Dueling Cousins
By CN Winters


Disclaimers: This story is about two women in love. If this offends you please go elsewhere. If you're too young read this, please leave. If this isn't a problem please continue. Are these characters mine? HECK NO!! They belong to the wonderful folks at MCA/Universal and Mr. Lucy Lawless<BG>. I was inspired to write this after the hoopla regarding the spoilers of Season Four and recent comments the stars and the powers that be (TPTB) made in regard to subtext. I've also included some 'fragments' of Sappho's work in here as well. Please send constructive comments to cnwinters@hotmail.com. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Chapter 1

"You're not really calling me a fool," Xena said looming over her 'twin'. "Are you Meg?"

Meg released her nervous giggle. "Of course not. Not in the sense that you're an idiot or anything. I'm just saying. . ."

"Saying what Meg?" Xena insisted, moving closer still.

Meg shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. Oh Tartaris. She had to say something. "I just think that if Gabrielle was my 'traveling companion' and I wanted to keep traveling with her. I'd be down stairs right now finding out what's going on. I mean. . .you know your cousins' reputation. She brags about how she can have any woman she wants - any woman. And right now the one she's got her sights on is Gabby!"

Xena backed away and moved back to her chair without comment. She slowly digested Meg's words.

"Gabrielle is a grown woman. She's free to make her own choices. Who am I to stand in her way?"

"At this point you're just her friend," Meg observed. "But maybe there's more there. Something between the lines you're not reading. . . Maybe it's something that 'that woman' will tap into. Maybe Gabrielle really wants you but she's afraid of what the reaction will be so she can play with your cousin instead. I mean she looked a lot like you before but now. . .with the dyed hair. . .She is you. You. Coming on to Gabby. Whispering all the words ANY woman would love to hear. . .That's all I'm saying. . .I mean how long are you willing to wait Xena?"

Xena knew it was a rhetorical question and she watched Meg as she turned around and quietly left the room. Xena's finger sat strumming the arms of the large chair. Nervously her foot began to tap; her boot clicking at every impact. The noise was becoming maddening.

"That's long enough," Xena decided aloud, bolting from the room. As she passed swiftly through the corridor to the grand room downstairs, Meg watched from the shadows. 'That was quicker than I thought', she grinned wickedly.

When Xena arrived downstairs she found her cousin sitting with her arm draped around the bard - a glass of wine in her hand as she read over Gabrielle's shoulder. Xena was never one to eavesdrop unless it was a matter of survival. But the more she thought about it this was a matter of survival. Xena didn't know if she could go on without Gabrielle at this point.

Sure Gabrielle had left in the past - the academy, back to her family, her marriage to Perdicus. All these things, in one way or another, offered something the warrior never could. Xena wasn't a scholar. She wasn't her sister. She wasn't a man. But this woman - this poet - well this was different. She listened carefully to the pair, huddled together on the bear skin rug in front of the roaring fireplace.

"Go ahead," the woman insisted. "Read this one next."

Gabrielle smiled her warm smile that could thaw (did thaw) the iciest of hearts and Xena ached. Perhaps Meg was right. Perhaps the 'grown woman' known as Gabrielle had made up her mind. She watched as Gabrielle's lips closed around the wine glass as she unrolled the scroll with her free hand.

The poets free hand, had now moved, coming to rest on the bards lower thighs. Xena could feel her lips twitch nervously as the woman's digits covered Gabrielle's muscled flesh.

Gabrielle cleared her throat and began.

"On the throne of many hues, Immortal Aphrodite,
child of Zeus, weaving wiles--I beg you
not to subdue my spirit, Queen,
with pain or sorrow

but come--if ever before
having heard my voice from far away
you listened, and leaving your father's
golden home you came

in your chariot yoked with swift, lovely
sparrows bringing you over the dark earth
thick-feathered wings swirling down
from the sky through mid-air

arriving quickly--you, Blessed One,
with a smile on your unaging face
asking again what have I suffered
and why am I calling again

and in my wild heart what did I most wish
to happen to me: "Again whom must I persuade
back into the harness of your love?
Sappho, who wrongs you?

For if she flees, soon she'll pursue,
she doesn't accept gifts, but she'll give,
if not now loving, soon she'll love
even against her will."

Come to me now again, release me from
this pain, everything my spirit longs
to have fulfilled, fulfill, and you
be my ally."

Upon finishing Gabrielle paused and neither woman said a word. Finally, Gabrielle whispered. "That's beautiful."

"That's you," Sappho whispered back. "Even when I glimpse you for a moment my tongue is stilled as speech deserts me; while a delicate fire is beneath my skin-my eyes cannot see, then, when I hear only a whirling sound as I shivering, sweat, because all of me trembles; I become paler than drought-grass And nearer to death. . ."

Gabrielle felt the lump rise in her throat. "Thank you," she said having it come out more like a croak than a comment. "I don't know what to say."

"Say you'll stay with me. . .I could teach you so much about poetry and the arts. . .and love. . .and desire. . .You are a natural storyteller Gabrielle. With the right training - training I could provide - you could be the greatest bard in all of Greece, if not the known world."

Gabrielle's tongue felt tied; her palms sweating; her head spinning. 'Did the tenth muse really just offer to train me?' she asked herself. 'Of course she did. She wants me for more than just my bardic talents too.' Gabrielle still hadn't replied so Sappho continued.

"Just think about it," Sappho urged. "You don't have to answer immediately. Take your time. . .I'm sure Xena would stand behind you . . .and since you're not lovers. . .I don't foresee a problem. If need be I'll keep dying this blonde mane of mine so you don't miss her too much," the poet teased.

The comment inspired a giggle from both of them. Sappho, after a few moments however, turned serious again. ". . .Just promise me you'll think it over?"

"But why?" Gabrielle asked. "Why me?"

"Why?! . . .Once again, desire-that looser of limbs and bitterly sweet. It makes me tremble because you are irresistible. . .so please. . .consider it?"

As Sappho made her request her fingers hooked under the bards chin so she could look directly into her green eyes. Slowly Gabrielle nodded. "I will," she whispered sincerely.

Xena cursed her super sensitive hearing. That was something she never wanted to hear. It was official now. Gabrielle wanted the poet. She was going to leave. Her light was gone, stolen by some over educated, pompous, egocentric -

Xena's mind of rambling insults came to a stand still as she watched the poet, bend down and place the most delicate of kisses on the bards lips. Slowly she stood up and walked away from the amazon.

Xena had seen enough. Despondent and heartbroken she made her way back to her room. She's not sure how, but as she climbed into bed, she noticed her boots where gone and she now donned a sleeping shift. Somewhere in the course of her growing depression she had changed for bed. It frightened the warrior and it was a reminder of why she never let herself fall in love. It blinds the senses, makes one a fool. Not her. No way. She would never fall in love. . .but she realized as she pulled the covers up to her neck. . .She had. . .and it was the worst spill she'd ever taken. Xena prayed for Morpheus to claim her mind but the only thing she felt approaching were the tears in the wells of her eyes and the sound of bard footsteps outside the door.


Quickly Xena reached over and turned down the lantern. She couldn't face Gabrielle - not like this.

Gabrielle crept inside, thinking Xena was fast asleep. As quietly as possible in the near-darkness, the bard changed for bed. She gently eased beside Xena as not to wake her with the shift of the feather bed.

After a few moments of lying there, Gabrielle noticed something. Xena didn't roll over and pull her closer.

The first time it happened Gabrielle didn't quite know what to make of it. Xena often went to bed before her. Gabrielle used that time to chronicle their journeys as the warrior slept. Writing wasn't the only thing Gabrielle did however. Sometimes she would just watch the warrior sleep, soaking up the expressions that crossed Xena's face.

In the campfire light with her deep in slumber, Xena looked her age - a young woman only a few summers older than Gabrielle. And in that firelight, Gabrielle wondered if Xena would ever need her, desire her, as a woman. Often Gabrielle's wondering lead to fantasy. And fantasy lead to self-exploration. She loved to climax watching Xena's beautiful face. Once her task was complete, only then would Gabrielle take her place next to Xena and she knew before Morpheus claimed her, Gabrielle would feel the warriors strong arm surround her.

But tonight. . .tonight was different. The warrior didn't reach out and the longer she waited the more she wondered if Xena was asleep.

"Xena?" Gabrielle whispered.

Xena was undecided. Should she roll over and act as if she's deep in slumber or should she roll over and ask the bard about her evening? Without any further thought, Xena rolled over.

"Are you going to accept her offer?" Xena asked. The words weren't what she expected. She was going to play it cool and let Gabrielle make the confession but something forced the jealous words out before she could even control them.

"What do you mean?" Gabrielle said nervously.

Xena sat up and Gabrielle followed suit. "Sappho asked you to stay with her tonight. Are you going to stay?"

"You were spying on me?" Gabrielle asked a bit miffed. "I don't believe it," Gabrielle said in astonishment; more to herself than to her best friend.

"Well . .?" Xena said not giving up.

Gabrielle put her hands up to halt the conversation's course. "Hold on just one Hades minute here. . .I can't believe you were spying on me," Gabrielle egged the warrior.

"I wasn't spying," Xena insisted. "I . . .I came downstairs to . . .talk to you. . .But I saw the two of you snuggling on the floor so I decided against it. I just 'overheard' you Gabrielle. Not spying."

"Okay," Gabrielle said giving up the fight for now. "You say 'overheard' I say 'spying'. What's the difference?. . . We'll I'm here now. . .Tell me what was so important that you had to lurk in the shadows 'overhearing' my conversation."

Xena closed her eyes and shook her head. The bard was good. She could make her point in the most unappealing and frustrating of ways. This time was no different. Xena shook off the comment and pressed on.

"You still didn't answer my question. Are you going to stay with that. . .woman?"

Gabrielle grinned. It wasn't a grin of joy. It was open season on the warrior princess and Xena knew the look well. Grant it, if it came to a battle of blows Xena would triumph. But with words. . .with words Gabrielle was the more 'deadly' of the two. And sometimes her words could cut more deeply than Xena's chakram ever could. Not that Gabrielle was cruel to Xena. Far from it. Xena had witness this 'fury' the bard had on other unsuspecting and . . .yes. . .stupid fools who tried to challenge her.

"What's wrong if I spend my life with a woman?" Gabrielle said offended. "I know you may be a bit foreign to the fact that woman can love each other but I'm well aware of what it entails."

"What makes you think I don't?" Xena challenge. "I've had many female lovers over the years. . ." Xena didn't mean to make that confession. She and the bard rarely discussed sex. And Xena realized this was exactly why. Sex discussion leads to sex questions which could lead to questions about them; which could lead to. . . 'Oh Tartaris,' the warrior cursed silently.

"You have?"

'Uh oh,' Xena thought frantically. 'There's the first question and it's gonna get rougher from here'.

"Yes," she said softly. "I have. . .so it's not all that foreign to me."

'So', Gabrielle thought silently. 'She's been with women. Desired women. But she's never mentioned it. She's never . . . wanted me.'

The bards quietness worried the warrior. "What are you thinking Gabrielle?" Xena asked when she could stand the stillness no longer.

"Who?" the bard asked, pushing her rejected feeling aside.

"It was years ago Gabrielle," Xena said climbing out of bed.

Gabrielle wasn't going to give up. Xena knew upon hearing the bard inhale deeply. She knew her bard - now Sappho's bard - so well and it pained her heart. She took a drink for the wineskin on their dresser, trying to collect herself for the inquisition that was about to begin.

"LaMao?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena nodded briefly. "She's one," Xena answered without further explanation.

"Bodieca?" the bard questioned next.

"No," Xena replied with a dismal grin. "Her hatred of me had nothing to do with love of the heart - love of country yes. I betrayed her and her people but. . .she and I were never physically intimate."

"What about -

"Gabrielle," Xena spoke up, drawing out the syllables. Gabrielle always loved the way her name sounded when Xena said it. But tonight, for some reason, it had lost its appeal.

"I'm not going to sit here and run down the list of who you've met and who I've loved - who I've slept with, I should say. . .It's pointless."

Gabrielle realized what Xena said was true. Perhaps her questioning steamed from the fact she didn't want to face THEIR relationship. And the fact that Gabrielle wanted Xena but Xena had no interest in her as a lover made the bard's entire being ache.

Gabrielle realized at that point she had nothing to lose. And she just had to know. "If you . . . desire women. . .why have you never made advances toward me?"

Xena chuckled lightly. "And do what? Ruin the best relationship I've ever had in my life? What I have with you is more profound than sex. I can get physical gratification from anyone Gabrielle. To have someone touch your heart; someone to feel your soul - that's rare. And that's what you do for me. . ." Gabrielle's warm grin returned and Xena realized that she wasn't about to let Sappho take that grin. Xena took a deep breath trying to keep her growing anger at bay. "So that's why I'm not going to let Sappho keep you here. You may think you love her. You may think you desire her. But I know deep down, it will pass. You're relationship with her is built on passion. Passion doesn't last."

Gabrielle lost her grin as she stood up. She walked over and took the wineskin from Xena, getting a drink for herself. "I'm a grown woman," Gabrielle said handing it back to Xena. "I'm free to make my own choices. You can't keep me if I don't want to stay."

Xena could feel her bottom lip start to quiver and her eyes get watery. Gabrielle was correct. Xena couldn't make Gabrielle love her no matter how much she tried.

The bard saw the unshed tears in Xena's eyes and she instantly regretted her choice of words. She raised her palm and cupped Xena's cheek. "Hey," Gabrielle whispered, drawing the warrior close, resting her head on Xena's bosom. The warrior, wrapped her strong arms around the bard, resting her chin on top of the bards head. At that moment sobs began to rack through Xena's body. The bard felt the vibrations and tightened her hold.

"I-I. . . don't want to lose you," Xena stuttered.

"I don't want to lose you either," Gabrielle replied. "But I need more. . .no matter how 'profound' our relationship is. . .I need more. . . Sappho is offering me more."

Xena pulled away quickly and walked toward the window. She couldn't help but think what an awful twist of fate had taken place because of this mission.

It started so simple. Three warlords wanted to converge on the small valley. She would 'threaten' one warlord. Meg would 'threaten' the other. With a little hair dye the 'tenth muse' would 'threaten' the last. With a little coloring and a wardrobe change - Sappho became 'the Warrior Princess'.

The mission was successful. It bought Xena enough time to defeat each army one by one. But as she sat looking out at the sea from Sappho's estate on Lesbos, she realized this mission had cost her the ultimate price.

She only needed Sappho's help for a few moments. Now, upon seeing Sappho home safely, she was losing the bard. For the briefest of moments, the strong, undefeatable warrior wished she were dead.

"Go to her," Xena said softly; despondently. "You're right ya know? She can give you so much more. . .She could make you a poet. Train you so you know just which words to use. . . How to captivate an audience. . .I can't give you any of those things. . ."

Gabrielle tilted her head and studied the warrior. "Xena," the bard began, "when I said Sappho offered more, I wasn't talking about poetry. . .I love fighting for the greater good. I like having a different place to tell my stories each week . . . I love. . . you."

Xena turned to the bard, searching Gabrielle's face in an unasked question. "Then what-

"What she offers is physical comfort. . .sexual release. . .and . . .by the gods, if I can't have you, I can have someone who looks like you. . .well except for the brown eyes but still. . .With that dark hair; those cheekbones - she's you. The 'you' I waited years for. The 'you' who desires me."

Xena still didn't know quite how to reply but a grin began to subconsciously form on her lips as Gabrielle continued.

"Is my desire for Sappho an exploitation? Perhaps. But I do have feelings for her. I do share common interests with her. And given time I'm sure I could fall very deeply in love with her. . .But right now. . .well, right now the only person I want doesn't desire me. . .So where does that leave me?"

Gabrielle began to cry. She wasn't sure why. Was it the confession that did her in? Was it the fact that Xena was going to once more tell her to go back to Sappho? She didn't know. What she did know was that Xena was now holding her and comforting her with hushes and soft spoken 'It's alright's'.

Gabrielle pulled away from Xena's grip and wiped her eyes. "I don't want your pity," Gabrielle said clearing her throat, raising her head high. "You can't give me what I need. I've accepted that -

"Gabrielle -

"No Xena," the bard said cutting her off. "I don't want false promises. I don't want you forced into a change in our relationship. . . That WOULD ruin everything."


"No. Xena I know what I'm talking about. I-


The bard stopped talking and waited for the warrior to speak. "Is it safe for me to continue?" Xena asked waiting for an interruption. When Gabrielle nodded the warrior took a deep breath.

"I never said I didn't want you. I only said I didn't want to lose you. I can't give you a 'palace' like this. I can't give you tips on your scrolls. All I have to offer you is a battered heart and battered body to go with it. For a young beautiful woman like you. . .I always thought you deserve so much more. . .but if you're sure, really sure, I'm what you want well. . .who am I to argue?"

As Xena finished her sly smirk fell into place.

"Xena?" Gabrielle began hesitantly. "Let me see if I understand-

"I want - no - I need. . .to be your lover," Xena explained. " I never thought you would want me the way that I want you. . . Guess you and I have more in common with each other than we realized huh?"

All Gabrielle could do at first was nod in agreement. But the longer she paused the more Xena's words took hold of her. 'She wants me?' Gabrielle's mind raced. 'She really does want me doesn't she? . . .Gods yes!. . .'

Gabrielle's mind shut down at that moment and her body took over. She dashed toward Xena. Her left hand captured the back of Xena's hand, demanding that their lips meet.

The first connection of their bodies stunned the warrior. She let the bard lead - her lips surprisingly seized as her eyes stayed wide open in shock. The bard looked enthralled by contrast - her lips searching, her eyes closed shut trying to heighten the physical sensation.

At that moment Xena relaxed and let herself fall into the kiss, closing her eyes as well; her tongue puncturing through the storytellers mouth.

Gabrielle groaned at the contact. That's all it took. Xena could feel her wetness settling at the apex of her legs. Legs, which as the kisses increased, became wobblier.

Xena scooped the bard into her arms, afraid to let the connection go for fear of losing the bard. As she walked to the bed indecision struck. Yes Gabrielle wanted her but how bad? And yes, Gabrielle wanted to love her, but just how much? Reluctantly, Xena pulled back as she settled her amorous cargo on the mattress.

"I'm not sure what you want me to do," Xena whispered. The insecurity of Xena's voice made the bards heart melt and the words she spoke made other regions feel as if they were melting as well.

"Whatever you want will feel wonderful," Gabrielle said pulling the warrior down to her by her hands.

"No," Xena said stopping. Gabrielle looked a bit concerned and Xena could see the bard was holding her breath. "I mean. . .Oh gods. . .I don't want to rush you into anything."

"Do you want me?" Gabrielle asked sincerely.

"Of course," Xena said a bit unsettled by the question. Hadn't the bard been paying attention to their recent conversation? "Of course I do."

"How much?" Gabrielle grinned. "Be honest."

Xena smiled and blushed slightly before staring intently into Gabrielle's eyes. "I want to kiss every inch of your body my bard. I want to feel your hands buried in my hair. . . I want to hear my name spoken as you explode with my mouth covering you - all of you."


The warrior thought she had asked for too much. "Yes," she said nervously.

"I want the same things. . .I want them now."

Gabrielle once more took the lead pulling the warriors weight on top of her. . .and Xena was helpless to follow.

Chapter 3

Sunlight in Xena's eyes was the first sensation that hit the waking warrior. The next was the firm, toned naked body that covered her own. Xena smirked as her hand lazily ran the length of Gabrielle's back, over her buttock, and to her upper thigh.

She reminisced about the hours before sleep finally claimed them. The bards stamina had astounded Xena but she didn't want to let her surprise show. She didn't want Gabrielle thinking the bards desire was a burden. Xena did have to admit, to herself, that she had a hard time keeping up with her affectionate, young lover. 'I'll have to start working out even more', the warrior thought with a silent chuckle.

She always knew her bard was passionate; creative. Last night, and many different positions later, the warrior had her prove. . .and in the most delightful of ways.
Xena softly kissed Gabrielle on top of her matted, once-sweat soaked, hair. Both women would need to use the tub before starting the day Xena noted mentally. 'But then again, being able to still smell Gabrielle's scent covering me has its advantages', she considered with a wicked smile.

Gabrielle stirred slightly and began to murmur sleepily. Xena smiled all over again.


The warrior knew the bard was still sound asleep, probably deep in dream state. Xena decided to 'play along'.

"Yes Gabrielle," she whispered in her ear.

"Let's go swimming."

The warrior tried not to chuckle against the woman sleeping upon her. "Swimming huh? Where at Gabrielle?"

"Right there," the bard said raising her hand that clung to the warriors shoulder just a little bit.

"I'd rather make love to you," Xena whispered. "Can I make love to you?"

Gabrielle nodded as she slumbered. "In the water. . .Let's do it in the water Xena."

The wheels began to turn in Xena's mind. Perhaps she could use the bards 'outspokenness' to her advantage. She could give Gabrielle a special day at the beach. Xena felt her eyebrow go up in anticipation. Would it be considered being devious to play off the bards dreamscape? Sure it was. But the rewards of doing so could be very . . .fruitful.

Slowly and gently Xena shook the bard. When that didn't work she laid the bard on her back and began to nibble on her neck. After a few moments, Xena felt Gabrielle's fingers work their way into her hair.

"Good morning," Xena said softly, not giving up on thoroughly kissing the bards neck. She had four more places to go yet.

"Good morning indeed," Gabrielle giggled. "Hey! That tickles!"

"Didn't tickle last night," Xena playfully bantered.

"Well, you're hands were also busy at the same time so I guess I didn't notice as much," the bard countered.

"I wasn't the only one with 'busy hands' you know," Xena answered, finally rising to meet the greenest, most beautiful eyes the world would ever know.

"Can I help it that you're so 'touchable'?" Gabrielle defended.

"Not at all," Xena agreed. She kissed Gabrielle tenderly - almost chastely on the cheek. "Good morning again," she whispered sincerely.

Gabrielle pulled Xena down, hugging her as tight as possible without hurting her. "I love you Xena. I still don't think I told you enough last night."

"Gabrielle you've been telling me and showing me that for years," the warrior replied pulling back. "But it will always be wonderful to hear because I love you too."

Gabrielle sat up and wiped the sleep from her eyes. "That's good to know," she answered with a yawn. "So are we heading out today?"

"Yeah but I think you should talk to Sappho first," Xena offered. "But, that decision is yours," Xena reconsidered. She didn't want Gabrielle thinking she was trying to run her life.

"I agree," Gabrielle said stretching as she got out of bed. She walked around to put on her robe but stopped when she watched Xena staring at her. "What's wrong?" Gabrielle asked looking over her body carefully.

"You're absolutely beautiful Gabrielle," the warrior said softly. With the sunlight playing to her long, blonde mane and the way it showed her peaks and valleys - Xena felt in awe at the sight of her lover.

Gabrielle politely smiled and promptly blushed. "You're not so bad yourself," Gabrielle said putting on her robe and grabbing a towel. "I'm going to the wash room. Did you want to join me?" she asked seductively.

"I would but it would kinda defeat the purpose don't cha think?" the warrior asked.

Gabrielle considered Xena's statement. "Good point. We'd probably just end up all sweaty again huh?"

Xena smiled and simply nodded. With a quick kiss Gabrielle left with a promise to return shortly. Moments after Gabrielle's departure, Xena heard a knock at the door. She didn't bother to dress. Maybe it was Sappho herself. She looked forward to the expression on the poets face to see her body littered with hickeys. 'No sense in having them Xena thought silently, with no one to show them off too.'

"Hi. . .Can I come in Xena?"

Xena left the door open and walked to her robe. "Sure thing Meg," Xena replied.

"Judging by the . . .look. . .of things I'd say it was a good night."

Xena tried to remain the stoic warrior she was but she couldn't contain her joy any longer and she had to smile. "What did you need Meg?" Xena said avoid the conversation.

Meg returned the smile. "She any good?" Meg asked, not backing down yet. She could tell the warrior was just dying to say something to someone.

"Yeah. She is," Xena said dryly with a wily grin.

Meg clapped her hands together excitedly as she took a seat on the bed. "This is great. So what exactly happened?"

"I don't kiss and tell Meg," Xena said cheerfully yet letting Meg know that she had no intention of discussing things further.

"Of course," Meg said apologetically. "You two are . . .together. . .right? I mean that's all that's important. . .right?"

"Riiiight," Xena drawled.

At that moment Gabrielle walked in from cleaning up, cloaked in her towel. She looked at the bed and took a moment - her eyebrows crunched in examination.

"Oh, hi Meg," she replied casually as she began to brush her water soaked blond locks.

"Hi Gabby," she replied making her way from the door. "So anyway Xena, we're still leaving today as planned right?"

"Yeah. After breakfast," Xena nodded.

"Well, I'll see you two then," she said as she began to close the door.

"Hey Meg," Xena called out. "Thanks. . . I . . .uh. . .I couldn't have done it without you."

Meg blushed. A compliment from the warrior princess meant a lot to her. "No problem Xena. You guys believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. I'm always here to help."

With that Meg shut the door behind her.

"Okay," Gabrielle said as she put on the last of her clothing. "It's your turn. . .I'm going to go downstairs and talk to Sappho while you get cleaned up."

The bard tried to sound carefree but Xena could hear a worry in her voice. "It will be okay," Xena coaxed.

"I still have you right?" Gabrielle asked nervously. "Nothing's changed."

Xena chuckled. "Oh my dear bard a lot has changed. But has my love and admiration diminished?. . . Not on your life," she said with a wicked grin. "I have no regrets about us Gabrielle," Xena said turning serious once more.

Gabrielle smiled and stroked Xena's cheek; the warrior leaned down and kissed Gabrielle softly on the lips.

"Don't forget to brush your teeth either Xena," she said slapping the warriors arm playfully, slipping from the embrace.

"You don't like my morning breath?" Xena said in mock offense.

"Let's just say it's worse than a centaur but not as bad as a Cyclops," the bard teased.

"Thanks a lot!" Xena said throwing her hands up. Gabrielle giggled as she went out the door. But suddenly she popped her head back in.

"You know I'm only teasin', don't you?" Gabrielle grinned. "I mean about the Cyclops comment."

Xena grinned back, "Yes. Gabrielle. I know how your mind works."

"No Xena," Gabrielle replied. "I mean I was teasing about not being as BAD as a Cyclops - because I think you are perhaps WORSE."

Xena picked up a nearby pillow, projecting at the bards visible head. 'Missed me,' she heard the bard call as she walked downstairs. Xena shook her head as she made her way to the wash room. . .making sure to bring her toothbrush.

Chapter 4

Once Xena was clean she walked downstairs to the kitchen. Sappho and Gabrielle were laughing at the breakfast table. The sound made Xena feel a bit insecure. 'What if Gabrielle had changed her mind? What if she's going to say last night was a mistake? What if. . .' Xena stopped her rambling insecurities as made her way over to the bard.

"Ahhh, why if it isn't the warrior princess," Sappho said cheerfully. "Please have a seat my dear cousin and do tell. How did you managed to steal the heart of such a beautiful young woman?" As Sappho finished she raised Gabrielle's hand to her lips and kissed the knuckles with great care.

"Get you're lips off my bard please." It wasn't a request and Sappho promptly obeyed. Xena smiled and she poured herself a cup of tea before taking a spot next to Gabrielle. "Haven't you fondled her enough?" Xena teased.

"Say what you will but I'm not the one that put that passion mark on her neck," Sappho teased back.

Self consciously, Gabrielle pulled her hair over to one side concealing it again.

"That's right Sappho. You didn't," Xena prodded. "And you never will."

"Why do I suddenly feel like first prize at a fishing derby?" Gabrielle interrupted the cousins.

"Because you're quite a catch," Sappho winked. "And Xena has been competing with me for years. And sadly, for me, it appears she's won the greatest prize of all."

Gabrielle blushed and Xena couldn't help but smile in her victory.

"Let's make a deal Xena," the poet continued. "I'll give you my title of Tenth Muse in exchange for Gabrielle. What do you say?"

"See Sappho that's where you're wrong. Gabrielle isn't a prize to be won. And any title you have wouldn't be worth giving up Gabrielle's hand. . .Nah Sappho, you can be the Tenth Muse. I'm happy being Gabrielle's lover."

As Xena finished, the bard reached over and took Xena's hand into hers. Sappho may have all the fancy words but Xena's words cut to the heart of the matter. Xena wasn't a poet, she was a warrior - HER warrior, who could still show her heart when need be. As the three of them sat there, Gabrielle knew she made the right choice. She didn't need a Tenth Muse. . .not when she had a warrior princess.


"Come on Gabrielle," Xena said waving from the lake. "The waters wonderful."

Upon seeing Meg home, Xena decided to make a side trip to Amphipolis. There was a private spring not far from her mothers inn. It was a perfect place to make dreams come true.

Gabrielle quickly shed her clothes and leaped head first, swimming strongly toward the warrior. When she finally reached Xena she couldn't get her footing.

"The water's too deep here," Gabrielle said bobbing up and down.

"Nahhh. . .it's just perfect," Xena insisted. "Wrap your legs around me," she instructed.

Gabrielle did as asked and she felt Xena taking them toward the canyon ledge. It was a smooth surface against her back - cold yet exciting. And soon she felt herself trapped between a rock and a warrior princess.

"Now what?" Gabrielle grinned.

"Now," Xena whispered, nibbling on the bards ear along the way. "I make dreams come true."

And as the sun began to set and their bodies gently rocked together, Xena made sure that all of Gabrielle's dreams would come true. She would try to keep the demons at bay. And without a doubt she would love the little bard that completely owned her heart.


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