Gabrielleís Awakening - A Visit Home

by Hunter Ash

Disclaimer: I donít own Xena, Gabrielle, etc etc etc, Iím only borrowing them for entertainment purposes. Donít sue me - it definitely wouldnít be worth it.

Sex/Subtext/Alt Fiction: Yes, there is sex and love and itís between two consenting adults of the same gender. If this is illegal where you are or bugs you - leave now.

Violence: Nope, none this time.

Storyline: you might recognize this piece in a slightly different focus. This is Gabrielleís point of view of the story An Awakening, A Visit Home. Hope you like the different slant on the same story. There are different scenes and different information in it.

Feedback: beg, beg, beg. Always welcome.


Gabrielle had finally broken away from her mother and her endless questions. The bard was tired and irritable. She and Xena had been at Gabrielleís home for two days, and nights, and the bard was more than ready to leave.

As she slowly walked around the house, heading for the barn, she stopped. The little Amazon realized that she was more than ready to leave, in more ways than one. Gabrielle stood looking at the barn door, as if trying to make a decision. The little bard nodded to herself and changed direction, heading for the pen that held the goats, picking up the food bucket, as she moved.

Unknown to Gabrielle, her mother Hecuba was standing at the kitchen window, watching her daughter, reading the young womanís body language with a frown. The older woman was well aware that Xena was in the barn attending to her horse, Argo and now Gabrielle was moving away from the barn.

The last two days had been tense and it was tearing at Hecuba to see her daughter withdrawn and obviously upset. No matter what questions the worried mother asked, she wasnít getting any answers from her daughter. The bardís mother could sense that Gabrielle was at a crossroads.

Gabrielle was also wondering the same thing, as she fed the goats.

The bard would have also used the description of a crossroads to describe her thought process. It just seemed time for decisions and Gabrielle was not amused with any of the choices or paths. The blond unconsciously brushed a hair back from her forehead and reflected again on how tired she was. Countless nights of fitful sleep, long days spent tense, were beginning to take a toll on the small woman. She was tired and she was tired of being tired.

She was also tired of frustration.

If Hecuba could see her daughter she would see a familiar setting of the bardís jaw. The bard replaced the bucket and headed for the barn.

Gabrielle opened the door slowly and slipped inside, not surprised to see her best friend Xena tending to Argo. The bard had given the warrior an easy out earlier by suggesting that Xena look in on Argo and escape the bardís motherís endless questioning.

Gabrielle was surprised that Xena hadnít heard her come in; this was highly unusual, and the bard decided to take advantage of it, standing a moment, watching Xena brush Argoís coat and mane. The bard felt a familiar heat beginning in her loins and spreading throughout her body, as she watched the warriorís muscles rippling under the tanned skin with the long brush strokes. Gabrielle quickly fought her heartbeat back to a regular beat.

"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 while 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 leaned against 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.

Gabrielle moved behind the warrior and wrapped her arms around the taller woman, with a giggle.

"Itís okay, I figured I had to get you out of there before you threw him through the window." The bard giggled again. Gabrielle leaned into the warrior, relishing the scent that was uniquely Xena: leather, soap root, and musk. With a start, the bard realized she was rubbing her face against Xenaís leather top and holding the warrior tight. A roaring filled her ears and she felt her entire body flush with heat. Gabrielle quickly backed up out of the hug, trying to catch her breath.

Xena turned around, and Gabrielle lost all the control she thought she had over her mind and feelings. Looking into those bright blue eyes caused the bard to lose her breath again.

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.

Gabrielle felt her face blushing, eyes downcast and stammering. "I... we should go in."

"Uh huh." Xena agreed. Gabrielle quickly turned and was gone after her sister, almost breaking into tears.

Lila grabbed her older sisterís arm, stopping the bard, looking back at the barn door and realizing that Xena wasnít stepping through immediately, Lila turned to Gabrielle.

"Well?" she demanded.

"Well what?"

"Did you tell her how you feel?" the youngster snapped.

"No, of course not! Iíve told you, she doesnít care for me like that!" Gabrielle snapped back, beginning to walk back to the house again. Lila caught up with her sister.

"Looks like it to me!" Lila protested.

"We sleep under the same blankets every night, Iím in her arms every night, we eat together, bathe together, sleep together and she hasnít shown any interest in me, sexually. She thinks Iím a kid." Gabrielle complained.

"I think youíre both hooked and wonít admit to each other!"

"Glad you think so, Iím the one living with this!" Gabrielle stopped dead and glared at Lila. "Itís torture, Lila. My body and soul ache just to touch her. I almost just kissed her!"

"Do it! What can you lose?"

"My best friend and I couldnít live with that." Gabrielle whispered.

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.

Gabrielle clenched her jaw, the familiar setting that warned most anyone who knew her that she was tense and her infamous stubborn streak was about to show itself. The bard looked over and saw Xena concentrating on her food, her jaw also clenched. Gabrielle was confused. At times, Hecuba questioned her about the men she met, wondering if there were any she was interested in and then her mother would turn around and ask detailed questions about Xena, as if sizing up a potential mate for Gabrielle.

The bard knew that her father could barely stand having the warrior around but tolerated her so he could see Gabrielle. The bard knew that he still blamed Xena for his daughter running off to the road, following the warrior woman and pursuing the dream of being a bard. Hecuba was more receptive of the warrior, but uncomfortable at the same time. Gabrielle wanted to scream.

"Are you sure youíre all right, Gabrielle?" her mother asked again.

"Iím fine!" the bard snapped.

"Hey, donít talk to your mother in that tone, young lady!" Herdoctus threatened, pointing a finger at his oldest daughter.

"Iím just worried about you," Hecuba said softly.

"Iím fine, Mother."

"You could visit your mother a little more often! You act as if you donít care about her feelings. Leaving here with only a short note!" Herdoctusí voice began to rise.

"Traveling around, putting yourself in danger, of course sheís worried!"

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

Gabrielle hit the back door running, and didnít stop until she was through the fields and running by a stream. The bard finally collapsed beside a familiar old oak, gasping for air and trying not to cry.

The bard sank to the ground with her back to the tree, welcoming the shade and the soothing sound of the water rushing by over the rocks. She crossed her arms over her knees and rested her head. It was then that she finally let loose and began crying.

After awhile the tears had finally slowed down and she leaned back against the tree. She closed her eyes and let her body relax.

"You know you were always my favorite tree when I was a kid," she said simply to the tree behind her. "You always listened and you never told another soul of my doubts, my dreams, my fears or my pain. Iím glad youíre still here, old friend."

"Gabrielle?" a tentative voice questioned.

The bard opened her eyes and smiled at her younger sister standing nearby. "Hey," she answered and motioned her sibling to sit down with her.

"Hey," Lila sat down looking around. "I come here when Dad gets angry."

"Was my favorite spot when I was home." Gabrielle said with a smile.

"Want to talk?" Lila picked up a rock, and tossed it into the stream.

"Yeah, I need to talk to someone." Gabrielle hesitated, "Iím leaving tonight."

"I didnít know you two were leaving until tomorrow."

"Iím leaving alone." the bard whispered.

"What? Without Xena?!" Lila demanded, and saw Gabrielleís eyes filling with tears.

"Yes, I canít take it any longer!" again the bardís control broke and Lila took her bigger sister into her arms and held Gabrielle while she cried once again. "I love her so much but I canít keep going the way it is and I canít stay here!"

"Where will you go?"

"Athens, I was accepted into the Academy there once, theyíll have me again."

"You canít leave Xena, you two are just right for each other." Lila protested.

"I canít live like this!" the bard cried and Lila held her close.

The two sisters made their way back to the farm when it started getting close to dinner time. Lila hurried off to feed and water the pack horse, while Gabrielle started towards the kitchen to help her mother with final dinner preparations.

The bard was puzzled to find the kitchen empty and voices from the common room. She moved across the room and started to open the door and stopped at the tone of her fatherís voice. She knew that tone and it chilled her to the bone. If Gabrielle had been fifteen she would have crept back out the door and headed right back to her favorite oak tree, maybe to even spend the night in itís welcoming branches, but she wasnít and she was determined not to be afraid any longer.

"She canít leave here again! Itís time she settled down and gave us grandchildren!" he snapped.

Gabrielle moved close to the door and opened it a crack, listening with her jaw beginning to clench.

"You canít keep her here, Herdoctus. Sheís not a farmer and sheís a grown woman." Hecuba protested.

"You going against my wishes?" he hissed.

"No, of course not!" her motherís voice held a familiar tone: fear. Gabrielle almost opened the door to throw her father through the window, but held tight.

"I thought this mess was behind us when she married Perdicus, but, not! Because of that damned warlord bitch, he goes and gets killed and our daughter takes up with that warbitch again!" he yelled.

"It wasnít Xenaís fault he died! It was that madwoman, Callisto."

Gabrielleís head was roaring and her eyes were hazing over in red. She could feel her body trembling with the rage that was building inside of her.

"I still say itís not right!" her father said loudly.

"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."

Gabrielle felt a growl beginning in her throat.

"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!" Gabrielle threw the door open and stormed into the common room, facing her father and mother, hands clenched and jaw muscles twitching. The bard felt like she could spit fire, at the moment.

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

"Yes, I know, just discussing my future and your concern for me." Gabrielle snapped, through gritted teeth. "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!" the bard snapped and wished she could take back the words. This was not where she wanted the conversation to go but now it was too late. "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, trying to fight back tears.

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

"Itís not like that, Father. Iím 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.

"She doesnít realize it." Gabrielle said simply and steeled herself for the next blow, whether physical or verbal.

"She?" Gabrielleís father, and mother asked in the same moment.

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

"Thatís enough! Right now! You say another word against Xena and youíll never speak 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 she began to cry.

"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." Gabrielle wiped an angry tear away.

"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!" Gabrielle smacked her hand on the table, in frustration.

"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 Gabrielle wanted to shove him through the door.

"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.

"Itís true! She came back from the dead for me and we arenít even lovers." Gabrielle fought back from having her voice break, from the tears that were filling her eyes.

"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." Gabrielle suddenly felt weary. She could sense that her father was losing his steam of anger, and she felt hers draining away. The bard was also wondering why she was arguing with her parents about this and explaining everything? She wouldnít be with Xena, anyway, soon.

"Family, how can you have a family with her?" her father demanded.

"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 she quickly fled out the door she had come through.

Gabrielle had grabbed her travel packs sheíd hidden in the barn earlier that morning, and started out the barn door, when she heard Lilaís irritated voice just outside.

"You two are so damned stubborn!" Lilaís voice carried through the door and Gabrielle opened the door a crack and saw the teenager facing down her warrior. Lila yelled at her, and looked like she was going to hit the warrior. 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!"

"Without me?" the warrior whispered, a stunned look on her face.

Could Xena care whether she stayed or went, Gabrielle wondered.

"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 who 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."

Gabrielle was considering killing her young sister for telling Xena all of this. The bard wanted to crawl under the ground somewhere and hide. Xena would know everything! She wouldnít want the bard, she wouldnít want her around anymore!

Then Gabrielle listened to the warriorís words.

"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."

Love? Gabrielle thought her heart had stopped.

"You love her, right?" Lila demanded.

"Yes, with all of my being. I donít think I can live without her." Xena whispered. Without thinking the bard opened the door. "Xena?" she called, softly.

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. The bard sat for a moment, trying to think rationally and couldnít find a way to make any sentence hold together. She swallowed deeply and risked it.

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

Gabrielle watched the warriorís legs come in front of her, the warrior was kneeling. Slowly and tenderly, Xena lifted her chin up and Gabrielle found herself staring deep in those blue eyes again, tears were forming in both green and blue 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.

Gabrielle felt the warrior welcome her into the hug and held the other woman tightly. Xena 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.

"Youíre 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.

Marry me? the bard questioned in wonderment. 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 saw the warrior blush as she slowly lowered the chakram. Gabrielle knew that Xenaís heightened senses and warrior instinct had only lessened slightly all the months they had been on the road together, and she had come close several times being knocked unconscious by the warrior, when the bard had accidentally startled Xena. She didnít think Xena would ever be totally relaxed and without those highly toned and trained muscle instincts.

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?" She certainly wasnít going to tell her father thatís what she had been hoping for, just a moment before.

"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. Gabrielle could see Xena struggling with her anger and her breathing.

"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. "Youíre 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 an instant away from 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 Iíve 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 I 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 youíll both be welcome here." Her mother said quietly, 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.

"Make her happy, please." she said to the warrior as she awkwardly hugged Xena.

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

"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. It may even answer some of the questions Iíve been asking you. Is she your soulmate?"

"I think so. I just know that I couldnít go on without loving her totally and I canít live without her." Gabrielle hesitated. "Whatís in the parchment, Mom?"

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.

*********

Gabrielle knew that Xena was grateful she agreed to ride on Argo when they left the village. It was a late start and Gabrielle had been grateful in turn that Xena had agreed to leave so late.

Gabrielle had been puzzled by Xenaís actions; up to the point when they left, the warrior trying to convince the bard to talk to her father. Gabrielleís jaw had taken on that familiar clench and the warrior had to concede defeat. The bard was just too angry to talk to her father right then!

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 was finally able to kiss the warrior 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. The bardís hand reached up and tightened in the warriorís hair and Gabrielle felt Xena moan.

The bard was surprised at the intensity she felt as she kissed her warrior, but felt helpless against it. 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. 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. "My warrior," she whispered.

Gabrielle felt familiar hands shaking her, and the most wonderful voice in the world talking to her; and she sat up, blinking.

"Come on, sleepy-head, time for food."

"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 so 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 was 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.

********

Gabrielle was very surprised when she opened her eyes and found the sun was all ready up. She was almost stunned when she realized that Xena was still behind her and still asleep. This was such a rarity that the bard lay there, fingers intertwined with the warriorís, enjoying the moment, relishing the feel of Xena nuzzled at her neck.

They had been spending many more nights under the same blanket since fall had began but Gabrielle had never felt this connection before. After months of agonizing over her feelings for the warrior Gabrielle now felt peaceful, nervous, calm and excited. She wanted nothing more than to turn over and begin loving her warrior, but she wanted both of them awake and coherent when it happened. With a twinge of fear, the bard realized she wanted to really be sure thatís what Xena wanted between them.

Careful not to make too much noise or movement the bard got up and grabbed a towel from their travel packs. Xena had mentioned a stream nearby and Gabrielle wanted some time to herself before the warrior woke up.

With a grin, she left the other towel over a tree branch, grabbed clean clothes and her staff, and headed for the water.

The water was cold but refreshing and Gabrielle felt like months of tension was falling from her body as she streaked through the water in the pools and currents. Feeling like a river otter without her clothes on in the water, the bard delighted in the sensation of the water and the sun beating down on her skin. It promised to be a warm day for fall and she was grateful. With a smile she crawled up onto a rock on the opposite shore and stretched out along the rock, letting the sun begin to warm her body.

Gabrielle reflected on her motherís question: Was Xena her soulmate? The bard certainly thought so, and probably had since the first time she saw the warrior. Gabrielle hadnít known the total depth of what feelings she would come to have for the former warlord, but she had been drawn to Xena since the beginning. It felt like she was waiting her whole life to meet the warrior.

Why had she resisted all her parentsí attempts at marriage? Every girl in the village was usually married by fifteen, except Gabrielle. She remembered the long fights her mother and father had over it; he insisting she find a suitable mate and her mother holding him off. It had always puzzled Gabrielle about that. It wasnít often that her mother stood up to Hedoctus but when it came to Gabrielleís dreams of something beyond Potedaia, Hecuba had always been encouraging.

When Xena had saved Gabrielle and the other village girls from the slavers, the bard had seen fear in her motherís eyes and hatred in her fatherís. Her mother had always puzzled her, she reflected. She had been grateful to Xena for saving Gabrielleís life but had also been very thankful when the warrior had moved on.

Gabrielleís parents hadnít counted on the bard following on her own accord.

It was almost like Hecuba had been waiting for someone to sweep her daughter away, and had feared that was Xena. Now, Gabrielle grinned to herself, it had been. Gabrielle shrieked when she found herself splattered with cold water, rushing to sit up with a squeal and right into the arms of her warrior.

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 reveling 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."

Gabrielle felt Xena continuing her explorations of the bardís body with her tongue and lips, licking away the remaining water off the bardís skin. The blond shivered with delight and then moaned with absolute pleasure when Xenaís hands grasped her nipples. Gabrielle was squirming and gasping, her hands in the warriorís dark hair, unconsciously encouraging Xenaís head lower. Xena eagerly slid down the length of Gabrielle.

"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, moaning, gently parted the bardís lower lips, lovingly exploring her lover, causing Gabrielle to growl and toss her head back. "Xena! Now, please!"

Xena groaned and Gabrielle knew it was from how wet the bard was, and she knew this wetness wasnít from the water. The smaller woman felt herself being filled as Xena 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.

Gabrielle felt Xena responding to her pleading, and the bardís begging by taking the bard higher and higher. Her attention to Gabrielleís body increased in speed and roughness; 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 breathe 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 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."

Gabrielle surprised the warrior by flipping Xena onto her back, on Gabrielleís towel, with the bard attacking her neck with renewed energy. The warrior found that it was her who was breathless, gasping with the dancing energy play shooting through her body. Gabrielle moaned into 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. Xenaís body arched under the bardís hand, her head thrashing back and forth, hands digging into the towel.

"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. Xena cried out as her body began to shake. The younger woman sensed that her lover needed her and quickly. Gabrielle instinctively 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, their bodies demanded satisfaction, and their souls demanded connection on all levels.

Gabrielle was amazed, as the warriorís body responded to her every touch, and then felt a shock pass through her body as it responded to Xenaís moan. Gabrielle whimpered with the intense feeling racking her body, matching her warriorís rhythm.

The bard had never felt anything like it before, not even on her wedding night with Perdicus. Gabrielle also knew she would never feel like this with anyone else, again. She willingly gave her heart, soul and body to the tall woman writhing beneath her hands and teeth.

Gabrielle thought she was going to go over her own edge, as she entered the warrior with her fingers. The feeling was so incredible that the bard lost all coherent thought. She whimpered as the warriorís body responded, muscles contracting to try and capture the bardís fingers and expanding, demanding more. Again the warrior cried out in the new sensation, as Gabrielleís thumb found her sensitive spot and began stroking the warriorís 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. Gabrielle could feel the connection, her soul to Xenaís - body to body. Sensations she was pulling from the warrior, causing her own body to tremble.

The bard sensed the build up of energy in Xena as well, as within herself and glanced up to see the warriorís body arching, every muscle standing out as sweat covered both their bodies. Gabrielle could feel the edge for both of them, she felt Xenaís body shaking uncontrollably, saw a tear escape from the warriorís closed eyes and heard a small whimper.

Gabrielle suddenly knew. "I love you, Xena. Let go," she whispered and bit down again, hard, marking her lover.

Xena screamed a primal scream and then the bardís name. Wave after wave overcame the tall woman.

Gabrielle quickly drew the warrior into her arms, softly holding the gasping and sobbing woman, stroking the dark hair. The bard kept repeating over and over again, until she felt Xena responding.

"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. That was so intense."

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?"

Gabrielle caught Xena grinning, at the surprised and hopeful look on the Amazon Queenís face, and the warrior 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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