A Visit Home, An Awakening

by Hunter Ash

Disclaimers: the usual rundown - I donít own Xena, Gabrielle, Argo or Gabrielleís family. This story is written for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended. Donít bother suing me - it really wouldnít be worth it.

Sex/Subtext: yup and itís between two consenting adults of the same gender. If this is illegal in your state or country, or if you are under 18 years of age, leave. Wait until youíre older or change your laws.

If this type of story bugs you, sorry, find something else.

Violence: nope, just thoughts of throwing someone through a window but our warrior is patient for once.

Summary: A "first time" story with Xena and Gabrielle visiting Gabrielleís family and the relationship between them being forced to the surface.

Feedback: definitely! Please! Beg, beg!


Argo nudged the warrior when Xenaís hand stopped brushing the horse, the warrior lost in thought. Xena smiled at her horse and continued the brushing and talking.

"Itís probably a good thing you canít talk back, girl. Youíd probably tell me Iím an idiot too. Gods, this is hard." Xena leaned her head forward and buried her face in Argoís mane for a moment.

She hated visiting Gabrielleís family. Gabrielleís father barely tolerated the warrior and the bardís mother kept trying to play matchmaker for her runaway daughter. Lila, Gabrielleís little sister, was filled with questions, almost as curious about things as her older sister. Each family member seemed determined to drive the usually stoic warrior out of her mind.

Gabrielle had finally suggested that Xena see to Argo for awhile so she could help her mother with lunch. Xena had quickly seized the opportunity and almost dashed out the door, leaving the bard to fend for herself and now Xena was feeling guilty about that too.

"Gods, Argo, I have to be more patient. I canít strangle her father, I canít strangle her father, I canít strangle her father." Xena whispered, resuming her brushing.

The fierce warrior spun rapidly on her heel, face blushing bright red when she heard a giggle behind her. She tried to stammer something out when she caught Gabrielleís green eyes laughing at her. The young bard was holding her ribs, trying not to fall to the floor laughing. Xena tried glaring at her friend and that only succeeded in making the blond laugh even harder. Gabrielle finally caught her breath and closed the barn door.

"Gods, Xena. Donít you think I feel the same way!?" she giggled, watching the warrior resume brushing the horse with a scowl.

"I know, sorry I left you alone in there." Xena mumbled.

The battle scarred warrior was surprised but pleased when Gabrielleís arms circled around her and she found herself in a tight hug.

"Itís okay, I figured I had to get you out of there before you threw him through the window." the bard giggled again.

Xena was very aware of how hot she suddenly was. Her breath began to quicken the warrior found herself closing her eyes and leaning back into the embrace. With a start Xena realized that she was about to turn and take the bard in her arms and kiss the small woman. She straightened up and felt Gabrielleís arms leave her. Xena kept from whimpering and with years of self taught control. She thought she was in control and turned.

Looking deep in Gabrielleís eyes the warrior almost lost all that control but managed to hold firm. Gabrielle seemed just as lost in the moment and both seemed frozen.

The barn door slammed open before the spell was broken between the two women and both blinked in the sunlight and intrusion. Lila rushed in with a frustrated look on her face.

"There you two are! Lunch time!" and she was gone.

Xena found Gabrielle blushing, eyes downcast and stammering. "I... we should go in."

"Uh huh." Xena agreed. Gabrielle quickly turned and was gone after her sister, leaving a stunned warrior holding a brush with a puzzled look on her face.

"Argo," she whispered, "what just happened?"

Xena kicked at a non-existent pebble as she walked back towards the family home. She was confused and that always made her grumpy. She hated not being in control and the one thing she was NOT in control of was her feelings towards her best friend any longer. Xena didnít know when she had fallen totally in love with the bard but she had finally admitted it, at least to herself. To no one else, of course. Well, Argo didnít count.

The problem was that she knew the bard wasnít interested in women sexually and only thought of Xena as her best friend. It was beginning to drive the warrior crazy. With the cool fall weather they were spending every night under the same blankets, the bard in Xenaís arms. The warrior had lost count how many nights she had lain awake with the blond sleeping peacefully in her arms. Xena didnít know how many times she had leaned down and kissed the bard softly on the hair, the forehead and finally the lips, careful not to wake the young woman. Every muscle and fiber of her being wanting to take the bard and love her.

It was becoming more and more of a distraction. Xena found herself thinking of the blond every other minute. Gabrielleís hair shining in the sun; the movement of Gabrielleís well toned body as she dried her hair and body after a swim or bath was enough to almost bring tears to the warriorís eyes in frustration; Gabrielleís muscles rippling as she practiced with her staff; the thoughts of the bardís hands as the young woman slowly removed her boots at night; the contented sigh she also gave when she settled into Xenaís arms. Xena smacked a house pillar, hoping to distract herself somehow.

ĎSome self-punishment streak,í the warrior decided, realizing that she was torturing herself slowly.

No one seemed to notice that Gabrielle was quiet during lunch, something really unusual for the young woman. Her mother had noticed the dark circles under her daughterís eyes and had commented on it several times with a disapproving click of her tongue, eyes glaring at the warrior.

Xena clenched her jaw again. She had noticed Gabrielle wasnít sleeping well lately and had done everything she could think of to help her bard and she was at a loss and having the mother point out her failing didnít help Xenaís mood any.

Gabrielle snapped that she was fine and to drop it. Lila had raised her eyebrows and had gone quiet, the energy was almost visible in the room, dancing between the parents and the daughter. Xena knew that visiting her parents had been bothering Gabrielle but now she could see it was also wearing on the bardís nerves.

Gabrielleís father scolded her for snapping at her mother and her mother snapped back about just caring for her daughterís health and Gabrielleís father scolded her for not caring how her mother felt and Gabrielleís mother began to cry and Gabrielle lost it.

"Stop it, both of you! I am fine, Iím doing what I want to be doing! Canít you let it alone?" Both the tears could escape the green eyes the bard had jumped up and rushed out through the kitchen.

Lila kept her eyes fixed on her food and Gabrielleís parents faces were bright red.

Xena stood up slowly, "I think Iíll take Argo out for a ride, excuse me." she carried her dishes to the kitchen and looked out the back door. She frowned when she didnít see her bard anywhere in sight. She sighed, hoping to find the young woman in the stable, knowing Xena would follow but she was disappointed not to find Gabrielle there.

Xena began feeding Argo an apple and trying to sort things out, especially her feelings.

Xena had only taken Argo out for a short romp through the countryside, taking it easy on the horse. The warrior knew if she released her feelings and translated that the horse they might end up in Athens before Xena could think straight again.

She had come back before dusk, knowing the family would be expecting her for dinner and discussion afterwards. The last thing she wanted to face was another meal and discussion with Gabrielleís family but she didnít want the bard to think Xena was avoiding her as well. Again she had frowned when Gabrielle wasnít in the stable or nearby waiting for Xena. Usually the bard sought her out when she needed comforting but lately the woman had been withdrawn and more quiet than usual.

Xena was wondering if Gabrielle was changing her mind about leaving the road. Was her parentís arguments getting to the bard? She had left Xena once for marriage, for a simpler life and the warrior wondered if the bard was craving that again but struggling against her familyís overbearing wishes.

Xena had decided to enter through the kitchen, the door being the closest to the barn area and stopped suddenly and ducked back out the door when she spotted Gabrielle standing by the door separating the kitchen from the living area of the house. Xena glanced around and saw her bard was listening at the door and Xena held her breath. The body language of the younger woman was readable even in the twilight. The bard was furious.

Gabrielleís fists were clenched, one at her side and the other on the door jam as she listened at the door. Xena was surprised to see the bardís body trembling and she recognized the stubborn set of Gabrielleís jaw. Whenever Xena saw that familiar clenching she knew that she was in for an explosion or an unbending bard. Xena knew people called her stubborn but most of them had never gone up against Gabrielle once the smaller woman had set her mind to something. Xena smiled to herself, even the Conqueror of Nations gave in before her little bard.

Xenaís curiosity was more than blazing and she quietly left the doorway and made her way around to the window just the other side of the doorway of where Gabrielle was listening. She wanted to know what was causing Gabrielle such distress.

"I still say itís not right!" her father was saying loudly, Xena presumed to Gabrielleís mother.

"I agree. Who will have her when she finally decides to settle down? After traveling with that she-demon! We were fortunate that Perdicus still wanted her, but he had been a soldier, after all." the voice of Gabrielleís mother reached the warrior and she found herself seeing red.

Then Xena sagged against the wall and sat down with her back to it. She could still hear everything but her strength seemed to have fled.

Were they right? What man would want to settle with Gabrielle after being with Xena, one of the most feared warriors in the land. One of the most feared women warriors of the land? Was she cutting off Gabrielleís future?

"You know what they are saying about our daughter?" her father demanded.

"Donít," her motherís voice pleaded.

"You know what that stupid merchant said last week? Before he knew who I was?!" the fatherís voice was loud and angry.

"Please donít, I donít want to hear it. We hear good stories about them, too." her mother protested.

"Oh yes, the good that they do, rescuing people, doing good deeds but this is about the two of them together!" he raged.

"Donít!"

"They actually think our daughter lies with that demon!" he ranted.

"Stop it!" her motherís voice went shrill.

"I agree, itís time to stop this!" Xenaís head snapped up at the sound of her bardís voice, sharp and calm but Xena could hear the tension undertones. The warrior didnít dare risk a glance through the window, Gabrielle was probably right in the doorway across from her.

Xenaís heart skipped a beat and she nearly died when Lila crawled around the corner. The little sister signaled the warrior to keep quiet and crawled along the walkway to join the warrior. She smiled and placed a finger on Xenaís lips and pointed to the window. Xena understood, Lila did this often. Xena blushed a deep purple having been busted spying on her best friendís family and then having Gabrielleís sister join her in that spying.

Gods, this was complicated!

"Gabrielle, please, we .... we...." the motherís voice stammered.

"Yes, I know, just discussing my future and your concern for me." Xena could almost see Gabrielleís clenched jaw and she saw Lilaís eyes were wide and curious. "Yes, mother, I know. What you both need to get through your heads is that I am where I want to be! I donít care what anyone thinks about me! I donít care what they whisper! And I especially donít care what some idiot farmer thinks about my marriage potential!" Gabrielleís voice finally rose to a shout.

"But youíll want to marry someday!" her father protested.

"I want to get married now!" Xenaís heart sank and her head dropped forward.

"You do? To who? Do we know him?" her motherís voice was excited.

"Yes, you know who I want for my bondmate but itís not going to happen." Gabrielle muttered, Xena and Lila barely catching the words.

"What? Why not? Arenít you good enough?" her father demanded.

"Itís not like that, Father. I am in love, so deeply in love that no one else will ever touch my heart like this again, ever."

"Oh, Gabrielle, then whatís the problem?" her mother wailed.

Lila rolled her eyes at her motherís tone and Xena growled. Who could Gabrielle be talking about? Not Perdicus, could she? Was she still silently grieving that much?

"She doesnít realize it." Gabrielle said simply and Xena could almost imagine the bard steeling herself as if for a physical blow.

"She?" Gabrielleís father, mother and Xena all asked in the same moment, fortunately Xena had whispered her question. Lilaís eyes were as wide as saucers. Xenaís heart began to pound almost louder than she could hear.

"What!? Itís true? You do bed that demon!?" her father demanded.

"Thatís enough! Right now! You say another word against Xena and youíll never talk to me again! No, I donít have sex with her. I sleep with her but we only share the same space, that doesnít mean I donít want to!"

"Gabrielle, you want....." her motherís voice broke and Xena could hear the woman begin to cry. Xena herself was stunned. Gabrielle wanted her? Was she hearing right? Was this a weird nightmare sent my Morpheus?

"Yes, Mother. I want her. Not just sexually but.... oh gods, talking relationships with your parents is not my idea of a good time." the bard muttered. "I love her, do you understand? I want her as my mate, totally - emotionally, spiritually, physically, everything. She doesnít want me in that way, though."

"I canít believe this! You want to travel around, fighting all the time, putting yourself in danger just to bed a woman?!" her father demanded.

"No! I travel with Xena not only because I love her but because of the good we do. I will be content to spend the rest of my life with her and not touch her, if necessary! She is the best person Iíve ever met, damnit!" Xena heard Gabrielle smack her hand on the table with a frustrated growl.

Lila was looking at the warrior with wide eyes. "You didnít know?" she whispered.

Xena shook her head and dropped her eyes.

"You love her like that?" Lila whispered and Xena nodded.

Lila reached out and hit the warrior on the arm, hard. Xena looked up.

"Thatís for making her wait." the young teen hissed and then cocked her ears to listen.

"Why doesnít she want you?" Gabrielleís mother asked.

"She doesnít, all right." Gabrielle muttered.

"You havenít told her?"

"What do you mean, asking her that? You approve?" her fatherís voice was shrill and Xena resisted the urge to rush in and grab the man by the throat and throw him out the window.

"I donít know. I want her to be happy." her mother protested.

"Happy? How can she be happy with a female warrior? How can she be happy fighting for her life all the time? Just traveling with Xena will get her killed. You know what weíve heard. How many times have you been attacked, just traveling the road?"

"None of your business!" Gabrielle snapped. "I would spend an eternity in Tartarus just to be with her!"

"Gabrielle, donít say that!" her motherís voice was horrified.

Xena was stunned, surprised at the depth of the feelings the bard was voicing about her.

"Itís true! She came back from the dead for me and we arenít even lovers."

Lila started to ask questions but Xena held a finger up to her lips.

"I forbid this! Itís not natural! Itís not right!" her father yelled.

"Oh shut up, Father. Who says itís not natural, even the gods share their beds with someone of the same sex." Gabrielleís voice was growing weary and Xena ached to hold the young woman in her arms, anything to comfort her.

"Family, how can you have a family with her?" Xena sensed that the bardís father was losing his hold on the argument and searching for any ammunition to use.

"Who says we canít have children and we canít raise them? Besides, all that assumes that weíre lovers. Weíre not and itís killing me!" Gabrielleís voice cracked and Xena heard the kitchen door slam and then the outer door. Xena sat against the wall, still stunned.

Lila punched her in the arm again and motioned for Xena to follow her. When they had gotten away from the house Lila turned and punched the warrior again. Xenaís eyes narrowed, she had let the teenager hit her enough, thank you.

"You two are so damned stubborn!" Lila yelled at her and looked like she was going to hit the warrior again. Xena held up her hand warningly. "She told me last time you were here how she felt, I thought you two would have settled this by now. Do you know sheís planning on leaving?" Lila demanded, hands on her hips, the same stubborn set to her jaw.

"No, I thought we were staying another night."

"No, not with you," Lila shouted. "Without you!"

Xenaís heart stopped and a chill came over her body. "Without me?" she whispered.

"Yes, she canít take it any longer. Itís killing her to be near you and not touch you. She thinks you donít want her because sheís not in your league."

"What? Iím the one that isnít good enough!" Xena protested. "After everything Iíve done, how could she want me?"

"Beats me, I think youíre okay." Lila shrugged with a smile. "She thinks youíre from the gods and would do anything for you but sheís dying inside."

"Sheís light itself!" Xena continued to protest. "Anything I am today is because of her!"

"Then tell her, not me." Lila snapped. "Adults! You make it so complicated!"

"Wait till you fall in love," Xena snapped back, "and see how easy it is."

"You love her, right?" Lila demanded.

"Yes, with all of my being. I donít think I can live without her." Xena whispered.

"Xena?" Xena and Lila spun around to see Gabrielle in the doorway of the barn, her bags in her hand.

Xena and Gabrielle found themselves caught in another moment of frozen time. Both losing themselves in each otherís eyes. Lila finally broke the moment by shoving the warrior and bard back through the barn door and shutting it behind them.

"You mean it," they both asked at the same time, both breaking into smiles and relaxing finally. Gabrielle sighed and sat her travel bags down and walked over to a hay bale and sat down. She brushed a lock of hair from her eyes and Xena once again found herself wanting to do that for the young woman, to touch just her hair would be enough.

Then heat spread over the warrior and she thought that maybe just touching Gabrielleís hair might not be enough anymore. They had both heard too much to go back and she knew Gabrielle sensed that too.

"I love you, Xena." Gabrielle said quietly, not lifting her eyes up.

Xena moved slowly and carefully, kneeling in front of the bard. Tenderly she lifted Gabrielle chin up until the green eyes were looking into her deep blue ones. Tears were filling both their eyes.

"I love you, so very much, Gabrielle. Iíve been in love with you for so long." Xena said softly.

"Xena!" Gabrielle threw her arms around the warriorís neck and grabbed her in a tight hug, tears falling.

Xena, feeling tears falling from her eyes as well, welcomed the bard in the hug and held the other woman tightly. The warrior felt months of tension easing out of her muscles and a healing of her soul beginning. She pulled back slightly to look Gabrielle in the eyes.

"I...." the warrior stammered. "I love you so much, Iíve never felt like this before." Xena took the bardís hands in hers. Gabrielle kept quiet, watching her warrior struggle with the words. Getting Xena to talk about emotions was like pulling a tooth from a horse, almost impossible, the bard knew.

"Iíve had lovers, many of them but not like I want you. Not even Borias. Itís different with you. If you want me Iím yours but it has to be a commitment. If you let me love you it will be forever."

Tears flowed freely from both women as the warrior struggled with the words.

"I love you, Xena, more than life." Gabrielle whispered.

"You are the other half of my soul and I know if you love me that weíll be together for eternity. I donít want just sex, I want to marry you." Xena managed to stammer out.

Gabrielle was so quiet for a moment that a feeling of fear began to grab at the warriorís heart and then the bard grabbed her again in a bone crushing embrace.

"Yes! I love you totally and completely. Iíve wanted you as my mate for so long!" Gabrielle whispered.

Both women held together for several moments before Xena pulled out of the embrace. She held a finger up to Gabrielleís lips to indicate silence. She slowly stood up and unlaced her chakram and placed it at Gabrielleís feet and then did the same with her sword and the dagger hidden between her breasts. She knelt on one knee in front of the bard and Gabrielle thought her breath would stop forever.

"I offer you my sword and my life. I will love you forever if youíll have me." Xena pledged.

Gabrielle wiped tears of joy from her eyes. She knew this warriorís pledge was the ultimate pledge Xena could make and was touched beyond words.

"I love you, and I accept your pledge and your love, warrior Xena. I pledge my love and trust in you and promise to love beyond time itself. I know that not even death will separate us from this point on." Gabrielle pledged and pulled the warrior up to her lips.

The kiss was meant to be soft and gentle but the electric shock that passed through both women at the first contact sent both of them backwards.

"Wow." Gabrielle whispered, touching her lips in wonderment.

"Wow? Iíll say." Xena agreed and sat back up, reaching for her bard when angry voices brought her to her feet, chakram at the ready. Gabrielle reached up and placed a reassuring arm on Xenaís arm.

"Itís all right, itís my father, not an army." the bard grinned and Xena lowered the chakram, blushing that her warrior instincts had won out again. Even after the time she spent traveling with Gabrielle, she was surprised she hadnít broken one of Gabrielleís bones by accident when the bard startled her. Xena didnít think that her instincts would ever ease totally up and neither did Gabrielle.

Lilaís voice was shrill and answered by an angry shout from her father. The door of the barn slammed open and he stood in the doorway, obviously fuming.

Gabrielle stood up angrily. "What, Father? Expecting to find me rolling naked in the hay with her?"

Xena blushed, it was what she had been intending with the bard moments before but wasnít going to say that to the girlís angry father.

"I want her gone!" he demanded.

"We were just about to leave." Gabrielle snapped back.

"Youíre not going anywhere this time! Youíre still my daughter and I wonít have you become the laughing stock of Greece sleeping with her!"

Gabrielle quickly grabbed Xena by the arm as the warrior growled and took a step forward. The bard reached out and eased the chakram out of the warriorís hand and Xena let her, trying to calm her breathing and the roaring in her head. She fought against the raging anger building up.

"If you keep this up I wonít be your daughter any longer!" Gabrielle threatened. Lila stepped into the barn, holding her cheek. Her eyes red from crying. This time Gabrielle growled. "You hit her?" she demanded.

Her fatherís jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed. "You are not leaving here," he hissed.

"Donít threaten her," Xena growled back, stepping a half step in front of Gabrielle.

"What will you do, warrior?" her father sneered. Gabrielleís head was spinning, this was happening too fast and everything was out of control. With a moment of clarity she knew that Xena was about a moment away of injuring or killing her father and her father was going to push the warrior into it. And a good chance existed of Lila or Gabrielle getting in the way.

Gabrielle quickly pulled Xena back and stepped in front of the warrior, placing her hands behind her back to keep bodily contact with Xena.

"Father, calm down! Both of you! I love you both!" Gabrielle pleaded and felt Xena relax slightly behind her. Her father scowled but didnít move any closer. Gabrielle almost screamed in frustration when her mother peeked in the doorway and entered. "Fine! Everyone come in and letís settle this!" she muttered. Her mother crossed over to Lila and began to examine the girlís cheek.

"Xena has just asked me to bond with her, to marry her and I have accepted. What that means to us is more than just a simple bonding ceremony like I had with Perdicus. If Xena agrees, we will be bonded in an Amazon ceremony. Iíve already pledged my soul to her and plan to spend eternity with her. Accept this or lose me." Gabrielle said simply.

"I love you, Gabrielle. I donít understand but if she makes you happy then weíll both be welcome here." her mother said quietly and Lila nodded enthusiastically.

"I forbid it!" her father shouted.

"Oh shut up, Herdoctus." her mother snapped and he looked at his wife, stunned.

"Sheís our daughter and all that should matter is that Xena is a good person now and Gabrielle thinks that she will be happy with her. Accept it, Iím not going to lose my daughter because of your pride!" She approached her husband in a fury and he backed up quickly, surprised and stumbling. She poked a finger in his chest and he took it.

Gabrielle and Lilaís eyes were equally wide with surprise.

"Donít you ever lay a hand on either Lila or Gabrielle again or youíll never wake up again!" her mother shouted and then spun away from her husband. She approached Gabrielle and Xena slowly. With a hesitant smile she gathered her daughter into a hug and Gabrielle grinned, hugging her back. Lila, unable to resist to moment, rushed over and joined in. Xena was grateful they didnít try to include her in the family hug although Gabrielleís mother did hug her awkwardly after detaching herself from Gabrielle.

"Make her happy, please." she said to the warrior.

"I will spend my life trying." Xena promised.

"Weíre leaving, Mother." Gabrielle stated.

"I know. Let me pack your food bags before you go." none of them were surprised to find her father had slipped out of the barn. "Donít worry about him, heíll fume for awhile but settle in once you two are gone." her mother reassured them. She turned to her other daughter. "Lila, go and pack Xenaís bags, Iím sure she doesnít want to run into your father right now. They need some time to cool off." Lila hugged her sister again and then surprised Xena by hugging the warrior and then dashing off quickly.

"Xena, could I have a moment with Gabrielle?"

"Of course, Iíll saddle Argo." Xena retrieved her chakram from the bardís hand and her other weapons with panther-like grace. Gabrielle was unaware of the desire on her face as she watched her warrior move. Her mother, however, knew the look and smiled, it was just awkward to see that type of look on your daughter, she thought. Sheís still my little girl. She then touched her daughterís arm and they moved outside the door.

"Gabrielle, I love you and Iíd like to you to visit again." her mother brushed a tear away from her face and Gabrielle hugged her mother again.

"We will. Just give us a little time, this is new for us too."

"Gabrielle, your father...." her mother stammered and they moved to sit on two hay bales by the door. "I think heís always sensed something about you and has fought against it since you were a baby."

"That I prefer women to men?" Gabrielle asked, puzzled.

"No, something else. If anything happens to him or me I want you to go to your uncle Harpalion in the next village, he has a parchment for you."

"What is it, Mom?"

"I canít tell you right now. Just know that it might answer some questions youíve had during your life." her mother smiled and held up a hand to cut off protests. "I know your curiosity, Gabrielle. Promise youíll wait."

The stubborn jaw was well known to the mother but she continued to stare sternly at her daughter.

"All right, I promise."

Lila came running out of the house with the packs. "Iíll go and pack your food bags," her mother said with another quick hug.

Lila grinned at her big sister. "Finally got your warrior, huh? How far did you get?"

"Lila!" Gabrielle shrieked.

"Xena?" The warrior was surprised and more than a little cautious when she turned and found Herdoctus standing near the stall. She slowly walked out from saddling Argo and faced her loveís father. He dropped his eyes and when he looked back at the warrior she was stunned to see tears in his eyes.

"Can I talk to you before Gabrielle comes back in?" he asked softly.

"Sure."

"Iím..... Iím not a good father." the man began to pace and Xena waited for him to continue. "I try, I just donít know how to handle emotions and feelings. I swore the gods when Gabrielle was born that I would never lay a hand on her like my parents did me but.... Iíve failed both her and Lila." He looked over at the warrior. "Iíve heard things about you, can you understand the rage?" Xena nodded, softening a little. She had been fortunate, her mother and her brothers had been good family.

"I swear I will never touch Lila again." he swore passionately. "Iím sorry about earlier. You asked her to marry you?"

"Yes," Xena nodded.

"You mean it, you wonít just use her and then tire of her?" Herdoctus stopped, looking the warrior deep in the eyes.

"Iíve told Gabrielle that Iíve had many sexual partners, most one time encounters. Gabrielle is different, I intend to spend my life with her."

"Youíve not been with her yet, have you?"

"Herdoctus!" Xena growled.

"No, please, donít misunderstand. Itís just that, how do you know youíll stay with her?"

"How does anyone know? She is my soul, I canít live without her any longer." Xena shrugged and Herdoctus nodded.

"Swear to me that youíll try and make her happy."

"Iíve already sworn that oath to Gabrielle."

"Then thatís enough. Iím sorry, warrior. She deserves better than me for a father." Herdoctus complained.

"Youíre attempting to change, Herdoctus. So am I and with Gabrielleís help Iíll make up for my past. Itís up to you to make up for yours with your family. Go talk with Gabrielle and tell her youíre trying."

"No," Herdoctus shook his head. "Itís too soon, she wonít believe me."

"Yes, she will. She has a talent for seeing only the good in people, sheíll believe you." Xena insisted.

"Next time, warrior." Herdoctus promised and was out the door before Xena could protest further.

"Damn! Stubbornness must run in the family!"

Xena was grateful that Gabrielle had agreed to ride on Argo when they left the village. They were late in getting started, later than Xena liked but she knew that Gabrielle didnít want to spend another night in her family home. Xena hadnít been able to convince either father or daughter to talk to each other, Gabrielle still angry and hurt over his words and he too ashamed to take them back yet.

Gabrielle had been pleased but surprised when Xena asked her to ride in front of her and didnít understand why until Xena slipped her arms tightly around the bard and began to nuzzle her neck from behind.

"Oh, no fair!" the bard protested with a moan as Argo walked steadily along once they were out of sight of the village.

"Allís fair, my bard." Xena whispered and began to nibble on Gabrielleís earlobe.

Gabrielle leaned over and Xena finally was able to kiss the bard like she had wanted to in the barn. Gabrielleís arm circled around the warriorís neck and held her tight in the embrace. The kiss was everything both women had been dreaming about. Gentle and tender at first but quickly turning into something very passionate. Xena was surprised to find that her inexperienced bard was a bundle of energy and passion, her tongue demanding entry past Xenaís lips and Xena moaned with the contact and she felt Gabrielleís hand tighten in her hair, holding her prisoner at the bardís lips. Both tongues began a fight for dominance that left both women breathless. Xena pulled back laughing.

"Must remember to breathe," she muttered.

"Oh, Xena," Gabrielle reached back and grabbed her warrior by the thighs, welcoming the growl she received and delighting in the warmth her hands were causing on the taller woman.

Xenaís lips moved down, trailing her tongue along the bardís neck, sending shivers over the blondeís body. The lips settled on the bardís neck and the warriorís teeth began to lightly nibble on Gabrielleís neck, causing her moans to increase, the bardís handís beginning to move seductively between Xenaís thighs.

Argo stopped dead in the road with a snort, drawing the women out of their haze.

"I think we need to find a place to camp." Xena suggested.

"I agree totally, my warrior." as a hand crept up between Xenaís thighs and Gabrielle was delighted with the gasp from her warrior as her fingers began to struggle past the undergarments.

"You keep that up and weíll never get off this horse and that is not how I intend my first night with you!" Xena lightly slapped at the hand.

Gabrielle giggled but withdrew, leaning back into her warrior.

"Hmmm, doesnít look too inviting around here, weíll move on a bit."

"Okay." Gabrielle settled back into her warriorís arms and let the motion of the road lull her into a light sleep.

Xena was pleased with the trust the bard gave her, always trusting Xena to keep her safe, even on the back of a horse going down the road. The bard hadnít been sleeping lately and the visit with her family had been emotionally exhausting for everyone. All Xena wanted to do was get somewhere safe and secluded for both of them to rest, heal and discover each other and what this new development meant for them. Unfortunately the landscape wasnít cooperating very well. Potedia may have been a small village but the surrounding land was well developed farm land and wasnít offering much in the way of secluded campsites. Xena frowned.

It was well into dusk when Xena finally found a site that would do. She moved Argo carefully through the brush and almost thanked the gods when the horse worked her way unerringly to a good sized creek, tumbling over lots of boulders and creating mini waterfalls and pools. The clean water promised fish and bathing and relaxing in the morning.

Xena managed to dismount Argo and pulled Gabrielle down into her arms and cradled the bard, softly carrying her to a fallen log. Gabrielle mumbled and started to blink. "Stay here," Xena ordered. "Just rest, Iíll make camp."

The bard started to protest but Xena stopped her with a light kiss. The bard smiled and leaned against the log. Xena smiled and quickly went about setting up camp. There was a chill in the air and she wanted a fire going as soon as possible. They were both tired and their cold tolerance would be low. Xena wrapped the bard in her traveling cloak and a blanket and set about starting a fire. Within a candlemark she had a fire roaring, food cooking over it and their sleeping mat and blankets set up. Xena was a little worried, Gabrielle had curled up next to the log and had been tossing in her sleep again, although she quickly slipped further into sleep when Xena would touch and whisper reassurances to the bard.

Moving to the log with their dinner she sat next to her bard.

"Come on, sleepy-head, time for food." Xena lightly shook her bard and was pleased to see Gabrielle smiling at her.

"Smells good, you actually cooked." The bard sat up, rubbing sleep out of her eyes, looking around in wonderment. "Wow, I must have been out."

Xena smiled. "Yup, youíve been tired and today wasnít easy."

"Thatís an understatement!" Gabrielle took the plate of food and began to eat with an appetite that Xena was glad to see return. "Gods, I canít believe we went through that today!"

Xena frowned, "Any regrets about us?" she whispered.

"Never a chance!" Gabrielle lightly hit the warrior on the arm and leaned against the taller woman. "Now that Iíve got you Iím not going to let you go." the bard promised. "Iím just glad I overheard you before I left. Thank the gods for Lila."

Xena grinned in agreement. "I think that stubborn streak of yours runs in the family."

"Hey! What stubborn streak?" the bard protested playfully. Her eyes beginning to droop a little. "Whoa, did you put something in the food?"

Xena laughed and took the plate from Gabrielleís hands. "No, little one. Itís just all catching up with you and me."

Gabrielle looked up and saw the weariness on her warriorís face. "You too?"

"Yup, neither of us have slept decent for weeks. Weíve been driving ourselves crazy with our feelings and hiding them that weíve been a bundle of nerves. Then the scene with your family wasnít exactly relaxing."

"Youíre right." Gabrielle agreed, her head beginning to drop forward and she snapped it back up with determination. "This isnít how I wanted the night." she complained.

Xena knelt down and placed a finger over the bardís lips. "Quiet, little one. Get ready for bed. Weíve got the rest of our lives and I donít want to rush this." Xena held out her hand and the bard was stunned to see it shaking.

"Xena?"

"Iím nervous, Iím so scared of loving you and Iím too tired to think right. I want to hold you tonight and convince myself that itís real. Am I making any sense?"

Gabrielle reached out and held the hand to her lips, kissing each fingertip and then the palm. "Yes, my love. Perfect sense. I want it to be special too."

"Letís sleep, little one."

For the first time in months they both slept soundly, Gabrielle laying curled against Xena, their fingers intertwined with Xenaís arm over her bard, both dreaming of the coming day and their coming future.

Xena was surprised to find her arms empty when she woke in the morning. She frowned, Gabrielle almost never beat her up, preferring to sleep as long as possible. Xena looked around and realized that the sun had been up for over an hour.

"Wow, I must have been tired." she mumbled and then smiled. "And content."

Xena noticed a towel hanging on a tree branch near her and grinned. Taking the hint she left her armor off, content to just carry her chakram with her down to the river. When she spotted Gabrielle the warrior thought her heart had stopped.

The bard was breath-taking. Xena couldnít find the words. Gabrielle had already been in the water and was now on a smooth rock, leaning back on her elbows, letting the sun dry her beautiful skin. Xena hadnít seen the bard look so relaxed in forever. Xena felt her heart pounding as Gabrielle lay back on the rock, her naked skin shining in the sun. Xena grinned and stripped out of her nightshirt and left the towel and shift on the bank as she slowly entered the water, trying not to make any extra noise. She almost yelped at the cold water though but gritted her teeth.

She ducked under the water and easily swam the short distance across the current and, with absolute silence, slid out of the water and up onto the rock where Gabrielle was sunning herself. With the grace of a stalking tiger, the warrior moved slowly and carefully up close to her bard and then, with an evil grin, shook her head quickly, sending cold water flying all over the bard.

"Xena!" Gabrielle shrieked, sitting upright in a flash only to be captured by the warriorís waiting arms. A muffled protest was cut short by Xenaís lips and hands traveling over the bardís back. The bard let the warrior lower her back to the rock slowly, keeping a firm hold around Xena and refusing to break contact with the womanís lips. Again the kiss was passionate with tongues exploring, tasting, and revealing in the different textures and feelings the kiss was invoking. Gabrielleís hands, no longer restricted by Xenaís leathers, moved along the taller womanís ribs, feeling the soft skin covering the firm muscles underneath. Xenaís head moved down, kissing every inch of skin between the bardís lips to her nipples and back again. By the time Xenaís lips seized one of the nipples Gabrielle was gasping for air and running her hands through her warriorís black hair.

"Oh gods, Xena."

Xena continued her exploration of Gabrielleís body with her tongue and kissing, licking away the remaining water off the bardís skin, sending shivers of delight over the young womanís body, her hands replacing her lips on the bardís nipples. Gabrielle was squirming and gasping, her hands in the warriorís dark hair, unconsciously encouraging Xenaís head lower. Xena smiled and eagerly slid down the length of Gabrielle.

Xena looked up as Gabrielle moaned, green eyes meeting blue. The warrior had never seen such unmasked desire on anyoneís face like this before and she moaned with the intensity of Gabrielleís eyes.

"Xena, please.... Iíve waited so long!" Gabrielle pleaded, raising her legs, her hips bucking, begging the warrior with her body as well as her voice. Xena moaned again and gently parted the bardís lower lips, lovingly exploring her lover, causing Gabrielle to growl and toss her head back. "Xena! Now, please!"

Xena groaned at how wet the bard was and knew this wetness wasnít from the water. With ease she slipped two fingers into her lover and began her explorations of the bardís sexual lips with her tongue. Within moments Gabrielle was rocking, matching the rhythm of Xenaís fingers, entering slowly and backing out, teasing the small woman into a frenzy. The dark haired womanís tongue reached out and began a slow teasing of the bardís clit, bringing forth cries of passion from the small woman. Xena felt her own body responding to her loverís building orgasm. Her attention to Gabrielleís body increased in speed and roughness and Xena was rewarded with hearing the bard screaming the warriorís name again and again as Gabrielleís muscles began contracting, waves of her orgasm overcoming her, again and again.

When she could breath again, Gabrielle found herself in Xenaís arms, being cradled and rocked.

"Hey, you okay?" Xena was asking. In response Gabrielle hugged her lover fiercely.

"Gods, I never thought it could be like that!" she whispered.

Xena felt herself blushing and held her love tight. "I love you."

"By the gods, I love you more than life itself, woman!" Gabrielle grabbed the back of Xenaís head and pulled her down for a rough kiss, moaning at the softness of the lips and the taste of her own passion on those lips.

Xena looked down at her lover, her fingers lightly tracing Gabrielleís lips. "You scared me for a moment."

"Hmmm," the bard muttered and began nuzzling Xenaís neck, causing the warrior to shiver. "You literally took my breath away, my love."

"Iíll take that as a compliment." Xena grinned.

"You have no idea! Let me show you."

Xena found herself on her back on Gabrielleís towel with the bard attacking her neck with renewed energy and the warrior found that it was her that was breathless, gasping with the dancing energy play shooting through her body. Gabrielle moaned in Xenaís neck as her hand found one of the warriorís nipples. She moved from the neck to Xenaís lips with a rough kiss that again took the warriorís breath away and then moved back to the neck.

"Remember the bacchae cave?" Gabrielle whispered as her hand began to dancing lightly across the warriorís ribs and around her breasts. Xena felt her body arching under the bardís hands, her body being played like a fine instrument. The warrior wasnít sure if she was in any kind of control over her body any longer and was surprised to find that she didnít care right at that moment.

"Yes!" she hissed.

"You have no idea how many nights Iíve dreamed of biting you again." Gabrielleís voice was low and husky and brought forth a moan from her warrior.

"Yes!" Xenaís hands found the bardís hair and then her shoulders, grabbing on almost painfully, as if needing something to center on. Gabrielle smiled and continued the downward trek of her fingers, playing in the dark triangle of Xenaís hair, causing the warrior to growl with need.

"Gabrielle, please!"

"Begging, my warrior?" Gabrielle whispered and then bit down a little harder. Any reply Xena might have had was lost in her cry as her body began to shake. The younger woman sensed that her lover needed her and quickly. She knew there would be time later for the soft and gentle loving that she suspected the warrior was capable of but for right now they needed each other, almost with a sense of desperation. Having denied themselves for so long had taken a toll and their bodies demanded satisfaction and their souls demanded connection on all levels.

Xena felt herself giving over all control to the fierce little bard in her arms. Never had she given up so much to a lover. The warrior had always struggled to stay in control, never leaving herself open, especially her heart and now she found she was lost. She couldnít control her body and itís dance of delight under the bardís roaming fingers and talented bite, she couldnít control her emotions any longer, Gabrielle had possessed her heart and soul totally and now was claiming her body. Never had her body responded like this to anyone, not even Ares, with all his charm of a god.

Xena felt Gabrielle filling her with the bardís smaller fingers and her own body responding, trying to capture the bardís fingers inside, demanding more. Xena lost all coherent thought when Gabrielleís thumb found her most sensitive spot and began stroking her clit. Xenaís hands grabbed the blondeís shoulders, her fingernails beginning to dig into the soft skin, and Gabrielle moaned in response, her own passion lost with the warriorís.

Xena wasnít sure which sensation was causing her body to rock and her soul to soar higher, the fingers dancing inside her, the thumb over her swollen clit or the teeth that seemed to have a talent of finding the most erotic spot on the warriorís neck.

Xena found herself approaching a point of no return and realized something that startled her, she was afraid to step over that point. She had never gotten this far with anyone, her need to be totally in control at all times having stopped her before this point. She whimpered with all the feelings running through her body and soul.

Gabrielle looked up from her nibbling and saw a tear escape the warriorís closed eyes and felt Xenaís muscles tightening around her fingers and the warriorís nails almost breaking the skin on her shoulders. Xenaís body shaking uncontrollably.

"I love you, Xena. Let go." she whispered and bit down again.

Xena screamed a primal scream and then the bardís name. Wave after wave overcame the tall woman. This time it was the warrior being soothed, held safely in her bardís arms. She reached out and held close to Gabrielle, tears flowing softly.

"Itís all right, Xena. Iím here. Iím never letting you go."

"Sorry, donít know where that came from." Xena tried to sit up but the bard caught her lips again.

"Donít apologize, damnit. All I know is that something incredible is between us. I love you."

Xena smiled and reached up to caress her loverís cheek. "I love you, marry me."

Gabrielle grinned. "I thought I already said Ďyesí."

"Amazon wedding?"

Xena grinned at the surprise and hopeful look on the Amazon Queenís face and sat up to face her lover.

"You mean it? A bonding ritual?"

"Iím already your champion, let me be your mate." Xena leaned forward and kissed the blond again.

"Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!" Gabrielle threw herself into the warriorís arms, both laughing and kissing.

It was only minutes before Gabrielle found out that Xena could, indeed, be a gentle lover as well as a tiger.

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