For Better or Worse

(October 1997)

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Chapter 25 - The Big Day

Arriving at the altar with Meleager, Xena yawned, exhausted from the extensive and multiple discussions she had with her bard the last evening.

The guests arrived in waves, in numbers that startled both Meleager and Xena. "Do you know who any of these people are?" Xena asked, only remembering a few.

"Most, uh...some, uh...oh...there's my Dad and Willis," Meleager blurted happily and waved at them. Xena sighed and kept her eyes out for Lila at the end of the aisle. "Oh, and there's Cumae," he proudly identified the old woman as he nudged Xena as she yawned.

"She said yes?" He whispered as he looked out over the growing crowd.

"Not exactly," Xena relayed honestly, making Meleager concerned, but not as concerned as he became when the musicians started playing the incidental music.

"Oh Gods," he blurted.

"You're not going to get sick are you?" Xena asked.

He looked at her and quickly and unconvincingly shook his head no.

"You know Gabrielle, you're going to have to talk to me someday," her mother patiently informed a stubbornly quiet Gabrielle as she finished mending the seam of her yellow bridesmaid dress.

"The music has started," Lila announced to Gabrielle and her mother as she rushed in Sarah's room. "Where IS she!?!" Lila blurted anxiously, looking around the room.

"What do you MEAN where IS she?" Her mother snapped indignantly. "She should be with you!"

"Well she's NOT!" Lila snapped back. The three women looked at each other a moment when the realization of what happened set in.

"Oh Gods, she has cold feet," Gabrielle blurted for all of them.

"Spread out, she couldn't have gotten far in that dress," their mother added.

"Nice tune," Meleager he mentioned as he started breathing again, feeling more comfortable with the incidental music that was being repeated.

Xena looked up at the priest who started to look around anxiously and concluded something was definitely wrong. Her eyes drifted back to the end of the aisle, which was not supposed to be empty.

"So, what do you mean by 'not exactly?" Meleager asked the Warrior Princess, who sighed heavily.

They found Sarah.

"Gabrielle, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have left her in there alone," Sustra relayed guiltily.

"Sustra, this isn't anyone's fault except Sarah's," Gabrielle blurted with annoyance.

"Sarah, the music has started! Come out of the kitchen," Lila pleaded through the door, glancing at her sister, mother and Sustra.

"No! I'm not coming out! It's all a HUGE mistake," she sobbed into a plate of nutbread. The women on the other side of the door rolled their eyes.

"Sarah, it's not a mistake. Now come out of the kitchen!" Gabrielle blurted impatiently to her sister.

"NO!" Sarah countered.

"Young lady, you take down those barricades from these doors right this minute!" Her mother ordered her.

"NO!" Sarah countered.

Gabrielle pulled everyone away from the door. "I've got an idea..."

"Fire?" Lila guessed eagerly. "We could SMOKE her out!"

"LILA!" Gabrielle and her mother blurted with annoyance.

Sustra grinned.

" ..Hmm," Meleager happily hummed the incidental tune, drawing an amazed gaze from the Warrior Princess.

"Really catchy...isn't it?" He smiled.

"Sarah dear, least tell me why you don't want to get married...Meleager has a right to know," her mother pleaded through the door.

"How do I know its ME he really loves and not my KINGDOM!!" Sarah sobbed.

"What was that dear? I can't hear you very well through this door," her mother relayed.

"So, did you try, 'we BELONG together,' that's always good one," Meleager added helpfully, then started to hum again.

Xena looked at him blankly.

As Sustra quickly checked the other entrances, the matron of honor stood on the flower girl's shoulders outside the highest kitchen window. Gabrielle quickly peaked in and saw Sustra unsuccessfully try to open a ground level window on the other side of the kitchen. Sustra shrugged.

"This is the only entrance that isn't locked," Gabrielle whispered her report to her sister below.

"Gabrielle, I can't keep you up like this! Climb IN or DOWN!!" Lila snapped, feeling her legs wobble under the weight of her sister.

"Just a moment more...when she moves to the door," Gabrielle relayed.

"What about 'you love her and you want to marry her?' Simple yet to the point," Meleager the Helpful offered, making Xena cringe.

"Meleager...don't you think they are taking a long time?" Xena asked, ignoring his advise. "I should check on...." Xena started to leave.

"Don't leave me!" Meleager blurted fearfully, grabbing her arm.

"Meleager!" Xena snapped through clenched teeth as she yanked her arm free.

The commotion between the two drew a concerned look from the priest. Meleager and Xena looked up at the priest with plastered-on smiles.

"Please...don't leave me," he blurted through his smile, making the Warrior Princess groan.

Hecuba sighed, rubbing her temples. No matter what she said, she was unable to convince her daughter to be rational. She prayed Gabrielle would be more successful with her bardly skills. Hearing a loud crash of pots, a very concerned mother pounded on the door.

"Girls! Girls! What's going on in there? Gabrielle! Sarah! Your DRESSES!!" She blurted through the still barricaded door.

"Gabrielle?!?...My Gods, are you ok??"


Hecuba heard more pots drop.

"Sarah, you are GOING to MARRY him!"

"NO! You can't make me!!"

Hecuba rubbed her temples again. So much for Gabrielle's bardly skills she was counting on.

"Look, he's waiting at the ALTAR! He loves YOU and he's willing to marry YOU...Gods only know WHY."

"That's the PROBLEM!"

"Stop acting like an idiot...marry the guy!!"


>From the metallic clinks, clangs, and clatter mixed in with the sounds of various clay objects shattering from behind the barricaded door, Hecuba hoped the wedding presents would include a lot of kitchenware.

Lila and Sustra rushed to Hecuba's side. "What's going on in there??" Lila asked, hearing the commotion. She looked to her mother who just kept shaking her head.

"Gods, what did I do to deserve this?" Hecuba sighed. "They will probably kill each other. Well, at least we don't have to plan the funeral...everyone's here already."

"There's always smoke," Sustra suggested with a grin, eyeing Lila, who smiled shyly, suddenly feeling flush.

Hecuba looked at the two and rolled her eyes.

When the commotion in the kitchen stopped, the three women looked at each other. Hearing the wooden barricades being removed and dropped to the floor with thunks, they anxiously eyed the door.

"Or you could write her a poem," Meleager happily suggested, continuing to hum with the music.

"That's it!" Xena hissed. "I'm going to see what is taking them...," Xena blurted in frustration.

"Look...There's Lila!" Meleager interrupted with relief, stopping Xena's attempted escape.

"Finally," Xena sighed with relief, hearing the mind-numbing incidental music stop and the Poteidaian march finally start.

The tired guests all turned to watch Lila. Except Xena, who noticed an extremely weary looking Hecuba join her concerned husband in the pews. After whispering something in his ear, she kissed him on the cheek and they turned to watch the aisle.

When Lila began her march down the aisle throwing petals down, Xena noticed something very wrong. The youngest Poteidaian was wearing a pink dress. As she passed Meleager and Xena, Lila stopped for a moment.

"Don't worry, everything's," Lila relayed.

"What HAPPENED?" Xena whispered with irritation, eyeing the pink dress.

Lila looked at Meleager and plastered on a smile. "Everything's fine now...gotta go," she whispered uneasily, and moved to the other side of the altar.

Xena looked down the aisle for her bard, who was next. After a few moments, Gabrielle finally a pink dress. As she marched down the aisle, Xena noticed the bard's forced smile.

"What HAPPENED?" Xena whispered to the bard, eyeing that...dress. She really hoped Gabrielle wouldn't ask her how she looked in it.

Gabrielle looked at Xena, then her dress, and sighed heavily in defeat as she shook her head and proceeded to join her sister at the altar.

The musicians finished the march and looked for a cue from the priest for the Entrance Hymn. When the priest saw Sarah at the end of the aisle, he nodded and the Hymn started.

"Gods," Meleager gasped with awe. "She's so beautiful," he blurted, making Xena grin at her friend.

As Sarah limped by with the long train flowing behind her, Xena noticed that a large number of beads were missing. Hearing an odd sound, plink...plink...plink, plink plink plink...Xena's gaze dropped to the floor to find a trail of beads.

Xena's eyebrow raised as she looked up at the bride, who smiled warmly at Meleager as they clasped hands and stood together at the altar. With a questioning look to Gabrielle, she saw the weary bard mouth "Don't ask."

"Welcome all to a most joyous occasion," the priest began. "The union of two people in the eyes of the Gods, family and friends,"

Looking around the room, Xena wondered if there would be as many happy faces at their wedding. Not surprisingly, her gaze was drawn to her stubborn bard in that disturbingly pink dress. Xena knew Gabrielle was making her work to get her to say yes. But she didn't mind. In fact, she rather enjoyed the challenge.

"Xena," Meleager whispered anxiously.

"Hmmm?" Xena responded, grinning when the bard turned to her. Xena wondered why the bard was motioning with her head towards the altar.

"The EGG!" He blurted, snapping her out of her thoughts.

"Oh yeah...sorry," she blurted with embarrassment.

Xena retrieved the box from Meleager's father and handed it over to the priest, who eyed her with annoyance.

"The second Traditional Item is the Red Orchid of Love," the priest smiled. "A rare flower representing the beauty of love when it blooms. As with a garden of flowers, love between two people must be tended to and cared for, for it to thrive," the priest informed the nodding congregation.

The priest nodded to the Warrior Princess, who turned to a nervous Willis, who held out the flower. Xena surprised him when she simply smiled and took the Orchid from his shaking hand.

After Xena presented the Orchid of Love to the priest, who placed it next to the egg, the priest smiled upon Meleager.

"The third and final Traditional Item is the wedding poem. As a declaration of his love, the groom shall speak the words from his heart," the priest announced then nodded to Meleager who smiled.

Almost done.

Meleager slid his hand under his leather tunic to retrieve a neatly folded piece of parchment. He grinned at Sarah, for in a few moments they would finally be husband and wife.

Looking at Xena, Meleager opened the parchment with a sly grin. A piece of cake.

He cleared his throat as he opened up the poem to read it.

Sarah looked at Gabrielle with an excited smile. The bard was even excited to hear what Meleager finally came up with. Though she felt rather guilty for not helping him, she knew he was better off with his own words. They would be a much better gift for Sarah.

Suddenly, instead of the sweet words of endearment which everyone expected to hear, Meleager moaned and started to gasp for air.

Sarah's mother shook her head with disappointment as she looked at her husband, who felt bad for the poor warrior.

Xena nudged Meleager to get the show on the road. "Just read it," Xena urged him through the clenched teeth of her smile.

Sarah looked at Gabrielle and Lila who shrugged.

Meleager looked back at Xena in horror, then looked at the parchment in his hand and moaned weakly again.

Sure, it was probably bad but this was ridiculous, Xena thought. She snatched the parchment from Meleager's hands before he had time to react. She opened it up and read the words that had paralyzed Meleager the Mighty.

There once was a woman from Amphipolis

Her conditions would prove most ridiculous

she'd practice all day

"Without interruptions" she'd say

Missing the romance of an afternoon tryst

"Wonderful," Xena said flatly.

"Meleager?" Sarah urged with a loud whisper for him to do something.

Gabrielle wondered why she was receiving that unamused look from the Warrior Princess.

Meleager coughed again, still hyperventilating as sweat beaded on his brow. I'm a dead man. Dead. Kaput. No longer living. Not alive. Mortally challenged. Crossing the river Styx. Permanently visiting Hades. Going straight to Tartarus. Hecuba will kill me...that is if Sarah doesn't first. Of course Gabrielle will want a shot, but she'll have to beat Xena to it. Oh Gods.

The priest sighed. "Xena, as you have agreed to stand by can read it for him," the priest offered to move this ceremony along.

Xena's eyes widened in panic. " THIS?" Xena repeated as the priest nodded. She shot an annoyed look to Meleager.

"Please," Sarah begged. Xena eyed the Poteidaian sisters who all had pleading looks on their face.

Xena sighed heavily, took a moment and coughed. Looking over the parchment, Xena nodded weakly. Meleager's head drooped as he moaned and wiping the sweat from his brow.

"When I wake" Xena started in a soft voice, then paused and cleared her throat.

Meleager's head snapped up in surprise.

"I need to see you," Xena added more loudly and glanced down at the parchment.

The sisters smiled with relief.

"When I travel," Xena spoke, looking up at the bard, who was smiling warmly at her radiant sister. "I need you beside me."

Meleager grinned happily for those were the words he wanted to borrow in the first place. Meleager looked at Sarah and nodded convincingly. He hesitantly looked over at the bard, who didn't seem upset at all about using her words. He exhaled with relief and smiled. This was going well, very well.

Hecuba looked at her smiling husband and nodded approvingly.

"When I fight, I need to know you are safe," Xena relayed, staring at the parchment full of words she was not reading.

Suddenly realizing the words spoken were not Meleager's, Gabrielle looked to her warrior. When Xena looked up from the parchment, their eyes locked.

"When I cry, I need you to hold me," Xena spoke softly, unable to take her eyes off Gabrielle, who stood mesmerized by the warrior's heartfelt words.

"When I sleep, I need you in my arms." Xena took a deep breath.

"This is what I need," Xena paused.

"I need you. Please...marry me," Xena asked once again.

The priest exhaled with relief. "I pleased to FINALLY pronounce you husband and wife. You may KISS the bride," the priest boomed happily.

When Meleager and Sarah kissed, the relieved gathering burst out in cheers and applause. Together, hand in hand, Meleager and Sarah left the altar as husband and wife.

Hecuba squeezed her husband's arm as she whispered in his ear. "One down, two to go."

Chapter 26 - A Couple of Things

The gathering grew agitated waiting for the rest of the wedding party to leave.

"Gabrielle!!" Lila blurted, tapping her distracted sister on the arm.

"Hmmm?" Gabrielle responded absently, still looking into those crystal blue eyes.

"Move it!" Lila pushed her along, just as anxious as the crowd to leave.

"Oh," Gabrielle said absently as she started to leave the altar. She paused a moment in front of Xena and searched her eyes. Eyes that showed strength, confidence and incredible love. A warm smile filled the bard's face.

"Ok," Gabrielle relayed simply to the warrior, who's face lit up with a huge smile. "Let's go," Gabrielle added with a sly grin, holding out her hand.

Lila rolled her eyes impatiently.

Hecuba sighed and got up from her seat determined to move things along. "A mother's work is never done," she relayed wearily to her husband.

With furrowed eyebrows, Xena eyed the bard's extended hand and raised her eyebrow as she looked into the bard's face. "Ok let's go...or ok you'll marry me?" Xena questioned the bard.

Lila suddenly found this delay interesting.

" let's ..." Gabrielle answered, gabbing her grinning warrior's hand.

"What's TAKING you so long??" Hecuba interjected, feeling embarrassed at the annoyed glares of the gathering who wanted to leave.

"She said both," Lila relayed happily.

"That's wonderful dear, now would you two PLEASE get a move on it?" Hecuba asked with annoyance.

"You're sure we should?" Xena asked.

"Absolutely," Gabrielle responded, squeezing her warrior's hand.

"Ok then, we will," Xena couldn't wipe the grin off her face if she tried.

"Great, a decision! Now MOVE it!" Hecuba blurted impatiently.

Xena eyed the anxious woman. "Yes mother," she responded and raised the bard's hand to her lips and planted a tender kiss. As the two finally left, hand in hand, Hecuba's eyes darted quickly to Lila, who grinned.

"Told you she said both," Lila added.

At the reception, on his first mission for his wife, a smiling Meleager headed to the punch bowl. He didn't make it. A pair of hands belonging to a very annoyed Warrior Princess emerged from behind a column and grabbed him.

"XENA! You sure do have a funny way of congratulating me..." He laughed uneasily as she drug him into a secluded corner.

"You STOLE Gabrielle's ...poem..." Xena eyed him coldly, making him cringe.

"It was an accident! I swear!" He blurted, then crumbled under her continuing gaze. "Alright, alright...I meant to use one of her poems," Meleager admitted. "The first one I pulled out was perfect...But when Lila almost caught me, startling the Tartarus out of me, I guess I got the wrong one...." He chuckled uneasily.

"How could you STEAL Gabrielle's poem??" Xena snapped.

"I was just going to BORROW it. YOU were the one with the idea to COPY a poem...I just couldn't find the one I liked!" He responded defensively.

"So you just rummaged through her bag??" Xena blurted still amazed.

"Well...yeah," Meleager admitted with a cringe.

"She will KILL you if she find's out, you know that don't you?" Xena relayed.

"Finds out? She didn't seem so upset with me using her words at the altar..." He noted with confusion.

"Those were not her words...they were MINE," Xena snapped.

"Really? Wow, they were really good Xena" Meleager smiled. "Gee, does this mean you'll have to write another poem for your wedding?" Meleager asked, drawing a very cold glare.

"Congratulations," a teary Gabrielle hugged Sarah tightly. More beads dropped to the floor. The two looked at each other and chuckled.

"Thank you," Sarah looked into her sister's eyes, unable to find any better words. Gabrielle grinned and hugged her again, not needing any more.

"Gabrielle!" Lila rushed up to the two. "Oh, congratulations Sarah," she mentioned casually to her sister.

"Thanks," Sarah blurted flatly, feeling like a third wheel as Lila eagerly grabbed Gabrielle's arm.

"Gabrielle, you know, I've been thinking I really don't know all that much about the Amazons...would you mind telling me about them?" Lila asked the surprised Amazon Queen.

"Now?" Gabrielle chuckled.

"Well, you and Xena will be leaving soon and who better to tell me about the Amazons than their Queen," Lila explained with a smile.

"Actually, Sustra could..." Gabrielle mentioned, spotting the loyal Amazon serving some drinks. "Sustra!" Gabrielle called out, making the Amazon smile and head their way. Gabrielle eyed Sarah, who immediately recognized that familiar conspiratorial gaze.

"NO!...I mean...oh Gods," Lila blurted, blushing a deep crimson. Sarah grinned and shook her head.

"Something wrong?" Gabrielle innocently asked her flustered younger sister.

"No, nothing," Lila spoke weakly as Sustra joined them.

"Your majesty," Sustra spoke formally and bowed. "Is there something you need?" She asked, glancing at Lila and smiling warmly before returning her attention to her Queen.

"Well actually, my sister Lila has recently become quiet fascinated with the Amazon culture," Gabrielle relayed, making Lila cringe and Sarah roll her eyes with amusement.

"Really?" Sustra smiled.

"Gabrielle would love to explain everything to her but Gabrielle and I have some things we need discuss, would you mind educating our youngest sister?" Sarah jumped in, to the horror of Lila, who's eyes widened with embarrassment.

"I wouldn't mind at all, it would be a pleasure," Sustra smiled happily until she noted the flush on Lila's face. "Are you ok Lila?"

"Sure," Lila weakly replied. "I just need a drink," she added.

As the two Queens watched their youngest sister and Sustra make their way through the crowd to the punch bowl, Gabrielle glanced to her sister.

"Educate??" Gabrielle relayed to Sarah with a smirk, who nodded.

"Are you saying you don't want our sister educated?" Sarah asked innocently.

"I don't have a problem with that, but mother might," Gabrielle relayed with a chuckle.

"I might have a problem with what?" Hecuba asked, overhearing the end of the conversation.

"Uh...a long engagement?" Gabrielle suggested.

"You know, I haven't seen my husband in a while. I think I better see what he's up to," Sarah blurted with a smile.

Gabrielle and Hecuba eyed the Queen as she abruptly left. "I thought she would have stopped that once the wedding was over," Hecuba informed a surprised bard, who watched her mother smile and shake her head.

"Gabrielle, I wanted to tell you something," her mother took her daughter's hand and smiled at her. "Actually a couple of things," she added, squeezing her daughter's hand.

"Your father and I are very proud of you. The Amazon's couldn't have a better Queen," she told her firmly, generating a big smile on Gabrielle's face.

"And I want you to know I AM happy for you," Hecuba informed her daughter, who's emotions welled up upon hearing those precious words.

"I am happy you have found happiness," her mother reached out to wipe the tear from her daughter's face.

"I had a very hard time accepting Xena. And I can't say that now that I know her a little better, I am any more comfortable with her past," she admitted to her quiet daughter. "Or any less worried it will catch up to her AND you," she added.

Seeing Gabrielle about to respond she held her hand up and continued uninterrupted.

"But the woman that's with you today, the woman that helped with the dress and helped Meleager is a good woman...who cares deeply. I see her love for you, in so many reminds me of your father and me," Hecuba's eyes now started to moisten. "And if you and Xena share even half that love, you two are very, very fortunate," Hecuba informed her daughter, who smiled broadly.

"I love you Gabrielle." Her mother pulled her daughter into a tight embrace. "Don't ever forget that."


"Xeeenaaa" Gabrielle uttered slowly, her voice dripping with warning as she stopped her staff exercises in mid-sweep. Her eyes shifted to meet the source of her distraction, the warrior lounging on the side of the grassy hill, smelling a freshly picked wildflower as she intently watched the bard.

"Yes Gabrielle?" The warrior responded invitingly, hopeful blues meeting piercing greens. As the bard's eyes narrowed, the warrior immediately realized she was not going to be successful this beautiful day.

The determined bard exhaled loudly and resumed her practice.

"Just had to go and say you needed to know she's safe in that poem, didn't you?" An annoyed Xena muttered to her brilliantly poetic self. Xena sighed, tossing the flower over her shoulder in defeat.

Now, Gabrielle was intent on practicing ALL the time. Going so far as denying them a pleasurable afternoon to practice her staff. Xena's eyebrows furrowed. All this to make YOU, Warrior Idiot, feel better about her safety, Xena silently scolded herself and groaned.

Xena exhaled with exasperation as she laid back on the hill and stared at the blue sky for a moment as a huge puffy cloud passed by, blocking the sun. The resulting shadow covered the ground quickly, enveloping the bard then the warrior. Just great. It will probably rain and make this boring day even that much more enjoyable, Xena considered pessimistically, still eyeing the cloud.

Funny, kinda looks like a big pillow, she thought.

Propping herself on her elbows, the warrior scanned the area. The bard did have good taste in practice fields, the warrior noted, eyeing the field appreciatively. The foliage framing the bard's chosen field was densely packed with lush greenery. An excellent source of cover in the event of an attack, she considered. Of course, you would have to be near it. It wouldn't offer any cover if you were attacked while standing in the middle of a field like her tenacious bard. It was a good thing the area was secluded.

Secluded and very un-"public" the warrior sighed heavily as she eyed the bard gracefully whirl the wooden staff through the air. The bard's muscles in her arms and stomach rippled as she powerfully thrust her staff back and forth, back and....

"Gods," Xena moaned, unconsciously ripping out a handful of grass. Adapt and overcome, you idiot!

The warrior grinned as a plan formed in her head. "You know you're right," Xena called out, drawing a suspicious gaze from the bard between blocks.

"Shouldn't let a good day of practice go to waste," Xena announced as she got up from her very comfortable spot on the hill and stretched her long body.

"Mmmm...." She moaned as she slowly lifted her arms over her head and leaned to her right.

"Ahhhhh...." Xena let out another, very sensual sound when she slowly leaned over to her left.

"Xena!" Gabrielle blurted, rolling her eyes.

"Hmmm?" Xena replied as she rolled her shoulders and let out another sensual moan.

"Would you MIND?" Gabrielle snapped with irritation as she whirled the staff around her head.

"Gabrielle, I have to stretch." Xena countered innocently, shrugging her shoulders. "You know how important it is to stretch before intense physical activity," Xena added, struggling to avoid an amused grin that was threatening her very serious face.

"Uh hun....well, could you do your stretching a little more quietly?"

Gabrielle smirked as she blocked, blocked and thrust.

The warrior unsheathed her sword and swung it around, loosening her wrist up.

"Battles aren't usually quiet, Gabrielle," Xena informed her as she switched the sword to her left hand and proceeded to loosen that wrist up.

"I don't think I've ever been in a battle as loud as you stretching over there," Gabrielle responded sarcastically, whirling her staff around her waist with a graceful flourish.

"It's actually good to practice around distractions...helps to develop and strengthen your focus," Xena relayed, moving closer to the bard.

"I see," Gabrielle responded, turning to face the warrior, who rolled her head around to loosen up her neck. "And I suppose you have only been trying to help me with my focus." Gabrielle commented skeptically, carefully eyeing her.

"Of course," Xena responded truthfully. Although she considered the bard's current focus was in need of major redirection.

"How thoughtful," Gabrielle added flatly, returning to her staff exercises. Gabrielle found her focus on her parries and blocks difficult as the Warrior Princess slowly circled her.

Amazingly though, she could actually track the warrior's movements.

Gabrielle knew she could not rely on her eyes, for Xena deliberately stayed just out of her line of sight. She knew she could not rely on her ears, for Xena was quieter than the leaves rustling in the breeze. However, there was something that screamed out the warrior's location to the bard. It was Xena's unmistakable presence.

A powerful presence that the bard could feel drawing her in.

"NO," the stubborn bard thought to herself, not about to let the Warrior Princess distract her so easily. Feeling the Warrior Princess getting within range, Gabrielle suddenly launched into a staff exercise that happen to require the same space the Warrior Princess was occupying.

To avoid getting hit in the head and chest, Xena quickly blocked the end of the staff with her sword. Gabrielle proceeded with the exercise as if Xena wasn't even there, causing the warrior to raise her eyebrow.

"No break in form, not bad," Xena responded, a little surprised.

With a slight smile on the bard's face, Gabrielle silently continued to wield her staff in the prescribed steps of Amazon forms. Forms that Xena was very intimate with. Up for the challenge, Xena sheathed her sword and continued to circle the bard out of the Amazon's line of sight.

"Ugh oh," the bard thought to herself, considering now both of Xena's hands were free.

Even knowing the Amazon forms, Xena found that sticking to the bard like her shadow without getting hit took some effort. Gabrielle swiftly moved through the forms with a fluid grace and confidence that Xena had proudly watch bloom over the past few years. Gabrielle's form was very pleasing indeed, the warrior eyed her appreciatively.

"Very nice," Xena softly complemented the bard, whispering in her ear.

Pausing a moment to catch her breath, Gabrielle struggled to ignore the tingling sensation her tall shadow evoked with a whisper. Tightly clenching her staff, the bard gulped and continued with her practice.

"Careful, you'll tire your hands," Xena warned her with a warm and soft breath.

"Then you'll be more vulnerable to losing your weapon," Xena continued to stand closely behind the bard and whisper into her ear.

"I could teach you what to do if that happens," Xena offered.

"If you want me to," Xena added with a grin of satisfaction, noting the goose bumps on the bard's skin she caused.

"You'll teach me what to do?" Gabrielle repeated with interest, causing the warrior to grin.

"Mmmm Hmmm," Xena purred into her ear and slowly reached around the bard for her staff. When the warrior wrapped her long fingers around the wood, Gabrielle slowly let go, causing the warrior's face light up with a large victory grin. A grin that was suddenly wiped from her face when the bard grabbed the surprised warrior's arm and threw her to the ground.

The stunned warrior looked up at the bard.

"You mean something like that?" Gabrielle spoke innocently.

"Uh...yeah. Gabrielle, were did you...???"

"Sustra," Gabrielle explained casually.

"And what OTHER things did the Sustra teach you?" Xena asked with annoyance, still sitting in the dirt. Both proud and irritated with the bard.

"You keep this up and you just might find out," Gabrielle blurted and shook her head.

"Gabrielle, I was only trying...I was just...." Xena quickly tried to explain, pausing when the bard's eyes rolled. "It's such a nice day Gabrielle," she added then sighed, realizing the bard just wanted to practice.

"You ok?" Gabrielle offered her hand with a sly grin

The warrior took the hand, allowing the bard to help her up. She thought that fair since the bard helped her down in the first place.

"Just wonderful," Xena muttered as she brushed off the dirt and handed the staff back to the bard. "I think I'll go for a ride. Let you practice," Xena offered, letting out a long exhale and started to walk towards Argo.

"Hey...what about my lessons?" Gabrielle asked, receiving a curious look from the Warrior Princess. "You offered lessons," She reminded her sternly.

Xena turned towards the bard. "I thought the Sustra already took care of...."

"You told me I could learn more if I had different teachers and you DID offer lessons." Gabrielle countered.

"Perhaps later...I'm not..." Xena was looking forward to the ride. It would help take her mind off of...things.

"If I loose my staff, I want to be prepared," Gabrielle added firmly, very serious. "You offered lessons Xena and I want them now...please?"

"All right. Fine. Lessons." Xena sighed heavily, not thrilled at all with the prospect of this torture. However, seeing the happy look on the bard's face made this torture tolerable.

Gabrielle folded up her staff, placed it in her bag and quickly returned to the field with great enthusiasm. "Ok! What's first?"

"Pressure points and leverage." Xena blurted out. "They are more important than strength. A small woman can easily get the upper hand over an old...distracted...warlord." Xena informed her. "But I think you've already have demonstrated you understand that concept." Xena rubbed her rear.

"You left yourself open and weren't expecting me to do that," Gabrielle relayed, ignoring the warrior's sarcasm. "But what if you had me in a hold, you'd expect me to try to break that grip, right?"

"You can still use the pressure points and leverage to get out of the, let me show you," Xena turned Gabrielle to face away from her and wrapped her arm around the bard's neck.

"Ow." Gabrielle muffled a moan.

"What's wrong?" Xena let go immediately.

"Ah...Never mind," Gabrielle responded, shrugging. "It's nothing."

"You wouldn't have said 'OW' if it was nothing. What's wrong?"

"Its just...its your bracers. They...never mind. Sorry. Let's go on," Gabrielle responded, turning back to resume her education.

Shaking her head at the bard's annoying habit of not admitting when something is bothering her, Xena sighed and removed her arm bands. After tossing them next to the bard's bag, Xena wrapped her arm around the bard's neck. "Better?" Xena asked.

"Much. It wasn't really necessary but...thanks." Gabrielle responded. Xena rolled her eyes and continued.

"Now, there are a couple of ways you can get out of this hold," Xena started to explain. "If your attacker pulls you in this...." Xena pulled the bard against her, causing Gabrielle to stiffened and muffle another OW.

"Gabrielle, what's wrong now?" Xena sighed, once again letting go.

"It's nothing," Gabrielle responded quickly. "You said there are a couple of ways...." Gabrielle repeated Xena's statement grabbing her arm and wrapping it back around her neck.

"Gabrielle?" Xena asked, unwrapping her arm.

"Its just...its your armor. It jabbed me when you...not a big deal...really. I'm sorry...Let's go on ok? I never knew there were so many options to getting out of a hold," Gabrielle relayed with enthusiasm.

"Gabrielle," Xena sighed, rolling her eyes as she took her armor off. As she walked off the field to placed her armor down, she inspected it for the offending rough edges. Her eyebrow raised at their suspicious absence.

Xena returned to the bard, who scratched the back of her head. "Uh...thanks," she blurted sheepishly. Xena eyed her bard.

"Uh Huh," Xena uttered as she turned the bard and once again wrapped her arm around the bard's neck. "Better?" Xena asked, softly whispering in her ear with a crooked grin.

"Much. Thank you." Gabrielle responded.

"Now, take your right hand and...." Xena started to explain when the bard swiftly squirmed out of the warrior's grip. Instead of trying to throw the warrior, the bard turned and wrapped her arms around the warrior's waist. The bard tilted her head up, her lips slightly parted and completely inviting.

"Gabrielle, the idea is to break OUT of the hold," Xena relayed with amusement.

"Really?" The bard spoke innocently, staring at the warrior's lips.

"Uh huh," Xena leaned in and lightly brushed her lips on the bard's.

"You sure?" The bard added, just above a whisper, gently kissing the warrior.

"Uh huh," Xena repeated, returning the gentle kiss, lingering a moment longer to ensure it was properly returned.

"Oh. I think I'm going to need more practice," Gabrielle added with a smile that brought a grin to the warrior's face.

The Warrior Princess pulled the bard firmly into her and captured her mouth with a intensely matched by the bard. When they finally broke their kiss to capture a breath, the bard blurted "OW."

"What!?" Xena pulled back in surprise and concern. "Ow" was not exactly the response she was expecting.

"It's nothing. Never mind," Gabrielle quickly responded, kissing her warrior's neck.

"Gabrielle!" Xena groaned with frustration, looking in her face for an explanation.

"It's just...It's..." Gabrielle hedged. "Never mind," Gabrielle responded, kissing the warrior's jaw.

"WHAT!" Xena blurted.

"It's your leather." Gabrielle informed her. "It chafes."



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