by Kim (KP) Pritekel
Disclaimers: My therapist keeps telling me that Gabby and Xena don't belong to me, but I don't believe her. She insists that they belong to RenPics, and some other t.v. people. I guess I'll have to take her word for it. : )
Subtext: Yeah, you could say that. Though I see nothing "sub" about it. If you're not into these finer things in life, fine. Go be straight somewhere else, or wait until you're old enough to vote. Otherwise, welcome!
Note: This story takes place directly after A Necessary Evil. The girls have left the Amazon village.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at:
The sun was just beginning to peak over the line of trees as Xena awoke from a dark nightmare, which she was thankful that she could not quite remember the content. Only something about ropes, daggers and a lava pit. She shook her head to clear it, and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She looked over to her companion and saw, as she suspected, Gabrielle was still very much asleep. The past couple of days had been long and tedious. She knew that they had weighed heavily on her best friend. Gabrielle had traveled for over a week with Xena's body, left to grieve alone until she had run into Ephiny and the Amazons. Xena was forever grateful to Ephiny who had proven herself to be a very worthy friend. Then on top of that having to deal with Valesca and Callisto.
Xena watched with moist eyes as the bard slept on, her body rising and falling with each steady breath. She noticed a locke of reddish-gold hair that had fallen across Gabrielle's forehead. With gentle fingers, careful not to wake the bard, Xena swept them aside. She had realized that since Gabrielle, with the help of Autolycus, had brought her back to life with the ambrosia, she felt differently toward her best friend. After all, Gabrielle was the reason she had come back at all. Dying had made Xena realize just how much the bard meant to her, and how complete Gabrielle had made her life. Gabrielle had offered her friendship and love when the world would have seen her dead. She had always been attracted to the beautiful young girl, but had been able to hold that in check, never becoming a serious problem that a few minutes alone in the woods wouldn't cure. After all, the long days of traveling would make anyone get lonely. But now... things were different.
"Male or female?" Gabrielle asked as she bounced down the road, the tip of her staff beating an unheard tune against the gravel.
"Male." Xena replied, leading Argo just a few paces behind the bard.
"Hmm. Okay, dead or alive?"
"Uhh, alive, I think."
"You think?" Xena shrugged at Gabrielle's backward glance.
"He was last time I saw him." Xena favored Gabrielle with a lop-sided grin.
"Great." Gabrielle turned back toward the road. Suddenly she slowed her pace until Xena and Argo caught up to her. She walked beside Xena, her staff marking their steps. "Xena?"
"Let's go to Amphipolis." bright green eyes turned to meet baby blues full of question.
"Why not?" Xena did not answer, but only gave her a side look with narrowed brows. "Okay. Xena you died. Not many people get the second chance you got."
"I know, Gabrielle. I was there."
"What if you had been gone for good? Xena, I would have had to explain to your mother that her daughter was dead. You haven't been to see her in almost two years. That isn't right."
"Yeah, and if I would have been gone for good I'm sure the folks of Amphipolis would not have had the slightest reason to care. Maybe it would have been for the best. Who's gonna miss an ex-warlord who has shamed her village and her people." Gabrielle grabbed Xena by the arm to stop her. They faced each other. Gabrielle looked at the warrior with incredulous eyes. Xena's face was stoic, eyes empty.
"Xena," Gabrielle could only whisper the word as if it were a prayer. "Don't ever say that!" she said after a moment, finally able to find her voice. "I nearly died with you. You are so important to m-..."Cutting herself off, she swallowed. "To many people, including those of Amphipolis. Including your mother." she said emphatically. "You don't need to be afraid." Xena reached up and laid her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder, running her hand down her upper arm. How could this woman possibly be able to read her so well?
"Okay, Gabrielle. Okay. We'll go." Xena felt she owed the bard that much. She owed her so much more. Gabrielle smiled, her beautiful eyes twinkling in the late morning sun. She squeezed Xena's arm lightly before turning toward the road once more. "If you're in such a family mood, then why don't we go to Potideia?" Gabrielle's head snapped up. But one look into the sparkling blue eyes set her at ease. She smacked her friend lightly in the side.
"We were there last winter solstice, Xena. So don't even try to push it." After a few steps. "Are you Hercules?"
The bard and warrior had just started out again after a late lunch. The day was beginning to cool a bit as the sun began to fall from directly overhead. Gabrielle looked up into the brilliant blue sky, so much like Xena's eyes, she thought to herself with a smile. The kind of blue that you can lose yourself in, and never be found again. Sometimes she wished that she could just lose herself. Lose herself in Xena. She could tell something was happening between them; some subtle change. Before they had left the amazons, she had spoken to Ephiny about it.
"What do you think is going on? I mean, ever since we brought her back in the Hall of Ambrosia, she has been so different. Like," Gabrielle had stopped to think out exactly what she was wanting to say. "like she's afraid of me." They had been sitting in the new queens hut at the time. Ephiny smiled at Gabrielle, sitting back in her chair opposite Gabrielle's pensive position with her back ram-rod straight, her elbows on the table top, brows drawn in bafflement. She looked into Ephiny's laughing brown eyes, her irritation growing. "Ephiny! Why are you smiling like that? I would hardly call this funny."
"I'm sorry." Ephiny placed her hands on top of Gabrielle's in a conciliatory gesture.. "Gabrielle, when you realize what the whole world has already seen, then you'll know why I laugh. Don't worry. Everything will be fine."
Gabrielle jumped as she felt a touch on her arm. Her head snapped around to see Xena standing beside her, a look of concern filling her eyes.
"Are you okay, Gabrielle?" Gabrielle blinked several times to clear her head. Xena reached up to caress her cheek, but just shy of making contact quickly withdrew her hand again, her eyes looking away. Gabrielle looked longingly at that hand.
"What's the matter?" Xena asked, jerking Gabrielle's eyes back to her friend's face.
"Nothing. I guess I just got lost in my thoughts. I'm tossing some new ideas around for my next scroll." inwardly she cringed. She hated lying to Xena.
"Oh." Xena smiled.
"So a, are you a, are you Thalmadaus?"
Xena got them going earlier than usual the next morning, a sense of excitement filling her. They were only a half a day away from the place where she had grown up. She was surprised at her pleasant mood. Perhaps this wasn't such a bad idea.
"I cannot believe you made me get up before the sun has even risen." Gabrielle grumbled as she walked next to the warrior. "Xena, tell me there is a reason for this? A good reason for this." she balled her fists and wiped at the sleep in her eyes.
"Hey, this was your idea." Xena laughed. Gabrielle shot her a pair of emerald daggers. "Besides, early morning air is good for you. And, just think," Xena wrapped her arm around Gabrielle's shoulders and pulled her to her side. "before the day is out you'll be able to taste my mother's prize winning nutbread. I mean, this stuff is known throughout the valley."
"Yup. And just think, this time no head bane." Xena tapped lightly on the top of Gabrielle's head.
"Hey! Stop that!" the bard ducked out from under Xena's arm that had begun to tighten around her neck. The two women smiled at each other, and walked on in companionable silence.
Xena thought back to last night as they had sat down after dining on the rabbit that she had caught. They had sat on opposite sides of the fire, as usual. Xena was sharpening her blade, and Gabrielle had been writing in one of her never ending scrolls.
"What's that you're writing?" Xena asked suddenly, needing to connect with Gabrielle if in nothing else than a shallow conversation. Gabrielle's response to the simple question had intrigued Xena.
"It's ah, well, you know, just a story. It's all about um, well us having to save you, and the amazons, and daggers." Gabrielle would not meet Xena's eyes for a moment. Then finally she did. Xena exhaled through her teeth as silently as possible, hoping Gabrielle would not catch on to how she was affected by her. Gabrielle sat with her back against a rock, her legs straight out in front of her. Her long, golden hair falling around her face. The orange light from the fire mingled with the green of her irises making her eyes seem to glow, the shadow play on her face hiding any real expression. Xena swallowed reflexively. Her eyes moved slowly down the bard's firm, young body. One beautifully shaped arm was at her side, the other holding her quill, poised above the scroll which rested atop one thigh. Her breasts, which strained against the material of the small, green top heaved with every breath she took, which seemed to be getting faster. Xena's eyes moved lower. Most of Gabrielle's well-muscled thighs were covered by the short skirt, leaving a stream of black shadow between flowing to the sweetest parts. Her legs continued to smooth knees flowing into shapely calves that ended in high brown boots, crossed at the ankles. She heard a quick intake of air. Xena's gaze met eyes that swirled with a tempest of emotions that probably mirrored much of her own.
"Be back." she mumbled as she re-sheathed her sword and walked past Gabrielle and out of the camp.
Gabrielle's eyes were locked onto the spot where Xena had just been, her heart was racing in her chest. She looked down onto her scroll as she realized that her shaking hand was splattering ink onto the parchment. She laid the quill down, and buried her face in her hands. She took a deep breath, and continued to write.
Xena leaned against the trunk of a large elm, her heart pounding.
"Stupid!" she berated herself, her face turned toward the stars, eyes closed, fists clenching and unclenching at her sides. "You'll scare her to death. Gods give me strength." she mumbled before walking back through the maze of trees toward camp. She mentally forced herself to calm down, getting her breathing to a normal level, her emotions under control. She saw the glow from the fire just ahead.
Gabrielle heard Xena coming back through the trees behind her. Without trying to make it obvious, she began to re-roll her scroll, a flushed wave of guilt running through her body.
Xena cleared the trees and ended up directly behind Gabrielle. She looked down as the bard began to roll her parchment. She managed to gather a couple of words before they disappeared in the roll. Her eyes opened wide in surprise.
The warrior princess placed her large, strong hands upon her....
Xena groaned inwardly. She could think of a million different ways to end that sentence.
Xena focused on the sights and sounds of the early morning around them. The birds in the many trees lining the road were beginning to move about, chatting amiably with each other.
"Isn't it amazing, Xena?" Gabrielle asked, her voice just barely above a whisper. Xena looked to where Gabrielle's eyes were fixed. Off to their right the sun was beginning to rise above the trees, it's brilliant rays turning the sky a magnificent orange and gold. The bard sighed. She placed her arm on Xena's forearm to stop her. The smaller woman closed her eyes and turned her face up toward the rising sun, a slight smile played across her lips. Xena stared at those lips. She ached to press her own to those soft, full lips. She sighed and looked at the sunrise again. That, at least was safe. Then Gabrielle trailed her hand down Xena's arm, and clasped her hand in hers.
"Wow." Gabrielle opened her eyes again. "Beautiful."
"Beautiful." Xena agreed, leading Gabrielle and Argo forward again.
Gabrielle's brows were drawn in thought as she absently nibbled on a piece of cheese in her right hand, a large chunk of bread in the other, her staff held in the crook of her arm.
"Okay, so you're not royalty. You're not a warrior or warlord. Hmm." she took another bite. "Are ou enares?"
"What?" Xena asked looking over at the bard. Gabrielle scrunched her nose as she tried to swallow the too big of bite. With a smirk, Xena handed her the water skin. The bard drank and swallowed.
"Thanks." she handed the water back to Xena who took a long swallow. "I said, are you Sentares?"
"Nope. Remember, not a warrior?"
"He's not a warrior. Well, not really."
"Besides, he's dead. 'Member?"
"Oh, yeah. I forgot. Hmm."
As they crested the hill they had been walking up, Xena stopped. Gabrielle stepped up next to her and Argo. Beyond was a beautiful valley with dozens of trees, and a patchwork of farmland with small, but sturdy houses scattered about. Men and women alike were out tilling soil, or picking crops while children ran freely laughing and calling out to one another. On the outskirts were large pastures full of sheep. Gabrielle smiled and leaned her head against her staff.
"Home again." she said, smiling up at Xena.
"Yup. Looks like it." she smiled down at her friend, though Gabrielle could see the fear just below the surface. She grabbed Xena's hand and gently squeezed it.
"It'll be fine. You're a different person now, Xena. They know that. And hey, you're not alone this time." Xena looked into Gabrielle's eyes, and locked for a moment. She was so thankful for her presence. She squeezed Gabrielle's hand that was still in hers, and released it as she began to guide Argo down into the valley that was her birthplace of Amphipolis.
Xena led her friend and mount to a path that led around the small farming community that formed the outskirts of the village. The men and women looked up as the strangers passed by. Many just stared as they put their hand over their eyes to shield them from the intense rays of the midday sun. Some waved with wide, happy smiles. Others yet called out.
"Hey! It's Xena! Hey, Xena!"
As they entered the small village Xena was swept back in time to days long passed with her brothers at her side playing in the streets, or shopping for their mother. She looked to her right to see Jakirus, who most call Jako, the blacksmith pounding away on a set of horse shoes. He looked up, small iron mallet in hand. He smiled their way before returning to his business. The baker that used to be next to Jako's shop was no longer there. Must not have been rebuilt, she thought ruefully. People filled the streets either going here or there, picking up lunch or food for dinner, or laughing with their neighbors.
"Looks like a great place to grow up." Gabrielle said with a genuine smile.
"It was." Xena said absently as she looked around. "Come on." she said pulling Argo off down a close avenue. "My mother's inn is down this way."
"Hey, Xena, draw your sword." someone called out from behind them. In a flash Xena swirled around, blade already in hand. To Gabrielle's surprise, she smiled and opened her arms. A tall man with black hair and baby blue eyes, much like Xena's, as well as her poise and grace walked toward them.
"Toris!" Xena said as the man reached them, and swept the warrior princess into a strong embrace that nearly took her off her feet. Gabrielle smiled remembering her friend's older brother.
"It's about time you came home." he said with a smile when he pulled away from her. He looked at Gabrielle. "So I see you still have your little friend with you." he eyed her from boots to fighting staff. Gabrielle fought the urge to gag. "What was your name again?"
"Gabrielle." she said through barely veiled irritation.
"Right. Well, welcome." he said indicating them both. "Mother will be thrilled. I was on my way out to the fields, so I'll catch you later." he gave Xena another quick hug, and chucked Gabrielle under the chin, and walked away. Gabrielle turned to a bemused Xena who shook her head.
"Ignore him." she said. "Besides, you're my little friend." she chucked Gabrielle under the chin just as Toris had done. The bard batted at Xena's hand as they turned toward Cyrene's inn, and the stables for Argo.
The main room was bustling with hungry farmers and the regulars who patronized the place for its good ale, from dusk till dawn. Xena and Gabrielle looked around as they entered through the open doorway. The tables scattered about the modest sized room were full save for one or two. A pretty young waitress carried trays full of food and drink through the noisy throng of people, and back again once her goods had been delivered. She glanced at the two as she would any of the other strangers who pass through town, then Xena saw recognition pass through her big brown eyes. She walked over to them.
"Hi. You're Xena, right?"
"Yeah." Xena said, an edge of guard to her voice.
"Hi. You looking for your mom, she's upstairs. New customer renting. She should be down in a few." then the girl headed toward the kitchen. Xena watched the girl walk away for a moment, then her attention was back on the room at large. Visions of the last time she walked into this room flashed through her head. All noises had stopped, every eye on her. You could hear a needle drop. Now as she looked around she could see many pairs of eyes on her and Gabrielle, but not a hostile look in one of them.
"Xena!" someone exclaimed. Xena's eyes were ripped from the crowd and pulled toward the source of the voice. Coming down the long staircase that was in the back left corner of the room was Cyrene. Her mother hurried down the stairs, her long skirt held up slightly as she went. Finally hitting the main floor, Xena's mother ran over to them.
"Hello mother." Xena said, her eyes smiling before her lips followed. The small woman took the warrior princess in her arms and held her tight, her eyes, so much like Xena's, closed, a wide smile across her lips.
"My little girl!" she rocked Xena gently before letting her go. "Shall I send Rious out to water and feed Argo? I know you'll want her well taken care of and fresh before you head out again."
"Well, actually..." Xena stopped. She looked to Gabrielle.
"We're staying for a couple of days." the bard finished for her.
"Really?" Cyrene looked to her daughter for conformation. "How wonderful! I'll get you the two best rooms I've got."
"One room will do fine, Mother." Gabrielle looked briefly up at her friend, surprised. "We don't want to put you out."
"One room." Xena smiled winningly at Cyrene. The older woman placed her palm against Xena's cheek.
"I'm so glad you've come home." She turned to Gabrielle. "Gabrielle, is it?" she asked, not sure on the young girls' name. Gabrielle nodded.
"You have an amazing memory." she smiled.
"Well, how could I forget the little spitfire who came in here and saved my Xena from those angry villagers?" she hugged the bard. "You have changed a bit." she smiled looking approvingly over the bard's lithe body. Gabrielle smiled at the woman who was only about an inch shorter than she.
"It will be so nice to have someone my size to talk to."
Xena and Gabrielle entered the room that Cyrene had given them, eagerly. It had been a long day full of catching up, and meeting people from Xena's past. She felt mentally exhausted. She and Gabrielle brought in all of their gear that had been taken off of Argo, and plopped it on the floor. The room was of a decent size with a large window filling half of one wall with lit candle sconces mounted on either side. The large bed was pressed against the far wall with a rack for hanging clothes on the opposite wall. A small table with another candle and a water basin in between. The room was very clean with a lot of space to walk around in, the walls light brown stone.
Gabrielle walked over to the bed and plopped down on her back. She immediately bounced back up.
"Mmmm." she almost purred, her eyes closed. "Soft." Xena watched her, licking her lips unconsciously. She walked over to the window and looked out, her hands on the generous ledge. She closed her eyes briefly as the gentle breeze that was coming through the open window swept across her face. She narrowed her eyes as she tried to make out what the view was. She could see lots of trees, and what she knew was the small river that curled around the village. She could almost feel Gabrielle's presence before she heard her. Her friend moved up beside her and wrapped her hands around Xena's arm.
"What's out there?" she asked quietly.
"Trees mostly. But the Kius river is also out there. It kind of snakes its way around Amphipolis. See, you can barely see the reflection of the moon on it through those trees?" Xena said, pointing in the direction.
"Mmhm." Gabrielle said. Without thinking, Xena grabbed Gabrielle and pulled her to her so that the smaller woman's back was to her front. She wrapped her arms around the bards waist. Gabrielle moved quite willingly, resting her arms over Xena's. She rested her head back against Xena's chest.
"Nice fit, don't you think?" the bard asked quietly with a smile in her voice.
"Is this okay?" she asked, suddenly aware of their position.
"Fine." Gabrielle murmured, a deep sigh escaping her. Xena rested her chin on the top of the bard's head for a moment before releasing her.
"We should get some sleep. I know my mother will keep us very busy tomorrow." she said with a knowing grin. She turned to face the room, and looked at the one bed. Heat began to rise from her groin up. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, she thought. "I can sleep on the floor with one of the bedrolls." she said walking toward their packs on the floor in the corner.
"No. Xena, stop. We can share the bed." Gabrielle said putting a hand on Xena's arm. "It's not a big deal." Gabrielle smiled sweetly at her. Xena swallowed.
"Are you sure? I know you like to spread out when you sleep..."
"It's a big bed. Besides, if I roll over on you, just do the pinch on me, and push me aside."
If you roll over on me I'm more likely to tear your clothes off, Xena thought with a wicked inner smile.
Gabrielle grabbed her bag and carried it over to the bed. She pulled out her light, cotton shift that served as her sleeping garment. She gently laid the cloth aside as her fingers rose to the laces of her green top. She could sense Xena near by as though she were looking right at her. Out in the wild, where they usually slept, it was never this hard. Out in the open like that you feel as though you are surrounded by endless space, and privacy is not really yours. But here.... She closed her eyes and sighed as the material slid from her shoulders, her skin seemed to be so much more sensitive than usual. Waves of sensation raced through her body. She could feel that her nipples were taut, though the room was warm from the summer sun. In the intimate confines of this small room she could acutely feel her want and her need for Xena, like a fire hotter than any summer day.
Gabrielle looked down at the light brown material that lay next to her bag. She could turn around as she is, revealed to Xena. What would Xena do? What would she do? Slowly letting out the breath that she hadn't realized she'd been holding, Gabrielle slipped her arms through the garment, and pulled it over her head. A soft moan escaped her lips as the soft material brushed against her breasts. Gods! Maybe Xena should have let Cyrene give us separate rooms.
Xena rummaged through one of the saddle bags looking for her night shirt. She heard a quiet sigh from behind her. Xena turned to see Gabrielle who was slowly letting the green top slide down her arms, her head raised to the ceiling. Xena swallowed as she examined the smooth skin of the bard's strong back and shoulders that the firelight turned into a dancing visage of gold, shadow creeping up her spine. Xena turned so that she was fully facing the bard's back. She didn't even stop to think of what would happen if Gabrielle were to simply look over her shoulder. Would she be upset by Xena's watching her? The girl's hands disappeared somewhere in front of her, Gabrielle's attention focusing on those hands. Xena closed her eyes as she tried to imagine what exactly Gabrielle's fingers were feeling at that very moment. Then the bard reached her hands down and fingered the garment lying on the bed in front of her. Xena held her breath. A few moments later Gabrielle raised her arms, and slipped the shirt over her head. Xena barely caught a moan that issued from her friend. Xena bit her bottom lip, and turned away, her breathing fast and shallow. With trembling hands Xena unhooked her armor and placed it on the floor next to their gear.
"Xena," she heard from behind her, the bards voice seemed far-off, distracted. Xena turned to face her. "Do you hear that?" Gabrielle walked over to the open window as she listened, a slow smile spreading across her face. After a moment Xena, too heard what had captured the bard's attention. Music. Wild and happy music wafted through the night air.
"Where's that coming from?" Gabrielle asked, still looking out into the black night.
"Downstairs, I think." Xena said, staring at the way Gabrielle's shirt hugged her bottom as she leaned slightly out the window to listen better. The garment only covered to about mid-thigh when she was standing straight. Xena groaned.
"Let's dance!" Gabrielle exclaimed turning from the window. Xena quickly forced her eyes back up to meet those of her friend. But mid-way they got caught on the two peaks that taunted her from the front of the shift.
"Uh, I don't dance, Gabrielle."
"Come on, Xena. Please? For me?" Gabrielle gave Xena the pouty look that Xena could never resist.
"Fine. We'll dance." Gabrielle smiled in delight as she hurried over to Xena and caught her arm in the crook of her own, and began to swing Xena around, her bare feet stomping on the hard wood planks. Xena could not help but smile. "I thought you didn't like to dance!" she said, her voice coming in breathy pants from the exertion.
"I love to dance! I'm just not any good at it!" Gabrielle laughed. "Switch!" Gabrielle exclaimed as she let go of Xena's arm, and turned to take hold of her other arm and swung her in the opposite direction. As the beat got faster, Gabrielle swung Xena around faster; the room was spinning. Finally with a loud toot of some unseen horn the song came to an end. Both women stopped and laughed as they tried to find their breath.
"That was fun." Gabrielle smiled, her green eyes twinkling.
"I haven't done that in ages." Xena said as she began to walk back to her gear and remove her arm bands and gauntlets.
"We're not going to dance anymore?" Gabrielle asked, disappointment edging her voice.
"Not if it's another one like that." Xena smiled. The bard was looking down at some spot on the floor, her brows drawn. "Besides, there's no more music playing." Suddenly, as if on cue another one began, this one a slow jig, full of soul. Gabrielle looked into Xena's eyes.
"Can we dance to this one? Though you'll have to show me. I've never danced to anything like this before."
"See, then maybe we-"
"Please?" Gabrielle was serious, her eyes pleading. The warrior princess gently laid her last gauntlet on the pile with the other gear and walked toward her friend.
"Okay, give me your right hand. Good. Now place your left hand on my shoulder."
"Perfect. Okay, now watch my feet. This isn't hard, Gabrielle. I'm sure you'll get it in no time."
They stood about half an arms length away from each other, Gabrielle staring down at the warriors boots as she moved the bard slowly around the room. Xena took the opportunity to look at her bard. Gabrielle's eyes were full of concentration as she processed what Xena was doing, her brows drawn, teeth absently biting then releasing her lower lip, only to take it in again. Xena closed her eyes and inhaled the younger woman's scent; fresh and clean, her skin and hair smelling of the herbs she used. Sweat, and the warm, soft smell of Gabrielle.
Gabrielle slowly moved her gaze back up to Xena's eyes, taking in the warrior's body on the way up; her leather war dress, the swell of Xena's breasts at the top, her strong shoulders. She sighed. Xena's incredible blue eyes were only about a foot away from her, their intensity and power taking her aback as they always did. Xena's brow was furrowed as if she were in deep thought. Gabrielle took her hand from Xena's shoulder and rubbed her thumb across her friends brow. Xena closed her eyes at the contact, then opened them again. The furrow was gone, Xena's features relaxed. Gabrielle smiled.
"There. See? We're not going into war, Xena. Relax, smile." Xena smiled. Gabrielle started to put her hand back on Xena's shoulder, but thought better of it. Instead she placed her hand on the back of the warrior's neck. The bard felt her friend tense at the contact, but then relaxed again. Gabrielle put her hand that was connected with Xena's around her own waist, leaving Xena's hand there, and bringing hers up around the other side of the warrior's neck. She closed the space between them, and rested her cheek against the soft flesh that was Xena's breasts.
Xena tightened her hold on the bard, and wrapped her arms around the smaller woman's back, feeling the muscles shift under her hands as she led the bard slowly around the room, their bodies melding together as if they were made for each other. The song ended, and Xena stopped the dance, though neither let go. They stayed as they were, wrapped in each other's arms, standing in place as if they had become permanently fused together; two souls, one body.
Xena had no idea how long they stayed that way, but suddenly Gabrielle gently pulled away, sliding her hands until they rested on Xena's shoulders, and smiled up at her.
"Thank you." she said, her voice barley above a whisper.
"For teaching me how to dance."
"Any time." Xena smiled.
"Well, I, I suppose we should get some sleep?" Gabrielle said, her eyes conveying and entirely different message.
"Yeah." Xena said, pulling away from Gabrielle and walking back to their packs. Gabrielle stared after her for a moment, not sure what to do. With a sigh she walked to the bed and slid in between the cool linens until she was by the wall. She laid on her side and watched as Xena finished dressing for bed. What was she doing wrong? Did Xena not find her pretty enough? Maybe... Gabrielle cleared her head of any thoughts. Why torture herself? Xena was doing enough of that for both of them.
Xena blew out the two candles in the sconces by the window, and then the candle on the table by the bed as she eased herself onto the soft mattress and under the sheet. Gabrielle was in the blackness of the corner, so she could not see her face at all. Probably for the best, she thought as she turned on her side, intentionally facing her back to the bard.
"Goodnight, Xena." she heard whispered softly behind her. A shiver raced down Xena's spine.
"Goodnight, Gabrielle." Xena forced her eyes to shut.
Gabrielle stared at the dark form in front of her. She slid her hand out from under the sheet and began to reach toward the warrior to stroke her thick, black hair. Her hand suddenly stopped, and she drew it back to her, and tucked it under her chin before closing her eyes.
The main room of the inn seemed eerily quiet and empty from the loud ruckus of the night before. Xena steadily made her way down the long staircase, the bard following close behind, both led by the pungent smells of bacon frying, homemade bread, and a motley of other delectable smells that life on the road seldom offered. The warrior and bard had slept later than usual. The softness of the bed making even Xena want to slumber the entire day.
"Well, look who's up." Toris said sarcastically as he looked up at the pair, a tray loaded with empty dishes in his hand. "Come on, sis. You're the one who was up by the crack of dawn. What happened?"
"She still is, usually." Gabrielle said, eyeing her companion.
"Yeah, yeah. Hey, I'm on vacation here."
Toris snickered. He looked at the bard.
"Later want a tour of Amphipolis?" he asked, eyes wondering down her body hungrily as she reached the bottom step, putting her at his eye level.
"Ah, no. Thank you, though." she looked to Xena for a moment before looking back to the dark man with an expectant look on his face. "I think Xena and I were going to do that today," she looked to Xena again who was looking at Toris with a raised brow. "I think." Gabrielle finished weakly.
"Hm. Well, anyway, breakfast is ready." Toris turned and headed toward the kitchen.
"Xena," Gabrielle stepped to the main floor next to the warrior. "I know he's your brother, but..."
"I'll talk to him." Xena said not looking at her friend, her eyes calculating as she headed toward the kitchen.
Cyrene brought the last of the platters to the table where her two children and Gabrielle were already seated. She brushed back her long, dark hair with just a hint of gray, and sat at the head of the table. She bestowed a warm smile on each of them, and grabbed Xena's, who sat to her right, hand, and Toris' who sat to her left. She looked from one to the other of them.
"I cannot tell you how happy I am to have my children back under my roof again." she kissed Xena's knuckles lightly. "Thank you for coming home, Xena." Xena smiled at her mother, so much of the love she had felt for the woman as a child coming back to her. Cyrene looked at Gabrielle who sat next to Xena. "You are always welcome here, Gabrielle. I always wanted another daughter." Gabrielle smiled sweetly, a pleasant thrill sweeping through her stomach. "Let's eat."
"So, Xena. Mother tells me that you're only going to be here for a couple of days." Toris said nonchalantly as he tore off a chunk of bacon with his teeth.
"Yup." Xena answered, not bothering to look up as she smeared some jam on a slab of bread.
"Hmm. That's too bad." Xena looked up in time to see her brother look at Gabrielle with a lecherous grin curling on his lips. Luckily the bard was cutting up a piece of ham, and didn't notice. Xena glared at him, but said nothing. Blue eyes locked onto blue eyes in a silent challenge.
"Toris, were you going into the southern pastures today? I noticed the other day that the flock was getting rather thick over there. You need to take a quarter and put them in the pastures to the east." Cyrene said suddenly, her eyes on Toris were intense, emitting her own silent challenge. Toris tore his eyes from Xena and looked to his mother.
"Yeah, sure. I can do that."
Gabrielle looked up as she noticed how thick the air seemed to suddenly get. She looked from Xena to Toris, and back, her brows drawn.
"Toris, why don't you take Xena's friend out with you and show her the lands?" Cyrene said, putting slight emphasis on Xena's name. Toris looked into her eyes for a moment, then looked down into his plate. He looked at Gabrielle, his eyes blank.
"Gabrielle, would you like to see our land? It's really beautiful this time of year." his voice was polite, even kind. Gabrielle smiled.
"Sure. I'd love to."
Xena took the last stack of dishes to her mother at the wash tub.
"I just don't get it. Why isn't he married yet?" she asked as she plunged a mug into the rinsing barrel and dried it with a rough cloth. Cyrene sighed.
"I don't know. Toris has this chip on his shoulder that no woman can seem to knock off, or even want to try. I know there are some lovely young girls here who would love to capture Toris. He won't let them. He won't let anyone in."
Xena smiled to herself. How ironic, she thought. She had been the exact same way before she met Gabrielle. Somehow that young girl, so inexperience in life, had been able to breach the sturdy walls that Xena had erected so long ago.
"Sounds like someone else I know." Cyrene smiled, giving Xena a knowing side glance. Xena looked at her, eyes wide in surprise. "Maybe Toris needs to find his Gabrielle?"
"What are you talking about?" Xena said as she placed the mug on a hook.
"Xena," Cyrene stopped washing the kettle she had in her hands and turned to her daughter. "What is bothering you? You can't hide it from me. I see the troubled look in your eyes." Xena looked away from the older woman and rinsed another mug.
"Nothing's wrong, mother. I'm fine."
"Xena." This was spoken like a command. Xena looked into her mother's knowing gaze. "It's Gabrielle, isn't it?"
"What are you talking about? Of course it's not-"
"Daughter." Cyrene placed her palm against Xena's cheek. Xena leaned into the touch. She could feel her eyes burning with built up frustration. "Why don't you tell her?"
"Tell her what?" Xena asked, her voice thick with emotion.
"That you love her." Xena looked at her mother, eyes wide, mouth open to speak words that would not come.
"You wouldn't understand-"
"Xena, you're father has been gone for a very long time. Do you think that I have stayed alone? Never to feel love again? I understand more than you think I do." Cyrene stared intently into her daughter's eyes until she saw understanding dawn on Xena's face, followed by a surprised smile that quickly disappeared.
"How did you know, a... about me and-"
"It's written all over your face every time you look at her. Xena, your heart is in your eyes." Xena quickly dried the forgotten mug in her hand and slammed it onto another hook, shaking the entire rack. "No." she said stubbornly. "Gabrielle deserves better than a murdering warlord."
"Don't." Cyrene said softly. "That hasn't been you for a very long time, Xena. I hear of the things you do, you and your bard." she smiled warmly. "Gabrielle is a grown woman with a mind of her own. She wouldn't be with you if she didn't want to be. And besides, she loves you." Xena looked at her, her gaze intense.
"How do you know?" she asked breathlessly, belying her harsh denials.
"Hmm." Cyrene smiled. "Apparently you haven't looked into Gabrielle's eyes lately. It's a pity, too. There such a lovely shade of green."
"And so that's all of it." Toris said extending his arm out to indicate all of their land holdings. He smiled at her.
"It is really beautiful. Do you tend all the sheep by yourself?" Gabrielle leaned against her staff, and shielded the intense sun from her eyes with her hand as she looked out over the rich, green pasture spread out before her.
"Mostly. But we do have a couple of hands that come a couple days a week."
"Hmm. Well, I probably better be getting back. I'm sure Xena is wondering where I am." Gabrielle began to walk back toward the center of town. She had enjoyed seeing all the wonders of Amphipolis, and Toris had been a generous guide, but she was getting tired of feeling his eyes on her every time she turned around.
"So you like to wonder around aimlessly with my sister?" he asked as he walked next to her, his thumb hooked in his sword belt.
"Yes, I do. We have seen some truly amazing things together."
"So you wouldn't ever want a different life? One that was more, I don't know, stable?" sarcasm edged his voice. Gabrielle was really starting to dislike Xena's older brother.
"I wouldn't trade it for the world." she said simply. Toris stopped walking. Gabrielle turned to see what the trouble was.
"Well, um, I'm going to be in the southern pasture if anybody needs me. I've got some things to do." with that, Toris turned and walked away.
Gabrielle walked through the open doorway of the inn that was beginning to fill with people as early afternoon approached, and almost walked smack into Xena.
"Whoa." Xena said stopping the bard with a hand on her arm.
"Xena!" she said in surprise. "Where have you been?" Xena snickered.
"Mother had me doing dishes."
"Oh! Dishwater hands. I like that." Gabrielle said with a mischievous gleam in her eyes as she grabbed Xena's hands and began to playfully massage them, dangerously close to her breasts.
"Yeah." Xena took her hands out of Gabrielle's, her mother's words still roaming around her brain. "Where is Toris?"
"Um," Gabrielle stammered, trying not to let the sting she had just received show. "He's in the southern pasture."
"Okay. Catch up with you later." Xena said as she moved past Gabrielle. Gabrielle turned to follow her friend with eyes that were quickly filling.
Xena walked down the busy avenue until she knew that she could not be seen from the inn, then began to run. She knew she had hurt Gabrielle just then, but she could not chance saying something that she was not ready to reveal yet. If she would ever be ready.
Her instincts had told her to get as far from the bard as she could, and quick.
Gabrielle walked into the inn stubbornly crushing the unshed tears with her hands. She took a deep breath, and went to the kitchen, determined not to let this bother her. Cyrene sat at the large table where they had all eaten breakfast a couple hours earlier, with a woman who looked to be around her age with blonde hair that was tied up on the back of her head, and kind brown eyes, with an easy smile. They chatted amiably as they snapped green beans.
"Gabrielle." Cyrene smiled when she saw the bard. "Come, sit down and join us." Gabrielle smiled. A distraction would be welcome. Very welcome indeed.
"Who's this?" the woman asked as she smiled at Gabrielle.
"This is Gabrielle. The one I was telling you about, Xena's friend."
"Ah, yes. Hello, nice to meet you, Gabrielle. My name is Tya. So I hear you're a bard?"
"Yes. That's what I like to think, anyway." the women laughed. "May I help?" Gabrielle asked, indicating the large pile of beans that the women still had to go through.
"Sure you can. I told you she was sweet." Cyrene said scooting a small pile in front of the bard, and giving her an empty bowl to put the discarded ends into. "You know how to do this?"
"Oh, yes. I used to do this at home with my sister Lila all the time."
"Where's home?" Tya asked.
"Ah, yes. I've been through there once."
"Cyrene? I'm getting swamped!" the pretty waitress from the day before said leaning through the door to the kitchen. "I've got the ale gang out here again, and they're thirsty." then she disappeared out into the main hall again, the door swinging behind her.
"God's preserve us." Tya said. "You'd think they would find something else to do than spend their days drunk!" she stood from the table and grabbed two large pitchers of ale from the counter, and headed out the door.
"Does Tya work here, too?" Gabrielle asked looking back to Cyrene.
"No. She's my friend. But she helps out when it gets too busy."
"Soo, is it just me, or does it seem like Xena is a little preoccupied?" Cyrene asked, eyeing Gabrielle with a look that told the bard that Cyrene already had the answer to her own question. She felt like she was being baited to walk right into a trap. Gabrielle didn't mind. She needed some answers, and who better to provide them than the warrior's own mother?
"Yes. She does." she decided that perhaps an innocent reply would be the best. Starting safe was the intent. But she could feel the frustration building in her. "What should I do!?" she blurted.
"I'm going to give you the same advice I gave Xena. Tell her."
"Tell her?" Gabrielle looked down at the small pile of beans in front of her, her mind whirling on what to say. Finally she decided that honesty is generally the best policy. "That I love her?" Cyrene smiled and placed her hand over Gabrielle's
"That's exactly what you tell her. You're a smart girl, Gabrielle, and much more honest with yourself. It took me much longer to get it out of my daughter."
"You and Xena, you talked about... us?"
"Xena has been hurt so often in her life. I think she feels that she can't count on anything anymore. Everything dear to her has left her. She feels unworthy of you, Gabrielle."
"Unworthy? But, why?" Cyrene flinched at the pained expression on the beautiful young girls face.
"In Xena's eyes you embody everything that is pure, and sweet and innocent in this world. Completely opposite of how she sees herself." Cyrene snapped another bean pod then grabbed another. "In her eyes you are her saving angel."
"She said that?" Gabrielle tried to snap a bean, but the tough skin proved to be unsnappable in her shaky hands. Cyrene absently handed the bard a small knife and continued.
"No. But I can read it in her eyes. She loves you, Gabrielle." Gabrielle felt her heart fill to almost overflowing with renewed hope. She smiled and stood, leaning over to kiss Cyrene on the cheek.
"Thank you." she said with a smile, and quickly headed out of the kitchen and toward the door that would take her outside, would take her to Xena.
Xena ran toward the southern pasture, her anger rising with every stride. About thirty yards ahead she saw Toris down on his knees trying to fix the push plow.
"Hey, Toris." she called out as she neared the fence. He looked over his shoulder and stood when he saw her coming towards him. He said nothing, but his face was tight. "We need to talk." she said, her voice cold.
"So talk." he said standing to his full height.
"What do you think you're doing, brother? Keep away from her." Xena snarled. She now stood within ten feet of him, her feet spread wide, fists balled at her sides.
"Why? Are we going to have a cock fight over the hen, Xena?" he snickered looking her over. "You're kind of missing something for that, don't you think?"
"I mean it, Toris. Stay away. You have always wanted what others had. Even as children you'd try to take anything from me and Lyceus. Trust me. This is one area I wouldn't venture into if I were you." Xena's eyes were hooded, dangerous control in opposition to those of Toris that were wide, blue fire.
Gabrielle strolled down the dusty avenue that would turn off onto the narrow path that would lead to the southern pasture where Xena had gone. It was time they talked. Gabrielle looked up into the bright blue sky with a smile on her face, confident in the knowledge of what she was going to do, going to say. At last. She would let Xena know her heart for what it was. No more games.
Gabrielle looked around perplexed as she realized that the birds weren't singing in the trees. How odd. She looked ahead and saw the two tall dark forms standing only a matter of yards apart. Xena and Toris. They were yelling, though from this distance she could not make out what was being said. Gabrielle smiled ruefully to herself as the thought occurred to her that even nature and all its creatures feared the great wrath of the Warrior Princess, and deemed to keep quiet in hopes of being overlooked.
"You must be a bard." she mumbled to herself as a look of concern slowly spread its way across her features as she neared the brother and sister.
"I mean it, Toris." Xena growled, every muscle in her body tense, ready to pounce.
"Leave her alone."
"Why? Why should I, oh great warrior?" Toris took a step closer. Xena did not move a muscle, though Gabrielle could tell it was taking great restraint on her part.
"Because she's what, Xena?" Toris demanded
"Because she's mine! Gabrielle is mine!" she screamed. Dozens of birds darted out of the nearby trees as Xena's voice echoed through the valley. Xena's back was to the bard, but Toris saw her and looked her right in the eye. He must have seen something that he didn't like, because he stormed past Xena muttering.
"Take her." he stepped through the gate that opened up to the road and walked past Gabrielle without even giving her so much as a glance. Gabrielle stood planted for a moment in stunned surprise, then the anger began to rise. All of her anger and frustration that had been slowly building toward Xena was surfacing, with a vengeance.
"I'm what?" she asked, her voice low, demanding. Xena whirled to face the bard who was walking toward her. For a moment the warrior was too stunned to react, but it passed quickly. She began to walk away from Gabrielle, feeling angry, and jealous and ashamed. She saw the small shed off to the left where feed was kept as well as tools. She headed for it, anything to put some distance between her and the bard.
"Xena!" Gabrielle exclaimed as she realized her friend was walking away from her. She ran after her, trying to catch up to Xena's long strides. "Don't walk away from me!" she caught up to the warrior and grabbed her swinging arm, forcing Xena to turn around. Xena's eyes were cold, guarded. "Why are you walking away from me?" no answer. "Xena! Talk to me!" they stared at each other; fiery green burned into ice cold blue. Gabrielle could feel her anger rising again. She didn't dare let go of Xena's arm for fear she'd start off again. "You told Toris to stay away because I am yours. Well I've got news for you, Xena. I am not yours!" Xena's eyes widened, but she said nothing. "I am not yours because you won't let me be yours! Xena, if you would just let me in I would have been yours from the day we met!" Gabrielle threw Xena's hand away from hers and turned away, her hands in her hair, eyes shut tight as she fought the urge to scream. She lifted her face to the heavens and half growled, half screamed as overwhelming emotions coursed through her. She turned on Xena and opened her mouth to yell at her, but Xena was quicker. She reached out and grabbed the smaller woman, crushing her roughly to her, pressing her mouth to Gabrielle's.
Xena watched in self loathing as Gabrielle stood before her obviously at the end of her rope. Xena was so angry at herself. I love you, Gabrielle! She heard the words over and over again in her mind, but could not say them. Her mouth would not move. She knew nothing else to do. Suddenly her body was filled with a passion and desire like she'd never known before. If she could not tell Gabrielle how she felt, then by the gods she'd show her. She reached out and grabbed for the only life line she had ever known, and pressed her lips to Gabrielle's. The bard fought her, beating her fists against Xena's breastplates, a muffled scream trapped inside Gabrielle's mouth. Xena held her close, one hand pressed against her back, the other held the back of her friend's head. Slowly it was as if the life was flowing out of the bard, and her tense body began to relax, fall into Xena. Her fists unclenched, and grabbed onto Xena as if without her body to hold her up, Gabrielle would drown.
Gabrielle felt herself being pulled with strong hands toward Xena, and her scream was cut off by pressing lips that demanded hers in return. Her eyes opened wide in startled surprise, then a burning anger surged through her body. She tried to push Xena away, but the warrior was much too strong for her feeble attempts, so she began to beat against her, trying to inflict some kind of pain as she vented her frustration. Suddenly all the fight drained out of her as she was filled anew with an intense desire. A slow burn that started at their roughly joined mouths was spreading through her entire body, starting everything in its path aflame.
Xena felt Gabrielle's mouth open under hers, her kiss becoming demanding as it deepened. Gabrielle began to slow everything down, taking Xena in deeper, longer, as if in this frenzied state she wanted to savor this first taste of the woman she loved. Xena followed suit. Gabrielle encircled Xena's neck with her arms, entangling her hands in thick, soft, raven hair. A guttural moan escaped Xena, full of desperate need. She pulled Gabrielle to her, needing to feel her body against hers. Her hands roamed up to Gabrielle's soft mane of hair and gently massaged her scalp and the soft skin of her neck. Gabrielle moaned into Xena's mouth. Xena's hands became restless as they began to travel down the bard's shoulders and back, squeezing muscular hips before settling onto firm buttocks, squeezing, and pushing Gabrielle's body into her. The bard moaned again.
Xena broke the kiss and gently pushed Gabrielle toward the small shed where bales of soft grass were piled. She gently lowered the girl to the ground, quickly following. She stretched out next to the bard and cupped her cheek with her hand, raising her head to lightly kiss Gabrielle's forehead, and then her nose, and then each closed eyelid before finally reaching her mouth. Gabrielle never broke the kiss as she reached to unhook Xena's armor. Xena shrugged out of the cumbersome gear, and set it aside, followed by her gauntlets and arm bands. Gabrielle pushed Xena back into the grass and knelt beside her. With deft fingers she slid the leather straps out of their loops, and pulled Xena's leathers off, followed by her boots. She took a moment to take in her lover's lithe body, muscled from countless battles. She noticed a long scar that stretched from just under her left breast. She followed the pale, slightly puckered skin with her finger. Xena watched with eyes hooded by desire. Gabrielle's fingers continued down the length of the warrior over smooth ribs, flat stomach, each hand trailing down a well-muscled thigh.
Gabrielle laid a trail of fire as her fingers drifted down Xena's body. Xena watched her with fascination as the bard explored, testing the different textures with sensitive fingertips. Xena closed her eyes and moaned as Gabrielle returned to the scar from some long ago forgotten battle, and gently ran her tongue over it, tasting her, and accepting her all in one action. Gabrielle's attention turned to Xena's breasts with the nipples taut, and aching for her touch. The bard cupped her breasts, testing their weight before she gently squeezed them. She began to make lazy patterns over the soft flesh with her fingers, slowly coming closer and closer to their peaked centers. Gabrielle looked into Xena's face to see her reaction. Xena's eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted. Gabrielle felt Xena start as her thumbs passed directly over the sensitive peaks..
The sensations were exploding through Xena as warm hands and fingers caressed her, teased her, then finally discovered the fevered pitch of this new excitement. Xena moaned as she felt Gabrielle's hot tongue run over one tight nipple, shooting a wave of fire down to leak out between her legs.
"Mmmmm." she moaned, her hands running through Gabrielle's hair, and stroking her back. Gabrielle ran her tongue around the puckered tip, then took it between her teeth and pulled gently. Xena gasped. The bard began to lick a flaming trail to the other breast where she subjected it to the same pleasing sensations.
"C'mere." Xena said breathlessly, afraid she'd lose all control if she let Gabrielle continue. She gently pulled Gabrielle to her, the bard's body covering her own. She greedily took the bards mouth again, her right hand wondering down the girls body until she reached the end of the short skirt, and slid her hand inside. Xena's hand caressed over the soft, warm supple flesh of the back of Gabrielle's thigh, before running across the rough material of her underpants. She could feel the bard's excitement.
Gabrielle moaned against Xena's mouth as she felt the restless hand caressing her skin. She broke the kiss when she felt Xena's other hand at the laces on her small green top. She raised herself on strong arms to allow Xena better access. The warrior quickly untied the leather twine, and slipped it through all of the eyelets, the two ends of the top hanging open. Xena brought her other hand out from under Gabrielle's skirt and her hands kneaded the soft flesh of Gabrielle's beautiful breasts, thumbs gently caressing the erect nipples. Gabrielle closed her eyes, her head back, her lower lip caught by her upper teeth before opening to release a sigh.
Xena raised her head and brought her mouth to the gift before her, her hands trailing down to find the top of Gabrielle's skirt.
Gabrielle sucked in her breath as she felt Xena's mouth on her. She had to readjust her position as she felt her arms begin to tremble.
Xena laid a trail with her tongue up Gabrielle's throat.
"Lift for me, Gabrielle." she whispered in her ear, her hands putting slight pressure on the bards hips. Gabrielle lifted her bottom as Xena pushed her hands into the waistband of Gabrielle's skirt and underpants, and pushed them down as far as her long arms could reach, then used her feet to push them completely off, then working her boots off in much the same way. They now lay skin to skin save for Gabrielle's unlaced top.
"Let's take this off, shall we?" Xena whispered against Gabrielle's lips, her fingers stroking the rough green material. Gabrielle lifted one arm and then the other as the warrior slipped the top off, and tossed it down by their feet with the other discarded garments. Xena held the bards warm body to her for a moment, needing to feel her close, their bodies connected. She closed her eyes and swallowed back the emotion she felt in her throat. She loved this woman so much, and to think that she held her in her arms, it was almost too much to keep inside.
Gabrielle laid her head down upon Xena's soft breasts, her hands gently stroking Xena's sides and shoulders. A sigh escaped her. She could hear Xena's racing heart beat under her ear. She smiled knowing that that heart beat was for her. She raised her head and looked deep into the warrior's eyes. She laid a gentle kiss upon her lover's lips.
"I love you, Xena." she said, her voice trembling. Xena stared at her for a moment, the emotions and thoughts swirling through those clear, blue eyes. Then suddenly she cupped the bards face in her hands, and pressed their lips together. The kiss was deep, full of pure love and passion. When they parted they were both breathless.
Xena lazily caressed Gabrielle's back as the bard lay against her breasts, her breathing not fast, but not quite normal, either. The feel of Gabrielle's bare skin against her own must be what it was like to walk through the Elysian Fields at sunset. She closed her eyes and sighed. Suddenly the bard raised her head and gently placed a small kiss on her own. Xena opened her eyes and looked deep into the stormy depths of her lover's.
"I love you, Xena." Gabrielle murmured. Xena stared for a moment into those eyes that held so much love for her, as well as a great deal of desire. As if they had taken a life of their own, Xena's hands reached up and clutched either side of Gabrielle's face, and hungrily brought her to her, their mouths opening to each other, tongues caressing and exploring as if this was all there was in all the world. A fresh wave of desire raced through the warrior like she had never experienced before. Xena rolled them over so she was on top of Gabrielle. She needed so badly to show Gabrielle all of the love that she had been given. Her ears ached to hear her lover cry out in pleasure, her mouth watering to taste the sweetness that was her bard. She looked once again into the eyes of her friend, seeing the same needs and desires reflected there.
A long time later Xena held Gabrielle's trembling body in her arms. The bard was still breathing very heavily, but her heartbeat was beginning to slow to a normal rhythm.
She snuggled closer into Xena, wanting to be as close to her as she possibly could. She closed her eyes as one last final shudder passed through her, her body thrumming. She let out a slow sigh, whispering Xena's name just to feel it roll off her tongue.
"Thank you, Gabrielle." Xena said quietly, kissing the bard's ear.
"For what?" Gabrielle asked, turning her head slightly so she would be able to see her lover.
"For bringing me home, again." she lightly kissed Gabrielle's smiling lips. A shudder passed through Gabrielle as she could taste herself upon those lips. Xena swallowed, then continued. "I was so lost before you found me. I will never leave you again. I promise. I love you." Gabrielle looked deep into Xena's eyes, her throat tightening. Xena had finally uttered the words that she had been waiting to hear for so long. She gently kissed her warrior.
"I know." she whispered.
Xena was silent for a moment as if in thought. She blinked, and looked at her friend.
"I suppose we should get back before mother thinks we got lost, or something." Gabrielle smiled.
"You know, your mother is one smart lady. I like her."
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