Love Slave

by Azurenon & Savanna Mac



Xena Warrior Princess and all the characters contained herein are the sole property of MCA/Universal Studios/Renaissance Pictures. No infringement upon these rites is intended. We’ve merely borrowed these characters, as well as, some scenes and lines, for the sole purpose of entertainment and storyline continuity.


Sexual content:

This story contains rather graphic details of two consenting, adult females involved in sexually explicit situations with one another. If this is not something you’d like to read about, please do not read our story. I’m sure there are even better ones, more to your liking.

Be it known, that this story is number "10" in a series we have entitled: "Between the Episodes", which makes reference to the aired episodes below. And if you haven’t read the other 9 stories by Azurenon and Savanna Mac, starting with "Dream Of Choice", you may be a bit lost when reading this one, as we often make reference to things that have gone before.

This story takes place following our daring duo’s adventures in the MCA/Universal Studios/Renaissance Pictures copy written material entitled: "Takes One To Know One". If you haven't seen this episode, I would strongly suggest you do so before reading this. And even if you have, you may want to refresh your memory.

Thanks go to all our friends! No need to mention each of you by name, you know who you are.

This is for all the subtextors out there. We hope we have spun an enjoyable tale.

If not, then please accept our humble apology.

This story contains more than 36 pages.

The cake Cyrene had baked was three-quarters gone, as were the guests who attended Gabrielle’s birthday party. Autolycus had left that morning, shortly after having his fill of cake, claiming he had pressing business elsewhere. No one doubted that for a moment. Menya and Lila left in the early afternoon, after getting in a little shut-eye. Menya offered to escort the younger woman home, since she had a knife, a few fighting skills and of course, Xena’s whip to protect them with. And Poteidaia just happened to lay along her route back to the house she now shared with Paulina -the young woman she had met; fought with at first, over getting the part of Xena; and then fell hopelessly love with, while performing in Gabrielle’s play. The aforementioned Paulina had been unable to leave the tavern they now owned jointly, in order to come along with her. They had, however, agreed one of them should make an appearance to say a heartfelt ‘Thank you" to the bard and invite the two lovers to visit their new establishment, which was catering to the bard’s tribe of Amazons, among others.

Joxer, of course, was still around and sleeping when Xena, Cyrene and Gabrielle finished cleaning up after last night’s debacle with Discord and her minions. It was only later that afternoon, when Xena climbed up on the roof and began making repairs, that he was rudely snatched from the comforting arms of Morpheus. The latter being a place he was loathed to leave, since he’d been dreaming about his true love. He had been just about to place a tender kiss upon those ruby red lips, when it sounded as if the roof was about to fall in on his head.

"What in Tartarus is going on?" he grumbled, stumbling into the tavern dining area, with his scabbard and sword in one hand and his hat in the other. His hair was standing straight up in the back, giving him that "little boy roused from his nap" appearance.

"Xena’s fixing the roof," Cyrene replied, turning from her task of cleaning off the bar to look over at him. She noticed his hair right off and bit her lower lip, to keep from laughing.

"Oh. Wull... where’s Gabrielle?"

Like mother, like daughter, Cyrene arched one dark eyebrow.

"I know, with Xena, right?" he muttered, attaching his scabbard to his belt.

Cyrene studied him for a moment. "You haven’t told her, have you?" she asked, returning to her task.

He shook his head, and then quickly glanced up, a startled expression on his face. "Wait... how’d you...?"

"My dear young man, it’s written all over your face," Cyrene responded sweetly.

Joxer blushed. "That’s what everyone else tells me, so... how come she doesn’t see it? After all she’s a bard, she writes... she oughta be able to read... right?" He glanced down as Cyrene looked over at him. "Never mind, don’t answer that," he added dejectedly, turning his hat in his hand.

Cyrene’s heart went out to the bumbling young warrior. She grimaced slightly at his odd looking hat, as well as, the thought that crossed her mind. She wasn’t blind after all and Joxer’s face was not the only one she could read. No, She’d put two and two together a good while back, concerning her daughter’s true relationship with the younger bard. And although she didn’t wholeheartedly approve -mainly because she didn’t understand why they didn’t both want a man, the latter of whom, in her opinion, had so much more to offer- she knew her daughter and Gabrielle were very much in love. And from the looks that still passed between them, very much in lust, as well. What she couldn’t fathom was how Joxer didn’t see what was so plainly staring him in the face.

"Oh, let me get you something to eat before you go," she suggested, moving towards the kitchen area. "I’ve kept it warm for you."

The words before you go were not lost on Joxer. "Has Lila left already?" he inquired, feeling a bit unwanted at the moment.

"Yes, she has. She and Menya left a good while ago." Cyrene opened a door above the stove, where previously cooked items were kept warm.

"Menya?" Joxer nearly screeched.

Cyrene pulled out the warmed over ham from breakfast, although they’d eaten it in the afternoon. "Why yes, Menya agreed to escort Lila home, since it was on her way."

"Never mind the food, Cyrene. Thank you for your hospitality, as always it was a pleasure." Joxer plopped his hat on his head. "Lovely birthday party for Gabrielle, by the way. Thanks so much."

"Wait... where are you going in such a hurry?" she asked, holding out the plate of ham. "Don’t you need something to eat?"

"No, no, I... need to get going." He was backing his way towards the door, his eyes on the plate of ham, his tongue wetting his lips. He bumped into several chairs in his bid to get out of there and catch up with the two women. "Uh, those two gals should not be traveling alone."

"Well, perhaps you’d like to take some with you? I can fix you a..."

Joxer was back across the room in a flash. "Oh, um, maybe I have time to grab a bite or two." The warrior blushed, smiled and snatched up three pieces of ham, stuffing one in his mouth before he even turned to leave. "By... Su-ren. Thunks!" he mumbled over his shoulder, on his way out the door; relieved that he had somewhere to go and something to do.

Cyrene stood in the kitchen doorway, feeling like a mother hen. "He’s a grown man Cyrene," she chastised herself aloud. "You can’t mother the whole world." Nor interfere in your daughter’s life, she thought. Not if you want to see her, that is.

Xena had stayed away for ten long years once before when Cyrene had made her views, disappointment and anger known over Xena’s choices and decisions. She still wished she could take back those hateful, vengeful words she’d screamed at her only daughter, when a young Xena had returned her slain brother to his final resting place. Lyceus and his sister had been responsible for saving Amphipolis from a ruthless warlord, and Xena had even taken over the army after her brother’s death and led them on to victory in his name. Yet, because of her grief Cyrene had not been able to acknowledge any of this, at the time. All she could see, through her tear filled eyes, was her youngest son lying dead before her and Xena, the one who had suggested they fight the warlord to begin with, sitting tall upon her black steed, not a tear in her eye. In her anger to strike out at someone, the lack of emotion from her daughter, made it that much easier for Cyrene to blame Xena for his death.

And as if this were not enough for one mother to bear, when the army returned escorting more villagers who had fled farther into the hills and Cyrene was all set to make amends to her daughter, word reached her ears that Xena had run off with Elke, Lyceus’ bride-to-be. Cyrene had been devastated. Blaming her daughter once again was all she could think to do; her grief and shame causing her to question Xena’s love for her own brother.

Several days later, however, when Elke’s body was discovered along a stream bank, where the army would more than likely have passed along their route, Cyrene began to question the tale told by its new leader. It was said Xena had either done this to Elke or abandoned her to this fate. Yet, in her heart, Cyrene had refused to believe either; for, she knew Xena had been in love with Elke and could not believe her daughter would abandon the young woman, much less treat her in such a cruel way. Cyrene had seen Elke’s body for herself and therefore would not believe for one moment that any woman, much less her own daughter, could do such things to another. No, Elke’s injuries and subsequent death from those injuries, had been the work of a male, of that Cyrene was almost positive. And she thought there might possibly have been more than one. Why Xena had never mentioned any of this, Cyrene couldn’t say. Her mothers’ instinct suggested that her daughter had been there and possibly suffered right alongside her friend. But why she had not returned home, that was another matter.

Gabrielle suddenly entered the front door, jolting Cyrene from her reverie. The latter was once again taken aback by the bard’s new appearance. If she did not already know better, she would have assumed from the tattoos and the new clothes that Gabrielle was getting a bit wild. Yet, the bard seemed unchanged in her disposition, for the most part. She was still the same sweet, lovable and extremely helpful young woman she’d always been. It was only when you looked deeply into her eyes that you could tell she was no longer the naive young girl who had come here, following after Xena, only four short years ago.

"Xena needs more nails," the smiling bard announced, as she turned around and caught the older woman’s eye. "Cyrene, what’s... wrong?"

"Oh nothing... nothing at all," the shorter woman answered. "I’ll get the nails for you." She turned and went into the kitchen, dropping the plate of ham off on a counter on the way by.

"Did Joxer eat before he left?" Gabrielle queried, following Xena’s mother into the kitchen, where her sensitive nose discerned the distinct aroma of nut bread.

"Uh, no, but... he did take a few slices of ham with him," Cyrene answered from the storeroom off the kitchen. "I think he was eager to catch up with Lila and Menya." She emerged with a bag in her hand, to find the bard licking her fingers.

"Very good... ham," Gabrielle offered.

"He was quite concerned about the two of them traveling alone," Cyrene continued, "Such a nice young man," she added, handing the bag to Gabrielle.

"Yes. Yes, he is," the bard agreed, glancing down at the bag, then back up to meet the older woman’s gaze. Blue eyes, almost the same color as Xena’s, calmly looked back at her. "He’ll make some woman a very attentive husband. But..." She paused and cleared her throat, adding in a very soft tone. "...that woman... isn’t me." Gabrielle glanced back down at the bag, then turned on her heels to leave. "Is that nut bread I smell?" she asked over her shoulder.

"Why yes, it is. Xena said it was your favorite."

"Thank you, Cyrene," Gabrielle said simply.

Well, she told you, you meddlin’ ol’ woman, Cyrene thought, watching her daughter’s lover exit the front door. And you have to admit she did it in a very nice way. Well, Xena could have done much worse for herself. Gabrielle is just the sort of sweet, kind woman that Lyceus had already picked out for himself. Is it any wonder Xena had been smitten with the same young woman he was? After all they did think so much alike.

Oh well, she sighed heavily, heading over to the stove to check on the water she’d been asked to heat for Gabrielle’s birthday bath. "I always assumed I’d have two daughter-in-laws and... a son-in-law," she mumbled. "Two out of three ain’t bad, I suppose." She sighed heavily once again. Talkin’ to yourself ol’ woman. You could indeed use the time off to rest and relax, she thought, as she stuck her finger in the bucket to test the water and found it to be tepid. Be awhile yet. Wonder what Xena has planned for Gabrielle’s birthday? she mused.

Her daughter had already informed her she would still close the inn for the few days she was going to be there, in order to make the needed repairs, without too much interruption from any patrons who might stop in. And she had asked if she might use the inn this particular night for a private party of sorts. It had something to do with Gabrielle’s birthday and a few Amazons coming into town to attend the celebration.

Queen of the Amazons, Cyrene mused, wiping her finger on her apron. Although she knew the story nearly by heart -Gabrielle telling it to the few nightly patrons, each time they came for their yearly off-season visit, when Cyrene would close the inn so that Xena could take care of the needed repairs- she still could hardly believe that sweet young woman had briefly been an Amazon Queen. Gabrielle had of course given up the title, in order to continue traveling with Xena. Cyrene had seen the signs even back then. You love her very much, don’t you, Gabrielle? she thought. Anyone can see that. And you’ve been very good for her. From the very start, you helped bring my daughter back to me and I’ll always be eternally grateful for that. Yes, Xena could definitely have done much worse for herself. So long as you’re both happy, I’ll try my best to do all that I can to support you.

Then stop throwing men up in both their faces, her inner voice chided.

"Yes, I suppose I should..." she said aloud.

"Should do what?" her daughter’s voice asked from behind her.

"XE-NA!" Cyrene gasped, her hand going to her chest, as she turned around. "Where’d you come from? I never heard a thing."

Xena smiled slyly. "Then I still have silent feet, hmm?" The tall brunette clad only in her leathers -no breastplate, gauntlets or armlets- sweat glistening on her arms, face and chest, glanced down at her bare feet.

"Xena! You’ll get splinters in your feet up there. You know better than..."

"My boots have tar on them, Mom," Xena interrupted. "I didn’t think you’d want me tracking it in here." She held up the bag Cyrene had given Gabrielle. "Wrong nails," she added, in explanation. "These’ll go straight through the roof and show in here." The warrior glanced up at the ceiling, then began moving toward the storage room.

"Oh, I’m sorry, Xena. I didn’t realize there were different nails for... repairing roofs, as opposed to..."

"Don’t worry, Mom... that’s why I’m doing the repairs," the tall brunette interjected. "So, what’s this you suppose you should do, hmm?" Xena emerged from the storeroom with a bag, which looked much the same as the one she’d entered with.

"Oh... nothing dear. Just... an ol’ woman talking to herself."

"Hey, watch it, that’s my mother you’re talking about," Xena commented. "And you’re not old."

"I’m getting there fast."

Xena grunted and merely stood there for a moment, lightly tossing the bag of nails in the air. "You sure you don’t mind me using the inn tonight? I promise, there will not be any rowdy behavior. Well... I can’t account for what happens when the gods intervene," she said, referring to the previous night. "But for our part, there’ll only be a little music... a bottle or two of port, which I’ll gladly pay you for..."

"Nonsense!!" Cyrene interrupted. "I’m not in the least bit worried about the inn, Xena. I’m not blind, you know... I can see how much you’ve changed. And as much as you’ve done for me over the past few years... why, this inn would be in shambles if not for you."

It was almost in shambles because of me, several times, Xena thought, but said, "I haven’t done that much, Mom. And I don’t get by here as often as I should."

"More often than Toris," Cyrene grumbled, referring to Xena’s older brother. "And he doesn’t even travel... well, he’s settled close by. But..." She sighed heavily. "... I know how a family ties you down."

"Uh yeah, well, better get back to work," Xena said, turning and moving rather quickly, knowing the ole "when are you gonna settle down" question was bound to come next.

"Xena?" her mother called, when she had barely cleared the kitchen doorway.

"Yeah, Mom?" The warrior stopped, though she did not turn around.

"Do... you think Gabrielle might... one day like to... run an inn?"

Cyrene grabbed a cloth from her apron pocket and used it to open the oven door, in order to check on the nut bread inside. Silence prevailed as she tested the bread’s firmness, then slowly closed the door back. She assumed Xena had not heard her and expected to hear the front door close at any moment. But, that didn’t happen. When she raised up, her daughter was standing in the kitchen doorway. Their gazes locked and held.

"I... I don’t know, Mom," Xena finally responded. "But..." She paused, a smile turning up the corners of her mouth. "I’ll be sure and... mention it to her. Of course, any decision like that is... most definitely a long ways off, right?" The smile faded somewhat, replaced by a look of concern. "Right, Mom?"

Cyrene heard the concern in her daughter’s voice. "Oh yes, I plan to be around a good while longer, little one," she assured. "Of course that doesn’t mean I... couldn’t use the help a bit sooner." She glanced down at the cloth she was still holding in her hand. "In the summer it can get quite busy around here, as you well know." She turned away and checked the temperature of the water in both buckets. Neither was exactly hot. "So many things constantly need fixing with this old place and..." She slowly turned back to face her daughter. " would be nice having... both of you around."

Xena did smile now, as she approached her mother, arms open wide. Cyrene was soon pulled into those long, strong arms, so much like those of her departed husband; Xena’s musculature and stature coming from her father’s side of the family. She could feel the tenderness in her daughter’s embrace, as well as, hear the heartfelt emotion, when the tall warrior softly whispered, "I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too... Xena," Cyrene murmured, holding her only daughter close.

Though the subject was not breached outright, in so many words, Xena felt as if this was her mother’s way of saying she "knew" and had come to terms with her relationship with Gabrielle. At least, that’s how Xena wanted to take it. And the warmth from the love that flooded through her entire being at this thought, made the strong warrior weak in the knees. She’d dreamt of this moment, but never really thought it would ever come to pass. And now that it had, she was speechless. No words could come close to expressing what she felt inside at that moment, so she said nothing else. She merely held her mother close.

"Goodness," Cyrene said, being the first to break contact by easing back slightly. "I better get to heating more water. Gabrielle’s not the only one who’ll need a bath."

"No, Mom... don’t trouble yourself. This is Gabrielle’s night. Whatever you do, do for her. I intend to visit the lake with a bar of that wonderful scented soap you make. If you don’t mind, that is."

"Mind?" Cyrene pulled away and wiped several tears from her cheeks with the cloth still clutched in her left hand. "Of course I don’t mind. Well, not as long as you don’t lose it like you used to when you were a little girl." She offered Xena a very good approximation of one of her own smirks.

The warrior recognized it and realized where she’d obviously come by this particular expression, herself. Then she offered one of her own in response. "Better give me a used bar you won’t mind losing then, ‘cuz I haven’t changed that much."

Both women chuckled and wiped their eyes in the same manner. Cyrene then made sure that Xena knew where everything she’d prepared for their evening meal was located. Because, as soon as the nut bread was done, Cyrene would be leaving to have dinner with her sister, who lived on the outskirts of the city. She would spend the night there and then the two of them would travel, in her sister’s wagon, to Toris’ village, in order to see the most recent addition to his family: a strapping boy named "Lyonus".

* * * *

"What are you all smiles about?" Gabrielle asked, as Xena climbed up beside her, where the bard was holding onto several new wood shingles so they wouldn’t slide off the roof.

"Let’s get these shingles in place and then I’ll tell you all about it," Xena responded.

"Oh you will, will you? You mean it has nothing to do with whatever surprise you’ve cooked up for my birthday?" Xena looked shocked, as the bard handed her a shingle. "Oh yeah, I know something’s up, or else you would’ve given me a present by now. I just haven’t figured out what the surprise is... yet."

"Hmph," Xena grunted, hammering in a nail. "Well, this was... quite a surprise. And a pleasant one, at that. But, I think it surprised me more than it will you."

The warrior then proceeded to relay the previous events in great detail, especially for someone of few words like Xena.

"Told you she’d come around," Gabrielle remarked, handing her lover yet another shingle. "Now, if only mine would do the same." She sighed heavily. "But, I don’t think I’ll hold my breath on that one."

"They have a lot to blame me for, Gabrielle. I led their oldest daughter astray." Xena smirked.

"Yeah right," the bard grumbled. "Like you kidnapped me from my village. HA! As if I haven’t been free to go home whenever I felt like it. And did once, but... still chose to come back to you. And that was even before you... truly led me astray."

Xena nearly hit her thumb, she looked up at the bard so quickly. Gabrielle was biting her lower lip to keep from smiling. "And I’m very glad you did come back to me," the warrior commented, picking up the previous vain of the conversation and ignoring the bard’s latter quip.

"Oh really? How glad, hmm?" Gabrielle asked in a teasing tone. "Enough to tell me what my surprise is?"

"If I do that, it won’t be a surprise." Xena arched one dark eyebrow.

"But Xena, I’m dying to know," the bard whined. "Tell me, please..." She batted her eyelashes. "Please, please... pretty please with sugar on top."

Xena sighed heavily. Gabrielle knew the word please and batting her eyelashes usually got her exactly what she wanted. And Xena knew, she knew. So, it wasn’t going to work this time. "Well... I guess there are... a few things you should know beforehand," she said, as if giving in.

"Beforehand? Ooo, now you do have me on pins and needles."

"Uh-huh, right where I wan’cha," the warrior quipped, arching one eyebrow suggestively.

"Xena, please. Tell me, don’t tease me."

The warrior hammered in another nail, licked her dry lips then pursed them. "Okay... you need to know that Mom has prepared supper for us, which we’ll be having shortly. And she’s also prepared the blue room for you." Gabrielle frowned slightly. "The one with the tub in the room," Xena clarified. The bard’s eyes lit up. "So you can... lounge around in the bath for as long as you want."

"You mean we can lounge around, right?"

"No, just you. There will be an outfit in your room that I want you to wear tonight."

"An outfit?" Both light brown eyebrows shot skyward, green eyes brimming with excitement. "Oh-ho-o, is this gonna be one of your..." Gabrielle paused and lowered her voice. "...role playing games? Hmph, I’m liking this better all the time. Which one is it, hmm? Just so I can be prepared, ya know."

"Uh-uh." Xena shook her head. "That’s part of the surprise."

"Xe-e-na-a!" the bard whined.

"Ga-bri-elle," the warrior whined in return. "Look, after we get through here, we’ll go in and eat. And then you can take your bath. Someone will come and get you when we’re ready."

"Someone? When you and who else is ready? I thought we were gonna be alone, I mean..." Gabrielle paused. "Uh-oh, this isn’t the fantasy about... doing it in a crowded tavern, is it?" she hissed. "Xena, we can’t do that, your mother would be mortified if we..."

"Ga-brielle! Relax, it’s your birthday, not mine."

"Yeah, well, I know that, but..." The bard paused again. "Oh... you mean... we’re acting out one of my fantasies? Oh yea gods, which one?"

"You try figuring that out while you’re... luxuriating, hmm? Give you something to think about."

"Hmph," Gabrielle grunted. "There are so many." She was silent for a moment. "Wait... who’s gonna come get me?"

"Don’t worry. It’ll be someone you know. There’ll be no strangers."

"Well, that’s a relief, but... no, not Joxer! Xena, please, tell me he’s not part of this!"

"He is most definitely not a part of this in any way, I assure you."

"Whew! Thank the gods. But, hey... where will you be while I’m lux-ur-riating?" Gabrielle drew out the last word, one eyebrow quivering slightly.

"Taking my own bath and getting ready. Now hand me that last shingle. I’ll finish the rest tomorrow."

"Xena, which fanta....?"

"I’m not answering anymore questions and that’s final," the warrior interrupted. "Now... the shingle, Gabrielle..." She glanced down at the piece of wood in the bard’s hands.

"Oh yeah," Gabrielle handed the shingle over. "Ooo Xena, you’re mean you know that? Leaving me to wonder like this."

Xena chuckled. "Stop whining. You love it and you know it."

The bard grinned from ear to ear. "You know me too well. I’m gonna have to change my ways."

"Don’t you dare change another thing," Xena mumbled around a nail she was holding between her lips; quickly looking up at Gabrielle. She removed the nail from her mouth. "I like you just the way you are," she said, her gaze falling to the Mende lines still evident on the bard’s chest, hands, arms and stomach. "Wonder why mine almost all disappeared and yours stayed?" she further mused, referring to the Mende lines.

"I’ve wondered that a gazillion times myself. All I can come up with is... that bright light that captured Alti in that other life... I could feel a burning sensation in these places when that was going on."

"Think it burnt those into your skin, permanently?"

Gabrielle grimaced slightly. "That’s the only explanation I can come up with that makes sense."

"That healer you went to see, he couldn’t do anything about’em, huh?" Xena queried, referring to why Gabrielle was supposed to have been arriving today and not the night before.

The bard shook her head slowly, staring down at her hands. "He said he’d never seen anything like’em." She sighed heavily. "I guess... where some people are changed only on the inside by their spiritual quest, mine changed me on the outside, too." Xena merely grunted and looked away. "You don’t like’em do you?" Gabrielle asked softly.

Xena shrugged. "I prefer you the way you were, but... I can get used to’em, I guess."

"Well, I should hope so," the bard said a bit indignantly.

Xena grunted and drove the last nail into place. "’Course we could try that soap Mom makes for cleaning her pots and pans."

"XE-NA!" Gabrielle screeched. "That stuff could take the hide right off me."

The warrior chuckled. "Come on, I got a lot to do before the sun goes down to get your surprise ready."

"Ooo, I like the sound of that. And I just lo-ove surprises. I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with. Sure you don’t wanna tell me which fan...?"

"Absolutely not! You’ll know soon enough. Now come on." Xena started easing down the slanted roof. "I’m a bit hungry."

"Right behind you. And I’m starving."

"Gabrielle, how can you be starving when we just ate not four marks ago?" Xena asked, referring to the marks on a sundial (an hour), as she started down the ladder.

"You know me, Xena. When I get excited, all I wanna do is eat."

The warrior grinned from ear to ear, taking this quite differently than Gabrielle meant it. When she looked up at her lover coming down the ladder above her, her grin widened. She had the distinct urge to stop right there and just admire the view. Yet, there were things that needed to be done, which couldn’t wait while she ogled the bard’s privates. Something she hadn’t been aware she would be able to see from this position. She’d have to remind Gabrielle of that. Later, she thought, turning her head slightly sideways to get a bit better view, before she reached the ground.

Chapter 2

After a sumptuous meal, in which Gabrielle nearly stuffed herself on nut bread, Xena made her relax, while she cleaned up. Then the warrior carried two large buckets of water, one at a time, to "the blue room" where Gabrielle would be staying. When she was finished pouring the second bucket into the already half-filled tub of tepid water and testing its temperature, she called out to her lover, who eagerly jumped up and was at the doorway in a flash.

"Your bath awaits," Xena said with a slight bow and hand flourish, as Gabrielle walked past her into the room. "Someone will come and get you later," she added, closing the door behind her.

Gabrielle surveyed the room. She knew why Xena called it "the blue room" now, because the wall behind the bed was painted a lovely shade of robin’s egg blue. Large white candles were sitting on a table near the bronze tub, each one lit and producing a lavender scent that filled the room. Dangling from the side of the tub was a washcloth and not one, but two fluffy looking towels; one for her hair and one for her body, obviously. She knows me well, the bard thought.

Over on the soft looking bed -which Gabrielle was sure had fresh, clean linens upon it- there lay a reddish-brown outfit. At first glance the bard thought it was her ceremonial Amazon attire. However, another quick perusal proved this to be false. No, this was far less elaborate in decoration. And in material.

She walked over and picked up the soft looking, short skirt, with its intricately woven leather belt and held it up to her body. "Hmph," she grunted, noticing she’d be showing a lot of thigh, what with the slits up both sides. "Oh-h," she gasped and grinned, realizing this was not a skirt at all, but a loincloth. "Oh, Xena!" she breathed, glancing down at the halter-top now and taking note of the shoulder straps and how they crossed in back. "Artemis fantasy," she said on an exhalation, recognizing the basic design of a halter-top she had described to Xena from one of her fantasies.

Ever since being mistaken for a goddess by the Titans, Gabrielle had wondered what it would be like to be a real goddess complete with worshipers to see to her every need and/or whim. Once she met the Amazons and became a princess, then a Queen for a short while -the power of that title going straight to her head, until the responsibility that came with it settled in- she had since wanted to be like Artemis, patron Goddess of the Amazons, protector of animals and guardian of all things... female. Having all those strong females worshipping her, yet never having to get involved in their daily lives or squabbles, just popping in and out whenever she saw fit, like she seen Aphrodite do, was a pleasant ideal indeed.

Then after she and Xena finally became lovers and especially since finding out about Artemis -whom the Amazons claimed was of the same persuasion as themselves- her fantasy had taken a bit different direction. It was said that after Artemis rescued Iphegenia from being sacrificed to her, she had then taken her to one of her temples on a distant island. And there, with few distractions and various worshipers to attend them, Artemis had seduced the beautiful young mortal and fell head over heels in love with her. The goddess had then risked the loss of her own powers, to bestow upon her mortal lover, Iphegenia, the gift of immortality so that they could be together for all eternity. And this whole idea intrigued Gabrielle to no end. A goddess with a mortal lover, whom she fell so deeply in love with, she made her immortal. And so, goddess Gabrielle’s first seduction of her chosen, had no less become her wildest fantasy.

"Ah Xena... you’re finally gonna play my mortal love slave, aren’t you?" she said aloud, as the aforementioned role playing fantasy she’d revealed to the warrior on more than one occasion -with slightly different variations upon the same theme- flashed before her mind’s eye. She tingled all over at the mere thought of having Xena any way she wanted her; the warrior restraining her natural instincts to lead; leaving herself open and vulnerable before the goddess of all things pleasurable; namely: Gabrielle.

Picking up the intricately woven leather halter-top in her other hand, she was surprised to find the cups were very soft on the inside, compared to the woven exterior. "Oh yes," she breathed and literally shivered from head to toe, pressing the loincloth against her abdomen and the halter-top to her bosom. You know me so well, my love, she thought, inhaling the aroma of new leather. This must have cost you dearly. How many bruises did you get while taking those bandits into the authorities, in order to get the money for this? she wondered, knowing Xena had rounded up a whole gang of never-do-good’s, a week or more ago. Of course, money was not Xena’s sole incentive in the bounty hunting she engaged in from time to time. But it always came in handy, somewhere along the line. They had to live, after all. And you didn’t get to eat a lot, if you always depended on the kindness of strangers.

"I love you, Xena," Gabrielle whispered into the stillness of "the blue room", closing her eyes and inhaling the intoxicating aroma of lavender and leather mixed together. It reminded her of the first time she had ridden with Xena on Argo. The warrior had pulled her up onto the horse’s back; the aroma of lavender soap and leather warrior’s outfit intermingling to make an intoxicating and alluring mixture. "Umm... and I intend to show you just how much tonight," she added, opening her eyes.

She started to put the outfit back on the bed. "Oh-h and... what’s this?" she asked aloud, noticing what had obviously been lying beneath the halter.

It was a necklace. And a very long one at that, judging from the length of the soft, thin cords of dark brown braided leather, running through an arrangement of three beads: one off-white bone bead and two dark brown wooden ones.

A memory of seeing Xena quickly clamp her left hand shut -one night when Gabrielle was coming back form relieving herself- flitted through her mind now. The warrior had been holding the knife in her right hand and subsequently began acting as if she were cleaning her fingernails, though she did not unclench her left hand. At least, not while Gabrielle was looking. And being so close to her birthday, the bard had chosen not to pursue the matter.

She laid the halter and loincloth aside and picked up the necklace. Although it was rather plain, thin braided brown leather, with only the one off-white bone bead betwixt the two brown wooden ones, Gabrielle knew how much time and effort had been put into carving each of these; especially the one made from bone. Xena could have bought her something similar along their route with far less effort and not a lot of money, but she had chosen to make it herself. And to Gabrielle, that made the simple necklace, she held lovingly in her hands now, worth far more than gold.

"By the gods," she said holding one end of the braided cord in each hand. "This is long enough to fit around Argo’s neck." She frowned, puzzled over how Xena could make such a error in judging the length of the cord. "Xena doesn’t make mistakes," she reminded herself. "Then... what’s with all this waste?" She pondered the question a bit longer, then finally shrugged it off. Perhaps having the braided cord dangling down her back was what Xena had in mind. Though she could not imagine why.

"Oh Xena," she breathed, gently laying the necklace down on the bed beside the new leather outfit. "I do believe this will be one birthday I won’t soon forget."

* * * *

Xena was in a secluded part of the lake, she’d always used for bathing, soaping up her body and thinking about the plans she had made for her true love’s birthday. Gabrielle was definitely going to be surprised. For, although the outfit she’d had made for the bard would give away the later part of the night’s upcoming events, she knew Gabrielle would not be expecting what she’d planned for the earlier part. Xena sang a few bars of the tune Tara -the young woman who’d nearly been hanged for dancing- had been singing one day, while they were practicing their performance for the town. The warrior had asked the young woman to write the words down for her, before they left. And Xena had subsequently changed those words to better suit her own feelings. At the moment, she was also supplying her own music, by way of her do-do’s and da-da’s.

"I’m a candle in the wind. Dodo-do-do-do, dada-da. My future flickers ‘fore my eyes... Dudu-du-du-du ,di-di-di. I am too restless to be satisfied and silent. So I’ll push further through the night."

The warrior merely hummed the rest. She could only hope that the Amazon musicians she’d asked to come here and perform, could it play as well as they had the other day when she was there to pick up Gabrielle’s new outfit and finalize her plans. Although most of her plans had been laid long before they even left for India, the latter song she had only added that very day she visited and the musicians hadn’t had a lot of time to practice. She wished they could do a bit of a rehearsal, but if Gabrielle heard them, she’d have time to figure out the rest of the surprise. For, this too was based on one of Gabrielle’s fantasies. Well, maybe not a sexual fantasy, the warrior corrected herself. But, it was nonetheless something her lover had been requesting for quite a while now.

The warrior smiled and chuckled deep in her throat; a soft, sensual sound even to her own ears. One that almost invariably had the intended and desired effect upon a certain little minx named Gabrielle. And Xena intended to make full use of each and every one of her many skills that would bring her lover pleasure this night. Including something she had not even tried yet. That skill being reining in her own natural tendencies to dominate; leaving herself open and vulnerable to Gabrielle’s every whim. To give up her control and place her trust totally and completely within the bard’s loving hands.

Xena tingled at the mere thought of being powerless beneath her lover. She’d never given anyone as much of herself as she intended to offer to Gabrielle this night. And never believed she ever would either, because before Gabrielle came into her life, she’d never loved nor trusted anyone with such utter and complete devotion and abandon. Never wanted to be vulnerable in front of anyone. With Gabrielle, however, she now felt as if she wanted to be dominated; wanted to be a near slave to the blonde bard’s every command. Whatever her lover wanted or needed, from the time the music started until they were both too exhausted to move -which she was sure would happen some time before morning- Xena intended to provide it for her.

"Umm-umph!" the warrior growled deep in her throat, as the arrow of desire suddenly shot through her body and hit its intended target, low in her abdomen. "Whoa!" she breathed. "Looks like it’s gonna be one wet and wild night." The small bar of soap slipped from her slick fingers beneath the murky depths. "Yep, most definitely wet," she muttered. "Oof!" Better make quick work of this bath and get moving, she thought. This is no time to be playing with Rosie and her two sidekicks. Or was it three sidekicks? she mused, unable to remember the last time she’d had to take matters into her own hands. A condition for which she was very grateful. Those trips to the woods, although tension relieving and somewhat pleasurable at the time, had been quite lonely and unrewarding in the long run.

It was then that another idea leaped into mind. It stemmed from something Gabrielle had once made mention of. How she could fit it into tonight’s festivities, she wasn’t sure, but she’d sure give it a shot.

"Oh yeah," she purred. "Might as well just hold on tight and give this horse her head."

Xena wasn’t sure she’d ever have another opportunity like this one. She quickly shrugged the last thought aside, refusing to allow anything to dampen her spirits. Least of all a vision that may never come true, considering how it had come about in the first place.

"Come on girls," she said, quickly finishing up her cleaning ritual. "We’ve got better things to do."

No sooner had Xena exited the water and pulled on her leathers, than Eponin, Aleyna, Shalala, Keresta, Bedelia and two other Amazon musicians the warrior princess didn’t know by name yet, appeared on the trail leading to the lake. Shalala was carrying a large drum on her hip as was Bedelia, though the latter’s was a bit smaller. Aleyna had a rattle dangling from a cord around her neck. Keresta had some other type of wind blown instrument slung over her shoulder. Eponin was jangling from the triangular metal instrument attached to her belt, which was striking her knife sheath. One of the other two musicians had a tambourine hanging from her belt and the other one wore a pan flute on a cord around her neck, the flute slapping against her large breasts with each step she took.

"No way you would ever slip up on anyone like that," Xena commented.

Eponin chuckled softly. "We weren’t trying to slip up on you, ol’ chum. We came prepared for a party." The short, muscular brunette warrior -who had befriended Xena the first time she’d been in their village and had sparred with her every time she and Gabrielle visited since then- deliberately shook her hips, jangling the metal instrument even more.

"I didn’t know you and Aleyna were musicians," Xena remarked, referring to Eponin’s beautiful blonde haired mate.

"We aren’t," Aleyna responded. "We just wanted to come to the celebration."

"Yeah, wouldn’t miss it for the world," Eponin added, grinning from ear to ear, as she and Xena clasped each other’s forearm, in a warrior’s handshake.

"Shalala insisted that we had to play an instrument to come along." Aleyna, the shorter of the two blondes, cut her eyes over at the taller blonde warrior she was referring to.

A lot like Xena in her temperament, Shalala’s face showed no hint that she’d heard Aleyna’s comment. Matter of fact, it appeared to Xena as if she didn’t even want to be there. Judging from the way she set the large drum down on the ground at her feet and rubbed her forearms, while glancing around the area, rather nonchalantly, it appeared she was quite unconcerned with the rest of them.

"Where’s Ephiny?" Xena inquired.

"Queenin’," Shalala answered quickly and gruffly, her tone confirming she was not happy with the present situation, but was listening to what was being said.

"Small bit of trouble on our western border," Eponin explained. "She thought it would be best to... stay close to home."

Xena nodded. "Must be very small if you’re here," she said, knowing that Eponin was second in command -beneath Ephiny of course- over the Amazon warriors.

Eponin nodded. "We will need to get back as soon as possible, but... I just couldn’t miss this, once I heard what you had planned." The shorter warrior smirked and punched Xena on the upper arm. "Too bad you already had your bath. I was hoping we would get here early enough to get in a bit of sparring. Been a long time since you two have visited us."

"Too long," the rather feminine, young redhead, named Keresta, piped up. "I miss Gabrielle’s stories."

"You’ve gotta stop by," Aleyna added. "The tribe is eager to hear about your adventures in India."

"Yeah," Keresta chimed in.

Xena chuckled. "And Gabrielle is eager to tell you all about it, I’m sure."

"We can’t talk to her until tomorrow morning?" Keresta asked in a whiny voice.

"Of course not," Aleyna grumbled. "Otherwise you’d... spoil the surprise."

Keresta grunted and toed the ground in front of her.

"So ol’ chum, what’s the plan here?" Eponin queried, putting her arm around Xena’s shoulder. "Hmph... feels strange... you not having your sword on your back. You going soft or something, since your trip to India?"

"If I hadn’t just taken my bath, we’d see just who’s going soft," Xena retorted.

"Uh-oh, now I know you’ve gotta come visit soon. That sounded like a challenge I’d eagerly rise to." Eponin slapped her long time friend on the back. Xena then elbowed her gently in the ribs.

"Okay you two, enough with the macho warrior stuff," Aleyna scolded. "Fill us in on the details on the way back to the Inn, Xena, so hopefully we can pull this off without a hitch." Aleyna then turned on her heels and started back the way they had come.

"Yes, dear," Eponin quipped at her mate’s retreating back. When Xena glanced over at her friend, Eponin quietly added, "You gotta let’em think they’re in charge every once in a while."

"I heard that," Aleyna shot over her shoulder.Eponin merely shook her head.

"Got one just like her," Xena muttered softly. Both warriors grinned from ear to ear, then traded a good-natured punch on the arm between them

Shalala cleared her throat. "Can we get this show on the road?" she asked gruffly, to no one in particular. "I’d like to get a good night’s sleep so we can head out early in the morning." She then snatched up the drum and hefted it up onto her shoulder, before turning on her heels to follow Aleyna and the others.

Xena was just about to say something to the tall blonde concerning how she could leave now if she wanted to, when Eponin put a hand on her arm. The latter shook her head slightly, as if to say "Leave it be." Xena then turned and began gathering up her weapons. "She and Ephiny had a fight before we left," Eponin said, quietly, as she bent over and picked up her friend’s boots.

"That explains a lot," Xena remarked. "Gabrielle again?"

Eponin shrugged. "They argue a lot. Queenin’... is always gettin’ in the way. Some people... they just can’t handle letting someone else lead."

Xena merely grunted. She knew that feeling. Overcoming one’s natural instincts was not an easy thing to do, but she was determined to do just that tonight.

* * * *

Seeing how anxious Keresta, especially, was to see Gabrielle and realizing she had been rather selfish in her plan to keep the friendly, talkative blonde all to herself tonight, Xena revised her strategy, at the last moment. She knew the bard would want to visit with her friends and so she told them they could visit with Gabrielle if they wished, while she got dressed.

The bard was pacing in the middle of the room. "Goddesses don’t wait," she grumbled. "They just pop in wherever and whenever they want to. No one has to come and get a..." There was a light scratching sound at the door. "Finally!" she breathed.

Gabrielle rushed to the door in a most un-goddess like manner and flung it open. "Keresta! Aleyna! What in the world...?"

"Happy birthday, Gabrielle!" the two Amazons sang out in unison, right before Keresta threw her arms around the goddess’ neck.

Xena and Eponin heard the exclamations from down the hall. "Good decision that," Eponin spoke up, watching her warrior friend brush her hair. "May have given a little of the surprise away, but... you know how the talkative ones are."

Xena grunted. "Yeah, she probably would have been a bit distracted, if I’d kept things the way I had planned." She shrugged. "Gimme a hand here, hmm?" she requested, referring to the thin braids she was attempting to create at the sides of her face, to keep her hair out of her eyes and look more Amazon. "I’ve gotten so used to Gabrielle handling my hair that..." She shrugged again.

Eponin grunted now. "That’ll happen," she agreed, walking over to her friend and noticing the slight tremor of Xena’s fingers. "We spoil them, they spoil us... But, ain’t being spoilt a wonderful feeling?"

Xena nodded slightly and smiled. "How long have you and Aleyna been together now?"

"Twelve years," Eponin answered with pride in her voice.

"Whoa! I bet you are spoiled."

"Rotten as they come. And wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world." Eponin began braiding the strands now. "Not nervous are we?" she inquired, noticing Xena rubbing her fingers together impatiently.

"Uh, no, of course not. What have I got to be nervous about?" the warrior asked, obviously trying to cover for her fidgeting.

"Well, you’re the one who said you couldn’t dance. Claimed you were unco-ordinated."

Xena grunted. "There was a time when I couldn’t. I had a crippled leg." She glanced down at her left leg. "You can tell, it still turns out at the knee."

"Umph. But it doesn’t seem to hinder you in other areas though."

"You haven’t seen me slow dance with anyone. That’s where the problem is. I tend to step on toes."

"Uh-huh. Well, I think you just use it as an excuse. Don’t wanna be too... un-warrior like. Might ruin your image."

"You won’t be saying that after tonight. Because I think that image is about to be... shattered to Tartarus and back "

"Good," Eponin said with a smile. "Nice to know I’m not the only warrior who can... let her more feminine side show... every once in a while." Xena glanced over at her, one eyebrow slightly arched. "Um-hm, give and take, ol’ chum. One can’t always be the giver, nor the taker. You gotta stir things up every now and then. How do you think we made it this long? Yep, turn about is fair play. And... can be quite... in-te-resting, to say the least."

* * * *

After visiting for a short while, Gabrielle’s mind was back at work on what Xena might have planned by inviting their Amazon buddies. A bit of dancing together, perhaps, in a free an open environment? she mused. Something, which they didn’t get to do in most of the taverns and inns they stayed at. Only when visiting the Amazons could they truly be themselves in front of other people. Of course Xena was never much for crowds or staying in one place very long and so these visits were usually short, and of late, few and far between.

"Come on Keresta," Aleyna spoke up. "I think we should be getting back now."

Keresta frowned, then gave Gabrielle a big hug. "Please promise that you’ll come see us soon?" the young woman pleaded.

"Of course. As soon as we’re finished here, it’ll be our next stop," Gabrielle assured.

Keresta pulled back and turned away, all smiles. Gabrielle then reached out for Aleyna. "Have a wonderful birthday," Aleyna whispered in her ear. "Your mate loves you very much."

"Thank you. I know," the bard said softly.

When Aleyna was letting go, one of the long cords on Gabrielle’s new necklace somehow got caught on Aleyna’s gauntlet. "What’s this? she asked, removing the cord from her wrist.

"Xena made the cords too long for some reason. Guess she was in a big hurry," the bard reasoned. "She made it long enough to fit around Argo’s neck." Gabrielle chuckled.

Aleyna frowned. "Can... I see it?" she asked. "I think Xena may have had another purpose in mind for this." A frown now furrowed Gabrielle’s brow, as Aleyna reached beneath the waistband of her skirt and slowly pulled out a thin braided leather cord. "Amazons often wear these around their waists. It’s less likely to be stripped from you or used against you in combat this way," Aleyna explained with a slight smile. "It also signifies that you’re... taken."

"Oh, well... by all means..." Gabrielle turned around for Aleyna to untie the necklace in the back. "I’m... embarrassed," she added.

"No need to be. You can’t learn everything in just a few brief visits."

"Wonder how Xena knew this?"

"Well, I’d have to assume she’s spent time around Amazons, unless... we’re not the only ones who do this." Gabrielle cut her eyes over at her friend. "Or maybe someone told her about it during your visits and... she thought you knew about it, too. You are Amazon royalty after all. Our previous queen... for a short while."

Gabrielle merely grunted. She’d never felt like she was worthy to be Queen of the Amazons. "Was Artemis said to wear anything like this?" she queried.

"Yes... yes, she was. That’s how it came down to us in legend. Iphegenia is said to have placed one of these around the goddess’ waist before Artemis offered her the gift of immortality. She wanted her true love to always have a part of her close to her, or so it’s said." Aleyna paused, as she wrapped the cord around Gabrielle’s waist. It fit almost perfectly, with very little length left over. "Of course Artemis’ was made entirely from braided strands of Iph’s long blonde hair," she continued. "And they are often still made this way, see?" Aleyna showed Gabrielle the dark brown strands interwoven into her own braided cord. The bard glanced up at her. "You mean you didn’t notice this about yours?" Gabrielle shook her head. "Would you like for me to take it back off, so you can...?"

"No," the bard interrupted. "I’ll... look at it later. Thank you, Aleyna... for everything." Gabrielle grabbed the older woman and hugged her close. "We are definitely making the tribe our next stop. There’s so very much that I don’t know. So much I’d love to learn."

"We’re always here for you, Gabrielle, whenever you need us."

Chapter 3

The bard was pacing again, but not quite like before. She felt a bit more patient and at ease now. She had her ideas about what was to come and was ready and eager when Aleyna once again showed up at the door.

"All has been prepared for you, your highness," Aleyna said with a slight smile, while bowing slightly and extending her arm in the direction of the hallway leading into the dining area. Each woman was obviously grateful they’d had time to talk before now.

Aleyna led Gabrielle to a chair and table that had been placed in the center of the dimly lit dining area. The rest of the chairs and tables had been moved closer to the far walls. As Gabrielle sat down, Amazons began trickling out of the kitchen, single file and taking their places along this wall. The bard was not surprised to see Eponin, though she was taken aback slightly that she now held a musical instrument in her hand. She was surprised to see Shalala, since she’d been informed Ephiny had stayed in the village.

As soon as Aleyna joined the others, they all bowed to Gabrielle and then Shalala began a low drumbeat. Boom boom-boom da boom-boom. Boom boom-boom da boom-boom. Keresta then joined in with her wind instrument; a soft seductive whine, not so unlike that of the snake charmers in India. When Aleyna added her rattle, it sounded as if they were charming rattlesnakes. Eponin soon came in with her triangle, striking only one note on the last measure: Boom boom-boom da boom-boom ting. Boom boom-boom da boom-boom ting.

Gabrielle grinned from ear to ear. It was obvious that neither Aleyna nor Eponin were musicians, but they weren’t doing badly.

Suddenly the tambourine was struck and shaken; the tempo then picked up, as Bedelia joined in with her small drum. Baba-daba-daba-daba-baba-daba-daba-daba. One of the other musicians with the pan flute, who wasn’t playing at the moment, did a little arm flourish towards the kitchen doorway. The tambourine was struck and shaken once again, as a figure appeared silhouetted in the backlit doorway. Long dark hair framed a face in shadow. The figure’s hands grabbed the doorframe on each side and she bent backwards at the waist, head snapping back, and hair flying. Then suddenly, the figure straightened up and propelled herself through the doorway and into the room.

"By the gods!" Gabrielle gasped, upon finally seeing the figure’s face. It was none other than Xena.

The bard was mesmerized. Dim candlelight served to enhance the bronze skin against the skimpy, off-white, heavily decorated Amazon outfit. Numerous colored beads and black feathers dangled and swayed from the top and bottom of the halter top; tight stomach muscles rippled beneath the decorations. The off-white loincloth -heavily decorated around the waistband- parted over firm muscular thighs; long strings of beads and feathers tied at the sides slapping against those same bronze surfaces.

"Oof!" the bard hissed, watching long arms spread wide; hands and fingers undulating to the rhythmic beat; tightly, barely concealed breasts rising, falling and jiggling slightly with each movement. Long dark hair flew around Xena’s face as she whipped her head in a circular. "Ooo-wof!" Gabrielle heard herself growl deep in her throat. It was the kind of sound a man might make and now she knew why they did so. Having a woman like Xena, in a skimpy costume, dance in front of you was... awesomely arousing.

Blue eyes finally met sea-green ones that had never left the dancer since she entered the room. A slight smile turned up the corners of full red lips, as Xena slowly moved towards the goddess seated before her. Each step closer the dancing warrior took, sent a shiver down Gabrielle’s spine. She remembered vividly begging Xena on numerous occasions to dance for her.

"Yea gods, you are beautiful!" the bard breathed as Xena undulated her hips before her. Gabrielle started to reach out, but the warrior turned dancer, quickly pirouetted away, circling around behind her.

"There are only three veils to this dance," the warrior suddenly whispered in the bard’s left ear. When Gabrielle turned in this direction, Xena moved over to the other side. "But they are all yours for the taking," she said into the other ear.

"Zow-wee!" Gabrielle hissed, quickly turning around in her seat. "Where are they?"

Xena backed away, batting her long dark eyelashes and riveting the bard with her smoldering blue gaze. She then put her hands on her hips and began undulating her upper torso in such a way that Gabrielle was sure her lover’s breasts were going to wiggle and pop right out of the halter at any moment. When Xena bent over slightly, the bard then caught a glimpse of thin purple material, extending from the confines of each cup.

Yea gods, how’d she have room for those, she thought, as Xena raised up and continued her circular dance around the table, one finger trailing over the wooden top. Then suddenly the warrior spread herself backwards across the table and slowly spun around; her legs now pointed towards Gabrielle’s face. One long leg extended out and up into the air; a slim foot crossing over Gabrielle’s head in a blur of motion. The bard was now looking through her lover’s legs; the loincloth flap having fallen between these appendages obscuring the view the bard had hoped for. A quick hand with long fingers attached, caught Gabrielle’s attention as it inched beneath the loincloth waistband and reemerged with a hint of thin purple material.

Ah, the third veil, Gabrielle thought, as her eyes lit up. She was about to rise from her chair, eyes riveted to the hint of purple at the waistband when Xena suddenly brought her other leg up and over the bard’s head in another blur of motion, then rolled off the table. On her feet once again, then placing her hands on the wooden top, the warrior swayed to the rhythm, as if pretending to be playing a game of cat and mouse with the table between them. One dark eyebrow arched skyward as blue eyes narrowed slightly. Gabrielle knew this look well. It was Xena’s promise of things to come.

When the warrior quickly turned and danced away, the bard was left on the edge of her seat, licking her lips and wondering how this little game of the veils was supposed to be played. Autolycus had told her about Xena performing a dance of the three veils -or was it two- while on their mission to rescue a sacred box, years ago. But in his tale, Xena, herself, had been the one to remove the veils, not anyone else. Knowing how much the warrior dearly loved being creative and changing her tactics, however, Gabrielle could only assume that Xena had changed this dance, as well. And possibly to one of audience, namely the goddess, Gabrielle’s, participation.

"Umm!" The bard licked her lips again, thinking about those veils and settled back in her seat. Time to act like the true goddess I’m supposed to be, she thought, sitting up straight and proud and trying to master a look of un-aroused admiration. But feeling she was failing miserably, as she crossed her arms over her chest, then licked her dry lips yet again.

Xena danced back into the middle of the floor -between Gabrielle and the band- then paused there for a moment, putting her back to the goddess. And what a lovely back it was. The thin straps of the halter crossed over the indention in the warrior’s spine and muscular bronze-skinned back, meeting up with and attaching to another set of straps coming from each side and hooking in the middle. Gabrielle’s eyes followed the indention of the warrior’s spinal column, until it disappeared beneath the loincloth belt. Beads and feathers swayed slightly over the off-white doeskin stretched tight over ample hips, as one long leg moved in time to the music, which was slowly changing tempo.

Each musician, except for Shalala, dropped out one at a time, until only the drumbeat, the song had started with, could be heard. The wind instrument joined in again, the tune slower this time. One by one, the other musicians added their parts, until the music was very seductive.

Xena finally turned back around, her eyes riveted to Gabrielle’s, her blue gaze dark and smoldering, as she moved towards the goddess in a languid and sensuous fashion. Muscular arms extended in the bard’s direction, one at a time, dexterous hands and finger undulating to the music. The warrior then paused before the goddess; one hand reached out to stroke the side of the bard’s face, while the other reached for her hand. At first, Gabrielle thought Xena wanted her to get up and dance with her, yet the warrior merely led this hand up to her ample cleavage. One dark eyebrow soared skyward, as Gabrielle’s fingers were positioned against the entrance to one side of the halter.

The bard-turned-goddess now realized what was expected of her and fingered the silky purple material she found there. Gently she pulled, easing the fabric from within the confines of the cup, while watching Xena’s eyes close briefly. Once she had the handkerchief-shaped material out, the warrior reached up and took it from her with only two fingers. Then with a flick of her wrist, she draped it over the bard’s right shoulder, putting her hand on top of it. Gabrielle licked her lips again and reached for the other veil. Once it was removed, Xena took it in her other hand and draped it across the bard’s left shoulder; her hand once again settling on top of it. Then with powerful legs, she pushed Gabrielle’s thighs together and straddled them. Smoldering blue eyes glanced from the goddess to the waistband of her loincloth.

Yea gods, she is good, Gabrielle thought, reaching for the hint of purple now. Xena’s eyes closed ever so slowly and she wet her lips with one long, languid and sensual stroke, then moaned as the goddess pulled the much longer scarf-shaped material from beneath the waistband. Once it was out, Xena reached out with both hands and took it from the bard. Then with a subtle flourish, she spread the veil out and draped it over top of Gabrielle’s head. The goddess was subsequently enveloped by the scent of lavender, mixed with her lover’s own unique enticing aroma. Taking hold of the front end, the warrior slowly pulled the veil down over the bard’s face. Gabrielle closed her eyes and moaned at the sensual feel and familiar smells.

When she opened her eyes again, Xena was moving around behind her, the veil once again slowly sliding over Gabrielle’s face in the opposite direction. "Remember me, my goddess, while you commune with your friends," the warrior whispered in her left ear. "For I shall return to entertain you once again," she added, in the other ear, as the veil slid off the bard’s head.

"Sweet Zeus!" Gabrielle said, letting out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. She turned as Xena sashayed away; ample hips swaying in a way the bard had never seen them move before; the purple veil in her hand trailing behind her, as if in invitation to follow.

Gabrielle did not hesitate to drop her goddess pretense in order to take off after Xena. She caught the tail end of the veil and stopped dead still. The warrior-turned-dancer gave up the veil with a little hand flourish and continued on into the kitchen. The music then ended with a final drum roll from Shalala.

Gabrielle was torn between following after Xena and the words the warrior had just whispered in her ear: "while you commune with your friends". She glanced over at the Amazons who were putting their instruments aside. Obviously Xena had more planned for later on and wanted Gabrielle to visit with her friends. Something the bard assumed would be a good idea.

"Happy birthday!" Eponin called out. Then each Amazon started towards the blonde birthday girl standing in the middle of the room, holding a veil in one hand, with two others draped over her shoulders.

Gabrielle sighed, yet smiled. "Thank you," she said, gathering the veil up into her hand. A spot of dampness on the material brought a smile to her face. Later, my love slave, she thought and turned her attention to her friends.

Xena was busy in the kitchen taking food from the warmer for their friends to eat. Although her original plan had been to dance, sing and lead Gabrielle straight to the bedroom, she had since revised this self-serving one in lieu of what she felt the bard herself would prefer. So, instead of the Amazons helping themselves to the food, after she and Gabrielle retired to their room, Xena had decided to serve them. Knowing Gabrielle’s appetite, she was sure her lover would at least nibble on something her mother had so kindly prepared before she left. If nothing else, the bard would surely have another piece of nut bread.

Although it had been many years, going on nearly 14 now, since Xena had waited on tables here in her mother’s inn, she felt the art of serving would come back to her quite easily. Donning one of her mother’s cooking aprons, which barely covered her halter and loincloth in front and almost didn’t reach around her to tie in back, she set about bringing out the food and placing it on the bar, since the Amazons had not arranged the tables as of yet.

Time she entered the room, sea-green eyes met hers in a warm embrace; her true love seeming to sense her presence somehow. Xena tried to force her gaze away and keep her mind on her task, yet as she was leaving, Gabrielle deliberately made eye contact and brought the hand, still holding the veil, up to her nose, appearing to inhale. Those sea-green eyes danced in the dim candlelit room, as the bard then unfurled and subsequently draped the veil around her neck. That was all Xena needed to see to send her back into the kitchen. Her mind was now on events to come, as she continued her task of providing sustenance for their kind-hearted friends, who had come all this way to play for them just this one night.

The Amazons pulled a few tables out from the walls, sitting them side-by-side, along with chairs for all eight of them, including Gabrielle. The birthday girl was seated in the middle of the group, then the others took their seats. When Xena finished laying out the various dishes on the bar, she then gathered up a stack of plates and brought them over to the table. Although involved in conversation, Gabrielle could hardly keep her eyes off the warrior-turned-dancer, turned-waitress, as she moved around the assembled group, first laying plates and silverware out, then bringing cups and three open bottles of port, which she then poured for each woman.

The Amazons were playing along with Xena’s role-playing scenario, ignoring her for the most part, as if she were but a mere waitress and not a friend. Conversation was centered around and directed to Gabrielle, prodding her to stay in character, while Xena busied herself offering the various dishes, one at a time, to the individual women and serving them. She then placed the dish on the table for anyone who cared for seconds.

From her peripheral vision, Gabrielle invariably followed Xena’s progress around the table, each and every time. When the waitress’ task was complete, the warrior stopped beside Gabrielle’s chair. "Anything else I can get for you or your guests, my goddess?" she inquired.

Gabrielle’s eyes slowly perused the waitress’ body. "Yes," she answered quietly and motioned with her index finger for Xena to come closer. The waitress bent over and Gabrielle leaned in close, directing her comment to the warrior’s ear alone. "You," she whispered.

Xena smiled and raised up slowly, giving the goddess that smoldering dark blue gaze that held a promise of fulfilling this request later. For now, however, she merely nodded and walked away, returning to the kitchen.

Talk was kept on the light side, Gabrielle not going into any great detail about their trip to India. Although, she did have to explain the tattoos (Mende lines) and her new haircut, which took up a great deal of time. Xena listened from the kitchen, marveling at the way Gabrielle could weave the bits and pieces of their lives together into a beautiful tapestry, with mere words. Although quite often overlooked, even by Xena herself, what with all the fighting, the warrior knew her lover was indeed blessed with a unique gift for words and seemingly an unlimited and vastly creative imagination. Without this, Xena knew her life would be too quiet. And without Gabrielle, herself, far too empty to go on.

It wasn’t too overly long before Eponin entered the kitchen. "Well ol’ chum, we’re quite sufficiently stuff now, so... before we all start nodding off, shall we proceed with the rest of the evening’s entertainment?"

"I’ll need to clear the food away and clean..."

Eponin stopped her friend with a hand to her shoulder. "Aleyna and I will clean up after... you two have retired, hmm?" Xena started to protest. "Awch... we want to do this, for both of you. Now... give us a moment or two to get set up. When you hear me strike the triangle... we’ll be ready."

Gabrielle was once again seated in her previous spot, watching her Amazon friends taking up their instruments. The bard could only wonder what might come next, as she tied the two veils she’d taken from Xena’s halter around each wrist. The long veil draped around her neck, she brought to her nose briefly, inhaling the enticing aromas before loosely tying it, as well. She intended to hold onto each of these veils as keepsakes; for, she knew this was one birthday she would not soon forget, nor ever want to.

Eponin struck the triangle and the Amazons began playing a rather slow, seductive tune that sounded a bit familiar to the bard, though she could not quite place where she’d heard it. Xena soon emerged from the kitchen, the apron no longer in evidence, as she slowly twirled over in front of the assembled Amazons. Gabrielle was once again on the edge of her seat.

"I am a candle in the wind..." Xena sang, in her lovely, slightly alto voice, as she swayed first one way then the other, like a candle flame buffeted by the slightest current of air. "My future flickers ‘fore my eyes..." Both arms came up, hands going toward her face. Long fingers formed a sideways "V" shape, blue eyes briefly framed between them, before they moved away in separate directions. "I am too restless to be satisfied and settled..." Long arms spread wide, dexterous hands and fingers undulated and danced to the rhythm, while her body moved from side to side. "So, I’ll push further through the night." Fingers once again moved up to and out from her face.

"Say you wanna come with me..." Long arms reached out toward Gabrielle, index fingers alternately making come here motions. "...and then we’re roamin’..." She brought her right hand up to her forehead. "Though I’ve heard those lines before..." Her hand brushed lightly over her hair, then down the side of her neck, where it turned and continued down her body, ending up on this side of her waist. "But the fire inside it just keeps burnin’..." Left hand already on her waist, agile fingers now crept over her stomach and downward, as if indicating that certain "fire" down below. "’Til I can’t stand it anymore." Xena slung her head back and moved forward, long legs and bare feet, covering the distance between them, until she was standing in front of the bard-turned-goddess.

"You came along..." Xena wrapped one arm around her own waist, then crossed it with the other. " pulled me up when I was down..." Knees bent, she acted as if she were pulling herself up, while slowly rising back to her full height. "The way you made me feel..." Her hips rotated in a seductive manner before the bard. "...just took me by surprise." She uncrossed her arms, hands gliding over her body.

Xena’s left hand unfurled and reached out toward the bard. "You took my hand..." She took Gabrielle’s right hand. "You stole my heart..." This hand was placed just above her breast. "You fed the fire..." She slid the bard’s hand over her breast and down to her waist, while her right hand reached out for Gabrielle’s left. "And when you moved with me..." The bard’s left hand was placed on the other side of her waist. " gave me back my life." Ample hips rotated seductively.

"Let the spirit move me...." Xena straddled the bard’s legs very slowly, hips still moving seductively. "Let the spirit move me...." Strong warrior hands surrounded Gabrielle’s face, lightly caressing. "Let your spirit move me...." She eased down onto the bard’s lap, hips still in motion. "Let your spirit move me..." The goddess’ face was then pulled forward into the dancer’s cleavage. "Move with me tonight," she softly whispered into the bard’s ear.

Gabrielle was on fire. Never in her life had she been privy to anything so very seductive and erotic. She buried her face in Xena’s cleavage, nuzzling against each breast, as the music continued to play. The warrior-turned-dancer stroked the bard’s head in a most sensual fashion, while throwing back her own, as if in the throes of ecstasy.

"Yea gods above, I love you, Xena," Gabrielle murmured against the warrior’s flesh, her hands busy roaming over the heavily decorated loincloth, enjoying the subtle writhing of her lover’s hips. Her left hand slipped to the side of the loincloth touching smooth bare flesh. Of it’s own accord, it moved beneath the soft doeskin material, following the contours of soft skin and finding nothing to hinder its progress. "By the gods!" the bard breathed, realizing the loincloth was nothing more than a belt with a front and back flap hiding naked flesh beneath.

The very thought that the center of Xena’s desire was so close at hand, created an enormous cataclysmic reaction in the bard’s lower abdomen. Without a thought for her Amazon friends looking on, the bard’s right hand abruptly shot to the front flap of the loincloth and darted beneath, while her lips trailed from cleavage to neck, landing on her lover’s pulse point. She felt the dancer’s heartbeat increase as her fingers stroked warm wet folds.

Xena flinched and let out a loud groan, then abruptly stood up, pushing slightly away from Gabrielle. Dark blue eyes stared down into a sea of deep green, as the bard started to object to the quick departure.

Xena cut her eyes in the direction of the hallway to their rooms, then back to Gabrielle. "Say your goodbyes to your friends," she said, leaning closer. "Your love slave will be waiting for you in your chambers, when... you return... from outside."

Gabrielle understood the last reference. How Xena knew she’d have to go, she could only chalk up to their years of traveling together. The warrior could read her, almost like a scroll. "For the love of Zeus." She sighed heavily, as the dancer of her heart, music of her soul, love and light of her life strode slowly towards the hallway.

The warrior’s ample hips swayed from side to side; beads and feathers swinging with their rhythm. Xena paused at the doorway to the hall and glanced back over her shoulder. She gave a little wink.

Gabrielle was on her feet, as soon as the music ended, which went on for a bit longer than she wanted it to. Her attention was divided between what awaited her down the hall and her friends.

"Go ahead," Aleyna called out. "Everyone here understands."

"Yeah, strike while the iron’s hot," Eponin quipped. Aleyna swatted at her.

Gabrielle turned to her friends. "It was... so wonderful of you to come. And... if I don’t see you before you leave tomorrow..."

"Then we’ll see you in our village in a few days," Keresta interjected, sounding hopeful.

"Umph, maybe more like... a week," the bard corrected.

The three Amazons friends chuckled, as did most of the others, except for Shalala.

"Please, help yourselves to... whatever is left," Gabrielle said, gesturing towards what little remained of their meal. Cyrene obviously didn’t serve many Amazons around here. "And again, thank you so much." The bard was already making tracks towards the hall, saying the last few words over her shoulder. Then suddenly she turned and quickly headed for the back door -through the kitchen- on her way to the outhouse

Chapter 4

There were only two candles burning in the room now: one on either side of the large four-poster bed. Xena had obviously let the thin veiled material attached to each bedpost down; for, the bard could only make out her lover’s prone form on the bed.

Gabrielle closed the door behind her and cleared her throat. Although she knew how her fantasy was supposed to go, she suddenly felt as if it were completely inadequate when running parallel to this particular reality. She felt nervous. And even though she wanted nothing more than to jump into bed with Xena and ravish her gorgeous body from head to toe, the fact that her lover had went to all the trouble of setting this up just for her, gave her pause. She dared not ruin the fantasy.

She cleared her throat again. "I see you got my message," she finally said, starting the fantasy off.

"Yes, my goddess," Xena responded. "I was told to... wait here for you."

"Um-hm," Gabrielle murmured, moving towards the bed. "Then my servants have told you what I expect?"

"Um.... yes, my goddess."

For a moment, the bard was torn between removing her clothes, as the fantasy had originally called for and leaving them on. The boots definitely would have to go, if nothing else; for, this had not been a detail in her fantasy. She went around to the other side of the bed, in order to give herself room to sit down and remove her boots. She pulled back the veiled material, to find Xena rolling over on her side to face her, still fully clothed.

Blue eyes met sea-green. Gabrielle wet her lips, as the memory of Xena dancing before her flashed through her mind. Oh how much she had wanted to take that outfit off her. No sooner had she thought this than an idea sprang to mind. Who says we have to stick to any set script? she thought. Time to improvise.

"Come... remove my boots," she suggested. Xena arched one dark eyebrow slightly. "A ritual... and mutual cleansing," the bard explained, hoping her warrior would go along with this. "Cleanliness is after all... next to godliness."

Xena smirked and glanced down at her own bare feet, then her dark blue gaze narrowed, as she realized they could use Gabrielle’s bath water. "Yes, my goddess," she said and promptly rolled over, got up and came around the bed.

Slowly and with lots of eye contact, but no words exchanged, the goddess’ love slave removed her boots. Gabrielle then made a motion for her to get up and nodded towards the tub. Xena complied with the unspoken request, the bard close on her heels. "Umm," the bard hummed watching the swaying hips; beads and feathers swishing this way and that. She was so caught up in thinking about what lay beneath the loincloth flap, that she almost didn’t notice when Xena stopped and nearly ran into her back.

Xena turned around rather slowly, an off-kilter smirk on her face. She was obviously trying not to smile or laugh. "Should I..." She paused and cleared her throat. "Should I remove your clothes?" she asked a bit hesitantly, since this tub scene was not a part of Gabrielle’s original fantasy, either. She too was doing her best to go along with the bard’s improvisation.

Gabrielle glanced down at the water she knew would be rather cool by now. Although not a big fan of cool dips like Xena, the thought of being bathed by her love slave was tremendously appealing. "Of course," she finally answered. "And then I... shall remove yours. Then we shall bathe one another... together."

Xena’s eyebrow shot up again. "Surely my goddess, you would not want to soil your hands with one such as me." The love slave lowered her eyes now.

"Oh, but I most surely do wanna soil my hands and anything else I desire... with... your mortalness," the bard retorted, slipping out of character and then right back in, on the last few words. She placed her hands on her hips. "I thought you were informed what was expected of you?" Gabrielle arched one light brown eyebrow of her own. She was slightly peeved at Xena for throwing her off with this improvised question. "What did my servants tell you, hmm?"

Xena glanced up only briefly. Gabrielle had played this very well; for, the warrior had set her own self up to utter these words. She looked back down at the floor. "They said I am... to be... your... love slave," she said, her voice barely audible.

Gabrielle swallowed hard. Ooo baby, you’re good at this, she thought, as she moved closer, warming to this new variation of her fantasy, which they were making up as they went along. She loved the idea of having so much power over Xena. "That’s right," she purred. "Anything I ask of you, you will do, isn’t that so?" She reached out and fingered a string of beads dangling from the top of the slave’s halter. She rolled one black bead between thumb and index finger, while her other three fingers moved lower, slowly circling the warrior’s nipple through the doeskin. "Isn’t that so?" she prodded, green eyes staring into blue, wondering what Xena would say to this.

"Yes, my goddess," the love slave answered, her eyes never leaving Gabrielle’s.

"Good, then you will start by... allowing me to undress you."

"Yes, my..." Xena paused, as Gabrielle threw up her hand. "Yes and no are sufficient answers for tonight." Her other hand reached up and fingered a shoulder strap. "I’m well aware of my title and... my power over you." Sea-green eyes dared smoldering blue ones to contradict her, as she slid one strap over the love slave’s arm, while the other hand left a still growing protrusion to remove the other strap. "Umm... turn around," the goddess requested; Gabrielle already having determined that both hooks, for halter and loincloth belt, were in the back.

A few short moments later the white outfit was lying in a puddle at the slave’s feet. Chill bumps ran up Xena’s spine, as she sensed Gabrielle moving closer. The bard got so close that the warrior could feel her warm breath against her back. She just knew the goddess was going to touch her, but where?

Gabrielle wanted desperately to touch Xena, but was afraid that if she did the fantasy would fly right out the proverbial window. So, she got as close as she possibly could without actually touching. So close in fact, that she could feel the heat radiating off her love’s body. She stepped back. "Turn around. I want to see all of you," she requested, really getting into this power trip.

Slowly, Xena did as she was asked, watching her lover’s eyes peruse her naked form. The goddess licked her lips, her eyes roaming back up and lingering for a moment on Xena’s breasts.

"Umm," Gabrielle moaned, admiring the taunt slightly erect nipples. Her hands ached to touch these and make them rise up even taller; her mouth salivated to taste their slight salty emissions. "Undress me now," she commanded, tearing her eyes away, before she lost control and stepped out of character.

Xena smiled at the undisguised desire in the goddess’ eyes. This quickly faded, however, as she realized how hard it was going to be on her to resist those very same things Gabrielle had succeeded in overcoming. Slowly, she peeled off and removed the bard’s clothes. She noticed the braided leather cord around her love’s waist; the one she had painstakingly made for her. Xena had never given one of these to anyone else. Never even considered doing so before. Not before Gabrielle, that is. When their gazes met once again, the tender and hungry look in her true love’s eyes nearly caused Xena to lose the tight rein of control she had on her instincts. She started to reach out towards her lover.

Gabrielle quickly backed away. "Bath first," the goddess commanded. When Xena glanced away, the bard heaved a sigh of relief.

The water was very cool to Gabrielle’s feet, as her lover helped her into the tub. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to sit down in it or not. Yet, the sides of the bronze tub, much colder than the water to the backs of her calves as she moved to back to allow Xena entrance, gave her reason to rethink that first impression. She eased down into the water at one end, her feet pointed in Xena’s direction and directed her love slave with her eyes to do the same. A glance toward the washcloth and bar of soap on the table was enough to send Xena reaching for them both. Gabrielle crossed her legs (Indian style) in front of her and her slave followed suit. The bard inched closer until their legs were lightly touching. Although they’d done this many times before -bathed together- in smaller tubs that forced Xena to be jammed up against Gabrielle’s back, the first touch from the soapy washcloth was nearly enough to send the fantasy into never, never land, as Xena’s hand moved towards the bard’s breast.

Stay in character, Xena, please, Gabrielle silently prayed, closing her eyes.

"You are... very lovely, my goddess," the love slave said.

Gabrielle sighed with relief and opened her eyes. "And so are you my tall, bronze, Amazon beauty."

One dark eyebrow arched skyward and quivered slightly as Xena’s lips twitched, obviously holding back a smile.

When the slave’s hand roamed lower, Gabrielle grabbed it. "Not yet," she commanded on an exhalation and took the washcloth in her own hand. She then rinsed it out and soaped it up again. Knowing she was the goddess, she was quite aware that she could do whatever she wanted to her slave. And intended to do just that. "Lay back," she requested, in a not so subtle tone.

Xena slowly did as she was asked, the cold metal causing her to flinch several times before finally settling back. This had exactly the desired effect Gabrielle intended. Dark brown nipples grew even more taunt and erect. The goddess licked her lips before beginning her task, her knees now jammed against Xena’s, as she leaned forward. The slave’s long arms languidly stretched themselves out along the sides of the tub, a contented sigh escaping her lips as the goddess began her ministrations, starting with her neck.

Working slowly and taking in every sight, sound and scent, Gabrielle inched lower with the cloth. A slight moan issued from her love slave’s lips as she gently caressed and lavishly bathed one firm round breast. Blue eyes opened slowly when she proceeded over to the other one. Their gazes locked and held while Gabrielle massaged the enticing mound of flesh, her thumb and index finger carrying the washcloth back and forth over the erect protrusion they found there, which seemed to grow even harder, if that was possible.

With decidedly long strokes, the goddess moved onto the slave’s midsection. Xena’s eyes slowly shut once again; one corner of the cloth lightly brushing over wet curls with each downward movement.

When Gabrielle paused, one blue eye crept open. Xena found the goddess wetting her lips, then sucking on the lower one, while she stared at her lower abdomen. She smiled to herself at the look of indecision on the bard’s face and closed her eye. "Uh-umph," she moaned as the once indecisive goddess apparently made up her mind to continue. The cloth roamed over her inner thighs, then across her mound and onto the other side. Finishing here, it came back up and pressed against her desire. She opened both eyes this time. The goddess was staring at her now. And continued to do so, as she slowly and gently stroked between her legs. "Oh-h uh-huh," she moaned.

"You like that, hmm?" the goddess inquired, her tone suggesting she liked being in control.

"Umm," the love slave answered.

"There’s more where that came from. But... for now..." Gabrielle left the rest unsaid, as she removed the cloth and rinsed it out.

Xena looked up, as the bard held the soaked material over her mound and squeezed the water out, letting it inundate, then trickle down between her legs. The goddess glanced up at her. "Wash my feet now," she said and held out the cloth to Xena.

Gabrielle uncrossed her legs, then propped her left one up on Xena’s knee, the right one soon following suit on the other side. One dark eyebrow slowly arched skyward, as the warrior’s gaze fell to the light brown curls beneath the water, the treasure they normally hid displayed by the bard’s open legs. When she looked up, Gabrielle was staring at her. Dark blue eyes dueled with intense green ones.

"My feet," the goddess said simply, wiggling her toes.

Xena hesitated, pursing her lips. It was obvious Gabrielle was enjoying her new found power and intended to use it to full advantage, by depriving the warrior of what she obviously wanted. It’s her birthday, remember? Xena reminded herself. Do things her way, she told herself. For now, at least.

The mutual foot washing consisted of lots of soap, massaging, and intense eye contact, but few words. By the time they were through, both had such clean feet that they hesitated before putting them on the floor. Gabrielle grabbed the cloth, squeezed out the water and spread it out on the floor for them. Xena got out first, Gabrielle right behind her. They were standing so close that each could feel the other’s breath upon their own skin.

The goddess then reached for a towel, which she handed over to the love slave. "You may dry me off now," she announced.

When Xena went down on one knee, drying off the goddess’ legs, her eyes were first drawn to the braided cord around her lover’s waist. She liked the way this looked. She’d always wanted to give Gabrielle something she could wear to signify they were together. It wasn’t until she was making arrangements with Lokesha, an Amazon seamstress, for the bard’s outfit and her own, that Eponin had reminded her about the belts. Xena had set about making it that very day, knowing she’d have to keep it hidden from Gabrielle, which meant little time to work on it. Yet, she was determined that the bard would have one.

And she knew now it had been more than worth it; for, it fit perfectly across her little goddess’ hips, the weight of the beads pulling it down slightly in front, putting it nearly halfway between belly button and her love’s curly dark blonde tresses. Xena’s gaze now strayed to the damp aforementioned area. The aroma was enticing. And she was so close she could easily have flicked out her tongue and tasted her lover’s juices. She glanced up at Gabrielle, who was watching her, intently. Xena could see the desire in her lover’s eyes. Then suddenly the bard reached over and grabbed the other towel. She quickly draped it over Xena’s shoulders, then bent over, rubbing it over her back. That mass of blonde curls was now pressed against the side of Xena’s face. She could feel the heat and longed to stroke her tongue across the hot little ember of passion she knew was nestled within those damp folds. The very first touch of her lips against the bard’s thigh, got an immediate reaction, but not the one she wanted.

Gabrielle raised up and stepped back. One hand came around and lifted Xena’s chin. "St-Stand up," the goddess stammered her command, then cleared her throat. "I need to get to the rest of your body." Xena reluctantly complied. "Oh, but you are a great beauty," the goddess continued, moving the towel over the love slave’s frontal nudity. She bent her knees, working her way down, her mouth coming as close as possible to Xena’s breast without actually touching it. She blew upon the engorged protrusion there. Xena moaned. Gabrielle smiled and proceeded on down.

As the goddess had done to her, Xena put her towel over Gabrielle’s shoulders and bent over drying her back. Unlike with her, however, the goddess was obviously expecting this; for, the love slave soon found warm air blowing over her desire. Then a skilled tongue stroked her passion and fed the fire inside her loins, which burst into flames. "Oh-huh-huh," she shuddered.

Gabrielle raised up slowly, staying as close to Xena as she could without any physical contact. "Go over to the bed and wait for me," the goddess requested in a deep sultry tone.

Xena did as she was told, pulling the freshly washed sheet back -for later- and stretching out on her back. She could hear Gabrielle seemingly rambling around in her bag, though her back was to her, so she could not see what the bard was doing. Xena closed her eyes and relived that one delicious tongue-lashing.

Several moments later, the goddess came over to the warrior’s side of the bed. She dropped something on the floor, before parting the veil and sitting down beside Xena. "I... I made this on the way back from India," the bard explained, obviously stepping out of character, as she opened her hand to reveal a black leather mask of some sort. "I knew we’d be stopping here and... well, I didn’t know you had this planned, but... I hoped you would... let me use this."

"What is it?" Xena asked, starting to reach out for it.

"Uh-uh." Gabrielle closed her hand and drew back. "You... are my love slave, remember?" She paused for a moment, as if waiting for Xena’s reaction. "I want you to wear this." She then opened her hand and let the mask fall out, catching it by the cord.

Xena could now see it had no eye holes for seeing through it. "You want me... blindfolded?" she asked, a bit incredulously.

Gabrielle’s eyes narrowed. "I demand that you be blindfolded, my slave," she said, in a goddess like tone, although she smiled.

Xena pursed her lips. Kinky, she thought, although wondering why Gabrielle wanted this. But, since there were Amazons around and no apparent danger, and then of course she could remove it anytime she wanted, she nodded her acquiescence.

The bard gently put the mask over her eyes and settled it into place. Unlike an ordinary piece of cloth used as a blindfold, this mask Gabrielle had made shut out all light. Xena found herself in total darkness. For a moment, she felt a surge of panic at the loss of her eyesight. Then she remembered how she’d nearly lost it once before (for real) while rescuing Gabrielle from a kidnapper who wanted to make the young bard an already dead king’s, queen so that he could kill her and set himself up as ruler of the kingdom. (Espisode: Blind Faith). That first glimpse of Gabrielle’s face, once Xena’s eyesight had been restored by the Egyptian herb, was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. And the warrior had often remarked how attuned all her other senses had been during this loss of sight. Perhaps the bard wanted her to experience their lovemaking this way, in order to enhance the rest of her senses. Could prove interesting, Xena thought, but sure sounds kinky. Long way from the sweet, innocent bard of yesteryear.

"Now lay back," Gabrielle commanded, the goddess tone returning to her voice. "Let your other senses take over," she added, as her lover laid back.

Xena could feel the bard get up from the bed. She heard the slight rustling sound near her head. Gabrielle was obviously tying back the veils around the bed. Something Xena had thought would be a good idea, since there was no one to worry about disturbing or walking in on them.

Suddenly a memory of the time they’d stayed here, not long after becoming lovers, leaped to mind. They had been in the room at the far end of the hall -the one they had used the previous night- Xena always preferring to be as far away from her mother’s room as possible, in case either of them got a bit loud or overly vociferous. This room was one of four which contained a four-poster bed with veils attached -something that made her mother’s inn quite a cozy little get-away spot for young married couples and older ones alike- the rest were single plain beds, reserved for travelers whose only concern was a night’s lodging and a good meal.

Gabrielle had awaken unusually early that particular morning, to use the chamber pot. She intended to return to bed and was using a washcloth, from the night before, to freshen up a bit. It was at that moment that Cyrene had scratched on the door, having heard Gabrielle moving around and thinking it was Xena. The door had creaked open and the bard had literally flew back to bed, far quicker than she’d anticipated.

Xena nearly laughed out loud at the memory now, for she’d seldom seen Gabrielle move so fast, nor drive so eloquently, as she had that morning.

The thin veils had whooshed apart as the bard’s naked form sailed through the air and she landed face first in her pillow. Xena, who had been awake the whole time, could hardly hold back her laughter, as her mother gasped out, "Oh my, Gabrielle... I’m so sorry. I... I thought Xena was staying in here."

"I... am... Mom," the warrior had answered through her giggles, not caring to hide their relationship. Gabrielle, however, glared up at her. "What do you need... more firewood?" the warrior has asked.

"Uh... yes, I need... um, well, no... uh, never mind, dear, I’ll get it." Cyrene stammered.

"I’ll be there in a moment," Xena said, right before the door closed.

"Umm... You’re smiling, I like that," the goddess said, pulling Xena from her reverie.

The warrior could now feel the bed moving again, as Gabrielle climbed onto it from her usual side. She felt the bard moving closer to her upper body, obviously crawling on her hands and knees. This was a bit unusual, but visions of what Gabrielle might have in mind replaced these thoughts rather quickly, as Xena felt, heard and caught a whiff of one leg crossing over her chest. Oh yeah, she thought, I still get to go first. She spread her arms out in preparation. But, she was wrong about what the bard had in mind.

"Gabrielle, what....?" Xena grumbled, as the bard placed a knee on each arm. Oh-ho, the warrior thought, been here before. Oh yeah!

"Who is Gabrielle?" the goddess’ voice asked haughtily. "You have another lover, my slave? You won’t after tonight."

"Umph," the warrior grunted, then inhaled the enticing aroma so very close to her face. Desire rippled through her body. Just a little bit closer, my love, she thought, Umm, being a love slave could have its advantages.

At least, that’s what she was thinking, until she felt Gabrielle grab one wrist and slip something over it, then quick as lightening, grab the other and do the same.

"What in Tartarus?" Xena gasped, trying to move her hands and feeling the tightening of leather bonds around her wrists.

"Anything I say, remember?" Gabrielle purred, as soft, damp curls brushed Xena’s face.

The scent of her lover’s passion filled the warrior’s olfactory senses and desire flooded through her unbidden, at the moment.

"You’re my love slave, remember?" the goddess reminded, slowly moving her hips back and forth over Xena’s face.

Oh yeah, the warrior thought, she knows exactly what she’s doing to me. The slave growled deep in her throat, then flicked out her tongue.

"Oh-h-h!" the bard shivered, then raised up, moving herself out of range for a moment. "You want this?" she asked, wiggling her hips and slowly easing back into her previous position. "Hmm? Do you?" The warrior jerked against the bonds and raised up, burying her face in the bard’s desire. "Ooo... you’re a hungry little slave, aren’t you?" the goddess cooed, as she eased back, removing her knees from the warrior’s arms.

For the love of Zeus, Xena thought, she’s going to tease me to utter distraction now. I’d bet my last dinar on it. And to her own surprise and amazement, this thought send a shiver of desire through the warrior that was so intense, her toes tingled, as the fiery passion sought various avenues of release.

She moaned in anticipation, feeling Gabrielle’s wet desire brush across her stomach, as the bard moved further down. Two firm breasts suddenly caressed the sides of Xena’s face and she tried her best to latch onto one, but the bard was too quick for her. Gabrielle’s legs inched down the outside of her hips while the firm breasts with their tantalizing erect nipples brushed lightly over her chest. Xena moaned at the delicate stimulation against her own breasts, as well as, the deliberate anticipation her lover had to be aware she was causing, as she moved back and forth, lightly brushing each nipple in turn over the warrior’s own. Great Zeus, what have I let myself in for? Xena wondered. She’s going to drive me absolutely crazy before the night’s over, I just know it.

Gabrielle obviously straightened up, her hands roaming down the warrior’s sides, as she sat back on her haunches, her hips astride Xena’s, her hot desire resting within inches of her lover’s. "Such smooth skin," the goddess purred, her hands moving over the warrior’s stomach. "Such strong, firm muscles." Her legs gripped the sides of Xena’s hips. "I love the feel of you," she added, both hands roaming up and over the warrior’s breasts.

Xena arched her hips slightly, desperate to feel her lover’s wet desire against her own. "Ah-ah-ah, not just yet," the goddess purred, as the warrior felt one leg lift up and cross over her hips. She could sense the bard turning herself around and then the other leg came across her hips only confirming this.

Soft damp curls brushed against the inside of the warrior’s thigh briefly and then she could feel Gabrielle lowering her upper body onto her legs. Firm breasts rubbed against each leg, as hands caressed her ankles. Oh boy, Xena thought, as lips made contact with the top of her foot. No wonder she wanted my feet to be clean. She sucked in air between her teeth making a hissing s-s-s sound, when a warm wet tongue caressed her big toe. Ooo, toe sucking. Yea gods on Mt. Olympus, she is so-o good. "Ah-h-h," she moaned aloud. "Ooo... s-s-s..."she hissed; Gabrielle’s tongue slipping in between the webbing of her big toe.

Xena loved having this done and doing it, and seemingly so did the bard, but they got so few opportunities that it was indeed a rare delicacy in their lovemaking repertoire. "Oh-wum," the warrior pursed her lips and shivered, as a warm mouth completely encompassed her big toe and then began gently sucking. "Umm-umph!" she groaned, wishing she could watch Gabrielle’s lips as they moved up and down. Her mind then conjured up images of those lips ministering to another more needy area. "Oh yes-s-s," she purred, when her lover moved on to the other big toe.

Suddenly it hit Xena what a marvelous view she was missing: the bard bent over, her backside to her and obviously up in the air. "Ump," the warrior whimpered, seeing this in her mind’s eye and wanting it desperately. "Umph-umph-umph," she groaned, when the bard began moving up the inside of one foot now and slowly spreading both legs apart with her hands.

So intent was Xena’s attention on Gabrielle’s ministrations to her toes, feet and ankles, as well as, the sight she was so obviously missing out on, as the bard backed up her body, both breasts rubbing against each leg in turn, that she did not notice until the goddess was finished, straightening up and getting off her, what had actually been done to her in the interim. She was shocked to find her ankles were now bound, as well.

"Oh sweet Hestia," she gasped quietly, as the thought of being powerless to Gabrielle’s every whim ignited a raging inferno within her loins. She had never allowed anyone to put her in this vulnerable nor this helpless a position before. Never, ever, not before Gabrielle, that is. Of course, she was well aware that she could break these bonds -mere thin leather straps- at anytime she so desired. The most exhilarating, revealing and even stimulating part for Xena, however, was that she didn’t want to break them. She trusted Gabrielle that much. And not until this moment had she even realized this.

"Are you uncomfortable?" the goddess asked, from somewhere off to Xena’s left side.

"No," the warrior answered calmly.

"Are you... angry?"

Xena hesitated. "No... I’m not angry. You... captured me... fair and square."

"Hmph," Gabrielle grunted, as she eased down on the side of the bed and placed her hand on Xena’s abdomen. "Would you like to have your eyesight back?"

"Yes... please," Xena added, for emphasis.

Gabrielle reached up and lifted the blindfold slowly. Green eyes stared into dark blue ones that were adjusting to the light. "I’d rather see your eyes," she said, gently removing the blindfold altogether and carelessly tossing it aside. "Have I told you you’re the most beautiful creature I’ve ever laid eyes on?"

"Not... in so many words," the love slave admitted.

The goddess’ eyes narrowed. "Well, you are." Her left hand reached over and stroked down Xena’s bound arm. "I love touching you." She trailed her hand over the warrior’s armpit. "Love the smell of you," she added, leaning over and skimming the tip of her nose across the area her hand had just stroked. She then flicked out her tongue and savored the salty flavor.

Xena groaned and whimpered almost simultaneously, her thoughts torn between hoping she didn’t smell bad already and loving Gabrielle for doing something so utterly unnecessary and yet downright arousing.

"There’s no place on your lovely body that I wouldn’t want to savor the taste of," the goddess murmured, as green eyes met blue again.

Gabrielle slowly maneuvered herself around, until she was laying on her side, propped up on one elbow next to her love slave. Her index finger trailed over Xena’s stomach, her eyes never losing contact with the mesmerizing blue orbs in front of her. "Do you have any idea what I want to do to you?" she queried.

Xena hesitated, not sure how she should answer this. Then she slowly shook her head. The goddess’ hand dropped lower, her index finger circling above the warrior’s mound. "None at all?" the goddess prodded moving closer, her body now lightly touching the slave’s.

Xena still wasn’t sure how to answer, since much of what had been going on was improvisation. She’d never let Gabrielle get much further with her fantasy, than removing their clothes and getting into bed, because that’s usually where Xena stepped out of character and took control. And she wanted to do so now, as well. She wanted to end this sweet torture with pleasurable release and probably would have done so out of pure instinct, if not for being tied down.

Xena also knew that Gabrielle wanted something different and deserved to have things her way, at least for one night. And she could only assume at this point, from the way the bard was acting and the questions she was asking, that what she wanted was for Xena to beg her to make love to her. It seemed the goddess fully intended to tease and arouse her slave until she burned red hot with need and desire. And Xena wasn’t about to disappoint her at this stage of the game. So, she finally shook her head in the negative.

"I see." The goddess’ finger trailed up her side and lightly circled one breast again and again, drawing imminently closer and closer to her nipple with each increasingly smaller circle, while she leaned over, her breath washing over this same area.

Xena’s eyes rolled skyward, feeling the bard’s hot breath upon the sensitive protrusion. The latter of which felt as if it were straining to rise up far enough to meet the goddess’ lips. Gabrielle was so close now that Xena could tell her mouth was open, for she could feel the hot dampness upon her receptively stimulated skin. Do it, she silently prayed, her nipple aching with need to be touched, licked and sucked. Please Gabrielle! She arched her upper body towards the open mouth above it.

The goddess drew back, her lips merely grazing the very tip. "Uh-Umph," Xena groaned and closed her eyes. She... is going to drive me out of mind with wanting her!

"What was that?" the goddess queried. "Is there something you want from me?"

Xena settled back on the bed, nibbling her lip. Should she say it or not? She’d never begged for this in her whole entire life!

For the love of Zeus, she thought, feeling Gabrielle raise up and straddle her hips. "Look at me," the goddess demanded, mere inches from the slave’s face now. Xena opened her eyes slowly. The bard parted her lips, as if she meant to kiss her. Xena eagerly reciprocated, her own mouth gaping open. Gabrielle merely flicked her tongue over the warrior’s bottom lip.

Xena growled deep in her throat. "Give me your lips," she demanded.

Gabrielle straightened up, her wet desire coming in contact with the warrior’s stomach, as she said, "Looks like someone forget who’s in charge around here tonight."

Xena’s eyes narrowed, her temper and frustration about to get the better of her. She closed her eyes again.

"You have to ask for what you want, my slave," the goddess reminded in a soft, calm tone. "You give no commands here. Now... what was that you wanted?" Xena bit her lip. "Hmph, I see you didn’t want that after all, hmm?" Gabrielle trailed one finger from the slave’s lips to her chin.

This finger then continued down the warrior’s neck and over her upper torso, until it reached the bard’s damp desire, perched upon the warrior’s stomach. Gabrielle deliberately let the remaining fingers rub against the slave’s skin, while she stroked her own desire, not once, but twice. The warrior’s eyes flew open when she realized what her lover was doing. Green eyes stared into blue, as the goddess slowly pulled her hand away. Decidedly slow and without breaking eye contact, the bard offered this finger up to the slave’s lips. Xena’s eyes instantly lit up.

"You want this?" the goddess purred. The warrior nodded. "Then ask me for it."

Xena hesitated, not sure exactly what to say. "P-Please," she stammered.

"Ah-h, that’s one of the magic words," the goddess cooed, placing her finger upon the slave’s lips. The warrior quickly drew this appendage into her mouth. "Now, that wasn’t so hard... umm..." The goddess paused as her slave sucked eagerly. "... now was it?"

Xena shook her head in the negative, though she did narrow her eyes a bit; her mind handing her a mental image of how she’d like to tease Gabrielle in return.

The goddess moved closer now. "Wasn’t there something about... my lips?" she questioned, as she removed her finger from Xena’s mouth. "Hmm?" she prodded.

Xena did not answer right away, because Gabrielle’s breast was rubbing against her own. "Oh yes-s... your lips, my goddess... p-please... I need them."

"Is that right?" Gabrielle placed a hand on each side of Xena’s head, hovering over her, while she rearranged her legs. Xena’s eyes fell to the jiggling breast not far away. "And where do you want my lips?" the goddess inquired, settling herself between the warrior’s thighs.

"Umm," Xena moaned, their bodies finally coming into full contact; Gabrielle’s breasts pressing against her own. "All... over," she breathed, then added for good measure, "Please."

"Oh yeah," the goddess purred and finally attacked the slave’s lips.

Xena tugged against the bonds around her wrists, desiring to put her arms around Gabrielle and feel the soft skin, as well as, press their bodies closer together. She settled instead for moving her lips against the goddess’ and savoring every sweet, tongue-tantalizing flavor of the bard’s mouth.

"Umm," the goddess moaned. Xena’s lower lip was caressing hers as only the warrior could, making these membranes throb and pulse for more of the same. She felt herself falling out of character; her own desire white hot with need. And she was soon moving with Xena to that oh so familiar rhythm. She suddenly broke away. "By the gods! Are you as hot as I am?" she breathed against her lover’s cheek.

"Blazin’" Xena murmured, writhing beneath her. "I ne-ed you, Gabrielle," she added. "Let me loose and I’ll show you just how much."

"Uh-uh," the bard countered. "I need to have you exactly the way I want you tonight. And I want you... helpless to overpower me."

Xena groaned, as Gabrielle’s hand moved down between their bodies. She gasped as the bard stroked her desire.

"By the gods!" Gabrielle exclaimed, encountering the overly abundant slickness.

"Yes-s!" Xena hissed, the bard’s fingers easily penetrating her aching desire. "Unh-unh," she groaned, when these appendages abruptly withdrew. She turned to look at her lover, wondering why on earth she was stopping now.

Gabrielle raised up slightly, staring into Xena’s dark blue passion-filled depths. She could see the warrior’s need and desire clearly, as well as, her confusion. She raised her soaked fingers to her own lips and set about licking them clean.

"Awch! Sweet Zeus!" Xena growled deep in her throat, watching every stroke of the bard’s tongue. "Do it, Gabrielle and quit... talking about it!"

"Do what?" the bard asked innocently.

Xena tugged against her bonds and growled, sounding like a hungry animal. What does she want from me? she wondered. Magic words... what magic words? Suddenly, Xena verbally exploded. "Take me, Gabrielle... Please! Right here, right now!" she exclaimed, saying anything that popped into her head. "I am your slave, my goddess. Please Gabrielle, please, I need you to f....." Wet fingers clamped down over her mouth before she could finish.

"Oh yes, my slave. Those are the magic words and I will indeed take you," Gabrielle purred, as she replaced her fingers with her lips. The still wet appendages quickly moved back down to the slick folds they had so rudely and reluctantly left.

Her lips soon followed suit.

The first stroke of the bard’s talented tongue, coupled with the slow thrusting movement of her fingers, sent Xena’s hip arching into the air. The bonds around her ankles, however, hindered her movements and prevented her from wrapping them around the bard’s shoulders, the way she preferred. Gotta go! the warrior thought.

Gabrielle was stunned when Xena belted out her attack cry, "She-e-ya!" and broke both bonds almost simultaneously. "Don’t stop!" the warrior growled, then quickly corrected with, "Please don’t stop, Gabrielle. Take me... the way only you can."

These words added Greek fire to a nearly all-consuming inferno in the bard’s belly. She attacked her lover’s desire as if she sought to consume her whole. Long, muscular, warrior thighs wrapped around her shoulders.

"Yes, Gabrielle yes-s!!! By the gods, yes!!! Oh-h-oh... Gab-bri-elle!!!!" Xena exclaimed, loud enough for anyone in the inn to hear. For the bard, however, the sounds were a bit muffled by muscular thighs surrounding her ears and pressing tightly.

"Oh please," Xena breathed, as her lover stilled her movements. "Please... don’t..." She swallowed audibly. "...don’t stop. Do... do that thing... you sometimes do after... Oh yeah-h... uh-huh... uh-huh-huh... that’s it." The warrior’s voice and legs quivered, as the bard continued to feast upon the sweet nectar dripping from her lover’s desire. "Oh yes, my goddess, there’ll never be... another one for me. No one could ever... compare to you," she added breathlessly.

"You do know... all the magic words, my beautiful love slave," Gabrielle murmured against her lover’s desire. "Whatever you want... it’s yours."

"Umm-ah-h... then turn around, my lovely little goddess and... please don’t stop what you’re doing."

The bard complied with this request. And it wasn’t long before she was on her hands and knees screaming out Xena’s name. When she could take no more of the warrior’s ministrations, she started to relax, easing forward in order to lay down.

Long arms suddenly wrapped around her waist. "Xe-na, how’d... No, Xena, I can’t... wait... Xena please... oh yea gods! Zeus in his heaven! Xe-na, Ooo... oh.. oh... oh-h-h-h!!!" The bard sang out as she ascended the heights of Mt. Olympus and beyond for the second time. Her legs went completely limp now, as did her arms. Undaunted, Xena held her hips up and plunged deep, as if she did not want to waste even one drop.

Xena finally heard the sniffles coming from her lover, who was laid out on top of her, obviously spent and exhausted. "Gabrielle... what is it? Did I hurt you?" Concern was evident in the warrior’s voice. "I’m sorry if..."

"Sh-h," the bard said against the inside of the warrior’s thigh. "You... didn’t... hurt me, at all."

"Then please, cum’mere," the warrior requested. "Let me hold..."

"I can’t... move!" Gabrielle squeaked. "I’m... too weak to... do anything, but... cry-y."

Xena gently rolled her lover off her and onto her back, then she joined her at the foot of the bed, easing over next to her. "Are you sure I didn’t hurt...?"

"Oh-no-o," Gabrielle uttered, and burst into sobs, tears springing from her eyes.

"By the gods! I did hurt you. Oh Gabrielle, I’m so sorry, I never meant to..."

"No, Xena!" the bard cried out. "Hol-ld me-e!"

"Of course, whatever you want," Xena responded, feeling selfish and guilty from head to toe, as she reached over and pulled Gabrielle into her arms. "I’m so very sorry, love, I..."

"Don’t be!" the bard squeaked and shook with the force of her sobs.

"But, Gabrielle, if I..."

It took all the strength she had left, but the bard managed to reach up and put her fingers to Xena’s lips. "Sh-h-h, please Xena... for once... I’m asking you... to please be quiet."

The warrior was a bit stung by these words, but she complied with them just the same, and merely took the bard’s fingers and kissed them lightly, while Gabrielle sobbed into her shoulder.

It took a few moments before the tears subsided. Xena waited patiently, kicking herself all the while for selfishly ruining what seemed to have been a wonderful fantasy come true for her lover.

"You... you didn’t hurt me, Xena," Gabrielle finally explained, as she raised up and rolled over on top of the warrior in order to be that much closer. "Not at all, my... wonderful lover." She laid her head back down on Xena’s shoulder, her lips against the warrior’s neck. "I just... I don’t know... what came over me or... exactly why I was crying so hard, I... I just felt so... felt so loved, so... much like we were... a part of one another." The tears flowed again, though more slowly and with less intensity this time. "I... I love you, Xena... with all my heart... and soul. Don’t ever... leave me... please, ‘cuz it... it would kill me, I know it would!"

"Oh-h Gabrielle..." Xena’s voice cracked. Tears were in her eyes as well now, her heart bursting at the seams with love for this blonde bundle of joy in her arms. "I could never... ever leave you, Gabrielle. I’d... I’d move heaven and earth, if I could... to be with you. You’re my source... my strength... You are my heart, my soul, Gabrielle. Not just a part of them... you are these things for me."

Tears flowed like water, as the two lovers held each other close, their emotional emissions mixing together and forming a small wet splotch on the sheet beneath. Neither woman noticed this splotch as it magically took the shape of heart.

"I didn’t know that could... happen twice," Gabrielle said, a while later.

"Um-hmm, now you know what you do to me when you... linger," Xena commented.

"Oh, so that’s why you didn’t want me to stop."

"We-ell, it doesn’t happen every time, but... it feels good having you... stick around. Makes me feel..." the warrior paused, pursing her lips.

"Makes you feel... how?" the bard prodded, when she did not continue.

"Like... you really want me, ya know. That... you’re not just doing it because you know I like it or... want it, but because you want me."

"Xena, I always want you, believe me. If I could climb inside you and become one with you right this very moment, I’d gladly to do so."

"Sounds kinky," the warrior quipped.

"You know what I mean." Gabrielle popped her lover on the hip.

"Ooo! What comes next after... tying me up, hmm? You gonna break out the whips and chains now?"

"Nawh, you’d like that too much. And besides, your mother would have to answer some pretty hard questions from the neighbors. Like... what’s she running here an Inn or a lesbian brothel."

"What was that... ? Did you say lesbian?"

"Uh... yeah, I did."

"Gabrielle, neither one of us is from Lesbos."

"I know that, but... Menya told me this is what people call all women who... love other women. That’s what she meant that day when she said she and Paulina were thes-bians. Remember she mispronounced the word? It was supposed to be thes-pians."

"Uh-huh, but what’s Lesbos got to do with you and me and... what we share, hmm?"

"They say Sappho, the great poet, she was... like us and... so the women who follow her... ways and stuff, they call Lesbians."

"Hmph. Looks like they’d call’em Sapphonians or somethin’," the warrior commented. Gabrielle merely shrugged. "Well... I’m not one of her followers and neither are you, that I know of," Xena continued, pausing here a moment. "I never even met the woman, much less read anything she wrote. So, I don’t think I wanna be labeled something I’m not."

"Well, Xena, what would you call us?" Gabrielle queried softly.

"I’d call you Gabrielle, talented bard... lover... and my little minx."

Gabrielle smiled. "And yourself?"

"Name’s Xena, with an X . X-E-N-A to be exact." She traced the letters across the bard’s chest.

"Some people call you the Warrior Princess," the bard noted.

"Uh-huh and others just call me... bad news." Xena arched one dark eyebrow playfully. "Of course, someone once called me a... pretty fair kisser."

"I said awesome," Gabrielle corrected, running her fingers over the warrior’s lips.

"Oh, was that it?" Xena smirked. "Then again... there’s this sexy little goddess I know and..." The warrior’s hands roamed over the bard’s bare buttocks, "she just calls me her love slave."

Gabrielle blushed slightly, then placed her hand on Xena’s cheek. "And when she calls you, you always come, don’chu?"

"Oh yes, most definitely," the warrior assured, as her face moved closer to her lover’s. "That sexy little goddess, um-hm... she just keeps me coming and going and... going and coming..."

The End

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