Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница

Xena lifted her hand, and pointed at her chest, then she pointed at Gabrielle. She touched the side of her mouth, and made a gesture, opening and closing her fingers in a talking motion.

Gabrielle looked nervously down the hall, then back at her. Voices were getting louder, and she heard a soft clank of something hitting something else down the stairs near the end of the hall.

Xena didn’t budge, ignoring the danger. She held her hand out, palm up, her eyes never leaving the slave’s face.

Gabrielle hesitated. She wasn’t sure what Xena was asking her, but Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница looking down into those blue eyes, she knew she had to either answer, or run. With a pensive exhale, she put her palm down on top of Xena’s outstretched hand.

There was so much looking up at her. So many stormy emotions.

Was she being stupid? They were in such a dangerous place, how could she question anything Xena was doing to get them out of it?

Gabrielle took a breath, unable to pull her gaze away from the queen’s. There was a connection she could feel there, with her, that defied the wrappings of her youthful Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница morality. She couldn’t deny it.

Her heart reached out, not wanting to deny it, brushing past her sense of right and wrong to touch the restless spirit kneeling before her.

Xena stood, and briefly clasped her hand, then released it. She eyed Gabrielle for a long moment, then she deliberately lifted her arm and brushed the backs of her knuckles across the girl’s cheek.

This time, Gabrielle didn’t flinch. She gazed quietly up at the queen, still anguished, but remained still as the fingers touched her face.

Satisfied, Xena nodded, then she turned and Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница glided back down the hallway, reaching the bound door just as four soldiers came up the stairs and rounded the wall in front of her.

They attacked without hesitation.

**

Xena was offbalance. She met the attack and managed to keep her skin intact for the first few moments, the critical ones where lives were often lost along with reputations. She didn’t waste time being angry with herself, though she knew she’d put herself squarely into this mess by her insane need to make nice with her slave.

She deserved to get gutted for that, the queen Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница acknowledged, as she grabbed a spear out of one of the guards hands and set to work. Idiot. Idiot. Idiot. Xena struck with rapidfire grace, slamming the man closest to her in the head, the chest, and the groin with the spear in time with her inner chanting.

Two others jumped her. She didn’t have enough space to avoid them, without falling down the steep stairs. She felt a sharp shock on the back of her head and things went dark for a moment, sounds echoing weirdly as her conciousness briefly faded out.

Her body kept fighting, though. She twisted and Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница rolled out from under the man, getting a foot into his ribcage and heaving him off her with the strength of her legs. He grunted, the only sound any of them had issued so far, and she bounced to her feet to meet the second man’s rising head with a roundhouse right hand punch.

Her senses warned her and she grabbed the hand reaching for her from behind, twisting and yanking and sending her new adversary to the ground. He fell, but grabbed her leg as he rolled and she felt her balance pulled out Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница from under her.

Damn. Xena kicked out as she felt the ground coming up, and heard the cry as her blow connected. A heavy body fell across her lower body. She landed and rolled, but the man on her pinned her in place and she didn’t have the leverage to heave him off. She froze, hearing the sound of steel over her head with a shocking suddenness and knowing herself now to be in unexpectedly mortal danger.

She twisted, lifting her arm over her head instinctively to protect herself, knowing with her back against the wall she had no chance of Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница drawing her sword. Her eyes tracked up and saw the blade descending, saw the cold, intent eyes behind it, and realized her insanity was likely going to cost her a lifetime.

Well. Xena found herself thinking, in that quiet moment before death found her, at least she’d found out how good a hug felt first.

The man’s arms swept down, the blade cutting through the air and toward her almost in slow motion. In that same slow motion, she sensed something approaching, a body moving fast and plowing into the soldier with just… enough… force Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница…



To send the sword slamming into the man over Xena’s legs instead of her, a spray of the soldier’s blood gushing out all over both of them.

The blade stuck in a bone. Xena yanked a leg free and kicked the sword holder in the face with vicious force, hearing the crack as his jaw broke. He spun away and fell, and she got free of the man on the floor and surged to her feet.

The two remaining men lunged at her. She knew she had no time to pull her sword out, so she Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница grabbed them both by the face, her fingers digging into their eye sockets and slammed their heads together with enough force to crack their skulls.

They dropped.

Xena froze, listening hard, but no other sounds were heard on the steps.

She straightened slowly, spotting a small, huddled figure crouched near the iron bars, gazing up at her in the torchlight.

Gabrielle.

The slave scrubbed her face with one hand, and pulled herself upright, to stand on unsteady legs. Blood was spattered over her skin, and she was shaking.

She saved my life. Xena realized, in mild amazement.

But there was no Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница time to think about that. Xena turned and picked up the first man, dragging him into the room she’d put her other victim into. She repeated the process with the other three, and only then approached the iron bound door, where Gabrielle was still standing.

Time to get the Hades out of here. Xena lifted the lock again, and pulled her slim dagger from it’s sheath. She twirled it in her fingers, then inserted the point into the lock, and closed her eyes, coughing up yet another rusty skill from an increasingly distant seeming past.

**

The woman Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница inside the room looked up as the door entered, her eyes going wide in fright and alarm. “Oh!” She was small, just a bit taller than Gabrielle, and had long, chestnut colored hair.

“Shh.” Xena put a finger to her lips. “C’mon.” Her eyes narrowed on seeing the visible bruises on the captive’s face, and the limp she had as she got up hesitantly and approached the door.

“My queen.” The woman quavered uncertainly, her eyes darting to Gabrielle’s face as the slave peeked out from behind her armored erstwhile savior. “You are in great Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница danger!”

“No, I’m not.” Xena yanked her forward unceremoniously. “But people will be if we don’t get out of here.” She nudged Gabrielle out in front of her and paused, listening again before she continued on. Once outside, she stopped, turning and closing the door behind her. She picked up the lock and bent slightly to fasten it.

“Are you okay?” Gabrielle asked, softly.

The woman studied Gabrielle’s tunic, then she nodded. “As well as I might be, but if the duke’s men hear us…”

“They’ll lose their ears.” Xena finished her task Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница and started down the hall, shoving the other two women before us. “Move it.”

“But, your majesty, does he not know you are here? I did not hear of a banquet…”

Xena paused at the far door, turning to give her a droll look. “Figures Lastay’d pick as dim a candle as he is to marry.” She laid her hand on the wood and cocked her head. “Just shut up, and follow me.”

The woman fell silent, with a hurt and puzzled look. Gabrielle watched her for a moment, then she leaned closer to her. “She came to get you Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница out.” She whispered, watching the woman’s eyes widen in surprise. “Really.”

“Truly?” The noblewoman whispered back.

Catching Xena’s warning glower, Gabrielle merely nodded in affirmation, almost smiling when she saw the woman look at the queen with startled yet grateful eyes.

Xena eased the door open, then just as quickly shut it when she heard boots rasping against the steps. “Ah.. into every life a little blood must fall.” She pushed Gabrielle and the lady to one side and drew her sword, flipping it over one hand and waiting, her other hand resting lightly on Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница the door. “Shut up, don’t move.”

Gabrielle sighed, biting her lower lip and grimacing.

Xena looked at her. For a brief second, their eyes met. Xena’s then narrowed. “You know something?” She growled softly. “You’re a pain in my ass, Gabrielle.”

The slave blinked, then blinked again as the queen sheathed her sword.

The door opened, and two men entered the hallway, passing the three silent women as the continued their conversation in utter oblivion. Xena waited for them to clear her body, then she twisted and lashed out with one booted foot, kicking both men in Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница the back of the head in rapid succession.

With a crash, they fell to the floor senseless.

Xena snorted in amusement. “But on the other hand..” She grabbed the noble woman by the sleeve and shoved her towards the door. “That was a lot of fun.” She turned to get Gabrielle, but the slave was already sliding past her, and to her surprise fingers tangled with her own for just an instant and squeezed them.

Xena felt the warmth encompass her hand, sending a tingle up her arm before it was gone and she was watching Gabrielle’s shoulders Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница retreat in front of her.

With a half grin, Xena followed them into the stairwell, quickly taking the lead again as they moved downward. They reached the bottom of the steps, then her senses warned her and she grabbed her two charges, pulling them back with her against the wall behind the curve of the stairs.

The outer door burst open, and a squad of soldiers rushed inside, clattering up the steps with an air of urgency. They drew their weapons as they ran, the metal blades scraping against the stone.

Xena kept her back pressed against the wall, an Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница arm around the other two women. She could feel the rigid stiffness of Lastay’s wife on one side, and, far more pleasant, Gabrielle’s slim form relaxing against her on the other.

Remaining silent was the key. She watched the last soldier mount the steps and willed him not to look down.

He stumbled, his hands busy trying to pull his sword from it’s hip mounted sheath. With a curse, he paused, yanking the weapon free and glancing around in furtive embarrassment. His eyes dropped lower, into the shadows at the foot of the stairs, and he squinted Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница in the low light.

“Hey! Moron! Move it!” A voice called from above.

With another curse, the soldier abandoned what he thought he saw, and started trotting up the steps.

Xena relaxed slightly, waiting until she heard the door open at the top of the steps, and the men’s boots hit the carpet on the other side. Then she started forward, reaching the door just as she heard the first yell of discovery from the upper floor. “Move.” She ordered, yanking the door open and herding them through it, closing it behind them and throwing the Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница latch.

The court beyond was empty, and Xena crossed it as fast as she could, hearing faint calls and running feet off in the distance. There was no doubt in her mind that the alarm was raised, and she focused on getting out of the castle and back to the horses before the stronghold erupted into a beehive of angry activity.

At the wall, she slowed as the inner door started to open, reaching for her sword in a single smooth motion as she kicked the portal wide with the toe of one boot.

A hawk’s head appeared, and she Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница relaxed, giving the man a nod as he jumped out of her way and cleared the entrance for them. Xena swung the door shut and sheathed her weapon, glad to see the two other guards she’d posted running towards her. “Everyone here?”

“Mistress, the alarm is raised!” The closer of the two men uttered. “I heard the guard captain running to the gates…”

“All the more reason for us to run the other way.” Xena shoved them towards the outer doors. “Move it.. move it..” She grabbed Lastay’s woman and threw her into the arms Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница of the largest of the men. “Put her over your shoulder.”

“Majesty!” The woman gasped in protest, squealing softly as the soldier did his mistresses bidding. Xena grabbed her jaw, now upside down, and squeezed it.

“Shut up.” The queen growled. “I didn’t come here to die.”

With a quivering lip, the woman obeyed. Xena guided Gabrielle out in front of her, and they sped to the door. It swung open wide as they reached it, Brendan’s head anxiously appearing as he heard them.

“Move. Move. Move.” Xena barked very softly. “Out, and run.”

They cleared Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница the doors and bolted, Brendan dousing the torches that lit the exterior as he slammed the doors shut. Darkness flowed over them as they ran off the stone path into the brush, the cold air blowing over them and carrying the sounds of growing activity to their ears from behind.

But Xena knew they were home free. Evgast’s guards would be all over the castle now, searching there before they attempted to look outside. And when they tried that….

Her sensitive ears cocked, catching the sound of furious banging. She chuckled, putting a hand on Gabrielle’s back as Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница the slave ran just in front of her. The darkness cloaked them totally now, only the soft rustle of their footsteps betraying their position.

They’d done it. Xena exhaled, only aware at that moment how tense she’d been. A gentle shiver went through her body, and she felt a distinct shakiness in her knees that both annoyed and surprised her. It hadn’t been that long, had it?

“Got the hay wagons parked right up against the barn doors, Mistress.” The tall blond soldier told her. “Won’t be comin after us sooner.”

“Good work.” The Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница queen told him shortly.

“Easy job, with you here, Mistress.” Brendan commented. “All we did was stand and look pretty.”

Xena flashed back to that moment she looked death in the eye, and Gabrielle came by and poked it for her. “Yeah.” She snorted. “Piece of baklava.” She eyed the slim, blond woman running at her side, a faint fog of breath visible from her slightly open lips. “With all sorts of unexpected nuts and honey in it, too.”

Gabrielle glanced at her, hitching up a little as her foot caught on some scrub and she almost fell. “Yipe Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница!”

Xena latched on to the back of her tunic, giving her a droll look as she pulled her upright again.

**

They made their way down the rocky slope, quite a bit faster than they’d gone up it. Brendan paused at the top and looked back the way they came, before he scrambled down to where the horses were tied up. “No torches following. Mistress.”

“Good.” Xena untied her big black stallion. “C’mere.” She pulled Gabrielle forward, then unexpectedly grabbed her around the waist and hoisted her up onto the horse. “In front. I don’t want to Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница risk cutting your pretty little head off if I have to fight.”

Gabrielle held on to the front of the saddle, leaning forward as the queen put her hands on the saddlehorn and back and vaulted up behind her. She felt the immediate warmth of Xena’s body pressing against her, and decided she sort of liked the change of position when the queen wrapped her arms around her and took the reins in her hands.

She was glad they were back on the horses. She was glad they were out of the castle. Gabrielle found her mind full of so many Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница things to think about it was hard to concentrate on any of them. Her legs ached, both from the running and the riding, and her lips were roughened by the wind that now picked up again as the they started off.

Okay. She exhaled, wincing at the jolt against her thighs as the horse broke into a trot. Lastay’s wife was being held side saddle by one of the men, and she didn’t look like it was any more comfortable though so she supposed that riding was just something you had to get used Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница to.

Just one more thing she had to get used to. Gabrielle slowly let out a long breath, looking down at the strong hands clasped in front of her. After a moment of stillness, she shifted her grip from the saddle to cover Xena’s fingers with her own.

“Hey.” The queens’ voice sounded, low and vibrant behind her head. “Amuse me. What are you thinking about this time?”

Gabrielle turned and peered up at her, barely able to distinguish her features in the darkness. “Am I really a pain in your ass?” She asked.

Xena rested her chin Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница against Gabrielle’s disheveled hair. “Yeah.” She said. “But you’re cute and I’m stuck on you, so I’ll give you a break this time.”

They rode in silence for a few minutes. “I just…” Gabrielle finally spoke up. “I just don’t believe hurting people is the only way.” She admitted softly. “Violence isn’t the answer to everything.”

The queen exhaled audibly. “That’s because you’re a young, clueless shepherd kid who doesn’t know a damn thing about life.”

Gabrielle considered the truth of that statement. “Maybe.” She said. “But I knew enough not Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница to want you to lose yours.” Her voice sounded sad, and her shoulders slumped. “For what that was worth.”

Xena craned her head around and peered at her little blond enigma. She kept hurting Gabrielle, and a part of her recognized the fact uneasily. She didn’t want to, at least she didn’t think she wanted to, but she was who she was, and Xena knew enough about herself to know that wasn’t something she was willing or able to change.

Gabrielle shifted her hands back to the saddle, and straightened up, moving away from her a little Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница.

Xena didn’t like that. She frowned, realizing that she wanted Gabrielle to like her and wanted the girl to want to be with her. She didn’t want to drive her away, like she had everyone else.

But she was, and she knew it. The problem was that it hurt to think that a lot more than she’d ever anticipated it would. Changing it would mean changing herself, and Xena knew for sure she didn’t want to do that, either.

The queen studied the back of Gabrielle’s head pensively. Or did she? A cold gust Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница of wind blew against her chest, where Gabrielle no longer warmed it and the answer to her question came to her with power she hadn’t expected.

“Gabrielle.”

The slave looked up at her again, waiting quietly.

“It was worth everything to me.” Xena tasted the honesty in her own words. “Thank you.” She released the reins with one hand and settled it onto Gabrielle’s shoulder. “I’m an old, old hound, my friend. I don’t think new tricks are easy for me anymore.”

Gabrielle gazed at her, gray shadows melting from her eyes once again. “Well Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница…” She replied hesitantly. “I guess that makes me just a puppy who doesn’t know any tricks. Maybe we can kind of trade off?”

Xena felt a very unexpected smile appear on her face. “Yeah, maybe.” She agreed, with a touch of huskiness in her voice. “Maybe we can.” Her eyes dipped down to meet the slave’s, drinking in the warmth she now found there.

She wanted that. Xena slid her arm around Gabrielle’s waist and tightened her grip, feeling the girl nestle against her. It made her feel good. She strongly suspected it also made Gabrielle feel Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница good, if the unconscious grin on the girl’s face was any indication.

How far would they both be willing to go to keep this? It was a question Xena knew she didn’t have an answer for.

Yet.

They reached the road, and headed home, high spirits evident as Brendan started a bawdy road song, and the men all joined in, rough voices rising up to be whipped away by the wind as they rode.

**

Xena stared into the fireplace, watching the hypnotic flicker of the flames as they consumed a fresh stack of logs newly made inside Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница it’s depths. She was dressed in a warm, woolen robe having bathed and taken off her armor and she was enjoying the feel of the soft dry fabric against her skin.

Lastay’s wife was seated in one of the stiffly brocaded public chairs on the other side of her audience chamber, exhausted and grubby but grateful. “Majesty…” She spoke up suddenly.

“Yeah?” Xena shifted her attention, letting her head rest propped up on one fist.

“I owe you a great debt.”

Xena gave her a brief smile. “Nice family you’ve got.” She commented Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница.

The woman exhaled, instinctively putting a hand up to move a bit of hair from her forehead. “M’lord Evgast is a very strong minded man, as your Majesty surely knows.”

“He’s a jackass.” Xena responded mildly. “And your husband’s a bigger one for not coming forward before he did and letting me know about it.”

The woman didn’t answer, her silence speaking volumes.

Xena crossed her ankles and wished Gabrielle would hurry up and get back. As though in answer to her royal whim, a soft knock came at the outer door. “Come.” She fastened Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница her eyes on the door and felt a smile twitch at her lips as it opened and a blond head appeared.

Gabrielle pushed the door all the way open and stood back, to allow Duke Lastay to enter. He spotted his wife and bolted for her with a glad cry as she jumped up and ran to his arms. The joy in his voice was honest and unfeigned, and she had to smile on hearing it.

She closed the door and turned, to see Xena watching her. The blue eyes drew her forward, and she trudged across the room Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница on truly aching legs to the queen’s side. With a tired sigh, she settled onto the low stool near the regal chair and wished she could just go wash off and lie down.

Xena reached over and tugged on her ear.

Gabrielle straightened, and looked over at her.

“You look like my horse sat on you.” The queen remarked conversationally. “Go take a bath.”

“Majesty.” Lastay interrupted, drawing the queen’s attention as he crossed the room and dropped to his knees before her. “You have gifted me beyond my worth.” He touched his forehead to the ground Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница near her feet, his voice quavering with emotion.

Xena debated booting him in the head. Then she sighed, allowing that since she’d gone through all the trouble of ingratiating him to her, kicking him in the face would waste all that effort. “Next time, trust me.” She said. “Don’t hedge your bets.”

Lastay looked up at her. “Gabrielle told me it was you, yourself, who freed her, risking all for it.” He said, his voice a curiously raw whisper. There was a new light in his eyes, too, that she’d never seen there before.

“That’s right.” Xena said Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница. “You know what they say, you want it done right, do it yourself.” She added, lightly. “Got a problem with that?”

“No, majesty.” Lastay answered. “May I speak of it to others?”

“Sure.” The queen replied. “Now take your woman and get the Hades out of here. I’ve got things to attend to.” She paused. “And be ready for court tomorrow. No smirking.”

Lastay got to his feet and bowed deeply, then backed away from her, holding his hand out for his lady. “We will be ready, my liege. That I promise you.” He waited for her Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница to join him, then surprisingly, he scooped her up into his arms and executed yet another bow, before he made his way to the door and slipped through it.

“Huh.” Xena felt a sense of distinct pleasure at the adulation. “Y’know, Gabrielle, I didn’t peg him for a romantic. I thought he married her for her lands and to give him reasonably good looking kids.”

Gabrielle had been leaning against the chair, and now she looked up. “He was really worried.” She told the queen. “It was such a nice feeling to be able to tell him Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница his wife was okay. He was so excited.”

“Mm.” Xena smiled to herself.

“He really thinks you’re so amazing for doing it yourself.” The slave added, her fingers tangling with the end of the tie that held Xena’s robe closed. “He said he knew you said you’d take care of it, but he never expected you to go and… um… “

“Do it.” Xena exhaled. “Yeah… well…” She reviewed the night. “It felt good.”

“I wasn’t surprised.”

“You weren’t, huh?” Xena gave in to her impulse and began to stroke Gabrielle’s hair. “Did Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница you tell him some wild ass story?”

“No.” Gabrielle felt the exhaustion begin to overtake her. She shifted her hand from the tie to Xena’s leg, wanting to feel the warm strength of her. “I just told him the truth.”

Xena suddenly wanted that hug. She got up, taking Gabrielle’s hand and pulling her up, too. Once the slave was standing, the queen folded her arms around her and savored the moment as Gabrielle returned the squeeze willingly. She had taken her overtunic off, and was in her shirt and leggings and Xena could feel the warmth of Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница her body penetrate the robe she was wearing.

She rubbed Gabrielle’s back. “C’mon, ya little muskrat.”

“M’not a muskrat.” Gabrielle kept her arms around Xena.

“Gotta argue about everything, doncha?” Xena closed the door to the inner chamber behind them, then stopped in surprise. The thick fur rug in front of the fireplace was set with crystal and china, and a platter of wonderful smelling food and a bottle of wine stood off to one side waiting. Candles lit the room, lending a romantic touch to a chamber she ‘d thought she’d left barren and Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница empty not that long ago. “Where in Hades did this all come from?”

Gabrielle cleared her throat gently, ducking her head slightly and blushing.

Xena looked at her.

“I… um..” Gabrielle said. “Thought maybe you’d like it.”

Xena blinked at the scene, reviewing her treatment of her young companion over the course of the night and realizing all she probably deserved was a lump of coal and a cup of midden water. “Woof.” She muttered under her breath, turning and lacing her fingers behind Gabrielle’s neck. “Know what?”

“What?” Gabrielle murmured.

“I do like it Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница.” Xena tilted her head and gave Gabrielle a heartfelt kiss. “But I think it’s you who really deserves it. C’mon.” She drew the slave close, and guided her towards the bathing room. “First, let’s get you into something more comfortable.”

If she’d really been a puppy, Gabrielle mused, her tail would have really been wiggling, even as tired as she was.

Tired as she was, she wanted the comfort of Xena’s embrace. Blood or no blood, she wanted the touch of the queen’s hands on her, and the feel of her breath against her skin Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница, and the closeness that was her only anchor in a very scary world.

Xena kissed the top of her head in simple affection.

Wiggle.

**

Gabrielle opened her eyes, gazing sleepily across the big room to the pink tinted windows. She was curled up under the soft, fluffy comforter, snuggled up against Xena’s body with her head resting on the queen’s shoulder.

It felt… Gabrielle felt the pressure of Xena’s arm, which was draped lightly over her shoulders. It felt different than anything else she’d ever known, that’s for sure. She could, for just a Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница moment, put out of her head the fact that Xena was who she was and simply revel in the feeling of acceptance she got waking up in the queen’s embrace.

It was worth the down side. Gabrielle rubbed the side of her thumb absently across Xena’s bare skin, just above her navel. She was convinced that the queen really did like her… in fact, she felt in her heart that Xena loved her, in her own way just as she knew she really did love Xena.

Xena cared about what she thought. Gabrielle remembered the moment in Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница the castle the night before when the queen had turned her back on her mission just to come over and reassure her. Her own parents had never cared about what she thought. No one she’d ever known had cared about what she thought.

But Xena cared.

She mattered to Xena. That was why, even though some of the things the queen did horrified her, Gabrielle wanted to stay with her, be with her… to be able to wake up like this and know that she was an important part of someone else’s life.

It was Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница really sort of selfish, she acknowledged. But it was also true.

The pink light in the window increased, and Gabrielle sighed, knowing her snuggling would be coming to an end shortly as the day began. She hoped the day would be a good one.

She felt Xena start to wake up, the queen’s body stirring and taking on a tension as her heartbeat picked up under Gabrielle’s ear. She found herself looking forward to Xena’s voice, despite it’s often caustic edge and seeing her pretty blue eyes as soon as they opened.

“Mm.” Xena rumbled softly. “Hey Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница there, muskrat.”

Muskrat. Gabrielle sighed inwardly. “Xena?”

“Yeeees?” The queen scratched her back with the tips of her fingers, tracing a path down Gabrielle’s spine with her thumb.

“What is a muskrat?”

Xena chuckled softly.

“I mean – I’ve been called silly stuff before, like chipmunk, but at least I know what that is.” Gabrielle went on. “So, what is a muskrat, and why do I remind you of one?”

“Chipmunk?” Xena queried, cocking her head to study Gabrielle’s disheveled, yet adorable features.

The girl nodded, one hand lifting up to touch her own cheek. “When I was Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница little…”

“You were littler?” Xena teased, with a smile.

“Okay, when I was younger, I had really chubby cheeks.” Gabrielle explained. “So they called me chipmunk.. squirrel…you know.” She paused. “Or do you know?”

“Ahh.” Xena stroked her face with surprisingly gentle fingers. “You don’t look like a muskrat. I just like the sound of it.” She told the slave. “But they’re sorta cute. Kind of like big rats with pretty fur.” She added. “And I was called a lot of things in my younger years, but none of them are anything you’d Источник: http://www.merwolf.com/docs.html (ищем «Shadows of the Soul»). 27 страница wanna hear about.”

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