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CHAPTER FIVE

Don’t Screw Around With Her Lesbians

The sun came through the small square windows, lighting up the sparse, whitewashed walls. Gabrielle was tangled around Xena’s limbs. The way it used to be before everything happened. Xena awoke with the bard’s blonde locks half in her mouth and she could almost believe, at that first moment of consciousness, that nothing had ever happened to separate them. She could taste the saltiness of the sea on Gabrielle’s hair. She pushed out her tongue and gently tasted a strand. Then moving the hair gently away from the sleeping woman’s forehead, she touched her lips there, causing the bard to stir. Her arms and legs draped over the warrior moved gently, slowly, over Xena in the most languorous way, causing the warrior to catch her breath. As if Gabrielle could sense the budding tension, she made a pleasant little noise and burrowed deeper into the taller woman. She turned her face inward and softly pressed her lips against Xena’s neck. All the built up arousal from the night before was too much, and Xena made a little moan-sigh in the back of her throat, waking Gabrielle completely.

The smaller woman climbed on top of the dark-haired beauty, willing herself not to look at Xena in the eye for fear she would be stopped by the warrior and not allowed to do what she intended with every last ounce of her will. She ran her hands up Xena’s soft, warm stomach, pushing the shift up as she went. Xena arched to help her. Aww, that’s good, Gabrielle thought. That’s what she wanted from the woman beneath her. She paused only long enough to pull off her own shift, then quickly cupped Xena’s breast and kissed her softly. She took the nipples in between finger and thumb, gently kneading and bringing Xena under her control. The warrior’s breathing was getting shallow and the bard smiled inwardly. So, Xena thought this wasn’t about her own desire for the warrior? She would have to see about that.

Gabrielle whispered in Xena’s ear, licking it as she did so, "You’re mine." She went back down to Xena’s neck and bit and nipped until she heard a low growl deep from within the woman’s throat and her torso moving invitingly under the bard’s own. Then Gabrielle went back to the wet ear and whispered, "Say it."

Nothing. She squeezed the breasts under her hands again and brought them to peaks under her fingers. Xena squirmed and tried to move her arms around the bard’s waist, no doubt to try and turn the tables, but the bard would have none of it. She held the warrior’s arms over her head. Xena could easily escape from the smaller woman’s grasp, but Gabrielle had a hunch she would get her way.

And she did.

Holding Xena’s arms above her head, Gabrielle rubbed her own breasts over the warrior’s, eliciting a, "Mmmmm," for her trouble. Again she whispered in Xena’s ear, "You're mine. Say it."

A pause. Then in a barely audible, low throaty tone, came the reply, "I’m yours."

Gabrielle leaned down and took a nipple in her mouth, scraping it between her teeth before coming back up to the writhing warrior. "I didn’t hear that," came the playful, erotic retort, as Gabrielle, still avoiding eye contact with Xena, licked and nipped at Xena’s mouth, a tongue meeting her in reply. After a long, deep kiss that had Xena squirming, Gabrielle went back to the unforgotten ear. "Tell me what I want to hear."

Xena didn’t hesitate this time. "I’m yours."

That’s when Gabrielle pulled back enough to catch Xena’s eyes. The Xena that looked back at her was nearly as helpless as she was the night before. The bard’s voice shook a little. "And this is about my desire for you. About my love for you." She paused to let the warrior under her take it in. Then softly, she commanded, "Say it."

Xena hesitated, emotion getting the better of her, tying her tongue up in knots. After swallowing twice, she attempted to speak, but not able to trust her voice she reached up and grabbed Gabrielle, crushing the bard against her chest. Tears came to Xena’s eyes though she fought to keep them back. Using Gabrielle’s method, she whispered into the blonde’s ear, "Do you mean it?"

Gabrielle gave into Xena’s need and let the woman hold her, letting her weight rest comfortably on the warrior’s; mindful of the familiar feel of the woman’s longer body and how hers fit right into it. "I mean it," came the gentle reply.

Xena pressed her face into Gabrielle’s hair and felt a million things. But it was relief, love, and intense desire that were pressing into her chest, making it hard for her to breathe.

The bard pulled away and looked down at her, her own eyes wet. "You don’t get out of it that easy, you know. You’re going to have to say it." She managed to wipe her nose, proving that she had been in tears herself.

At the sight of the bard trying to regain her emotions, Xena’s heart gave way. Now Xena knew that Gabrielle’s feelings were as deep as hers were.

"Gabrielle loves me," the bard prodded the warrior beneath her.

Xena managed a small smile, but said nothing.

Gabrielle raised her eyebrows. "Holding out on me? Okay, we can play it that way. But in this case it’s me who holds all the cards, not the warrior princess. So, if you know what’s good for you—"

Putting a finger against Gabrielle’s lips, she silenced the bard. "Gabrielle loves me," she said, her voice breaking, it nearly undoing her to say it out loud.

She was, in her vulnerability and need, a Xena that Gabrielle had never seen. Nothing in their past relationship prepared her for the Xena she could break with a word or a gesture. She kissed the fingers at her lips with fierceness and urgently moved to Xena’s mouth, her cheeks, her eyes, anywhere her lips touched down so that she might assure her lover. Almost feeling she needed to coddle the woman in her arms. But Xena captured Gabrielle’s mouth again and let the bard know what she most wanted from her. And like that, the torch in Gabrielle was lit again, brighter and hotter than before. She smiled against the warrior’s mouth.

"Now, there are two things I want," Gabrielle said against Xena’s lips, "need," she corrected. She ran a hand down Xena’s taut stomach, causing the other woman to flinch, and continued downward through dark hair and into the wetness there, causing a sudden catch in Xena’s throat. Gabrielle continued, "I need to be here," she indicated with her hand, one finger barely entering Xena, "but I want to watch you, every movement. I need to see everything." Without moving from the mouth she was worshipping, she slid a couple of pillows behind Xena, propping her up, then made her journey down the dark skin, stopping along the way to pay homage to the breasts who had been her allies in winning Xena back. She gave them fair treatment, enough to cause Xena to entangle her fingers in blonde hair and swear to the gods. Licking and kissing her way down the warrior’s stomach until she could smell the musky scent getting nearer. And before her tongue reached out for that first taste, she remembered how sweet Xena tasted. The contradiction of Xena: the rehabilitated warlord who tasted as sweet as honey. And it was exactly as she remembered. She almost lost herself in the smell and taste, closing her eyes and forgetting what else she had wanted, but when Xena began to whimper, she grabbed hold of the warrior’s hands, urging Xena to be with her.

Xena could barely concentrate, thinking she would come out of her skin. She sensed the bard taking her time, lost in making love to her, and that just made it more sweet and unbearable. Her calves were so tight that she expected them to give out completely. Gabrielle pulled on her hands, urging her to be there with her. She could see the blonde hair covering a brown thigh. Then Gabrielle gave her something to watch, moving her tongue all the way through Xena, stopping just long enough to enter her with quick but deep jabs. Xena knew that part of the bard’s need was to see the pleasure she gave, and this too drove the warrior to new heights. She needed Gabrielle now. Taking her hands in that gold blonde hair, she took from Gabrielle the contact she needed.

Gabrielle couldn’t resist another smile as she saw Xena lose control and grab her. She had pushed the warrior far enough. Taking her cue, she found the spot that would make Xena’s legs shake and watched her carefully, her own heart beating out of control as she watched Xena struggle with whether to give in or hold out. And when Gabrielle sensed that there would soon be no choice in the matter, she slid a finger inside. Feeling Xena clamp down on it, she worked in another finger to join it, finding that delicate spongy spot inside that would turn the warrior’s knees to liquid. With her free hand she held onto Xena’s, imploring her to stay with her. But she needn’t have bothered, Xena was there with her, up to the end, until she could no longer control arching her back and crying out.

Gabrielle saw a long, beautiful sweaty neck, etched in muscles and veins—pulsing with life. In less than a second, before Xena could even relax back onto the bed, Gabrielle was on top of her kissing that neck and smoothing back the hair from Xena’s forehead. Kissing her cheeks, her jaw, her lips.

"I love you. You’re so beautiful." Gabrielle buried her face in Xena’s neck.

 * * * * * *

Aphrodite appeared as Sappho knelt before her altar. "What’s up chicky-babe? No poetry exulting the Goddess of Love?"

"Forgive me Cyprus-born. I was in haste," Sappho explained, bowing her head as she did so.

Aphrodite smoothed her sheer gown, adjusting her breasts as well. "Well, what is it? More girl trouble?"

Sappho stood. "Actually, yes."

"I thought we were on the honor system, here. Ya know, ‘no interference’ thing. Have a prob landing the babe?"

"It’s more complicated than that. It seems she’s already been... tampered with. As well as a young visitor to our shores named Gabrielle. I’m at a loss as to whom, or why. The Warrior Princess, Xena, I believe you have made her acquaintance—"

The Goddess of Love rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, piercing eyes of blue." She waved Sappho to continue.

"Yes, well, umm ... it was she who suggested I contact you. She feels someone, a god most likely, has interfered." Sappho could see Aphrodite was getting angry, her cheeks were crimson and her eyes narrowed. "She was in hopes that you might ‘champion me’, as she believes I am in your favor."

"That little weasel! That little winged-weasel!"

The poet remained silent at the outburst, knowing it was better to wait it out.

Aphrodite paced the length of the temple. "Who was the other love-struck mortal?"

"That would be Atthis."

"The same Atthis that you’ve been trying to bag?"

Sappho nodded hesitantly. Sometimes the Goddess’ language eluded her.

"Sooo? Is she hot for you?" Aphrodite pressed.

"It seems, she is ‘hot for me’, as you say, in her natural state—at least that has come out of all this. However, it is Xena who she’s enchanted with. And, if I’m not mistaken it is I whom Gabrielle is spellbound by."

"So, let me get this straight, uh, so to speak... Gabrielle’s chasing you? He even screwed that up?" She spat upwards to the heavens. "Zeus on a stick!"

"The thing that strikes me as strange, is that it doesn’t seem like the typical Cupid’s arrow enchantment. Rather, it’s more severe than that—almost like the person is sick," Sappho explained, her dark features drawn into a frown.

"That’s because the island’s already enchanted. It’s like a double whammy. He needs me to lift my spell before he shoots, other wise it will produce a Love Fever." Aphrodite leaned forward in a conspiratorial tone, "Totally intense." She straightened up and became all business. "Just chill until I get back...oh, and keep the babes apart." Aphrodite disappeared in her usual burst of glitter.

The poet sighed once the whirlwind Goddess of Love had vanished. She was her goddess—there was no doubt—but the woman was a mystery.

 * * * * * *

Sappho sent a runner to Xena and Gabrielle’s cottage. In the note she explained to Xena about the Love Fever and that they were to stay put until she heard from Aphrodite again. Hopefully, that way, neither Atthis, nor Gabrielle would be afflicted with the love sickness again.

Xena quietly worked on the wave riding board. There had been a moment when Gabrielle discovered the note was from Sappho when her cheeks colored and her eyes glassed over. It had taken some serious distraction to get Gabrielle’s mind elsewhere.

At that moment, the bard was counting the berries on a bush.

Gabrielle looked at Xena with annoyance. "Three hundred and twelve. Yes, Xena…three hundred and twelve berries. Would you like me to start counting the nuts on this tree?"

Xena shrugged, looking at the tree. "Couldn’t hurt." She continued to rub the board with some candle wax.

"Hmm, that’s funny." Gabrielle watched her, and for no particular reason, found herself getting further annoyed. "What are you doing anyway?"

Xena’s eyebrows raised in a twinge of excitement. "Wax."

"Uh, huh," Gabrielle noted with some serious sarcasm. "Why can’t we get out of here? It’s a beautiful day, Xena. The birds are singing. The sun is shining. Why don’t we head down to the beach for a swim? Whadda ya say?"

"Nope." Xena turned the board over and looked at her handiwork with pride.

Gabrielle’s eyes flashed in anger before a hidden smile replaced it. "Well, what about that thingie? Aren’t you even going to try it out?"

"Eventually."

"Are you saying," Gabrielle used all her bardic nuances to snag the warrior; lowering her voice and taking a step towards the hapless Xena, "that you’re not remotely interested in getting this beautifully crafted, well waxed, long boardy-thing into the water for a try?"

Xena’s eyes sparkled a little at the thought. She looked at Gabrielle and gave in. "Maybe just a little," her face turning serous immediately, "but we stay on the deserted part of the beach. No wandering."

Gabrielle raised an innocent hand to her chest. "Would I wander? Do I look like a wanderer? And why would I wander from you? Whose beauty—"

"Alright, Gabrielle. I said we were going."

 * * * * * *

Sappho watched as Atthis swung her long legs off the bed and strode to the window. She stretched, showing a tanned, muscled torso, and pulled her long blonde hair back before facing the poet. "I can’t stay here, Sapph. I can’t do it. You know I can’t stand to be inside for long."

She extended her hand out and Atthis walked back to the bed and took the offered hand, but didn’t move to join Sappho on the bed. "Have you tired of me already?" The poet playfully asked her lover.

"You know that’s bogus. You’re it for me, you know that. Even with all this hocus-pocus, you know you’re the one. I’ve waited an eternity. Especially after Gongyla... " the wave rider blanched, "sorry, I didn’t mean to get into that." Atthis walked back to the window and looked out.

The mention of Gongyla was inevitable. But the poet realized how lucky she was. To have loved, like she did, the beautiful Gongyla. She figured that once she had lost that gentle soul, that was it. But now, looking at Atthis’ nude body framed in the window, surely she had been given a second chance at that deeper, soul-connecting love she thought had died when Gongyla left her. Atthis sat on the windowsill and chewed on a fingernail and it nearly stilled the poet’s heart. The simplest gesture was like a gift from the gods. When that happens, there’s no denying your heart has flown from your chest and now belonged to another. How did this sneak upon her? After Gongyla, she didn’t think she would survive.

Atthis turned to her, blue eyes restless. She was a wild bird caught in a cage. She would never survive this room. Sappho knew it, but what else to do?

The wave rider crossed the room and laid her head in Sappho’s lap, curling up into a ball. "Let me go to the ocean, just for awhile. I’ll be careful. You’ll come with me. I need to be out there, Sapph. Please."

The poet ran her fingers through the blonde hair, no longer able to deny Atthis anything. "We will have to be very careful. We can go to the deserted side, but we can’t stay all afternoon. And then, when Aphrodite returns, all this will be over with. You’ll be free."

Atthis lifted herself up and kissed the striking dark-haired woman. "I love you! I love you a hundred times over! And when we get back I’ll make love to you at least that many times."

"Well," said Sappho, cupping the wave rider’s beaming face, "we better get going then. The sooner we leave, the sooner we return."

 * * * * * *

"You are so dead!"

"Take it easy, mom. What did I do?" Cupid cringed as Aphrodite twisted his wing.

"How could you mess with my babes? That island is mine!"

"It was just one little arrow. What could it hurt? They were already falling in love, anyone, even a mortal, could see that."

"You numbskull! You made Gabrielle fall in love with Sappho, and Atthis fall in love with Xena. You’re like a walking disaster maker... or something! Oh, you know what I mean."

"So, I did miss," Cupid muttered under his breath, removing his mother's vise grip from his wing.

"Miss? You knew you missed and you didn’t do anything?" The Goddess of Love was getting a headache. "Do I mess with your schemes? Like when you try and get warring families together by enchanting their over-sexed brats?"

"Alright, just take a chill pill already. I said I would fix it."

"You screw around," Aphrodite pushed Cupid in the chest, moving him backwards with each smack, "with any of my Lesbians ever again, I’ll mess up every love match you make. Don’t mess with the Goddess of Love!"

"Alright! I said I would fix it, didn’t I?"

"And?"

Cupid rolled his eyes. "And I won’t mess around with anymore Lesbians."

Aphrodite backed up and patted her hair. Hands on hips. "Well, let’s go. We have to undo some bad romances." She disappeared in a firework show of sparkling colors.

"What a drama queen." Cupid followed with a frown.

 

CHAPTER SIX

A Blonde In Each Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush

Xena surveyed the beach. Not a soul in either direction for as far as the eye could see. She carried the board under her arm, her other hand entwined with Gabrielle’s. The bard had convinced her to take this trek to the water but she wasn’t about to let her little blonde troublemaker out of her sight. She would try out the board to see what this entire wave riding business was all about, and then spend the rest of the time on the beach with Gabrielle. She wasn’t exactly sure what this new twist in their relationship meant in the long run, but until this Cupid stuff was taken care of, there was no sense in broaching the subject.

Gabrielle leaned against the warrior’s arm and ran a finger up the smooth skin until she felt Xena’s biceps under her fingers. She squeezed the hard muscle and leaned her cheek against the warrior’s shoulder. It felt so good to feel Xena again. She had never realized how calming it was to touch the dark-haired woman. So much had been forgotten over the past few months. Too much. Everything had gone crazy and left her without a feel for her home. Until now. She could feel it returning. But she wasn’t sure if Xena felt the same way. She hoped that it wasn’t just this enchantment, that Xena felt sorry for her.

Xena dropped the board on the sand when Gabrielle lifted the simple gown she was wearing over her head. Xena looked up and down the beach again, just for good measure. She raised an eyebrow. "I see we’re getting used to Lesbian custom."

"When in Rome..."

Xena sucked in her breath sharply and narrowed her eyes. "Bad choice."

Gabrielle chuckled and took the hem of Xena’s loose fitting shirt and pulled it over the taller woman’s head. Standing back and eyeing Xena, she shook her head. "Oh yeah, that’s better."

Xena smiled and affected an innocent tone. "Why Gabrielle, are you trying to seduce me?"

"Uh huh." Gabrielle moved closer.

In one swift move, Xena laid the bard down on one of the discarded shirts.

"What are you doing? I thought you were going wave riding?" It was Gabrielle’s turn to bat her innocent green eyes.

She covered the sweet blonde’s mouth with a soft generous kiss, slow and hypnotic, the kind that made a person lose track of the time. "Oh," Xena whispered into the bard’s mouth, "I," sucking on her bottom lip, "am."

"Mmmm," was the answer.

 * * * * * *

"This looks good." Atthis pointed out the deserted beach to Sappho. "No one ever comes out here. It takes too long to get back."

Sappho judged the sun. "You’re right. It’ll be nightfall by the time we return. I hope this wasn’t a mistake."

Atthis took Sappho by the waist and pulled the poet into her body. "How can being out here on such an awesome day be a mistake?"

She kissed the wave rider. "I hope you’re right."

The two women walked towards the ocean, arms about each other when abruptly Atthis lost her balance, her feet knocked out from underneath her. "What the—"

"You almost stepped on us," Xena said with a menacing growl, glaring at the two women.

Atthis was now on the ground, just the other side of a naked Gabrielle. Sappho was only a foot away from Xena’s head, her mouth still hanging open. Not paying attention, they had nearly walked right over the two lovers.

"Xena," said Atthis.

"Sappho," said Gabrielle.

"Great," said Xena.

"What in the name of Zeus are we going to do?" A frantic Sappho asked Xena.

Xena and Gabrielle being naked didn’t help matters any. The fever had been kindled in both women again. In a flash, their eyes glazed over.

"Okay, nobody moves!" Xena abruptly stood to her full height, every head moving with her.

But it was too late. Atthis sprang from the ground like an animal and landed around Xena’s middle. The naked warrior was simply too much for the lovesick wave rider. All her mind could fathom was how to rub her face all over that dark curly patch.

Xena caught Atthis by the face, holding her mere inches from the place she most wanted to be. The tall blonde’s eyes were wild.

But not quite as wild as Gabrielle’s. "Hey, what the—what do you think you’re doing?" And the bard was in a fury! She grabbed hold of the wave rider and pulled her backwards.

Sappho, seeing her lover so out of control and being pushed and pulled, could take it no longer. She tried to ply Gabrielle off of Atthis. Xena saw the move and knew it was a mistake. But before she could blink, Gabrielle saw the poet and hurled herself at Sappho. The bard, stronger than the poet, threw the legend onto the ground and proceeded to mount her.

Sappho, upon realizing her mistake, held her hands away from the naked bard. "Xena!"

Atthis swiveled around at her lover’s cry and was enraged to find the small blonde on her poet again! She lunged at Gabrielle, knocking her off Sappho and onto the sand. The fever had been channeled from lust into anger, turning the two blondes into furious wrestlers.

Each grappled for the better hold as Sappho watched in horror. "We have to do something!"

Xena crossed her arms and observed the two with a clinical eye. She reached down and picked up her shirt. Sappho watched the warrior with an incredulous expression. "Xena!"

"Just wait a minute." And she held the poet back with one strong arm.

"What are you doing? They’ll kill each other!"

"No they won’t. It’s not in their nature. Has Atthis ever hurt anybody?"

"Never."

"Gabrielle’s the same. They need to get some of the fever out. This will help them. If it gets out of hand, I’ll stop it."

And so they watched the two women wrestle.

It went on longer than Xena would have expected, the fever pushing their stamina past the usual limits. Sometimes Gabrielle would have the larger woman in a good headlock and the warrior had to hide a smile. The bard’s muscles flexed as she worked her body to keep up with each move the wave rider made. And it was a rather compelling sight, raising Xena’s eyebrow more than a few times. A naked Gabrielle and Atthis, all but unclothed, the simple throw she had been wearing, hanging in tatters and strips where the bard had grabbed it. As they moved and counter-moved, the scenery became, uh, interesting. Xena even caught Sappho agape, as the two women struggled.

Their breathing was labored. They were tired and moving slower, their energy spent. Though they had never been in any real danger, Xena stepped in. She knew what she had to do; though neither woman would like it. She grabbed them both by the hair and separated the heaving bard and wave rider, which wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be. She turned them towards the ocean, a blonde in each hand as they stumbled along, each out of breath and exhausted. Sappho followed behind, having been silent throughout the wrestling match.

Xena entered the ocean, letting the water hit Gabrielle and Atthis, cooling them off essentially. Sappho came from behind and took Atthis from Xena. With that responsibility out of the way, she picked up Gabrielle and walked further out until the water came to her waist. Utterly drained and winded, the bard let her body lean into Xena’s.

"You okay?" Xena kissed the ear she spoke into.

"No one, no one touches you there," Gabrielle managed between her labored breathing.

Xena smiled in spite of herself. She lowered her body until Gabrielle was in the water too. She could see the cool water was having the desired effect, as the bard’s green eyes were now open. Her cheeks were still flush, but she seemed more herself as they bobbed up and down with the ocean’s rhythm. Gabrielle looked at her with an earnestness that told Xena something important was about to happen. Xena consciously swallowed and held her breath.

"I love you, Xena. I want you back. Not just on this trip, but forever. I miss you. Not having you with me. Near me. Loving me. It’s like being homeless. I feel like I’m a lost soul, just wandering aimlessly. I want to come back now, Xena. Please, let me come home." Gabrielle pressed her face into Xena’s neck.

She held the smooth, gentle body close as Gabrielle’s body shook. Xena felt a lump in her throat and a burning in her eyes. She pulled Gabrielle from her neck and cupped her chin, forcing away the shyness, the insecurity that Gabrielle felt, by looking at her deeply. Finding those green eyes, she looked further into them than she ever had before. Gabrielle could feel the penetration of the pale blue eyes into her own, and so she stilled her body and her breath, demanding herself to be present.

And Xena said the one thing, really the only thing there was left to say, "Welcome home."

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

I Get Around, Round, Round, I Get Around

"Are you sure it’s safe out there? Those waves are the size of Titans." Gabrielle sat on the shoreline and dug her toes into the sand. Sappho sat next to her. Behind them, on either side of them, hundreds of women.

"Oh, Gabrielle, this is what the wave riders wait for! Nothing could keep them out of the water now. Today’s a perfect day for the big competition."

"Actually, I’m concerned about Xena. She’s a warrior, not a wave rider. But if anyone can take care of themselves, and learn to do something brilliantly, it’s Xena." Gabrielle smiled just thinking about her big warrior.

"I’m sure she’ll be fine. And all the other wave riders are out there. Atthis will keep an eye on her." Sappho patted Gabrielle’s arm; their first physical contact since the enchantment had been lifted—and rather unceremoniously, at that. Aphrodite appeared on the beach with Cupid and everything went hazy for a moment then back to normal. The only residual effect was a pounding headache that the bard was just getting over. The awkwardness of Sappho’s touch didn’t go unnoticed by either of them.

The sun had reddened the bard’s cheek, but remembering her actions had her blushing a brighter shade. "I can’t tell you how embarrassed I am by—"

"Gabrielle, we’ve already discussed this. There’s no need for you to apologize again and again, especially when you have nothing to apologize for. Consider the matter closed and fodder for a good story." Sappho paused in thought. "A change of names to protect the innocent might not be a bad idea." The poet grinned, letting the bard know, in fact, she considered herself and the story to be fair game.

"It will be a good story," Gabrielle thought, out loud. "Thanks for being so great about everything. You could have had us thrown off of the island."

"And miss the big wave riding competition?"

"I’ve been thinking...doesn’t surfing sound better?"

The poet considered it. The bard continued her line of thought. "I mean riding the waves sounds exciting, but surf...surfing, it sounds sort of romantic. Still exciting, but it also has an emotional appeal. I’ve noticed most of the wave riders, surfers, feel a strong emotional pull towards the sport."

"You make a good case, and the word has a more aesthetic appeal. I’ll speak to Atthis about it. Since she is the inventor, it’ll be up to her."

"So, why aren’t you competing?"

"Oh, I’m not that good. Only the best participate. I’m just a lowly poet."

"Hmm," Gabrielle smiled. She watched the wave riders, er—surfers, as they paddled their way out to sea. Not everyone would catch the same wave at the same time, so it wasn’t difficult to watch all the women surf. The bard was duly impressed. They made those boards do some amazing things. They did some sort of maneuver that allowed them to go up and cut back. Some even walked around on the boards. It was all very impressive to the bard.

"These women come from all over for this event. And since this is where wave riding, or surfing," a smile for Gabrielle, "originated, this is a very important competition. Afterwards, we have a big party on the beach. It’s quite festive."

"I’m looking forward to some real relaxation now that all this crazed-libido stuff is in the past. By the gods!" The bard’s eyes nearly bugged out of her head as she watched Xena, tall, bronzed and naked as the day she was born, stand up on her surfboard and ride a large swell of the ocean. My gods, the woman is magnificent! It’s too bad about the tan from her armbands, but other than that...wow!

"Gabrielle, your mouth is hanging open," Sappho said with a mischievous grin.

"Yeah," the bard muttered.

Xena rode the wave in pretty standard form, from what Gabrielle could make out, not much different than the other surfers. Which was amazing in itself considering it was her first time on one of the contraptions. Gabrielle knew—knowing her warrior like she did—it would only get more interesting. She knew Xena’s compulsion for excellence was obsessive.

It was clear that Atthis was one of the best surfers, if not the best out there. It was as though her body and the board were one. She seemed to sense the ocean itself and what she needed to do in order to become one with it, or to play with it. Poseidon must love these surfers, Gabrielle thought, perhaps even in spite of himself. They were more like creatures of the sea than creatures of the land. Cousins of the dolphin, perhaps.

Sappho, Gabrielle, the judges, and hundreds of women watched the competition unfold. It was clear that some surfers were getting better rides than others were. To Sappho’s amazement—though not Gabrielle’s—Xena was one of the better surfers.

"Is she always this good at everything?" The poet was incredulous after watching the warrior’s last ride.

"Have to say a big ‘yes’ to that. It’s disgusting, really." Except that it makes me want to eat her alive—dear gods. "Here she goes again."

The wave was huge, bigger then any of the other ones. The bard swallowed nervously, her body was as much out on that board, on that huge wave, as Xena’s was. When she saw how high it was and how small it made the usually large warrior look in comparison, Gabrielle caught her breath and held it. The sun beating down on her, the last of her headache, the giant wave, it was almost too much for the bard. Then the familiar sound met her ears.

"Yiyiyiyiyiyiyyiyi...."

And Gabrielle’s stomach jumped into her throat as she watched Xena somehow ascend to the top of the wave, catch air and spin more times than anyone could count. Everyone on the beach cried out: "Owwww...Ahhhh." Then the sounds of people groaning, their heads dizzy after trying to watch the surfing warrior spin around. She came back down the gigantic wave, furiously fast, headed towards the beach. Spectators ran in all directions, sensing what was coming. The warrior was going too fast to stop, her board sometimes not even touching the water! As she approached the shore, she crouched, and as the board hit land, coming to a screeching halt, she sailed into the air, somersaulting and landing directly in front of the bard.

And there she stood. Naked. Wet. A shit-eating grin on her face. Then a wicked eyebrow tossed in for the sake of the bard. Gabrielle swallowed as a slow smile replaced the dumbstruck look Xena had just seductively smirked at. Xena, with a dripping wet body, had always made her, uh, happy...yeah, happy. She cocked her head at Sappho, whose mouth was still hanging open. "Pretty amazing, eh?"

"Amazing? Do you have any idea the understatement to which you aspire?" The poet asked.

Gabrielle thought about it and nodded proudly. "Yeah, I do."

 * * * * * *

Fires burned at varying intervals all along the shore. There were hundreds of women up and down the beach. Around each campfire there were stories, or music, or at least genial conversation. The sun was just setting as the party geared up. Atthis, at first furious that her title was taken from her (she had never lost the competition, much less to a beginner!), cannot begrudge the sheer talent and ability that everyone, including herself, witnessed from the warrior. And like anyone, who truly has a passion for something, she could not refrain from the love of it—especially at such exquisite execution. So now, she and Xena, way past the point of sober, were the best of friends. Arms around each other as though they had been childhood pals.

Gabrielle watched all this with a leery eye, as Xena sat next to the bard, but had her arm around Atthis, talking animatedly about wave riding, er... surfing. Sappho, sitting next to Atthis, raised her eyes to Gabrielle and shrugged.

"The thrill of it. It’s almost like the feel of going into battle," Xena spoke in passionate tones, only slightly slurred, to Atthis, who leaned closer to catch every word the warrior uttered. Their newfound bond was impenetrable. "Only it’s better because there’s this.... " Xena struggled to find the right word.

Atthis jumped at the chance. "A peacefulness. It’s like there’s this awesome rush and this totally unbelievable calm in the middle of it, like everything just makes sense."

"Yes!" Xena slapped the wave rider in her excitement, knocking her off of the log they were all sitting on.

Sappho looked at Gabrielle with an amused grin. The bard got up, leaving the two bonding surfers, and sat next to the poet. Desperate to get a break from the two drunken women made her think of the Rock of Desperation and the woman she had met there. "Sappho, do you know of a woman named Gongyla?"

The poet’s head snapped up. "What do you know of her?"

"Well, I met her last night."

"That’s impossible, Gabrielle."

"Why?"

"Because she’s dead."

"You’re wrong. I spoke to her. When I left, umm," embarrassed, the bard looked at her shoes, "Aphrodite’s temple, I was pretty upset. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Plus, there’s all this stuff going on with Xena," Gabrielle quickly added. "Anyway, I ended up on this cliff. I think she called it Desperation Rock. She told me this fascinating story."

Sappho spoke in a slow stilted tone, "That lovers go there to rid themselves of their pain. They throw themselves over the side, and if they live, it’s believed their suffering will end. And if they die.... "

"What?"

Sappho avoided the question. "What did she say to you?"

"She seemed to know I was in pain—I don’t know how. I think she wanted to help me, like she was afraid I’d come there to throw myself off the cliff. And, really, I was pretty upset, what with... " Gabrielle trailed off, thinking about how truly desperate and hopeless she had been. "Maybe it was good she was there."

The poet put her arm around the bard. "I’ve heard tales that she was the guardian of Desperation Rock, but I never believed it until now." Tears freely fell down Sappho’s cheeks.

Gabrielle admired how Sappho showed emotion without self-consciousness or recriminations. "Are you telling me she’s really dead?"

"I sang at her funeral. I saw her body and I mourned her death. What you saw was something else, Gabrielle. Some other part of her that still lives."

"How did she die?"

"She jumped from where you were standing. Hoping for some kind of release. But she didn’t survive the jump. I’ve heard others say that now she’s sentenced there as some kind of punishment, but I don’t believe that." Sappho’s tone was reverent and loving. "The Gongyla I know would be there out of kindness, to protect others, to oversee the fate of those who end up perched on that dangerous cliff. That’s what the Gongyla I know would do."

As Gabrielle listened to the poet talk of Gongyla, one thing was painfully clear. "You loved her."

"Yes."

"What happened?"

"She was to be married. We would have to be separated. She saw no other way out." Sappho looked up at the bard. "There’s always another way out, remember that, Gabrielle."

The bard nodded. She thought about Xena and all they had been through. Surely there was a way out…if they willed it. Insisted upon it.

"I never even had a chance to say goodbye. She left our room, went directly to the cliff and jumped. By the time I heard.... " Sappho dropped her face into her hands and Gabrielle held her. Still such a raw memory for the poet, she let Gabrielle ease the anguish out of her.

After a moment, Sappho sat up and relaxed out of the bard’s embrace. Gabrielle ventured a suggestion. "Why not go talk to her?"

Sappho sat silently for a moment and stared at the fire. "It never occurred to me. I suppose I didn’t think the stories were real."

Xena and Atthis, their arms about each other, distracted Gabrielle as they sang some song: "I get around, round, round, I get around...I get around, round, round, I get around." Their harmony slightly off.

The bard and poet sat there, Sappho considering the action. Finally she nodded to Gabrielle with a grim but determined face. "What about Atthis and Xena?"

Gabrielle threw a thumb over her shoulder at the other two women. "It’s not like they’re going to even notice we’re gone."

"East Coast girls are hip.... "

 * * * * * *

They made the walk to the cliff. Sappho had Gabrielle approach first, as the poet stood in the shadows and waited.

"Gongyla? It’s me, Gabrielle."

The vision, the same beautiful woman stood before her. "Gabrielle," she smiled, "how are you feeling?"

"Much better. I wanted to thank you for your kindness the other night."

"You came back to thank me?" Gongyla smiled, touched by the gesture.

"That would be nice of me, wouldn’t it? Umm, actually, I brought someone else to see you."

"Oh?" Gongyla looked behind the bard, puzzled.

"I have a friend who’s pretty upset and I wondered if you would talk to her?"

"Of course, where is she?"

Gabrielle gestured and Sappho moved out into the open. The poet saw her old lover and put her hand to her mouth to stop from crying out, then in a shaky voice, "Gongyla?"

The spirit dropped to her knees and covered her face. At the sight of her distress, Gabrielle tried to reach out to her, but her hand moved right through the apparition.

Sappho kneeled in front of Gongyla. Realizing she couldn’t touch the beautiful woman in front of her, she begged her with words,

"Your lovely face.
When absent,
the pain of unpleasant
winter.
O Gongyla, my darling rose,
put on your milk-white gown. I want
you to come back quickly. For my
desire feeds on
your beauty. Each time I see your gown
I am made weak and happy. I too
blamed the Cyprus-born. Now I pray
she will not seek
revenge, and may soon allow
you, Gongyla, to come to me
again: you whom of all women
I most desire." *

Finally, the curly-haired beauty acquiesced, and with tear-stained cheeks looked at her love. She reached out to touch Sappho’s face, though she could not.

And though it was impossible, they pressed their lips together.

And as hopeless as it was, they held each other.

The bard, now interloper, turned away from the lost lovers and made her way back down to the beach.

 * * * * * *

"Gabrielle, stop moving the bed!"

"Xena, I’m not anywhere near the bed." The bard walked over and gently smoothed dark hair away from tanned, now rosy, skin. The sun had given Xena an even darker shade and her cheeks were red from the after-effects.

"Zeus on a raft, I’m never going to live through the end of this day," the warrior moaned.

Gabrielle drew a face of concern. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen you hungover, or at least admit to it."

"It’s that damn wave rider—"

"Surfer."

"She had some concoction—damn it to Tartarus, my head hurts!"

"She was your best friend last night."

"You don’t know what you’re talking about."

"Oh?" Gabrielle cleared her throat, getting in tune (sort of) to sing, "I wish they all could be Lesbian girls—"

"Alright, alright. I don’t want to hear the second verse."

"Are you sure? It gets even better."

"Are you here to torture me?"

"Something like that."

"Hmm... then you should get in bed and torture me properly."

"Xena, you’re completely hung over. If I even sit on the bed, you’re likely to—"

"Don’t even say the word. That’s all it will take."

The bard placed her hands on her hips and surveyed the prone beauty. "I was hoping to get outside today, but it doesn’t look like you’re in any shape for that." She took the warrior’s hand and stared lovingly into the bags under her eyes.

"I have an idea that might get me out of this room." Xena’s bloodshot eyes brightening a little. "Can you go see Atthis? Tell her I need the materials we talked about last night."

"Xena, she was pretty drunk too, what if she doesn’t remember?"

"Then I’m fucked."

Gabrielle didn’t know what to say to such an uncharacteristic reply. So she laughed.

A few candle marks later Gabrielle returned with some very thin strips of metal and some dark glass. Xena, well enough to sit up in bed and get down a sampling of their breakfast, worked with the material. Gabrielle occasionally glanced over as she wrote on a scroll about their latest adventure with Sappho. Finally, not able to take anymore of the suspense that Xena seemed to thrive on, Gabrielle asked, exasperated, "What exactly is that supposed to be?"

"You’ll see." Xena worked the thin dark glass into the circular bent metal. She held them up to her face, measuring, then continued to work the fine metal.

Semi-annoyed and half-amused, Gabrielle went back to her writing until Xena tapped her on the shoulder. There she stood with the metal and glass covering her eyes, the silly looking thing balanced by her nose and her ears. Gabrielle laughed causing Xena to frown.

"What’s so funny?"

"You’re kidding, right?"

"Do you want to go out?"

Gabrielle chuckled and reluctantly nodded. "Yeah, I guess I do."

"Then let’s go." The warrior stepped aside and gestured, rather sarcastically, in a wide arc that led to the door.

They walked to the beach with Gabrielle stealing sidelong glances at Xena. Actually, the funny looking invention was growing on her. It was sort of appealing in that it created a mystery—just what exactly was Xena looking at behind those dark ovals of glass? Xena turned to look at her, an eyebrow raised and Gabrielle felt a slow blush move up her body.

"So, it’s our last day here," the bard stated. "At least that was the original plan. Unless, of course, you would like to stay longer?"

"Do you?"

"No fair, I asked first."

"Gabrielle."

They were at the water’s edge, only a couple layers of clothing between them, the ocean, and the sun on their skin.

"I’m afraid to leave here, Xena," Gabrielle said, as they both sat down on the sand.

"Why?" Scrunched up eyebrows showed above the dark glasses.

"Everything’s going right here. I mean, there was all that crazy stuff with Sappho and Atthis, and well, that was weird, but everything with us has been so much better. I feel you again. You’re part of me, in my life. I don’t want to experience that disconnection from you again."

"We can’t spend the rest of our lives afraid to leave this island, Gabrielle. Running from our problems isn’t the answer."

Gabrielle let out a frustrated sigh and reached for Xena’s hand. She entwined their fingers, softly rubbing the smooth skin between the warrior’s finger and thumb. "What do you think we should do?"

Xena shook her head. "You’re usually the one with the answers to these questions."

"I think I’ve run out of answers," the bard said with a sardonic smile.

After a moment, Xena said, "Maybe it’s the wrong question."

"What do you mean?"

Gabrielle had that very earnest expression on that always swept her heart away. Xena smiled a little and said, "Maybe it’s not ‘what should we do,’ but ‘what shouldn’t we do.’"

"Hmm," Gabrielle nodded, understanding. "Like not blaming each other…holding grudges."

Xena took the bard’s chin in her hand. "Then maybe we can start trusting each other again?"

Gabrielle looked down at their joined hands. "I want us to trust each other again, Xena..so bad."

"I know," Xena said so softly that the bard barely heard her. "We both need to find our way back." Her hands cupped Gabrielle’s face. "We’re on our way there, Gabrielle. Don’t leave me before we get there."

She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around the dark-haired woman’s neck. "Let me see your eyes."

Xena took off the frames and squinted as her pale blue, hungover, eyes took in the gentle blonde sitting next to her. Gabrielle kissed her so softly it was a tickle. "I’ll never leave you."

She took Gabrielle to her with a delicate ease and wrapped the bard up in her arms. She played their (serious) game. "Say it again."

Gabrielle closed her eyes. All the feelings were returning to her: being loved; being happy; being safe. "I’ll never, never leave you, Xena. I love you."

She turned her face into blonde hair when she heard the words that took her home again, and she felt the woman she loved, would learn to trust again, in her arms. "Love you too, Gabrielle."

After a moment, Xena looked out at the ocean. The swells were growing. Her heart started to pound. "Gabrielle?"

"What is it, my love?"

"Surf’s up!"

 THE END

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