn't try and stop them, instead letting them flow across her cheeks and onto her sleeping love, in a quiet act of cleansing. She didn't know how long she cried that night; she only knew that when she awoke the next morning, she was born anew.
Set a course for adventure,
your mind's on a new romance
And Love won't hurt anymore
it's an open smile on a friendly shore
Welcome aboard it's love
"Gabrielle, I swear that purse is going to explode!" Xena cried, her arms raising in an exasperated surrender, as she let the heavy bags she was holding drop to the ship’s deck with a dull thud.
"Well, the bargains, Xena!" Gabrielle cried as she dragged her purse along the ground, now too heavy to sling over her shoulders. "How could I resist?"
"Gods, Gabrielle," Xena groaned, picking up the bags again, her muscles already straining from severe exertion as she pulled up the rear. "What am I going to do with you?"
The bard turned to see her love struggling with the heavy baggage. She looked absolutely adorable in her frustration. "I…", she started, then burst into a fit of laughter. She finally recovered enough to gaze up at a perturbed warrior who was desperately attempting to keep a scowl on her face, but losing the battle. "I don't know, Xena. I really don't."
"I swear, Gabrielle…", Xena shook her head slowly, biting on her bottom lip to gain back control before she lost it.
"Hey!" Rosie and the gang cried from the dock. "Are yuz gonna say goodbye to us or what?"
Xena groaned inwardly and turned for a curt wave. "Bye."
"Xena! You're so rude!" the bard cried, dropping her purse, grabbing the warrior and heading back towards the ramp. She was met by the arstie huddle, and they all wrapped arms around each other. Martina, Tess, the assistant and Xena all shook hands awkwardly. Sappho came out of the huddle to hug the warrior, who's quiet eyes met hers in a smile.
"I'm gonna miss you guys!" Gabrielle exclaimed, tugging on Melissa's guitar neck. "Keep practicing Melissa. You might be famous someday."
"Ha." Sappho snorted. "Sawdust and cotton candy. Not in a million years."
Melissa plucked her instrument in disapproval.
Martina brought out a package and handed it to Xena awkwardly, while the others watched.
"What's this?" Xena asked with mild surprise.
"For you." Martina grunted, looking down at the ground as if there was something interesting in the dirt. There wasn't.
"Oh. Um, thanks." The warrior nodded uncomfortably and tucked it under her arm.
"Well!" Rosie cried in exasperation. "Are yu gonna open it or whut?"
"Now?" Xena stammered.
"Well of course now! We're practically bursting hare!" Rosie raised her arms to the sky. "Aren't we grrls?" The artsies all nodded in agreement.
"Alright." Xena sighed and opened the box. Her eyes widened ever so slightly, and she gazed over at Martina. "I can't take these. They're your Nike shoes!" She handed them back to Martina.
Martina shook her head, refusing. "You deserve them. You earned them. And I want you to have them."
"Well I…", Xena stammered, and then straightened as she felt a small familiar hand on her back. "Um, thanks. They're pretty impressive shoes, I must admit." She felt the leather and then toyed with the pump at the side.
"Yeah, cool!" the assistant cried, coming over to the jock huddle. "You do it like this." She reached over to show Xena how to pump it correctly. There was a collective "oooh" from the jocks and some serious nods of approval.
"Ahh." Xena nodded in fascination. "I see. (pause) Cool."
The artsies all rolled their eyes and looked at each other.
"Ok, let's move," the warrior growled impatiently, as she tucked the shoes back into the box carefully. Definitely a keeper.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes knowingly at Sappho. They both mouthed the word "mushball" and grinned at each other.
They said their goodbyes, and the two adventurers boarded the boat for the long ride back to the mainland. The small group watched from shore.
"Y’all come back now, ya hear!" Rosie waved as the ship pulled away.
Xena snorted something unrepeatable as they leaned against the ship rail.
"Xena," the bard started. "You really have to stop swearing."
"I know." Xena sighed. "It's crazy!" She shook her head.
"Crazy," the bard repeated.
"And another thing." Xena stiffened. "Now, I love you and everything. You know that, don't you?"
"I do." Gabrielle nodded.
"Well, it's just that when we return to the mainland, um, there will be a few minor adjustments, you understand?"
"Hon and Sweetie?" Gabrielle smiled knowingly.
"Exactly." The warrior nodded.
"Alright, already." Gabrielle sighed, leaning her elbows on the rail and gazing out at the ocean.
Xena watched for a moment as well, checking the pallor of the bard every few seconds for distress signs. She stepped behind her and wrapped her strong arms around her, pulling her close again and nuzzling in now that the artsies were out of sight. "You want me to put pressure on your wrist?" she asked quietly.
Gabrielle shook her head. "No, I don't think so. After last night, the ocean seems different. Calming, loving."
Xena nodded, her chin rubbing on top of Gabrielle's head in understanding. "It's all how you look at it really, hon. I mean…", Xena stammered. "Hades! I'd better start practicing now."
Gabrielle laughed and turned to face Xena, eyes smiling. "Yeah. Let's practice, Xena."
"Gods, Gabrielle. Not again."
"Xena, it's been hours, and besides, I want to check out the new shift I bought." She bent down and began rummaging through the bags. She stopped when she came across an unfamiliar package. "Hey, what's this?" she asked, lifting it up.
"Hey!" the warrior growled as she snatched it from her hands. "That's a surprise."
Gabrielle's eyes lit up. "Surprise?! I love surprises Xena. Let me see it!"
"No, it's not… No," Xena mumbled.
"Come on," the bard coaxed.
"I don't know if you'll like it."
"Try me," the bard stated, reassuring the flustered warrior.
Reluctantly, the warrior pulled the contents from the bag and held them up for the bard to see. Gabrielle's eyes widened. "You hate it," Xena said flatly.
Gabrielle swallowed, shaking her head. "Um, no. It's… No, really. That's not it at all. It's just that..."
"It's too much?"
"No, it's… No, not too much. It's almost non- existent, actually." Gabrielle's eyes traveled over the garment. "It's just that it looks a bit like Callisto's leathers. That's all."
Xena frowned. "Well, it's not Callisto's leathers. It's a line, you know, they carry at..." Her voice trailed off into nothingness.
"And I'd be wearing this… When exactly?" the bard inquired.
"Well, not in public. That's for sure!" Xena cried in frustration.
"Oh!" Gabrielle's eyes widened in understanding. "I get it now. Whew! Wow. I thought you wanted…"
"Are you crazy?!" the warrior cried. "This doesn't leave the bedroom!"
The bard shook her head, grinning. "Xena, what am I going to do with you?"
"Try it on?"
"Alright," The bard nodded. "I'm game."
"Don't mention that word again, Gabrielle."
"Sorry. Right. Sorry." The bard took the garment from her hands, feeling the soft leather between her fingers. "Hm, nice," She mused, frowning slightly. "They didn't have-"
"No, it doesn't come in red."
"Too bad." The bard pondered as she walked away from the railing toward the cabins below. "Maybe if we dyed it..."
"Gabrielle!" Xena called after her. "The bags!"
"Just bring them along, Xena," the bard replied absentmindedly, as she stepped through the door, holding the leathers up to the light. "I'll meet you downstairs."
Xena grumbled a few choice words and followed, attempting to balance all the bags under her arms unsuccessfully. As she neared the door leading below, one bag slipped from trembling fingers, and the contents spilled onto the deck. "Tartarus!" she swore as she dropped everything and began stuffing the fallen goods back into the bag. She bent down and accidentally kicked something that went sliding along the deck towards the edge. Hades! It was going over. Then her eyes widened in horror. It was the tartarus doll! She lunged forward in a last ditch effort to grab it before it fell overboard, but her outstretched fingers brushed against tiny leathers in vain, and the doll fell into the ocean. The warrior pulled herself to the edge and peered down just in time to see the doll hit the water and sink into the abyss. She swallowed and closed her eyes, awaiting her fate. It never came. She slowly opened her baby blues and breathed deeply, doing a full body check with guarded hope.
"Are you coming or what?" A tiny voice called from below.
"Yeah!" the warrior called out, as she continued to watch the waves lapping against the boat in silent contemplation. I guess the doll didn't matter anymore. Or perhaps she'd changed. She wasn't sure; she didn't care, and she was getting a real good feeling about this boat ride.
"I'm ready!" the lyrical voice called to her. "And it fits..."
A wide grin spread across the warrior's face as she picked herself off the deck, brushing dust from her leathers. She strode forward to meet her fate.
Disclaimers, nits and bits.
Now before any historical Isle of Lesbos tennis buff starts wailing away, let me speak. The early ancient equivalent was indeed played on the Isle of Lesbos, but evidence of said sport was burned along with many of Sappho's poems. And unfortunately, after the riot on the island during the great match between Martina and the warrior, it was decided that it was far too dangerous in its current form. Alcoholic beverages were restricted and a dress code put into effect that literally killed the sport.
The first ancient Nike pump shoe was originally excavated from the ruins of Amphipolis. Assuming this must have been in err, as the 17th century people had still not donned sneakers, it was boxed and shipped to the new land. It was recovered 150 years later in the abandoned basement of an old warehouse, and the rest is history.
Martina’s english accent. Yeesh. I know, I know, I know. Artistic license?
Ellen of LA did, in fact, marry the assistant, who was found out later to be hard of hearing, and they settled in the S&M section. I hear they're doing fine, though we never did find out the assistant's name.
Rosie and Tess married, as well, in a trend-setting ceremony on the island. They exchanged toe rings, while the wedding party, donning sweats, roared their approval.
Sappho and Martina did indeed erect a carnival and made large sums of dinars. This was in between making incredibly wild passionate love non-stop, in sawdust, no less. It was a good thing, as Martina developed acute tennis elbow after her match with Xena and was never quite the same.
Poor Melissa. She never did get famous, but she did enjoy the carnival... many times...
And thanks to all my online friends, and some not so online, who inspired this story. Which was actually a therapy story in disguise. But then again, they all are when you get right down to it. But this one was for me.
Thanks to anyone and everyone that took the time to read this insane piece of prose that completes a quadology of sorts. To all who came along on my wild and crazy ride - I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing the tartarus thing. The xenite fan fiction readers are a bard's dream come true.
Long live Xena.
Copyright 1997 Trish Kerr (Phopas)
Comments and criticisms are gladly accepted - my email is email@example.com