Warning! These characters (and sadly, the actors who portray them) do not belong to me. They are the sole property of Universal/MCA. This story contains subject matter which those under 18 (or those with little tolerance) have no business reading. This story may contain themes which some would term "alternative" in nature. Beware reader! Beware!
In the Xena timeline, this story takes place sometime after Gabrielle's return in Season 4.
This is dedicated to Alan Plessinger, without whom this story would never have truly taken form, and who at every opportunity has proven himself to be an all around great guy
The bard looked up over the food she was preparing to see the deep, azure eyes of the warrior she traveled with. Though Xena looked harsh and stoic, Gabrielle smiled at the sight of her.
"Did you catch anything?"
Xena produced a line with three large trout dangling from it. "You could say that."
"Excellent!" the bard said with a satisfied grin. "Because what I was making looked a little " She tilted the pot so Xena could see the mashed contents.
"Euww," the warrior murmured, her nose turned up at the sight.
Gabrielle glanced back to the cookware in her hand. "It's not that bad," she defended with a shrug.
"Yeah. That moss soup you made a few days ago was a real treat too," Xena said sarcastically.
"You ate it," the bard retorted.
"Maybe I was being nice."
"No. Nice would have been just eating it, and then moving on," Gabrielle pointed out. "Not complaining and making faces and continually contemplating hunger."
Xena sat down next to her bard and smiled sheepishly. "Now, Gabrielle-"
"Next time I won't be so "
"Experimental?" the warrior finished for her.
"Accommodating," Gabrielle corrected.
Xena chuckled softly. "You know I like your cooking, right?"
The bard smiled. "I know you like me doing it. Any appreciation of it beyond that, escapes me."
"Hey," Xena said, looking around the campsite. "Where's Joxer?"
The bard sighed and went back to stirring her entree. "Who knows? He stormed off grumbling about something or other."
"Yeah? What happened?" Xena asked as she removed a knife and began to gut the trout.
"I sent him out to look for food, and he came back with things that weren't even edible! By the gods, Xena. Sometimes I wonder how he has lived this long."
"What did he come back with?"
"Chrysanthemums! Can you believe it?"
Xena smiled and continued cutting. "And what did you tell him?"
"I asked him who taught him how to forage for food."
"And he got upset."
"Extremely," Gabrielle said with an air of bewilderment. "I was only trying to help him."
"But he didn't want to listen."
"Not at all!" Gabrielle looked to Xena with surprise that the warrior seemed to understand their capricious friend more so than she herself did.
"Gabrielle," Xena began, her attention still focused on the fish. "You may find this hard to believe."
"Joxer is in love with you."
"I know that you think I'm crazy, but I'm not. Anyone with eyes can see it. The man worships you."
Gabrielle began to laugh. "Very funny, Xena."
"It's no jest." She met Gabrielle's gaze. "He was bringing you the flowers because he wanted to you to have them, not to eat them."
Gabrielle wanted to laugh again, but the seriousness on her friend's face would not let her. Suddenly her stomach lurched and her face became hot. "Joxer loves me?"
"I'm afraid so. Remember when Bliss shot us all with Cupid's arrows?"
"That was divine intervention," the bard pointed out.
"For you How about the three naked Gabrielles?"
"I told you. That limerick Joxer wrote-"
"About 'love's eyes' you mean?"
Gabrielle looked nervously at the ground.
Xena continued methodically. "And how about when you gave your memories to Mnemosyne? Remember how he told you the two of you were lovers?"
"Did it never occur to you that he did it because he wants you to love him?"
The bard paused in thought. "And the necklace," the she said softly.
"The one he traded his father's scabbard for."
"Yep," the warrior replied with an air of detachment.
Gabrielle covered her face with her hands. "How long have you known this?"
Xena went back to her fish trimming. "Years."
"But why, in all this time, have you never said anything to me?"
"I thought maybe it would go away."
"Go away? Like a bad cough?"
Xena smiled. "No, not like a bad cough. Like an infatuation. Who knew he'd still be hanging on?"
"You make it sound as though loving me is like a disease you have to shake." The bard's stomach heaved again at the thought of someone she had grown close to, secretly desiring her.
"Now you're getting defensive."
"So what do I do now?"
"What do you mean?"
"I can't just go on like nothing's happened," Gabrielle explained rapidly.
"But nothing has happened."
"Yes it has! Joxer loves me," she elaborated. "He thinks of touching me like a lover. He desires me. Everything about us has changed."
"You are so dramatic," Xena said rolling her eyes and wiping her nose with the back of her fish-covered hand.
"And you are so callous!"
"So Joxer and I can no longer be friends, Xena."
"Because I don't have those feelings for him. I never have. I don't feel right spending time with someone who wants something from me that I can't give. My stomach's all tied up in knots already," she said with a grimace.
"So tell him," Xena offered matter of factly.
"Sure. Tell him that you don't love him and to stop his whining."
Gabrielle paused as she stared at the warrior before her, who was trying to be helpful. "You don't find that a tad bit insensitive?"
"It gets the point across."
"So would a boot to the ass," the bard illustrated. "But that doesn't make it the best way."
"Okay," Xena conceded, putting the fish in the skillet. "So what is the best way?"
Gabrielle shook her head. "I'm not sure. But me grabbing him by the collar and telling him to shove off, just isn't it."
"Trust me, you'll come back to that idea. It's worked for me."
"I could tell him I'm in love with someone else," the bard suggested hopefully.
"The queen of ethics falls for the king of thieves? I don't think so."
"So why aren't you traveling with him?"
"Good point." The bard thought for a moment. "Salmoneus is out."
"Thank the gods for that."
"I know! How about that cute little butcher in Corinth?"
Xena sighed. "What if Joxer decides to fight for your honor or something stupid like that? He thinks he's a great warrior, remember."
"You're right." She squinted in thought. "I need to pick someone that Joxer would never dream of challenging- someone he knows he can't beat."
Gabrielle glanced over to Xena who was now crouched and expertly frying the fish. She examined the warrior's strong hands and thighs, her broad shoulders and muscular arms.
"What about you?"
"What about me what?"
Gabrielle smiled awkwardly. "I could tell Joxer I'm in love with you," she explained, rising and taking a step closer to the warrior.
"What?" Xena's eyes grew wide at the suggestion. She stood too and looked around uneasily. "Me?"
"Sure. I can't think of a better way to discourage him," the bard said with a small laugh. "Can you?"
Xena stopped and considered her friend's words. There had been so many nights when they had lain under the stars and Xena had thought about just such an arrangement of course, when Xena imagined it, Joxer wasn't part of the equation. It was just she and Gabrielle- together in an embrace, whispering words of love and passion.
"I'm game," Xena spit out, a little too quickly.
"Great!" Gabrielle said with a quick jerk of her fist.
"I'll leave after dinner and you can tell him," Xena offered.
"Tell him hmm."
"That will be so awkward."
"Well, just mention it in passing. Act like it slipped out or something."
Gabrielle bit her lip in thought. "What if we just you know make it clear?"
"What if when he got back, you and I just flirted, until he got the point?"
Xena's heart raced at the thought. "Isn't that a little cowardly?"
"I'm sorry, Xena. I just don't want to have to tell him. I want him to feel like he still has his dignity, you know?"
The warrior smiled. Gabrielle was so sweet. "Whatever you like."
"Thank you, Xena. I appreciate this."
"Sure. So how far do you want me to go?" Xena asked, enjoying this immensely.
"What? Oh! Um as far as you er, need to," the bard answered with a nervous smile.
"As you desire."
"I'm back!" Joxer called from the brush as he stumbled into the clearing, his nose swollen to twice its size.
"What happened?" Gabrielle asked in concern as she approached the bruised man.
"Warriors!" he spat. "Thirty of them!"
"There are no warriors around here, Joxer," Xena corrected nonchalantly.
"Well, maybe not warriors," he mumbled. "Gypsies?"
Xena sighed. "No, Joxer."
"All right," he confessed. "I was running from a boar when I tripped over a tree root."
"I guess we're not having pork chops tonight," Xena quipped.
"Come on, Joxer," Gabrielle said, directing him to sit by the fire. I'm going to make you a poultice."
"You are?" he asked, entranced.
"Um yeah." The bard became very aware of his eyes on her, and she turned quickly away. "Unless you would like to make it honey," she suggested to Xena.
"What?" the warrior asked, only partially listening.
"I asked if you would like to make the poultice for Joxer's nose dear and I'll finish the cooking."
"Oh! Sure sweetmeat. I'll get right on it," she answered with an insincere smile as she stood.
"Will it hurt?" Joxer asked the warrior.
"Once you pass out from the pain, you won't feel a thing," the warrior stated, matter of factly.
Gabrielle sighed. "Joxer, she's kidding."
"Right," he said with a nod. "I knew that."
Xena went to their saddlebag and rummaged through it, finding the pouch containing herbs and medicines. Quickly she wrapped some up in a small piece of cheesecloth, then poured water over it.
"Here, Joxer," the warrior said casually, handing him the sopping cloth. "Hold this on your nose."
He looked unsure, but did so.
"How are the fish coming, my dear?" Xena asked as she walked behind Gabrielle to inspect her cooking, resting her hand intimately on the small of the bard's back.
Gabrielle looked up into the warrior's eyes with such a softness and reverence, that it forced the air from Xena's lungs. This no longer felt like it was a game
"Are you ready?" the bard asked seductively.
"To eat?" she clarified.
"Oh! Eat! Absolutely. I'm starved."
"Me too," Joxer added nasally through the cheesecloth.
While the three of them made light conversation through the meal, Gabrielle and Xena punctuated everything with a term of endearment to which Joxer seemed oblivious. Even when Gabrielle referred to the warrior as "darling," there was no reaction from him.
As Joxer began recounting the tale of the boar that had bested him, Xena, in a fit of inspiration, began feeding Gabrielle from her plate with her hands. Gabrielle picked up quickly on the idea, and began eating the small morsels in the most seductive way possible.
"And I swear it was a demon beast," Joxer described through his swollen proboscis. "It looked as though it were made of fire and black evil even its little snout," he added, using two fingers to illustrate fangs.
Gabrielle sucked the food from Xena's fingers as she held the warrior's gaze boldly with her own. Her teeth nibbled Xena's fingertips lightly, and her eyes seemed to promise much more than that.
Xena had never wanted anyone so much before in her life.
"And when it lunged at me, and laughed its demon laugh, I turned and ran. I knew then it was enchanted by the gods as a vessel of evil," Joxer recounted, paying little attention to his audience. "Hey! Are you two listening?"
"Huh?" Xena asked, startled. She had forgotten Joxer was even there.
"I was telling you about the boar!" he explained.
"Go on, Joxer," Gabrielle suggested calmly, now feeding Xena just as erotically as Xena had done just seconds before.
"Right," he said with a nod of his head, and began the theatrics again.
Xena drew the food into her mouth slowly, letting her tongue flick delicately against the bard's fingertips. She looked at Gabrielle to gauge her response, and was excited when she saw desire in those sea-green eyes. Was it real? Xena was determined to make it real.
Holding another small bit of food between her thumb and forefinger, Xena offered it to the bard. But before Gabrielle could claim the prize, the warrior snatched it back, teasing her.
The portion was proffered again, and though the bard at first was now hesitant to try for it, she suddenly did so, and was again disappointed to have it pulled away at the last second. Xena was smiling wickedly, as though she were a wolf with her prey and that seemed to evoke something in Gabrielle. But what that was, the bard did not know.
The third time the food was presented, Gabrielle merely opened her mouth, and waited for the warrior to bestow it, as though it were an offering to the gods. Xena complied, and put the food delicately on Gabrielle's tongue, but the bard closed her lips around the warrior's fingers before Xena knew what was happening.
With the warrior's first two fingers seductively enclosed in the bard's mouth, Gabrielle lavished brazen attention on them both with her teeth and tongue, assaulting them with a hunger and lust that surprised Xena and left her incapable of speech. If there was any scrap of food on the warrior's digits before, there was surely no trace of it now.
Gabrielle released Xena's extremities with a devilish grin at the havoc her provocations seemed to wreak on the warrior. But she was not prepared for the sight of Xena then gently taking the same two fingers into her own mouth, as though she were trying to glean the taste of Gabrielle's mouth from them.
The bard simply watched as Xena's tongue slid across the tips of her fingers, then slowly down between them Gabrielle's mouth fell open in astonishment, and much to her chagrin, she was no longer capable of sound.
When their plates lay barren and ravaged, they looked back to Joxer.
"And that's when fire shot from the boar's eyeballs!" he was saying, still picking through his food.
"What?" Xena suddenly asked, unable to contain her total disbelief.
"The fire that shot from um there was fire," he trailed off softly.
"Yeah, sure," the warrior said with a roll of her eyes. She took Gabrielle's plate and her own, and stood to wash them off.
"You believe me, don't you, Gabrielle?" he asked in a plaintive voice.
"Fire shot from it?" she asked.
"Maybe not fire," he continued. "But a great-"
"Ball of gas?" Xena suggested.
"Yeah," he agreed. "Maybe that was it."
Gabrielle scowled. "So your evil demon-boar was really just a flatulent little pig?"
"Well it looked evil," Joxer asserted, re-applying the poultice to his nose.
The bard looked at him with a small grin and rose to take his plate. She took it over to Xena, who sensed Gabrielle's nearness without even the need to turn her head she felt her proximity just from her body heat. The warrior's stomach fluttered.
"It doesn't seem to be working," the bard whispered over Xena's shoulder.
"Not for him," Xena mumbled.
"What?" Gabrielle asked.
"Nothing," the warrior assured her, as she turned to face her. She ran her hand lightly down Gabrielle's bare arm from shoulder to hand. The bard shivered at the contact, and took Xena's hand in hers and brought it to her lips. She kissed Xena's palm softly, and then brought it to rest on her own flushed cheek, never breaking eye contact with the warrior.
Xena's jaw dropped slightly as she wrestled with the desire that was overtaking her it seemed as though it might consume her and she would be lost to it forever.
Gabrielle looked over to Joxer, who was lying on his side, head propped on an elbow, paying no mind whatsoever to the two of them.
"Come on," the bard urged as she tugged on Xena's hand, pulling her into the firelight. The two of them sat opposite Joxer, and Gabrielle still held Xena's hand in her own.
"That was really good brown stuff, Gabrielle," he complimented lamely.
"Mmm," Xena added, smiling seductively at the blonde. "A little slice of the Elysian Fields."
Gabrielle blushed at Xena's plainly appraising stare. "Thanks."
"What was it?" Joxer asked, for clarification.
"Mushroom bizarrus," she seemed to decide just then.
"Well, yeah," Joxer interjected with a yawn. "That was good."
Xena brushed a strand of Gabrielle's hair back behind the bard's ear tenderly. "Everything you do is good," she said softly. "And everyone you touch is bewitched."
Gabrielle beamed at the words, and looked searchingly into the warrior's eyes for some sign that the compliment was not heartfelt
but she could see none. Xena appeared to be sincere-
extremely so. Gabrielle's face burned with blush.
"Your opinion is more important to me than anyone's," the bard confessed in nearly a whisper.
"As yours is to me."
"Do you mean that?" Gabrielle asked, forgetting about Joxer and the charade.
Xena smiled enigmatically. "Yes, Gabrielle. Did you believe that I don't care what you think?"
The bard laughed softly. "No. I guess I just thought Sometimes I feel like I'm the last person you want to listen to."
Xena looked at her, the concern in her eyes seeming to punctuate her words. "I'm sorry if you ever felt that way, Gabrielle." She pulled the bard's hand into her lap. "Sometimes I push away the people who mean the most to me."
"You can't push me away, Xena. No matter how hard you try."
"I know," the warrior remarked softly. "No matter what I've done, you've always been there for me. You've never lost faith in me I love that about you."
There was something then that passed between them; an unspoken feeling of love and union that brought their lips together wordlessly, yet the act itself spoke volumes. And as the firelight illumined them, and the stars hovered above them, the warrior and her bard tasted each other's lips and gave themselves over to the spontaneity of the moment.
When they separated, they were both breathless and their heads were reeling. They stared at each other as though they were unable to speak, but their expressions bore both the intensity of the passion that lay between them, and the fear of what that passion meant.
"Snnnkkkk." The muffled snore of the weary man passed out on the other side of their campfire reverberated through the air like thunder. Both women jumped, startled by the unexpected sound, and examined Joxer- asleep with the poultice draped over his purplish nose.
"Great," the bard said sarcastically. "He slept through the whole thing."
"Perhaps we should make more noise," Xena suggested helpfully.
Gabrielle seemed to pause in thought for a second. "Good idea!" she blurted out, pouncing on the warrior, who received her anxious mouth more willingly than oxygen.
The bard's mouth tasted sweet, like delicious fermented berries and just as intoxicating. Xena found herself lost to the feel of Gabrielle's skin beneath her fingertips, to the exquisitely gentle brushes of her tongue against Xena's own.
The warrior found that she could not touch her bard enough. Her pulse pounded in her head like war drums, and her face burned with a heat that matched the liquid fire that seems to surge through her body as she listened to Gabrielle's ragged breathing. This was the moment Xena had imagined so many times before, in so many different ways
Xena's hand moved assertively up the bard's hip, to stroke her waist and finally claim Gabrielle's breast, all the while, her lips never retreating. As a throaty moan escaped the warrior, Gabrielle pulled her mouth away and stared in azure eyes that brimmed with hunger and ferocious sexuality.
"Xena," she whispered, struggling to reclaim her breath. "It's no use."
Xena scowled in confusion. "What?"
"Joxer's not waking up," the bard clarified, pointing to their slumbering companion who was now sucking his thumb and blissfully in dreamland.
The warrior awkwardly pulled away, still listening in agitation as her heart pounded wildly. "I guess we weren't very convincing," she commented sadly, musing to herself that she could still taste Gabrielle's lips.
Gabrielle stood and moved for her bedroll. "Well, you certainly were," she offered graciously. "You nearly had me convinced."
Xena sighed as she laid down several yards from the woman she loved. "Nearly," she whispered, staring up at the sky.
A bright, biting light struck it's way through Joxer's eyelids and the daylight seemed to pierce his cerebellum like the shaft of an arrow. He put his hand in front of his eyes as he squinted and tried to sit up.
His nose did not hurt quite so much as the night before, and he gingerly examined it without the luxury of a mirror. As he looked around, he saw Gabrielle several yards from him, seated facing him, with her knees drawn up under her chin in a very thoughtful pose.
"Good morning, Joxer," she said softly.
"Hi, Gabby. Where's Xena?"
"She's gone to look for breakfast."
"How's my nose look?"
She squinted at him. "Better. But it's a very unflattering shade of purple, with hints of green."
"Great. And I thought my nose was an eyesore before," he quipped, sitting up.
"Joxer, I need to talk to you," she confessed.
"Yeah?" he asked, playing more with his damaged nose. "What about?"
She swallowed hard. "Joxer, I'm sorry for anything I've ever said to you that was unkind."
The bard looked at the ground nervously. "You know, Joxer. I've come to lean on you a lot." She looked up and held his gaze intently. "You're like a brother to me."
"A a brother?" The significance of the words was not lost on him.
"Absolutely," she reiterated. "I really mean that."
He scowled and kicked the dirt before him idly. "Why are you telling me this?" he asked dejectedly.
She exhaled. "Because you never know when one day will be your last. When I fell into the fire of Dahak, I never thought I'd see anyone again. Now that I've been given a second chance, I want you to know how I feel I want everyone in my life to know."
"Oh," he answered, as the words sunk in.
"You're like family to me, Joxer," Gabrielle said softly. "And I hope you meet a wonderful woman who makes you happy because you deserve it."
He smiled weakly. "Um thanks."
There was a pause while Joxer considered her words, and Gabrielle did the same. This was uncomfortable for her, yes. But in a way, it felt good to tell Joxer the truth- to not hide behind a joke, or a lie about her relationship with Xena.
She had been changed by her ordeals in the last year. That was no fabrication. She wanted no more loose ends with the people in her life. It was too short for that.
He looked about awkwardly, to avoid her eyes. "So I guess I'll go into town for a little while," he ended lamely.
"Okay. Why don't we meet you there the day after tomorrow?" she suggested brightly.
"Yeah?" he asked, surprised that she really *did* want to meet him, and that she wasn't going to do a dance of joy at his departure.
"In the marketplace, at midday?" the bard added hopefully.
"All right," he acquiesced, standing and gathering his belongings. "Until then." He started to leave.
"And Joxer?" He turned around quickly. "Be careful," Gabrielle offered with a smile. Unable to not feel something at the sight of Gabrielle truly happy, he smiled back, nodded, and waved before heading back toward town.
She watched as he walked out of sight, and then she turned to find Xena. Gabrielle came upon a clearing and caught sight of the warrior, collecting pears from a tree.
"I knew you'd scare up something," the bard said with a bright smile.
Xena turned and tossed one to Gabrielle, who caught it and shined it on her skirt before biting into it. "Well, I know what a sucker you are for fruit." She paused. "So did you come clean with him?" she questioned, walking toward her.
Gabrielle just nodded and continued chewing.
"How did he take it?"
"He seemed to be all right. He went into town."
"To see Meg," they said in unison, causing them both to laugh.
"I told him we'd meet him there the day after tomorrow," the bard said softly.
"Okay," was all Xena replied, before biting into a pear.
There was a pause.
"Now it's your turn," Gabrielle finally proclaimed.
Xena stopped mid-chew. "My turn for what?"
"To have a talk with me."
The warrior winced. "A talk?" She knew what was coming, and she wanted to put it off as long as she could. This was where Gabrielle admonished her for taking advantage both of her, and of the situation. This was where Gabrielle would tell her that they went beyond the boundaries of their friendship, and that those boundaries needed to be reclaimed or her bard would leave her.
"I know what you're going to say-" Xena began, putting her hand up in the hopes of putting off the feeling of loss as long as possible.
Xena nodded. "You don't have to say anything."
"No, Gabrielle. I understand exactly how you feel, and I respect that."
"-I'm going to scout the forest," the warrior interrupted. "I haven't had much luck with game in this area, but I have a feeling I'm just not looking for the right game."
"I won't be long. Finish your scroll," Xena suggested. "I'll be back before dark."
Xena wandered aimlessly in the forest, trying to piece everything together in her head. This was so amazingly painful.
Here she was living a good life, with a good woman by her side but she could never possess her the way her heart demanded. Xena had long ago come to terms with the fact that her feelings for Gabrielle could never be requited. But now that she had seen desire beneath the emerald eyes, and tasted her bard's intoxicating mouth, Xena felt more anguish than she had felt in a very long time.
How would she deal with this? How could she set aside her most impassioned feelings? It had been so long since she had let herself feel anything
And this is what it had come to.
There was a nearby snap of a twig.
Xena spun around and intercepted the attacker with a crazed look of bloodlust. He thrust his arced sword toward the warrior's midsection.
Before he realized that he no longer had the advantage, his sword had been kicked from his hands and was soaring through the air at a great velocity and soon so was he.
He hit the ground hard, and shook his head as he scrambled to rise before she was upon him. Xena showed no such urgency as she walked toward him and pulled her sword from its scabbard.
The man jumped to his feet and drew a dagger from his boot defensively. He looked extremely nervous, and he bounced on the balls of his feet, trying to look ready and willing to do her in.
"Who in Tartarus are you supposed to be?" Xena barked, still advancing on him.
"An assassin," the young man spat.
"I hope you have some other skill to fall back on," she remarked with a raise of her eyebrow.
"I'm not through yet!"
"Only because that is my will," Xena informed him coolly. "I could have killed you in a second if I had wanted to." She stared at him, and he felt as though her deep blue eyes were boring into his very being. "I think you know that."
He looked afraid, she thought. As though he was in a situation that he now regretted.
"Who hired you?" she asked, her blade extended.
He was perspiring heavily now, and Xena was bothered by the fear and fire she saw in him- like that of a caged animal before it attacked its captor.
"You may as well tell me," Xena reasoned. "Perhaps I will reward you by sparing your life."
That seemed to do it.
"I was sent by a goddess."
"To kill me?" Xena posed in surprise. "Which goddess?"
"Discord," he replied uneasily. "And no, not you- the queen of the Amazons who travels with you."
"Gabrielle?" She put her blade so close to his neck, the man would have sworn it was protruding from the back of his head. "Why?"
"Discord is angry with Artemis," he explained, his voice strained from the pressure the sword put on his throat.
"Goddess of Amazons."
"I was promised immortality if I killed Artemis' queen."
"So why kill me?"
"I was only supposed to keep you from returning to your camp prematurely. My brother is-"
Xena's foot flew up to kick the man in the face, and he hit the ground again solidly. He reached for his dagger and smiled. "You can't stop us, warrior. Immortality is ours."
Xena removed her breast dagger and hurled it into the man's chest. It hit its morbid mark and as blood began to pour from the gaping wound, he sank back into the dirt, lifeless.
"Well, at least I know she's not dead yet," she muttered before turning and breaking into a frantic run back to camp.
Xena never slowed her pace. She leapt over logs and stones, jumped streams, darted through underbrush, all the while becoming more panicked and crazed. If she returned to the camp to find that assassin standing over Gabrielle's dead body, she would rip his heart from his body with her bare hands immortal or not.
She sprinted into the clearing where they had made their camp, her sword at the ready, and her eyes wide and wild.
"Gabrielle!" she called, but there was no answer. She glanced around and saw no signs of the bard, or her staff. There was just a smoldering campfire, their belongings and a scroll, spread out near Gabrielle's bedroll.
Xena moved quickly to the scroll and picked it up.
For all my good intentions, things are not what they
once were- nor can they ever be again. My warrior
is like the breath that fills my lungs, I need her so.
She regards me as a younger sister, but I possess
more than a sisterly love for her. The sight of her
warms my blood, makes my pulse quicken. The
feel of her skin inflames my hunger. I want her
more than I could ever show her. And my every
effort to tell her has failed
The sound of the bard's voice caused the warrior to spin so fast she nearly toppled. There stood Gabrielle, her arms full of firewood, looking unscathed and very concerned.
Xena moved to Gabrielle in a deft motion that surprised them both. It seemed a singular instant that the distance between them was closed, the firewood dropped.
Their mouths met in a hunger that neither had experienced before. They could not get close enough, could not staunch the frantic frenzy of their hands as they sought skin and heat.
Xena pulled away first, looking into the bard's smoldering eyes, yet not releasing her.
"Why didn't you tell me?" the warrior whispered.
"I have tried," Gabrielle explained softly. "You can be a trifle intimidating."
"There is an assassin looking for you," Xena confessed, leaning back in to inhale the bard's flowery scent.
"I met him already, I think," the bard replied, kissing Xena's neck provocatively.
"Mmm hmm," Gabrielle murmured, as her lips met Xena's ear, her breath sending incredible sensations through the warrior's body.
"I introduced him to my staff," she explained, her hands finding their glorious way around Xena's back.
"Where is he now?" Xena asked, feeling so many good things, she could not fight the smile forming on her lips.
"Nursing a compound fracture, I believe."
"You are beautiful," Xena uttered, caught up in the wonder of the woman who was Gabrielle.
The bard smiled. "Did you come here to rescue me?"
"I did, though I feel foolish now."
"And you read my scroll, I see."
Xena beamed. "I have never loved your writing more than I do right now." She leaned in and they kissed again, and the warrior feared her heart would burst from her chest with its feral pounding.
Gabrielle pulled back. "Did you consider it might be fiction?"
"That perhaps I was writing fiction? Perhaps it's not about you at all "
Xena's face fell. "But-"
And then Gabrielle leaned in to bestow the most sweet and sensual kiss upon the warrior's lips. And Xena realized that her bard was kidding her.
"It's not fiction, my love," Gabrielle assured a moment later, smiling.
"I have dreamt of this day for so long," Xena admitted boldly, as her hands moved around the slender waist before her.
Gabrielle's hands slid through the warrior's hair. "So have I."
"When I thought you were lost to me forever, I I felt-"
Gabrielle silenced her lover's confession by brushing her thumb tenderly across the warrior's mouth. "I know. Everything has changed now except my love for you. Kiss me."
There was no need to ask Xena twice. She did as she was told.
As the light in the late afternoon sky faded and became dusk, two lovers sought to please the other. Years of unconsummated desire shot through their fingertips like lightning, electrifying their bodies, and jolting their souls.
Before this day, they knew that they could never be apart. But now, they knew that they were meant to be together, their bond one of flesh and love and boundless devotion.
"You make me very happy, warrior," the bard conceded as she lay in her lover's arms, her fingers gently brushing Xena's collarbone.
"So you have no regrets?" Xena asked, knowing that her bard must. She had been through so very much in the past years.
"A few regrets, yes."
"Regret nothing," Xena insisted, shifting so that she could stare into the eyes she adored.
"Because everything that has happened to us, good and bad, has led up to this moment- this one, pure, golden moment. And if we had done any one thing differently, this moment may never have come."
Gabrielle smiled at the unexpected sentimentality of her warrior. "You are tamed, woman."
"Tamed! I have tamed you," she insisted. "Many have tried, but the little bard of Poteidaia succeeded where others failed."
Xena scoffed. "If I am tame, then it was my decision to be so."
"You won't admit it?"
"Because if you do, I'll do that thing again," the bard negotiated.
"The thing with my mouth that you liked so much," Gabrielle clarified.
"Ah! You're right. You have tamed me."
"I thought so."
"I quiver in your presence "
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