Her, Me, Us Series


Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and Argo two don't belong to me. They belong to the others. To universal and co. I just rent them out to play with them for a while. All the other characters in this story do belong to me though. As is this story which may not be copied in any part without the author's permission!

Subtext: There is nothing like subtext. This is a maintext story. Even though you are free to put as much subtext into my story as you want.

Sex warning: Yes, this story deals with the loving relationship between two adult women who are more than just friends. Don't like it? Don't read it. Not old enough? Don't read it – yet.

Author's note: This story is the second entry in the HER, ME, US – SERIES. (1
st entry: „When she awakens“) You don't need to read the first part to understand this story because they are not really linked that much. Her, me, us stands for the type of writing I'm using in those stories: her- the story is written in the third person by a narrator; me – the story is written out of the view from one of the main characters; us – the story is written out of both their views, each in turn. The Her and Me forms have been used in this story!

Another note: Thanx to my wonderful girlfriend for editing yet another story for me. Love you, honey!

Please email me useful criticism about this or any other of my stories or just to tell me that you read my story. Thanx! (Seska. Roc@gmx.de)

I awake some hours later. The sun has already climbed up over the top of the trees. She's laying curled up against me, one arm and one leg posessively thrown over me. I can't see her face because her head is resting on my chest. But I know each of her beautiful features by heart. I have a picture of her in my mind. It never leaves me. She can be miles away, but still the picture of her will stay with me. In my mind. In my heart. That way she's never really far away. No matter how big the distance between us is.

I know for sure that she has this relaxed smile on her face. Like always when she's asleep. I wish I knew what posesses her mind at this moment. What is it that she's dreaming about? Maybe me?

I place a gentle kiss on top of her head. As an answer she moves even closer into me. Unconciously fitting to me. We never had a problem with this. As if our bodies were made for each other. We will always find that exact position that allows us to be as close as possible. Is that a proof that we are meant to be together? I don't know. But I don't mind because I know for sure that we are one. Will always be.

I feel a small smile spread over my face. Having her in my arms is the most wonderful thing on earth. There is no other place I'd rather be. For eternity. I am so thankful that I am allowed to be the one. That I am the one who completes her. And I am thankful for the day we both realised that there was no other way for us. It took us long enough.

I have to silently laugh at the memories of us moving around each other, in that dance of wanting but not daring to. Moving closer to each other. But never touching. We both, in all those years since we met, had been much too afraid to take the first step. To maybe risk our friendship. Until in the end our destinies pulled us together anyway. As it was meant to be.

It had been after Hope. After we had killed her and her son. The joy of having my bard back had been overshadowed by the fear of how our relationship was now. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if the rift between us was so big that we couldn't close it anymore. But even back then I never doubted for a second what I had said outside the barn. I knew even back then for sure that she was and is my way. And I didn't care wherever destiny took us. As long as we could go there together. And I was ready to do anything in my power to get that closeness back that we had shared before. Even though I had never done anything about it or even had told her, I knew I loved her. More than just a friend. So much that the time without her was like going through Tartarus and back. Now that I had her back, all I wanted to do was to be with her, to be close to her. To consume what we had missed in all that time.

Even though I didn't know exactly what she was feeling for me, I realised that she must have felt the same need to be alone with me, to properly reunite with me. Because the same night we killed Hope and the Deliverer, she had asked me if we could leave as soon as possible. Maybe the next morning already. I had been surprised that she didn't want to stay with her family for longer. But I had immediately agreed anyway. And so after saying our goodbyes the next morning to her family and friends, we had headed out onto the road again....

They had been on their way for some time already, Xena on Argo and Gabrielle walking some paces behind, neither saying a word, when Xena reined her horse in and turned in the saddle to look at Gabrielle. The bard was some paces behind her, her head hanging, seemingly deep in thought. She only looked up when she realised Xena was waiting for her. Raising her brows in question she stopped beside Argo.
For a long time both women just looked at each other. Xena felt a sudden deep yearning in her soul to reach out and hold her friend. And to maybe somehow get those pained eyes to shine with joy again. She had missed Gabrielle so much it broke her heart. But now she was back. Very alive and very healthy.

A small smile played around Gabrielle's lips when she looked in the warriors concerned eyes. Xena looked so lovingly at her that all the pain and fear of the last few months seemed to just fade away. Only to be replaced by that old feeling of love and desire to be close to the dark woman. The young woman didn't understand what was going on with her whenever those feelings took a hold of her or where they came from, but all that mattered at the moment was, that she was back again. Back with Xena. Her friend. Her home.
Holding her staff in her left hand, she placed her other one on the saddle beside the warrior's leg.


When she heard her name, Xena broke their connected gazes and blinked. It had been there. She had felt it just as strong as before. Maybe even deeper. This pure love that warmed her heart whenever Gabrielle was near. There seemed to be a fire radiating from where the bard touched the saddle. And she wanted this fire to consume her. Forever.
Realising that her companion was waiting for a sign of acknowledgement, she swallowed hard and pulled herself together. She flashed a smile at Gabrielle.

”Wanna join me up here?”

Xena indicated the place behind her, expectantly looking down at her friend. She just had to feel Gabrielle near again. She had wanted it since they had met in the forest yesterday. But all the stuff going on arond them and the fact that Gabrielle's parents protectively stuck around the bard for every second, had made it too hard to fulfill her wish. They had even slept in different rooms during the night. Now, though, they were alone on the road again...

The bard answered with a shy smile, shaking her head no.

”I'm...I think I feel better stretching my legs for a bit, if you don't mind, Xena.”

The warrior felt her heart sink. So, Gabrielle wasn't as interested in closing the gap between them as she had hoped? Was that what her refusal meant? Xena nodded and turned her head away from the bard, too afraid that her face showed her disappointment. She was just about to give Argo the sign to resume her slow pace when Gabrielle spoke again.

”But maybe you could walk with me for a bit, Xena?”

The bard was playing with one of the saddle straps, avoiding her friend's eyes.

Not waiting for a second invitation, Xena slid off her horse and came to stand beside Gabrielle. The young woman still didn't look at her, but she could see the happy smile spread from her lips all over her face. Xena bent her head to be able to look into sea green eyes.

”You okay?” she gently asked.

As an answer a light blush crept up over the bard's cheeks. With her head still bent she looked up into the warrior's eyes.

”Sure. Why are you asking?”

”Oh, just checking.”

Xena reached out and gently squeezed the bard's shoulder. Gabrielle turned her eyes away from the taller woman and stared at the hand on her shoulder.

As if nothing ever happened, as if they had never been seperated a single touch of the warrior could still take away her breath and make her heart beat faster. And she didn't miss the sudden tingle in her stomach. Gabrielle never wanted this feeling to end. Deep down in her heart she felt as if something was pulling her to Xena. Making her wish that Xena's touch would never leave her. Making her desire to be enclosed in the strong arms and feel the comforting warmth of the older woman. It scared her to feel this way about her best friend and to not know what Xena would say if she knew about how she felt. But the last months of feeling so cold and alone without her friend pushed the fear to the back of her mind.

Letting the strap on the saddle go, Gabrielle layed her own hand onto Xena's and gently squeezed it. Then she traced the outline of it with a single finger watching her finger slide over the dark skin.

”I missed you, Xena. I missed you a lot.”

Her voice still sounded so shy and fragile that it broke the warriors heart. In pure instinct to offer her friend some kind of comfort, Xena reached out for her and pulled her into a tight yet gentle hug. The bard immediately threw her arms around Xena's neck holding on to the warrior as if for dear life. A sob escaped her mouth and she tightened her hold on her friend.
This was what she wanted. What she had missed so much. This felt so right. To be close to Xena again. This was the place she wanted to be. Her home. Standing in the taller womans arms, gave her a feeling of security and love she had never been able to imagine possible. Gabrielle didn't know what it was that made her lose herself in the warriors embrace, but she didn't have the power to question it. She just wanted to feel it forever and never miss it again.

Xena tightened their hug as well and murmurred words of reassurance into the bard's ear to quieten her down.

”I missed you too, Gabrielle. But now it's okay. Everything is okay. I am here. And we both are together. It's okay.”
She stroked over the bard's back and squeezed her gently.

”I was so afraid, Xena. I thought I would never see you again when you didn't answer to my letters. I thought something might have happened to you.”

Another sob and Gabrielle burried her face in the warrior's raven hair.
Xena couldn't believe her ears. She felt a deep pang in her soul at what Gabrielle had said. The bard had been laying in that hospice, wounded and fighting with death and still she had worried about her and had feared for the warriors safety.

”Oh, Gabrielle.”

The taller woman placed a soft kiss on top of the blonde head and leaned a bit back to be able to look in the bard's eyes.

”I never got any word about where you were. I was searching everywhere for you. I knew you were still alive and just couldn't give up. Never, Gabrielle, never!”

Gabrielle looked up at Xena with tearful eyes.

”I am so sorry, Xena. I mean...I shouldn't have doubted you.”

A single tear ran over the bard's cheek but before she could wipe it away the warrior caught it with her fingertip and looked at it as if in wonder.

”Now hush, Gabrielle. How should you have known?”

”But you believed in me, You knew I was still alive.”

<<Yes, becaue of Alti. Because she showed me our future!<< Xena's mind screamed, but she kept silent. This wasn't the place, nor the time to reveal this secret.
Gabrielle took Xena's hand, ending the warrior's study of her wet fingertip, and squeezed it.

”I am sorry for thinking that you wouldn't come back for me. Wouldn't search for me anymore.”

Xena shook her head and pulled the bard back into a tight hug.

”Nonsense. It's okay. Everything is okay now.”

She placed a nother kiss on top of the head nestled on her shoulder. Xena inhaled the bard's sweet scent, closing her eyes as a wave of desire mixed with fear of losing her again washed over her.

They stood like this for it seemed an eternity, holding on to each other as if letting go would mean the other one would fade away. Then Xena slowly pulled back. She held the bard's face gently in her hands and looked deeply into the green eyes.

Gabrielle leaned her face into the warriors warm palm, closing her eyes. Moving forward Xena placed a soft kiss on Gabrielle's forehead, allowing her lips to linger a bit longer than necessary. The younger woman sighed deeply and placed her hands on the warrior's wrists. squeezing them.

”Please promise me one thing though, Gabrielle.”

Xena whispered her voice breaking from the emotions. She moved her lips to first the bard's right then left cheek dropping featherlight kisses on each.

”Anything, Xena.”

Gabrielle's hold on the warrior's wrists had tightened at the feeling of warm lips on her skin. The tingling in her stomach had intensified and she felt a deep heat rush over her whole body, only to settle between her legs. She bit her lip as to not moan out loud.

”Promise me to never disappear on me like that again.”

Gabrielle chuckled at the warriors words, so similar to what she had made her friend promise when she had come back from death to her. The young woman opened her eyes when she felt Xena's lips leave her cheek. Blue eyes met green and Gabrielle's chuckle faded away. She moved one hand and placed it on the warriors cheek, stroking the delicate skin with her thumb. It always surprised her just how soft Xena's skin felt under her touch and with sudden desire she wondered if the rest of the magnificent body felt the same. She didn't doubt it for a second.

The bard's heart seemed to stop for a beat and resume in double speed when she saw the warrior starting to lean forward. Gabrielle wasn't sure what Xena had in mind, but she suddenly realised how much she wanted and needed to feel those lips on hers. It took her only a second to understand what that meant and a quick wave of fear about her own feelings washed over her threatening to take a hold of her whole body. Then she looked into Xena's eyes. They betrayed how nervous the warrior was as well. But exactly that made Gabrielle nearly faint with excitement. She felt her knees weakening when Xena looked away from her eyes and focused on her mouth. The young woman licked suddenly dry lips and tilted her head up just a tiny bit.

Xena was now so close that their breathe mixed and she could almost taste the warrior on her lips. Gabrielle closed her eyes.

A sudden loud Shreek, two black birds shooting out of the forest on their left and right over their heads and an in shock jumping Argo destroyed what might have been.

Xena hit the ground hard when her horse jumped into them, knocking them flat onto their backs with Gabrielle right on top of her. All that was left of Argo was a big cloud of dust.
The warrior cursed under her breath and looked at the stunned bard on top of her. Gabrielle cursed and looked at the surprised warrior under her. They both grimaced at each other and then suddenly burst out laughing about the condition they were in: laying on the ground in the middle of the road, the warrior's backside hurting from the sudden fall and Gabrielle landing on top of her and the falling dust from Argos' hurried escape settling down around and unfortunately on them......

A bird's call in the far distance snaps me out of my thoughts. A small shudder runs over me as I remember how close I had come back then to kiss my best friend. And I wonder how things would have changed, would have went different if we had shared our secrets back then. Would she have been ready to take that step then already? I look at my companion, who has rolled onto her side, my arm trapped under her face like a pillow. My eyes see the small shiver run over her body and I turn to look at the fire that has slowly died away through the morning. I guess we have been too occupied with other things to take care of that. I grin.

Then I decide, since I am awake now anyway, I could get up and bring the flames back to life. But getting up is a hard task, when a blond head is using your arm as a headrest. My breath moves her strands as I lean in closer and blow gently into her hair. A deep protesting groan is my answer. I chuckle at how responive my bard is. Even in sleep.

Well, even if it indeed is hard to get up, over the years I learned some ways of extracting myself from my bard's clasp. And so I have no excuse to stay laying down any longer. A heavy sigh accompanies me as I roll her carefully out of my arms and onto our blanket. I push her bag that she normally uses as a pillow under her head and use my own blanket to keep her warm.

That task finished I force myself to get up and stretch. It must be close to midday by now, judging from how far up the sun is already. Rolling my head around to get the stiffness out, I trot over to where we placed some dry wood. There isn't much left of it. Simply because we hadn't really planned in staying here any longer than to rest for the night. But things came differently I tell myself with a smirk. Not that I mind in that case.

I gather the few sticks and put them onto the fire using the last embers to bring the flames back to life. Soon a comforting warmth streams out from the burning wood. Taking a look around, my eyes fall back onto my companion. And I realise that she will be hungry when she wakes up. Maybe some gentle work out in the form of hunting will do me some good, I muse as I pick up my sword and chakram. Will it be a rabbit this time? Or something bigger. The forest will answer my question soon enough I decide as I step into the trees surrounding us. Going out to hunt has always been one of my favorites. Simply because you can let your mind wander so easily free while you search for an animal's track.....

Gabrielle was the first to recover from their little accident. Sitting up to straddle the warrior's hips she chuckled and wiped some dust off the warrior's cheek only to make matters worse. She smirked at the tall woman under her.

”I suppose someone needs a wash tonight.”

”Oh, yeah? And who would that someone happen to be?”

”I think maybe a certain warrior princess who has just been knocked onto her ass by her own horse.”

<<A fairly sexy ass, by the way.>> Gabrielle thought. She blinked in surprise at where her mind took her and prayed that she wasn't blushing. She winked at her friend and poked her in the chest.

”That would be your first guess, I suppose. But what about a...:” mimmicking the bard's voice, Xena poked Gabrielle in the chest as well, ”...certain bard who decided that a dust bath on the ground, on top of a warrior would do her some good?”

<<Not that I mind the ”on top of a warrior” part of it.>> Xena's mind finished, grinning inwardly.

Looking down at her own dusty cloths, arms and hands, Gabrielle shot Xena a not so bemused smile and got to her feet. Padding her clothes, she tried to get rid of the dirt.

”Well, that certain bard would be very thankful for a bath if that certain warrior princess, who is by the way still flat on her ass, could maybe provide her with one.”

Xena's eyes flashed and she jumped to her feet. She padded Gabrielle's back off.

”As the bard's luck may be, the NOT on her ass anymore warrior, indeed can provide a bath. Or at least something close to a bath.”

She playfully slapped Gabrielle's butt and then suddenly shot past her friend sticking her tongue out at the bard.

”Of course only if her bard will get going today!” she called over her shoulder, winking at her.

Gabrielle watched the tall form speed off, rubbed her backside and murmurred under her breath.
”Her bard, hm, Xena?”

She picked up her staff when she heard Xena calling from the distance.
”Come on, bard! Don't be so lame! Or do you find your new dusty look so endearing to leave it on forever??”

Little did Gabrielle know that the warrior did find it kind of endearing. Especially with some interesting pictures of how to get the dirt off the bard's naked body flashing in her mind.
Gabrielle shook her head and then ran after her friend who had disappeared from her view at a curve in the road ahead of her. When she reached the spot where she had seen her companion last, she stopped and looked around. Since she didn't find any trace of Xena she called out.
”Xena? Where are you?”

Still nothing. Gabrielle slowly started walking again, holding her staff with both hands at the ready.

”Xena!! Come on, that is not funny!”

The green eyes darted around nervously, trying to locate her friend.

”Please don't do that, Xena! Xeeeenaaaa!!???!!”

Suddenly Gabrielle felt two arms enclose her from behind and strong, yet gentle hands clamp over her mouth. She nearly dropped her staff in surprise but the stranger caught it and pressed it against her body tigthly. She felt herself being pulled deeply into the forest.

”Sh, it's me, Gabrielle.”

Xena whispered amused into the bard's ear beside her lips. She slowly stopped and let her friend go. Gabrielle whirled around, her eyes shooting daggers at the warrior. She slapped her in the stomach, hissing angrily.

”Xena! You scared the hell out of me! Are you totally mad or what?! How could you do that to me! I can't believe it!”

Gabrielle ignored the quick flash of hurt that washed over Xena's face and pulled her hand back for another slap into the warrior's midrift and prepared for some more scolding. She had been so afraid because Xena had suddenly been gone. And then the sudden attack from behind. It hadn't been funny. Not at all. regardless what the warrior thought!

Xena caught Gabrielle's hand before she could throw the hit and raised her finger to the bard's lips.

”Sh, Gabrielle. Look.” she whispered and pointed behind the bard through some trees. Gabrielle immediately fell silent when she felt the finger on her lips. But she kept glaring at the warrior.

”Look!” Xena encouraged her again. ”Please?”

Gabrielle rolled her eyes and turned her head to look at what Xena wanted to show her.

There, only some metres away rom her was a big clearing with the greenest grass and flowers in all different colours. And in the middle of it stood a doe with her fawn. The mother animal had her head down in the grass and the fawn was jumping around her wildly, his little tail flicking with each jump. It kicked it's legs and snorted, seemingly having the fun of his young life.

Gabrielle's mouth dropped open at the beautiful sight in front of her. She gasped.

”Xena...they are beautiful!”

The warrior stepped up behind her and layed her hands on the small woman's shoulders.

”Yes, they are.”

<<But not half as beautiful as you are, Gabrielle.>> she added in her mind.

Gabrielle placed a hand on top of Xena's and leaned back into the body behind her. Just as far as she could dare herself to. Without having to fear that the warrior would get suspicious and would force her to reveal some secrets she wasn't totally sure about yet herself. She felt the taller woman's heat envelop her and she took a deep breath of the clear forest air, flowers and defenitely Xena. The blonde closed her eyes and fought the tears of joy that threatened to overflow her eyes.

Just as the fawn fell to the ground and rolled around, a sob escaped her mouth.

”Hey....” a gentle, deep voice from behind her whisperes. Strong arms slid around her shoulders pulling her closer into the warmth of her friend. Gabrielle lowered her chin onto Xena's forearms.

”Why are you crying, Gabrielle?”

The bard turned around and moved her arms around Xena's waist, hiding her face in the black tresess.

”Because they are so beautiful. This is so special. Thank you for that, Xena. For sharing it with me.” she whispered.

Xena grinned. She loved to make her friend happy and to do special things that made her smile. A smile from the bard meant everything to her and she would give anything and everything to be able to make her smile for the rest of their lives. Even though Gabrielle's joy and knowing that she did something to cause it, made her a bit shy. Like now. Feeling the old awkwardness rising, she lifted her chakram and gave Gabrielle a sheepish smirk.

”Well, actually, it isn't all that special. I just wanted you to be able to see it before I have to....kill them.”

Again the bard's mouth dropped. But this time in pure shock. She took a step backwards from Xena.

”You must be kidding! You...they...you can't just....”

Xena lowered her arm and looked at her friend blankly.

”Deer meat is very special and especially good is that of a fawn. It's still so young and fresh. Who would give away an opportunety like that one? You're hungry, right?”

”No!” Gabrielle placed herself between the warrior and the two animals. She held her hands up to stop Xena. ”Wait.”

Xena raised one eyebrow in silent question. ”Yes?”

”You can't just kill them! They are too cute! My mother gave us enough food for weeks. We don't need them!” Gabrielle pleaded, batting her eyes at her friend.

Trying to ignore the look on the bard's face, Xena looked over her shoulder at her prey.

”I don't want your mothers food today. No offense. But dried meat and bread against fresh, tender fawn meat? I want deer. Now!”

”You can't, Xena! Please! Please??”

”Oh but I can. I'll show you just how good I can!”

Xena lifted her chakram and let it go so quickly, Gabrielle had absolutely no chance to react.

In horror the bard watched the warriors weapon shooting past her and into the clearing into the direction of the two grooming animals. She closed her eyes tightly and waited for the deers' death scream. But then all she heard was the noises of thousands of leaves falling and of hooves disappearing into the opposite direction of the clearing.

Gabrielle carefully opened one eye to look for the chakram. It was neatly stuck into a brunch in a tree not far from them. The last leaves were just tumbling to the ground. Of the two deer nothing could be seen.

The blonde turned around and stood with her hands on her hips, claring up at the warrior.


”Me? Yes?” Xena asked innocently, fumbling with her hands behind her back.

”You...I will...you just wait, Miss Smartass....”

”What? I'm sorry...I missed. Well, actually I decided that I don't want deer today anyway.”

All Gabrielle could do was growl at her companion. Xena shrugged her shoulders and smirked at Gabrielle.

”Was just playing with you, Gabrielle. Sooooooorryyyyyyy!”

Xena put on her best impression of her ”little – five – year – old – Xena – did – something – bad- but- is – so – sorry – for – it” face and lowered her eyes to the ground.

”Oh, Xena! What can I do with you!?!”

<<Actually you could do with me whatever pleases you, my bard!>> Xena thought. She bit her lip, then said aloud:

”I don't know. Am just a little innocent warrior. Don't ask me such hard questions!”

Gabrielle sighed and shook her head.

The warrior strode past her and out into the clearing leaving her to helplessly stare at a well formed backside. Green eyes fixed on powerful legs and muscles flexing with every step her companion took. Gabrielle groaned as a tingle started in her stomach and floated out all over her body. Leaning onto her staff she let her eyes travel up over the broad back to strong shoulders. She gripped her amazon weapon tighter when she remembered how it felt to let her fingers dig into the muscles to loosen a knot. And how sensual the warrior's moans sounded when the tightness melted away! The bard closed her eyes for a second as if concentrating on a sound only she could hear. Oh, and how the black silken hair felt when she used to brush it off Xena's shoulders to set to work! Suddenly Gabrielle felt the urge to sink her fingers into the warriors hair. And to let the soft strands glide through her fingers over and over again.
Opening her eyes with a deep breath to steady her fast beating heart, she found herself looking into two blue orbs, all the way from the other side of the clearing. Even though she felt herself blushing she couldn't make herself break their gazes.

It was absolutely crazy. But even though Xena was so far away, it felt as if the warrior was stood right beside her. As if she just needed to reach out and would be able to let her hands brush against soft warm skin. The two eyes staring at her gave her a feeling as if there only existed them two. Nothing around them mattered and she felt herself diving deeper and deeper into the blue stars.

Until Xena shifted from one foot to the other. Then the warrior put her hands on her hips.

”Are you coming, Gabrielle??”

And how her name sounded when the dark woman spoke it. The dark voice settled down around her like a warm blanket on a very cold night. Gabrielle closed her eyes again to let the warmth envelope her totally.

There was something going on with her. She was more sure of that than ever before. But she didn't know exactly what it was. Only that it felt damn good and made her whole body tingle with excitement. And since she liked it, why couldn't she enjoy it, right? It all probably was only because of the joy to be back to her normal life again. With Xena. On the road. In a familiar surrounding. Out of....


Xena's curious voice pulled Gabrielle back from her wandering thoughts with a start. If she hadn't been red before, she was sure now that a tomatoe paled in comparence to her. Pulling herself up she gave her companion an embarrassed smile and started walking into the clearing. When she reached the warrior, two blue eyes studied her thoughtfully.

”Are you okay, Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle smiled again but looked past the tall form stood in front of her.

Xena watched her closely. She had noticed the faint blush creep up over the bard's face when she had turned around and saw the smaller woman open her eyes the first time. Then, after staring at her and closing her eyes a second time, a proper deep blush had coloured Gabrielle's features. The warrior wondered what exactly her companion was thinking about to make her react like that. Did it have something to do with her?

<<Wishful thinking, hm, Xena?!>> the dark voice taunted her.

”Soooo...are we gonna set up camp here?”

Gabrielle scratched her nose, an act known to the warrior as a sign that the bard was extremely nervous, and looked around the clearing curiously. She knew Xena would realise but she just had to change the subject because she didn't want to be questioned by her about things she had no answers to herself.

A dark eyebrow rose at her, but the older woman decided to drop it. She wouldn't try to bring things up that obviously made her friend feel uneasy. Even though she really wished to know what was going on in that beautiful head to make her blush like a new bride.

”Well, yes. If you go get some firewood together, I'll try to get Argo back. Then we can set up camp and have that bath I promised.”
The warrior flashed Gabrille a big smile.

”A bath? Don't tell me you have some bath tub hidden somewhere around here??”
Green eyes darted around them.

”Nope, of course not, silly.” Xena smirked at Gabrielle playfully. ”But there's a lake not too far away from here.”

”Really? Where?”

”I'm gonna show you. But...let's get started first, ya? If that stuff dries into your skin we'll never get it off!”
Xena gently wiped some dust off the bard's cheek, grinning at her friend.

”You can talk, Missy!”
Gabrielle patted the hand away from her. Then she leaned her staff against a tree.

”Well, what are you waiting for, warrior?! Go on..go on...” she waved her hands wildly at the taller woman, shooing her away.

This time it was the warrior who shook her head at the bard, then turned around to disappear back into the forest to find her horse.....

I turn my head to Argo II as I enter the clearing we are camping in. The horse raises her head and whinnies softly as if she was aware that our companion is still fast asleep. I smile absently at her and then walk on towards our fire. My hunting went fairely well and I drop the already skinned rabbit. Putting away my sword and chakram I return to the fire and start preparing our lunch. I'm not a great cook. She is. Only our active life keeps me from turning into a ball, I muse. They say that the path of love goes through your stomach. Well, it wasn't really like that with Gabrielle and me but I have to admit that her cooking abilities have something tantalising about them. Even out of the smallest rests of food we sometimes carry she can make something that will fill us both up. And she seems to be hungry all the time. I laugh at all the occasions when her growling stomach interrupted conversations and how sheepish she then looks at me. In the next village, I decide, I will go and get her some of that nutbread she loves so much. Maybe love does go through ones tummy. It can't hurt to try it, right?

Knowing that the rabbit will take a while to cook I grab the horse brush and walk over to my second best friend. She is so much like her mother and I can't describe the joy I felt when I saw her, there, on Joxer's farm. Only seeing Gabrielle beside me brings me greater joy. People don't understand how you can love an animal so much. For them they are just there to be used. For me my Argo was, and now her daughter is, a loyal companion who goes through everything with me. Just look into your trusty animal's eyes and you will see what I mean. There is a love there only few humans are capable off. I only know one person who can prove that: Gabrielle. When I look in her eyes, I get totally lost. It is as if I can look right down into her soul. And she into mine. She can see past all that I build to protect my heart from any pain. In the beginning I was afraid of that. I didn't like that someone had so much power over me. But by now I learned just how lucky I am that she is there. And that she can look into me like that. That she can read me like an open book. And I know she would never abuse that capability. For my soul is safe in her.

Argo II nudges me and grips my night shirt I had put on after getting up. She pulls on it and looks at me with big brown eyes. I shake my head at her and then start grooming her behind her ear. She closes her eyes and drops her head a little.

After some minutes I hear my soulmate moving on the blankets. The smell of freshly cooked rabbit must have awakened her. I pat my horse on it's neck and then turn to see my sun rise.
She already as her eyes open as I slowly lay down on my side beside her, supporting my head on my arm, looking at her amused. Her pale green eyes stare into the sky sleepily. Ever so slowly she turns her head to me. She blinks. I blink back.

”Morning.” she mumbles in a voice still hoarse from sleep.

”Morning is long over, Gabrielle.” I tell her and note the puzzled look on her face. When she's in that state of still being half a sleep and half awake, her mind is moving a bit slow sometimes. I nudge her and whisper in her ear.
”You know, morning was when we....played.”

She raises a brow at me and slaps me playfully on the arm, as I dart my tongue out to lick her earlobe. Just to help her remember our morning activity.

”Behave, warrior.” she tells me off with a twinkle in her eyes. I shrug my shoulders and sit up.

”I take it you smelled the rabbit?” I ask gently, looking to the dark meat cooking over the fire.

She sits up faster then ever and her eyes fall onto our lunch. Immediately her stomach reminds us that it hasn't been filled yet today.
My companion looks at me with big eyes and I laugh nudging her again.

”Go on. I take care of this. When you come back we can eat.”

She leans over and presses soft lips onto my cheek.
”Thank you, Xena.” she whispers, with her lips still against my skin.

I can't resist and turn my face to take posession of her in a slow, deep kiss. When we break apart I'm a little out of breath. Her eyes are still closed and she licks her lips slowly. ”Hmmm....” I hear her mutter. Then she grins at me and suddenly hugs me fiercly to her. I return her embrace. I let her get up and take her little morning walk into the bushes.

When she returns I see her eyes lighten up at the big portion of meat I piled onto her plate. I'm sitting by the fire with my plate on my crossed legs.
”Thought you were hungry.” I comment as she sits down beside me.
”You know me so well, Xena.”

There isn't anything I can answer to that because it is true. But it's not one sided. She knows me as well. Inside out. We are as if we are one body. And not two seperate persons. Even though having two bodies has it's advantages. I grin to myself and stick some meat into my mouth watching the flames dance.

A silence has settled down around us that is more comforting than nonsense talk ever could be. We don't need to say a thing but will understand each other anyway.

After lunch she goes and cleans up our plates. I get my sword and settle down against a tree. It is too late to do any traveling today. So we decided to stay in this place for the day. I get out my sharpening stone and set to work. She sits down by the fire. Grabbing her scroll bag and pulling out one of her latest writings, she starts reading. After all she's still a bard.

For a long time she didn't write anything anymore and I could feel the scrolls staring at me from our saddlebag accusingly. I guess there was too much going on around us to allow her to settle down to write. Maybe it was the changes inside of her that kept her muse away. I don't know because she never told me. Maybe she doesn't know herself. I can still remember how relieved I was when one day she took an empty scroll and settled down with her back against mine. The scratching of her feather on the paper went on and on long after the sun had disappeared and the night had settled down around us.
It is that same sound now, that let's my mind wander back to where it had taken me before lunch....

The prospect of a swim in a lake made it fairly easy for warrior and bard to quickly get back into their routine of setting up camp together. So, soon they were standing on opposite sides of the fireplace looking around their campsite: they had set it up at the side of the clearing in the shades of the surrounding trees. On Xena's side they had placed a log to sit down on, close enough to the fire to keep them warm in the evening chill. On the other side....well...there lay their bedrolls close together.
Gabrielle had been a bit helpless as to how to proceed when she held the blankets in her arms. For some seconds she had just stood there thinking. Wondering why it felt so awkward to just put the blankets down beside each other. Like they had done all the time since the early days of their journeys together. But something seemed different now and the little bard suddenly feared that by putting thier blankets down together and not with some space between them, she did something the warrior wouldn't approve of. But where was this sudden fear coming from? They had slept beside each other before, so why shouldn't they do so now anymore? Was it her own fear of the feelings inside her? Of her own growing need to be close to her friend. Or the fear of what Xena whould think about that if she found out? She had absolutely no clue what her friend would say to that. She only knew that she wanted to feel the heat of the taller body surround her this night.

Then , after some seconds she had felt her companion's eyes boring into her back. Gabrielle had been to afraid to turn around and instead just had dropped her hands in confusion. She then had heard the warrior move again but only realised that her companion had returned to searching through their saddlebags for the horse brush when the dark voice floated over to her from where the saddlebags were placed.

”It is still getting kinda chilly at night these days, you know. I wonder how hot it will be when summer is here in full force, considering that it is so hot during the days already.”

Gabrielle had let a breath go she hadn't known she had held, when she heard the warriors casual words. Suddenly it felt like all the nerves in her body exploded and took away the nervous pressure that had settled on her some seconds ago. She had stopped herself only short from turning around and jumping her friend in thankful joy.
The bard didn't know how, but apparently Xena had known exactly what was going through her mind and had said the right thing at the right moment to give her an excuse to move the blankets close together. And all that without even telling her directly that she was being silly. No, she still had given her the choice but had just added a comforting fact: by bringing up how cold it was at night and that it would be warmer if they slept closer, she had shown her that she wanted to be close too.

Instead of jumping her friend, Gabrielle had put down the blankets and replied casually with something about the weather. They had continued setting up their camp chatting about this and that, each comfortable in doing their own tasks.
And now everything was done. The campsite looked so much like in the old days, as if nothing had ever happened. As if it was just another night after another small adventure. And not their first night together alone after having been parted for such a long time.

They both looked at each other and smiled at the same moment. Xena stepped around the fireside and stood in front of Gabrielle. She placed her hands on the bards shoulders and squeezed them.

”It looks very comfortable, don't you think?”

Gabrielle squeezed the warriors wrists and looked around the campsite.
”Just like always.”

Green eyes settled onto blue and they looked at each other for a moment. After some seconds and when the tension seemed to grow with every breathe they took, Xena smiled.

”Ready for that swim?”

All Gabrielle could do was nod. Seeing the warrior's blue diamonds so close had taken all her speach capability away from her.

Gabrielle grabbed the needed stuff and followed the warrior to Argo's side. Even though the lake apparently was only some minutes walking distance away they decided to take the horse to water her with some fresh lake water instead of the bottled ration they carried with them.

”You ready?”
Xena asked gently and took Argo by her reins.

Gabrielle smiled happily at her companion and patted the horse's side.

Together they left the clearing, Xena leading the way with Argo beside her and Gabrielle close up behind her. Soon, the older woman stopped and turned around to Gabrielle. She winked at her and pointed in front of her.

”Here we go. Is that to your satisfaction, my bard?”

Gabrielle raised a brow at the <<my bard>> but let it pass and stepped up beside her friend. Only to be greeted with another view that took away her breathe yet again.

In front of her lay a big lake surrounded by high reed and rich, soft grass. There was a small waterfall to the right and the late afternoon sun splashed the water with a sparkling golden colour. Right in front of her was a green, grassy lawn where they could lay down their stuff and walk comfortably into the lake.

”Oh, by the gods! Xena! It's breathtakingly beautiful!”

Xena layed a hand on the smaller womans shoulder and nodded.

”Yeah. Come on....I can't stand this dirt on me anymore!”

The warrior let her friend's shoulder go and slowly moved into the clearing. Then she took Argo's reins off while Gabrielle put their towels and fresh night shifts down near a stone. The taller woman scratched Argo behind her ears and watched Gabrielle look out over the water. Then the bard slowly undid her boots. Xena's eyes widened when she saw small hands reach for the skirt belt and undo it. She knew she should give her companion some privacy and turn around or busy herself with her own clothes, but she just couldn't take her eyes off the form in front of her.

Her eyes slowly slid over the strong legs to delicate feet, then back up when Gabrielle dropped the skirt and underwear to the ground giving the warrior a very good view of a tight, trained butt. Xena nearly coughed, steadying herself by gripping Argo's mane.

A blond head turned to her, green eyes looking at her curiously.
”Are you okay, Xena?”
The small, delicate fingers were stopping in mid motion, holding the strings to the half open green top in them.

Xena's eyes fixed onto her friend's fingers and then moved up the strings. She swallowed hard and coughed again, choking a ”Yeah...just fine...be right there..you go ahead...” out. The warrior's eyes shifted to the bard's face and she desperately tried not to drop her gaze to where the skirt had been before. But the pull was just so strong....

Gabrielle laid her head to the side and gazed at Xena for a long moment, puzzelement showing on her face.

Xena felt a foolish grin spread over her face and she waved at Gabrielle to go on. Then she turned her back to her friend, still holding on to the horse beside her. She took some deep breaths and closed her eyes tightly. Willing the picture of a half naked Gabrielle staring at her out of her head. But somehow it just didn't want to move an inch and she lifted her fingers to rub her tembles.

<<Get a grip on yourself, warrior! She's your best friend, for the sake of the gods! And not some village girl that is out to be laid by you! It's Gabrielle we're talking about! Your friend! Your...oh so damn sexy, cute, hot friend!>>

Xena groaned in frustration and placed her hands over her eyes.

<<Dammit! You're in deep shit here!>> her mind concluded.

Suddenly she felt gentle hand's land on her shoulders and a soft voice asking carefully.

”Xena? Are you really okay?”

<<Oh, this is....Hera's tits!>>

Xena dropped her hand but didn't turn around knowing exactly what sight would greet her. She could feel the bard's body heat slowly envelop her and the gentle hands squeezing her shoulders didn't help either. If she now turned around, she didn't know what would happen. What she would do. How she would hold herself back from just reaching for Gabrielle and claim those soft lips for a deep kiss. And to then lower her to the ground to explore every inch of the young body with her mouth and tongue. And to....

<<STOP IT!>> her mind screamed at her in full force.

Okay, so...she desired Gabrielle. No way of denying that anymore. Well, actually she had stopped fighting against her feelings for the bard a long time ago. It had taken her a while to fully understand that she had those feelings. But knowing and accepting those feelings didn't mean allowing herself the pleasure of thinking about her friend in that way. It was something she couldn't do. Gabrielle was too precious to her to be used like that. Because it felt like using her friend when those images came up and when she allowed to linger with them for some minutes. And the worst of all was: Since Gabrielle had come back her feelings and desire had intensified. There was an urge in her pushing her closer and closer to acting on those feelings. But she couldn't. She knew that. She would never abuse their friendship for that. Never risk losing Gabrielle for her body's desires. She would be content to be with Gabrielle in any other way, if that was what the bard wanted. And until now her friend had never indicated anything that would mean she felt the same way. But then again, only some hours ago, on the road it looked like they nearly had...

<<Don't you dare go there, Xena! No good path! Back off!>>

All the alarm bell's in her head went off, pulling her back from where her mind was threatening to go.


The warrior realised that Gabrielle was still stood behind her waiting for an answer.
”Yes, Gabrielle. I'm okay. Go ahead. I'll be in any minute, kay?”

Xena patted the hand on her shoulder and half turned her head to look at the bard's face. She forced herself to smile reassuringly.

”Really? You promise?”

”Yes. Go on, Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle flashed her a grin and then spun around walking back to the shore of the lake.

Xena couldn't stop herself and let her eyes fix onto the bard's naked backside. She admired the strong muscles under the skin. The bard had changed in so many ways since they first met. And one of the most obvious things was her body. One fact that for sure didn't help her control her feelings.
She watched the bard stick one toe into the water and then pull it back quickly, only to stick it back in. Then followed her whole foot, then the other and soon the bard was slowly walking into the refreshing lake, hiding her body under the water surface from the warrior's stare.

Xena sighed and turned to Argo.
”Hope that water is freezing cool!”

The horse whinnied softly and nudged her mistress.
”Yeah...I knew you would understand.”

Xena rolled her eyes and watched her horse trot away slowly to the side of the clearing to have some fresh grass.

”Come on, Xena! Get in here!” an impatient bard called out to her.

Xena turned around and looked for the bard who was standing up to her shoulders in the water, with her back to her and her head turned to look for what took her friend so long.

The taller woman quickly took off her leathers. Luckily she had left her armor at the campsite and was only wearing her tunic and boots. When she was finished undressing she casually walked over to the lake and stood at the shore.

The bard had turned her head again and was playing with her hands in the water in front of her. No way she realised that Xena was ready to dive into the water already. And she was so engulfed in her own thoughts she never heard the soft splash when Xena slowly entered the water and dived under. One thing she felt though were two hands grabbing her ankles and pulling on them making her tumble right over and under the water. She felt herself go under and the hands dissappeared again.

Gabrielle came up half a second later, spluttering and coughing water.

Xena watched in amusement when Gabrielle tried to get back to her feet. When the young bard came back up she grinned at her innocently.

Gabrielle wiped her wet hair out of her face and stared at the warrior in disbelief. She was ready to let a whole storm of playful insults loose when the warrior stood up tall. Since she was so much taller than Gabrielle, the water only went up to her middrift.

And that left Gabrielle staring at the water drops slowly descending on the warrior's golden skin. From her collarbone, over full firm breasts back into the water.
The bard stopped in midsentence. Her eyes were fixed to two errect nipples who stood out as if teasing her to come closer. She closed her mouth in shock and licked suddenly dry lips.

”Hey? Gabrielle?”
Xena watched her friend's mouth stop in midsentence, then close, then a pink tongue darting out to lick full lips slowly. She bent her head a bit to look into sea green eyes. If she didn't know it better she could have sworn they had darkened with what looked like desire. But....it must have been a play of light.
Xena waved a hand in front of her friend's face to get her attention.

Gabrielle's eyes ever so slowly moved from their intense gaze at her companions breasts up to meet Xena's gaze. When she saw the raised brow she immediately felt the blush start taking posession of her from her toes up to her hair. Her eyes grew wide when she realised what exactly she had stared at. And what was even worse: the taller woman had caught her doing it!

<<Oh, damn it Gabrielle! What is that about?!>> a curious voice in the back of her mind asked. She didn't take the time to consider an answer but instead found it easier to concentrate on paying her friend back for pulling her legs out from under her.

Xena never saw it coming, so deep in thought was she about why Gabrielle's eyes looked the way they did.

Gabrielle didn't think about it before she did it. Maybe that's why it worked.
She suddenly jumped right forward bouncing into the taller woman and knocking her backwards into the water. She felt the strong body go under her and she immediately backed off trying to get a grip on the slippery lake ground herself. In amazement she watched the warrior disappear under the water and then come back up, like a dolphin shooting into the sky. A fountain of water sprayed all over her.

Xena sucked a big mouth full of air in when she came back up. She landed on her feet, all her hair hanging in her face and the water cascading down her body. The sudden attack from her friend had left her heart beating so fast she was sure they could hear it many many miles away from the lake.

<<UH OH!>> was all that Gabrielle's surprised mind could offer when the warrior brushed her hair out of her face and blue eyes lowered on the smaller form.

”I'm....look...Xena....you want to....” Gabrielle held up her hand in defeat and slowly stepped backwards away from the warrior.

Xena didn't say a word. A dangerous fire flickered in her ice blue eyes and she slowly advanced on the retreating bard.

”I'm sorry, Xena. I didn't mean to....even though you have to say it was a pretty cool move.” Gabrielle giggled. She really had done it! She really had knocked the mighty Xena, warrior princess off her feet! She, the little bard!

”I'll show you a pretty cool move!” Xena hissed and grabbed the bard so quickly Gabrielle wondered if Xena was able to move faster than light itself.

The little bard found herself in a tight hold by strong arms. And, actaully that wasn't such a bad place. With a very naked, very wet body pressed up against hers. She grinned up into her friends face and then held her breath as she was lifted out of the water. Next thing that happened was her flying through the air only to hit the water two seconds later and go under deeply.

When coming up this time Gabrielle laughed and wiped her eyes. She brushed some hair out of her face and looked at the warrior.

”Yeah, that was cool, but not as cool as me knocking the mighty Xena over!”

Gabrielle stuck her tongue out at her friend and splashed some water at her.

”Oh yeah?!” Xena grinned and again advanced on the bard.

”Oh yessssss.....and what do you think the people would say when they found out that the little bard has so much power to overthrow Xena?” Gabrielle teased and splashed more water at her companion. Gabrielle turned and moved to the right.

Xena splashed some water back at her and cut her way by turning left.
”If the oh so powerful bard will live so long to tell that story....that is.” Xena threatened playfully, a grin playing around her lips.

Gabrielle turned left. Xena turned right and trapped her again.
”Now, we don't want to do any bad stuff to the little innocent bard, do we, Xena?”

The younger woman flashed a sweet smile at her companion and quickly stepped to the right again trying to get an opening past Xena.

”I see no little, innocent bard here, Gabrielle.” Xena smirked and took a big step to the left.

”Then open your eyes, warrior!” The bard did a step to the left and when Xena moved in the same direction she shot forward trying to get past the warrior on her right side.

Two strong arms immediately shot out and closed around her middrift. She groaned, closed her eyes and took a deep breath when she felt herself being lifted up into the air. Nothing happened.

Carefully Gabrielle opened one eye looking down at a smirking warrior holding her up in the air. She was about to say something when Xena winked and threw her into the air. With a shreek the younger woman hit the water and went under.

And then she did her second foolish thing for the day. During their playing they had gone further and further back to lower waters. As soon as she came back up, Gabrielle turned around and crawled out into the direction of the shore. The water was so shallow now that it only went up to just above her ankles.

”Oh, come on, warrior babe. You have to come up with something better to defeat this bard!” she called over her shoulder with a teasing laugh and watched Xena advance on her again. When the warrior was close enough she dived and grabbed a handful of sand from under the water and threw it at her friend.

Believe it or not, she hit the older woman right in the face with the mud. And Xena was stunned. Stunned into absolute stiffness.

Gabrielle couldn't believe it. She rolled onto her back and stared at the taller woman standing only some meters away from her, her face hid behind dark black mud that was dripping off her in big slimy blobs.

The little bard pressed a hand in horror over her mouth.

<<OH MY GOD! I can't believe I did that! Sweet Aphrodite save me!>>

Xena lifted one hand and wiped the mud off her eyes, then opened them slowly.

Two blue icy stars where the first things that Gabrielle could see from Xena's face. And suddenly she couldn't take it anymore. The laughter came from deep within and exploded right out of her. Tears immediately sprang to her eyes floating over her face. She held her sides and pointed one finger at her friend. Every new glimpse she took of the figure in front of her through her tearful eyes sent her off into another laughing fit.

Xena growled deep in her throat. Even though she maybe should be, she didn't feel angry and she had to fight the laugh that was threatening to errupt at the helpless bard lying in the shallow water rolling from side to side. But she kept her face straight and raised a muddy brow.

”You think that funny, hm?? You really think THAT funny?!” she asked in a low, dangerous voice.

Gabrielle couldn't answer so hard was she laughing. Xena wasn't even sure the bard had heard her speaking. The warrior watched the younger woman for another minute and then moved forward.

Strong fingers closed around two ankles and pulled the bard down towards her. Xena lowered herself to her knees between the bard's legs.

That caught the blond woman's attention. Her laughing subsided immediately and she stared with watery eyes at the woman towering over her. Large hands reached out and grabbed her arms pinning them over her head. One hand held her trapped and the other one dug into the sand beside her body.

Sea green eyes widened in recognition.
”Now wait, Xena! Let's talk about that! You can't just.....I was just...please don't....”

Xena's low voice stopped her in midsentence.
”Now, let's see how funny THAT is, shall we?!”

A deep groan and Gabrielle closed her eyes tightly. Xena lifted some sand and smeared it right into Gabrielle's face, grinning at her shocked friend.

It was cold and wet and sticky. And it smelled of lake water. Gabrielle felt the hand holding her wrists above her head loosen and she slipped one hand free wiping some of the mud off her face. With the sand sticking to her palm she reached out and payed the warrior back big time. She spread the mud over the black hair flashing a challenging grin at the taller woman on top of her.

Xena picked the challenge up very willingly. She reached for more mud and plastered it all over the bard's collarbone.

Gabrielle squeeked and tried to get away from the cold dirt wiggling her whole body against Xena's.

They both felt a jolt of energy pass between them as their naked bodies slid against each other and two silent moans escaped them. But they were too engrossed into their playful mud fight to pay it any more attention.

It went back and forwards between them for a long time, both rolling around in the shallow water trying to get an upperhand in their mud fight. In the end they both stopped by lying beside each other in the shallow shore water, covered in mud from head to toe and laughing until their stomach muscles hurt.

Xena was the first to recover. She rolled onto her side and proped her head up on one arm. She studied the laughing, muddy face of her companion and grinned in affection. A similar smile spread over the bard's face. Gabrielle slowly reached out her hand and gently wiped some mud off Xena's cheek allowing her finger to travel over the soft skin slowlier than was needed. A comfortable silence settled over them and they looked into each other's eyes, forgetting about their surrounding and anything else that could have mattered.

Now it was the warrior's turn to softly wipe away some wet sand from Gabrielle's nose.

”Thank you for coming back, Gabrielle.” she quietly said, playing with a strand of normally strawberry-blond hair and looking into warm emerald eyes.

Even though coming back wasn't really what she had done, given the fact that it was more like Xena finding her than the other way around, Gabrielle smiled and said quietly.
”How could I not, Xena? I couldn't have...just forgetten about everything. I missed you too much.”

”I missed you too, Gabrielle.”

Xena bent over and placed a very gentle kiss on the bard's forehead not caring about the mud.
”I love.....” she hesitated for a moment. Her body sent out waves of excitement and nervousness and made her squirm under her emotions. She moved back and looked into the affectionate gaze the bard gave her. It looked so assuring. And yet, she couldn't say the words. Too afraid was she that Gabrielle wouldn't understand. Wouldn't share her feelings in the same way.
”...all this.” Xena moved her head in a circling motion indicating the lake and what they shared at the moment.
”I couldn't lose..it.”

Xena's eyes returned to her companion. They looked at each other and for a moment Xena thought she saw understanding flash in the bard's eyes. Understanding what her words meant for real. But it passed too quickly for her to believe it.

Then two gentle arms encircled her neck and pulled her down for a tight hug.
Xena's body melted to the mud covered one of her friend. She hid her face in the soft neck and held on tightly, never wanting to let her precious prize go. She felt a hand stroking over her hair and pulling her head in closer.

Gabrielle felt the heavier body settle down on her, a comforting weight pressing her down to the ground. With Xena's head nestled in the crook of her neck, there was nothing that would ever feel better than that. And she wanted to hold her friend like that forever.

But of course this forever had to end at some point to feel reasonable friendly and not more.

”Come on, Xena. We should get that stuff off us before it dries.” Gabrielle coaxed, even though she was surprised that Xena had stayed in her arms for such a long time. Normally it was the warrior who broke embraces first.

Xena sighed and rolled off her friend carefully. She stood up and reached out a hand to help Gabrielle up.
”Alright. I make you a deal. We just wash that stuff off quickly. Then I wash your hair, and you mine. And then we can lay in the sun for a bit to warm back up, kay?”

Gabrielle pulled herself up and grinned.
”Best idea ever!”

And so they stepped back into the lake and swam around lazily for a bit, washing the mud off their bodies. Then Gabrielle went to get their soap from where their blankets lay and they settled down in the shallow water washing each other's hair in turn.

Gabrielle took her time, letting the silken hair slide through her fingers like she had imagined only some hours before. Xena in turn, took her time in not only washing the bards hair but allowing herself the pleasure of washing the strong backside as well.

After those tasks were done Gabrielle climbed out of the lake and went to put on one of the shifts she had brought. Xena had said she wanted to just swim around the lake some more and so the bard, after having washed their clothes quickly, settled down on the soft grass and looked out over the water. The sun tickled her outstretched legs and she sighed in contentement. Everything was just so perfect that it was as if it was just a dream. But Gabrielle knew it wasn't a dream. It was the wonderful truth.

With Xena being out of sight and nothing else to do Gabrielle layed back down and closing her eyes allowed her mind to wander.

<This day was so wonderful, she couldn't believe it. In the morning she had been a bit confused. They had started off early, just after the sun had risen. She didn't know why, but she had felt that deep, deep urge to get away from home. And mostly, to be alone with Xena again. But then it didn't seem....proper. Xena had ridden Argo some paces ahead of her for the whole morning and they had barely said a word to each other. Then Xena had stopped and asked her to join her up in the saddle.
It hadn't been only because she wanted to stretch her legs that she had refused. It was more because she suddenly had felt an uneasyness in being so close to the warrior. It had her left totally confused because deep down that was all she wanted. To be able to feel Xena again. But then, to think she would be up there, pressed up against the tall body, had suddenly left her feeling all mushy inside. Oh, she knew since a long time that being close to the warrior gave her special feelings. But she had never been able to put a finger onto them and to define them. And they never had been so strong like they seemed to be now.>

Gabrielle sighed and sat back up, pulling her legs to her. She found a little piece of thin reed and started drawing in the wet sand of the shore.

<And then she had asked Xena if she could maybe join her down on the ground and walk with her. And why had she done that?>

Gabrielle drew an X in the sand and took a deep breath.

<Because she didn't want to miss the warrior's closeness. Not all of it. She had been pulled back and forwards by her feelings. They pushed her away from the warrior, and then back into her. It was all so...stupid.>

The letter G followed the X, right beside it on the left.

<So, the warrior indeed had come down off the horse to be with her.>

A small smile spread over Gabrielle's face at the memories of the warriors leg brushing against her hand on the saddle. And at the sudden heat that had spread immediately all over her body.

<And then it had happened. She hadn't planned on it. Maybe that was what she had been so afraid of. That something like that would happen. She had just wanted to tell Xena how much she had missed her. And it ended with them....yeah, what?>

Gabrielle drew a line on the side of the X.

<Then they had.....then Xena had leaned into her as if she wanted to kiss her.>

A short laugh escaped Gabrielle's mouth.

<Yeah! As if! But...what if Argo wouldn't have jumped into them? Would Xena really have kissed her? And how would she have kissed her? They had kissed before. On the cheek, even on the side off the mouth at Gabrielle's stupid wedding with Perdicus. And don't forget that damn kiss when Xena was dead. Although they had never talked about it and Gabrielle still wasn't sure if it had been Autolycus or Xena who had started it. Anyway, the question was, what kind of kiss would it have been this time? From the way Xena had leaned into her so slowly and not just kissed her quickly on the mouth...that would mean it would have been a ”proper” kiss. So...let's say, that is how it would have been. How would she herself feel about that? Why would they share a kiss like that?>

Another line, this time on the side of the G.

<...Maybe because of the same reason that she wanted to be closer to Xena so badly. Maybe because.....>

Gabrielle's eyes focused on the drawing in front of her:
An X.
A G.
And surrounding the two letters: a perfect heart.

The bard's mouth dropped open and she layed the little wooden instrument she held in her hands down beside the etching. In mild disbelieve she stared at her creation. And suddenly it all became so clear to her. Like it had been there all the time. For her to discover. Only that it took her much too long to figure it out. Now, it all made sense.

<..because she loved Xena.>

Gabrielle closed her eyes as she felt tears come to them.

<OH....BY.....THE......GOOOODS! I love Xena, my best friend. I am in love with Xena!>

She heard soft footsteps and then a tall figure sat down beside her, spraying her with little water droplets as she shook her head. Instinctively Gabrielle's hands reached out in front of her and wiped away the picture she had drawn.

”Hey.” a soft, dark voice echoed in her ear, immediately pulling her into the warrior's warmth.

Gabrielle kept her eyes closed tightly, fighting with the emotions that threatened to overthrow her. One side of her just wanted to immediately jump the woman beside her and tell her what she had found out and then...well..act on the feelings.

But there was still the other side. The reasonable one. The one that told her that she should keep it her own secret to start with. That she didn't even know how Xena felt or how the warrior would react to that ”little” piece of information. Especially if she didn't feel like that but just wanted to be friends.

But then again there was the incident on the road and the nearly-to-be kiss, initiated by Xena. And, what about how Xena reacted when she had undressed to go swimming earlier on? Was that just because the warrior had swallowed wrong? Could she really be so naive? Or had it to do with something else? Something bigger? And what if no? What if it really was just something unimportant that happened? What if everything was smaller...meant less than she would like it too?

The teasing soft voice and the hot breath on her ear made Gabrielle jump. She opened her eyes with a start and stared at Xena wide eyed.

The warrior raised a brow in question and moved her face back from beside the bard's.
”You okay?”


A gentle smile played around the older woman's perfect lips.
”Hi. Where were you off to?”

”I was here...sat here all the time, Xena.”

”No, silly. Where were you off in there?” Xena gently patted Gabrielle's forehead with one finger and grinned.

”Oh...that....I dunno....I was just.....” Gabrielle stammered being totally embarrassed about her thoughts.

”Off into that bardic world, hm? One day you have to take me there, you know?! I'm really curious about it!”
Xena sighed and layed back down to let the early evening sun dry the water on her body.

Gabrielle gulped. Her eyes slowly wandered over the totally naked form laying beside her. So close....so close, in fact, that their legs were touching. And causing a burning heat in Gabrielle's whole body.
And, even though she didn't know that at that point, in the warrior's as well.
The bard reached out and wiped a water drop off Xena's forehead, stroking the soft skin under her fingertip. Suddenly she wanted it so badly! To run her hands over that naked form beside her. To feel her skin pressing against the warrior's own. To become one with her companion.

Blue eyes opened lazyly and blinked at her.

Gabrielle smiled at Xena.

The warrior turned her head a bit more to get a better look at her friend. The green eyes suddenly seemed filled with a deep sadness.

”Hey....are you okay, Gabrielle?”


Gabrielle had pulled her hand back. But now she was tracing the outline off Xena's hand with one of her fingers, fascinated by the dark skin. She didn't look up at her friend.

Xena frowned and then moved her hand and lifted the bard's face with gentle fingers under her chin. They looked deeply into each other's eyes.

Gabrielle's heart started beating in double speed. She bit her lip and blinked nervously. Where they back on the road? Would Xena.....

”You look sad.”

It was more a question than a statement.

”Oh...oh, no! I'm not sad! Not at all, Xena! I am very, very happy!!”
The bard smiled at the older woman.

”Ya? Oh, that's good. But do you think I could make you even more happier somehow?”

<<Fatal question, warrior! Yes, you can! Just tell me you love me just as much as I do you and then kiss me so deeply I faint!>> Gabrielle's mind teased the bard.

”Hm...I dunno. But I bet you could think of something. Even though I am pretty happy already.”

”If you come back to the campsite with me, then I'll show you!” Xena winked at her, got up and went to retrieve her night shift. Gabrielle watched her leave and swallowed hard at the promise.

<<Could it be??? No..don't get any false hopes, Gabrielle!>> a warm voice warned her from the inside.

She shook her head to clear it, took a last look over the lake and then went to Xena, who was waiting patiently beside Argo, with the towels and their other things in her hands.

Xena climbed onto her horse's bare back and held out a hand to her companion. The little bard smiled and took the offered help.

”You better hold on tight, Gabrielle.”

The warrior's warm voice adviced as she nudged Argo into a slow walk out of the clearing.

Gabrielle's mind whirled from the just found out news. Sitting pressed up to her only in a light shift and her underwear dresses friend didn't help much either. The water dripping out of the dark hair had turned the shirt into not much of a barrier between Xena's and Gabrielle's skin. When the bard leaned back a bit, she was able to get a good climbse of the warrior's bronze skin shimmering through the cotton.

On her friend's advice, Gabrielle closed her arms tighter around the strong form, their bodies melting into each other. Riding on bare back wasn't one of the bard's most favorite things to pass her time. But being that pressed up against the warrior was the plus factor for joining the older woman up on the horse.

Gabrielle felt a jolt of excitement grip her body as she got aware of strong, naked thighs pressing back into her own. And another thing didn't pass her attention: her painfully hard nipples pressing into the wet shirt Xena was wearing. A light groan escaped her lips when her breasts rubbed up against her friend's back as Argo sidestepped a fallen brunch. Gabrielle clenched her fingers over the taller woman's stomach unconciously, the strong muscles jumping under her touch. As her eyes traveled along Xena's back and further southward she got aware just how easy it would be to drop hr hands and glide them up and down the finely formed legs. So easy, but unacceptable.

”Easy there, Gabrielle. You're squeezing me out like an orange.”

Large hands covered the bard's ones and patted them. Amused blue eyes turned around blinking at Gabrielle.
”Are you feeling seasick up here?”

As if that single touch would burn her skin, Gabrielle pulled her hands roughly out of the light grasp and moved them instead onto Xena's hips.

”Oh, sorry, Xena. I didn't realize....”
”Hey, it's okay.”

Luckily they arrived at their campsite just that moment and Gabrielle didn't have to explain herself.

Xena turned to face forwards again and reined Argo in, allowing the smaller woman to slide off the horse's back. The warrior followed and went to take of the reins while the bard laid their clothes out to dry over night. Then she got out some of their supplies: the sweet red wine they had picked up in her hometown, fresh baked bread and dried meat that Gabrielle's mother had given them as a ration for tonight's dinner. The blonde woman put all onto two plates and settled down on the log while Xena started their fire.

Gabrielle watched the strong hands quickly light the wood and grinned in amazement at her friend when she sat down beside her, reaching out for her own plate.


Xena raised an eyebrow at her friend and took a big bite out of the bread Gabrielle had given her.

”Nothing. Just amazed at how fast you're able to light those fires.”

The other eyebrow followed it's companion into the black hairline, but the warrior shrugged the strange comment off. The rest of their dinner they spent in a comfotable silence, both occupied sorting out their own thoughts and feelings.

What was on the bard's mind is an easy guess. There was this little voice in her head that kept on teasing her, repeating the same sentence over and over again.

<<You are in love with your best friend!>>

It even seemed to get louder and louder, as Gabrielle's confusion grew bigger and bigger.
Okay, so she loved her best friend. Cool. No big deal. Or? What did that mean? What was she supposed to do now? Should she just face the warrior and tell her, plain and simple? What would Xena do then? Tell her that it was a foolish crush? That it was just the joy of being with her again and that it would fade away again. back to normal, like before she had ”died”. Well, what was normal? Hadn't she felt like this for a long time? But she just hadn't allowed herself to acknowledge her feelings. She had played them down. apperently though, that didn't work anymore. So, back to the first question: What did that mean and what could, should, she do? Plus, there was also the secret about how Xena felt. But how could she find that out? It wasn't like Xena was very outgoing with her feelings. One thing was sure: Things would change. Especially since even the slightest touch from the warrior made her legs go weak. And not even that much was needed to get the ants in her stomach dance gogo. One short glance out of those incredibly blue eyes and she was flying! So, she was in a no gain, no win situation. Lost to her own feelings.

And Xena? The warrior's mind was working just as hard as her friend's. And in similar ways. Most of it was centered on the memory of the bard's clenching hands on her stomach. It had made her whole body tremble and the desire had started boiling deep down in the pit of her stomach. From there it had spread out until it had settled down between her legs. The thought of returning back to the lake to the ice cold water suddenly was so appealing, it had been hard to resist. Instead she had patted Gabrielle's hands pointing out to the bard that she was squeezing her too hard. And then the blonde woman's hands had landed on her hips. A good place if you wanted to get the reaction out of Xena, that she had fought so hard: a shiver had run all over her body making her bite her lower lip when a deep moan threatened to escape. But it all was nothing compared to the rest of the sweet torture she had put on herself when asking her friend to ride with her: hardened nipples had first pressed into her back only to then slide against barely covered skin with every of the horse's steps. Pure, brutal torture! rarely before had she been so happy to arrive at their campsite.

The warrior was pulled out of her thoughts when Gabrielle got up, took the empty plate out of the older woman's grasp and went to clean up. Xena watched the smaller woman for some seconds. Then she got up herself and went to where her sheath with her sword was laying.

”Hey, Gabrielle. Sit by the log and close your eyes.” she called over her shoulder. She didn't need to turn around to know that a questioning look had crossed her companion's face.

”What is on your mind, Xena?”

Gabrielle got up from where she had been kneeling to stuff their dishes back into the saddlebags. She came up behind her crouching friend and tried to peer over broad shoulders.
”What do you have there?”

The older woman grinned to herself but didn't look up.
”Don't be so nosey. Just go over to the log, sit down and wait.”

But Gabrielle proved herself to be more stubborn than even a mule. She crossed her arms in front of her chest and stared at the taller woman.

”And what if I want to stay right here? What will the mighty warrior princess do then?”

”Then....” Xena got up to her full height and turned around lifting a small bag up over her head, far out of the small bard's reach. ”...you will never know what is in here.”

Green eyes flashed with mischeif.
”Oh yeah I bet I will be able to anyway!”

Gabrielle stepped forward until she was stood toe to toe with the warrior.
”Just dare me to!”

She shot a daring grin up at her friend.

Xena grinned and wiggled the bag in the air.
”All right then, little one. I dare you to.”

The bard growled deep in her throat and without thinking she grabbed onto the longer arm pulling on it with all her might. Xena arched an eyebrow and refused to give in even the tiniest bit.

”Please, Xe? Show me??”
Gabrielle had stopped the useless arm pulling and now winked green eyes up at blue ones.

”Nope. No way. Sit down first, Gabrielle.” Xena smirked.

”You're no fun, you know that, warrior?”

The bard quipped like a told off child, turned around and strolled over to the log. Then she settled down, wiggling around until she was seated most comfortably. A small eyebrow rose at her grinning friend.

”Nah. In front of the log is better.”

Xena decided and flashed her companion a white toothed smile. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and snorted.
”And why would I do that? It's dirty down there.”

The warrior sighed, then put the bag down beside her sword and went to their blankets. She grabbed one, then went to Gabrielle's side and with glowing eyes lowered the blanket in front of the log.
”Is that to your satisfaction, your majesty?”

Strong hands wiped of any traces of dirt. Green eyes studied her for a second, then moved over to where the desired bag lay. Blue eyes followed.

They both shot up like arrows at the same moment darting for the treasure. Gabrielle was so close to it that she felt her fingertips gliding against the soft fabric of the bag when two strong arms encircled her waist and lifted her up. She squeeked in surprise when she felt herself being hoisted around, then being put down on the ground again.

Xena picked the bag up with a triumphant laugh.

”Oh you!” Gabrielle slapped the older woman's forearm playfully. Blue eyes winked and then moved patiently to the log.


The bard sighed heavily in defeat and went to sit down on the blanket with her back to the log. She lifted her eyes up to her friend and met the warrior's loving gaze. they smiled at each other. Gabrielle felt a warmth and peace settle over her like she only felt when Xena was around. She blinked but found that she couldn't look away from Xena's intense blue eyes. A tingling started in her gut and brought with it a nervousness new to the bard. her smile faded away and she sat transfixed, not daring to move a muscle. Breathing suddenly became hard. And harder and harder the deeper she dived into Xena's eyes. The sudden fear of drowning in them was only broken when she heard the warrior's deep, comforting voice:

”Close your eyes, Gabrielle.”

It was the low vibration in the older woman's tone that calmed her heart. her smile returned and obediently she closed her eyes.

For some seconds she didn't hear anything but the crackling of the fire. But her feelings alone told her that her tall companion was still watching her intensely. Only when her heart began racing again she heard the soft footfall of the warrior. Gabrielle took a deep breath and was stunned when the first thing her nostrils identified, was the sweet scent that filled the air around her. And that scent was very close. She didn't open her eyes even though there was nothing she wanted more. She felt the warrior kneel down in front of her. Then, the next thing she grew aware of was an incredibly soft fingertip against her lip.

Gabrielle fought the moan that was forming in her throat. The featherlight touch intensified and Xena's fingertip opened her lips a tiny bit. The bard's hand's gripped the blanket when her tongue moved and nearly slipped past her teeth to brush against the gentle finger on her lips. Then the tip disappeared only to be replaced about a second later by a round fruit.

The younger woman gasped and allowed Xena to push the treat further into her mouth. With her eyes still closed she didn't see how her friend slipped the wet fingertip into her own mouth, closing her eyes as she tasted the bard on it.
When the blonde's teeth sank into the soft fruit, the juices exploded into her mouth. The moan she had held back now errupted from deep within her and without thinking Gabrielle reached out and grabbed her friend's wrist. Xena opened her lips at the last second, releasing her own finger, as green eyes fluttered open and a delighted smile spread over the bard's face.


The warrior grinned at Gabrielle and with her free hand held another fruit up in front of the bard's face. Swallowing the first one the bard immediately reopened her mouth widely to accept the offered treat. Her eyes flew closed in acceptance.

But Xena waited. The bard's intense reaction had left her to helplessly stare at the light on her friend's face. She licked her own lips as she imagined herself licking away the juices from that sweet, full mouth. Xena felt herself leaning in closer, She could almost smell her friend's scent on the warm skin. But at the last moment her rational mind took over and she raised her free hand and placed the next fruit into the waiting mouth.

A deep groan came as a thank you from the blonde woman as she closed her lips around the gift. Xena watched as if transfixed while Gabrielle chewed the sweet fruit and then swallowed. For another moment both sat in silence. Then Gabrielle opened her eyes very slowly. The green colour of them had deepened about two shades and the little bard threw her arms around the warrior in a tight hug.

”Gods! Xena! They are so good!! Thank you!”

The taller woman placed the bag containing the fruits on the ground and closed her arms around her friend.
Without her armor and leathers, the embrace felt so much better, as they willingly gave in to the need to be close to each other. Gabrielle hid her face in the dark hair when Xena gently stroked over her head.

All too early Xena leaned back and picked up the bag again, holding it out to her friend. Gabrielle's eyes lit up when she saw that there were about a dozen of the sweet fruits left. She took the offered present from Xena's hand accidently brushing her fingers against the warrior's. Both were sure they heard the air crackling between them at their innocent touch. Their eyes met again and Gabrielle felt herself blush. She turned her gaze down to the bag they were both holding.

”Thank you. They really are delicious.”

<<Only the best for you, Gabrielle.>> Xena's mind answered but all the warrior could do was smile as the heat slowly took a hold of her body.

”You are beautiful when you blush.”
Xena, in disbelieve at having heard herself say that as she let the bag go, stood back up and walked over to their saddlebags. Why in all the god's names had she just said that aloud? Well, putting some distance between them was the best thing she could think of at that moment. Let her heart slow down again. Let her skin recover from the tingles washing over it as soon as she came closer to her friend.

With the warrior moving away from her, the mood subsided. Gabrielle lifted her eyes back up carefully, staring at the broad back. She sighed. Another chance had passed without her acting on her feelings. Without her using it.
<<Stupid! Stupid!>> the little bard told herself off. But then the voice in her head reminded her that she didn't know yet what exactly Xena felt. Neither how she wanted to deal with her feelings herself.
Suddenly she realised what her friend had said as she had gotten up. A quizzical look crossed Gabrielle's face. What did that mean?

Xena turned back around and when she met the bard's puzzled eyes she held up their brush as if in question. Gabrielle immediately forgot everything about any regrets and things the warrior said and gave her best friend a perfect smile, slightly nodding.

”Where did you find them?” she asked as another fruit found it's way into her mouth.

The taller woman walked around the log, then sat down on it behind Gabrielle, one leg on each side of the bard.

Gabrielle looked up from the bag she had searched through when strong thighs brushed against her bare arms. she gulped and bit her lip.

”Just on the other side of the lake.”

Xena reached out with gentle hands and brushed the tangled hair off the bard's shoulders. She studied the mess in front off her and then started untangling the knots first with her fingers. The little woman sighed as she felt long fingers glide through her hair.

”How come I didn't see them earlier? How did you sneak them past me?”

”I didn't sneak them past you. I walked past you to my sword and put them in the little bag very openly. You were just too deep in thought to realise.”

A faint blush crept over the bard's face when she remembered what exactly had occupied her mind back then.

The warrior's hands continued their gentle ministrations until all the knots had loosened. Then she picked up their brush and began combing the strawberry-blond strands. They sat in silence for some time. There was no need to say anything. And they both were much too occupied battling down their desire.
The position they were in gave barely any room for any air inbetween them. Especially when Gabrielle leaned back into the tall body behind her. But how could she not when Xena after a long time of combing her hair, put down the brush and started a gentle massage. The long fingers began at the bard's temples and then worked themselves imazingly slowly back over the blonde head. Only to start at the front again.

Gabrielle had her eyes closed and fought the urge to drop her head back against her friend's chest. This felt so extremely good! Xena's touch sent pleasant chills all over her body and after her heart had decided that it maybe could slow down now, her body relaxed totally. She stuck another fruit into her mouth and moaned in delight.

”Your hair looks like the purest gold, Gabrielle.”

Xena said in amazement, watching her fingers glide through the strands.

”Eh? Maybe we should cut it off and sell it then? We could use the money!” a relaxed voice answered, a soft laugh following.

Xena chuckled and then, getting all her courage together, moved her arms around the bard's shoulders, pulling the smaller form against her. She lowered her chin on the strong shoulders. At first the warrior felt her friend stiffen a little but then she relaxed very quickly into the warmth the taller body was providing. Small hands folded around Xena's forearms.

”Listen, Gabrielle....”

Xena turned her head a bit, getting a glimpse of two green eyes opening in startled alarm.

”....I am very sorry for teasing you like that earlier. I mean, for jumping on you.”

The older woman watched as stunned eyes turned to her. Suddenly their faces were so close it hurt. They felt their breath mingle and both sets of eyes lowered to half open lips. another jolt shot through Gabrielle's body. She cleared her throat nervously and then looked back up to blue eyes, watching her from up close.

”Don't be silly, Xena. It's okay.”

Gabrielle smiled reassuringly at her friend.

”Nah, I mean it.”

The taller woman loosened her arms around her friend's shoulders and sat back up.

”I didn't mean to scare you.”

Xena jumped a bit when two small hands landed on her right thigh as Gabrielle turned around to face her.

”I know, Xe. And I promise that it is okay. Just means I have to learn a lot more if you are able to surprise me like that.”

Green eyes winked at the warrior. Xena smiled and placed a large hand over the smaller ones still on her thigh.

”No. You have learned so much already, Gabrielle. I am so very proud of you.”

Only when her friend's hand landed on hers, did Gabrielle realise where she had placed her own. A deep blush coloured her face. Not just out of embarrassement but also about the older woman's approval. She didn't know why, but it meant so much to her and hearing Xena say that, warmed her from the inside. Or, it would have, hadn't she been so hot already.

Gabrielle tried to cover her feelings by turning back around, reaching for one of the fruits and then placing it at the warrior's lips. A smile edged it's way around the dark woman's mouth and she took the gift carefully out of Gabrielle's fingers. Never breaking their connected gazes. She winked at her friend when green eyes widened. Then she dropped her hands onto the bard's shoulders and pushed her back into her old position facing away from her. The strong hands started a surprisingly gentle massage of tired arm and shoulder muscles.

Soon Gabrielle's body began to relax anew and she pointed out to the warrior where she liked the touch the most by uttering small moans and groans.

It was incredibly wonderful! Partly her body was burning with desire, but on the other hand it just felt so comfortable. It felt like being home. Cozy. Warm. And totally safe. And why shouldn't she be allowed to feel like this? Especially since her friend didn't have anything against it, but instead had caused it herself. Did she really have to do anything about her feelings? Did anyone or anything force her into telling Xena or to decide now about what to do? Why couldn't she just enjoy their closeness and how it made her feel?

Gabrielle felt the urge and stress of having to find a solution to her ”little” problem slowly dissolve with each of Xena's gentle squeezes. She permitted herself to totally relax back into her friend. A tired yawn escaped her mouth and she closed her eyes.

Suddenly she felt the warrior move and she got aware of being carefully pushed forward until the taller body slid off the log down onto the ground behind her.

”Sh...that's right....Relax, Gabrielle.” a deep, calming voice murmurred into her ear. The little bard fought her body's reaction to flee out of her friend's hold when yet again two arms slid around her, this time around her middrift. Gabrielle let her head fall back against strong shoulders, her eyes still closed. She took a deep breath inhaling Xena's scent. The hands on her stomach had started to draw lazy circles, while the warrior watched the flames of their campfire dance. The bard moved one hand onto Xena's and stroked them with her thumb while her other hand found it's way onto a strong thigh beside her. A comfortable, happy sigh and she felt herself crawling deeper and deeper into Morpheus' hold. Still she was fighting it though. Too wonderful was this all to just fall asleep and miss it. A gentle murmur filled her ears as she wiggled in the long arms around her to get more comfortable. The last thing that rushed through her foggy mind was the thought of how good and safe she felt. And that was what she wanted for forever.

Xena felt incredibly good herself. She had taken a chance when she slid down and allowed herself to be that close to the bard. But apparently her friend had no problem with it. The smaller body had snuggled back into her, a happy, very content sigh escaping perfect lips. It took only some minutes until the older woman heard the even, soft breathing that indicated that Gabrielle had fallen asleep. But no way was she to give the hold on the smaller form in her arms up so quickly. Instead she just stayed the way she was and continued watching the flames, drawing circles on the bard's stomach absently and holding her best friend warm and safe.

        As the sound of her quill scratching over her scroll ends I look up from my sword. Our eyes meet and she smiles at me. We share one of those moments in which we just look at each other. And nothing else matters. She slowly gets up and walks over to me. Bending down she holds my face in her hands and lowers her lips to mine. We don't deepen the kiss or put much of a passion into it. But we don't need to. Just the brushing of our lips means so much to us that it can say more than any words ever could. When our lips part she straightens back up, still looking at me.

”I love you.” she says in the sweetest voice and I feel a grin playing around my lips.

”I love you too, Gabrielle.”

She flashes me another smile, then turns and strolls over to a tree. Leaning against it sideways with her shoulder against the wood, her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes drift off into a far distance.

My eyes though stay very close. They take her in, from head to toe and back up. I feel that jolt of excitement in my stomach and have to bite my lips to keep from moaning out. She is so beautiful and takes my breath away every time I look at her. Nothing on this earth can compare with her. Not with her body or her soul. And the greatest thing about it is, that I am allowed to call it mine.
It's not like I own her or anything. She is free, as free as a bird in the sky. But it is her who chose to give herself to me. Willingly. As willingly as I handed myself over to her. Because she owns me just the same. Body and soul.
I lick suddenly dry lips and force myself to drop my gaze. I turn my sword and start working on the other side of it.

Even though my eyes are now fixed on something else but her, it doesn't keep my mind to stay put.....


        It was already late into the night when Xena felt Gabrielle stirring, trying to get comfortable while being sat up. Blue eyes focused on the relaxed face of her sleeping companion. She sighed and then carefully slid out from behind the smaller form. never letting totally go of it. Then she bent back down and picked the low moaning bard up into her arms. In her sleep Gabrielle immediately slid her arms around Xena's neck, getting comfortable in the new position.

The older woman stood still for a moment, holding her precious cargo safely to her, bathing in the warm glow surrounding them. Then she turned and walked over to where they would sleep. Carefully she lowered her friend onto the remaining blanket and got back up. With a deep sigh and a frown the younger woman protested the sudden loss of her companion's warmth. Xena grinned, but instead of immediately laying down as well, she first took care of the fire so it wouldn't burn out over night. At last she grabbed the other blanket and put it down beside her sleeping friend. She lowered herself down onto it, leaning her head on her hand so she was able to study her comapnion's face. As soon as the warrior hit the blanket a strong arm sneaked out and slid around her waist. Xena watched in amazement as the frown immediately disappeared and was replaced with the ghost of a smile on the bard's lips.

The older woman laughed silently, then brshed a strand of blonde hair out of the sweet face. WIth Gabrielle being deeply asleep she did something she would allow herself in no other circumstance. Slowly she lowered her mouth towards relaxed lips. At the last second she turned and breathed a featherlight kiss on the corner of the young woman's mouth. Moving back just a little, she whipsered:

”I love you, Gabrielle.”

”...you too...”

A brow shot up at the mumbled response. Had she really heard that? The words hadn't been louder than a whisper in the wind. But maybe they had been real?! Xena lowered her head onto the blanket, facing the bard. When she fell asleep some minutes later the same content, happy smile played around her lips as around the bard's.

Gabrielle awoke the next morning with a jerk. She sat up straight and looked around with sleepy eyes. When she met her friend's quizzical gaze she sighed and fell backwards onto the blanket. The little bard closed her eyes and moaned in protest.

Immediately she felt a taller body crouch down beside her and a gentle hand reached out for hers.

”Hey, sleepyhead. Are you alright?”

Another moan, this time deeper. And then Gabrielle reopened her eyes slowly.

”Yeah....s'ppose so.”

A yawn followed.

”Had a bad dream?” Xena asked carefully, giving the smaller hand a squeeze.

”No. Actually I slept better than ever before.”
Green eyes turned in wonder to her friend. The warrior smiled warmly but didn't say anything. Nothing about how the bard had, during the night, rolled nearly on top of her, with one leg draped over her longer ones and a blonde head nestled in her shoulder. Nothing about the hand that had rubbed her stomach unconsciously for a long time. And nothing about the words she had thought she had heard whispered back to her. Especially now, with daylight, Xena was sure it had been nothing but a trick of her mind.

In turn Gabrielle didn't say anything about her dream. Nothing about her dream lover that had caressed her skin and kissed every centimeter of her body. Nothing about the burning lust those full lips had inflicted in her. Nothing about naked skin sliding against naked skin. And nothing about her dream lover looking and smelling exactly like her friend.

Xena dropped the question as to why Gabrielle woke with such a start and instead got up and went to the fire to retrieve two cups of steaming tea. Then she returned to her friend's side and sat back down beside her, handing over one of the mugs.

Gabrielle, who had sat up under protesting growls, smiled a thank you at the older woman. After some careful sips in silence, the bard asked curiously:

”So, where are we headed now?”

Xena looked around their campsite, then to where the sun was just crawling out of the ground.

”Hm, I thought we could travel further east. There's a village where we can have lunch and then see where to go next.”

”Sounds good.”

The little woman yawned again. She grinned sheepishly at her amused friend.

”Too bad that we have to leave this place. I liked it alot.”

The older woman nudged Gabrielle.

”Don't get all melancholy on me, Gabrielle. I promise we'll come back here one day, `kay?”

”I'm not getting melancholy.” the bard replied and grabbing her blanket threw it at her friend. Then she got up and stretched. With her back to the warrior she shrugged her shoulders, not seeing as lustfilled eyes took in her body and an eager tongue shot out to lick dry lips.

”I really like this clearing, Xena. That´s all.”

The warrior shook her head to clear it, picked up their empty cups and got up to clean them out.

”I know. Me too.” she whispered conspiratoraly when walking past the younger woman.

They made quick work of breaking camp and soon they found themselves back on the road. Xena had chosen to walk beside Gabrielle because she wasn't ready yet to give up their closeness of the day before and the night just passed. The bard had given her a happy grin when she didn't climb onto the horse's back.

And so they were walking side by side, their hands and shoulders occasionaly brushing against each other. Of course they knew that they could just walk further apart, but neither made a move to. The first few times they mumbled some excuses when they bounced into each other but eventually they gave it up and just enjoyed the fleeing touches.

When the sun was standing in the middle of the sky they at last arrived in the village they had been heading for. It had taked them a bit longer than planned because they had agreed without words, to take it easy and not to rush things.

Now they were stood in front of the local inn.

”You go ahead and get us a table. I´ll get Argo stabled.”

Xena squeezed her companion's shoulder and went to the inn's barn. Gabrielle watched her leave, admiring the view until the warrior turned around and smiled warmly at her. She flashed a smile back and then entered the inn.

Other than with Xena, her entry normally didn't lead to the room quietening down. Only some curious heads turned when she stepped into the packed building. She scanned the place for trouble and then, finding none, she went to a small free table in the back of the room. She had just sat down when the inn door reopened and, as she had expected, a hush fell over the crowd.

The warrior's tall figure stood in the doorway, effectively shielding out the midday sun. Cold eyes gave the room a quick once over. They fell onto Gabrielle and the bard saw a small wink. Then they returned to inspecting the inn visitors. Only when Xena stepped totally into the room, people began talking again, more or less quiet.
The older woman walked up to the bar and talked with the waitress. Then she turned around and leaned her arms against the wood behind her. She smirked at some guy who saw his chance and, drunk as he was, stumbled towards her. Her look stopped him in midstep though and he turned around finding his own table far more interesting suddenly.

Blue eyes travelled to the back of the room and landed on Gabrielle. The bard was sat with her back to her. Xena's heart warmed at the knowledge that her friend had chosen one of the smaller more uncomfortable tables in the back because she preferred it. And not one of the bigger tables in the front which Gabrielle liked more.
The blonde head turned at the warrior's intense gaze and a warm smile crossed over the bard's face as their eyes met. It subsided though when the younger woman saw the predatory look flash in her friend's eyes. She blushed a bit but then forced herself to calm down. She raised a brow first in question, then she saw a small grin playing around xena's lips, a silent challenge. She turned around and ignored the taller woman.

Another smirk played appeared around Xena's lips at Gabrielle's cool response. She turned to the waitress and took the two drinks she had ordered. Then she slowly made her way through the crowd towards where the little bard was sat.

The blonde woman felt her dark friend's form stood behind her immediately. she fought the need to look up at her. Gabrielle wasn't really sure what was going on. Only that she had seen something maybe close to desire in the blue eyes gazing at her from across the room. And then she had challenged the warrior. It made her stomach tingle with nervousness to not know what her friend was up to or what they were playing. But nevertheless she liked the excitement.

Suddenly the warrior behind her moved and leaning over her, placed a mug with cider in front of her. Their arms brushed and Gabrielle gasped in shock. She didn't look up but instead chose to ignore her friend even more.

Xena chuckled to herself and still bending over Gabrielle she asked in a deep voice close to a sensitive ear:

”Hey cutie. Is that chair still free?”

She pointed to the chair opposite of the bard, between the wall and the table.

”No.” came the soft reply.

Xena ignored the answer and walked around the table. She sat down and taking a sip from her port eyed Gabrielle. The bard raised her eyes off the table and locked their gazes. She was just about to say something when her friend spoke again, still in that deep voice that made the hair on Gabrielle's neck raise and small shivers run over her body.

”How come such a beauty like you travels all alone?”

”I'm not travelling alone.” Gabrielle answered with a winning smile.

”No? Where is your husband then?”
Blue eyes scanned the room again.

Gabrielle leaned back in her chair, starting to enjoy their game.

”I'm not married. I'm with a friend.”

”A friend?”

”My best friend, in fact.”

”Oh! Your best friend.”
Xena gave her a wink and took another sip from her drink.
”Well, where is he then?”

Blue eyes now settled on her and watched her intensly.

She should be coming soon. And she won't be happy to see that someone took her place.”

Realising what her words could mean as well, Gabrielle frowned and then nodded to the chair Xena was sat on.

”I'm sure she wouldn't mind. If she's foolish enough to leave such a treasure as you alone, it's her own fault if someone comes along and snatches her place away.”

Xena grinned at her friend and lowered her eyes. Gabrielle didn't exactly know what to answer to that. She watched her companion curiously.

”So, now that we cleared that, how come you don't have a man at your side? They must be all over you.”

”I have my friend. That is all I need.” the bard answered sincerly, looking Xena deeply in the eyes. They stared at each other for a moment in silent communication, before the warrior put her port down on the table.

”She must be some woman, that friend of yours.”
”Oh yeah, she sure is!”

Gabrielle fought a laugh and winked.

”What's her name?”

The bard let the name melt on her tongue, toying with the taller woman. The extra warmth put to that single word got an immediate reaction from the dark woman as she closed her eyes for a second to bath in the glow. Then she reopened her eyes and focused on her friend.

”Then you must be Gabrielle.”

”Yes, that's me.”

”I've heard about you. But....” the warrior leaned closer and looked her friend deeply in the green eyes. ”...what they say comes not even that close to reality.” Xena held her fingers not even an inch apart.
”You are so much more beautiful than in the stories they tell about you. I guess, no words could describe you in a fitting way.”

Gabrielle swallowed hard at the sincere look that crossed over the blue eyes in front of her. For the normally so silent warrior she sure could make Gabrielle's heart pound in double speed with only her words. And, was Xena playing or was all this real?

”They are wrong about my friend as well.” the bard stated in a shaking voice, getting totally lost in the blue depths before her.

”Oh yeah? And why would that be?”

The older woman leaned back in her chair, watching Gabrielle interested.

”What they say about her comes not very close to reality either. Especially her eyes. They are the bluest diamonds that human kind has ever seen. Like stars shining in the night sky.”

What her friend could do, she could do just as well, Gabrielle figured. She saw a grin edge it's way onto the warrior's face.

”But what I guess is true is, that she is that big, bad, dangerous type, right?” Xena mused.

”No, she's not bad or dangerous at all. Well, it depends who you are and what you are doing, of course.”

”I see. I see.”

Xena took another sip of her drink. Silence settled down between them. They exchanged looks, locking their gazes until one of them broke the contact and found something else to stare at. Then Gabrielle leaned forward onto the table. She caught the blue eyes in a deep lock.

”Are you that big, bad and dangerous type, warrior?” she asked in a husky voice that surprised her. Her eyes were flashing at her friend.

A grin broke over Xena's face as she leaned in closer as well.

”Oh, you bet I am big. You have no idea how big I am, Gabrielle.”

The bard had to stifle a giggle at the warrior's look on her face with the winking eyes teasing her.

”And I can be dangerous. Do you like danger, Gabrielle?”

The blonde woman felt a chill run over her back at the question. She gave up and a small moan escaped her lips. Her eyes fluttered shut. When she opened them she found herself staring into deep blue stars. It appeared to her they had deepened with an unspoken challenge.

”Danger gets my juices going.” Gabrielle whispered as her voice broke with emotions. When she relised what she had said a deep blush coloured her face. She sat back in astonishment about herself.
But she relised it was fun what they were doing and she liked it immensely.

Xena leaned back as well, enjoying the colour creep over her friend's face. She had intented to tease Gabrielle just a bit. Somehow though they had ended up in something much deeper than that.

”I bet your Xena appreciates that.” she stated calmly watching Gabrielle's face closely.

”Why should she?” the bard blurted out.

”There are only very few warriors who don't like to get juices....going. I bet your friend would be the kind that would like that kind of reaction.”

The younger woman averted her eyes from Xena's as a jolt of excitement hit her in her stomach. She swallowed hard and fought to get her answer out.

”I have never asked her about that.”

”Why not?”
Xena felt herself diving deeper into Gabrielle's mind and she felt a chill run over her hot skin about what she might find there.

”I don't know. That question never came up.”

Small shoulders shrugged as Gabrielle lowered her gaze onto the table. Her fingers followed some traces on the wooden surface.

”Do you, Gabrielle, like it when your juices get going?”
Xena didn't know where the boldness to ask this question came from. It had just popped out of her mouth as she watched her friend nervously playing with the cup in front of her. and now all that was left for her to do was wait and see how her friend would react.

The reaction came quickly as the deepest blush ever coloured the bard's delicate features. She reached for her drink with shaking hands and took a big sip. When she placed the cup back on the table she watched the fluid in it. Without looking up she shrugged her shoulders lightly. Gabrielle didn't trust her voice and again swallowed hard.

”Since we found out that I am dangerous and that you like that, do you think your friend would have something against you and me testing just how much we can get your juices going and if you like it?”

A dark eyebrow rose and Xena gave Gabrielle an amused wink. The older woman pushed deeper and deeper though she didn't know where they were going with this or what would happen if her friend would pick up the challenge and answer positively to her underlying invitation.

The little bard felt her heart stop and her mouth dry. What exactly was going on? Was Xena really flirting with her? And if so, why?

Gabrielle was saved from answering when blue eyes suddenly broke away from her and settled on something behind her chair. The taller body straightened. The bard watched the change in Xena's attitude and then turned her head to find out what had caused it.

”Xena?? Gabrielle??”

A smile broke out over both women's faces as they recognized their old friend Jason approach. When the middle aged man reached their table, he grinned and clasped forearms with the warrior. Then turning to Gabrielle, kissed the bard's hand in a friendly greeting.

Jason was an old friend of the two women. He was working at king Gregor's court in the library. About a year ago or so the warrior and bard had helped the king settle some problems with thieves and warlords in his kingdom. King Gregor's father had just died and the young man, his eldest son, was there to follow in his step. The only problem had been that the old king had left more problems than good things for his sun to deal with. The only idea king Gregor had had back then had been to ask Xena to help him. They both had been friends since before Gabrielle's time and so Xena and Gabrielle had spent over two moons getting the king's army back into order and to get rid of all the unpleasentries in his kingdom. Gabrielle had mostly stayed in the library trying to figure out ways to save more money. All with the help of Jason. Xena had been out with the army leaders recruiting new soldiers and getting the old ones back into a fit form.
Over the last year the new king had put all his effort into returning the kingdom into the growing and prosperous realm it had been before his father had lost interest and had started messing things up.

”It has been a long time, my friends!” Jason said as he pulled a chair to the table and sat down. His grey eyes looked them both up and down curiously.
He was an old man, about a head taller than the bard. Jason already had served king Gregor's father. His eyes showed the knowldge he had been able to collect over the years in the royal library.

Xena shot Gabrielle a glance noting the bard's delight about meeting their friend. While spending so much time with Jason, the bard and the librarian had build a pretty close friendship. Gabrielle once had mentioned to her friend that Jason reminded her of an uncle.

”How come you are around here and not at court?” Gabrielle asked. She shortly looked to her companion, smiling softly at her. Then her attention returned to the old man.

”Well, I am out to get some stuff settled in Athens. Actually, I'm just on my way back home. King Gregor will be so delighted when I bring you two with me.”

Xena put her port down on the table and raised an eyebrow at the grey haired man.
”Bring us with you?” she repeated slowly.

”Oh! I'm sorry! I just thought...I forgot to tell you the reason why I headed all the way to Athens. It's like this: King Gregor will get married tomorrow and I was out to get some stuff settled for him and the new queen. For the honey moon.”

”He's going to get married?” Gabrielle asked in excitement.

”Oh yeah. the beautiful princess Selma. They met about half a moon after you two left. And now at last the big day has arrived!”

Jason's eyes shone and he looked from the warrior to the bard in question.

Gabrielle reached for the old man's hand and squeezed it just as happily. The warrior leaned back into her chair and sipped her drink calmly.

”I think it would be such a great surprise for him to see you two at his special day! hes talking about you all the time. His eyes will pop out when he sees you!”

The bard turned her shining eyes to her friend who still hadn't said another word. She raised her brows in question. As an answer she got a dark brow raising as well, then a wink, and a lopsided grin appeared on the warriors face. Gabrielle licked suddenly dry lips as the blue eyes lowered and settled on her mouth, then returned to meet hers. The small woman forced a nervous smile onto her lips.

”So, will you join me? We would have to get started immediately though because I am already a bit late. I have to return to the castle by nightfall.”

The prospect of a big wedding party immediately made Gabrielle's heart race. She lowered hopeful eyes at her friend, a sweet smile playing around her lips. The mischievious grin on the older woman's face subsided and was replaced by a knowing smile. She blinked her eyes once, twice, at the young bard and then, keeping her eyes on Gabrielle's she said in a low voice:

”We would be very happy to join you.”

The old man clapped his hands, then got up.
”So, I'm just gonna get my stuff from my room. See you in about ten minutes outside the inn, okay?”

”Sure.” Xena's eyes had left Gabrielle's and she nodded to their friend. Her gaze returned to her companion. She could clearly see the excitement deepening her friend's green eyes. It made her smile.

Jason bowed to them and then turned to disappear back into the crowd around them.

”Thank you.” Gabrielle leaned forward and gave her friend a warm smile. The warrior mimicked her, leaning closer in as well.

”No problem. But now you owe me, Gabrielle.”
The wiggling eyebrows shot a jolt of excitemt through the bard's body. For a moment they stared at each other not moving a muscle. With their eyes deeply locked Gabrielle suddenly realised what had flashed over her friend's face from time to time, since they had entered the inn: A deep kind of love. What made her stomach tingle the most though was the one thing she had expected the least to see in the blue stars: desire. Pure, open desire.

Gabrielle couldn't really believe it. Especially since the look always passed after only a second or so. But it had looked so much like it, that she just had to give it a try. And what if she had misjudged the whole thing? After all she wasn't really that experienced in this area. Maybe she just had wanted to see the warrior's lust for her.
It didn't matter to her as she asked in a low, husky voice, deepening their gazes even more and leaning over the table as far as she could.

”Are you flirting with me, Xena?”

The warrior didn't move one inch, even though Gabrielle realised that a shudder ran over her friend's body, leaving a trace of goosebumps on the dark skin of Xena´s strong arms. A half smirk found it's way onto the older woman's face but nothing else showed that she had heard the bard's question. She only looked at the younger woman, their gazed connected deeply.


Gabrielle reached out two fingers to the warrior's hand that was laying on the table. She slowly traced the outline of one long finger, over the hand and further upwards onto a strong arm.

”....if you are....”

The bard in wonder and a bit of nervousness discovered that her voice had darkened, putting a kind of sexual thrill to it. She got up very slowly, still running her fingers upwards over burning skin. She walked over to the warriors side step by step.

”....you should know....”

When she arrived at her friend's side, her hand was laying flat on a broad shoulder. With shaking fingers she slid her hand under the long hair and brushed it off Xena's shoulders, laying a freeing ear to her sight. The warrior lowered her head but didn't turn towards the bard. A trace of fire followed behind where Gabrielle's fingertips had wandered up her arm.

A warm mouth lowered towards her ear. When the bard spoke again, hot breath flowed over the side of Xena's throat and full lips brushed her earlobe. The warrior gulped and closed her eyes, floating in the sensations her friend was creating.

”....that two can play this game, Xena.”

Gabrielle spoke her comapnion's name with that extra care like before. Letting the X sound like a snake's hiss, ready to pounce forward onto it's prey to sink it's teeth into soft skin. The little bard felt more than saw the shudder run over the older woman's body. She took a deep breath inhaling the warrior's scent. There was this sudden need in her to brush her lips against the soft skin of Xena's throat. To taste her. But instead she squeezed the shoulder, then ran her fingertips along the skin beneath the dark haired woman's ear. Fearing that she couldn't hold herself back for much longer anymore, Gabrielle turned away and walked out of the inn without stopping or turning around to Xena.

The warrior sat in stunned silence. She stared at the table, trying to control her fast beating heart. A heavy breath she didn't know she had been holding escaped her.
This little game that she had started had backfired on her. Here she was, sitting in a crowded tavern, quivering with desire for her best friend.

”By the gods....” Xena breathed and rubbed her temples.

This was enormous! Gabrielle had just taken over their play and had answered all her questions. And over all had brought up new ones at the same time. So, her bard wanted to play. She didn't back down on Xena's pushing, but instead had shoved back very willingly.

And what did that mean?

Yes, the younger woman had realised they were flirting. So, it wasn't like Gabrielle didn't know what exactly was going on. It was more likely that she knew exactly what she was doing and what an effect it had on the warrior.
And apperently her little friend had wanted that effect because otherwise she wouldn't have allowed it to go so far. Did that mean that Gabrielle felt the same way about her? Did that mean that maybe the warrior's greatest wish would come true? Or was the bard just toying with her? No, she must have realised that she had the warrior trapped like a caught mouse.
Well, there were many ways to find answere to those questions. But only one seemed appealing to Xena. She decided to play along and see where it would take them. Where Gabrielle would take them. It sure would be getting interesting.

Xena emptied her port in one big swallow, shaking her head at the burning heat in her throat. Shrugging her shoulders to loosen them she got up. She trhew some coins on the table for their drinks and then walked out of the inn, after her friend.

Gabrielle stepped out into the bright midday sun. Her heart was racing so fast she thought it would drive her insane any minute. Wide eyed she leaned against the wall beside the tavern door. Small hands covered her mouth.

<<Oh...gods! What did I just do that for?!>>

Her mind was whirling so fast, it made her dizzy. She realised her legs suddenly felt too wobbly to keep her up standing. Looking around the young woman found a fountain not too far from where she was standing. With shaking legs she walked over to it. Then she lowered her hands into the cold, refreshing water and splashed it onto her face and chest. She stood leaning on the low stone wall surrounding the pool of water when a warm hand landed on her back. Jumping at the gentle touch she turned around.

”Hey, Gabrielle. Are you okay?”

”Uh....yes.” she replied, forcing herself to smile at Jason. The old man gave her a quizzical once over.

”Just too hot.” she explained weakly. Luckily her friend accepted that explanation and dropped it.

”Where is Xena?”

”She should be coming any minute.”

Gabrielle sat down on the rim of the fountain and gave her friend a long look.
”How did king Gregor meet this Selma?” she asked, deciding that some story would maybe take her mind off what had just happened between her and Xena. To her bad luck the warrior chose exactly that moment to leave the inn. She stood in the doorway, shielding her eyes and looking around.

The bard's attention immediately left Jason and floated over to her friend. The bard nodded from time to time at Jason's words, giving the expression that she was listening intensly. In reality though her eyes met the warrior's clear blue ones. The studied each other from far away. Gabrielle scratched her throat nervously, realising that the older woman's eyes had broken their connected gazes and were now slowly sliding over her body down to her toes and then very slowly back up. The bard swallowed hard and smiled warmly at Xena.

The taller woman answered the smile with one of her own and a wink. Then she turned and went to get Argo.

”..and since then the king likes to eat carrots with baked beans.”

The bard realised that her friend had finished his story. She nodded.

”Uhm, Gabrielle, have you actually heard any of what I just said?” Jason asked curiously.

”What? Oh...I'm sorry. Must be the heat. I'm so sorry, Jason.”

”No, problem, Gabrielle.” Jason smiled at the blushing bard and patted her shoulder reassuringly. Gabrielle smiled back, rubbing her forehead.

She looked up when a tall shadow fell onto her. Smirking blue eyes met hers. The young woman felt her blush deepening as she stood up from her seated position.

”So, are we ready to leave? we are a bit late already.” the old man commented and looked at them with questioning eyes.

”Yeah, let's get going.”

The librarian nodded and then climbed onto his pony that had been waiting beside him patiently. Xena used the moment to step up to Gabrielle and wipe a waterdrop off her cheek. She grinned at the younger woman's sigh escaping at the gentle touch.

”Did you have a bath, Gabrielle? Without me?”

The warrior faked a hurt expression as she turned to Argo and climbed into the saddle. Gabrielle stepped up beside the horse and looked up at her friend.

”Nope. I wouldn't dream about having a bath without you. Who would scrub my back?”

Xena laughed silently.

”Good answer. Come on.”
She held a strong hand out and waited for the bard to take it. The younger woman studied the hand nervously, as if being afraid that touching it would burn her. That made Xena lean down closely to her to be able to whisper in her ear.

”I don't bite, Gabrielle.”

She turned her head a bit studying the faint blush colouring her friend's face. Gabrielle looked at her for a second, then stared straight ahead onto the saddle.

”Unless you want me to.”

White teeth flashed. The sheepish grin on her friend's face made the bard giggle. Their eyes met and Gabrielle slapped a strong thigh playfully.

”Ouch! What was that for?”

Xena stroked her thigh and grimaced at her companion.

”For being so mouthy.”

Gabrielle stated and lifted a brow in mock challenge. Her friend just shook her head and held her hand out again.

”Mouthy, my ass! Just get up here, will ya?!”

This time the bard took the offered help and soon found herself up on the tall horse, pressed up against Xena.

Jason had watched them and was studying the two woman curiously. When they turned their horse towards the way out of the village he shook his head and smiled to himself. It would be a very interesting journey and couple of days to come.

Actually their travel wasn't interesting at all. At least not for him. Since they were so late already they started out in a fast trot and stayed in it for most of the time. Riding beside each other Xena soon started asking him about the kingdom's businesses.

For Gabrielle and Xena on the other hand it was a pleasant ride. A very pleasant ride. As soon as the warrior had helped her into the saddle, Gabrielle slipped her arms around the taller form in front of her. Not sure of where she stood with her friend, she tried not to lean into her too much and give her companion some space. But Xena wanted none of it. She gently lifted the bard's hands up and pulled her closer into her until their bodies had completely melted together.

”We will have to ride fast. I don't want you to fall, down, okay?” she had explained as casually as possible. Both knew though that there was a totally different reason behind it, but neither said a thing.

Gabrielle, as an answer, had squeezed her friend gently. Being so close to the warrior made her feel warm and tingly, but she enjoyed it and sighed contently. After some miles, when Xena started small talk with their friend, she had allowed herself the pleasure to lean her head against a broad shoulder. The older woman had turned her head and smiled lovingly at her, patting her hands gently. They had shared a long moment of silent understanding. Then Jason had pulled Xena's attention back to him and Gabrielle had closed her eyes, listening to the comforting warm voice of her companion. After some minutes a large hand had landed on hers which were placed on Xena's stomach. The warrior, still deep in conversation with the librarian, had absently started to caress her hands. Slowly but surely sleep took a tight hold on her, filling her dreams with blue laughing eyes and strong hands caressing her body.

They arrived at the village surrounding king Gregor's castle just before nightfall. Gabrielle was still fast asleep against the warrior, her soft breathing tickling the older woman's skin.
The two friend's slowed their panting horses when they reached the first houses. Xena turned a bit in the saddle and watched her companion's face. Then she lifted her hand and placed it on a soft cheek.

”Hey, Gabrielle. Wake up.”

A protesting moan was all she got.

”Come on, sleepyhead. Wake up. We're there.” Xena stroked the warm cheek with her thumb. Another moan, but this time Gabrielle's face leaned into the gentle touch, soft lips pressing a kiss into a warm palm. One eye fluttered open lazily. When she realised what she had done, the bard's head shot up in shock, eyes wide in horror. A pair of amused blue orbs watched her.

”Hey there.” Xena grinned and pulled her hand back. To her and Gabrielle's utter regret.

The green eyes darted away from Xena's and tried focusing on their surroundings.

Jason shook his head and laughed out loud at the confused expression on the bard's face.

”By the gods, child. You've got a sleep like a bear in winter.” he teased friendly.

”Uh, uh.” the young woman replied and rubbed her eyes. Then, when she was awake enough to realise what was going on around her, her eyes widened yet again. The view of the streets of the town they were riding through was breathtaking. On nearly every house there were colourful flags wavering in the evening's cool breeze. In some of the houses candles had already been lit, shimmering like the purest gold. In front of them was the enourmous castle. On it's walls were flags and banners as well. Their soft rustling mixed with the noises of the busy streets. Torches beside the gate made it look like the doorway to heaven. Two guards in shining golden armour were stood beside the main entrance, surveying them suspiciously. When they saw Jason they shouted some orders and the big metallic gate opened slowly to let them in.

Gabrielle's mouth dropped open at the sight greeting them inside. The busy streets were nothing compared to what was going on inside the castle. Even though it was already getting dark, servants and other people were rushing around like little ants. The whole court was decorated with flags, torches and flowers whose scent vibrated in the air. the bard giggled when two servants were trying to put up a big pole with flags and flowers. It fell over as soon as they had lifted it up. Cursing under their breaths thay started all over again.
Out of nowhere a young boy appeared in front of them. His eyes widened when he saw the warrior. But he stepped back respectfully waiting for them to jump off their horses. Only when the librarian waved him over her grabbed the pony's reigns. Then he waited patiently until the grey haired man had slipped off. Curious, admiring eyes turned to the two women.
Xena looked to Gabrielle who was still watching the two servants fighting with the pole. When the bard felt the blue eyes on her, she smiled and gave her friend a squeeze. Xena smiled back and then slid off the horse, landing silently on her feet. She held out her hands to the smaller woman. Gabrielle this time didn't need a second invitation. She threw her legs over the horse's back and descended into the waiting arms which lowered her safely to the ground.

When their bodies slid against each other it was hard for both of them to contain their moans. As soon as the bard felt the ground under her feet, she slung her arms around her friend's neck and squeezed her tightly. The warrior was a bit surprised about the unexpected hug, but enjoyed it nevertheless. She closed her arms around the smaller form and allowed their bodies to melt together. After only some seconds they parted and Gabrielle stepped back, her eyes already taking in her surroundings all over again.

”Shall I stable your horse now, ma'am?” the little boy asked, holding out a hand. His excitement about the new guests was clearly showing in the quiver of his voice.

”Take good care of her. Give her a good rub down. She had a hard day.”

”Of course, ma'am. I will take care of her as if she was my own.”

He politely bowed and then led the horses to the royal stables.

Jason indicated them to follow him. Which wasn't such an easy task with all the people running around in the court to prepare for the coming day.
They entered the castle building through the main entrance, then turned left and headed along a long corridor. At last Jason stopped in front of a large door.

”Please wait here. I am going to tell king Gregor you are here.”
With that the librarian knocked on the door and then disappeared through it into the room.

Xena turned around and leaned against the wall, crossing her arms over her chest. The bard studied some paintings on the wall intensely. When she felt blue eyes watching her, she stepped up to the warrior until thier boots met and looked up. She smiled warmly and placed her hands on the taller woman's folded arms. Her companion's eyes softened but gazed at her curiously. Leaning just a little bit into Xena, Gabrielle said:

”Thank you that we could come here. I know you don't like big celebrations like this.”

Xena shrugged.

”No problem. There is nothing pressing to attend to. So I figured we could come. A break will do us good, right?”

Gabrielle started stroking the warm skin under her palms. She let her eyes slowly travel from her friend's face southwards until they reached her hands.

”Right.” she silently agreed.

Suddenly Xena moved and a gentle finger slid under her chin raising her face to look back up at the blue eyes. Their gazes met and the bard felt the old nervousness return.
A gentle thumb caressed her cheek and deep blue stars told her more than any words ever could. Xena watched her intensely for some seconds before leaning down just a bit. When she opened her mouth to say something, the large door was ripped open and king Gregor came shooting out. A delighted grin spread over his face as soon as his eyes fell on them.

”Xena! Gabrielle! By the gods! It's a miracle!”

He opened his arms wide in invitation. Gabrielle just had enough time to push herself away from the taller woman before she was pulled into a tight hug by the king. She helplessly held on to the strong hold. her green eyes fell onto Xena's who looked very bemused at her. The warrior winked and then pushed herself off the wall.

Immediately the bard was released, rolling her shoulders uncomfortably. Gregor turned around and reached for the older woman's arm. He knew better than to pull Xena into a tight hug and instead gave her a warrior's hand shake. Jason stood in the doorway, watching the scene with a proud grin playing around his lips. There was no better present for his king than to bring his two so badly missed friends with him.

”I can't believe you two are here! Selma will be so delighted! She said, I am talking about you all the time. So much that, in the beginning, she thought we three must have had something going on!”

The king bubbled, winking at his last statement. He was a tall, handsome man, about the same age as Xena. His dark brown hair matched his sparkling brown eyes. he was dressed in a simple, but expenive looking gown. The joy about meeting his friends was very plain on his clear face.

Xena looked to her companion, raising a brow at the king's comment. Gabrielle had to stifle a giggle.

”We are very happy to see you too, Gregor! And very curious about your queen.” Gabrielle said, turning her eyes back to their friend. he answered her with a heart felt smile.

”I would like to spend this evening with you two. But unfortunately I have some pressing matters to attend to. I hope you will forgive me that I can't dine with you tonight.”

”That is totally okay.” the bard replied easily.

”I will have my servants prepare you the best two rooms that are left. we already have a lot of guests staying with us. But, you will be my special ones. My guests of honour!”

”One room is totally okay with us.” Gabrielle blurted out faster than she had intented to do. The warrior, stod silently behind the king, turned her eyes and met the bard's. A curious look washed over her face. The younger woman blinked a bit at the sparkling blue eyes.

”Nonsense. I won't have my guests of honour sleep squeezed together in one of the smaller rooms if they very easily can have two of the bigger ones.”

<<Squeezed together isn't all that bad.>> two minds replied, but any real comment was waved off by the ruler. And so they had to accept their fate.

King Gregor turned to his silently waiting librarian.
”Would you accompany our friends to the dining room? I will see to it that you all get a proper meal. You must be hungry from your long journey.”

With that he nodded to the two women who answered with smiles and nods themselves. Then Gregor turned and disappeared back into his room.

A low growl broke the silence as soon as the door had closed. Three sets of eyes turned to Gabrielle's stomach.

”Ups.” the bard sheepishly grinned.

”Follow me this way, please.”
Jason laughed and lead them towards the small dining room normally reserved for the kings private meals. Xena stepped up beside her young friend, her hand on the small back. She leaned in closer whispering:

”Don't give the impression I never feed you, bard.”

Gabrielle turned her head and gave the warrior a teasing gaze.
”Or else?” she raised her brows in challenge.

”Or else I would have to think of a punishment.” blue eyes sparkled dangerously. The taller woman slapped the bard's butt playfully and then walked faster until she was at the same level like Jason. They talked calmly with each other, the blonde woman following, smiling to herself.
<<Oh yes, my warrior. Punish me as much as you want to.>> she thought with a smirk.

Not even half a minute after they had sat down at a round table in the small dining room, the side door opened and two servants brought food and drink for the new guests and the librarian: fresh baked bread, still warm from the oven, fine butter, a collection of thin cut meat slices, sweet tasting wine and fresh water. The bard's eyes widened and when the warrior looked at the grinning face, she stuck her tongue out at her friend, already digging into the meal.

”I warned you, Gabrielle.” came the soft reply from the older woman sat between her and Jason.

About ten minutes later, a firm knock at the main door interrupted the three. They glanced up when the door opened and a young man stuck his head in. When his eyes fell on the two women he smiled and entered.

He was as tall as the king, witha muscular built body. His nearly black hair was cut short and dark brown eyes, matching the king's settled on the bard. His whole statue looked like the king's, only he seemed more muscular.
When he arrived at their table he stood tall and proud, showing clearly just how sure he was about himself. He nodded to Jason, then bowed to Gabrielle holding out his hand. The bard felt herself blush and gave him her hand for a faint handkiss.

”Hello. My name is Prince Theodore. My brother mentioned that you two arrived.” He bowed respectfully to the smirking warrior. Xena gave him a nod and then returned her attention without any further comment back to her meal. She didn't know exactly why, considering she only saw him for the first time, but the warrior already didn't like the prince. A soft, but hard enough kick against her leg made her look back up. Sparkling green eyes shot a warning at her. Blue eyes rolled and she looked up to smile at the young man.

”Nice to meet you.” Xena mumbled and gave the bard a pointed glance. Gabrielle shook ker head, getting a shrug from the warrior in return.

”I thought we could only expect you tomorrow, Prince Theodore.” Jason commented dryly.

”Oh well, that is how I had planned it. But things worked out easier and I could come today already.” he replied, then turned his attention back to the bard.
”And I have to say, I don't regret it.”

The young woman smiled but then concentrated on her plate. She felt blue eyes darting between her and the prince, then settle on her. From under her bangs Gabrielle looked at her friend. Their eyes met, a sudden fire glowing in the blue ones. The blonde woman smiled warmly at her companion and then returned her gaze to the food in front of her.

Without asking the prince pulled a chair out from under the table and sat down.

”So, how come you are here?” he asked nonchallantly into the round, but his eyes stopped yet again on the bard. Since she had her mouth full, she couldn't reply and Jason took over.

”I met them half a days ride away from here. Invited them and here we are.”

”I see.”

A silence settled on the room. Xena leaned back in her chair, sipping her wine calmly. Her eyes settled on the prince. He looked up and met her stare. For a long moment their eyes stayed locked, neither wanting to give in and look away first.

”How is it that we have never met you before, Prince Theodore?” Gabrielle asked, her eyes travelling from her companion to the prince. Xena raised her glass to her lips hiding the grin playing around her lips.

”Oh, I don't live very close. Actually I don't have much to do with my brother or his kingdom. I am only his half brother. My home lays about two days ride from here. I moved out of here when I was about three summers old. With my mother.”

A bitter look crossed the beautiful face.
As everybody knew king Gregor's father had a liking to sleep in any other bed than his own. One of the servant's, the prince's mother, had gotten pregnant. So the king had given the child the title of prince but had ordered mother and son to leave his kingdom when the child was old enough. As a farewell present he had given the mother a house in the east of his kingdom. A small left over area from when his kingdom had been bigger. That was where the prince lived at the moment.

Jason chose that moment to finish his meal. He got up and bowed to the two women.
”I am sorry, but I have to excuse myself. There still is a lot for me to do until tomorrow.”

Xena nodded to him and Gabrielle gave him a friendly smile. Prince Theodore got up as well.
”Well, I have to be on my way as well.”

He again reached for the bard's smaller hand and kissed it gently, his lips lingering longer than necessary. Brown eyes smiled at the blushing bard, who returned the smile.

”It was very nice to meet you, Prince Theodore.”

”Oh please, you can call me just Theodore or Theo.”

”Theo it is then.”

Gabrielle flashed him another smile. Stll holding her hand in his he leaned a bit closer.
”I am looking forward to seeing you again tomorrow, Gabrielle.” he stated in a warm, charming voice.

”Yes, me too.” the young woman replied, pulling her hand back and reaching for her wine glass.

The prince turned to Xena.

”Warrior, it was a pleasure meeting you as well.” he bowed slightly at the waist and turned around. The dark haired woman watched him leave then her eyes wandered to her companion who was still digging through her food.

<<You can call me Theodore, Gabrielle. I am so looking forward to tomorrow, Gabrielle. Let me kiss your hand again, Gabrielle.>> her mind snorted, but she forced it to shut up.

Why should she get angry at the man? He didn't do anything else but....well, flirt with her bard.
Nope, not her bard. Gabrielle didn't belong to her or anybody else. And she was free to flirt or whatever with whomever she wanted to.

Warm emerald eyes met hers and any bad thoughts melted away into nothingness. They shared a moment of silent communication until Gabrielle smiled widely.

<<Gods! You are so beautiful, Xena! Why do you have to be so beautiful that it hurts my heart just to look at you?>>
A quick flash of pain in the green debth let the warrior's brow raie in question. But it disappeared as fast as it had appeared. The older woman put her cup down and reached for a small hand laying on the table. She squeezed it and immediately they intertwined their fingers, thumbs rubbing over the other ones skin.

”Are you okay, Gabrielle?”
Xena asked in a low voice, searching her companion's eyes for an answer.

Gabrielle felt her heart picking up the usual racing speed when their fingers touched. She nodded absently, getting lost in the blue eyes beside her.

”Yes.” she whispered.

The blonde woman was just about to reach out to brush some hair out of Xena's face when the side door reopened and a servant came back in to check on them.
Gabrielle jumped and pulled her hand free, wiping her mouth with her napkin.

”Is everything to you satisfaction?” the young servant asked, standing in the doorway.

Xena turned her eyes from her companion to the young woman.
”Yes, everything is okay.”

”Okay. When you are done, then please call for me and I will take you to your room.”

The bard looked up and searched her friend's eyes.
”I think I am tired. Could we go to bed now?” she asked carefully when she had the older woman'' attention.

”Of course.” a warm voice replied.

Their rooms were on the other side of the castle. Since they were on the second floor and most of the other guest rooms on the first one, the two rooms beside their's seemed to be empty. The king had seen to it that their rooms were placed beside each others. And so, when the servant had left, Xena and Gabrielle stood in front of the bard's room. They awkwardly looked at each other. Even though they both wanted the same, to stay in the same room, neither said anything. Still much too afraid to voice their needs.

Xena lowered her eyes a bit to be able to look into the emerald eyes.
”Goodnight, Gabrielle. Sleep well.” she softly said, in a low, vibrating voice that made the bard shudder.

”Goodnight, Xena. You sleep well. too.” the quiet reply came. Without thinking the bard reached out and placed her hand behind the dark head, digging her fingers into the thick hair. Standing on tiptoe she pressed her lips to a warm cheek, lingering for it seemed an eternity. Gabrielle closed her eyes as a shiver ran over her back and when her legs started to shake. Luckily Xena chose that instant to slip her arms around the smaller form hugging her to herself. The bard turned her head and hugged her friend back, diving deeper and deeper into the warmth the taller woman was spreading out. With her hand still in Xena's neck she guided her head down onto her shoulder, holding her companion tightly.

”I see you tomorow, okay?” a dark voice whispered into the younger woman's ear.

”Yes, tomorrow.” Gabrielle moved out of the hug and opened her door. Xena turned around herself and walked over to her own room. Just when she was about to open the door, she heard the bard's sweet voice calling her.


”Hmm??” blue eyes turned to the younger woman in expectant question.

<<I'll mis you.>> Gabrielle's mind whispered, but what came out was totally different.

”Nothing. Have sweet dreams.”

”I will. You too.”
<<I'll dream of you. There's nothing sweeter than that, my bard.>>

They again smiled at each other and then entered their rooms.

The two women fell asleep only late that night. Their beds, placed against the same wall, felt empty without the warm body of their companion. Unconsciously they pressed up against the cold stones seperating their rooms, as if their bodies knew who was laying on the other side, as if seeking each other's closeness.....

..........I snap out of my memories as she moves. I can be dealing with the toughest military problems or be miles away sunken into memories of a time long gone, when she is in the same room I will never lose track of where she is or what she is doing. The slightest movement will pull me back to the present, back to her side.

And not only when she is in the same room with me or standing only some feet away, I know where she is. I always do. I am always with her. Deep down in my heart. And my heart can tell me so much about her. Where she is, if she is okay, if she is sad or happy. Maybe it has something to do with that soulmate thing.

Because we are one we will never be seperated. Not by miles of walking or riding distances between us. Not by stones seperating our bodies. Not even death will be able to. For in our deepest core we are together forever.

I need her body and mind to fulfill me. But it is her soul that keeps me alive. I would willingly give up touching her if it meant to keep her soul with me. I can't live without it. How could I when it is a part of me. I would have never stepped over that border line of our friendship, would have never layed a single finger on her, would have never allowed my lips to praise her body, if it had meant to lose her heart, her soul. Luckily it all worked out and I have the greatest gift: I have her soul and her body.

I laugh at that which makes her turn her head to me. Her brows raise and she gives me a quizzical look. I smirk and am rewarded with a knowing smile. I don't know how she does it, but I am so very sure she can read my mind.

She pushs herself off the tree that she had been leaning against and slowly walks over to me, her eyes never leaving mine. When she's stood in front of me she leans down taking my sword and stone out of my hands. Placing them beside me she kneels down between my legs, in the space that my sword had taken before. Our eyes are at level now and she dives into me. She doesn't ask if she's allowed to or not. Because she knows she's allowed to. It took me a long, long time to trust her not to play with me, to give her that freedom of crawling into me, to see what is laying beneath. She pushed and pulled, she knocked at the closed doors and worked her butt off to crush the walls. I hope I am paying her back good enough for all that. For not giving up on me.

She smiles. It is a smile sweeter than any I have ever seen before. Placing those small, yet so powerful hands on my cheeks she leans in and places soft kisses on my eyelids. I think it is a way of hers to say thank you. A way of telling me that I am indeed good enough for her. And of telling me that she understands. Understands whatever she found down in there.

Our lips meet and my hands slip around her waist, gently squeezing. She moans deeply as our tongues meet. We don't need to battle for who has the upper hand, for who is exploring whom. And so our kiss is slow and deeply, filled with both our love. And yet again I wonder how our surroundings can keep so still when I am shaken so deeply. In my mind they should be tumbling down, as much as I am tumbling down into her whenever I realise just how tightly we are connected.

Our lips seperate and with a thumb she traces my hot lips. She winks and then turns around and lowers herself between my legs. Leaning back into me she sighs deply. A sound showing me just how content she is. I slip my arms around her bare waist and pull her back into me. Not even a piece of parchment would now fit between us. I lay my chin on her shoulders and her hands land on mine. She starts caressing them. Another comfortable silence settles on us and we both sink back into whatever thoughts occupied our minds.....

        The next morning found the two friends sharing a small breakfast in the royal dining room. They had been awakened by the servant from the night before. When Gabrielle had finished dressing, there had been a soft knock on the door.

”Yes, come in.”

The door had opened and a dark head had looked in curiously.

”Good morning, sleepyhead.”

”Good morning, Xena.”

Gabrielle then had decided that indeed seeing Xena first thing in the morning was the best thing to happen. Better of course would have been to wake up beside her.

”Slept well?” Xena stepped into the room and was leaning against the wall, her arms folded over her chest. She was already totally dressed in her usual warrior's outfit. Gabrielle finished tying up her boots and then straightened up. Her eyes caught the older woman watching her intensely. Smiling she walked over to her friend.

”Ah...ya.” she mumbled, nodding her head from side to side.

Gabrielle stepped up closer to her companion and looked up into warm eyes. Two strong arms unfolded and landed on her shoulders with large hands tapping her back. The warrior leaned in closer into the younger woman's face and nodded her head from side to side as well.
”Ah...ya.” she mimicked Gabrielle.

A small hand shot out and slapped her in the middrift.
”I hate when you do that. Stop immitating me, Xena!”

Xena laughed and placed a quick kiss on the bard's forehead. Then she stood back tall and draping an arm around small shoulders she lead her friend out of the room.

”Why do you have to ask? Of course I am.” Gabrielle laughed.

Xena grinned.
”Are you ever not?”

After their breakfast as they had headed into the direction of the library, they had to part as the headguard came up to the warrior to have a talk about military matters with her. Xena had followed him and when she had passed by Gabrielle she had rolled her eyes and snorted.
”There goes my holiday.”

Gabrielle just had shrugged her shoulders.
”Don't let them hold you up too long. Remember what we are here for, okay?” the bard had whispered back.

Xena had turned around, walking backwards and winking at the smaller woman.
”I won't. Have fun shopping.”

”I will. See you Xena.”

”See you, Gabrielle.”

A last shared smile and then Xena had disappeared from Gabrielle's view.

And what was left for the bard to do? Shopping! Shopping for two dresses they could wear at the wedding. Their servant had said she would accompany Gabrielle and so the two women spent the morning and early midday in town. Even though the bard really had wanted to find something for Xena to wear, the servant, had told her to go find something for herself first. She would take care of the warrior's dress. Only under strong protests the bard gave in. In the end it proved that finding a dress for herself was indeed hard enough because there was such a large variety of the most wonderful clothes to chose from.

Now Gabrielle was sat in a steaming tub that had, as if by magic, been placed in her room. She looked around the room while washing herself as her eyes fell on the dress she had bought in the end.
It was a two parter in a light blue colour. It didn't hide much but instead teased with glimpses of what lay beneath it's silken surface. The top was not much more than a tight bra that left her back open as it's straps closed in her neck. It only covered what was absolutely necessary. The skirt sat low on her hips, baring her muscular middrift. Floating close to her skin it went all the way down to her ankles. But since the material was so thin it was as if her legs covered by not more than a breath of silk. White shoes with a hint of blue completed her dress.

<<I wonder if Xena will like it.>> Gabrielle mused as she started washing her hair. She hadn't seen the warrior since they had parted in the morning. Only that short time of separation made her heart feel much too heavy already. She sighed and wondered what the servant had chosen for her tall friend.

When Gabrielle had finished her bath she sat down on the bed, tucked in a soft towel and started combing her long tresses. When they were shining like the purest gold she got back up and reached for the skirt to get dressed. With every minute that brought her closer to seeing Xena again her heart seemed to beat faster and faster. There was only a candlemark left before she would be with her friend again!

The older woman on her part had walked past the bard's room only a little bit after Gabrielle had sunken into the hot water. She had stood in front of the closed door, pondering if she should go in or not. But when she had heard the splashes of water she had decided against it and instead had returned to her own room.

Blue eyes widened when she inspected the dress that had been chosen for her. She had met their servant on the corridor. The young woman had nervously stammered that she had brought her dress to the warrior's room and hoped it was to her satisfaction.

<<As long as Gabrielle likes it.>> Xena grinned and fingered the soft material. Then she turned to the hot tub and started undressing.

A soft knock on the door and Gabrielle took a last glance in the mirror. She smiled at her reflection.
<<You go girl!>> a voice in her mind encouraged her.

The bard took a deep breath and walked over to the door. With shaking hands she opened it. Nothing prepared her for the sight greeting her outside her room. A gasp escaped her mouth as her eyes fell on the warrior's statue.

The older woman was dressed totally in black. her dress was one piece, but the top was made out of the same see through material as Gabrielle's skirt. The bard could clearly see the black bra hiding from her eyes just barely enough to be respectful for a wedding ceremony. Tight muscles flexed under the black material. The younger woman's eyes slid further downwards. The black skirt part was made out of a thicker material, so thick that she could only guess what her eyes couldn't see. It was cut so long it was stopping just barely above the ground. When xena shifted, Gabrielle realised with delight, that there was a long slit in the skirt going from the ground up to Xena's hip. Swallowing hard her mind processed that it would tease her all day and evening with glimpses of those long legs whenever the warrior took a step. The whole dress fit, like her own, to the warrior's body like a second skin.

Emerald eyes crawled back up over the lean form to meet two equally staring blue eyes. A nervous smile made Gabrielle's lips itch.

Xena was taken aback by the sight in front of her just the same. Her eyes wandered over the smaller form and she felt her stomach tingle with desire.

And suddenly they knew it for sure. A hidden knowledge passed between their connected gazes. The knowledge that they wanted each other just the same, with the same deep intensity. One question was left though: What would tonight bring for them?

Clearing her throat Xena smiled warmly at her companion.
”Hey there. Got someone to accompany you to the festivites already?”

Even though she was pretty sure that it wasn't the case, the warrior still felt a nervousness grip her as she waited for her friend's answer. Pale green eyes blinked. Once. Twice.

”Uh?!...No, I don't.”

A grin broke out over the taller woman's face and she held out an arm in invitation. It was taken immediately by the bard., who snatched a thin blue scarf from off the bed and drapped it over her shoulders.

Together they walked to the castle's own temple. When they entered, they saw with surprise how packed the building already was. Only because they were guests of honour, they had the chance to find a place to sit. On the kings wish two seats in the second row of chairs placed in the temple were kept free for them. Just as they had settled down a gleefull voice made them look at each other and roll their eyes. Gabrielle reached for xena's folded hands and squeezed them witha light chuckle. With interest she noted the look of dismay on her companion's face. Xena in return patted the bard's hand and gave her a wide smile. Then Gabrielle turned her attention away from her friend to welcome the king's half brother.

”Hello Gabrielle! What a wonderful day to have a party like this.”

”Hello Prince Theodore.”

The young woman nodded and moving her hand off of Xena's accepted another of the prince's hand kisses. Much to the warrior's dislike.

”I thought we had agreed that you would call me by my name, Gabrielle.”

The prince offered and after having bowed in welcome to the silent Xena, took the last free place beside Gabrielle.

”Oh, of course. I must have forgotten. I hope you can forgive me.”

”No harm done. How can anybody be angry with an angel like you.”

He flashed the bard an openly admiring smile. Thankfully the wedding ceremony started that moment, saving Gabrielle from having to find an answer to the compliment.

During the whole wedding the only really exciting thing for Gabrielle was to see the king's chosen wife-to-be for the first time. The bard found that the talks around the castle and town really were true. The new queen was indeed a beauty with golden hair down to the middle of her back. Her blue eyes sparkled full of love whenever she looked at her new husband. White teeth reflected the light of the candles when she gave him one of her sweet smiles. Even though the bard was stunned with the beauty of the young woman, it was nothing compared with that of the womans sat beside her. And with a delighted tingle in her stomach she found that whenever she looked at Xena, the warrior flashed her a smile just as sweet as the queen one's and that her friend's blue eyes, no longer guarded, showed just as much love as she felt herself. It left the bard with a warm feeling of excitement about what was to come for them.

After the priest had spoken the last words, the temple emptied very quickly as all the guests hurried through the castle's court to get to the big dining hall where food, performances, music and dance were waiting for them.
The prince luckily had excused himself to congratulate his brother as soon as they left the temple and so the two women suddenly found themselves alone again, following the constant stream of people slowly.

”That was a wonderful ceremony. Don't you think?”

Gabrielle said the first thing that came to her mind even though, after the words had been said, it appeared to her how lame they sounded. A heavy silence had settled on them since they hadn't had a chance to say a word to each other since the beginning of the wedding.

”Yeah, was nice.”

”What did you think about the new queen?”

Blue eyes turned to the younger woman, studying her seriously for a moment.
”She is as beautiful as they said, but....”

”...but there is someone out there who can beat her beauty by miles!” a dark, male voice beside Gabrielle finished the warrior's sentence.

Both women turned their heads, looking in surprise at the prince. Xena with a raised eye brow. Gabrielle first with a smirk, then with a forced smile.

They enetered the main dining hall. A big room, four times as big as the royal one. At least half of the guests were already in it, standing in small groups together talking and drinking, sitting on cushions in the corners or searching through the variety of salads, fruits, deserts and other food specialities that had been brought from countries near and far.

Xena stopped in the doorway and took a long look over the people, scanning for known faces or possible trouble. Gabrielle and the prince halted beside her. They hadn't even set a step into the room when the headguard showed up. He bowed to the bard and prince and then turned to Xena.

”Excuse me, Xena. The guard of our new queen asked me if he could have a word with you about a very urgent matter?”

The man held out his hand noting to a guard leaning against the wall opposite of the room, watching them intensely.

Xena turned her eyes to her friend who shrugged her shoulders. A small hand found a tense forearm and squeezed it gently.
”Go on. It's okay. But don't be too long, no?”

Emerald eyes watched the older woman who stole a glance at the prince waiting beside the bard.

”I will take very good care of your friend. I personally guarantee it!”
Prince Theodore put a hand on Gabrielle's back and bowed his head to the warrior.

The blonde woman rolled her eyes and stroked Xena's warm skin gently with her thumb. She had immediately seen the warrior's chin tighten as the prince's hand landed on her back. A pleasent heat shot through her body at her friend's reaction. Only if Xena felt the way she did herself, would she react that way.

The taller woman forced a smile onto her lips and leaned into Gabrielle's face. She was so close that her warm lips were grazing the bard's earlobe when she spoke.

”I'll be quick, okay? If he gets onto your nerves too much, just call me.”

Gabrielle had to stifle a laugh at that. The warrior's words were as good as a ”if he touches you again I'm gonna break every single bone in his body!” The older woman turned her face and breathed a featherlight kiss onto a warm, soft cheek. Gabrielle felt a jolt of excitement rush all over her body and it took all her energy not to turn her head and let her lips seek the warrior's ones for more contact. She closed her eyes for a split second. Then when her companion moved back, they locked eyes and smiles at each other.

<<I love you, Xena.>>
It would be so easy. Three words. So simple. Said by so many people, so many times, all around the world. But still she couldn't let them pass her lips. Nevertheless she knew her eyes were telling her companion all she needed to know. Especially since she didn't try to hold anything in them back anymore. If the warrior didn't want to go there she atleast knew by the emerald eyes warmly shining at her, how the bard felt. By not voicing her feelings, Gabrielle left Xena the chance to step back from the path they were treading on. And vice versa as Xena blinked and locked her loving gaze with her friend's.

It was hard for the warrior but eventually she had to turn her eyes from Gabrielle's. she nodded to the prince and then walked off with the soldier still stood beside her. She didn't need to look back to know that the younger woman's eyes were following her until the prince led her away to fetch a drink.

Unfortunately, after Xena had somehow been able to break away from the two guard's endless discussion about the better weapons and better war tactics, soon the next person found her and pulled her into another conversation. And it went on like that for it seemed forever.

And the bard? she wasn't in such a good position herself. The prince led her around the room, from one group of friends to the next. They all wanted to meet the famous bard who was travelling with the dark warrior. They all wanted her to tell them a little story of their adventures. Prince Theodore stood patiently beside her, always his hand close to her, as if she was his possession and he could show her off to the people around. Needless to say that Gabrielle didn't like that one bit. Not to mention that the warrior wasn't very impressed about the young man's behavior either.

One thing though neither woman ever lost: wherever they were taken in the room, they always kept their gazes connected. In the beginning they both looked away quickly when the other one caught them looking. Then one time, Gabrielle was listening to the prince's discussion with two other men with half her attention shen she felt the by now so familiar rush through her body. She looked up and past the man stood in front of her, only to meet two blue eyes watching her. Xena was stood, just like her, in a group of three men, half listening.

The bard had expected her friend to quickly look away, but instead their eyes stayed locked. She felt a nervous tingle start in the pit of her stomach. Gabrielle blinked. Xena's lips formed a faint smile and blue eyes flashed warmly at her. The younger woman felt a blush creeping over her face and she grinned nervously at her companion on the other side of the room. A bemused smile and a twinkle in the deep blue orbs made the bard blush even more. She lowered her gaze and took a sip from her drink. From under her bangs she looked up and found a cocked head and those incredibly blue eyes still watching her intensly.

<<What are you doing with me, Xena?>>
The question shot through the younger woman's mind, making her feel dizzy with pictures coming up that she wasn't prepared for. Her tall companion raised her wine glass in toast at her. Gabrielle lifted her eyes again and toasted back at her friend with a warm smile on her lips. Had the room suddenly gotten hotter? They both kept their eyes locked while taking a sip from the sweet tasting wine.

One of the men at Gabrielle's side asked her a question and she had to turn her head towards him to answer, breaking the spell between her and Xena.

From that incident on the two women didn't look away anymore when their eyes met. Instead they used each time to deepen the bond between them and more and more often it happened that they forgot everything around them. Just diving deeper and deeper into each other's souls. Only the intense questionings from their conversation partners pulled them back out of the web they had spun through the room.

Gabrielle was in a discussion with the prince and a local lord plus wife about a new poet from around their area, when her eyes met her friend's once again. She grinned and winked at the warrior, only to get a raised brow in mock teasing as an answer. Gabrielle licked her lips and shot a challenging glance back. Unfortunately the lord's wife asked the bard a question right then and Gabrielle had to quickly add something into the conversation to keep them distracted from her little game with her companion.

When the blonde woman looked up again the warrior was gone. She looked around the room, searching for the tall strong form of her friend. Nothing. Then suddenly, out of nowhere she felt a presence behind her. Gabrielle jumped as warm lips brushed her ear and a dark voice vibrated through her body.

”You are looking astonishingly beautiful tonight, Gabrielle. Like a goddess.”

The younger woman closed her eyes and bit her lip to keep from moaning when a tongue darted out and flicked against her earlobe. Immediately the heat took posession of her and she turned her head, taking a deep breath to inhale her friend's scent. When she reopened her eyes and searched the taller woman's face she found – nothing. Turning around in astonishment, she thought she was going totally insane now. Then she saw the warrior, slowly striding away from her, her strong back turned to her. The older woman seemed to be in a deep conversation with the guy walking beside her. Emerald eyes fixed onto the strong back muscles flexing under the silken dress. Her gaze slowly licked it's way downwards taking in every dip in her companion's form. The bard felt the heat in her body settle between her legs and she had to bite her lip to keep from groaning.

”I wonder what your friend can say to make you so beautifully blush, Gabrielle.”

The blonde woman turned arond to the curious prince, trying to still her fast beating heart. She forced an innocent smile onto her lips.

”Nothing. Just something we like to joke about. A game we play.”
Then before Theodore could think of a reply to that, she gave him another sweet smile.
”Would you excuse me for just a second?”

Not waiting for an answer, Gabrielle turned around and with determined strides walked towards her best friend. On her way she saw the tall form straighten up and suddenly she knew that Xena felt it too. That heat whenever they came close. The heat that always told them wherever the other one was.

When she reached her companion, the bard moved a shaking hand forward planting it on the small of the warrior's back. She stood on tiptoe and breathed lightly into her friend's dark mane. The goosebumps immediately rose on the tanned skin. Gabrielle gently let her hand glide over the warrior's back, upwards until she could brush black strands behind an ear. she leaned in even closer, her body pressing up against the taller one.

”No one in here or elsewhere is more breathtaking than you are, Xena.” she breathed, her voice shaking with need. Letting the back of her fingers slowly brush against the side of the warrior's throat, she leaned back again and forced herself to turn around and walk away from her friend.

Gabrielle feared her legs would give out under her as her mind processed what she just had done. With long strides she walked to the furthest wall, turned around and leaned against it. Rising her wine glass to quivering lips she looked out straight ahead seeing a black head turning to her, blue eyes deepened with desire. A tingle went right up and down her spine and she licked the sweet wetness the wine had left on her lips away slowly, seeing the warrior's eyes fix on her mouth. Green eyes lowered and she slid one finger over the rim of her glass, wiping away the traces of wine on it. Then she raised her eyes again, locking them with her friend's hungry ones and slowly, ever so slowly moved her fingertip to her lips. Closing her eyes in pleasure she licked the wine drops off her finger. When she reopened her eyes she saw a grin appear on the taller woman's perfect lips. Even from where she was stood, Gabrielle could feel the shudder run over her companion's body.

<<By the gods! What am I doing??>>

The young woman thought in wonder about her boldness. But it was as if her friend pulled out something in her that she had never felt before. Such a deep yearning desire that it made her dizzy with it's intensity. That made her willing to tease her companion and to go further and further. Further than she had ever dreamed of going. Sure, she had imagined playing with her friend. But never had her mind's journeys taken her where they were standing now. Never had her dreams felt as exciting as this.

Gabrielle focused her gaze on her friend's and smiled openly. A warm smile appeared in return on Xena's lips. Then, to the blonde's dismay, a group of people walked by in front of her, taking the view of her friend away from her. When the path was clear, someone else had taken Xena's attention again, standing in front of the warrior and blocking Gabrielle's sight onto the magnificent body. Blue eyes looked past the stranger's head and blinked at Gabrielle. The bard grinned and then, pushing herself away from the wall, started to walk through the room towards the long table laden with food.

On her way she nodded to people and smiled a friendly hello to the persons she hadn't talked to yet. Standing in front of the table she put her glass down and took a piece of bread with fresh, thin meat. Sticking it into her mouth her eyes scanned the area for more of the delicious tasting food. She made her way along the table, stealing a bite here and there until she reached the fruit and desert section. Reaching for a deep red strawberry she raised it to her mouth. Just when she was about to close her lips around it a strong, yet gentle hand gripped her wrist and stopped her in midmotion. The tall form of the warrior moved closer into her from behind, melting their bodies together as her friend's other hand landed on Gabrielle's hip. Xena's palm stroked bare, hot skin. The taller woman moved her hand onto the bard's middrift, then further up until it was pressed just under the young woman's ribcage, her fingers turned downward, spread far apart.

A burning sensation shot out from long fingers all over Gabrielle's skin, settling between her legs. A low groan escaped perfectly formed lips as the bard leaned her head back onto her companion's chest.
Xena slowly moved Gabrielle's hand, still holding the strawberry, toards her own mouth. Letting her eyes flutter shut, she closed her lips around the sweet fruit.

Gabrielle felt her knees buckle as the hot mouth closed over the strawberry and her fingertips. She felt the juices flood the warrior's mouth. a warm tongue twirled around her fingers, stroking them sensually. Another gasp and Gabrielle reached her other hand out, gripping the table in front of her for support. She felt the taller woman's soft cheek move against hers as her friend's mouth reopened and the tongue licked her fingers clean.

”Gods...Xena” she breathed, turning her head to watch the sweet mouth so close to her. Gabrielle felt her body losing all power to fight her desire, as her companion layed blue eyes onto hers. They gazed at each other, deep into their souls, their lust burning stronger than ever before.

”So sweet...” Xena whispered, then closed her eyes and brushing her lips, still wet from the strawberry's juices, over the bard's cheek Squeezing the thin waist gently as she stepped back, leaving the bard to reach out with her now free hand for the table as well.

The warrior slowly turned around and disappeared into the crowd of people.

Gabrielle was lost. Totally, absolutely lost with no hope for help. Save for one tall, dark haired beauty having disappeared from her side. Her heart was racing so hard she feared the whole building would collapse under the strong beating. The blonde woman swallowed hard, trying to regain some of her composure.

”Hey, Gabrielle, are you okay?”

Prince Theodore, not knowing what just happened because he had been talking with his brother, reappeared beside the young bard and placed a hand on her back. Gabrielle jumped at the small touch, her eyes widening.

”Whoa! Easy! It's just me.”

Theodore moved his hands away from her, lifting them up in front of him. he stared at the blonde woman in confusion.

”I'm sorry...I was just..I think I need fresh air...”
Gabrielle turned around and stumbled towards the balcony. She stepped out onto it and halted at the parapet. Holding onto it as if for dear life, she took a deep breath and threw her head back, her eyes closed tightly.

The prince, having followed her on tail, stood beside her, staring at her half still in confusion, half in unhidden desire.

”Are you okay, Gabrielle?”
He asked again, careful not to touch the bard again.

Gabrielle opened her eyes and stared up into the clear night sky. The stars were dancing above, winking at her as if they knew all too well what was going on. The bard sighed and dropped her head. Somewhere behind her she head the soft sound of music starting.

What was going on? Where were Xena and her going with this? Whis was all suddenly moving so fast. But there was no break in sight. Not that she wanted to stop anyway. It was just so.....incredible. It all seemed like a dream. Something her mind had made up just to tease her. Soon she would wake up and realise it was all just in her imagination.

”Maybe coming out here was a good idea.” the prince concluded as the bard's cheeks, red from the excitement, slowly turned to their normal colour again.

”I suppose...”
She wasn't in the mood for small talk. Especially not with the prince. All thoughts occupying her mind had something to do with the tall warror inside. It was so absolutely insane and yet so wonderful.

”It is a wonderful night and I thank all the gods that I have the honour to spend it with a beauty like you, Gabrielle.”
Theodore complimented and stepped a bit closer. Maybe he would be lucky tonight....

Gabrielle turned her head and gave him a faint smile. He looked at her, not hiding how much he wanted to be the one to accompany her to her room that night. When the bard didn't look away immediately, he slowly, slowly leaned into her, his lips coming closer and closer to their goal.

The bard was just about to step back from her admirer when a sudden heat wave knocked all her breath out of her. Her eyes grew wide and she turned around staring through the open balcony doors into the dining hall.

There, nearly in the middle of the dancefloor stood Xena. Tall, dark and breathtakingly beautiful. She didn't move once inch. Eyes darkened by desire lowered onto Gabrielle. The bard realised again the predatory expression on her companion's face and in the deep blue depths. This time though it was no game. This time it was real. They both knew it. And it drew them together, as if there were unseen strings binding them together.

Xena slowly lifted up a hand, holding it out to Gabrielle. The bard swallowed and leaving the prince to stare after her in disbelief, she slowly walked towards her companion. Their gazes were so entwined that nothing could come between them. A fire exploded in both of them and everything around them lost it's meaning as they drew closer and closer.

Stopping in front of Xena, Gabrielle looked up into dark blue eyes. Slowly she got aware of of the low, deep drum beat guiding her hips into a sensual dance. she took another step closer, reaching out a shaky hand to slowly trace up over Xena's arm up to her shoulder. The warrior's eyes watched her intensely. But she didn't move a single muscle, not even as Gabrielle let her fingertip slide along her collarbone, stepping around her as her fingertip moved on over strong shoulders onto a broad back. The bard moved on, her hips brushing against Xena's as she slowly slid around her. The blue eyes had followed her as far as possible without xena turning her head fully. They recaptured the emerald gaze as Gabrielle again stopped in front of her. The smaller woman's fingertip slid to the front of Xena's throat, then traced a line over the middle of her chest until she could reach out for her companion's hands. Gabrielle guided Xena's hands onto her bare hips, their eyes never breaking their connected gazes. Moving her hips in a sensual, circling motion against the warrior's, she allowed her own hands to slide back up over bare arms, leaving a trace of fire to burn the dark, golden skin. When her fingertips reached Xena's throat on each side she moved them along the heated flesh, brushing the dark hair from the sleek shoulders. Long fingers entwined behind Xena's neck. Green eyes left blue ones and fixed on the bared throat, watching the fast beating pulse point.

Xena used that moment to slide one hand back onto her companion's butt, pulling her in closer. Their bodies moulded together, a deep moan escaping Gabrielle's open mouth. The warrior now used her hips to guide Gabrielle's to the music. Moving her hand off Gabrielle's butt she slid it downward, leaning into the bard with her upper body. Their faces drew closer and they could almost taste each other's lips as their breaths mingled. Gabrielle's eyes flew to Xena's mouth as she slid one hand out from behind the warrior's neck. A soft fingertip landed on hot, full lips. Xena opened her mouth to it and when it slid inside she closed her lips around it, sucking gently on it. Their eyes met again and they groaned in unison as shockwaves of pleasure ran over their heated flesh.

With Xena's hand reaching it's goal behind the bard's knee, the warrior was able to lift one of Gabrielle's legs up. The younger woman immediately slid it around her companions hip. Xena's other hand traveled up onto the bard's back. Gabrielle closed her eyes as a shudder ran up her spine. A wet fingertip slid out of a hot mouth, over wet lips and Gabrielle layed her hands onto broad shoulders, feeling the muscles flex under her skin. Then she threw her head back, arching into the warrior. Xena allowed her to lean back, the golden hair floating in the air. Moving her hand out from behind the bard's knee, Xena slid her palm over her friend's bared throat up to her chin and back down. A deep groan rumbled through Gabrielle's body as Xena pulled her back up. They let their hips move against each other as their eyes locked. The younger woman ran a fingertip back over the warrior's neck drawing a sensual moan from her companion. Emerald eyes winked and Xena pulled her harder into her, their bodies crushing together. Closing her eyes as she felt full breasts press into hers, the bard leaned her head onto a broad shoulder. The warrior lowered her lips and pressed them to her friend's collarbone feeling a sudden shudder shake the smaller body in her arms. The blonde head fell to the side allowing the exploring lips to suck on the fast beating pulse point. Digging her fingers into Xena's back and dark mane, her head fell backwards, eyes closed tightly, as a tongue darted out to lick a perfect throat.

Gabrielle felt her heart stop, then resume beating in more than double speed as her friend's burning lips slowly travelled further up over her throat. Over her chin towards her mouth. Lifting her head back up, her mouth met incredibly soft lips. willingly she anwered Xena's kiss, feeling a timid tongue gliding over her lips. She opened them, allowing Xena to dive into her. As their tongues met for the first time, both groaned deeply, fireworks of desire exploding in both of them. Gabrielle's hands tangled themselves into the dark hair of her companion, pulling her head closer into her. They deepend the kiss, exploring hungrily. Deeper and deeper they fell into one another. Their tongues danced around each other, teasing, taking and giving.

It was only with great difficulty that they broke apart, their hips still joined by the lustfull dance the drums were creating. Gabrielle swallowed hard, licking her lips and hiding her face in her companion's neck. She moved her arms, closing them tightly around the warrior.

”Xena...” she breathed, her voice shaken by desire and hunger for more.

”Come with me, Gabrielle....” a low voice vibrated in the smaller woman's ear. Gabrielle slowly lowered her leg and allowed Xena to take her hand. the older woman guided them through the crowd out of the dining hall.

they left stunned looking wedding guests, some in shock, some in wonder, behind them. One of them lowered angry eyes to the ground, his hands forming tight fists.

”You never had a chance, brother. She was Xena's all along. Even though you didn't want to listen to me.”

The king raised a challenging brow at his half brother.

”Get off me, will ya?!” Prince Theodore barked and stormed past the older man.

Gabrielle's mind whirrled as she followed her friend down the hallway towards their rooms. They were on the second step to the second floor when Xena turned around and grabbed Gabrielle. The bard squeeked in surprise but nevertheless allowed the hungry kiss willingly. They pulled each other close, hands digging into hair and backs. Low moans made the air around them tingle. Gabrielle nearly fell over as she tried to get up the next step but Xena's strong arms held her up as a hungry pair of warrior lips descended on her throat, nibbling and licking.


Gabrielle giggled as her new lover's tongue found a ticklish spot behind her ear. She pushed the warrior away gently. Seeing the surprised blue eyes lower, she gently reached for her companion's face holding it with both her hands. Leaning in she kissed her best friend deeply and thoroughly. Then, breaking the kiss in need of air, she winked at the older woman, took her by the hand and pulled her firmly up the stairs behind her. They half stumbled, half ran along the hallway until they reached the door of Gabrielle's room. As soon as the bard stopped to open the door, strong arms encircled her from behind and hungry lips landed on the side of her throat. Gabrielle moaned in pleasure an allowed her head to fall back against a strong shoulder.

Xena grinned against the heated flesh.
”Sweet...so very sweet...” she mumbled as her tongue flicked against an earlobe.

”Stop....it...Xena...let me....open...the door......” Gabrielle had to fight to get the words out.

”Let me help you, babie.” Xena commented in a hoarse voice and slipping her arms around the bard she lifted her up and into her arms. Careful not to drop her precious cargo she turned the doorknob and then entered the room. She kicked the door shut with her foot, while Gabrielle had taken posession of her mouth in a deep, sensual kiss.

Xena felt her legs sway and she slowly let her lover back down, thier bodies sliding against each other. They groaned in unison, their eyes fluttering shut.

The warrior suddenly felt herself being pushed against the door, She opened her eyes to find two darkened green stars shining at her. Before she could move, Gabrielle gently pulled her head down, claiming her lips in a fierce, hungry kiss. Small hands ran over Xena's sides, exploring over the thin fabric. After some minutes, they broke their kiss. The bard licked her lips and stepped back from her lover. She raised shaking hands in front of her, slowly walking backwards to the bed. Her eyes were taking in the form leaning against the door. Her Xena. Her best friend. Her lover. Hers.

Gabrielle groaned and turned around. She felt her legs weakening with the emotions running through her body and soul.
”This is intense....” she whispered helplessly.

”Are you okay?” a shaking voice asked carefully from the door.

”Oh...I don't know....”

When Xena pushed herself off the door to step up to her friend, Gabrielle, still with her back to the taller woman, held up a hand to stop her lover from coming closer.

Xena's eyes grew wide in alarm and she fell back against the door, watching the smaller form closely.
”I'm sorry...I didn't....” she stammered.

Gabrielle's voice was low, but firm. She turned around and the warrior found that the green eyes had suddenly deepened even more. She felt a shudder run over her. A black head fell back against the door.

”Don't move, Xena.”
Gabrielle softly ordered, then let her eyes travel in open admiration and desire over the tall, strong body. Xena took a deep breath, her hands flat against the door. She watched her lover's eyes journey. Then Gabrielle looked up again and their eyes met.
”No more games, Xena.”

The bard slowly stepped back up to the warrior, their eyes never losing contact. When she stood toe to toe with her lover, Gabrielle placed her hands on either side of the beautiful face. They smiled at each other. Then the smaller woman guided Xena's lips towards hers closing her eyes at the last instant. Their kiss was still passionate but it was slower and so deep it made them shudder under it's intensity. Tongues entwining, dancing to the rythm of their fast beating hearts. Xena placed her arms on the younger woman's hips, pulling her gently into her own body. Willingly Gabrielle gave in and their bodies melted together. The bard was the one to break the kiss as she pulled back. Xena opened her eyes, stunned at how weak her normally strong legs felt. She was thankful to be leaning up against the door. Pale eyes sent a warmth out to her that she had missed since forever.

”I....” Gabrielle stopped as she felt the emotions crashing in over her.

”Shh, it's okay. You don't need to say anything.” the older woman pulled her companion into a tight hug, holding on to the small shaking form. She, herself, was feeling kind of dizzy and just being close to Gabrielle seemed to help alot as her heart slowly quieted down.

”This is like a dream come true, Xena.” Gabrielle whispered into a sensitive ear.

”It is more than a dream, if we let it be.” Xena responded, gently stroking over soft skin. This drew a deep groan from the bard. The taller woman turned her head and lowered her lips to an inviting throat. She let the tip of her tongue flick over a fast quickening pulse point. Gabrielle's fingers dug into broad shoulders. She laid her head to the side, allowing her lover better access. Suddenly she felt Xena's arms slipp around her and the taller woman picked her up. Instinctively Gabrielle closed her legs around the warrior's hips, bringing their lips back together for another deep kiss. Xena walked over to where a chair stood, facing the bed. She settled down with her precious cargo on her lap.

They kissed, it seemed, for an eternity. It was no fight over who had control, over who would explore and who was to be explored. They were equal participants in a journey they had started so many years ago. While Xena let her hands gently stroke well formed back muscles, Gabrielle's hands caressed the warrior's face, throat and neck. It took the warrior a lot of willpower not to just ravish the body on her lap.
When she had been a warlord she would never have done so much caressing and – yeah, loving. But with Gabrielle it was different. she decided that she could stay like this forever. Exchanging caresses and kissing her friend and lover.

Gabrielle though had other intentions. her heart had resumed it's fast gallop and the heat between her legs felt as if it would burn her any minute. she groaned as the warrior gently nibbled on her lower lip. her breath was coming in heavy puffs and groans mixed with moans filled the silence of their room.

The low sounds of pleasure coming from her lover urged Xena on to become bolder. She let her lips travel from Gabrielle's mouth to her throat, licking and gently biting while her hands drew wide circles on the naked back.

The bard's head fell back and her fingers were kneading the warrior's broad shoulders. Soft lips nibbled on the blonde woman's collarbone until her head shot up. Gabrielle startled the warrior as she gripped her hair and pulled her head back so they could look at each other. a low growl escaped perfect lips and the bard fell onto Xena's mouth, kissing her hard and deeply. After only some seconds she broke away. Her eyes flashing she took a deep breath to calm herself. The younger woman blinked and looked deeply into the deep blue infront of her.

”You are driving me crazy, Xena.”

Without waiting for an answer, Gabrielle slid off her lover's lap. When she saw the surprised expression on the normally so stoic face, she leaned over and placed an immensely soft kiss on full lips. She gently, but firmly pushed the warrior back to lean into her chair. Then she stepped backwards until she felt her bed at the back of her knees. The cold wood on her heated skin sent shivers up her spine, forcing her to close her eyes.

Xena watched her lover closely, concentrating on the flexing muscles of powerful legs. A soft moan escaping through half closed lips drew the older woman's attention back up onto the bard's face. she felt her mouth watering as she remembered her best friend's taste and the sensual kisses they had just shared.
When Gabrielle opened her eyes again, she lowered her gaze at Xena, looking at the seated woman through passion clouded eyes.

”I want you, Xena.” a husky voice drifted over to the tall woman and she felt the goosebumps wash over her again. The bard bent down and took off her shoes. Then she turned around. Looking back over her shoulder, small hands sneaked up behind her neck to open the knot that was holding up her bra. She raised a brow teasingly as the strips slid through her fingers. Xena gulped, the excitement of not seeing the newly revealed flesh showing, as her breath came in low gasps. The bard smiled and then opened the front hook, her bra falling into her hands. With another look over her shoulder she threw the garment at Xena who caught it in midair, grinning sheepishly. The warrior lifted the bra to her nose, inhaling her lover's sweet scent. Gabrielle watched curiously.

Blue eyes wandered over a small, but muscley back, further down over the bard's butt, over her legs and then slowly back up again. As their glowing eyes met, Xena dropped the bra and stood up, the soft rustling of her skirt breaking the heavy silence in the room. With two long strides she closed the distance between her and the bard. Gabrielle face forward, her hands at her sides. She didn't know what would happen next or what was expected of her. The only thing she could think of, was her ever growing need to feel Xena's touch on her hot skin.

And the warrior didn't let her wait very long. Strong hands slipped onto bare hips. Gabrielle groaned deeply, a rush of excitement streaming out from Xena's hands all over her body. She felt long fingers spreading, then the gentle touch moved forward onto her stomach. Another gasp. Xena lowered her head, brushing her lips against the bard's head. Her lover's sweet scent filled her lungs with warmth. As callused hands slowly travelled upwards over rippling muscles, Gabrielle's own hands shot out and reached behind the dark head. Leaning back into the taller form, the younger woman arched her back into her lover's caress. the warm palms made her skin tingle with desire.

”Oh, gods, Xena.” she half moaned, half sighed as the warrior cupped her breasts gently.

Their fullness lay heavy in Xena's hands and she closed her eyes as her lust threatened to overpower her.
”Gabrielle....so long...I've waited so long to touch you.”

Xena's voice had deepened even more, hoarse with burning desire. She lowered her lips to the arched throat, licking and nibbling gently.

”Yessss....please, touch me...” Gabrielle begged as the warrior's hands began kneading her breasts. Immediately their mouths crushed together in a passion filled kiss, tongues battling for more. Hard nipples teased Xena's palms and she lifted her hands away to caress them with her fingers. Gabrielle broke their kiss and groaned, pulling the dark head down onto her shoulders with her fingers tangled in the long tresses.

The older woman felt her need pulsing through her veins and she bit down hard on Gabrielle's shoulder, licking and sucking deeply.
Moaning the bard felt her legs give out under her and she tumbled over, letting go of Xena's hair. she grabbed the bed in front of her for support. Strong arms held her as she was guided down to the ground. her lover's tall form encircled her as she knelt in front of her bed. Her head rolled forward, the blonde hair falling over her shoulders and face like a thick curtain.

Xena stopped teasing the hard nubs and she slowly slid her hands over the ribcage to the bard's back.

”Don't stop, Xena.” the bard begged breathlesly.

”I'm not.” a warm voice beside her ear whispered as she felt herself being turned around and then lifted up into strong arms. She slung her arms around her lover's neck. Xena smiled at her with all her love. Then she lowered her treasure onto the soft matress of Gabrielle's bed.

The bard looked up at her with deep green eyes and Xena felt the urge to just lay down on the bed and ravish Gabrielle. But instead she stepped back admiring the half naked form spread out in front of her. She grinned widely. Making quick work of her shoes, Xena's hands slowly lifted and she moved them to open the back of her dress. Gabrielle watched with great interest but also with a big portion of disbelief.
Was this really happening? Where they really about to make love?

Xena lowered her gaze and let her dress fall to the ground. Stepping out of it she suddenly felt timid and shy. Gabrielle had seen her naked a million times before. And she never had any problems about her body with any other lover. Normally she was proud of it and back in her dark days she had been very willing to use what she had against others.
But with Gabrielle it was different. Suddenly every little scar got a different meaning. Every little mark on her body let her fear that the bard wouldn't like her anymore. She turned sky blue eyes up just enough to be met with the admiring stare of her lover. Their eyes met and Gabrielle said in deep wonder:
”By the gods, Xena. You are so beautiful. I swear, I've never ever seen anything so magnificient as you.”

A small smile played at the ege of red lips. Xena moved her hands again and opened her bra, throwing it onto the ground in a swift motion. Followed by wet breeches. The low, hungry growls from Gabrielle accompanied every of her moves. She raised her head and allowed the green eyes to study her for a moment. Then she slowly moved forward, the predator in her returning with full force. Licking her lips, she climbed onto the bard, holding herself above the smaller form. Sea green eyes looked up at her, full of trust and burning with intense desire. They locked their gazes as Xena held herslf up on one arm and used the other one to slowly open the belt holding Gabrielle's blue skirt. Darkened eyes sparkled at the younger woman, then Xena broke their gazes as she bent far down, brushing her lips featherlight against Gabrielle's hipbone. The small woman groaned and her hips shot up towards Xena. the warrior laughed silently and locked their eyes again.

”Patience, Gabrielle.”

A light blush crept over already rosy cheeks and green eyes twinkled sheepishly. Xena winked at her and then slowly slid Gabrielle's skirt and underwear over long legs. The musky scent rifted up to her as she threw the garment off the bed, making her mind dizzy with need.

Small hands encircled her and only now, with their eyes locked again, did Xena lower herslf ever so slowly onto the bard, careful not to crush the smaller body under her. Their eyes fluttered closed and their moans mixed together as their bodies melted into eachother. For the first time witout any barrier between them.

Xena dropped her head onto Gabrielle's shoulder, exhaling and bathing in her lover's warmth. Gentle arms pulled her in closer and soft lips brushed against her collarbone.

”So long, Gabrielle. I've dreamed of this for so long.” a dark voice murmured into an attentive ear.

”Then let me make your dreams come true, Xena.” Gabrielle breathed. Blue eyes lifted to meet hers and they smiled at each other. A small hand reached out to push some black hair out of the warrior's face. It returned and cupped a soft cheek.

”Kiss me.” Gabrielle whispered.

And Xena followed her wishes, taking posession of full lips. They caressed each other and shared deep, hungry kisses for a long time until Xena broke away. She stole a mischievious glance at Gabrielle, then at full breasts and hardened nipples, then back up at green eyes. Before the bard could say anything, hot lips closed around a swollen nub. Xena sucked gently, then let her teeth graze the delicate surface carefully, drawing a deep groan from her lover. Arching into the taller woman, Gabrielle begged in between gasps and moans for more.

The bard's soft sounds of please weren't the last to be heard in the room, as Xena nibbled and gently bit her way over soft skin, ravishing every centimeter of the smaller form under her. Gabrielle helplessly felt herself being lifted up on the wave of lust and desire as the warrior slipped between her legs to pleasure her with her lips, tongue and fingers. She moaned and threw her had back, digging her fingers into broad shoulders as Xena filled her, teasing her with her slow love making. It was her lover's name she called out when her passion claimed her totally and when they both rode the wave of love together for the first time. Breathing hard with her mind foggy from all the sensations, Gabrielle let herself be guided back to the soft cusions on her bed. A happy, gentle smile spread over Gabrielle's glowing face. Xena watched in awe as shiny eyes opened and focused on her.

”Xena...” the bard whispered, her voice too hoarse to speak aloud.

”I'm here, babie.” the warrior murmured, gently stroking sweat damp hair out of her lover's sweet face. They stared at each other in silence.

Xena was surprised when only a minute later a very forceful bard threw her onto her back. Straddling her legs, the young woman bent over and captured her lips into a long, deep kiss. They broke apart to get back their breaths. Gabrielle's darkened eyes lowered.

”It's my turn, Xena.” she growled and then descended onto the tall form under her. She took her time teasing Xena's nipples with her tongue and lips until the older woman was writhing with burning lust under her. It took alot of willpower for the bard to tear herself away from Xena's soft mounds, but she soon found that the warrior's body had so many more treasures waiting for her to find and explore. Their mixed groans filled the room as Gabrielle entered her lover deeply. Their fingers entwined as the bard guided Xena over the edge, taking them both away to another place and time. Far away from any other existance, where only their connected souls and endless love mattered.

        ....I feel my body heating up wth those memories of our first time. She must feel it too because she is stirring in my arms. She turns her head and looks at me with a quizzical look in her emerald eyes. I smile innocently wondering if I can get away with it. But of course I have no chance. Not buying any of it she faces me totally, kneeling down between my legs. For a moment we just stare at each other until I feel my brow shooting up. A small smile forms around her lips.

“What are you thinking about, Xena?”

Her sweet voice lets a shiver run over my skin. She sees it, feels it and reaches a small hand out and lays it on my hot skin. Slowly stroking up and down my arm she leans in closer to me, our noses nearly touching.

“Nothing special, why?” I hear my voice rumbling.

Instantly her brow mimmicks mine, disappearing in her hairline. She smirks and cocks her head to the side.

“Come on. You know you have to tell me eventually anyway.”

I see how sure she is of her words and wonder if she really has such powers over me. Not that I mind if she does. Well, I am very sure she does. But a little testing of my boundaries won't hurt, will it?

“And what makes you so sure of that?” I inquire, trying to fight the grin that threatens to explode on my face.

She sits back onto her heels, her hands dropping to her own thighs. I feel the loss immediately.

“Well, I know you, Xena.”
“Do you, little girl?”
My eyes flash at her, a silence challenge. Her stars flash back.

“Better than you know yourself.” she states simply.
“And, by the way, I am not little.” Her lips form a sweet pout an I have to fight not to pull her in for a kiss.

Instead I cross my arms over my chest and stare at her.
“Prove it.”

“What exactly do you want me to prove to you? That I know you or that I am no little girl?”

“Both.” I wink at her and I can see that she has to fight as hard as me not to start laughing. “But first things first. Prove to me that you know me so well. That I will have to tell you anyway.”

“Hm.” she cocks her head again, watching me closely. Then she leans in closer again, so close I can feel her breath mixing with mine. My eyes drop to her lips as my mouth waters in anticipation. Her eyes watch me and soon force me to look back up. I can see a sheepish grin playing around her lips, mirrored in the sparkle in her eyes. And I know that I am in for big trouble here. my tongue darts out, sliding over my waiting lips. But she doesn't move. Not an inch. Sure, I could pull her into me and claim her lips. Where would be the fun it that though?

I smirk at her, forcing my suddenly wild beating heart to slow down. She raises her brow again, wiggling it at me.

“Imagine, Xena, to feel my lips on yours. Their softness, their heat, their hunger. My tongue entering your mouth, exploring you slowly and deeply. My teeth gently nibbling on your lower lip. Then, my mouth travelling over your hot skin down your throat to lick your pulse point.”

I swallow hard as my throat tightens with the images from earlier still playing in my imagination and the new ones she's creating teasing me mercylessly. To prove her point she moves her lips over my skin, careful not to let them touch me even the tiniest bit. Her whole body leans into me without any contact. But I can feel her heat surrounding me, settling on me and pulling me into her helplessly. She reaches out and gently strokes my hair off my shoulders so she can continue her journey over my throat. I lay my head a bit to the side, my eyes fluttering shut. Her vibrating whisper pulls strings in me I didn't know existed. A low groan escapes my half open mouth.

And her? She suddenly leans back and grins proudly.
“All off that and more you could maybe have, if you wouldn't be so stubborn and just tell me.”

My eyes shoot open and I growl playfully as I launch forward and jump her. She squeeks and tries to fight me off as we land flat on the ground. Her laughing fills the silence around us as my hands dig into her side, teasing her most ticklish spots. She's squirming under me, tears already running over her face. But I show no mercy. How lucky I am that she's bare foot as I reach down and grab a handful of wiggling toes.

“Oh no! You wouldn't!” she laughs and tries to pull her foot out of my hands. I grin and wiggle my brows at her.

“What do you think, oh, all knowing one. Will I or not??” my fingers are mere inches from her skin and she stares at me with wide opened eyes.

“You're so cruel, Xena.” she comments laughing and kicks her foot. I give her a pointed look and shrug my shoulders.

“They don't call me destroyer of nations for nothing.”

These last words I utter before I pay her back for teasing me like this. She squeeks and laughs and cries out to the dead gods and wiggles and fights me, but nothing helps her as I tickle her for an endless time. Until I drop her foot and fall down beside her in the grass. I wipe some tears of laughter off my face and smile at her. She's taking deep breaths and sticks her tongue out at me.

“What?” I ask her in sweet innocence.

She just shakes her head, then turns onto her side, her head resting on her arm. With a single finger she traces my arm and I feel the goosebumps raising on my heated flesh.

“I still do know you, Xena.”

“I know, honey.”

It is a moment of deep seriousness as we look into each others eyes and confirm the bond we share. I reach out a hand and stroke her soft cheek, smiling with all my love at her. I hope she understands. One of her smiles in response shows me that she does. She slowly leans down and kisses me incredibly softly. When she moves back again she locks her eyes with mine, her hand resting on my stomach.
“Will you tell me now, what you were thinking about?”

I grin and reaching out for her pull her on top of me. She straddles my hips and looks down at me expactantly.
“Are you saying you don't know what was on my mind?” I tease her lightly.

“No. But I want to hear it out of your mouth.” she respondse with a chuckle.

“I was thinking of our first time.” I explain with a sparkle in my eyes. She grins and leans down, her head now resting on my chest.

“What about it?”

My arms close around her, pulling her into me even closer.
“It was the happiest day for me. In my whole life. After the day when you came into it.”

“For me too, Xena.”

I feel her smile against my stomach and her arms tightening around me in a gentle squeeze.

“I love you, Gabrielle.”

“I love you, Xena.”

She looks up and we share a long moment just looking at each other. Then she leans into me, her lips claiming mine in a sweet kiss. A promise of our love, of our bond, of what we have and what we will share in the future. Forever. I close my eyes and allow myself to sink into her again.......

Gabrielle later found it immensely surprising just how passionate Xena was. She had always known what a fire was burning inside her friend. But what she had felt this night was nothing like she had ever imagined it to be like. It made her tired limbs shudder with it's intensity. There was not only a fire burning inside of her soulmate. No, it was a storm that had swept her away and had left her to helplessly hold on to Xena in fear of getting totally lost. But she hadn't gotten lost. Instead she had been completed and for the first time in her life she felt like she totally belonged. She would never be lost again. Not with Xena by her side. Not with Xena holding her like she did that moment.

Gabrielle lifted her blonde head off broad shoulders and looked up into Xena's face. Lazy blue eyes fluttered open and a smile lightened the warrior's strong features. The bard smiled back and placed a soft kiss on Xena's cheek . Then she dropped her head back into it's resting place, drawing small circles on a flat stomach. Strong arms squeezed her gently tighter and she sighed happily.

Xena had her own thoughts. To be exact, she was totally taken aback. What had happened tonight had been better than any fantasy or dream ever could have been. Maybe because it was not a fantasy, nor a dream. It was real. Even though it had felt like a wonder. The blonde woman had been more passionate than she had ever thought her to be. Not that she complained. Not at all. Their love making had been wild, passionate and full off their exploding lust. But still there had been this gentleness that she had never ever felt before.

It was the first time, Xena realised, that someone had made love to not only her body, but also to so much more of her. Gabrielle had entered her deeply and had gribbed her soul, caressing it with with not only her touch but also with her love. And it had fulfilled Xena. She had become one with the woman in her arms. It was as if a piece of a puzzle that had been lost for a long time, had been replaced at last. Only this piece could fill the gap and make her feel whole again.

Xena gently caressed a strong backside as Gabrielle nestled further into her.
She smiled to herself. And the best part of it all was, that Gabrielle apparently felt the same. One look into the green eyes of her companion and she could see it all. How could they have been so blind for so long?

The warrior placed a loving kiss on the bard's forehead. That drew a deep moan from the younger woman. Tired, green eyes lifted back up to hers. Xena reached out and placed the palm of her hand against a soft cheek, still hot from their lovemaking. Gabrielle turned her head and pressed her lips against the calloused hand.

„You are so beautiful, Gabrielle. It is amazing....It is amazing that I am allowed to be the one to hold you like that!“ Xena said in a low voice, watching the bard's face lighten up with atimid smile.

„Forever you, Xena. It has always been you and it always will be you.“ Gabrielle replied softly as she brushed her fingertips over a high cheekbone.

„Forever.“ Xena breathed, the emotions making it hard for her to voice her thoughts. She blinked and their eyes met. For long heartbeats they just stared at each other trying to communicate their feelings without words. But they realised that it wasn't enough.

„I love you.“ they wishpered in unison, their breath mixing between the, Two perfect smiles flashed over their faces. Gabrielle slung her arms aroudn her lover and Xena pulled her into a tight hug.

After some seconds, Xena could hear a sniffled giggle errupting from the bard. She leaned backwards, trying to get a climbse of the beautiful face. Laughing eyes looked up at her.

„What? What is so funny?“ the dark haired woman asked with a raised brow.

„Just...this is so crazy.“

The warrior exhaled and laughed sielntly.

„They say love is a crazy thing, don't they?“

„So I heard.“

Gabrielle winked at her lover. Then allowed her to guide her head back onto the soft pillow of Xena's breasts. She sighed and closed her eyes, the peacefullness of the moment covering them like a thick blanket.

Xena closed her eyes as well, her hands absently stroking over the bard's skin. This was crazy indeed. But it was also like paradise. Their paradise. The warrior exhaled a gentle breath and allowed Morpheus to take her away into the dreamscape. Gabrielle followed her shortly after. And they both were sharing the knowledge that they were home at last and that their soulmate would be their with them when they woke again. Forever. Because that is how it was supposed to be. That was their way.



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