By: Tonia

Copyright Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.

Hurt/Comfort: This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story involving the characters Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read something other than this story.

Love/Sex Warning: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

Last but CERTAINLY not least. I could not have done this without the help of Benet. This is the first story that made it all the way to the end without me editing it until it hit the recycle bin. Thank you ever so much for the time and effort you put into helping me out with this.

Chapter One

In a lush green meadow perched on a rock sat a bard deep in thought. Beside her, the stream Xena had found the night before shimmered gloriously in the morning sun. Gabrielle twirled her quill before she began working on her scrolls.

<I’m not sure what to say to her anymore. After she figured out what it took to get Joxer out of ape-man mode, she’s been unusually quiet, even for her. I know she isn’t talkative by any means but...>

She paused, sparing her companion a glance before continuing. <Well, she’s worse than normal. I wonder what happened to her yesterday, that put her in this mood. I can remember most of the day, and I was pretty full of myself, even to the point of wanting myself. > Gabrielle shuddered unconsciously. <I wonder- when she pulled me out of the lake she seemed, hmm, well different, not so withdrawn from me. Almost receptive even>

Gabrielle glanced up from her writing again as she remembered her numerous attempts to get the warrior to communicate. But even her gentle prodding had yielded only a noncommittal grunt. <Typical>, she thought, as she returned to her scrolls.

<Maybe I should not be so gentle about it. Perhaps I should tell her that I am in love with her. That would throw her for a loop. She would have to say something then- >

The bard took a shuddering breath, thinking of Xena’s face drawn in disgust with the whole idea.

<Although I’m not so sure I want to risk her being disgusted by the whole thing either. Maybe if I were to tell her about some of the Amazon couples I know and if she takes that okay I could bring up Ephiny or Larisa. Then at least she would know that I’m not pining after every man we run across>

Plop! Xena’s sudden appearance next to her put an abrupt end Gabrielle’s train of thought. As her seated partner gazed over the bard’s shoulder, Gabrielle hastily rolled up the scroll, tossing it in her pack. Green eyes peered up at the warrior. "Done practicing? Ready to head out?" The warrior shrugged her shoulders and lay back, putting her arms behind her head for a pillow.

Gabrielle took a deep breath. <Gods, she is beautiful. Well might as well give it a shot> "I love you, Xena."

The warrior looked up at her with a questioning look on her face and closed her eyes again. " I love you too, Gabrielle."

The bard sighed and flopped onto her back. "Dense, dense, dense," Gabrielle muttered to herself.

Xena sat up and favored Gabrielle with a quizzical look. "What is your problem? You seem weird lately. You talk to yourself a lot but it isn’t normal to hear you call yourself dense." Placing a hand on the bard’s shoulder she squeezed gently and stood up.

"Xena, it is all to obvious that you don’t want to know what is bothering me, so let’s just leave."

The warrior stood there, a hurt and confused look crossing her face. "Gabrielle, I always want to know when something is affecting you, I care about your feelings."

The bard looked into those azure eyes and saw only love and understanding. <Maybe, just maybe> With a determined sigh, she shook her head and plowed forward. "I am in love with you Xena. I have been for a long time now. I have tried not to feel this way, tried not to let it get to me the way it has, but there is nothing I can do about it. I think this morning I finally accepted the fact that I can’t change my feelings."

Looking down, the bard began to silently cry. <Well so much for hedging around it, good going oh great bard>

Xena turned abruptly towards Argo. Reaching the mount she braced herself against the side horse. <Calm down, breath in, out, in, out…that’s it, control yourself warrior> Xena hopped on the horse and started off calling over her shoulder in a gruff tone. "Let’s go, we can make Athens in less than an hour." The bard sat there feeling like her heart had just slipped out of her mouth. Choking back tears, she stood and gathered her things to head out behind Xena.

<What am I going to do with her…I thought sure she was going to say that yesterday when I pulled her out of that damn lake. Then with the obsession I didn’t see that much of a problem with it, but now. God’s I am not attracted to her. She is a woman for crying out loud>

Xena glanced down at her somber looking companion. <Well I have to admit she is beautiful, and I would gladly give my life for her. Those eyes of her could make a person—STOP! Get off of it warrior it is a stupid thought. She will get over it>

With a determined grunt Xena straightened her shoulders and focused on the road ahead.

The trip went by in total silence. Xena never so much as spoke to the bard and Gabrielle returned the favor. Lost in her own thoughts and trying really hard not to fall into self-pity, she trudged along without noticing when they actually entered the city.

Xena dismounted and looked over at Gabrielle. "Go get us a couple of rooms and I will be there in a little bit." She led Argo off toward the stables, leaving Gabrielle standing alone in the middle of the square.

<A couple of rooms>

the bard thought to herself. <Now she is afraid to sleep with me. Gods what have I done. I never should have said anything> A tear slid down her cheek and she roughly wiped it away. With a deep breath she squared her shoulders and headed for the inn.

After securing two rooms she sat down at the bar and ordered ale. With a sense of purpose she put away half of it. Before she could drink the other half, Xena strode over to her. Gabrielle didn’t look up. She simply pointed toward the stairs. "First door on the right," she said before returning to her drink.

The warrior shook her head. "Gabrielle, come with me so we can talk. I am sorry I was so abrupt earlier but..."

The bard turned her head away from her mug and looked straight into Xena’s eyes. The warrior flinched a bit from the angry stare. "I don’t think so, Xena. I am just going to sit here for awhile. Like I said YOUR room is the first one on the right. If you don’t want to go up now that is none of my concern. However, I don’t think I want to be around you right now." With that she stood up ale in hand, and walked over to a table in the back of the room.

Xena sat down at the bar and put her head in her hands. <Damn. Why does it have to be so hard? She doesn’t love me. Hell, it is just some kind of a crush. She will get over it. She has to. > Hearing the barmaid approach, she ordered a port without looking up. The barmaid set it in front of her and Xena tossed a dinar on the bar and headed to the opposite end of the room. Gabrielle still in sight, she sat down and propped her feet on the chair across from her. <Have to keep an eye on her. She will more than likely is pickled before night if she keeps up at this rate. > Just as Xena brought the mug to her lips she saw an Amazon enter. She didn’t look familiar but the Amazon noticed Gabrielle and made a beeline for her. <Well maybe she will take her mind off of it. I hate to see my bard so upset>

"My Queen, it is good to see you after so long." Gabrielle looked up hearing someone addressing her. Peering over the rim of her mug through slightly blurred eyes she saw one gorgeous amazon. <Now this is just what I need. If Xena doesn’t want me, I know she does> She quickly stood and grabbed the woman in a fierce hug.

"Oh Larisa, it is good to see you, too, and I might add you look wonderful!" The bard casually slid her right hand over Larisa’s hip and squeezed gently. "You know you can call me Gabrielle." She tightened the grip around the woman’s waist. "Sit down and tell me what you are doing here."

Xena stopped with the mug to her lips. <What is all that about? How does Gabrielle know her... and well enough to be grabbing her like that> Xena felt a few emotions start to color her cheeks and she quickly put them in check. <You are not jealous, Xena. You can’t feel that way about her. I’m not a damn Amazon. I am not attracted to women. > Feeling she had convinced herself, she decided to stay and watch, just in case the bard needed help or something. <I am not spying. She may need me later— all these men in here and my bard a little drunk? Nope, I’m not leaving. >

"Actually, I came looking for you. I just had to talk to you and Ephiny had some things she wanted me to barter for here in the city. I figured that with your stories popping up everywhere, the Academy might have an idea where you are, so I volunteered. Since your last visit, I have been thinking a lot. Larisa looked around nervously, "by the way where is Xena?" The young Queen shrugged her shoulders and motioned with her mug to the other end of the room. "We had a little disagreement, nothing to concern yourself with. Now go on...what were you saying?"

Larisa cleared her throat and motioned for the barmaid. After getting ale for herself and another for Gabrielle, she looked up nervously at the Queen.

"Go ahead, Larisa, tell me what is on your mind."

Larisa took a long drink from her mug. "Well, after your last visit, I, uh, well I have been thinking of you quite a lot. I grew quite fond of you while you were there. It hurt something awful to see you go. We had such a good time together...I suppose I was just hopping to get to spend a little time with you."

The bard reached over and took Larisa’s hand. With a slight purr in her voice, Gabrielle wet her lips and pulled Larisa up. "Come with me up to my room and we will finish talking about it there." Gabrielle turned around and led the gorgeous woman by the hand up the stairs.

Larisa wasn’t quite as tall as Xena but she was close. Dark hair, green eyes, and a beautiful smile. She was quite a warrior. One of the nation’s best scouts. Gabrielle couldn’t help but be attracted to her. She was so similar to Xena. The bard shook her head. <Get her out of your mind already. You can’t be comparing everyone to her. They will never measure up>

Xena watched the two women move up the stairs and disappear into the room next to hers. She stood with a scowl on her face and stormed off to her own room. Slamming the door and bolting it she threw herself on the bed. <IwillnotgetmadIwillnotgetmad – Hell, I have no right to get mad. Not to mention no reason. I am not in love with her. I prefer men. There is no way it would work. It would destroy our friendship. I can’t do it. I just can’t. Xena felt an involuntary shudder pass through her. Ugh, what am I gonna do. Maybe after they talk, Gabrielle will calm down a little and listen to reason. There is no way she will leave me, and in a few candle marks when that Amazon leaves, I will go over there and try to talk to her. >

She lay there for a moment in silence. Rolling to her side she heard a moan emit for the room next door that sounded a lot like Gabrielle. <Oh Gods, this is not my bard. She doesn’t know anything about this. There is no way she would do that. Come to think of it where DID she meet this damn woman and why was she so willing to hop into the bed with her, especially if she said she was in love with me? Gabrielle doesn’t just have sex with anyone. Hell, Gabrielle doesn’t even have SEX...does she> In response to her question, the moans grew increasingly louder.

Xena sighed heavily and groaned. "This is going to be a long night."


Chapter Two

The next morning came a little too early for Gabrielle. She rolled over and hugged Larisa in close. "When do you want to leave?"

Larisa stroked the hair out of the lovely Queen’s face and smiled. "As soon as you are ready, the sooner the better." "What are you going to tell Xena?"

Gabrielle seemed to think it over for a minute then she looked up with almost sad eyes. "The truth. You go on downstairs and order us some breakfast while I get ready. I won’t be very long." Gabrielle sat up and stretched grabbing Larisa’s hand she pulled her in for a fierce kiss. "On with you now. I will hurry."

Larisa stood for a moment longer looking at the beautiful woman. "I love you Gabrielle." The bard looked down at the blankets feeling a little uncomfortable. In a muffled voice the bard replied. "I’ll be down soon." With that Larisa turned and made her way downstairs.

Xena sat at the table waiting, having ordered herself and the bard some breakfast. She didn’t want to go and get Gabrielle or wake her up.

Knowing that her guest never left last night, she really didn’t want to walk in on anything or interrupt. That would be awkward to say the least. Not to mention she didn’t know if she could hold her temper.

Larisa sauntered down the stairs smiling and stopped in front of the warrior. "Good morning Xena."

Xena glared at her. "Do I know you, Amazon?" Larisa stepped back a pace. "Ah no, actually I guess we have never met. My name is Larisa. I only know you from the stories the Queen has shared with me. I am truly sorry. Gabrielle and I met about two seasons ago, you had dropped her off at the village so you could fight some warlord or another."

Xena raised and eyebrow and motioned for her to sit. The Amazon pulled out the chair and sat down the smile slowly returning to her face. Xena took a drink of her cider. "Where is Gabrielle?"

Larisa motioned for the barmaid. "She is getting dressed, she will be down in a few moments. Not an easy one to get going in the mornings." Xena scowled at Larisa, "Well I think I would know that a little better than you would now don’t you think." Slamming her mug on the table with a little more force than necessary she pushed back from the table enough to prop her legs on the free chair to her right.

Larisa winced slightly trying not to look intimidated. She was failing miserably. She focused her attention on the barmaid and waved her over. The woman arrived and looked at Larisa. Trying to be civil she glanced back up to Xena. "Have you already ordered breakfast Xena?" The warrior nodded yes and Larisa started in with her order to the barmaid. The young lady turned to leave but Larisa gently grabbed her arm and smiled. "Make that two of everything, my friend will be down soon and she will be famished."

Xena looked up and raised and irritated eyebrow. "Just one. I have already ordered for Gabrielle" Larisa looked sideways at Xena, loosing her smile. The warrior sat back and crossed her arms, scowl firmly in place.

When the silence between the two was almost to the point of being unbearable the bard descended the stairs. Walking over to Larisa, she pulled up a chair beside her. "Well I see the two of you have met." The barmaid arrived with the food. Gabrielle dug in and polished off hers and a good portion of Larisa’s in no time at all. Larisa stood and looked at Gabrielle. A little bit of worry creased her brow. "I will be in the stable when you are ready. Good bye, Xena." With that she headed out the door.

Xena’s heart sank. <This can’t be happening>

Gabrielle lowered her head looking at her hands. Xena looked over at her with a confused look on her face. "What is going on Gabrielle?"

The bard looked up. Reaching out she put her hand on Xena’s arm. "I am going home, Xena. The closest thing I know to that is with the Amazons. Yesterday I realized that as much as I want you to be my home it would never be possible. I can’t go on like we were any longer it is just too hard. I need to get on with my life and I can’t do that if I keep my sights on you." With a defeated sigh the bard looked into the warrior’s eyes and said, "Know that I will always love you."

The smaller woman stood up to leave and Xena grabbed her roughly by the arm and pulled her up the stairs to her room. In one fluid motion the warrior flung the bard so that she was facing her. Xena’s temper flaring and her fingers were digging into Gabrielle’s soft skin. "Do you love her?"

Gabrielle, trying to contain her anger from being yanked around like a rag doll screamed at Xena. "LET GO OF ME!" The warrior jerked, seeming oblivious to what she was doing. Looking at her hands she dropped the bard’s arms quickly and stepped back. The redhead took a deep breath to calm down, and looked thoughtfully at Xena. In a curt tone she said. "NOT that it is any of your business. I care a lot about her. She has been understanding and kind to me over the years. Now if that is all, she is waiting for me."

Xena bristled at the comment. "It is just a crush, Gabrielle. You don’t love me. It is some hero worship thing. We can work through it. It will go away. There is no reason to leave." Taking a deep breath the warrior fought for control of her emotions stuttering in a commanding tone, "You can’t go, I won’t allow it. You are being hasty and not thinking this through. What about being a bard. Not to mention you are always telling me you want adventure. If you go back there, they are going to saddle you with all of the Queens responsibilities."

Gabrielle was seething at this point. "What gives you the right to tell me I can’t go. You are not my mother, and the Gods know you aren’t my lover so worry about yourself for a change. I AM SICK AND TIRED OF YOU TELLING ME WHAT TO DO! IT WON’T BE THAT WAY ANY MORE! YOU WILL JUST HAVE TO FIND YOURSELF ANOTHER TAG ALONG, HERO-WORSHIPING SIDEKICK" With that she turned on her heel and stormed out the door.

Xena stood there slack jawed, not willing to let the bard know that she didn’t want to loose her best friend. Telling her self that she wasn’t jealous, she watched her walk out and slam the door behind her. <Fine, I will do better without her. I won’t have to constantly worry about her getting hurt I…I..I…> The warrior slammed her fist into the wall and screamed. "AAAHHHHH!"

Three days passed with Xena sitting alone in the woods missing her bard terribly. Unable to eat or sleep all she could do was brood. <They should be in Amazon territory by now. Well it is for the best. At least she is making a life for herself. She would never have got that here on the road. As long as..> The warrior jumped to her feet, face body tense and a scowl on her face. Startling a nearby bird she began to pace talking aloud. "She never said that she loved her. I know Gabrielle. She is doing the same damn thing with this woman as she did with Perdicus. She doesn’t love her she is just settling for her. And I let her do it. Son of a Baccahi, I am such and idiot. I should have just told her that I have been fighting with myself over all of this. There is no way I can let her do this. If I go and tell her that she can’t, well I tried that already and all it accomplished was getting her even more upset at me. I have to do something!"

The warrior quickly picked up her things and haphazardly threw them in the saddlebags. Turing she grabbed Argo’s reins and mounted the war-horse. <I’ll think of something on the way. I can’t let her do this to herself. > With that thought she kneed the horse and took off at a full gallop towards Amazon country.

Gabrielle pulled away from Larisa and rolled out of bed. "Where are you going now, Gabrielle?"

The young Queen turned around and pecked Larisa on the cheek. "Just to talk to Ephiny. I won’t be long." Larisa looked up with disappointment and a hint of jealousy in her eyes. "You talked to her for 4 hours last night, can’t you just stay with me for a little while longer? " Slowly sliding the blanket down to expose one lovely breast she wet her lips and called in a sultry tone. "Don’t you want me?"

Gabrielle sighed as she walked out. "I won’t be long." she called over her shoulder as she left. Walking slowly to the Regents hut, the bard pondered her situation with Larisa. <God’s what am I going to do? I care so much for Larisa but all I can think of is Xena. I miss her so much, I feel like my heart is being torn from my chest. Artemis, please don’t let me have made the biggest mistake of my life>

"Oh Ephiny, it hurts so much and I can’t talk to Larisa about it. When I bring up my feelings for Xena she gets upset. I told her from the beginning that I had feelings for her and I didn’t know when or if I would be able to love her the way I love Xena." Gabrielle’s shoulders began to tremble under her sobs. Ephiny pulled her into a tight hug, "I know, Gabrielle, I know. It will work out. Perhaps if you tried to be alone for awhile. Put things with Larisa on hold. Take some time for yourself."

Silently Ephiny swore to herself that when she saw Xena again she was going to give her a piece of her mind. <I love this woman so much, I can’t stand to see her in such pain. If only she would allow me to make her happy. I can see why she is with Larisa—she looks just like Xena but she knows how I feel about her. She has even told me she cares for me>

"Gabrielle, you know how I feel about you, and you know that I will always be here for you. That isn’t going to change. It will be all right love. It all will work out. I just want you to be happy all right." With that said the Regent pulled back from the bard and wiped a few stray tears from her cheeks. Gently she leaned in and kissed the bard on her forehead and guided her to the table.

The bard began to collect herself. Looking up at Ephiny, eyes still shining from crying. "Thank you, I know this must be terrible for you and I know that I’m just being a big cry baby, I’ll work things out. Larisa and I will get on I’m sure and Xena, well we all know she isn’t coming and I need to get that in my head."

Ephiny poured her a glass of water, "Here drink this. I will see if I can round up some breakfast for you and we will head out for some practice. The redhead managed a smile and began to chuckle. "That will make you feel better. You can take out some of those emotions on a few Amazons.

The bard snickered. "Yeah that does sound good. Just as Gabrielle stood up, Solari burst into the tent. Panting furiously she looked at the Queen. "Xena was just spotted headed this way and she hasn’t slowed down for any of the patrol!"

The Queen jumped up and ran outside. Seeing Xena headed toward her at full gallop she wanted to cry for joy. The warrior pulled Argo’s reins back and the horse slid to a stop. Sliding off of the butter colored mare, Xena started to feel a little embarrassed at her entrance, and no handy excuse to give to the bard for her determined journey here. "I... uh...well, I just wanted to make sure that you were okay." Xena managed to sputter when she walked up to Gabrielle.

"Oh I’m fine, fine, great really." Grabbing the warrior by the arm she started leading her toward the caves. Rambling she continued with a barrage of questions. "Are you okay? You look terrible. When was the last time you ate, or bathed for that matter?" The bard made a face and waved her hand in front of her nose smiling up at Xena.

Xena looked at her, confusion written all over her face and started to stammer something but Gabrielle cut her off. "No, I don’t want to know do I. Solari, go and get some food for our guest and bring it to the spring at the far end of the cave. Let Larisa know that I will be occupied for some time and not to worry." The bard looked at Solari when she didn’t leave.

Solari stood there, as if frozen in place. <I’ll be damned. She came. Oh shit. What about Larisa? Ephiny, oh gods poor Ephiny. This is not going to be pretty. I don’t want to be in the middle of this. >

"Solari!" snapped the Queen.

The warrior snapped out of her daze. "Oh yes my Queen, uh anything else?"

Gabrielle turned her an annoyed smile toward the Amazon. "No thank you Solari."

The warrior let herself be led to the spring a thousand thoughts going through her head. Quite a few of them involving a certain Amazon and the point of her sword. After the way that the bard left, she felt sure she would want nothing to do with her. Why was she being so nice? "Uh Gabrielle, I don’t want to interfere with -"

The bard cut her off and began removing the warrior’s armor. "Nonsense, I have missed you terribly, and I can’t say that I am pleased to see you in the shape you are in. You look like you haven’t been taking care of yourself at all."

Gently tugging at Xena’s shift she slid it down her body gasping when she saw Xena’s ribs protruding. The tall woman stood there like a statue, paralyzed with a mixture of desire and fear. Sliding her hand over the warrior’s ribcage she noticed with no small amount of satisfaction, Xena’s sudden sharp intake of breath.

"I let you out of my sight for a week and you end up looking like this." The bard looked up into impossibly blue eyes and sighed heavily. <I am such a fool! I should walk away now, before she hurts me again. > Tearing her gaze away she motioned for the warrior to get into the hot water.

The bard began soaping her back relishing in the feel of the soft skin under her hands. It seemed like ages since she had enjoyed this particular task. Xena’s head fell forward enjoying the ministrations, exposing a beautiful neck. Loosing herself in the soft skin under her palms, Gabrielle leaned toward her to touch her lips to a perfect neck when she heard someone clearing her throat.

Jerking up and seeing Solari, the bard, fought to control a blush. She motioned for her to come over. Taking the food with a thank you she set it on the edge of the pool. Solari looked into the bard’s eyes, speaking just above a whisper. "Larisa is on her way here, uh I mean not that you need warning or anything, but uh well I just thought you might want to know." With that the young warrior all but stumbled out of the cave.

Xena made a move to stand but the small beauty put her hands on her shoulders and pressed her gently back down into the water gently. "Xena, she knows how I feel about you and I have to admit she is jealous of that. What I want to know is why you came back. Do I need to tell her I am leaving with you or staying here? She is going to demand an answer and I can’t say that I blame her."

Xena looked up into the bard’s eyes and seemed to fall into them. Fear’s fingers slipping away from Xena, she slowly tilted her head to the side. Slipping her hand behind Gabrielle neck she pulled her down and kissed her with all of the love in her heart. The bard let out a low moan and traced her hand from the warrior’s neck lightly over her collarbone.

At that moment, Larisa walked in. Seeing Gabrielle in the arms of Xena sent her into a rage. "GABRIELLE!"

Xena jerked her head back, and turned to see a fuming amazon. She quickly stood and put herself between the bard and the amazon. Raising her hands in a calming gesture she spoke in a calm voice. "Wait Larisa, it is my fault all this has happened. I should have admitted to myself long ago how I felt about Gabrielle."

The bard’s eyes went wide at Xena’s statement. <Her feelings for me! > The bard shook her head to clear it. <Not now you have a pissed off Amazon in front of Xena. Have to take care of that first. >

Larisa’s fists were involuntarily clenching and her eyes were blazing. With every bit of anger and disgust she was feeling she spoke in a calm voice. "What are you doing? Is our Queen once again servant to the Destroyer of Nations?"

Gabrielle moved in front of Xena and placed her hand on Larisa’s shoulder. Hearing her call Xena by that title erased most of the sympathy she was feeling for the woman. In a clipped tone and locking her eyes with Larisa. "Xena, finish you bath and food. And you," The bard squinted her eyes and gritted her teeth turning Larisa around "Can come with me."

Xena looked at the bard, hurt in her eyes. <Well I guess she made her decision. This is my own fault. I waited too long. I should have told her before she left with that damn woman. Hades! > The dark woman watched as the young Queen led Larisa out of the cave toward her hut.

"How can you do this to me Gabrielle, I thought you loved me."

Gabrielle sat at the table and motioned for the Amazon to sit. Seeing the hurt in the woman’s eyes the bard softened her expression. <You can’t blame her, gods you put her in the middle of all of this. > "Larisa, I care about you deeply, but I have never led you to believe anything different from what is fact. I have told you from the beginning that I could never have the same feelings for you as I do for Xena. You knew how I feel about her. She is the other half of my soul. I can’t deny myself that if she wants the same thing."

Tears streaked down Larisa’s face, but she kept her voice even. "You used me, didn’t you?" Gabrielle reached over and placed a hand on Larisa’s arm. "No, I was sure she didn’t care about me and that we could never be together. I am just as surprised as you are that she came for me."

Jerking her arm away from Gabrielle’s touch she clenched her teeth and spoke evenly. "You will regret the decision you have made but know that I will never stop loving you." Larisa stood up and quickly grabbed the few things that had made their way to the Queen’s hut since their arrival. She turned and looked at the bard for a long moment then left.




Xena sat down in the spring and cupped her hands over her face. Ephiny walked in and glared at the warrior. "What did you want to accomplish by coming here. You turned her love away. If you can’t love her the way she needs to be loved, LEAVE. Don’t put her through this again. I will not sit by and watch you destroy her. She can make a life here without you but not if you keep popping up."

Xena looked up at Ephiny. "This is none of your concern, Amazon. So I suggest you turn around and walk out of this damn cave before I get too mad to let you."

Ephiny took a step toward Xena, anger making her more brave than good sense would normally allow. "I am her friend and I care about her." More that a little mad at being told to leave. "I will not leave, this is MY damn village, keep in mind you are the outsider here."

Neither warrior heard the bard enter. Nor could they be sure of what she had overheard.

Gabrielle walked in and pulled Ephiny to her. "Thank you, but I think that I can take it from here. Have Solari set up the guest hut for Xena." In a quieter tone, "This is my business and I think I am capable of taking care of it myself. Thank you for caring about my well being but let me deal with this my way. " Trying not to be too forceful she gently urged the Regent towards the exit of the cave

"I want to talk to you Gabrielle," Ephiny began, once they reached a safe distance from Xena’s sensitive ears. "I am sorry for interfering, but I love you and I don’t want to see you hurt again." With that the Regent turned and left.

Xena continued to stand there with her mouth partially open with a surprised look on her face. <This is a week of shocks. Who knew this little woman could be so demanding. I don’t recall Gabrielle being so comfortable making people do things>

Trying to put a little humor in her voice to break the obvious tension, the bard placed her hands on her hips and gazed at the warrior. "If you don’t sit down and get that body of yours out of my sight, I’m not going to be responsible for my actions." The warrior looked at her for a moment, seemingly trying to register what she said. With a total lack of grace she stumbled backwards and practically fell back into the water.

As soon as she was in the water the warrior began to stumble over the speech she had mentally prepared on the way here." I am so sorry Gabrielle. I have been having these feelings for you for along time now. But I had convinced myself that it was wrong that I shouldn't be attracted to you. Not only are you a woman, but you mean so much to me, I couldn’t see you being a part of my life in that way. I mean I am not the most gentle of souls. You deserve so much more than I can give you. Not to mention that everyone I seem to fall in love with tends to die on me."

Xena looked up from the water to see the bard’s expression only to be met by the gorgeous redhead removing her clothes.

The bard started to undress...slowly pulling at the ties on her top.

"Ah...what...err... um are you doing Gabrielle?" The fear returning to her voice.

The bard looked at her seriously. "Nothing you don’t want me to. I am just going to join you in the bath. I promise I won’t do anything we haven’t already done a thousand times over." With that she finished removing her clothes, Xena’s eyes locked on the firm body of the bard. <Whew I have bathed with her a thousand times, why is she affecting me like this? She is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. > Licking her lips, the warrior unconsciously wiped her brow as she watched the bard move closer to the pool.

She stepped into the water and motioned for Xena to scoot forward. The bard slid behind Xena and put a leg on either side of her. Reaching for the soap, she said, "Now where were we? I believe you had just spoke more to me in that one burst than I have heard from your lips in all the time I have known you."

Xena swallowed hard, there seemed to be a huge lump in her throat. The feeling of the young woman’s skin pressed against hers was driving most rational thought out of her mind.

Gabrielle lathered a sponge and reached to put the soap up. When she did her breast brushed against Xena’s back. The warrior shuddered.

"Gabrielle, I love you."

The bard stilled her hands and sat quietly for a long moment. "I don’t want you to say that to keep me around. If you don’t mean it with all of your soul, I don’t want to hear it. You have my heart and soul. I want the same in return."

Gabrielle clenched her teeth together. She desperately wanted to take anything the strong woman was willing to give her, but she knew she would regret it if she did.

Xena twisted around to look into Gabrielle eyes. The bard put her hands on Xena’s shoulders and turned her to face the other way. Starting to wash the warrior’s back again she stated, "You haven’t touched the food that Solari brought in, reach over and grab the tray. Xena did as she was told and looked at the food. She had to admit it did look good, she hadn’t eaten anything at all in three days and the two before that, just a few bites of trail rations.

"Well don’t just look at it, eat. You have turned into skin and bones." Xena started in on the food, before she realized what had happened she had cleared the plate. Gabrielle had finished her back and was working on her free arm. Finishing that she handed the sponge to the warrior and moved to the other side of the spring.

With a wry grin the bard looked at Xena. "I think you should take over from here." She grabbed another sponge and began washing herself.

Xena sat still for a moment watching the bard slide the soap over her body. Feeling dazed she began to salivate. Warm desire flooded her body. She slid toward the bard. Her voice pitched low with need, eyes hooded with desire. "I want you to finish for me."

The bard looked at Xena for a long moment. Her body ached to be close to the woman. Having never seen that look or tone directed toward her, she thought her body would melt. Good sense was doing an internal battle with her passion. Her brain winning out she looked at the dark warrior. "Xena I am not going to make love to you and have you decide you need a man in a month. Think about what you are doing here."

Xena reached out and pulled the bard onto her lap facing her. "I have thought of nothing else for the last week, Gabrielle. I have tried everything in my power not to want this but I do. I need you Gabrielle. I need to have you and love you and have you never leave my side. I have been miserable without you."

Xena leaned in and lightly brushed her lips over the bard’s. Feeling as if she were in a daze she began to slide her rough hands over the soap slick body of the bard.

The redhead shuddered and moaned. Briefly getting lost in the sensation of Xena touching her. Xena leaned over an earlobe into her mouth and began to nibble. The bard snapped back to reality with a dull ache. Pulling back slightly she took in a shuddering breath.

Gabrielle looked into Xena’s eyes. "I won’t do this now. I want you to be sure. I hear what you are saying to me Xena, and I don’t doubt that you believe it, but I won’t risk our friendship on this unless I know myself that you are committed to me and me alone." With that Gabrielle moved from the warrior’s lap and rinsed off. "When you are finished bathing come to the guest hut and we can talk some more. If I’m not there I will be along shortly." Pausing for a moment, she turned to leave. When the bard reached the mouth of the cave she turned to face Xena again. "I love you."

Watching her exit the cave the warrior raised her hand and slammed it down on the water’s surface. <What does she expect of me? I can’t understand all of this. I love her. I told her that I wanted to be with her? Why must she always talk things out> With an irritated sigh the she roughly grabbed the discarded bar of sponge and began to finish her bath.

After having scrubbed her skin until it was red. She began to calm down a bit. <I suppose that after all I have put her through this last week or so, I can understand why she would be hesitant. I guess I should feel lucky she will even consider being in the same room with me after the fight that we had when she left me. > Xena chuckled aloud thinking about the fire in Gabrielle’s eyes. It had stunned her to see the bard that upset. Sure she had seen her mad before, but it looked like she was ready to tear someone apart. <Yeah me, tear me apart. I can’t believe all that she puts up with from me. > The warrior laughed aloud and began to exit the water.

As soon as she left the cave, the bard began to tremble. Slowly she made her way back to her hut. It was no surprise that she found Ephiny sitting on the edge of the bed. "I have been waiting for you. Where is Xena?" Gabriele closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Hoping that it would steady her nerves a little bit. "She is still in the cave bathing. She should be done in a few minutes."

"Gabrielle, are you sure you want this? I mean you said yourself that she turned you away. I don’t understand why you put yourself through this." Standing up, Ephiny began to pace back and forth in the close quarters. The Regent felt like she was on the verge of loosing all control. <With Xena back, there is no way on earth Gabrielle will come to me now, even if things didn’t work out with Larisa. > Growing more and more upset the regent stopped and turned to face her young queen. "SHE WILL JUST HURT YOU, GABRIELLE!"

The bard cringed from the harshness of the normally sweet woman’s words. "Ephiny, I haven’t decided yet what to do. Like I said we are going to do some talking first. I love her more than anyone in this world. You know I can’t let this chance slip by."

The Regent quickly moved in front of the bard and gently pushed her down into the chair. Kneeling in front of her she began to ramble. "I can make you happy Gabrielle. I know you said that we were too close of friends for that but I do love you and I know I can make you happy. Give me a chance. I will show you. I promise it will be good. I won’t let anyone hurt you. I will take care of you." With tears streaking her face the regent bowed her head trying to get herself under control.

"Listen to me Ephiny, I love you too. But if we were together it would never work. You are a beautiful woman and one of my dearest friends. I don’t want to try things with you, only to mess up our friendship. It was hard enough the one time we made love for me to leave the next morning. I am in love with Xena. That is why I started a relationship with Larisa and not you. I love you too much to hurt you like that again."

The blonde rose from the bed and pulled Gabrielle in a fierce embrace. " I will always be here for you Gabrielle. If you ever change your mind you know where to find me." Having said that she placed a gentle kiss on the bard’s lips. Pulling back she roughly wiped her eyes, squaring her shoulders she walked out of the hut.

Xena walked in looking at Gabrielle with concern in her eyes. "Why was Ephiny crying?"

Gabrielle took a deep breath and sighed. "Xena I thought you were going to the guest hut. I told you I would be there soon. A lot has happened over the last 3 years and quite frankly, I’m not sure I want to tell you about it right now. We have to many other things to discuss to dredge up things that will only make more people unhappy." Frustration was clear in her tone.

The warrior looked at Gabrielle, a flash of anger in her eyes. "Make who unhappy?" Xena looked fiercely at the bard and growled out, "Tell me what is going on Gabrielle." Xena paced over the side of the bed and pulled the bard up to her feet. "Have you slept with Ephiny too? Damn! Who else in this damn village have you been with?" Jealousy evident in her voice the warrior began to pace around the room like a caged animal.

"To start with, what I did prior to your arrival here this morning is not really any of your business, Xena. Would you like me to have a fit over the people in your past? Hell, I can’t count on both hands the ones you have slept with just since I have known you. Should I be angry at you for that?" Gabrielle was just barely controlling her anger at this point.

The warrior stopped in her tracks. In a small voice just above a whisper, "How do you know about that? I haven’t said anything to you about anyone I have been sleeping with." She began to pace again irritated that Gabrielle knew about them. She hadn’t wanted the bard to know about that side of her personality. The young woman groaned, "Damn Xena do you think I am stupid. All the times at the taverns. You, flirting with those men. I am not blind and I am not a stupid CHILD!"

Xena stopped and sat down. Dropping her head into her hands she weakly replied. "I see your point. I would still like to know. And I’m not going to go on a mad rampage through here, but I just need you to tell me, have you slept with Ephiny?"

She softened at the warrior’s obvious hurt and confusion. Gabrielle sat back on the bed pulling Xena to her. "I have to tell you the whole story if I am going to tell you at all." Xena looked up at her, eyes moist with unshed tears. "Go ahead Gabrielle."

Chapter Three

With a deep sigh the bard bowed her head, trying to find the best way to start her tale. She cleared her throat, feeling a little more than apprehensive as she wondered if the warrior would want her any more after she heard the story. But Gabrielle knew what she had to do. After another deep breath, she plowed ahead.

"It all started after Thessaly. Ephiny and I seemed to grow closer after that. When we would stop by the village from time to time, to rest or stock up on supplies, the two of us would talk. We never thought—" The bard’s voice caught in her throat. She turned her head, suddenly afraid to go on.

Xena reached over and cupped the bard’s smooth cheek in her hand and turned her head back to face her. "Go ahead, Gabrielle. I am not going anywhere, no matter what you tell me."

With that the bard relaxed a little, seeming to gain a little bit of courage, and squeezed the waist her arm had wrapped around. "During the Spring Equinox two seasons ago, Ephiny and I were having one of our little chats." The bard paused for a painfully long period of time. Just as Xena was about to prompt her she continued. "She told me that she had fallen in love with me."

Xena stiffened at the remark but motioned with her head for the bard to go on. "Well one thing led to another, and I had yet to realize all of the things I was feeling for you were love...and..well, we made love that night." Gabrielle pulled away from Xena and stood, picking up on the tension radiating from the warrior’s body, despite her reassuring gestures. She moved to the other side of the room debating whether or not she really needed to do this.

She had almost convinced herself that she could end this conversation now.... until she caught sight of her love seated on the bed. Before they could move forward, they had to face her past. She had to tell her everything.

"When we started, I was determined that I was going to stay here with her, that I loved her—even though I hadn’t spoken those words to her, yet. She was so kind and loving." <and obvious> the bard recalled. "At the festival, she would dance with me and --." Gabrielle had wrapped her arms around herself unconsciously, remembering the curly-headed regent’s not-so-subtle flirtations during the party. The way her hands had cupped Gabrielle’s waist to press her body against her own...the slow burn that had started in the pit of her stomach as the music slowed to a more sensual rhythm. The tacit agreement between them as they left the party and headed for Ephiny’s hut, barely making it inside the doorway before Ephiny had her pinned against a wall and they sank to the hut floor in a flurry of heated kisses and frantic touches. But Gabrielle had never truly let herself go that night, for reasons she would only uncover waking to the blonde the next morning.

"I care very deeply for Ephiny, but as bad as it may sound, making love to her that night just made me realize my feelings for you." How could she begin to explain the discoveries she had made that evening? That she had imagined the lips pressed against hers to be the warrior’s? That she wished the hazel eyes gazing at her with such adoration had been blue? That the entire night she had ached for a different warrior’s hands upon her body... "I woke up the next morning and realized that it wasn’t Ephiny I was in love with. I mean I owe her – she taught me how beautiful love between two women can be... but she wasn’t the woman that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with." While relaying her story, Gabrielle had started to cry, but she pressed on, oblivious to the tears which streaked her face.

"That person was and still is you, Xena. " She hazarded a glance at the warrior, still seated unmoving on the bed. "I was loath to admit it to myself. I knew that you could never feel that way about me. I mean you treat me like an insolent child most of the time. How could you find such a troublesome child attractive? How could you love me? How could you love a woman? In the score of lovers that I have known you to take, not one of them had been female. I thought I could push my feelings for you aside, and I succeeded for a time...until you would take another lover and a little part of me would die," she finished softly.

The warrior found she could not tear her eyes from the floor. She could not bring herself to look directly at Gabrielle. Her heart was in turmoil, her emotions an unchecked whirlwind as if Pan himself had unleashed them. Nevertheless, she sat rock still and forced herself to listen.

"I guess I am getting off of the subject a little." She paused, trying to catch her train of thought. "Yes, I made love to Ephiny. I woke the next morning, to a cascade of blonde curls on my chest. Somehow I had expected you to be the sight that greeted me. I was so afraid that I had ruined a friendship that I didn’t want to loose. Ephiny has been a comfort to me over the last few years. So I spent some time talking to her. I explained that I didn’t want to ruin things and she took it well --for the most part." I’m lying, Gabrielle admitted to herself. It had taken all of her bardic skills to convince her lover that this was for the best.

There had been anger, of course, then tears, then a quiet resignation when Ephiny realized that as much as she loved Gabrielle, she couldn’t force the woman to return to same kind of love.

"She let me know that she would always be here for me and that she understood."

A very pale Xena sat on the bed, feeling as though all the air had rushed from her lungs.

Gabrielle looked over and noticed. "Xena?"

No response.

The bard rushed over and took her hand. "Xena!"

The warrior’s head snapped to face Gabrielle. "I guess I wasn’t as ready to hear that as I thought."

Gabrielle sat down beside her and wrapped her arms around the stunned warrior. Xena cleared her throat and took a slow deep breath. "If you care about Ephiny, why were you with Larisa?"

An errant tear trickled down the bard’s cheek. She wiped it away impatiently. "I guess even though I thought that you didn’t want me, there was a small corner of my heart that held the hope that you would come."

"Larisa and I have been intimate off and on for awhile now. I mean…I am still a woman who has needs and I couldn’t keep waiting for you to give me some sign that you would not rebuff my advances."

Xena turned in the bard’s embrace and rested a weary head on the woman’s shoulders, crying. "I don’t know what to do, Gabrielle. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to be jealous, but I can’t help it. I guess I am just shocked that you slept with anyone. I suppose that I had some unreasonable image of you as this paragon of virtue."

With infinite care the bard began stroking the warrior’s hair. "Xena, can’t you see, there is no reason to be jealous, you are the only one that I have ever loved. You are the only person that has ever made me feel complete. I want no other if I have the option of you. This last season of our traveling has been difficult to say the least. Not only from an emotional standpoint but from a very physical one as well. I have been having a hard time containing my feelings for you. I would find myself aroused watching you during a fight. Just riding with you on that horse of yours or sleeping next to you at night, would put me in such a state I would have to..." The bard trailed off with a rueful chuckle. "Well, let’s just say it wasn’t easy.

"That morning that I told you how I felt, well, I just couldn’t *not* tell you. I had planned to skirt around it, maybe draw you out. Tell you about Ephiny then and see how you would react. I just couldn’t do it. My brain went in overdrive as soon as I made the decision that I couldn’t hold it in any longer."

Xena raised her head. Blue eyes still glistening, she slowly pressed her lips to the bard’s collarbone, her voice hoarse from crying. "Gabrielle, I, I .." Unable to finish she pulled the bard’s head towards her and kissed her gently. Gabrielle whimpered and pressed harder into the kiss. She stretched back onto the bed, pulling Xena with her. Hands trailing over the tight muscles of the warrior’s back, she began to tug at the Xena’s shift.

With one swift tug the warrior ripped the shift down the back. She tossed it to the floor and pressed her now naked body against the bard. Groaning, Xena began an assault on the creamy flesh of the bard’s neck. Gabrielle gasped at the contact. Feverishly, the bard’s hands and nails blazed a path down Xena’s back and grasped at the firm muscles of the warrior’s ass. Xena threw her head back and moaned.

Taking advantage of the moment, Gabrielle twisted Xena onto her back and began a trail of kisses and nips over the warrior’s neck, her hands busily removing her own top. For Xena’s part, she was in heaven. Having never felt such passion, and in shock that it was directed toward her from Gabrielle of all people, all she could to was submit to the smaller woman’s attack on her senses.

Suddenly she felt the bard press her breasts against her own. Elated, she circled her arms around the young woman and squeezed their bodies tightly together. "Yes, Gabrielle, this feels so right." Sliding her battle-callused hands down the bard’s back she began to tug at the skirt separating their lower bodies.

The bard slid down slightly, her wetness leaving a trail down the warrior’s thigh, she roughly grabbed one full breast and squeezed lips unbearably close to one perfect nipple. <This is real. She wants me. > With that joyous thought she took the nipple in her mouth and began to tease it to erection with her tongue, the sweet taste of the warrior’s skin sending pulses to her center.

"Oh Goddess, Gabrielle!" the warrior moaned. The bard slipped a hand between Xena’s thighs and expelled a faint sigh at the evident arousal she found. Sliding her fingers easily between the folds, she began to move them up and down. Slowly she began to tug and nip at the nipple in her mouth. Still amazed that this was really happening Gabrielle didn’t realize that the warrior was almost at the brink of orgasm from her simple touches.

Feeling the warrior’s nails start to dig into her bare back, the bard woke up from her daze and removed her hand. "Oh no you don’t, not yet." Xena whimpered and looked into the bard’s eyes. "Please Gabrielle, I want you so much. I need to feel you—please I can’t wait."

Gabrielle slipped from the bed and stood in front of the reclining warrior. A smile played at the edge of her lips she began to slowly shake her head. Reaching over, she grabbed Xena’s ankles and gently pulled her to the edge of the bed, so that her feet were touching the floor.

The warrior propped up on her elbows just in time to see the bard converge on her center. Xena threw her head back in bliss. "OH YES! Oh...please don’t stop." Gabrielle pressed those tan legs farther apart and greedily began to lap at the warrior’s center. Tasting the nectar that could only be Xena’s, she delved inside with her tongue. After a few deep slow strokes she found the tight bundle of nerves above and hungrily suckled it into her mouth.

The strong woman gasped at the sensation of her bard’s mouth firmly suctioned to her clit. It seemed as though every nerve in her body were on edge.

Without warning the bard plunged three fingers into the warrior. Xena’s eyes flew open and the breath rushed from her lungs. With a sharp intake of air she growled out the bards name. Gabrielle reached deep and high finding the spot she knew would send the warrior over. Hooking her fingers she pulled out and plunged back in.

"GABRIELLE!" Xena grabbed the bard’s head as her hips left the bed. Shuddering, tears streaming down her face she began to tremble. Her peek claimed her mind as it was awash in a torrent of emotion, and convulsions claimed her body.

When her lover’s convulsing began to slow, the bard disengaged her mouth leaving her fingers inside she slid up and pressed her lips to Xena’s. Gently with her free hand she began to stroke her raven hair, whispering in her ear words of love and forever.

Slowly Xena’s tears stopped and she wrapped her arms around the bard. Doing so cause Gabrielle hand to move and she shuddered again. The bard slowly removed her fingers and returned the embrace. Xena groaned at the loss and shuddered. "I never knew it could be like that Gabrielle, never knew-" she trailed off not knowing how to express all the feelings that seemed to overwhelm her mere seconds ago.

The bard began to slowly stroke Xena’s back. "I know love, it’s okay." Xena sighed and lay back, pulling the bard on top of her. Gabrielle scooted down and placed her head on one lovely breast. Sighing with contentment she closed her eyes.

Xena lay there for a few moments, allowing it all to sink in. <She made love to me. She loves me. I didn’t ruin things between us. She forgave me. What am I going to do now? What happens when Ephiny finds out? Will I be able to hold my temper with her? I mean she has never provoked a fight but knowing that she would gladly take the one person that means everything to me, that makes me feel like I am worth something. I’m not sure I can get over that. Whatever god is responsible for her loving me Thank You. >

Xena’s ears perked up at the soft snoring sounds of the bard. <Oh how I have missed that sound. You know I haven’t been able to sleep since you left. That damn snoring of yours is like a night-song for me my bard. > Watching her sleep, the gentle smile on her face, Xena began to feel the slow building of desire yet again. <I don’t think we are done yet my bard>

With a mischievous glint in her eyes she reached down and slid a hand between the bard’s legs. "Wake up love, we still have some unfinished business."


Chapter Four

Dawn found the two curled up together. Bodies intertwined in bliss. The warrior woke with a warm sensation. Feeling the bard’s supple skin pressed against her own brought a lazy smile to her face. Slowly opening her eyes, she glanced down at her.

With skin still flushed from their long night together, the bard had never looked more enchanting to Xena’s appraising eyes. Slowly lifting the blankets, trying not to disturb Gabrielle, she began untangling herself. Padding across the room she stoked the fire and tossed on her shift.

With a spring in her step she headed out for the food hut. <Gods, I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautiful morning. All it took was one night from a VERY talented bard to get me up in a good mood> Xena chucked aloud. Noticing she had already reached the food hut and that a certain blonde eyed her with something just shy of anger, she quickly composed herself.

"Thought I would get something for your Queen to eat." Xena reached over for a plate and began to fill it. Ephiny hesitated for a moment, looking a bit unsure of her. "Xena, I would like to have a word with you before you leave the village. No rush but I feel that it is important." She quickly spun on her heel and exited the food hut.

Xena straightened up from the table, grabbed a skin of cider and started back for the hut, her good mood now a thing of the past.

<Damn that Ephiny! Larisa is no threat but Ephiny; she is such a good friend to Gabrielle. I’m sure she could convince her to stay. I know she says not to worry about her but Gods, Ephiny has never hurt her the way I have. Never been afraid to show her how she feels. Never caused her the pain that I have Never turned her away>

A scowl etched on the warrior’s face, she entered the hut.

Looking to the bed, she saw the bard just as she had left her and the warrior felt the tension drain from her face. Gabrielle looked so perfect. It was hard to stay upset with this vision in front of her. Placing the food and cider on the table she quietly moved over to the bed to rouse the lovely woman.

<I love her so much. I won’t let her go. Ephiny will have to kill me first>

Placing a gentle kiss on her cheek, she began to work her way toward those ever-talented lips. Gabrielle moaned softly, a slight smile etching the corners of her mouth. Hearing that sweet noise emit from the bard’s throat, Xena shuddered placing a soft kiss on slightly parted lips.

"Wake up Gabrielle, I have food for you."

Stretching quite provocatively the bard pulled the warrior down fully on top of her. "Food huh, well I can think of a few things that might satisfy my hunger." Lacing her fingers in raven hair she pulled Xena into a passionate kiss. Rolling the warrior to her back she moved her mouth to a long luscious neck and firmly bit down on quite visible pulse point.

Xena trembled as memories of the last time the bard’s teeth were clamped down on her neck flooded her mind. Trying to get control of herself she sat up, taking the bard with her. "Ah, ohh, Gabrielle, mm, I brought some ssss, food."

The bard pulled back and looked at Xena. "You can’t be serious." The tall woman stood up and retrieved the food tray and cider. "I need to do a few things this morning and I want to get them over with."

Gabrielle took the food and began to eat with little enthusiasm. The bard cut her eyes at the warrior, a seductive tone to her voice. "Well this isn’t exactly what I had in mind but I guess we can save the other for desert"

Xena cleared her throat and sat on the edge of the bed. "I ran into Ephiny at the food hut this morning. She says she wants to talk to me. I was thinking that after we ate I would go over and see what she has to say."

"Would you like me to come with you?"

Xena seemed to think it over for a moment. "No, I should probably go alone. I am sure it won’t take long. Not to mention, she probably won’t tell me what she wants if you are there, since you are probably the topic of conversation." Xena exhaled.

<Damn Amazons>

Trying to keep her temper down she started to pace the room.

Gabrielle watched Xena moving back and forth across the room. Reaching out she grabbed one arm and pulled her to the bed. "Listen Xena, I love you. Do you think I would have gone through everything I have gone through with you if I didn’t? I realize that you have a hard time trusting people in situations like this, and I’m not real sure of how to convince you otherwise."

Xena relaxed a little bit and sat down next to the bard. Snagging a bit of fruit from the plate, she began to nibble at it almost unconsciously. "I know, honey. It is just....well, you did sleep with her, and you have told me how much you care about her. She hasn’t hurt you the way I have. Let’s face it, this last season has been bad. I have been horrible to you. I guess I worry you will wake up and see that I’m not what you need." Taking a shuddering breath, she roughly wiped at her now wet eyes.

Gabrielle pulled her down to the bed and wrapped her arms around the older woman. Slowly stroking her back she kissed her earlobe and whispered words of love. "I will always be here love. I will never leave you again. Xena, you always conveniently forget that I have done some pretty rotten stuff this last season as well."

After a few moments of kissing and cuddling, Xena stood up and straightened the shift she wore. "I am going to head on over there, get it out of the way." Gabrielle pulled her down for one last kiss and stood up. "Don’t be too long, I will be dressed when you get back and we can go see about a bath." Glancing at he ground and shuffling her feet the bard whispered. "We can leave as soon as you like you know. I mean there is really nothing keeping us here."

Xena smiled from ear to ear. <Thought sure she would want to hang out here for awhile>"Great I’ll tell her we are leaving after the noon meal."

Grabbing Gabrielle in a bone-crushing hug Xena placed a quick kiss on the bard’s smiling face. "You mean everything to me, my bard. I won’t be long." With a huge smile on her face, the warrior left the hut.

<Should have thought to tell her we could leave sooner. That seemed to do it for her. I guess I should have known that though. She is obviously worried about me staying here with Ephiny. I wish that I could convince her that even though I love Ephiny, I will never be in love with her>

Sighing she started to get dressed. Pulling on her travel clothes she looked around the room. Eyes falling on her bag she began to pack, leaving her towel and soap.

<Never fails, every time I feel like I have her almost talked into staying, that damn woman comes in and pulls her from me>

Ephiny grabbed a staff and stalked out to the training grounds. <I love her so much. I want her to be happy, and I know that she loves Xena. I should be happy for her. Gods I want to be happy for her. The real pisser is that I care about Xena. This would be so much easier if it was someone else she was in love with. Nooo, she has to fall in love with the woman that delivered my child, and saved this village too many times to count. > Darting her eyes around she saw Xena approaching.

Keeping a calm controlled look on her face, the warrior walked up to the regent. "Gabrielle and I are leaving after the noon meal. If you wanted to talk to me, we need to do it now."

Ephiny’s knuckles turned white from her grip on the staff she was holding. Trying to calm her raging temper she took a deep breath. "Xena, don’t hurt her again or you will have the entire nation to contend with. I care very much for her, she could have had a nice stable life here with all the privileges that are bestowed on one of our queens. If she is to be with you, well, there isn’t anything I can do about it. Just be damn sure you know where your head is through this." Chestnut eyes glaring at Xena, her nostrils flaring, she turned and stomped off.

<Well, that went better than I expected>

Xena turned and headed back in the direction of her bard’s hut. <I hate that things can’t be like they were before. We were never really close but I had considered Ephiny a friend. I guess I can see her point of view. Gabrielle is definitely worth getting upset over> Mulling over the situation, she looked up and realized that she was back. Ducking her head inside she found the bard sitting at the table writing in her journal.

Walking over she gently began to massage the bard’s shoulders, planting soft kisses down the side of her neck. "Xena, mmm, that is nice. " With some effort she turned her head and pulled forward. "How did it go with Ephiny? You were barely gone long enough to even find her."

Xena gave her a wry grin. "Oh, well, better that I had anticipated. She basically told me to not hurt you or suffer the wrath of your nation."

The bard shook her head and sighed. "I’m sorry, Xena. Did you tell her we were leaving?" The warrior nodded and reached over to continue her massage. "She is going to see us off isn’t she?"

The warrior tilted her head in contemplation. "Somehow I doubt it, Gabrielle. She is pretty upset over all of this, and to be honest, I can’t blame her. I mean, I would be upset if I lost you to someone else." <Upset is most definitely an understatement. I think I would tear them limb from limb>

Gabrielle chuckled. "Sounds kind of strange coming from you. I mean after all, you thought I just had some kind of crush. What was the term you used? Hero-worship." Xena grinned. "That was before I was honest with myself about you, and me for that matter. I wouldn’t give you up for anyone now." With that Gabrielle stood up and circled her arms around Xena’s waist.

Planting a soft kiss on the warrior’s lips she turned and pulled Xena toward the door. "How bout that bath?"

The warrior quirked an eyebrow and put on her most stoic look. Trying to look put upon, the best she could manage under the bard’s amused gaze. Sighing with a defeated groan she allowed herself to be tugged out the door.

Ephiny entered her hut and flung the staff across the room. "Dear Aphrodite, why on earth have you cursed me with loving this woman, when she will never love me back?" Tears streaming down her face she flopped down on the bed.

<This is too much, I have to get control of myself here. I mean it’s not like she is the only woman on earth. I mean.... Shit - what do I mean? This can’t be happening. Not again! How on earth am I going to see them off?

> Rolling to her stomach she buried her head in the pillow and screamed.

Abruptly the regent sat up and took in her surroundings. Glancing at her chest her eyes took in the necklace the lay on top. She reached over and gently retrieved it. Despite her attempts to wipe her face, the Regent continued to shed silent tears as she recalled the day she received this small piece of jade.

It had been quite a night, having made love countless times to the one woman that had held her heart since her brave challenge of Queen Melosa.

The Regent awoke to beautiful green eyes gazing at her with the most concerned look she had ever seen.

"Gabrielle, are you alright?" Reaching up, she had placed a gentle hand on the tear-stained cheek. The bard had pulled away, though. She stood to retrieve her scroll case then returned to the bed. Slowly she arranged herself beside her lover.

Ephiny watched the bard sort through her case in dazed confusion. Finally, when the bard came across what she seemed to be looking for, she placed the rest of her things back in the bag and set it on the floor.

It was at that moment that Ephiny’s world seems to end.

Gabrielle reached out and gently placed her hand on the regent’s cheek. Softly stroking with her thumb, her face took on a sorrowful look. "Ephiny, you are a beautiful creature. I have to admit, last night was something that I have thought about doing from time to time, since I met you. You are a wonderful lover. "

Ephiny placed her hand over the bards and tilted her head to the side. "Then why the long face, I have wanted to be intimate with you, for you o allow me to love you. If we both wanted it, what is wrong?"

Gabrielle slowly pulled her hand back and put it in her lap. Taking a long slow breath she a but whispered. "I am in love with Xena. I have been since the moment I saw her. Last night just made me realize how much, and in what way. I have to try with her, if I don’t I will never forgive myself and I can’t be in relationship with you if I can’t give myself completely to you."

The Regent’s jaw drop and tears spilled down her cheeks. "What, you can’t be serious Gabrielle!"

Ephiny furiously wiped at her eyes. "Gabrielle, we made love last night, you... you...you told me that you wanted to be here. How on earth can you say you love Xena when it was my bed you were in." Reaching out she grabbed the bard by the arm and pulled her to her. "I am what you need Gabrielle. I am the one who can make you happy. All she can give you is a life on the road. No home, no stability, and little comfort. We both know she isn’t one to open up to people. I can give you those things. I want to give you those things.

If only you would open your eyes and look, everything you need is right in front of you."

No matter what the Regent seemed to say the young woman had an answer – and unfortunately, all of her answers involved leaving.

"Ephiny, I care so much about you, but I can’t stay. I have such deep feelings for Xena, it would not be right. I would not be able to give you my heart and that is unfair to you. I have to at least try to get Xena to see how I feel about her."

Ephiny took a shuddering breath and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Gabrielle, I---" The bard placed a finger over the Regent’s lips. "Let me get this out okay. I promise I will listen when am done." Ephiny nodded and turned her eyes back to the floor.

"You are one of the best friends I have ever had. I can’t tell you what that friendship has come to mean to me over the last few seasons. It hurts me to see you so upset, and to know that I am the cause of it." Clasping her hands together, Gabrielle sighed. "If only things were different. I am sorry that I can’t be what you want me to be Ephiny, but I have to be true to myself. I never meant to hurt you, and had I known that I felt the way I do about Xena, I would never have let this happen." The bard looked at Ephiny for a long moment. "I don’t regret last night. It was wonderful, but I never wanted this morning to end this way. I never wanted to lose my friend." Choking back a sob, Gabrielle stood up and crossed the room.

"I want to give you something. I got it in Athens a few months ago. It was to be your Solstice gift. I want you to have it now. Remember that I do care about you and I don’t want to loose you as my friend." With that the bard walked back over to Ephiny and gently placed a small jade necklace in her hand. Gently tilting her head upward she pressed her lips to the Regent’s.

Ephiny furiously wiped at her eyes. Standing she took the bard in a hug. Trying to control her raging emotions, the regent put on the best face she could. <She isn’t going to change her mind. Damn that stubborn woman. Maybe when she sees how that damn warrior is she will want to come back. > "You haven’t lost a friend Gabrielle. I will always be here for you. I love you, and I want to see you happy. If things don’t work out the way you like, you know where to find me."

Gabrielle leaned in and kissed the Regent. "I do love you, Ephiny. Always remember that." With that the bard left.

Standing in the deafening silence of her hut, Ephiny sank to ground, clutching the bard’s gift to her chest. "Oh my Queen, if only -." She had never broached the subject with the bard again.

Until now.

She knew Larisa was just a distraction. She was sure that would have fallen apart within a few moons. With Xena out of the way she felt like she could have persuaded Gabrielle to see her as more than a friend. Could have convinced her that the two of them together would have been right.

With a muffled whimper, the regent put on the necklace and stood to leave for her noon meal.

Entering the bard’s hut, Xena had a look of pure desire on her face. Gabrielle trotted in behind her looking for her part thoroughly amused. "You are such a tease, Gabrielle." Xena reached out to grab the bard’s arm only to have it slip away before she could get a grip on it.

"Get your leathers on Warrior mine. The sooner we leave the sooner we can take care of your ‘little problem’." Gabrielle was giggling almost uncontrollably at this point and was having a difficult time getting her own traveling clothes on.

Xena gazed at her love, presently bent over trying to retrieve her skirt from the floor. <Whew, what took me so damn long? I could have had my hands on that moons ago. What an idiot I turned out to be. > The warrior cleared her throat as she absorbed the sight before her hungrily. "You know there is a nice place to camp just east of here about a mile up river. Of course we won’t get much traveling done but I don’t think there is anywhere pressing that we need to be."

Gabrielle poked her tongue out and finished putting her belt on. With a saucy grin she pulled Xena in for a hug. "I never really thought this would happen. You and me being intimate just seemed so unattainable. I am so glad you want me."

"Whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute, where did that come from. No getting mushy on me. We did enough of that last night." Gently she tangled her hand in the bard’s still damp head and slowly pulled her back. Leaning over the warrior planted a lingering kiss on petal soft lips. "I love you, my bard." "Always."

Entering the food hut, Ephiny grabbed a plate and filled it without thought. Scanning the room she spotted Solari and Eponin in the far corner. The Regent took a deep breath and squared her shoulders.


With practiced strides she crossed the room and sat down next to Solari.



Gear packed away on Argo the warrior stole a glance at Gabrielle. The bard was standing on her toes craning her neck trying to see every direction at once. "Where is she, I told Solari that we were leaving. I thought surely she would be here." Gabrielle twisted to look at Xena. "I know how you feel about this but I can’t leave without saying something to her."

Xena clenched her teeth and gave a brisk nod at the bard to go ahead. Gabrielle reached up and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "I won’t be long, I promise." The young woman turned and trotted off toward the regent’s hut.

Taking a deep shuddering breath, Xena tried to calm herself. < She is just going to go say goodbye to her for Gaia’s sake. I don’t know if I will ever get over this fear of loosing her. Good grief look at her, she is stunning. Not to mention she is the gentlest soul you would ever want to meet. I don’t know if I can deal with this constant worry of loosing her to someone else. No not someone else—Ephiny—only Ephiny. >

Xena turned and cinched up Argo’s saddle. Resting her head on the horse’s neck she let out a slow even breath. Just a little longer and we will be gone from here girl. Then I can relax a little bit. Argo grunted as if in agreement and pulled at her reins so she could lean over and sample the clover under foot. The warrior grinned at the mare and patted her on the neck.

Ephiny jumped when she heard a knock on the door. Closing her eyes and taking a breath she called "Come." Gabrielle walked in, to no surprise of the regent’s, and leaned her staff against the wall.

"Ephiny, I couldn’t leave without seeing you." The bard moved toward the regent and went to hug her only to have Ephiny move away. "Well that was thoughtful of you my queen, I am sorry I did not go to meet you, but I had some pressing affairs to attend to."

Gabrielle winced at the formal tone of the Regent’s and motioned to the table. "Can we sit down for a minute?" Ephiny moved to the table and sat down trying to avoid looking at the bard. "I am sorry thing turned out the way they did. I never wanted to hurt you Ephiny. I want so much for things to be the way they used to be. You remember when we were friends? When we could talk to each other. You mean a lot to me, that friendship means a lot to me. I don’t want to loose that."

Ephiny looked at Gabrielle. "We will always be friends. Just as I said before I will always be here for you. Unfortunately I do love you and it hurts to see you with Xena. I will have to deal with that. For the time being, well I just need to get my priorities in order. I will be fine." <Gods that was hard> Forcing a smile Ephiny took Gabrielle hand and stood up, pulling the young queen with her. "You had better hurry before Xena comes looking for you." She placed a soft kiss on the bard’s cheek and led her to the door.

Gabrielle wasn’t convinced, but she could see that she would get nowhere trying to talk the Regent at this point so she relented. "I will be back within the next moon or so. Perhaps we can talk more then?" The bard hazarded a smile and turned to leave.

Done with preparing Argo to leave, the warrior sat on a bale of hay in the barn sharpening her sword, nervously awaiting the return of her bard. "This is taking to damn long. What is she doing in there? Get a grip Xena she is just saying goodbye. There is no reason to get worried, I mean she is leaving with you today, not staying here." The warrior blew out an exasperated breath and roughly put her sword back in the scabbard. Standing abruptly she began to pace the length of the barn, eyes focused on the floor. "This will be over soon. She isn’t going to cast you aside. She went through all of this and still wants to be with you. We made love last night, and she told me she would be with me forever. Gabrielle doesn’t make light promises when she says-"

Gabrielle walked in and Xena stopped abruptly. Her train of thought cut off by the look on the young woman’s face. "Is everything alright Gabrielle?" The bard ran hurriedly crossed the room and grabbed the warrior in a fierce embrace. "She says she is still my friend, but I fear it will never be the same. Oh, Xena, I have made some stupid decisions over the course of the last few years. What am I going to do?"

The warrior gently stroked the bard’s back. "It will be okay Gabrielle, just wait and see. We will leave and the next time we return things will be easier. Just need to give her some time to adjust to the situation. You will see. No one can be angry with you for too long my bard. She doesn’t want to loose your friendship any more than you do love." Xena cradled the bard in her arms, whispering words of understanding in her ear. All the while feeling relieved that she had chosen to love her. <This woman deserves so much more than this. I want to make her happy. >

Slowly the bard pulled slightly back from Xena and looked up into her eyes. "Let’s go. I don’t want to be here anymore." Xena placed a soft kiss on her cheek and whispered. "Anything for you love."



alt fic index <> homepage