Homecoming-Part II
By C.N. Winters

Disclaimers: Xena and Gabby belong to MCA/Universal and they need not be offended. This is a simple story of mine and mine alone. It's for fun, not profit, so relax. It involves two women who are truly, deeply and hopelessly in love. If you're too young, too closed-minded/sexually repressed, or live someplace too reserved don't read this. If none of these describe you please read on and enjoy.

Helpful Hint: This is part two of Homecoming as the title suggests. It would be advised that you read part one so you're not scratching your head saying "huh?". 'Nuff said. Now on to the story.

Chapter 11

"Rommy?" Xena whispered. "Are you sure?"

She hopped into the cart to get a look for herself. 'Sure enough' the warrior thought. 'But what's it mean?'

"Are you done now ladies?" one of the guards asked, getting irritated. "We gotta schedule to keep ya know?"

"Of course," Gabrielle said politely, hopping down. Xena followed suite and in seconds the wagon was leaving for town.

"Rommy? . . . Wasn't that the name of Barb's lifemate?" Sappho asked the duo.

"One in the same," Xena answered.

"But why-

"Good question," Xena replied, cutting Sappho short. "We're just going to have to find out why. . . Hurry up and finish breakfast Gabrielle. We got a big day ahead of us."

The bard shook her head in agreement. "Where do we start?"

"City Hall," Xena grinned. "We're gonna get a piece of paper. Then we're gonna get hitched."

"How romantic," Gabrielle replied sarcastically. "You know I could use a little tenderness."

Xena dropped to her knees and quickly took Gabrielle's hands in hers. "Pleassssse Gabrielle. Would you do the ultimate honor. . .make the supreme sacrifice . . .and become my lifemate? I feel as though my heart would break if you refuse me and . . ."

"Get up!" Gabrielle ordered. "You're making a spectacle of yourself."

"I thought that's what you wanted my dearheart, my sugarcakes, my . . ."

"Oh," Gabrielle exhaled. "This is so disgusting. Would you stand up please?"

"Anything for you pookiepie?" Xena replied rising and batting her eyelashes.

"Enough with the terms of endearment. You're making me nauseous," Gabrielle answered, starting back inside.

Sappho simply looked at Xena in deadpan. "Pookiepie?" Xena chuckled and began to follow her lover. "Please tell me you don't really call her pookiepie?" Sappho added as she and Harrold followed along.

Chapter 12

"One marriage scroll please," Xena asked politely.

"Certainly", the woman behind the counter replied, walking away.

"Hey Xena!" a voice behind them exclaimed. Gabrielle turned and she watched helplessly as the strange brunette flung her arms around the warrior. "It's been so long. How are you? You look as gorgeous as ever."

Xena's discomfort showed on her 'gorgeous' features. Gabrielle's palms suddenly felt sweaty and she had a ting of anger and fear rising in her gut, burning deep inside. Was it jealousy? She'd never felt this way before - especially regarding Xena. Something, be it jealousy or not, wanted the stranger to feel the wrath of an amazon staff upside her head.

"How are you?" Xena asked diplomatically. "Still working in your father's inn?"

"Yeah but I still find the time to work on my scrolls."

'She's a writer?' Gabrielle thought. The knowledge did nothing to improve the bards growing desire to smack the woman holding Xena - her Xena. The warrior pulled away and glanced at Gabrielle. The look on the bards face made Xena realize introductions were now in order before anyone got too far down memory lane.

"This is Gabrielle," Xena said proudly.

"Hi," the stranger smiled warmly. "I'm Annabelle." Too soon however her attention turned back to Xena. "What brings you here?"

"We're getting married," Xena proclaimed, pulling Gabrielle closer by the waist so their hips met. "We stopped in to get the paper work in order."

"Really?! I didn't think there could ever be a woman who could tame you," she giggled.

Gabrielle didn't find it humorous and Xena found herself walking a very thin line. Trying to stay civil with Annabelle, while keeping Gabrielle at bay from attacking the lovely woman, was a difficult task.

"Anything is possible," Gabrielle replied sarcastically with a grin. Well, Xena knew it was sarcaism. Annabelle considered it a neutral comment. Xena watched as the two women stood 'sizing each other up'. The growing silence in the small triangle was unnerving.

'Thank the Gods' Xena thought as the clerk returned. "Well, we've got to finish things up here. Take care of yourself," Xena replied, trying to brush Annabelle off in a non-offensive manner.

"You too," Annabelle replied. Gabrielle could hear a hint of seduction and she found herself gripping her staff harder. With a quick nod to the bard, the brunette bitch was on her way.

"Another 'friend' I take it?" Gabrielle asked once the intruder was gone.

Xena sighed. She didn't want to debate the past - not today. "Ah huh," she mumbled in agreement.

"And a bard too. Go figure?" Gabrielle's arm had left Xena's waist and her hands were now on her hips.

"Are you making comparisons?" Xena asked, knowing this conversation was unavoidable.

"Simply a statement of fact." The sentence was harmless but the venom that filled it was undeniable.

"Give us a minute, would you please?" Xena asked the clerk. The clerk nodded and walked away. "Listen to me Gabrielle. Yes I knew her. Yes she's a writer. . .a poet actually . . . but believe me when I say there is no comparisons to make."

"No comparisons huh? Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

Xena was frustrated now. "What's the problem? What do you want me to say?"

Gabrielle looked down at her feet. "Was she any good?" Gabrielle whispered.

Xena definitely didn't want to have this conversation now. But Gabrielle needed to know the importance she held in Xena's life so she began to speak after a short pause. "Yes. She was good-

Gabrielle didn't let her finish she turned and stormed down the corridor. Xena hung her head and shook it in frustration. 'That time of the moon must be coming soon' Xena considered. "Gabrielle! Wait!"

Gabrielle made it to the door when Xena grabbed her by the arm spinning her around. "Get your hands off me," Gabrielle whispered. "If you want to touch someone go find Annibelle. I 'hear' she's good."

Xena refused to let her go and Gabrielle began to struggle. "If you love me you'd listen," Xena pleaded.

The words hit Gabrielle forcefully and she found her body gave up the fight. Once Xena felt the calm settle over the bard she released Gabrielle's arm. "What I was going to say is she was good . . .but you're the best. No one has ever made me happier - in my bed or in my heart. Oh Tartis Gabrielle. I've never let anyone into my heart like I've let you. Believe me when I say there is no comparison - not Annibelle or anyone for that matter. . .You're in a league of your own sweetheart."

Gabrielle hung her head in shame. She didn't know why the presence of this woman made her doubt Xena's love. Xena didn't seem drawn to the woman and she began to realize it was her own insecurity, not Xena's lack of devotion, that made her act out. She felt petty and childish; wanting to hide from Xena's gaze that she could feel washing over her.

"I'm sorry," Gabrielle whispered, still unable to meet Xena's eyes.

"It's okay," Xena replied pulling her into a tight embrace. "It lets me know how much I mean to you. But in the future will you wait to hear me out before you leave in a huff. Words and emotions aren't part of my many skills list. All I ask is you be patient with me while I improve. Okay?"

Gabrielle looked up to see Xena smiling down on her and she had to smile as well. "Okay," she agreed. "And again I'm sorry."

"Let's not be sorry," Xena teased wiggling her eyebrow. "Let's get married." With a gentle tug, she and her bard walked arm and arm to fulfill their destiny together.

Chapter 12

After wrapping up the details with the marriage register, they made their way to the guard station. The guards were pretty much useless for information and the duo realized they'd be doing their own investigation. They didn't want to speak with the assassins lover directly so they headed to Barb's house.

She was in her vineyard when they arrived on horseback. Barb looked over as they began to dismount.

"You bitch!" Barb screamed. "You murderous bitch!"

Gabrielle took a defensive stance as Barb rushed toward them, running at full speed.

"No Gabrielle," the warrior whispered. "Let her come."

Gabrielle relaxed and watched as Barb leapt into the air kicking Xena square in the chest. The warrior and the woman toppled to the ground. Xena was met with an onslaught of vulgarities and unskilled punches. She annoyed Xena more than harmed her but the warrior let her finish until she was a heaping blob of tears.

"How could you?" Barb cried. "How could you? She was all I had left. . .and now . . .because of you she's gone."

Gabrielle was on the verge of letting Barb have it. 'She came into our room, Gabrielle thought, 'and she attacked us and it's our fault?' Gabrielle would have said the words but Xena shook her head, silencing them before they had the chance to surface.

"Barb," Xena whispered. "Listen to me. She came into our room last night with a sword . . . and she tried to kill us-

"That's a lie. Why would she do such a thing? She's the most sensitive, loving person in the world. . . At least she was . . .until you came to this island. . .Until you killed her."

Barb's chest rose and fell rapidly again and she started swinging again. Xena grabbed her arms with ease. "That's enough!" Xena yelled. "I can't tell you why she attacked us but she did. . .and we have to find out why. Please help us."

"Help you?! The woman who took my niece from me? Are you out of your mind?. . . Get off my land. Go! Now!. . .And don't show your face around here again!"

Xena and Gabrielle watched as she stormed off, angry words still flowing even after she disappeared over a small hill.

"That went well," Gabrielle teased. "Any more bright ideas warrior princess?"

Xena dusted herself off as best she could. "I'm workin' on it," she grinned. Once mounted she held out her hand and Gabrielle climbed aboard the steed as well. "Let's go visit the widow."

"Xena did I just hear you say we're going to see the widow?"

"Umm hmm," she nodded.

"No offense but your ideas are going from bad to worse," Gabrielle replied holding tight to Xena's waist.

"We'll see," Xena grinned.

As they approached the small cottage Xena whispered to Gabrielle. "You do the talking this time."

"Oh beautiful," Gabrielle replied rolling her eyes. "Why me? It's your idea to be here."

"Because Gabrielle you do-

"The sensitive chats," they said together completing the sentence. "Yeah. Yeah," Gabrielle continued, "but you owe me big for this one."

"Anything you want," the warrior said with a sexy grin.

"Anything?" the bard asked, raising an eyebrow. Xena noticed how well she was beginning to master that gesture.

"Anything," she answered seductively; her hand running down Gabrielle's back to cup her derriere.

"I'll think about that," Gabrielle replied mischievously as she knocked on the door.

Slowly the door opened and a young woman, about Gabrielle's age, met them. "Yes?" she asked.

Gabrielle could see her blood shot eyes and her heart went out to the woman. "Could we come inside and ask you a few questions?" Gabrielle said quietly.

"Sure," the woman replied. "Are you from the guard?" she asked as she lead them inside.

Gabrielle hesitated as they walked in. "No. . . .We were there when Arenia was killed last night. This is a bit awkward but we were hoping you would know why she was at our place. We've tried to talk with Barb but she won't help us. . .Xena killed Arenia last night while defending us."

The woman stood a moment studying Xena. "You killed her?"

"I did," Xena replied. Gabrielle heard a quiver in Xena's voice she had never heard before. She hadn't been sure why she didn't notice until now but the warrior was very remorsed for taking the young woman's life. "I didn't want to but . . .I had to."

"Have a seat," the young woman replied softly.

Xena and Gabrielle were a bit taken a back. They expected to be thrown out or perhaps even attacked but the woman remained calm. 'Still in shock', Xena supposed. 'Hasn't quite yet hit her that she's gone'.

"I'm Gabrielle," the bard introduced. "And you're Mary correct?"

Mary nodded. "I'm not sure why you're here Gabrielle," she questioned.

"Well, we wanted to know why she was at our place last night. I mean, we had never met Arenia. Did she say anything to you before she left?"

Mary looked at the two women across from her for a long while. "She said she was going to Aunt Barb's house. She told me not to wait up because she didn't know when she'd be back. That was the last time I saw her."

"Did she mention me or Xena to you at anytime?"


'This is like pulling teeth', Xena thought. 'Or perhaps having them pulled'. Xena had killed many but to sit in the same room with a loved one, and search for reasons as to why, was taxing the warriors nerves to no end.

"We had never seen her before last night either," Gabrielle replied as she tried to think of a new avenue to explore in her interrogation. "Does she often go to see Barb in the evenings?"

"Not often. Maybe once in awhile but not as much as Barb would like I'm sure. . .After Rommy died. . .She was the sister of Arenia's father. . .Barb didn't have anyone around. Sure she had her employees, but no one she was really close with. Barb and Rommy practically raised Arenia during her teen years. Her mother died when she was ten and her father was called to war so Barb and Rommy took her under their wing. . . They helped us build this house and we worked in the winery for six months as compensation for the supplies."

"Was Arenia with you the nights of the other murders?" Gabrielle asked softly.

"What are you getting at? Do you think Arenia was some kind of mass killer?"

"No!" Gabrielle exclaimed, trying to retreat in her questioning. "I . . .I was just wondered if perhaps she might have had information regarding who was behind it."

Mary seemed to calm down. "She was gone one night for sure. I remember because the murder happened just down the road a ways. I remember telling her afterward that I didn't want her to leave me alone in the evenings for too long. She went last night because Barb needed help with her latest shipments and it had to be done last night."

"I know this is a lot to ask but could you please speak with Barb and see if you could calm her down. We really need to speak with her to find out why Arenia was at our place. We don't understand it and we really need some answers, as I'm sure you do."

"Sure," Mary replied. "Let me show you out."

They all rose and walked to the door. "Remember to ask please. We'll be at Sappho's."

Mary nodded as they made their way to the steed.

"I'm really sorry about your loss," Xena said sincerely as she mounted the animal. Gabrielle climbed behind Xena securing herself again around Xena's waist. Mary only nodded once more and went inside.

Chapter 13

The guest house had been cleaned and straightened while they were out all day. Xena made a mental note to thank Sappho in the morning. The four of them had gone out to one of the area taverns and spent the evening drinking and dancing. Laughter and merriment was a nice switch of a day filled with death and heartbreak. Xena felt great remorse in taking Mary's lifemate away from her. But as she looked at Sappho and Gabrielle laughing at the bar she knew she had made the right choice that night and, if need be, she would do it the same way all over again.

But now they were 'home' and Xena sighed. She took off her bracers and armor before taking off her boots. She slumped back in the chair resting her temple on her fist.

"You look tired warrior mine," Gabrielle whispered as she crept between Xena's legs, resting her head on the muscular thigh.

"So do you," Xena answered as her hand lightly stroked Gabrielle's hair. "My pookiepie," Xena added with a wide grin.

Gabrielle playfully slapped her leg. "Please don't call me that."

"Well what should I call you?" Xena prodded.

"Anything but that," Gabrielle giggled.

"Okay honey bun," Xena tried. She watched Gabrielle shake her head. "Okay. . .Lovey bunny?" Another shake. "Bardiepoo?". Another shake. "Well, help me out!" Xena responded playfully. "I got one. . .How about Gabby? I know how hot you get when Joxer says it!"

"That does it!" Gabrielle answered, grabbing Xena's calf. "You asked for it!"

Gabrielle's fingers assaulted Xena's foot with feather soft touches - the only part of the warriors body that was ticklish. Xena knew her only attempt at escape while she was thrashing in the chair was retaliation. She reached over and grabbed Gabrielle's sides. Quickly the bard let go and tried to jump away. The warrior, however, would have none of that, she pulled Gabrielle back and slid on top of her. They both rolled around on the floor, laughing, trying to get the better of each other. Soon Gabrielle's arms were trapped and Xena was poised over top of her ready to strike again.

"Guess that answers the question," Xena replied slyly. "A warrior princess beats an amazon queen."

"Never!" Gabrielle shouted, throwing the warrior off guard. She rolled Xena over and pinned her, starting her assault all over again. "I do this in the spirit and honor of my fellow amazon sisters."

"That's it," Xena croaked between laughs, "No more Nicewarrior."

She positioned herself above Gabrielle, hovering over her. Her lips captured the bards' with such speed and passion. Gabrielle's hands worked free of Xena's hold and locked the back of the warrior's head pulling her closer, deeper. When the kiss finally broke both women needed to inhale deeply to regain their breath. Xena looked deep into Gabrielle's eyes.

"Beautiful," the warrior whispered. "That's what I'll call you . . .because that's what you are. . .absolutely beautiful."

Gabrielle stroked the warriors' face tenderly, taken in by Xena's lovely features. Gabrielle knew the warrior was savoring her touch, letting her other sense take over, by shutting her lids. It still amazed Gabrielle that Xena truly wanted her. "Why?" Gabrielle whispered her thoughts out loud.

"Why are you beautiful?" Xena asked, moving to the bard's neck, beginning to nibble at the flesh. "Where do I begin?" the warrior added.

"No Xena," Gabrielle said taking Xena's face in her hands. Xena could hear the pleading, serious tone in the bard's voice. "Why do you love me; want me? I mean I'm not as creative as Sappho. I'm not as gorgeous as Annibelle. Why me?"

Xena moved to a sitting position, taking Gabrielle up with her. "Says who?" Xena asked a bit miffed.

"Says me," Gabrielle whispered.

Xena smiled. "I hate to say this but you're a poor judge of character. . .Wait a minute. You love me a lot so that doesn't say much for me, does it? . . .I'm not sure but I think I just insulted myself."

Gabrielle grinned and shook her head. "I'm trying to be serious."

"No," Xena replied, giving her a slow burning kiss on the neck before rising to meet her eyes again. "You're trying to brood about things that have no merit. . .I think you're a heck of a lot more talented than Sappho. You're twice as beautiful as Annibelle. And is far as I'm concerned there could, and will, be no one else except you. . .I've fallen in love for the last time in my life."

Gabrielle smiled. "Funny. I've fallen for the first time in mine. And you're only five years older than me."

"But what about . . ." Xena stopped herself from continuing. She didn't want to drudge up the past.

"Perticus?" Gabrielle asked. Xena simply nodded. "I loved him Xena. I did. . .But there was no passion, no need, no want. Not like this. . .This . . .This is remarkable. When you look at me, just a glance, my knees get weak. And it's not poetic gibberish. It's an honest to Gods physical reaction. . .But even that is an understatement because it's not just physical. When you look at me my soul feels lighter, my heart literally pounds in time with my arousal. . .This truly is remarkable. . .All the poems. All the songs I've ever heard about love make sense now."

Xena smiled. "Good. I was hoping it wasn't just me. . . because that's what I feel too." Xena rose and reached her hand out to Gabrielle. "Come on Beautiful, let's go to bed."

"Are you still tired?" Gabrielle asked when she was vertical.


Xena didn't add more. She led Gabrielle to the bed in silence. Slowly she worked on the bards laces. One loop. Then another. Then another. Finally the string was sitting in Gabrielle's lap and the warrior was nuzzling her silky breasts. A thought occurred to Gabrielle as her fingers twined around the lace.

"Xena," she whispered.

"Hmmm," the warrior replied. "What is it Beautiful?"

"You owe me remember?"

Xena raised her head to meet Gabrielle's eyes as her hands continued to caress the amazon queen. "I remember. Do you know what you want?"

Gabrielle nodded and whispered in Xena's ear. The warrior pulled back with a shocked expression. "Oh really?" she asked.

Self-consciously the bard nodded, thinking perhaps she had gone to far and asked too much. Nervously her fingers played with the lace again. Xena grinned in reassurance and held her wrists out to the bard. "Do it Gabrielle. I trust you."

"Do you?" she asked pleading for an answer. "Do you trust me?"

"With all my heart Gabrielle," the warrior smiled. Xena slowly pulled the leathers from her body and Gabrielle could feel the pounding deep within herself she spoke of earlier. "With all my heart," she whispered once more, offering her wrists again.

With trembling hands Gabrielle twined the lace around Xena's wrists and helped her to the bed. She laid the warrior on her back and secured the lace around the head board, limiting the warriors movements. Xena grinned.

"You've got me Gabrielle," the warrior whispered huskily. "I'm all yours."

Gabrielle swallowed in anticipation, so much so, it was visible in her throat. Slowly she ran her hands down the length of Xena's bronzed body - over her cheeks, past her collarbone, down her breast, traveling all the way to her ankles. The warrior closed her eyes, emitting a long, deep sigh as the bards hands journeyed over her warm flesh. Once at her shines, Gabrielle's lips began devouring Xena's skin, traveling upward.

Xena felt the ache within herself grow and the wetness of her arousal seeping out. As Gabrielle approached the warriors center she could see the glistening juices, just waiting for her. She found herself salivating with the remembrance of how delicious her warrior tasted. And her scent was incredible - almost like a magnet drawing her tongue closer.

But she wouldn't let herself make the connection, not yet.

Xena whimpered and tugged on her restraints as Gabrielle teasing blew on her sex, bypassing it to play with her belly button. The bard's tongue teased the little hole, mimicking the administrations that Xena loved so much in other regions of her body. Xena was frustrated but she was loving every moment of it. She began to tug fiercely on the lace. Her need to touch Gabrielle, to pull her close and hear her heartbeat was untamable. Gabrielle could feel the warrior's jerks for freedom. "Relax," the bard cooed. "Let me love you."

Xena's breath had become ragged. "I need to touch you," she said fighting for breath. "I need to kiss you."

Gabrielle smiled and straddled Xena's ribcage, just below her breasts. She leaned over, inches away from Xena's mouth. Xena could feel her breathe on her lips but she was still too far for actual contact. She groaned in frustration, closing her eyes, resting her head on the pillow. Suddenly Gabrielle's lips were on hers and she took advantage of the opportunity. Her tongue plunged and twirled in the bard's mouth. But too soon the bard left again, rising away. Xena's eyes pleaded for the bards return.

Gabrielle slipped the tunic from her shoulders exposing her beautiful breasts. Gabrielle bent down, her lips seizing the warriors neck and earlobe.

"You need to touch me?" Gabrielle whispered in the warriors ear softly, tickling and arousing at the same time.

"Yessss," Xena groaned.

Without a word, Gabrielle rose slightly cupping her own breast in her hands. She offered it to the warrior, who took it greedily with a deep moan. Xena's lips sucked the nipple into her mouth, while her tongue flicked around the tip.

Gabrielle's own arousal grew at a feverish pitch. Xena could tell. Her mid-drift was saturated by the bard's lust. Listening to the bards' moans and feeling her moisture drove Xena mad with desire. Without breaking her connection to the bard's breast she began, once again, pulling on her restraints.

Gabrielle pulled back and shook her head disapprovingly. "You're my prisoner warrior. I call the shots and for now you must stay put until I say so."

Without anymore discussion, Gabrielle quickly shot to Xena's breast, lashing and sucking the nipple until it was rock hard.

"Oh Gods," Xena exclaimed as the bard started on the other side. "Please," the warrior tried again. "Please let me touch you, let me love you."

Gabrielle looked up for a brief moment. She shook her head in disagreement and went straight back to work on Xena's flesh. Xena sunk into the pillow, her head thrashing, her hands bound above her. Helpless. She was totally helpless. And she realized as she laid there, she totally loved it. Torturous as it was, she still totally loved being made to play to Gabrielle's whims. And she realized why fight it.

Xena relaxed her arms and closed her eyes, her breathing becoming deep and steady once more. The bard was making it difficult to keep her breathing even but she learned many years before, when keeping your breathing even during love making you experience greater pleasure.

"Oh yes," Xena sighed. "You're so good Gabrielle. . .Your lips . . .Your hands. . . Your tongue. . ."

Gabrielle listened to Xena's words as she worked southward on the warrior's beautiful body. That voice, those words now had Gabrielle captured. She would do Xena's bidding. Although Xena's hands were bound, Gabrielle knew she was the one in chains. She could feel herself getting stiffer inside; slicker outside.

"Where do you want my lips. . . my hands . . . my tongue?. . . Tell me Xena. Tell me," the bard asked and pleaded in the same sexy breath.

"You know," Xena smiled, spreading her legs wider. "Breathe deep Gabrielle," the warrior ordered. "Smell my desire for you. . .Taste it. . .I know you love it. I can tell by all those hungry, thirsty noise you make from down there."

Gabrielle inhaled as Xena asked and she couldn't suppress her moan. She wondered for a moment how things had gotten twisted. She was supposed to be the dominant one tonight but here she was, ready to do anything the warrior asked.

"Do it Gabrielle," Xena instructed; seduced. "You know you want it. . .so take it. Take me."

Gabrielle still had her will power in check until Xena thirsted her hips forward into her face. Gabrielle crumbled at that point. She dove into the warrior's sex like a famished traveler, lapping and sucking; devouring and savoring.

Xena heard those moans she loved so much and it pushed her closer to the edge sooner than she expected. Her hips overtook her mind. They were striving for pleasure from the bards' skillful mouth. Xena felt the waves starting to shutter through her body. She was more determined than ever - she had to feel Gabrielle's body; she had to have the beautiful strawberry blonde. As her body began to shutter with release, her arms pulled with all their strength, snapping the lace free. Even as the vibrations sweep through her body she fought to free her hands.

Gabrielle looked up to find Xena loose, her eyes burning with ardent desire. Before she could even move Xena pulled her up by her arms placing the bard on her back. "You're mine now," Xena whispered as she chewed on the bards neck.

Gabrielle loved the feel of Xena's teeth on her flesh. Her desire burned even brighter than before now that Xena was free and determined to have her way with her. Gabrielle realized she couldn't stop Xena now, even if she tried. She knew the look well and it frightened yet inflamed her all at once. She let that fear of the unknown pass quickly, allowing her desire to grow.

"Yes," Gabrielle muttered, too caught up in the warriors hands and mouth to reply soundly. She watched as Xena moved to keel between her legs. Suddenly she felt her legs pulled over Xena's raised shoulders and her own shoulders buried in the bed.

"Ahhh," the warrior exclaimed taking in the scent of her bard. "Perfect," she added looking at Gabrielle's helpless state. The bard wasn't going to go anywhere in this position. She was total open and exposed to Xena. And she loved the feel of it.

"Oh Gods, Xena," Gabrielle pleaded. "Now. Please. . . Now." Xena moaned hungrily herself as she took the bard. Gabrielle hips rose even higher, forcing her sex tighter against the warrior's face. Gabrielle had a perfect view of Xena as she loved her. And Xena could feel the bards eye upon her. She stopped momentarily and met Gabrielle's gaze.

Gabrielle's fire climbed even higher as she watched Xena speaking to her, her desire covering the warrior's face making it glisten. "You've been wondering haven't you?" Xena asked rhetorically. "You've been wondering what it looks like when I make love to you. So now that you know. . . What do you think?"

"Don't stop," Gabrielle commanded.

"I have no intention of stopping," Xena replied seductively. "I do, on the other hand, have every intention of making you scream."

Delicately Xena's tongue and lips went back to Gabrielle's sex. But this time Xena's eyes refused to leave the bards. Ocean blue locked with grasslands green. The desire was written on Gabrielle's face. The look, almost one of pain, made the warrior wet all over again; her own sex throbbing as her lips captured Gabrielle.

"Oh Gods," Gabrielle gasped-her voice deep and throaty. Xena recognized the wanton tone. Gabrielle was close to exploding. She replaced her lips with her fingers, driving deep into the bard, thrusting hard in time with the amazons motion-filled hips. That taunting grin, that the bard loved so much, spread full across the warriors face, shining down upon her.

"Mine," the warrior growled; her eyes never leaving the young woman. "You're all mine. "

Gabrielle succumbed to the erotic onslaught. Xena's voice was so raw and powerful. Not to mention what those hands and fingers were doing to her. The bard had no choice. Her desire took hold of her shaking her body, rippling across her flesh, crashing deep inside.

Xena heard her name shouted long and deep. It's animalistic tone, pure and untamed, made her body quiver and her heart overflow. Gods how she loved this woman who now lay spent beneath her, contently drifting off to sleep. She felt overjoyed to know she could bring Gabrielle such happiness. . .Gabrielle. . .Her Gabrielle. . .What did she do right? What God did she please so much they saw fit to intertwine their destiny's? . . .Destiny. . .For years, Xena quested riches and power but only in the arms of a petite yet strong woman did she find the contentment she desired.

As she lay holding Gabrielle, Cesar came to mind. Xena smiled. Not that the thought of Cesar was a happy one. Not in the least. But she could remember his speech about destiny. He wanted it ALL and would stop at nothing to get it. Xena continued to smile because she realized he would never have it ALL. He could have everything and it wouldn't be enough for him. All Xena had at this moment was a beautiful red-head in her arms. And it brought her more satisfaction than she ever imagined possible.

Xena continued to smile. 'You may think you have the world Cesar' she thought, snuggling closer to the woman now sleeping. 'But I've got the world right here in my arms'. Xena settled in with her grin still in place and soon she joined 'her world' in slumber.

Chapter 14

Xena and Sappho were sitting in the poet's kitchen when Gabrielle emerged with half open lids.

"Good morning," the bard yawned.

Sappho smiled and turned to Xena. "Good Gods woman don't you ever give that lady a rest. . .Looks like she's been up all night doing Gods know what."

"It's not like I hold a knife to her throat," Xena countered.

"No," Gabrielle grinned. "I might like that too much too, huh Xena?"

Xena grinned back holding up her wrists. "Yep," she replied. "And I've got the rope burns to prove it."

Gabrielle could see the red marks on Xena from across the kitchen and rushed over for a closer inspection. "Oh gods, Xena. I'm sorry."

"It's my fault Gabrielle. If I had just 'relaxed' like you said, they wouldn't be here. I have only myself to blame. . .and you to thank," she added in a seductive tone.

"Okay! Okay!" Sappho said hold her hands up trying to move the conversation to other matters. "I think I've heard enough. . . Just because you have an active, wild sex life, there's no reason to rub it in my face."

"You know," Xena began slyly. "If Harrold isn't 'doing his duty' you're always welcome to stay with us at the guest house." Xena winked at Gabrielle, just as a precaution to let the bard know she was only tormenting Sappho. Picking up on it, the bard decided to join the fun.

"Yeah," she hissed, brushing Sappho's hair to one side of her neck, lowering her voice to a whisper. "Besides after all those poems of yours I've read, I'm sure you'd be . . .inspiring."

Sappho closed her eyes, a wide grin on her face. Slowly she nodded. "Fine. . .Fine. . .Have your fun. But I'm warning you. . . Playing with fire can get you seriously burned."

Gabrielle winked this time. "Is that so? . . .Do you think you could 'burn' me?"

"Only if you ask dear," Sappho said seductively rising to face Gabrielle. They stood only inches apart, their breasts lightly touching.

Gabrielle could never resist a challenge. This time was no different. "Okay. . .What if I said I was asking?"

Sappho turned back to look at the warrior. "Xena?" she asked.

Xena knew what the poet was asking. She wanted the permission to put the bard in her place. . .by any means necessary. Xena simply shrugged her approval. With a wicked grin the poet turned back to Gabrielle.

"Well," Sappho replied stroking the bards cheek. "Since you're asking. . ."

Sappho's lips caressed Gabrielle's with feather softness, tasting and exploring with the softest of touches. The bard wasn't sure where it came from, but somewhere from inside a whimper escaped her lips. Sappho pulled her closer, deepening the kiss.

Xena felt two things at the display - growing anger and arousal. She wasn't sure what to do with the back of the poets neck. Should she break it or kiss it? She decided first she'd clear her throat. Then play it by ear.

The sound brought Gabrielle back to reality. The passion she was beginning to feel moments before was now replaced by guilt and she quickly looked over for Xena's reaction. She sat with a grin still on her face, although her arms were now folded.

"She's a damn good kisser ain't she?" the warrior asked.

"Yes," both women replied in harmony before starting to giggle. Sappho soon added, "Just who were you asking? Me or Gabrielle?"

Xena continued to grin as she rose to get more tea. "Both," she answered in a whisper to the two women. She walked over to the tea pot. "Looks like everyone got a little scorched."

Gabrielle and Sappho smiled and nodded in agreement.

"Anyway," the warrior began, as she made her way to sit back down, "Gabrielle and I have all our lifemate paperwork in order. All we need now is the ceremony and a signature. If you would be so inclined we would like to have you do the honors Sappho."

The poet grinned appreciatively. "Really?"

"Of course. I mean you are qualified aren't you?" the warrior answered. "They said anyone on the counsel could do it. We'd like it to be you."

"I'd be happy to help," the poet replied. "When?"

"Today if possible," Gabrielle added. "If that's okay. We understand you may have other things to do."

"Well, actually I do but it's nothing that can't wait until tomorrow. . .This is wonderful."

"Good," the warrior grinned. "We'd like to have it in back by the cypress trees if that's okay with you."

"Sure. Sure," the poet nodded. "Is it okay if I invite a few folks? I mean like Terry and Caiduse from the tavern."

Xena shrugged non-commitedly. "Ask Gabrielle. If it's okay with her, it's fine by me."

"No problem. Guests would be nice," the bard answered.

"Great then!" the poet said rubbing her hands together. "I've got things to prepare!"

Xena arched her eyebrow. "Just a few people right? I wanna keep things kind of private."

"Oh absolutely," Sappho answered sincerely. "Come on Gabrielle. While Xena goes into town to find something 'suitable' to wear for the ceremony, I'll show you some of my gowns. Perhaps there's something you'd like. . .Of course if not, you're welcome to buy something else. . .but I think you'll like what I have."

Xena started to leave but stopped and turned around. "I can trust you both . . .together. . .alone. . . right?"

Sappho and Gabrielle both giggled. "You know she IS entitled to one last fling," Sappho teased.

Xena stood stone-faced, totally expressionless.

"That's a joke," Sappho said. "You can laugh." Her expression turned to Gabrielle. "Why isn't she laughing? Please make her laugh. I can already feel my blood flow being cut off."

Gabrielle smiled and shook her head at the poet before turning to her lover. "We'll be fine. Go on."

Without another question, Xena made her way to the steed. Sappho finally remembered to breathe once Xena was galloping down the dusty road. "Come on," Gabrielle said tugging on the poets arm. "Let's see those dresses!"

Chapter 15

Xena casually walked through the marketplace. What does one wear when wedding an amazon princess? 'Queen', Xena corrected herself quickly. 'She's a queen now'. Xena walked closer to one of the tents. 'White perhaps? Ha! I'll be laughed right out of the garden'. As she turned, a turquoise number caught her eye. The merchant, who kept a close eye on the warrior, noticed the interest.

"That's made of Egyptian silk. It's quite a steal at 30 dinars."

'Damn' the warrior cursed silently. 'I should have brought Gabrielle. She's the barter in the family.' The thought of them being a 'family' made her smile.

"I'm just looking," Xena replied, starting to move away.

"Okay! Okay!" The merchant pursued. "25 dinars but no less."

Xena was on the verge of handing over the money but she hesitated. Isn't that what Gabrielle did?

"How about 15?" Xena answered.

The merchant was thinking it over. "20 and you've got a deal."

Xena smiled. "Alright but let me try it on first."

The merchant nodded and took Xena and the dress to the back. Xena realized Gabrielle would have gotten the dress for 15 or even less but Xena was still proud of herself. As she emerged to look in the mirror, the merchant sighed.

"That looks stunning on you," she answered. "It really brings out eyes."

"I'm sure you say that to all the girls," Xena teased.

"You're right. I do," the merchant replied. "But this time I really mean it. What do you say? 20 dinars?"

"Sure," Xena replied, looking at the jewelry case. "As long as you throw in those matching necklaces too."

Xena grinned widely. She was getting this down pat.

The merchant thought again. "25 dinars for all three. Does that sound good?"

Xena considered the offer. Would Gabrielle give in right now? Probably not. But it was getting late and she was getting bored with this game. "Okay," Xena agreed. "Would you box this up?"

"With pleasure," the merchant replied. Xena walked back into the dressing room as the merchant got the packages ready. When all was said and done Xena left feeling pretty darn good about herself. Gabrielle would be pleased she didn't give in like she usually does.

All of Xena's thoughts were of Gabrielle as she walked down the street. So much so she didn't sense the person behind her with the staff. She did however feel the blow to her neck and shoulder. Slowly, and angrily, she turned around to see the cloaked figure behind her.

"Can I help you?" Xena asked, the irritation tight in her voice. The unknown assailant swung the staff in 'artsy' form. Perhaps trying to intimidate the warrior. 'Looks like Gabrielle on a bad day' she mused. "I really don't have time for this," she replied starting to walk away.

This time the warrior's senses were in tune and she 'felt' the person lunge. Without turning she raised her hand and caught the staff before it could make contact. Carefully she laid her package down. "So now you wanna fight?" the warrior replied jerking the wood from the attackers hand. "Why didn't you just say so?"

Xena spun the staff in a variety of directions, even going so far as to twirl it on one finger. The attacker got caught up in the show and never noticed it sailing toward his head. Xena knocked him clear off his feet and unconscious with one blow. After a few seconds he began to stir. Xena whipped his hood off as his eyes focused again. He made a sudden movement and that was all the warrior needed - he would be official 'pinched'.

She watched him gasp. "Who are you working for?" The man's eyes grew wider. "Look pal you got a limited amount of time here . . .roughly thirty seconds." The last words sliced through the man's eardrum and he knew she was telling the truth.

"Okay," he wheezed. "Take it off! Take it off!"

Xena sent two quick pokes to his neck and waited for the man to catch his breath. "The question," Xena repeated. " . . .was who are you working for?"

"Someone on the island," he replied.


"I can't say," he replied, the fear in his eyes.

"You realize I can put that back on. . .and I will. . .if you refuse to tell me."

"Honestly I don't know who it is. A friend said he had a job and asked for my help."

"Well then," Xena replied, picking him up by the scruff of the neck. "Let's go see this friend."

Chapter 15

"Sappho!" Gabrielle exclaimed looking out the window. "You said a few people! That garden out there is full!"

"What can I say? Word spreads pretty fast on this island," the poet shrugged. "Besides I think we have bigger things to worry about at this moment."

Gabrielle turned from the window. "You mean she's still not back yet?"

"I'm sure she just got caught up shopping. You know how Xena loves to shop," the poet lied.

"Yeah right," Gabrielle answered sarcastically. Gabrielle silently cursed herself. She should have gone with Xena, especially after the attack the other night. "Where can she be?" the bard thought out loud.

"I'm sure everything is fine," Sappho said taking her by the upper arms, offering her support. "Xena can take care of herself."

Harrold walked into the room after a quiet knock.

"Any sign?" Sappho asked.

Harrold shook his head. "I've sent Tellidis and Melloneada into town to do some searching."

"Maybe she changed her mind. I mean after what happened in the kitchen this morning could you blame her," Gabrielle considered.

"Look here," Sappho replied. "Xena loves you. I can see that. Any fool can see that. The incident in the kitchen this morning was nothing - just a game. She knows how much you love her. Believe me she does. . .and I've never seen her happier. . .She will be here - come Tartis or high water!"

"Ya got that right."

Gabrielle turned to meet the voice. "Xena!" The bard rushed over and threw her arms around the warrior. She pulled back taking a more observing look at the warrior. "Is that a shiner?"

The warrior gave a single nod. "Had a little trouble in the marketplace."

Gabrielle carefully examined the mark around the warrior's eye with her eyes and light fingertips. It was already beginning to purple. "What happened?" she asked.

"I'll explain it on the way to the guard." As the warrior finished speaking she looked out the window. "This is your idea of a few people?" she asked Sappho.

"I swear," Sappho exclaimed holding up her hand. "I only invited ten. The other 50 just sorta showed up. . . Gossip spreads quick in this town."

"You're telling me," the warrior muttered under her breath.

"Xena we can't go to the guard. We have to get married," Gabrielle insisted. "I mean are you sure this isn't something that can wait?"

"I found out who's behind it all," Xena answered.

"Really?" Gabrielle, Sappho and Harrold asked together.

Xena nodded. "Yes. So I'm afraid the wedding will have to wait."

Gabrielle couldn't hide the hurt look on her face. And Xena ached inside. "Look," the warrior reconsidered. "If it means that much to you we can do this now but I'd really like to be able to enjoy it. . . I don't want to spend our honeymoon chasing the enemy. . .I'd rather be chasing you," she added seductively.

Gabrielle had to smile. "Okay. I guess I see your point. . .Although it wouldn't be much of a pursuit. I'm extremely willing."

"Are you sure about postponing? I mean, I know if we wait until tomorrow, I won't love you any less."

Gabrielle held her smile. "Another good point. . .Anyway, it will be a lot more private tomorrow with just you, me, Sappho and Harrold." The last point was made with a glare to Sappho.

Sappho gave her most convincing look of disbelieve. "It's not my fault," she insisted again pointing out the window to the crowd below.

"You better change. You need to look practical. Not absolutely stunning," Xena motioned to Gabrielle with a wink. All three of them looked at Harrold.

"That's my cue to leave isn't it?" he smiled. All three women nodded in a friendly gesture with toothy grins. "But why does she get to stay?" he challenged pointing at his wife. Sappho was about to open her mouth when Xena interrupted.

"Oh, she's leaving too," she assured Harrold, while looking at Sappho. The poet looked disappointed, as Xena lead husband and wife out by the arms. "Sorry," she replied closing the door in their faces.

"Damn!" the couple whispered in unison. The frustration rang in their voices from the other side of the door.

"I heard that!" Xena replied as the bard began to change. "Go away." Finally she could hear the pair scurry downstairs.

"They make quite a couple," Gabrielle grinned.

"Yeah but a couple of what? That's the question."

Gabrielle just smiled as she finished putting her amazon attire in place.

Chapter 16

"What are we doing here Xena?"

The warrior was crouched down behind some shrubbery with Gabrielle and two amazon guards. "You'll see," the warrior grinned. "Stay close," she whispered as they made their decent upon the house.

Carefully, Xena crept through the open door. No one was home unfortunately. Xena motioned the guards toward the staircase and they began their assent as quickly and quietly as possible.

"I thought you said you knew who was behind this," Gabrielle whispered. "What are we doing here?"

"Remember the guy I spoke with today. Turns out this is where his employer lives," Xena whispered in response.

Slowly the warrior and the bard made their way into the kitchen.

It was only a matter of seconds but Xena heard the trigger and she leaped in front of Gabrielle. A searing pain shot through her bicep - instead of Gabrielle's neck - the intended location. Without a moments haste, Gabrielle yelled and charged the attacker.

"Guards!" She screamed at the top of her lungs, frightening the assassin (and even Xena). Her staff swept at a blur knocking the crossbow, from shaking hands, across the room. The next blow centered across the neck and shoulder rendering the threat unconscious.

"By the Gods!" Gabrielle whispered. She couldn't believe it. The killer laid out on the kitchen floor and the bards mind tried to piece together reasons as to why. Suddenly another thought came to mind. 'Xena.. . .Sweet Artemis. . .Xena'.

"Lucky shot." The warrior grunted as she broke the arrow. She grinned half-heartedly at Gabrielle. "You know the routine," she whispered, exposing her arm to the bard.

Gabrielle held the back of Xena's arms fully as the guards arrived. "Over there," she nodded with her head. As the guards put the shackles in place on the murderer, Gabrielle looked at Xena, deeply concerned.

"Go ahead," the warrior whispered.

"Okay," Gabrielle said, trying to get her confidence up. "On three. . .one. . .two. . .three!" As fast and as hard as she could Gabrielle pulled the arrow out the other side.
The warrior tried to suppress her scream but it was useless.

"I'm sorry," Gabrielle said quickly. "Did I do it wrong?"

"No," Xena replied, her breathing labored. "You did it exactly right. . .I'll be okay."

Xena wasn't the only one moaning. The attacker was beginning to come around. Gabrielle reached into a cupboard and found some clean rags. Carefully she applied them to stop the bleeding. Once Xena had a firm hold on them, Gabrielle walked over.

"Why?" she pleaded.

"Why not?" Disgust and angst filled the words. They locked eyes for what felt like eons.

"Why?" the bard asked again, needing an answer.

"All I have is this winery," Barbideen spoke. "If Athens cuts off trade ties I'm as good as dead."

"So you had all these innocent people killed. You killed all these people, all these loving couples, to scare the island into compliance. . .And you did it over something as trivial as money. By the Gods! You had a lifemate yourself!"

"Yes I HAD a lifemate. And I'll spend the rest of my life alone - as if I need to be reminded. . . I owe no one nothing! I DO however have to take care of my own. I couldn't sit back and let my remaining family starve."

Gabrielle considered the words as the puzzle fell into place. "You sent Arenia to Sappho's that night didn't you? You knew we were there and, to save yourself from being found, you - in a sense - sent her to her death."

The anger rose in Barb's eyes. "I didn't kill her. Your warrior bitch killed her!"

Gabrielle shook her head - not in disagreement but in disbelieve. The conversation was over at this point. "Get her outta here," Gabrielle motioned to the guards.

"Don't think this is over!" Barb yelled as they lead her outside. "Not by a long shot. I'll be back and I'll see to it that you both die!"

Xena shrugged in a 'so what?' fashion to Gabrielle. Soon she winced, feeling a sharp pain shoot up her arm because of the automatic gesture.

"Here," Gabrielle said, helping the warrior to her feet. Gabrielle had to grin as she thought of the threat. "Do you think she knows we've been chased by crazy goddesses and killer giants?"

"Nope," Xena replied with a grin of her own.

"Should we tell her we're not really all that concerned by her threat?" Gabrielle asked as she offered her support to the warrior as they started to walk.

"Nah. I think it would fall on deaf ears," Xena replied as they stepped outside. "There IS something that we should do," the warrior added seriously.

"What's that?"

"Let's not wait until tomorrow - for anything ever. I mean this wound isn't bad - painful yes, but not bad. . .I realize tomorrow may never come and I don't want us putting any plans we have together on hold again."

"Seize the day?"

"Exactly," the warrior replied.

"You've said that before," Gabrielle grinned.

"Yes but I never realized how much it meant until a few minutes ago. . .I mean it Gabrielle. And I'm starting now. When we get back to Sappho's we're getting married and that's all there is to it. No arguments."

"No arguments here, warrior mine."

Xena relished in the feel of Gabrielle's hands as they wrapped around her head. She delighted in the sensation of Gabrielle's lips possessing hers in a slow, smoldering kiss. The warrior grinned inwardly. Yes she would defiantly seize the day from now on . . .and the night too.

Chapter 17

Dusk just began to settle in the cypress garden. Yellow and red hues highlighted the foliage as pink clouds whisked across the sky. It's a beautiful evening for a wedding, Xena reflected.

Sappho was already outside. Her white counsel toga fit nicely, exposing her left shoulders. Sappho was never a 'beautiful' woman but she had a lovely form. 'Almost as lovely as Gabrielle's', Xena thought. 'Almost but not quite, those abs of the bards can drive anyone to distraction'. Xena grinned at the thought. She spent a lot of time admiring them with stolen glances and now those abs were not only her's to admire, but hers to fondle and caress. And not just for today but for forever.

Xena watched Gabrielle walk out to the garden to meet Sappho. The time was now at hand. Slowly she walked down the staircase, taking her time. Xena was grateful that all the guests had gone away. She was never one for large crowds. The fact they had all departed put her at ease. Her nerves where totally on edge as it was, let alone being starred at by tons of faces she barely remembered. . .No. This was her day. . . Gabrielle's day . . .and they should have no distractions.

Two sets of jaws dropped when blue eye finally met green. Both women stood speechless at the other's beauty. Both wondering why they had the privilege of standing together, prepared to make the biggest commitment two individuals could make. Gabrielle realized she finally found the other half of her soul. And Xena knew she would spend her days serving this Amazon queen before anything else. Xena realized that if Gabrielle tired of the road, of their adventures, she would be content to have a farm or run the inn. Anything would do as long as the bard was doing it with her.

Sappho spoke softly pulling both of them from their thoughts. "Now to delight my women friends, I'll make a beautiful song of this affair," she began.
"O beautiful, O graceful girl.
Not one girl, I think, will ever look on the sunlight
Of another time who has such talent as this one does.
Love shook my heart like the wind that falls on oaks in the mountains.
You came, and I was mad to have you.
Your breath cooled my heart that was burning with desire.
Please, my goddess, goldencrowned Aphrodite, let this very lot fall to me."

Sappho reached over and Harrold handed the poet the necklaces Xena had purchased earlier that day.

"Xena has offered these tokens to be worn around the neck, remaining close to the heart. Do you Gabrielle accept these tokens as a signature to your love and devotion?"

"I do," Gabrielle nodded. Gently, Sappho placed the necklace over Gabrielle's head. Then she turned to Xena.

"Gabrielle has accepted these token. Do you wish to complete this ceremony by acknowledging her acceptance, offering your love and devotion as well?"

"I do," the warrior said proudly, bowing as Sappho moved to put the necklace in place.

"Well then . . .by the powers given to me of the island of Lesbo, you are officially lifemates for as long as you live. Congratulations!"

"That's it? It was that easy?" Xena asked the poet.

"Getting married is easy. Staying married takes work. . .but you're both hard workers," Sappho winked.

Xena and Gabrielle turned to each other. Gabrielle had never seen Xena look so contented. And Xena had never seen Gabrielle so overjoyed. Both knew they made the right choice. Both knew they would never walk alone again.

Gabrielle pulled Xena into a passionate kiss that lasted nearly a minute. As they parted Xena offered Sappho her hand. The poet took it immediately with a firm grasp.

"Thank you Sappho," the warrior said sincerely. "You don't know how much I appreciate this."

"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Sappho grinned. "I can tell you finally found your peace. . .I thank you for letting me be a part of it."

The warrior smiled as Gabrielle expressed her appreciation as well. Sappho put her arms around both women, leading them back to the house. "What do you say we have some cake and some wine? A toast to the new couple is in order."

"Lead the way," Gabrielle agreed, resting her head on Sappho's shoulder. The poet looked at the warrior with a grin.

"You are so lucky to have her, do you know that?" Sappho whispered.

"Yes," Xena answered looking toward Gabrielle. "Yes I do."

Chapter 18

"Are you okay?"

Xena heard the sleepy voice over her shoulder. A few moments later she felt the bards hands resting on it. "It's raining," Xena said casually.

Gabrielle listened to the tiny drops attacking the window before speaking. "Is that why you're awake in the middle of the night?" she whispered. When Xena didn't reply she continued. "Something on your mind?"

"Just you," the warrior smiled warmly.

Gabrielle had to smile too. The warriors smile was contagious.

"What about me?" she prodded gently.

Xena's smile increased. "That," she whispered. "Your ability to reach below the surface in a . . . how should I say. . .non-threatening manner. Just one of YOUR many skills I admire."

She wrapped her arm around her bards' waist and she felt the strawberry blonde hair rest contently on her good shoulder.

"Umm," the bard sighed tenderly. "Tell me more."

"More skills?"

The warrior felt the soft locks brush against her bare skin with the bards' nod. Xena took a moment to consider where to start.

"Let's see. The fact that you trust people and see the good in everyone."

Xena felt Gabrielle stiffen. "It's not a skill. It's a downfall."

Xena turned and pulled Gabrielle closer. "What makes you say that?" she asked concerned.

Gabrielle smiled in discomfort. "Have we forgotten Dayhock?"

"Not at all," Xena said soberly, squeezing the bard a little closer. "But you can't dismiss your skill based on one incident. No one is perfect Gabrielle . . .Besides if it weren't for your ability to see the good in people we wouldn't be here together right now. On more than one occasion that skill of yours has kept this relationship in tact."

Gabrielle pulled away from Xena's embrace, avoid eye contact. "You gotta admit it was one pretty big incident," she mumbled.

"Gabrielle," the warrior whispered, trying to will the name so strongly that it would pull the bard back in her arms. It didn't work however, and she watched Gabrielle climb back into bed.

Xena hesitated for a moment but soon followed, opting to take a seat at the foot instead of crawling under the covers like her wife. "It's over. Please let it go," she began.

"It will never be truly over for me Xena," the bard whispered.

Xena could hear the cry in her voice and wished she could smooth away the pain. It had been a difficult time. Difficult for both of them. Gabrielle's distressed pained Xena terribly and knowing there was nothing she could do to ease it only made the pain worse. But in the end, somehow, with a little help from Ephany, they survived it. She promised herself she'd remember to thank the regent one more time at their next meeting.

"Gabrielle,' Xena began, "I can't say I know what it feels like because I don't. When I killed for the first time I felt remorse but soon my rage took hold of me and it didn't let go for over ten years. . . But believe when I tell you the Dayhock incident and the months that followed weren't totally bad - I say this because I think it made us stronger."

"Perhaps," Gabrielle agreed. "but I think there's an easier road to strength in a relationship. Murders, lies, deceit. . .It doesn't sound like positive building blocks in a relationship."

"Look," Xena insisted, tiring of the debate. "I said I loved you and I meant it." Xena couldn't suppress the smug grin as she continued to vocalize her thoughts. "Of course you never realized just how much until we got to this island. . ."

Gabrielle grinned as well meeting her warriors eyes. "Actually I think I always new, or maybe hoped you felt the same - anyway I knew there was something there."

Xena watched as the bard crawled over to sit on her lap. Slowly the bard placed a single kiss on the warrior's lips - so gentle yet so filled with unmistakable passion.

"I thought you wanted to talk," Xena answered as they broke away.

"I think we've talked enough for one night," Gabrielle answered.

"Are you sure?" Xena asked pulling back to study her lifemate.

Gabrielle nodded. "I've decided that you're right. Everything we experience, everything we do becomes a part of us. And if going through all that has brought you closer to my heart, I accept it. Like I've said I'll take the good and the bad in you - I guess I'll just have to accept it in myself."

Xena fingers lightly caressed the bards cheeks. "You'll always be the greatest thing that's happened in my life - and don't forget it."

"I have a feeling you won't let me," Gabrielle replied playfully, before seizing the warriors earlobe with her lips.

Xena sighed deeply at the contact. It had been a very long road to this point. Long indeed. Xena thought back to how innocent and naive Gabrielle was at the beginning of their journeys - a young farm girl looking for adventure. Xena remembered how hollow she felt at the time. She had nothing to offer the bard but the bard couldn't be swayed to leave her side.

She also remembered looking into Gabrielle's eyes as she lay in the sacoficus - how tenderly Gabrielle and Ephany helped her rise. Gabrielle never looked so much like a woman. It wasn't so much the queen's attire that she wore (Although that did help. Xena couldn't take her eyes off the bard's mid-drift and the snug fit of the low dipping tunic, not to mention those feathers - Good Gods!). No it was something more. The look in her eye perhaps? Maybe the way she held her head higher? In one way or another Gabrielle had changed. And Xena liked it. Liked it so much that she considered sharing her true feelings that night. But she didn't.

She didn't because she didn't think she deserved someone like Gabrielle. To say Xena's past was checkered was putting it lightly. The nightmares of the things she had done haunted her. Things she never shared with the bard, perhaps never would. With all this knowledge of all these ill deeds how could that beautiful creature ever love her? And if she did truly love her, why should she go on to live a happy life when she had taken so many? Having Gabrielle as her love wasn't justice for the things she had done. So she ignored her longing and in effect began to ignore the bard as well (when she could).

Then came Caesar, Britannia and Dayhock. Xena knew it wasn't just her revenge of Caesar that led Gabrielle to the temple alone on that fateful day. It was also her need for distance from the bard. She still found herself cursing herself for not listening to Ares; for not looking deeper into his concern to see his sincerity. If she did his bidding that one time so many things could have been different - for the bard, for herself. Perhaps things wouldn't have gotten so out of control.

But once a sense of normality returned Xena pledge to take care of Gabrielle at any and all costs. Even at the cost of their friendship if need be. Xena realized Hope would be Gabrielle's downfall, if not the downfall of mankind everywhere. Why couldn't Gabrielle let her take care of the 'problem'? Looking back Xena realized - it wasn't Gabrielle's way. There was good in everything. Even a washed up, heartbroken ex-warlord had good in her. Yes looking back Xena knew Gabrielle had only one difficult choice to make. And Xena also realized she caused the bard more pain than she thought possible - all because she thought she was protecting the bard.

Xena didn't have time to dwell on it though. The green dragon needed to be made small again. She thought if she shared her past with Gabrielle the bard would understand her commitment to why the trip was so important and why the task needed to be done. When she pulled back those covers in the royal chamber and she saw Gabrielle - her Gabrielle- dressed in the Chin robes she felt too overwhelming emotions - shock and deviation. Then later in the dungeon came her anger. Even later during the audience with the green dragon, the slap Gabrielle welded didn't sting. The only pain she felt was her heart breaking in a thousand different directions. Xena had been betrayed, humiliated and hurt by numerous people and Gods. . . But Gabrielle. She was supposed to be different.

It wasn't until they met in the dungeon that Xena discovered the truth. Gabrielle was truly different. The remorse in the bards eyes; the crack in her voice as she spoke begging for forgiveness. Xena knew that Gabrielle was different.

She would truly see just what Gabrielle was made of when a short time later Callisto returned. The warrior would also see just how wonderful a friend Ephany had become - to herself and the bard.

Yes the road had been long but they did survive and they continue to survive. 'Survive quite nicely' the warrior thought as Gabrielle's lips now laid claim to her neck and shoulders. Xena pushed the trip down memory lane to the back of her mind. She decided to focus on the present - which at hand was a beautiful Amazon queen growing hotter and wetter by the minute. And the future - which at hand was a beautiful Amazon queen who would grow lovely and lovely as the years went by.

"I really love you," the warrior whispered, coming back to the moment. "All of you."

"I love all of you too," Gabrielle replied. A small grin crept to her lips. "Now kiss me before I have to get forceful."

"Ohhh, I think I like the sound of that. I might not just for spite," Xena teased.

Gabrielle's grin faded into a deep glare of sexual intent. Her passion was becoming unchained and Xena recognized the look and she loved it. And the warrior couldn't resist the look. She kissed the bard with every thing her being would allow.

The bard responded in kind. Her tongue sought the warriors, driving forcefully and unstoppable. Heads turned and dipped. Lips latching and unlatching - only to claim one another again. Each woman fought for breath in between the sporadic, teasing breaks. Gabrielle's desire flamed deep within her and she grabbed the warrior by both arms intending to bring her down with her on the bed. The sharp moan the warrior gave wasn't expected and the bard quickly realized her error.

"Oh Gods Xena," she whispered releasing the warrior. "I forgot about the arm."

The warrior paid little attention to the apology. "Don't worry. . .Just kiss me."

Obeying, Gabrielle did just that. Xena rested her weight on her two knees and one elbow. 'Thank Gods for all those one handed push ups,' the amazon thought humoring herself.

Although the bard hated to see Xena in pain she loved this. The injury forced the warriors body into a new position, fitting snugly against her. Having the warriors nakedness so close to her own felt so erotic. And Gabrielle savored the feel because they fit perfectly together. And as Xena's lips and tongue worked down the length of Gabrielle's body Gabrielle realized something. She had finally found her other half and she was finally whole.

As Xena's lips administered the passionate and sweetest of caresses, Gabrielle's mind wandered back to her innocence so many years ago. Gabrielle knew there was something special in Xena. She knew it when they first met. She knew it when they went on the quest to return Xena's soul to her body. She knew it when Xena shared stories about La Mio. She knew it today in the cypress garden. . .And she knew she would see it until the day they died.

She thought back to the conversation she had with Ephany regarding the warrior princess. Ephany said, late in the evening during a festival celebration after the Callisto incident, to look at Xena you would never think she was ruled more by her heart than her head. Gabrielle remembered the wink as the regent added 'Especially when it comes to you'.

Gabrielle now understood everything her regent was trying to convey - especially at this moment. Xena's lips had found her center and Gabrielle shuttered. The warriors fingertips tenderly caressed the inside of the bards thighs and she felt she could explode at that moment. She looked down and met the azure eyes gazing at her. All of Xena's want, need and love danced in the sea of blue. And that alone sent the bard over the edge.
The vibrations rattled the bards body and she tried to hold herself as still as possible (Earlier that evening when Gabrielle climaxed she locked Xena's bad arm accidentally - for which she felt great guilt. Xena reassured her - 'No pain. No gain' - and the bard felt worlds better).

When the last shutter from Gabrielle's body stilled, Xena crept slowly to the half-sleeping bard. She snuggled close letting her injured arm drape across Gabrielle's stomach - her head resting in the crook of the bard's shoulder. The warrior could tell the amazon queen was fighting off sleep and losing. She desperately wanted to return the favor Xena had so graciously bestowed upon her.

"Shhh," Xena whispered with a smile. "Rest now. . .Your satisfaction is my happiness. Sleep Gabrielle."

Xena listened and Gabrielle's breathing deepened becoming rhythmic. And soon Xena, warrior princess, joined her lifemate Gabrielle, amazon queen, into the dreamscape. But not before one last waking thought - tonight would be the first night Gabrielle would sleep in her arms for the rest of their lives. With that, Xena closed her eyes and looked forward to the first morning the bard would wake there.

And for the first time in years, since childhood, Xena slept without a single nightmare to disturb her. She had finally 'come home'. Xena at last had found her peace.

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