by StarWarrior(Rie)

Xena sighed heavily and leaned against Argo. Today had been an exceptionally bad day. Attacked by bandits before breaking camp, stumbling across a burning village, pursuing slavers, freeing the
villagers and the whole time being scared stiff that Gabrielle would be killed. How much more of this could she take?

"Xena?" Gabrielle paused in her setup, "Are you all right?" Concern filled her voice, eyes flashing, worry for the woman leaning, so uncharacteristically, against Argo.

"I'm fine, Gabrielle." Xena straightened up and started to remove Argo's saddle. As if she could tell Gabrielle how worn out she was and why.

Gabrielle, unconvinced, watched for a few minutes, but Xena continued to care for Argo. Shrugging her fear off as an over active imagination, Gabrielle finished the fire, started the water heating, and began
preparing the vegetables. A hearty stew would chase the cold from their bones.

Xena finished tending Argo and turned to watch Gabrielle; when had her feelings for the young woman changed? She shook her head in an attempt to negate the thoughts. "I'm going hunting," she announced.

At the sound of Xena's voice, Gabrielle looked up, grinning at the way her friend slipped away - quick and silent - despite her obvious tiredness.

The air was cold and the blankets thin, still Gabrielle laid them out next to the small fire as Xena had taught her. Maybe when they stopped at the next village, they could trade venison for warmer blankets.
Winter was coming and they'd need to keep warm somehow. Hmm... she could think of a few ways to keep warm... Better not go there... Xena would throw her out.

Xena paused as she reached the edge of their campsite. Gabrielle was kneeling on a blanket writing. Shaking her head, she strode towards the bard. "Embellishing our little adventures?" She smiled. It was fun to tease Gabrielle.

"As if your adventures need embellishing!" She rolled her eyes. "Someday you will appreciate all my hard work."

Xena let a half smile show on her face. "I'd appreciate your hard work, if it meant getting dinner."

"Sure, use me and abuse me!" Gabrielle put down her scrolls and stood up, muttering the entire time. "Set up camp, make a fire, prepare our beds, make dinner, what am I, a slave?" She bent over the stew pot and stirred the vegetables. "Oh, yes! Master is there anything else you want?"

Xena stared, mouth open at Gabrielle's actions. However at the last question an answer popped into her head and she quickly clamped down her mouth. Say that and Gabrielle will be running for the nearest village! She stood, arms folded, waiting for her friend to wind down, so she could speak. "If you would prefer to take care of Argo, hunt, and prepare the meat for cooking..." Xena spoke with a smile on her face.

Gabrielle stopped her grumbling and looked at Xena. "No!" She curled her lip in disgust at the thought. "You know me to well."

Xena laughed and after a minute Gabrielle joined in.


Dinner over, Xena sat cleaning her armor while Gabrielle spun another new tale for her enjoyment. The fire flared; as she finished the tale, Gabrielle shivered. "The wind is rising. Cold season is upon us." She
stared into the fire as she spoke; she'd felt the winter chill all day.

Xena glanced at her friend. "We'll buy winter provisions in the next big village we come to."

Gabrielle nodded. "I think I'll turn in now." She stood up and stretched.

Xena watched. "Go ahead. I think I'll watch the fire for a while." She threw another log into the flames. Xena sat by the fire, cold seeping into her bones from behind, but toasty warm in front. How was she to
solve this dilemma? She was constantly battling herself. Everything in her cried out to hold the bard... but Gabrielle was so innocent...

Gabrielle tossed and turned. She couldn't get comfortable. It was too cold, the ground was too hard.

Xena sighed, exasperated; sleep was hard enough but with Gabrielle tossing, no way she was going to sleep. "Gabrielle. Gabrielle what is your problem?" She spoke through clenched teeth, the tension and
frustration was taking it's toll.

"Xena! You're awake?" Gabrielle asked surprised.

Xena let out a breath, "With all your tossing and turning..." the only explanation she gave.

Gabrielle colored. "I'm sorry!" She turned to face Xena. "It's just... well, I'm cold."

Xena closed her eyes and dropped back to her blanket. "Arggghh!" Shaking her head she looked at her friend. "Why didn't you say so earlier?" She rose and crossed to where Gabrielle lay, her blankets in
her hand. "Two bodies generate more heat." She rearranged her bedding next to Gabrielle's. Then laid down beside her friend, and spreading both blankets over the two of them, she spoke. "Now go to sleep."

Gabrielle seized the chance to be close to Xena and snuggled closer for the warmth. "Mm, better. Thanks Xena." She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Xena lay still, breathing in the scent of her friend and enjoying the feel of Gabrielle in her arms. As she drifted off to sleep, she wondered how long this would be enough.


Gabrielle sighed and snuggled close to Xena. Xena rolled over and clasped the young bard tightly to her. Gabrielle wiggled as though to pull herself into Xena. Xena woke with a shock. "Gabrielle?"

"MMM." Gabrielle smiled, still half asleep, she kissed Xena's neck. Realizing only then what she'd done, her eyes flew open in fear.

Xena stared at her. Her hard face softening as she raised herself on one elbow, continuing to memorize Gabrielle's face. Gabrielle couldn't look away from her compelling gaze, feeling a quivering uncertainty deep inside her. "I.. I.. I...."

"Shh," Xena laid a finger against her lips. It burned. "Don't say a word." Xena whispered. Desire must have shown on her face or in her eye. A muscle tightened in Xena's jaw and her voice got husky. "Don't look at me like that, unless..." her voice trailed off.

Gabrielle reached up without thought and touched her, her hand lifting to Xena's lean cheek. She could feel the muscle flex under her fingers, feel how smoothly and tautly her tanned skin fit over her bones.

Xena caught her breath and went briefly still as Gabrielle's soft hand touched her face, then she spoke, "I want you so much, I'm half out of my mind with it." Her voice was rougher now, strained from holding it
back. "If you aren't sure stop me now, because if I get started I may not be able to control myself."

Gabrielle was looking up at her beautiful blue eyes darkened with desire. "Is that a warning? or a promise?" she asked softly.

Still Xena hesitated, "I don't want to spoil, to ruin things between us if you aren't sure."

"I'm not sure of anything." She wet her lips. "Except that I'll always regret it if you don't kiss me now."

"Okay," Xena said huskily, leaning down until her lips were a whisper away from hers. "But," her breath blew warmth upon Gabrielle's mouth. "With this kiss you are mine." So saying, Xena lowered herself onto Gabrielle.

Gabrielle tensed at her first touch, but the instant surge of sensations and emotions was so overpowering that she forgot to be nervous. Her mouth was warm and hard, the hunger in her, stark and unhidden, and
everything inside Gabrielle responded with a blind need. Her arms went up around Xena's neck and her mouth opened for the shockingly intimate, incredibly arousing thrust of her tongue. Desire washed over her in a hot wave. Breasts against breasts as Xena pulled her up, molding her closer, fitting her own body to Gabrielle's. She felt the sudden throbbing from within, the ache in her breasts... The intensity was so
unexpected it blew away all rational thought....


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