Part 7

(E-Mail Rachel)

Callisto had been wandering around the grounds thinking. She headed towards the stables, somehow inately knowing she would find the Xena there. She turned and entered the doors. Spying the warrior near the back fixing her tack, she headed that way.

Xena had heard her footfalls outside and spoke before Cal even thought she knew she was there....

"Callisto." She said warmly. "How are we today?"

"Oh bother Xena..." replied Cal as she walked up, leaned against the stall door and crossed her arms. "I've never had a better or worse morning in my whole life!" She gave a little exasperated sigh.

Xena raised her eyebrow at the blonde, scrutinizing her up and down for a moment. "Looks like you're a bit flushed..." She walked closer and lifted a hand to Cal's forehead. "Yep, a little warm. Hmmmm...." She peered closer at the goddess. "Definitely lovesick." And with that she turned around and went back to her tack, smiling a bit at the irony of it all.

Now Callisto just stood there with her mouth hanging. She was totally flabbergasted as to how Xena had managed to figure everything out in one quick appraisal, without even a clue.

"Xe...uhhh...ummm...how did you know?"

"Gabrielle told me. In fact, you just missed her."

"But how did SHE know??"

"Cuz Ephiny ran to her for the same reason you're here to see me." Xena smiled at the blonde. "But to be honest, I think I saw it last night at the meeting." She winked at Callisto.

"No way! Wow. Was it that obvious?" she asked.

"Does a hydra have six heads?" asked Xena with her best 'I am completely innocent in saying this' look.

"But Xena....this is quite strange for me you know. When I kissed you the other day, It sure didn't feel like kissing her did. This.....well, I guess I'm not used to having feelings is all, and when she kissed me....geeesh Xe, I think I went on sensory overload! And now I don't know what to do. Part of me is burning for it, and the other part wants to run screaming into the night!"

"I will tell you the same thing Gabrielle told Eph...just be yourself. Cal, i think this could be your golden opportunity...you found someone that actually likes you!" She smirked, and received an elbow in the ribs for her insolence.

"Enough of the jibes Warrior Pun Princess...this is rough for me! I don't know the first thing about romance! You must admit I'm horribly out of practice...heck, I have never had any practice!"

Xena laughed a bit. "I thought the same thing Cal, really...with Gabrielle I mean. I didn't know how to romance her, hadn't a clue! All I knew was that I loved her, and I just gave in to that feeling. I just felt for a change, and you know what? When you open yourself to it, it becomes the most natural thing in the world." She smiled. "But a picnic lunch and some good wine couldn't hurt." She winked.

"Hmmmmm Xena....never figured you to be such a soft touch, but it becomes you. Thank you for the talk."

"Well, love does funny things to you. And you are most welcome....see you at the meeting in a few. I'm just going to finish this up and head on over." she called out as Callisto was leaving.

"Ok." said the blonde then headed out across the commons to her hut.

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As she entered the hut, her nose was assaulted by the smell of new leather. She looked over to the bed, and upon it lay what looked like Amazon leathers. She walked over and peered down at them....a light tan, two-piece outfit, inlaid with a purple design. She fingered the smoothness of the skirt...nice. Along with the leathers, she found matching bracers, a belt, a matching feather necklace and boots.

As she pondered actually trying it on, she glanced toward the table, where she spied a folded piece of parchment. She quickly crossed over and picked up the note, flipping it open and reading it...

Cal,

I thought walking into an Amazon council meeting in your armor might make some people squirm a bit, so I found you something that would help you to 'fit in' better. I want this to go well, because I think I really want you to stay. But if you don't want to wear them, I will understand. If that's the case, just keep them anyhow because you never know when you might need an extra set of clothes.

See you soon...

Eph

She re-read the letter two more times before she walked over to the bed and stripped off her old leathers. She marveled at the soft feel of the skirt as she slipped it up over her hips. Next she donned the top, a simple piece that laced in front....she fingered the purple laces. Pulling on the soft boots she wiggled her toes around in them, delighted at the perfect fit. She slid her wrists into the bracers and picked up the necklace to put it on. Her eye caught a glint amongst the feathers, and she looked more closely at it. She noticed the heart dangling from the front and fingered it gently. Turning it over, she saw something etched on the back....'A New Beginning...' Her eyes began to get misty as she brushed her thumb over it again before putting it on. Stepping around the other side of the bed, she took herself in while standing in front of the mirror....

She whistled. "Oh my."

Looking back at her was someone she didn't know. This woman she was seeing remotely resembled her, having the blonde hair and same face, but the aura was different. This woman looked happy. She stared some more, but it was still her standing there. She decided she liked what she saw. She turned towards the door, grabbing her dagger and sliding it into the belt as she walked out the door to the meeting.

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Ephiny was all nerves wondering if she had made a serious faux paus with the leathers. She knew it was a lot to expect, but darn it! Those old black things Callisto wore didn't seem to suit her anymore. But had she crossed the line by doing this? Cal might take offense and think the regent was trying to change her or something, which she wasn't....it just seemed the right thing to do just then.

Her thoughts were interrupted as the the blonde warrior entered. Ephiny's breath caught in her throat at the sight before her eyes. 'By the gods, she's beautiful!' she thought whimsically. She stood rooted to the spot, unable to tear her eyes away from what she beheld to be a muse come to tempt her self-control. Then those soft brown eyes found hers and held, their owner coming closer and closer until they were standing in front of each other.

For a moment they stood there, spellbound by something neither understood.

"Hey Xe...look over there..." whispered the bard to her lover.

"Oh yeah...they got it baaaaaaaaad...." whispered Xena back.

"Do we look like that?" Gabrielle wondered aloud.

"Us? You maybe, but not me. I could never look that goofy." said the warrior with a smirk in her voice.

"I beg to differ Xena...." said Eponin with a wink to Gabrielle.

Xena just sat there with a dumb grin on her face, and turned her attention back to the scene before her.

"Hi." said Cal. Her eyes went to the floor and all of a sudden she felt wierd. She dug her toe into the ground. "Ummm....thanks for these.." she said running her hand over the skirt.

"Hey...uhhh...no problem. I thought it might make the transition easier." the regent replied. "You look......absolutely incredible." She paused, then leaned closer so she could speak in Cal's ear...."And everyone else here thinks so too...." She motioned with her hand as she pulled away, and Callisto noticed everyone staring at her. She flushed crimson and turned away with a small giggle, hiding her eyes.

The gavel sounded and everyone rushed to their seats. Ephiny planted a quick kiss on the side of Cal's cheek and taking her hand, led her up the stairs to stand behind the council.

The proceedings went well, with only a handful giving argument to this petition for membership in the Nation. And those were quelled after Gabrielle's speech was finished. It ended up being an almost unanimous vote, and Cal breathed a sigh of relief as the meeting ended.

Ephiny hugged her tightly. "Tonight you officially become one of us. Are you sure this is what you want Cal?"

She found her hand reaching out to caress the regent's cheek. Their eyes met. "Yes...I'm sure." she replied, her voice carrying the double meaning of the words to the regent.

Eph's mouth was suddenly very dry and hoarse, and her voice cracked as she said her next words...."Me too."

Cal smiled and took her by the hand. "I think there is a lake waiting for us."

Ephiny shook her head a bit to clear the fuzzy feeling, and allowed herself to be lead through the crowd. All eyes followed them as they walked out into the sunshine....and all eyes were pleased....including those of a certain Warrior Princess and Amazon Queen.

"Normally I don't thank gods for anything, but for this one? I'm thinking about it." joked Xena as she reached her arm around the bard, encircling her shoulders as they walked out.

"They do make such a great looking couple don't they?" inquired Gabrielle.

"Not as great looking as us darling, but damn close I would say." And with that she stopped and swept the suprised bard into her arms, dipped her and kissed her soundly on the lips. Gabrielle threw her arms around the warrior's neck and proceeded to get lost in the feeling.

"Don't you agree Gabrielle?" purred Xena as she pulled the bard back up and into her arms.

"Xena?" said the bard.

"Yeah?"

"Hut. Now."

Xena mock bowed. "Yes, my Queen." She grinned evilly as she picked the bard up in her arms and carried her back to their hut.

Eponin and Solari stood there watching the exchange.

"There they go again..." grinned Solari.

"Yup." said Eponin. "You would think it would be Xena who couldn't be satisfied. Who would have thunk that our innocent Queen was the one who possessed the voracious sexual appetite!" They laughed as they walked together to the baths.

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They walked nonchalantly along the forest path, their fingers entwined and arms swinging freely, making small talk and giggling shamelessly. Cal spied a shod of wildflowers, and as she walked past them bent and scooped one up. With a little hop she got ahead of the Regent, and bending on one knee she presented it to Ephiny.

"For a beautiful woman...." Said Callisto sincerely...then in a lower tone..."Not that anything could ever compare to you that is." The warrior elated in the smile that crossed the amazon's face as she accepted the small gift. And then it hit her like a wet slap at the end of a cold fist.....she didn't ever want to be away from Ephiny again. Never. This woman made her feel things she had never felt...found a way through all the well-kept barriers. And she hadn't really done a thing except exist. The warrior decided that she would do anything to make this woman happy, anything at all.

"Thank you.....For everything. The picnic, the conversation....it was wonderful." said the Regent. "It's been so long since I've just enjoyed an afternoon. Always something to do, always so busy..."

"Busy as in work? Or do you really mean 'keeping busy with work to take your mind off other things' kind of busy?" inquired the warrior innocently.

Ephiny sighed and smiled as she turned to reply, but was caught in place by those big brown eyes that at that moment felt like they were burning into her soul. She stopped walking, because her body wasn't obeying her anymore. This was beyond her comprehension, beyond her reasoning and beyond anything she had ever imagined. They stood like that for quite a few moments, allowing themselves to feel what was going through them. Ephiny felt like she would pass out any second, but she swallowed hard and spoke....

"I've never felt this before....not with anyone. It's overwhelming me....my senses. I can't think straight when I'm around you Cal. Do you feel it too?"

"Yes." the warrior replied. Then she sighed and sank cross-legged into the grass alongside the path. "It's all just going so fast....it's been a day and I already feel like I could never be without you. I don't understand emotions that well Eph...is this normal?"

"Normal?" She laughed lightly as she sniffed her flower. She knelt down beside Cal and took her hand. Cal took that moment to look up and found Ephiny's clear hazel eyes looking deeply into hers...searching it seemed. "Normal for falling in love yes." the regent said as she gazed into the warrior's eyes, allowing everything she felt to come through.

"Love?" asked Callisto softly. "Is that what this is? Gods! Xena could have at least warned me how intense this was!" she giggled.

The regent smiled back at her. 'She is so endearing when she is just being herself...yeah, I'm hooked.' she thought to herself.

"So where do we go from here?" asked the warrior.

"I don't know Cal really. I guess all we can do is just ride the wave and hold on for dear life." She smiled.

The goddess looked up at her, bringing their eyes together again. "As long as I can hold onto you Ephiny...as long as I can hold onto you." And with that she leaned in to take possession of the regent's lips, reaching out and drawing her closer....Eph's hands entangled themselves in the blonde curls. Tongues explored feverishly and hands ran wild trying to drink in all that the other was. Ephiny left the warrior's soft lips (much to Cal's dismay) and began a slow descent down her neck (much to her delight), brushing her lips over the sensitive flesh behind Cal's ear...feeling the ensuing shiver...running her tongue along the curve of the warrior's jawline and up again to tease her other ear.

Cal thought she would burst at the first touch of Ephiny's lips on the skin of her neck. And the feelings only became more intense as the regent ran her lips over Cal's bare shoulder. She moaned softly and ran her hands along the amazons back, wanting to feel every inch of this woman. She searched for and found Ephiny's lips and kissed her with every ounce of love and passion she had in her. The kiss became more, and Cal almost fainted when Ephiny held onto her and slowly lowered her to the ground. She was reeling with what felt like fever....it was burning inside her. Then she felt the woman's body on top of her, and gods it feels soooo good. She moaned again, and this time it was echoed by her partner.

"Eph...." she croaked. "Eph...wait...."

The regent broke away from the neck she had attached herself to and looked into Cal's eyes..."What's wrong? Did I do something wrong? Gods...I'm sorry..." She tried to get up off of Cal, but was restrained by loving arms.

"No, no....darling, don't go anywhere. Nothing is wrong...really. I just thought you should know something before this went any further...that's all."

Ephiny cocked her head. "What's that?"

"Just that once we cross the line, there is no going back for me. I just know that if I let go now, I could never bear to lose you." She sighed. "What I'm saying is that if this is what love feels like, then I'm definitely in love with you....and if that's so, then I want it to be forever."

Ephiny's heart was overflowing with love for this woman. She looked into those deep brown eyes and felt complete....whole. She realized there was nothing more she wanted out of life but to be with Cal. "Then join with me." she stated. "Stay with me always. Share my life as I would share yours."

Callisto stared incredulously at the amazon above her. "Did you just propose to me?" she asked.

"Yes, I do believe I did." replied Ephiny, a bit suprised at her boldness.

"So that means you love me?"

"Yes, I love you Cal." She smiled.

"Then I accept." She leaned closer and whispered in the regent's ear...."You know, Gabrielle is going to bear a small herd of cows when she finds out.....we won't be able to stop her...."

Her sentence was cut short by the feel of two soft lips upon her own, making her lose track of any coherent thoughts she might have spoken. The kiss deepened...the passion rising in them both. Eph's hands became more demanding, untying the laces on her top, and before she knew how it happened she felt lips on her breast. Gods this was too much for anyone to live through she thought. Somehow they managed to get all the leather off of each other, and small sighs of contentment were carried along on the wind as skin slid against skin for the first time. Her moans grew louder as Ephiny's hands caressed a part of her no one else had ever come close to...a place that now belonged to the amazon, and her alone. Cal's breath came shorter and her hands started to shake as she drew the woman into a deep sensual kiss. She felt those wonderful lips break away, then felt the whisper rush of air past her ear....

"I love you...let go....for me....let go..."

And with those words, her back arched, her head snapped back, and the night was pierced by a soul-wrenching, primal scream of pure pleasure that rocked her to her very core. Tears fell from her eyes, so profound was this moment for her. Wave begot wave, and Ephiny held her until the shaking subsided. "Eph...g.gods...."

"Shhhh..." said the regent. "Rest now." She wiped the tears from the warriors eyes.

"I never knew Eph....I never knew it could be like this. All those years...." She shook her head.

"Shush darling...I'm here now. And i'm not going anywhere. Ever."

"Promise?" asked Cal.

"I promise. Forever."

"Good. Because neither am I. I love you Ephiny."

They laid there for a while longer, watching the sun set and holding each other close, both acutely aware that there was no going back now....and cherishing every moment of it.

Part 8 - Conclusion
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