by StarWarrior (Rie)


Here is another story. I hope you all enjoy it! The standard disclaimer. The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to Universal. No copyright infringement is intended, and this all came from my brain, and is not taken from any literary source or any other source whatsoever. No one gets the blame for my stories except me.
Disclaimer: This story has two women in love and loving each other in it.

She needed to change…get clean. She focused on breathing, ignoring the bard behind her. Clean…she stared dully at the water. A shudder ran through her body as the cold wind picked up and whipped her hair into her face. She looked at her hands…red…they'd never be clean again…she turned and walked away.

"Xena?" Gabrielle looked up confusion lit her face. "What are you doing?" She rose to her feet. "Where are you going?" The warrior turned and the coldness of her eyes caused Gabrielle to stop in midstep.

"It's over Gabrielle." She turned towards her horse. "Go home…go home to your family while you still can." She lifted her saddle and strode to Argo.

Gabrielle watched in stunned silence. Over? No! She shouted silently. "Alone you're going on alone?" Silence fell. "Why?" She listened to the beat of her own heart. "I wish you'd tell me what you're going to do." She held out her hand imploringly. "Please I'll only worry about you."

Xena's hands stilled. "I didn't think you cared." Came her quiet reply.

"Ouch, that one cut." Gabrielle winced. "I'm sorry." She watched Xena's hands flutter at the cinch. She lifted her eyes to look at the warrior's face, imploring the taller woman to turn and face her…see the pain they shared, but Xena refused to look at her.

Xena forced her hands to continue the task of saddling Argo. As far as she was concerned there was no reason to turn around. No reason to talk. Gabrielle's actions earlier said it all. Love wasn't always enough.

"Xena?" she waited impatiently.

Xena tightened the cinch.

"Say something!" She demanded stomping her foot.

Xena closed her eyes willing her brain to ignore the noises she heard.


Her mouth twitched angrily. She needed to stay hard. How dare she demand anything from me. Focus. She demanded silently as she put her saddlebags behind the saddle and tied her bedroll to it.

"Don't you dare leave here without saying something to me." Gabrielle said shrilly. Inside she was crumbling. Didn't Xena understand? She had done it out of love…all of it.

Steel blue eyes glinted coldly in the dim light. She grabbed the reins and stepped into the stirrup. She settled into the saddle…her only true home for years…safe…now. She turned her eyes to the woman she loved.

Gabrielle fell back. Xena's eyes turning the blood in her veins to ice.

Say something. Her mouth twisted in a semblance of a smile. "Goodbye Gabrielle." Not waiting for the bard to speak she urged Argo away.

Gabrielle stood shock stealing her tongue. She swallowed, the pain sinking into her stomach. She had no one to blame but herself. Xena had brought her home…close enough anyway, and left her. How could she have thought the warrior would keep her with her - after all she had turned her over to her enemy. Her tears fell unheeded. "I thought she forgave me, still loved me." The whispered words fell into blackness. "But no, she only wanted to ensure my safety. I've hurt her, more than anyone else ever could have and she still kept me safe." She swallowed her tears, looked at the dead from their last battle. She shuddered. Looked over the hill toward Potedaia. Slowly she shook her head. "No, I don't belong there."

Tears fell as she watched her life gallop away. Time past unnoticed as Gabrielle stood watch. The shriek of a hawk caught her ears and she blinked, looking skyward. Night was at hand and no sign of Xena. She really left. My friend gone…she whimpered. Alone…

A feeling of despair and defeat came over the warrior as she stared emptily in front of her. No warm hands circled her waist. No sweet voice whispered in her ear, kicking the golden mare into a gallop she let the wind steal her tears. Alone…


The leather clad warrior sat in a dark corner of the tavern. No one dared approach her. She was tall and dark. Her long hair, wild and untamed, with piercing blue eyes that caused grown men to whimper in fear for their manhood. Her round weapon gave her identity away. She raised her mug and the barkeep rushed over with a full mug. The warrior princess in his tavern…he'd be lucky if he survived the night…they'd all be lucky.

The door opened and an ill wind blew in. The rain and dampness of the evening stealing what warmth the warrior hadn't already sucked out, with her own arrival a candlemark or more ago. The tavern's owner turned to see the newcomer.

A comely woman stood inside the door. A staff in her hands. She looked warily around the room taking in the farmers and townspeople with a small smile. Somehow, incredible as it sounded missing the warrior shrouded in the darkness. To the innkeeper it looked as though her eyes refused to move in that direction. She stepped forward and he hurried to her. Her reddish gold hair shining brightly in the candle light brought an almost ethereal appearance to her features. Her eyes shined with a green light as deep as the forest leaves in the middle of summer, but her smile held a sadness that caused his step to falter.

"Hi." She brushed her wet hair off her forehead. "I need a room for the night." She hesitated, "And dinner…I'm a bard…I can pay with my stories."

He felt the warrior's eyes boring into his back and shuddered. What answer did she want? He looked out at the crowded room. "A bard, huh?" He chewed on his mustache. On a night like tonight a bard often meant the difference between profit and fighting. "Okay." He risked the warrior's ire. He looked the bard over. Not much to her. "A room and food for a few stories…and I get eighty percent of your take." Unfair, but a tiny thing like her with no man to protect her really had no choice.

Life flashed in the green orbs. Gabrielle started to protest, but stopped. What did it matter? Without Xena who cared if she had no money for the nicer things. A roof out from the rain was enough, more than she really deserved at this point. She closed her mouth and nodded her acceptance, turning and making her way slowly to the small stage.

The innkeeper risked a look toward the warrior. He blanched she was glaring at him in such a way that he had no doubt left over his demise. He turned to run. She stood up and beckoned with one finger and against his will he moved in her direction.

"The bard," Her voice was low and filled with wrath. "You cheated her…" She left her desire unspoken.

The man blinked, his eyes wide as saucers. "I'll let her have the eighty percent." He squeaked.

"Good." She patted his cheek and sat down. "I really wasn't in the mood to kill you."

He blanched and backed away.

Xena turned her attention to the stage. A slight frown on her face. Gabrielle didn't look well. Tired and drawn. Why hadn't she gone back to Potedaia? She'd be safe there. Now I have to find a way to protect her again.

The room grew quiet as the crowd realized what was about to happen. Gabrielle took a deep breath and began to speak, at first her voice quivered, but as her tale grew her voice grew stronger more sure of it's telling. "My name is Gabrielle. Or that's the name I was born to. I have been called many things in my life. Sister, daughter, friend, wife, Amazon, Princess, Queen, but none of those names meant as much to me as best friend to Xena Warrior Princess." She paused a the crowd gasped.

A few turning to look in the darkened corner. The warrior gripped her drink tighter, but refused to move. "Yes. That's right. Xena Destroyer of Nations. It's true I was her best friend and yet I loved too little." Her voice took on a sadness that tugged at the souls of those that listened. "For any who ever got to know the warrior princess know that she is above all a woman of honor. Her word her bond..." She sipped her cider. "I intend to tell you an unusual story tonight. Unusual because it's my story not the warrior princess' although she is in it." She let her gaze settle on first one than another as she set the mood for a long and emotional tale, all the more trying because it was true, and exposed her soul to these strangers in a way she had been unable to share with the woman she loved.

"What makes a woman - a giver of life into a destroyer? Few people have taken the time to ask that question…I took the time and what I learned startled me…it took men. That's right. One man started Xena on her path of destruction and several others held her on the path, until one man helped open her eyes to the strength that true love had. That man was Hercules." She smiled at the overwhelming applause the mere mention of the god-man's name brought. "Yes, this is a story of love and hate, anger and fear, death and survival. It's about a woman who was unafraid to face whatever challenges were…are thrust her way." Gabrielle continued unaware that the woman she was talking about sat listening to every word in disbelief. "And it's about a young girl that learned the difference between love and hate too late."

As the story ended Xena stood and carefully made her way through the tavern. She made it as far as the door when she heard a strangled gasp. Caught. She bolted, ignoring the startled noises from other patrons. Only knowing that safety lay in getting away from the bard.

She ran to the barn. Her heart pounding in loudly in her ears. She'd managed to stay still through the entire story, but it had taken all her will power…how could Gabrielle have laid their life out there like that? Solon - Her heart screamed in pain. Hope - her face twisted in anger and hate. Gabrielle - she collapsed with her arms around Argo's neck. Gabrielle - just her name causes my pain to triple…my love…my enemy…how? She heard the tavern door open again…and knew Gabrielle had spotted her. She couldn't face her - not now. She leaped onto Argo and spun the horse around heading out of the village at a gallop.

Gabrielle watched with a heavy heart as the one person who meant more to her than any other galloped away from her. She hates me so much she couldn't bear to be in the same village as me. Tears filled her bright green eyes and with lowered head she began her own journey out of the village the promise of a warm bed forgotten.

Argo galloped as though Hades himself were after them. Rain and wind whipping her hair back, mingling with the tears and letting her forget everything, until Argo stopped. She slipped off the horse and patted her sides. "Good girl." The horse snorted. "Yeah, I know girl. I'm sorry." Her hands wandered over the golden mane, settling to scratch behind her ears. "Yeah, I know…I'm stupid." She closed her eyes and leaned her head against Argo. "I gotta go back." She fought to calm her breathing. "I gotta make sure she's all right. Get her to go home." She blinked. "Or maybe to the Amazons…they love her…they'll take care of her."

Gabrielle followed the road wearily. No reason to stop. She plodded onward, unsure of why, only knowing that she had to find Xena. Maybe the warrior would end her pain. Put me out of this misery…death by her hand would be better than this life.


Xena rode silently through the dark night. Heading back to the village might be a mistake, but she needed to make sure Gabrielle was safe. It was her fault…everything was always her fault…she ruined everything she touched. Catching sight of another traveler she bit back an oath. Trading pleasantries at this late hour was hardly what she had in mind. Her eyes narrowed. The traveler…Gabrielle? Out here? Why? Didn't she know how dangerous it was for her to travel alone at night.

Their eyes met and locked. She stopped the horse and silently dismounted, her eyes never leaving those of the bard, and stood silently waiting to hear wait her former friend had to say.

"Xena. It can't end this way." Gabrielle spoke haltingly, searching for the right words. "Please…" She couldn't figure it out for once words failed her.

Ice blue eyes stared out of a cold face. "It's over." The words were stark and cold. Gabrielle felt her heart freeze. "Give me another chance." She pleaded. "I thought it was the right thing to do. You weren't just fighting to survive or to save someone's life. You were planning to commit murder."

"And so you played judge, jury, and handed me over to be killed."

"What you were doing was wrong?" Gabrielle replied.

"Maybe - but I wasn't the judge." She growled. "Just his executioner."

"But…" Gabrielle tried to defend herself.

Xena interrupted her. "No buts." She spoke in a quiet, but stern voice. "Did it ever occur to you that the people that sent for me might have been a better judge than you?"

Gabrielle fell back silent. That was true. She'd never asked about the people that had sent for Xena, or why she was so convinced it was the right thing for her to do. She felt her heart tighten, only that it had something to do with that woman - the one Xena said she owed everything to. Finally she spoke. "Does it help to know that I know I was wrong? That I've learned my lesson." She tried to keep the pleading out of her voice, but it was there, and she hated herself for it.

"Did you?" Xena looked back at her with sad eyes. "What about the next time you disagree with me?" Her eyes glowed with the light of the moon. "Do you tell me one thing and do something different?" She turned away so Gabrielle wouldn't see the hurt in her eyes. "If you won't go to Potedaia I'll take you to the Amazons."

"I won't stay."

She whirled around angrily. "What do you want from me?"

Gabrielle stood still, her eyes locked with Xena's. "Your love."

"If you didn't have that you'd be dead." She replied softly.

Gabrielle trembled, but refused to look away. "Your trust."

"How?" She laughed a cold mirthless laugh. "How can you ask me to trust you again?"

"I don't know." She said tonelessly. "I only know that I can't take this anymore."

"Don't you get it?" She said bluntly. "It comes down to trust. Everytime I trust someone they end up hurting me. If I can't trust you I can't keep you with me…and I can't trust you. You've proved that."

"Then kill me."

"Don't tempt me." Xena turned away. "You have no idea…" she said wearily. "He wanted me to. He expected me to."

"I know." Gabrielle replied knowing instinctively that He was Ares. "But you didn't.

"But I tried." Xena replied. "I wanted to."

"Then do it." Gabrielle practically begged her. "Kill me, because I can't live like this. Gabrielle's throat felt raw as she looked at the uncompromising determination in Xena's expression and her heart sank. "I'm sorry." Simple words, spoken from the depths of her soul. "Please forgive me. I don't want to live without you." Her voice was filled with sorrow and tears clouded her vision. "I know I don't deserve your forgiveness, but I need it."

The warrior stood as still as stone. No expression on her face. Sorry…forgive…love…without…the words echoed in her head. She stared at Gabrielle's eyes. The rawness of the pain that looked back at her bit into her core. The truth! She demanded silently, seeking answers to questions she didn't know how to voice. Seeing the same questions staring back at her. Slowly the tension eased. The pain that had dwelt deep within her soul dissipated. The truth was she didn't want to live without Gabrielle. She opened her arms and the small woman flew into them.

Her shoulders fell as she sagged with relief against the warm body of her partner. Her hands crept uncertainly around the strong waist and her head rested against the leather clad chest.

Xena hesitated but a moment. Her long arms wound their way around the small frame, bringing the smaller woman closer to her warmth. She chewed uneasily on her lower lip. This was an unexpected turn of events. She relished the feel of the young body in her arms, she just didn't know what she was supposed to do now. She sighed, resting her head on top of Gabrielle's.

Gabrielle shivered and raised wet eyes to look at the warrior. She licked her suddenly dry lips and shivered again. Xena pulled back a bit, "Come on." She said tremulously afraid the bard would refuse, but once again the small woman surprised her. She clung to the warrior, afraid to let go. Xena pulled one arm away from her waist, a frown drawing her dark brows together. She held the small woman's hand encouragingly. "There's a good spot for a camp just up the road a bit." She walked slowly careful to keep a pace the small woman could keep up with. Gabrielle was shivering…from fright? It wasn't all that cold out, but if she was afraid why was she clinging to her? Xena sighed. This wasn't going to be easy. She looked down at her young love…the woman that had hurt her more than any other and yet…she closed her eyes against the pain and took a deep breath. Letting go of Gabrielle's hand she raised her hand to brush the red gold hair away from green eyes that shone with wetness.

Gabrielle closed her eyes and leaned into the hand. Maybe if she closed her eyes she could pretend that the past several months had never happened. It was a pleasant thought. She breathed in the scent of Xena and her heart raced. This is where she belonged. If Xena sent her away again she'd die. "I'm tired, Xena." The small woman admitted. "So very tired." She rested against the broad body and shuddered at her own audacity.

A wave of hope washed over the warrior and she shuddered with desire and confusion. "Gabrielle?" The name was but a whisper on her lips.

Xena felt the sigh against her chest and the small hands tightened their grasp. "I can't." The words were barely whispered. "I just can't go on." She felt the head shake against her chest and shuddered.

"I know." Came the quiet understanding. "Come on." Xena urged her. "It' not that far." She hesitated. "We could ride…if you want." She offered.

Gabrielle faltered. "I…" She lowered her eyes. Xena knew she hated riding. "Yes. Please."

Xena let out a breath she hadn't realized that she'd been holding. She let go of the bard and swung into the saddle leaning down she put her hand out and Gabrielle quickly placed her own into it. The warrior lifted her onto the horse, enjoying the normalcy of the feeling and reveling in the feel of the arms wrapped tightly around her waist.

Gabrielle laid her head against the smooth leather covered back and smiled. This was home.


The smoke from the fire, the aroma of the spices and fried fish, the smell of the flowers, and even the smell of leather filled the bard's nostrils and she breathed it in happily. The smell of leather. Xena? Turning the slight woman gasped at the sight of her warrior. Her eyes were blue stars, her body lean and hard and powerful and her skin darkly tanned and her hands were callused and scarred. Gabrielle forgot to breath. She wet her lips and a misty fog filled her eyes.

Xena smiled. Gabrielle was lovely and she moved with composite grace. Her eyes caught those of the young woman and her breath caught in her throat. How beautiful, with her golden hair and tanned body. Her lips grew dry. Her nostrils flared and the scent of the bard filled her like the headiest of wines. She swallowed. "I um, found some berries." She held out a leaf filled with the precious red berries that Gabrielle loved.

Verdant eyes looked up at her with a warmth that spread into her body like balm on a sunburn. "Thanks." Gabrielle accepted the leaf and sat down. "The fish is almost ready. Share?" She questioned softly, she patted the blanket beside her. Trying not to push her luck, but wanting to feel the warrior next to her.

Xena wet her lips. Another big step. Carefully she moved over to the blanket and quietly dropped down folding her legs.

Gabrielle smiled. She didn't deserve to feel so happy, but she did. She picked out the biggest berry she could find and held it up to the warrior's lips. Xena watched her with hooded eyes. When the berry pressed against her lips she opened her mouth and lipped the berry from the bard, letting her lips touch the tips of Gabrielle's fingers.

Gabrielle drew in her breath, but said nothing, instead lifting a berry to her own lips and sucking on the juice keeping her eyes on Xena.

Xena's lips parted. Her gaze dropped to Gabrielle's fingers. A deafening silence filled her ears. The world narrowed down to her and the bard. She wanted to reach out and caress the bard's skin, bury her head in the beautiful hair, but fear kept her still.

Gabrielle felt her stomach contract nervously, but she maintained her composure and continued feeding the berries to the warrior. Xena took them one at a time each time getting a little bolder, at first her lips caressing the tips of the fingers that fed her, but eventually sucking the berry from her fingers pulling her fingers into he mouth and letting them go again. When the last berry was gone she sat heart pounding loudly as Xena sucked the juices off her finger.

Xena lifted her face and her breath caught in her throat at the look on Gabrielle's face. She reached out and the bard scrambled into her arms.

"Please don't make me go." Gabrielle begged her breath warm against Xena's skin.

Xena frowned. "Go?" She shook her head. "No, I tried that…it didn't work." She placed her lips lightly on the top of the bent head. She hesitated not sure of herself or just how much the bard wanted. "You're a part of me…I can't let you go."

Gabrielle was trembling. Her breathing quickened. Xena bent her head to look into her eyes. All trace of the mockery she'd come to expect over the past few months was gone. Now those pale blue eyes were filled with a softness she'd thought would never turn her way again. Her throat felt suddenly dry. Xena put out her hand, curving it behind her neck, under the weight of her hair, her thumb probing her jawline.

"Oh, Gabrielle," she groaned huskily, her mouth moving caressingly against her cheek and around the softness of her mouth.

Gabrielle moved her face, seeking to connect their mouths, and when the contact came she melted into the warrior. Xena's mouth was hard and demanding, and the pressure on her neck increased as Xena gripped her closer. Her arms flailed up and down the warrior's back, as she moved beyond coherent thought, into a world that consisted only of the two of them. A place where it was imperative that Xena continue kissing her in this urgent, passionate way, making her overpoweringly aware of the throbbing between her legs.

With some effort Xena tore away, raking her fingers through her hair and rising to her feet. "Oh, Gaia," she breathed. "This is crazy. She stood with her back to the bard, shoulders heaving.

"Xena?" Gabrielle's eyes filled with tears. "Xena?"

She cast an impatient glance over her shoulder. "Don't. I…" she shook her head trying to clear it. She wanted nothing more than to grab this woman and make love to her, but how? The facts were still staring her in the face…she swore she'd not open herself to this pain again, and here she was not only opening to it, but with her again. Maybe she was insane.

Gabrielle watched helplessly. She wanted to comfort the warrior, but knew the torment Xena was going through was her fault, so how could she comfort her? "Xena? Please come back to me." She stood uncertainly arms held out welcoming.

She swung around irritably. "I shouldn't have done that." She shook her head. "I can't do that…I'm sorry."

Gabrielle dropped her arms. Xena stood facing the small amazon. Her fists were clenched tightly by her sides. Fear, shame, and lust burned from her eyes. "You're better off without me." She spat the words out. "In the morning I'll take you to the Amazons…you'll be safe there."

"I don't want to be safe." Gabrielle swore. "I want to be with you."

"How?" Xena was at her side in an instant. "How can you want that? Haven't I already destroyed your life?!" She twirled away. "Get away well you still can. Or hadn't you noticed everything I love gets destroyed, twisted or killed."

"You?" Gabrielle gasped in disbelief. "Pardon me. I thought I was the one that destroyed your life. I lied, I cheated to get what I wanted…I destroyed us - not you…you only tried to protect us, in the only way you knew, and I said I hated you for that…but I lied…again." She stood behind the warrior. "It was my child that killed yours. Me that turned you over to your enemy. Me!" She screamed the word. "I'm to blame!" She collapsed on the ground. "I don't even know myself anymore. I've gone against everything I thought…believed in…" Tears were streaming down her face. "And still I refused to see the truth…I turned my eyes from her darkness…wanting to believe in her goodness…needing to believe…which put you in the wrong." She stopped unable to continue, and finally lifting her eyes to the dark silent figure standing with her back to her she finished. "I deserve to die."

At the final words Xena turned. Her own tears were held in check. "You can't mean that." Shaking her head she sank to her knees beside the bard, her hands capturing hers and raising them to her lips kissed each one. "Don't look at me like that." She muttered. "I don't want to hurt you, but I can't help it."

"No." Gabrielle shook her head sadly. "I'm the one that always hurts you."

"No," The warrior protested. "You gave me everything. I'm the one that…" Her voice trailed as Gabrielle rose angrily to her feet and she backed up.

"See here," She wagged her finger under the taller woman's nose. "Do you really want to compare who hurt who the most?" She shook here head and pursed her lips in irritation. "I think my list - my hurting you - is longer…it goes back further to. Right?"

Xena stood silently head bowed. It was true. The bard had hurt her in many ways, but…she looked at the finger still under her nose and smiled. She really cared. She caught the threatening finger and kissed it lovingly. "I don't want to fight with you." She admitted holding the finger tightly. "I'm tired of the hurting." She lowered her eyes, her heart beating triple time.

Gabrielle swallowed. "I don't want to hurt you…I I just want to love you." She admitted in a rush.

Xena raised her eyes and looked longingly into Gabrielle's. "I can't change."

"I don't want you to…" She said shaking her head slowly, "but I can't change either."

Xena smiled. "I love you just the way you are."

"Even though I'm no longer an innocent?" She asked fearfully.

"That's not what mattered to me." Xena half laughed. "I fell in love with you because no matter what evidence was presented to you…you believed in me." She quirked her lips. "Ironic that when push came to shove I didn't stick by you."

"No." Gabrielle placed her hand on the warrior's cheek. "It wasn't me you didn't stick by…I deserted you. I left you to go to the battlefield alone. I chose to go with Krafstar and the others. You even stayed by my side when I gave birth to Hope - it was only later - and you wouldn't explain why… I left you again when you went to Chin…and then I betrayed you…and still you came back to Greece with me, made sure I arrived safe and sound." tears began to fall and she was unable to continue she turned away, ashamed.

Xena gently turned her around and clasped her close. "I'm sorry…I should have explained what I saw and heard that convinced me of her evilness." She kissed the head cradled against her shoulder. "I should have remembered you gave birth to her - and that meant you loved her unconditionally…I'm sorry." Again she laid her lips against the golden head, rubbing her back comfortingly. The tears that fell cutting great swaths of pain into her heart.

Gabrielle didn't notice how much time had past. The fire had burned down to embers and the night was quiet. She felt safe for the first time in months. It was a good feeling…one she didn't think she'd ever have again. Closing her eyes she squeezed the leather clad body and breathed deeply.

Xena tensed slightly, before relaxing into the hug. It felt good holding the bard. She let her hands roam over her back and along her sides, frowning slightly at the feel of the bard's bones. Too skinny. She pulled back and caught Gabrielle's eyes. "When's the last time you ate?" She frowned at the shrug that answered her question. "What did you eat last?" Another shrug. "Gabrielle?"

"Don't know." The bard muttered. "Didn't care…"

"Oh…" Xena cradled the small woman in her arms. "Beloved, I am sorry." She felt as though her heart would break. Gabrielle didn't deserve such suffering as she had put her through. She leaned down and captured the sweet lips with an urgency that brooked no denial.

Gabrielle's lips parted involuntarily while her whole body yielded to he throbbing pressure of the warrior's.

It was a long time before she let her go and when she did her eyes were glazed with the intensity of her emotions. Xena forced herself to pull back and look into Gabrielle's eyes with a faintly mocking expression. "I'd deserve it if you slapped me…told me to get lost, but Gaia I love you."

Gabrielle scrambled up on to her knees. "What - what did you just say?"

"I love you." She shook her head as though not believing she was speaking to Gabrielle. "Surely you've realized that by now?"

"You - love - me?" Her lips trembled, her whole body quivered with an emotion stronger than herself. "Despite everything I did - everything I caused, you love me?" Xena nodded. Gabrielle's eyes filled with tears, and she flung herself into the warrior's arms, burying her face in her neck, clinging to the taller woman blindly, tears of happiness and relief mingling on her cheeks.

"Hey," She held her loosely in her arms, stroking a lazy finger down her nose, licking the salty drops from her eyelids. "Gabrielle, we need to talk."

The bard sniffed. "All right." She sat back on her heels. "But I never thought I'd hear you say you wanted to talk." She grinned through her tear-streaked face.

Xena laughed lightly. "Yeah, well don't let it get around." She wrinkled her nose. "It'd ruin my reputation.

"Don't worry." The bard grinned widely. "Your reputation will be safe with me." Then realizing what she said her face became somber and she looked away. "I'm sorry."

"I know." She reached out and pulled the younger woman close. "It wasn't you I couldn't forgive…it was myself." She shook her head. "No, don't." She pressed her fingers against the bard's mouth as she began to protest. "A long time ago I promised you I wouldn't become a monster if something happened to you." She looked away over the bard's head, letting her mind drift back to that cold windy night. She remembered the warmth of the fire, the fear in her heart and Gabrielle's tear-filled voice pleading with her. She shuddered. "It wasn't your death, but I didn't keep the promise…I became a monster again…and this time I wanted to destroy you…but I couldn't so I tried to leave you where I thought you'd be safe."


Xena felt her heart contract tightly at the questioning tone of her beloved's voice. She looked into her eyes and her body began to tremble with desire. The love she saw shining out of the moist green eyes as deep as that she felt inside. She remained still as Gabrielle tentatively stroked her face, but a faint rippling of her muscles betrayed her emotions. A slight sound, almost a moan escaped her and she clasped the bard closer. "I never meant to hurt you." The words were barely a whisper, but they caressed the bard's soul.

'Nor I you." The bar whispered back. "I guess it's true…what they say…you always hurt the one you love."

Xena pulled back and looked into the bard's bright green eyes. "Who says that?"

Gabrielle smiled half depracatingly. "Me." She admitted shrugging. "It just seems everywhere we go we hurt each other…and I've seen it time and time again with others."

Xena's eyes were thoughtful as she pondered the statement. Her mind drifting over her life, and with a slight twist of her lips she found herself agreeing with Gabrielle. "So," she asked hesitatingly, "how do we stop hurting each other."

Gabrielle sighed. "I wish I knew." She shook her head sadly.

Xena brushed a finger along Gabrielle's cheek and the bard closed her eyes leaning into the touch. "How?" There was wonder in the warrior's voice. "After all the lies…all the pain…how can I still long for this?" She wound her hand around Gabrielle's neck and pulled the bard in close. She leaned in and her breath fanned the Gabrielle's face causing tendrils of her hair to swirl in the sudden rush of warm air. "And how can you still want me?" She let her forehead rest against Gabrielle's. "And how could you want me? I tried to kill you." Her voice trembled with self-hatred .

Gabrielle closed hr eyes. The overwhelming joy at Xena's touch reminding her of how alone she'd been. She banished he thought and concentrated on Xena's words. Her heart soared with a new found confidence as the warrior confessed her love. She opened her eyes and looked straight into vivid blue ones that were filled with loathing. Her heart leapt and she forced herself to breathe. "Don't." She brought a hand up and touched one eye. "I can't bear to see you hating yourself."

"I deserve hatred." Came the quiet reply. Then the eyes closed briefly to open still filled with a pain that stabbed at Gabrielle's heart. "You told me…" her jaw worked silently and she looked away unable to complete her sentence.

"I?" She gave a short mirthless laugh. "I'm the one that betrayed you…" Tears filled her voice and she shook her head. "I hated myself when I told you I hated you…I hated everything." She cried. "I didn't want to live I was so filled with pain and the rage…" She bit her lip as the tears fell. "Gods Xena if that was the pain the rage that filled you twelve years ago…" She looked away, pulled herself out of the warrior's arms. "no wonder you did…became…" she stopped and looked skyward. "If I had half your talents…"

The warrior strode quickly to her young love and grabbed her roughly by the arm twirling her back. "No!" She shouted the words and as Gabrielle shrank back she let go and lowered her voice. "Don't go there...please…I couldn't handle it if you." She bit her lip. "No, you could never have done - never do the things I did. "

Gabrielle reached up and stopped her. She smiled sadly. "I could have…I am not perfect. You once told me not to put people on pedestals…you should have taken your own advise." She blinked against the steady stare but refused to back down. "We both wore blinders…don't you think it's time we took them off for good." Her voice was soft. "Maybe our love will have a chance if we start being honest with each other."

"It's not to late?" Xena asked as Gabrielle stepped closer to her.

Gabrielle wet her lips, "If you're willing to try," she said glancing at Xena's taut face from under her lashes . "I would like to spend the rest of my life proving it."

"Gabrielle?" Xena caught her face with her fingers turning her to face her. They stared at each other in a thick silence. "Do you have any idea how much I long to spend the rest of my life with you?"

Gabrielle could feel the pounding of her heart going like a hammer in her chest, making her breathless and light-headed. "Then what's the problem?" She placed one hand hesitatingly on the warrior's arm and looked up at the beloved face, twitching in pain at the fear she saw written on her love's face.

"How?" She asked ruefully, before turning away and raking her fingers impatiently through her hair. "We have such different…" She twisted her lips up into a small smile. "ideas on justice." She shrugged. "I really don't want you to compromise yours anymore," she shook her head, "but I can't change…I've tried…it doesn't work." Her voice took on a darker edge. "Violence is too deep in my soul…my answer to everything."

Gabrielle smiled sadly. "Not everything." Her eyes twinkled with remembered delight. "Together we can work it out. We have to...this living apart is killing me."

She shot her a dark brooding look at Gabrielle. "Living together has almost killed you." She spoke in a flat tone.

Gabrielle shuddered. "Do you want to live without me?" She kept her eyes on Xena's averted face trying to read emotions.

"No." The words torn involuntarily out of her mouth and startled she clamped her mouth shut. Gabrielle pulled gently on her arm and she looked into the green eyes with fear. All she saw was the love shining back. "No." She repeated this time in an unsteady whisper. She slipped her arms around Gabrielle and buried her head against her neck. "It hurts…I hurt all the time…just like before…it scares me." She admitted her fears and in doing so laid herself open in a way the young bard knew she had never done in the past. She tightened her hold on the warrior. "Gabrielle," a shudder ran through her body, and she laughed shakily. "I need to warn you I'm not sure this is wise…I won't let you go again."

Gabrielle laughed. "Love I'll never leave you again…so wise or not you are stuck with me." She turned and kissed the head that lay tucked into her and her arms tightened protectively around the slightly shaking body. "Together…that's all that matters.

Xena lifted her head and turned until her gleaming eyes met Gabrielle's and slowly she lowered them to rest on the lips that she loved. She licked her own in anticipation and slowly lowered her head until her lips touched Gabrielle's.

She closed her eyes and half opened her mouth allowing Xena's tongue to caress hers, while her hand reached up to cradle the back of her neck. There was a deep hunger in this kiss and it awakened a burning within her that made her whole body feel as though it were on fire. The fire was melting everything inside her, every nerve, every muscle, every pore, her legs felt shaky and she almost collapsed but Xena held her tighter, swaying with her own unleashed passion.

Gabrielle reached up and linked her hands behind her black head, and her breasts brushed against Xena's chest. Her hand curled into her hair and she gasped as her other hand moved to cup her breast, kneading it gently. The sensation was agonizingly exquisite. She was burning up.

Xena lifted the warrior up into her arms and not breaking their kiss staggered over to their bedrolls, and dropping onto her knees, before releasing the soft mouth to stare breathlessly into her lover's shining eyes. "May I?"

Gabrielle giggled. Xena hadn't asked her that since the first time they'd made love. She grinned and nodded. Words weren't needed now. Permission granted, Xena leaned over and slowly unlaced the tap. Gabrielle closed her eyes groaning huskily as Xena claimed her lips again. She opened her mouth and moaned at the sweet taste of Xena's tongue against her own. Xena's lips trailed over her skin, and over her neck as she slipped a hand under the slight green top peeling it away form her breasts.

Xena caressed both breasts with her hands, massaging them, licking them, teasingly taking her time before she began to nuzzle the large brown nipples. Her hands moved down slowly down her body caressing the flat planes of her stomach and she groaned with desire. Her hand paused briefly. There was so many reasons to be fighting this, and they were clamoring inside her head, a jumble of thoughts that seemed to be locked inside a box audible but incoherent, uselessly warning her that every touch every sigh every moment of pleasure would have to be paid for in pain.

She shuddered as Gabrielle's hand found its way underneath her leather, teasing and tantalizing and Xena gave up any thoughts. She lowered herself onto the bard, smiling into her breast as her legs parted and she moved one hand down the firm thigh to the moist warmth of her womanhood and as Gabrielle drew in a deep breath she began to caress it.

They were both breathing deeply, their eyes locked, as Xena's fingers explored the depth of her being, a slow rhythmic exploration that sent darts of pleasure shooting through her. She offered the warrior her breast and smiling, Xena took one swollen nipple into the warm cavern of her mouth, sucking and teasing gently and then more urgently as the bard's body lifted.

Suddenly Xena stopped and withdrew. Gabrielle whimpered in and a cold ache began to creep into her heart. A quick touch of lips on hers reassured her and Xena quickly slipped out of her clothes. She knelt over her, kissing her mouth, her neck, slipping down to lick her breasts, her nipples, then lower her tongue circling her navel, her hands caressing the inside of Gabrielle's thighs and her tongue finally finding the hot burning center of her need.

She squirmed, abandoning herself to the waves of pleasure, moving against her as the waves crashed harder and her body screamed for release Then Xena moved straightening up and thrusting her fingers inside of her, while she pressed her own wet center against Gabrielle's leg. Resting for a moment before she began moving up and down, in tandem with her fingers, building to an urgent rhythm, so that their bodies moved as one. She wrapped her arms around Xena's head and leaned in for a kiss as they reached the point of no return with shuddering delight. "Xena…" she said weakly, and she placed one finger over her lips.

"Don't talk, she murmured, pulling the blankets over them. She just wanted to enjoy the moment.

"We can't just lie here in silence forever." Gabrielle said with an amused sigh.

Xena was waiting for the guilt to come; she knew it was there biding it's time, but right now she felt no guilt at all, just a wonderful feeling of deep contentment. She lay alongside Gabrielle and stroked her hair. In the shadows her eyes were gleaming pools. You could drown in them, she thought, if you hadn't already.

Gabrielle reached up and brushed a dark strand of silken hair back. "No regrets?" she asked. Underneath the casual voice there was a hint of hesitancy and Xena slowly shook her head.

"Is that the best you can give me?" Fear still tinged the bard's voice and her hand rested against Xena's cheek.

She laughed huskily. "No regrets." Not yet, anyway, she amended silently to herself.

Gabrielle bit her lip to keep from crying at the joy those words filled her heart with. "So," she smiled into Xena's eyes. "Where do we go from here?"

"Where do you want to go?"

"Anywhere as long as you are with me." She smiled shyly. Hoping against hope that the answer was going to be the one she needed to hear and not the one she thought she deserved.

Xena pulled the bard closer. Gabrielle tilted her head up, and Xena smiled studying it in the moonlight. "With out a doubt it will be." She replied, stroking her check with her thumb, while caressing her lips with her fingers.

Gabrielle grinned and pulled the thumb into her mouth with her lips.

Xena groaned, pulling her thumb away and bending her head to kiss her, a slow lingering kiss.

Gabrielle ran her hands up and down Xena's sides. "Gaia but you feel good." She murmured as the taller woman kissed her again and traced a feathery line along her lips with her tongue. She held a breast in her hand and massaged it gently, tilting her head back to accept another kiss.

Xena moaned as Gabrielle's hand traveled downwards and toyed with her stomach and playing teasingly along her hips. Xena opened her legs slightly so that she could explore further.

She could feel her throbbing against the palm of her hand and she was amazed at the heady sense of power it gave her. She slipped first one and then a second finger inside her folds, licking and sucking at her breasts.

With a little cry of pleasure, Xena took control of the bard's mouth in a fierce, hungry caress as her juices flowed over the bard's fingers and her world was complete again.


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