The ocean waves gently rocked the cabin. With a sigh, Gabrielle glanced around the room. The cabin's sparse condition showed that this ship had not been built to accommodate travelers. As the Greek traveler took a mental inventory of her surroundings, she sighed and sat tiredly on the bunk. The length of the trip was beginning to take its toll on her and as she felt a familiar melancholy, she reminisced about her last voyage on a ship very similar to this one.
Although Gabrielle knew that it was the same size, this cabin seemed so much larger. For some reason, on their journey to Japa, there didn't seem to be enough room for her and Xena, let alone their bags of clothing and weapons. Now, with everything stowed away, Gabrielle discovered that there was ample room in this cabin.
With a sigh, the small blonde laid back on the bunk and stared up at the ceiling. As an afterthought, she sat up and reached for the familiar satchel. When found, the storyteller pulled her bag of clothing onto the bunk. In an absent manner she lightly touched the lid of the urn that sat nestled deep within the bag. Even after a full moon at sea, she had not found a place to set the urn within her cabin. A part of her mind told her that she wanted it safe, yet if she delved deeper into her emotions, she knew that she would have to admit that she was depressed, and simply didn't feel like bothering with it just yet.
Once assured that her bag was in order, the blonde stretched out on the bunk. The last time, there wasn't even room to stretch, especially with the way Xena liked to sprawl and hang on me, Gabrielle thought as her sadness began to take hold. If she had one wish to make, it would be to have her lover back, the two of them complaining about the cramped conditions of their room, like they did on their first journey. As the memories of their shared past flooded through her mind, a single tear threatened to fall. With a shake of her head, the lithe warrior rose to her feet.
"No time," she said out loud as she moved to the contents of her bag. In a hurried fashion she began to shuffle through her clothes and attempted to find a suitable garment to wear for her dinner with the captain.
With an inward smile, Gabrielle chose a turquoise outfit and held it up. It had been so long since anyone had looked at her in that way and the healer was finding the attention appealing. The open looks of desire aimed toward her had been long forgotten until the Moroccan captain. Ever since she was with Xena, no one dared to look at her in that manner. And although the warrior sometimes gazed at her with desire, it was always masked in subterfuge. Like an old married couple, the open flirtation and courtship had become subdued with time. Now the interested glances that were a thing of her past, were suddenly aimed at her again, and she found it flattering.
As the lithe blonde changed into the turquoise outfit, she thought about the captain. If she had still been the little girl from Potidaea, Gabrielle might have been surprised to see a female captain on the ship. But since her travels with the Warrior princess, she was accustomed to seeing and expecting women to hold more prominent roles in life.
While she dressed, Gabrielle contemplated the captain's actions towards her. She wasn't certain what had initially attracted the tall woman's attention and the storyteller assumed it was because of the open acceptance and respect that she showed toward the dusky woman. As she pondered the tall Moroccan's affection, she donned the silk shirt. Absently, she pulled up the dark trousers, fastened the leather belt, and then casually smoothed out the soft fabric.
"I can't believe you're actually going through with this!" the ghost warrior's voice startled her from her thoughts.
"Jeeze, Xena, the least you can do is warn me when you pop in like that!" Gabrielle scolded and negatively shook her head as she resumed dressing.
With an almost childish pout, the tall specter leaned against the cabin's wall, her arms folded dejectedly in front of her. The ghost's gaze followed Gabrielle's every move. Her jealous action was not lost on the smaller woman who continued to act nonchalantly. Angered by her actions, Xena huffed as she turned her glance upward toward the ceiling.
"You know, she only wants one thing." The Warrior princess' voice was low and controlled, the familiar tone indicating that the woman was attempting to sound authoritative.
"Oh, and what might that be?" Gabrielle innocently asked, careful to remain impassive as she leaned down to clinch up her boots.
"Oh gods, Gabrielle! Can't you see that she has only has one thing on her mind?" Xena groused, her teacher tone suddenly disappearing as she began to pace the length of the cabin.
With an impish grin, Gabrielle glanced up at her ghost lover. Fully aware of what really bothered her lover, she stood and smiled before the spirit of her soulmate. She waited a few minutes in silence as she watched the warrior's anger boiling over. When the spirit of her dead lover finally stopped her pacing, she looked down into the blonde's shinning eyes.
"You're jealous," the Amazon smiled as she stated the obvious.
Like a child caught sneaking a sweet, Xena's face perched into a look of amazed innocence as she shook her head negatively. "I am NOT jealous," the warrior attempted to proclaim her innocence.
"No? Then what are you?" Gabrielle's brow cocked inquisitively as she leaned against the bunk, the challenge apparent in her voice.
In an attempt to think of a response, the ghost visibly frowned, then waved toward the weapons bag emphatically. "I just don't want her to get her hands on my chakram!" Xena exclaimed.
Both brows shot up as Gabrielle reached toward the bags and removed the lethal weapon from its confines. "You mean my chakram," she corrected mischievously.
"That's mine!" the warrior's spirit proclaimed, a look of shock on her face.
"Not anymore. It's mine now," Gabrielle replied smoothly as she hooked the weapon to her belt.
"B-But?." Xena stammered, "It was mine!"
"Yeah, well," Gabrielle turned away from soulmate to keep the ghost from seeing her smile. "You should have thought of that before you wouldn't let me bring you back to life, Warrior Princess."
Appalled by her response, Xena's face held an expression of disbelief.
"W-Well?." the Warrior princess stammered as she looked around, trying to come up with a response to the storyteller.
"Well what?" Gabrielle spun on the taller woman, as she struggled to hold her stoic expression. "Are you sure it's only the chakram that you're worried about?"
At her question, Xena shook her head and resumed pacing the length of the cabin. "Gabrielle, you just have to be careful. I know women like that. I once was a woman like that, and let me tell you, it isn't your conversation that she's after!" the tall ghost reiterated strongly as she wagged her finger first toward the outside deck, then at the blonde.
"Oh, are you saying that she may be after?" Gabrielle turned away and reached for the katana. "This?" she asked deadpan.
"No, that's not what I'm saying?" Xena stammered. "It's just?"
"You're jealous!" the Greek woman smiled triumphantly as she leaned toward her tall lover.
"No I'm not!" the leather clad warrior emphatically protested.
"You're jealous," Gabrielle whispered as she smiled and leaned toward her lover. "Come on, Warrior Princess, admit it. You are jealous!" She stated as she lightly danced around her ghost lover. "She's jealous `cause she thinks I'm sexy!" Gabrielle allowed her words to sound like a child's nursery rhyme.
In the manner that Gabrielle was accustomed to, Xena attempted to make light of the situation. "No, that's not it at all." the specter's words brought Gabrielle to stillness.
"Good, because I do intend to enjoy myself tonight," the healer played into Xena's bluff as she returned the katana to the bunk. With an air of calmness, the smaller woman looked into the small reflecting glass and ran her fingers through her short hair as she allowed a soft hum of a song to pass her lips.
"And? h-how much enjoyment will you receive exactly?" Xena asked inquisitively while she tried to portray nonchalance by examining her fingernails.
"Oh? I don't know." Gabrielle could see the tall woman's calm expression turn frantic in the mirror's reflection. With brows furrowed, the ghost warrior gazed down at the Amazon. Enjoying the moment, Gabrielle straightened her garments. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see how much the captain will like to? ummm, share," she replied casually as she turned to face Xena, the teasing smile turning the corner of her lips slightly.
"Gabrie?" Xena began to protest, but Gabrielle held her hand up to silence her soulmate.
"Xena, I'm not getting any younger, and I am still alive. I do have needs! One of which is sharing with a warm, living body!" she proclaimed with a suppressed smile. "And since you can't provide it, Warrior Princess," she tapped the ghost's chest for emphasis, "I've got to find release somewhere, now, don't I?"
Xena pulled away from the poking finger as she said with a shrill in her voice, "Gabrielle, I'm not even buried yet! By the gods, you haven't even placed my ashes in the family tomb! Couldn't you at least let some time pass first?" the tall woman pointed toward the urn.
"Xena, I promised you three things. One, to return your ashes to your family tomb, two, to always keep you in my heart, and three, to not mix up your ashes with the tea." She counted each point on her fingers, than added, "Now, in my defense, it was a really long trip just reaching the shores of Higuchi, add to that that I'm all alone!" Gabrielle knew this statement would bring out a reaction from her lover.
"B-But, Gabrielle?didn't I please you during the trip? I mean, what was that about?" Xena's expression turned to one of sadness.
Smiling at the memories of those days, Gabrielle allowed her mind to remember the nights of their journey. Although Xena's body was no longer with her, their lovemaking had taken a new, different route. Gabrielle quickly discovered that spirits could give pleasure just as well as solid, human forms could. In fact, the sensations seemed more intensified than she ever remembered it being when her soulmate was alive. Idly, the blonde often wondered if this was behind all of the tales of incubus encounters. With a shake of her head, Gabrielle pulled her mind to her current situation.
"For your information, Xena, I like to drink, too. Or have you forgotten that so soon?!" She reminded the taller warrior. At the blonde woman's words, Xena's mouth formed a sly smile as she tilted her head slightly. A slight blush covered her ghostly complexion as she remembered the times when her smaller lover would drink to her heart's desire.
"Yeah, I know how insatiable your thirst can be," she smirked, but realizing her words, she suddenly frowned and glanced down at Gabrielle, "Oh gods, Gabrielle! I'm sorry, but?" her words were cut short by the wave of Gabrielle's hand.
"But what?" Gabrielle challenged.
"But?" Xena stammered as her mind raced to find a solution that absolved her. "I-I?"
"Yeah?" Gabrielle stood with her arms crossed as she watched her lover searching for words.
"But I don't want you to go with another? well, not yet anyway." The ghost harrumphed as she tried to plead her case.
"Oh really," Gabrielle was fighting down the urge to laugh at her lover's situation. "Well, Xena, you should have thought of that before deciding to keep me from bringing you back," her words took on the form of a litany.
Before anything more could be said, a gentle knock was heard against the cabin door.
"Come in," Gabrielle said as she cast a warning glare at Xena.
"Are you alone?" the tall, dark hair captain asked as she looked around the empty cabin. With an expression of confusion, the tall woman gazed at Gabrielle with intense blue eyes. Her look was one of confusion and searching. With only a wave of her hand, the Amazon pushed away the query.
"Yes, quite alone," Gabrielle attempting to smile as she watched Xena mimicking the captain's words and stance. With supreme strength, the storyteller managed to maintain an innocent expression as she watched her ghost lover's comical antics.
"Oh, I thought I heard you talking to someone," the woman's medium complexion glowed in the last rays of sunlight shining through the small cabin window.
"Just me," Gabrielle explained with a shrug as she moved toward the woman.
"Oh?." The captain seemed genuinely confused as she glanced into the healer's eyes. "Well then, if you are ready," she offered her arm to Gabrielle. Taking her cue, the Greek woman lightly placed her hand on the captain's arm as they moved from the room.
Before Xena could mimic the woman's actions, she caught the icy cold glare of her bard and stood frozen. Once satisfied, Gabrielle nodded toward her, and then closed the cabin door. With only a toothy growl, the ghost warrior turned and slammed her fist against the wall, flinching when she felt it go through the hard wood.
"I'll never get used to that!" she grumbled as she moved into a seating position, her body floating easily in the air as she fumed in the solitude of the cabin.
The dinner had been more than Gabrielle expected. Although she never saw a table in the captain's cabin before, there was one set up in the center of the room. In the fashion of the people from Arabia, the table was low to the ground and pillows surrounded it on the floor. With the help of Nadrah, the littlest crew member on the ship, the table was beautifully set with linens, silver trays, and candles. Even though there seemed to be enough food for an army, the captain had assured her that they would be the only two dining in tonight. After such a long time aboard the ship and eating food that the crew ate, she discovered that either the captain's food was wonderful, or the captain had set out a special dinner just for the evening. Like the dinner, the atmosphere was as exquisite as a captain's cabin could be and the conversation was up to Gabrielle's standards.
When she first boarded the ship, Gabrielle hadn't known that the imposing woman understood her language. She assumed that no one on the ship could understand her and for the first few weeks, she was aware of the captain's weakly veiled scrutiny. The Amazon knew that the leader of the ship was maintaining a stoic distance, while watching her every move. After a time, in a way that the Amazon would have least expected it, the captain revealed that not only could she understand Greek, but she could converse with the blonde fluently.
Now, spending time alone, away from the watchful eyes of her crew, the seafarer was relaxed and able to share more of herself than Gabrielle had thought she would reveal. During her journeys with Xena, the storyteller had become accustomed to meeting people different from herself. She found the varied backgrounds to be intriguing and the exotic captain was no different. Her family was from a place called Morocco, in the Northern most part of Africa and she was born into a large family mostly boys, which accounted for her fighting and negotiating skills. Although she experienced many hardships in her life, the tall woman always managed to come out on top.
As the evening progressed, Gabrielle found herself comparing the ship's captain with her Xena. She stood at the same height as the warrior, and her hair was just as long and black. But unlike her soulmate's, the captain's hair fell in loose, thick, wavy curls like the mane of a lion. In contrast to Xena, the captain's complexion was a dusky tone.
Her voice, rather than stern and controlled as Xena's could be, was soft and melodic and held a tinge of an accent. Each story she narrated, was given in such vivid descriptions that Gabrielle could actually see the pictures in her mind. The emptiness and heartache that the blonde felt since losing her soulmate seemed like a numbing pain that was beginning to heal with each story from the charming captain.
"But listen to me?" the captain's sudden words brought Gabrielle back to the present. "I'm talking your ear off and I have yet to hear your story," she exclaimed as she reached for the wine decanter and poured some dark liquid into the healer's glass.
"No, it's all right. Your stories are so entertaining. It's almost hard to believe that someone else has experienced so much? someone other than myself and ?" the Greek woman's words stopped as she thought of her deceased lover.
With a smile of understanding, the captain gently patted Gabrielle's hand. "Something terrible must have happened to you," the Moroccan woman spoke with such sympathy.
The storyteller turned her gaze away from the captain's exquisite blue eyes as she fought for control. Before she could respond, a slight gust of cold air suddenly filled the room. Gabrielle's senses were pricked as she glanced suspiciously around the shadows of the cabin. Sensing the change in temperature, the captain rose from the pillows and moved to light more candle lamps.
"I am sorry. This old ship is faithful, but she tends to be drafty at times," she apologized as she lit another candle. Before she could move to the third one, a slight breeze blew out the first candle. Puzzled, the captain's brows furrowed as she glanced at the first candle, then slightly shrugged as she moved to light it again. As the first candle lighted, the second one blew out.
Gabrielle knew the culprit behind the mysterious wind and frowned as she gazed deeper into the shadows. Sensing that her lover was not amused, the ghost warrior smiled shyly as her ghostly form stepped from the shadows by the candle lamps. With a shrug of her shoulders the warrior waved, then moved to sit behind the large desk. As the blonde returned her attention to the captain, she caught Xena examining the nautical instruments on the desk. When the Moroccan turned from her task, she followed Gabrielle's gaze and looked at her desk.
"I know, it is atrocious, I really must clean up my desk sometime," the woman smiled as she offered a hand out toward Gabrielle. Smiling at the chivalry, Gabrielle took the offered hand and allowed herself to be led to a nearby couch. "I'm sure you haven't known anyone as messy as I am," the dark captain mused with a slight laughter in her voice.
"Oh, I wouldn't bet on that!" Gabrielle replied as she cast Xena an evil grin. To which Xena gave an injured expression, before hastily turning her gaze away to examine the contents on the desk. Although the ghost seemed disinterested in the conversation, the Amazon noticed the way the warrior's head was tilted to the side in order to hear them better. With a knowing smile, the healer turned her attention away from her soulmate.
The captain laughed. "So tell me about yourself, Gabrielle," the tall woman's tone grew softer as she turned her full attention to the blonde. The Greek traveler felt her cheeks flushing from the intense attention.
"There really isn't much to tell," she said, as the captain reached out and lightly brushed the back of her hand against the storyteller's cheek.
Gabrielle could see from the corner of her eye the look of shock and anger from Xena, but as she turned slightly to glimpse at the ghost, the ghost looked briskly away and averted her attention to the maps on the desk. As if ignoring everything in the room, the apparition's brows were furrowed while she innocently tapped on the top of the desk map with her fingertip.
"No, I'm sure I'm not that different from the other women you know," the blonde spoke softly as she lowered her eyes shyly, then returned her attention to the dark haired woman. By the candle light, she noticed how a healthy glow fell over the woman's thick, wavy locks and for a moment the healer had the urge to run her fingers through the woman's hair. But remembering that they were not alone, Gabrielle only smiled as she shyly lowered her gaze.
"Nonsense," the captain's voice purred as she tenderly held Gabrielle's hand, "I've never met anyone as beautiful as you, so it must be that you are unlike anyone I've ever met," her whispered words sounded like a soft melody.
Gabrielle must have heard a million lines in her life, but this one, spoken from such a soft voice, might have been enough to sway her at a different place and time. And although she still felt the pain of losing Xena, she felt captivated by the soothing tone of this strong woman. The captain leaned towards the healer's ear to whisper something softly.
Sensing her complacency, the dusky woman's lips lightly touched her earlobe. With her eyes closed, Gabrielle leaned into the caresses. She felt her mouth opening in a silent gasp as the sensuous feelings seared through her. For what felt like an eternity in time, she allowed herself the luxury of enjoying the softness of the woman who was laying a slow, light trail of gentle kisses from her ear, down her neck, and over her cheek and to her lips. In that short moment in time the blonde felt herself melting into the captain's soft kiss.
When their lips met, Gabrielle felt only a moment's hesitation before her mouth opened and allowed the kiss to linger, to explore the warmth of the captain's mouth. The blonde unconsciously felt her arms reach out and hold the warm body close to hers. She could no longer feel the cotton fabric of the captain's shirt but instead felt the bare arms, filled with strength, surrounding her. Her memory felt lost in the touch of her warrior lover as her heart cried out for Xena ?
A thunderous crash pulled them apart. Shocked back into reality, Gabrielle was gasping as she opened her eyes and realized that this was not her soulmate who held her close. As she fought to regain composure, the captain rose from her seat and moved to the edge of the table. The half filled decanter of wine now lay spilled on the cabin's floor.
"I am sorry," the Moroccan attempted to apologize as she removed the broken shards. "Let me get this mess cleaned before it starts to smell like a brothel," she said as she left the room.
Gabrielle nodded understanding as she watched the tall woman's retreating form. She reached up and touched her lips with a shaky hand as the vivid images returned. The blonde closed her eyes as a flood of memories crossed her senses. Not for the first time, her heart cried out for the loss of her love - her soulmate. In the silence of the cabin, she thought she was going to lose it all and break down in fits of tears again, until the sound of a clearing throat caught her attention.
"You like to make messes now?" Gabrielle's deep voice accused with a smile as she suppressed the onslaught of tears before looking up at Xena.
"Sorry," was all the warrior offered as she glanced down at the spilled wine. "It wasn't a very good year anyway," Xena shrugged and moved to sit beside Gabrielle, her back stiff as her hands rested easily on her knees.
"S-So?you like her?" the warrior hesitantly asked in a soft voice as she glanced around the cabin.
With a smile and a shake of her head, Gabrielle leaned back and looked up at the ceiling. A tired sigh escaped her control. "She's nice, but I've only known her for a short time," is all she could reply for fear that her pain of losing her beloved would surface in front of her ghost lover.
Xena took in her words as she examined Gabrielle closely. She seemed like she wanted to ask a question, but instead, the warrior princess only sighed as she glanced around the room, then turned her attention back to the storyteller. Without voicing her pain, the blonde found the courage to smile as she looked into the ghostly eyes of her lover.
"I love you Xena. That will never change." Her voice was soft as she held Xena's cold, spirit hand in hers. The sensations of sorrow and grief held at bay. Gabrielle watched as the usually stoic warrior's eyes glazed over with moisture.
"I?" Xena began to say, but the Amazon quieted her words with her two fingers.
"Shush, it's ok. I know." Gabrielle tenderly wiped the single tear that fell down the warrior's cheek.
Their moment of tenderness ended with the sound of footfalls and crashing containers. With the ship's stewards and the little crew member in tow, the captain gave brisk orders and watched their evening meal quickly picked up. With a smile that never stopped, the little dark haired girl glanced at them, then waved before taking a cloth to wipe up the wine that seeped into the cracks of the floor. Like the whirlwind of their entrance, the scullery crew quickly left the room.
"Now, where were we," the captain's seductive voice asked as she reached a hand of offering to Gabrielle.
"Well?" Gabrielle heard Xena say as she moved away, "I guess that's my cue to leave." She hesitated as she glanced toward Gabrielle. "I mean, I don't want to interfere with your night," the warrior shrugged as she looked from the captain to Gabrielle.
As the captain smiled at Gabrielle, she asked a wordless question by nodding toward her bunk. With this overtly sexual invitation, Xena visibly frowned as she made a fist and her voice took on deepness.
"No telling what I might do if I stay?might just end up pushing a certain captain out of a bed, or something," she threatened, then seeing Gabrielle, she innocently smiled weakly, growled once at the captain, before smiling again at her lover. The combination of Xena's words and actions brought a slight chuckle from the blonde. Suppressing her smile, the storyteller held the back of her hand to her lips as she looked up innocently at the captain.
"Gabrielle, I've never had a woman laugh at my offer before," the Moroccan's voice was genuinely hurt as a look of surprise crossed her features.
Gabrielle waved away her words as she attempted to control her fit of giggles.
"I'll just be up top then," Xena interrupted again as she moved toward the closed door. With a look of innocence, she nodded at the healer and then disappeared through the closed door.
"I'm sorry," the Greek traveler managed to control her giggles as she looked up at the captain. "It's not the offer?honest!" she said as the vision of Xena pushing all of her suitors off of the bed crossed her mind.
"I understand," the dusky woman's bright white smile put her at ease.
Not since Xena, had Gabrielle felt so at ease in a woman's company. The thought of the closeness and simply relaxing in the arms of a woman comforted her. Returning the captain's smile, Gabrielle took the offered hand and allowed herself to be led toward the large bed.
Xena did kept her distance, as promised. She was not happy about it, but she managed to refrain from any curiosity she might be having. Rather than storming into the room and having a full out poltergeist tantrum, she stood on the deck of the ship. She watched the passing stars and the distant waves. Although she noticed the light of the captain's cabin slowly dimming, she refrained from intruding.
This had not turned out as she had planned, Xena thought as a night watchman's humming echoed into the night. When she first decided to go to Japa, it wasn't her intention to get herself killed, but like most things about her, she simply walked into it. Once in it, she couldn't think of any way to avoid the outcome of her own death.
The ghost warrior knew that this was a mess that she could not get herself out of. In the past, she was always able to find ways back from the dead, but now that she was having regrets about her actions, she could find no solution for coming back to life. As the sudden realization hit her, she sighed as she gazed up at the twinkling stars.
Xena realized for the first time that this was where she had made the mistake. She always tried to be in control of her life, always tried to do what was best for the people who fell victim to her past actions. Now she realized she had hurt the one person who meant the world to her. Although she was no longer a cold blooded killer, her nature of running headlong into danger hurt the one person closest to her. Like in the past, her thoughtless actions brought nothing but pain to the one woman whom she had come to know as her soulmate.
With a shake of her head, Xena stood tall and allowed the night winds to brush pass her ghostly form. The warrior knew that Gabrielle would have joined her to the ends of the earth, and this was why she should have consulted with her lover long before deciding to run head first into the fires of Japa. Maybe then they wouldn't be in this mess. Had she simply trusted her partner's judgment, as she did during the Higuchi fires, Gabrielle might have found another way to solve the problem of the lost souls of Higuchi. Then maybe she would not be finding herself alone on the ship's deck while her lover was being made love to by another woman. If only she had done things differently, it would be her and not a ship's captain who shared with Gabrielle tonight, she thought as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
Filled with defeat and a bit of determination she gazed at the distant moon. "If there are any gods left to hear me, I swear it will be different next time, just?. p-please, help us to find a way to bring me back? I-I vow to always consult my soulmate in matters that affect our lives," she whispered. Her words brought only a gust of a wind and a crashing of the waves against the bow.
Gabrielle rose long before the captain. Although the feel of the warm body next to hers was comforting, she wanted to find Xena. After quickly dressing, and having a short exchange with the captain, the blonde left the woman's cabin. As she opened the cabin door, she unconsciously touched the fastenings on her garments to make certain everything was in order as she slipped into the morning chill. At the sight of the familiar shadow leaning against the rail, the Amazon smiled as she made her way toward her ghost lover.
Xena remained silent as Gabrielle finished fastening her belt, then adjusted her top. Gabrielle could feel her lover's protective wall firmly in place. Ignoring her soulmate's stance, she leaned against the rail and watched as the morning sun rose over the distant horizon.
"She still asleep?" Xena's voice was neutral as she spoke.
Maintaining her own control, Gabrielle sighed as she stood by the tall woman's side. "Yes, she woke up for a bit when I was dressing, but I'm sure she's sleeping like a baby now," she answered as she saw the ghost wince from the words.
"Good?good," the warrior's voice remained controlled. "First time with you usually ends up that way," Xena commented dryly as she tried to lace her words with a chuckle.
Gabrielle smiled as she remembered the first time that she made love to Xena. It was true that they both slept for a long time afterward, and the innocent girl in her wasn't all together certain if that was normal, or if she was perhaps doing something wrong. In her mind, anything that caused such fatigue must not be right, but eventually, the blonde learned that with them, their energy was drained because of the intensity of their love making.
"So? Gabrielle," Xena's voice remained neutral as she seemed to be asking a question, but was hesitant to verbalize.
"Yes?" Gabrielle maintained her stoic expression. With an inward smile, the Amazon crossed her arms as she gazed off at the dark sea. She absently watched the distant waves while waiting patiently for the warrior to verbalize her unspoken fears.
"Are you? I mean, will you be?" Xena seemed unable to find her voice.
Smiling, Gabrielle tilted her head as she gazed up at the ghost. At that instant, she felt the cold sea air brush past her short locks. The storyteller basked in the light touches of the wind, then inhaled the scent of the sea before opening her eyes and looking up at Xena. "Will I be staying with her?"
"Well? yeah." The ghost warrior seemed afraid of Gabrielle's response.
"No," Gabrielle shook her head as a sigh of relief escaped Xena's control. "She's nice, and very sweet, and compassionate?" she laughed as her ghost lover turned away, her expression holding a mask of angst.
"Gabrielle, I don't need a full account!" Xena's anger began to seep through her voice as she tried to silence the Amazon's words with a wave of her hand.
"Xena," Gabrielle lightly touched her lover's arm. In a more forceful way of getting the warrior woman's attention, the blonde reached up and cupped her lover's chin, forcing her to look down and face her. "Xena, nothing happened."
"Nothing happened?" the ghost asked disbelievingly. "Really?"
"Really!" Gabrielle smiled, then added in a teasing voice, "not that it couldn't, or wasn't about to?" she began to say with a slight chuckle in her voice.
"What?" The ghost warrior's eyes grew wide as her features looked down at her in fear.
"But nothing happened!" Gabrielle took hold of her lover's arm. "Xena, you're my soulmate. You are the one I'm meant to be with," she assured.
"Really?" the ghost warrior asked again as if needing reassurance.
"Yes, really. And besides, Zara thinks she might know someone who can help."
"Zara?" Like trying to speak a new language, Xena rolled the name over her tongue, then looked down at Gabrielle.
"Yes, Zara, the ship's captain," she began to explain nonchalantly. "Anyway, while in bed together, she said that she might be able to help us."
"I thought you said you didn't do anything?" the tall woman pulled slightly away and gazed down at the blonde as her eyes searched for answers.
"Oh, we didn't, Xena. But we were in bed together, and it was then?" Gabrielle tried to continue, but was interrupted by the ghost's sharp voice.
"You were both in bed? TOGETHER?" Xena's back suddenly stiffed as she glared toward the captain's cabin.
"Well, yes? and while there?" Gabrielle held a mischievous twinkle in her eyes as she kept her voice neutral.
"And how far did you get into bed?" the warrior princess pulled away and crossed her arms in front of her as she glared down at the Amazon.
At the question, Gabrielle concealed her smile as she continued her story. "Oh, we were in bed alright!" she nodded confirmation.
"And how familiar did you both get?" the warrior ghost failed to conceal her boiling wrath.
"Very familiar, why, I even noticed the birth mark on her?" the Greek woman gazed down at herself and lightly touched at a spot on her left bosom.
"Never mind!" the ghost protesting halted the storyteller's words. With only a shake of her head, the ghost turned and leaned back against the rail of the ship, "I don't need to know that!" Xena cringed then looked back down inquisitively at the healer, "But nothing happened?"
"No, nothing. But like I was saying, not that it couldn't because we were all over each other!" the smaller woman laughed as she remembered the clumsy attempts that they both made with each other. "Mind you, Xena, I was raring to go! Oh boy, was I ever in need!" the storyteller chuckled as she shook her head, then sobered when she saw the hurt in her lover's eyes. "But then," she smiled up at her ghost lover and softly touched her cold cheek. "Then I realized that she wasn't you, and? and something happened and next thing I know, I broke down and started crying. Xena, she was so kind to me, so gentle. She just held me tight as I took everything out on her. When I calmed down, I began to tell her everything about Higuchi."
"Y-You told her everything?" the tall warrior failed to mask her look of surprise.
"Well, just everything about the recent past. I thought she was going to have me locked up the minute we get into port, but then she said that she understood." Gabrielle laughed. "Seems there are a few people in her family who not only see ghosts, but can have conversations with them as well! So it wasn't that hard for her to grasp," she explained and allowed the information to sink in.
"Anyway, Xena, one of Zara's lovers might be able to help. Oh, by the way, you were right, Zara has a girl in every port. Anyway, her lover, the one I'm talking about, she's a High Priestess in Egypt, and this woman has the magical power to bring all dead, even ashes, back to their former life! All we have to do is get to the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae before the next rising of Al-Bahr!"
Xena smiled from ear to ear as she looked down at her lover. "Say that again."
"The whole thing?" Gabrielle looked exhausted as she gazed up at the warrior.
"You know, say it again," the tall warrior smugly asked as she crossed her arms in satisfaction and leaned back against the railing.
Understanding her request, Gabrielle sighed as the smile crossed her lips. "Yes, Xena, you were right. Zara was only after one thing. But she didn't get it this time," Gabrielle pointed out.
"Well that's good?for her sake, I mean," the humor rang out in Xena's voice. "So, I gather we're going to see this lover of your captain's to see if she can help?"
"Yep, should be there by the New Year in plenty of time before the Nile rises."
"Good, I'd like to get my body back, and then I can get my chakram back," Xena stated with finality as a contented sigh escaped her control.
"Think again, Warrior Princess. The chakram is mine," Gabrielle's voice held a steady tone.
"Gabrielle! That's mine, you're going to give it back to me, right?" the ghost pleaded as she looked down at her in disbelief.
In a teasing manner, Gabrielle seemed to be thinking about the question deeply before turning to her lover. With a quickness which surprised even Xena, she removed the chakram from her belt.
"This baby is mine! You're going to have to find your own, Warrior Princess." The blonde's eyes crinkled as a smile crossed her lips.
"B-But?" Xena stammered, "There isn't another one like it, and the chakram has always been mine!"
"Nope," Gabrielle wagged her finger at her lover, "Not anymore. It's mine now." the Amazon replied as she returned the weapon to her belt.
"B-But?But?" Xena stammered, "It was mine!"
"Yeah, well," Gabrielle turned away from the specter so that she wouldn't see her smile, "You should have thought of that before you wouldn't let me bring you back to life, Warrior Princess."
Shocked by her response, Xena's face held an expression of disbelief. Now for the first time, the ghost realized that this was a phrase she would be hearing for quite some time. With a shake of her head, she watched as her smaller lover turned to her. As she tilted her head slightly, the small blonde began to lightly dance around the ghost.
"You want it, you've got to get it, Warrior Princess!" Gabrielle teased as she took a fighting stance. In mock battle mode, she held out both arms to her ghost lover, then wiggled her fingers, "Come on, Warrior Princess, take it from me if you can!" the Amazon dared as she darted out of Xena's grasping hands. "Is that all you can do! Why, my mother's nurse maid could do better than that!" the small bard exclaimed as she began to dance around the tall specter.
"Gabrielle, I'll get you, and just wait until I do!" was all Xena growled as she leapt at her lover, her arms missing the sure footed woman as she tried to capture her illusive bard.
Zara watched as the lithe blonde danced around the deck. Even though she didn't see anyone with her, she had no doubt that the ghost warrior was with Gabrielle. With a sigh of sadness, the captain turned away from the window.
She had so much wanted to have the little blonde. In all ways, the Greek traveler was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. But Zara knew that such a union could never take place. She was fully aware of the bond that some people shared, and knew that no matter how badly she longed to make love to Gabrielle, it could never be.
With a smile, the Moroccan captain turned to her charts and she began to plot a new route. It would take many moons of traveling, but once they reached the port of Philae, the High Priestess would be able to help both Gabrielle and her warrior lover. With only a shake of her head, the tall woman began to make the mathematical calculations of their new route as she mentally chided herself for being a fool.
No, it could be no other way, Zara mused. The two soulmates were always meant to be together, and such a strong bond can never be broken.