Ship Mates

by Azurenon & Savanna Mac

Disclaimer:

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

Warning: This story contains mild violence towards a member of the male sex.

Sexual content:

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

Be it known, that this story is number 4 in a series we have written; a "between the eps (episodes)" if you will, which make reference to the aired episodes below. And, if you havenít read "Dream of Choice, Dream Warrior, and Crazy With Desire" by Azurenon and Savanna Mac, you may be a bit lost when reading this one.

This story takes place following our daring duos adventures in the MCA/Universal Studios/Renaissance Pictures copywritten material entitled: "The Debt I" and "The Debt II". If you haven't seen these episodes, I would strongly suggest you do so before reading this.

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

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

If not, then please accept our humble apology.

Chapter 1

The sun was setting on yet another long day. From Gabrielleís position at the railing, near the bow of the ship, she had an excellent view of the bright orange orb hovering on the western horizon; suspended above the land like a big ball in the sky. She could not help but marvel at the brilliant pink and purple colors highlighting the clouds nearby and ponder how so many things affected one another. Itís like everything is connected, somehow, she thought, like links in a chain. The bard felt that she and Xena were connected like this. Their lives, their destinies, were seemingly interwoven. And she, Gabrielle, was the weak link in their particular chain. For just look at what she had done to her best friend; betrayed her. And for what? To save the life of someone she knew nothing about? Her reverence for life, in general, had led her to betray the one she loved most in all the world; sentencing Xena to death, while leaving a brutal, heartless tyrant in power. It made no sense. So why had she done this?

"Why?" she mumbled to herself, as her gaze drifted out across the turbulent sea. "Oh... how beautiful," she added, her eyes encountering the subtle changes in the oceanís color. The palette of the sea went from a deep cerulean blue, to a blue-green and then on to a crystal blue, as it neared the shore.

"Crystal blue," she murmured. Like Xenaís eyes, she thought. No sooner had this thought crossed her mind, than a stream of mental images began playing out before her mindís eye.

The bard had been fascinated by those bright blue mesmerizing orbs from the very first moment sheíd made eye contact with the beautiful warrior princess. Long dark hair and bangs framing an olive complexioned, heart shaped face; dark eyebrows hovering over equally dark lashes, surrounding those mesmerizing blue eyes, had totally captivated the bardís attention. Even back then, sheíd felt drawn to this person like a moth to a flame.

"What is it about those eyes?" she murmured, her gaze rising now to take in the azure blue sky. "Blue everywhere," she added, feeling the weight of her guilt, concerning her feelings for Xena, settle over her like a heavy, wet blanket.

Cool misty sea water sprayed her face, as the ship dipped into a large wave. The images in her head abruptly switched to the present and to that very morning when she and Xena had shared a bath. Those crystal blue eyes had danced with mirth, as the warrior teased the bard about her pension for hot tubs.

"Well, I like to be clean," Gabrielle had responded.

One dark eyebrow had arched skyward as Xena asked, "Are you saying that I donít?"

"Oh no... no, thatís not what I meant," the bard had corrected. "I... I just like to take advantage of a warmth bath whenever I can get one. For unlike some people, Iím not partial to cool dips."

"Hmph," Xena had grunted. "Warm water is soothing, but cool water is... refreshing."

"Numbing you mean," the bard had retorted.

Xena had merely grunted again.

Gabrielle had then snickered as she remembered the time cupidís son had shot Xena with his little arrow of desire and the warrior had fallen head over heels for the warlord, Draco.

"Whatís funny?" Xena had inquired.

"Oh... just remembering a time when... a certain warrior princess was cooling her... heels in a cold lake, over a certain warlord named Draco."

"Hmph," the warrior had grunted. "That wasnít my doing. That was cupidís son and his little... a-rrows."

"Uh-huh," the bard had commented, as if she didnít believe her. "You really had the hots for that bad boy, didnícha?"

"Yeah, well. I remember a... certain bard who... had the hots for a certain... clumsy warrior named Joxer."

"Umph, donít remind me," Gabrielle had grumbled.

"And as I recall, you just loved that song of his. Now howíd that go again?" Xena had obviously only paused for effect, for she quickly continued, "Oh yeah,.. Joxer the Mighty, roams through the countryside, never needs a place to hide... With Gabbie as his sidekick, fighting with her little stick. Righting wrongs and sing..."

The bard had silenced Xena by clamping her hand over the warriorís mouth. "Yeah well, like you said... that was cupidís son," Gabrielle had agreed, as she found herself staring into those mesmerizing blue eyes and feeling too awfully close physically for comfort, given the circumstances. She had quickly removed her hand. "Ooo... if I could have gotten my hands on him," she had continued, in order to cover her discomfort, as she moved backwards toward the side of the hot tub, "Iíd have rung his little neck!"

" No real harm done," Xena had commented, seemingly following her; for the warrior had then turned and backed up to the side of the hot tub, beside her.

"Yeah, well... there could have been," the bard had rambled on, trying not to look over at her friend, whose breasts were very near the surface of the water now, especially since the warrior had stretched out her long arms along the wooden sides of the tub. "I mean, if Joxer hadnít stepped in front of me when he did, I..." Gabrielle had abruptly paused, realizing what she was about to reveal.

"Yes?" Xena had prodded, when the bard did not continue.

"Uh.... well,... like you said, " Gabrielle had stammered, "I guess there was... no real... harm done."

"But, you seemed to be suggesting there could have been. What were you referring to?" the warrior had further queried.

"Oh... nothing," the bard had responded, unable and unwilling to tell Xena that if Joxer hadnít stepped in front of her, the first person she would have seen, after being shot with cupidís sonís arrow, and fallen hopelessly in love and in lust with, would have been the beautiful warrior princess herself.

As if youíre not already in love... and in lust with her, she thought.

"Sounded like something to me," Xena had further prodded.

"Iím hungry," the bard had announced, desperate to change the subject.

"This conversation make you... hungry?" the warrior had queried.

"Uh... no.. No, I... just felt... uh... my stomach grumble, thatís all," Gabrielle had replied, turning quickly to face the side of the hot tub, in preparation for getting out.

"Where you going?" Xena had asked, her voice suddenly deeper and huskier than before.

"To get... something to e-eat," the bard had answered, stepping out of the tub and quickly reaching for a blanket to dry off with. "Iím pruning," she had added.

"Since when have you been worried about pruning?" Xena had asked, standing up to her full height.

Gabrielle had turned around to face her friend and found instead the warriorís nude body. More specifically two rather large round breasts, water streaming over each dark areola and their still hardening center points. In her mind, the bard had flashed back to when Xena had been driven mad by the Furies. Mad with desire, or so it had seemed. And how in this state, the warrior had placed Gabrielleís hand upon her chest, saying "This is what you do to me." The bard had felt one of those dark engorged points, as it slid beneath the palm of her hand and continued to rise between her fingers. And the bard had found her hand tingling with the urge to relive that moment even now.

"Gabrielle," a soft voice said, as a hand touched her shoulder.

The bard flinched and turned to find the source of this interruption and her discomfort staring back at her, concern apparent in those bright blue depths.

"You okay?" the warrior queried, her eyes searching Gabrielleís.

"Uh... yeah, Iím fine," the bard responded, turning away.

"Is that herb working?" Xena inquired, referring to the herb she herself had purchased for the bard in Chin, which the herbalist had assured her would relieve sea sickness.

"Yes, it... seem to be," Gabrielle replied, even though she hadnít really thought much about the herb and itís effects until now.

"Look at me," Xena suggested, pushing the bardís hair back from her face. "You sure youíre alright?" she further queried, as Gabrielle looked up at her. "You... look... a little green around the gills."

"Iím fine, I assure you," the bard responded, her eyes staring into those mesmerizing blue depths so filled with concern.

Were you really that crazy back then? Gabrielle wondered, Would you have wanted just anyone? Or did you truly want me?

"What?" Xena asked, seeing a strange questioning look come into the bardís eyes.

"Uh... nothing. Iím fine, really I am," Gabrielle assured her friend, as she returned her gaze to the sea.

"Well,... let me know if... you start feeling any strange... cravings or anything, okay?"

"Why?" the bard asked, glancing over at her friend.

"That herb might... have side effects that the herbalist neglected to mention."

"Oh... thatís comforting," Gabrielle grumbled.

"Sorry, I... just.. I donít know anything about that particular herb, so... we need to be... careful, okay?"

"Hmph, I see," the bard groaned, returning her gaze once again to the sea, as Xena removed her hand from her shoulder.

Out of the corner of her eye, the bard noticed her friend relax somewhat, resting her elbows against the railing. "Beautiful, isnít it?" the warrior asked.

"Yes, very," Gabrielle responded.

For several moments the two watched as the sun sank lower on the horizon. The bardís conscience was heavy with guilt over her betrayal of her friend, as well as, her feelings for the beautiful warrior. Dreams about Xena floated through her mind, like the ship upon the ocean. Sheíd always hoped that one day her nighttime dreams would become a reality. But how could they now? How could Xena ever want her after what sheíd done. That is, assuming sheíd ever wanted her to begin with.

"Dinar for your thoughts," Xena said, interrupting her musings.

"Oh believe me," the bard responded, with a heavy sigh, "youíd be throwing your money away."

"Itís my money," the warrior retorted, glancing over at her.

Gabrielle could feel Xenaís gaze on her face and knew her friend was concerned, but she could not bring herself to tell the warrior what was truly on her mind and in her heart. Nor did she have the mental aptitude to make up a convincing lie at the moment.

"Gabrielle, are you sure.... youíre all right?" Xena queried once again, concern apparent in her voice now, as well.

"Positive," the bard responded. "So how long a voyage are we in for? Three days or so?"

"Umm... more like... five," the warrior hesitantly answered.

"Five!" Gabrielle screeched, turning to her friend. "But you said...."

"I know, I know," Xena interrupted, silencing the bard by holding out two fingers towards her friendís lips, but not touching them. Although her eyes were drinking in how very close those soft looking membranes were to her fingertips. "But,... this ship has a... stop to make along the way."

"I ... see," Gabrielle commented, as Xena slowly lowered her hand, though her gaze remained where it had been: on her lips. "Oh well... I guess we should.... check out our accommodations, then. What?" the bard asked, noticing Xena still staring at her lips. "Do I have something on my lips?" she further queried, rubbing the back of her hand across both of them.

"Uh, no... I..." Xena looked up at her friend, then quickly glanced away. "Good idea," she commented. "Thereís just... one little thing I might ought to tell you first," she continued, trying to cover for her lapse in concentration, as she watched Gabrielle starting to gather up their packs.

"Oh, it gets worse than five days?" the bard queried, stopping and turning back towards her friend.

"Uh, well... " Xena stammered, as she walked over and reached down beside the bard for their bedrolls. "Thereís only... one cabin."

Gabrielle shrugged. "Thatís no big deal," she responded, as they headed towards the stairs leading to the lower deck. "Unless... itís a problem for you."

"Oh no, but... thereís also only... one small bed," Xena added. "Of course, thatís not a problem for me, but... I didnít know how you might feel."

"Well, I suppose... weíll manage," Gabrielle commented, as they started down the stairs. "I mean, how small can it be, right?"

****

"Too small for both of us," the bard added, a few minutes later, as they entered the tiny little cabin and her eyes immediately came to rest on the hammock style bed, suspended from the ceiling; obviously sized for just one person. "Iíll sleep... on the floor. You take the bed. You need the rest more than I do."

"No," Xena said adamantly. "Like you said... weíll manage," she added, as she dropped their bedrolls at her feet and walked over to the head of the bed. She then reached out and pulled on the ropes attaching the bed to the ceiling. "Sturdy enough," she announced.

"Just the same... Iíll sleep on the floor," the bard offered, putting down their packs in a nearby corner.

"No, Gabrielle. Either we both sleep on the bed Or... we both sleep on the floor," the warrior said, as she stretched the webbing of the bed out width wise, enlarging it somewhat. "I think weíll both fit."

"Yeah right," the bard retorted. "All smashed up against each other with no room to move," she grumbled, then quickly realized the implications of what sheíd just said.

"I... think I could fix this with... a board or two," Xena mused aloud, trying hard to ignore what the bard had so aptly pointed out. I know I wouldnít mind being that close to you, she thought, but it doesnít seem as if you like the idea very much. Guess it would be hard to resist....

I donít think she heard me, Gabrielle thought. Iím not sure whether thatís a relief or not, though. I know I really wouldnít mind sleeping like that, but... I donít think we... should right now. At least not with the way Iíve been feeling lately. Because it sure could be hard being that close to you right now and... not letting on how I feel.

"Xena, I really want you to take the bed," Gabrielle stated, as she reached down for their blankets, where the warrior had dropped them.

"Iíll... fix it," Xena responded, as she moved towards the door. "Why donít you go see what there is to eat around here. Iím starving." And with that the warrior quickly exited the cabin.

"Hmph," Gabrielle grunted. She sure seems determined that we should sleep together. I wonder if.... The bard shook her head. Nawh, she just... she wants to be comfortable and... naturally wants me to be as well. Hmph, guess I should go see to the food. Thatís all Iím good for anyway; chief cook and bottle washer. Well, look on the bright side, at least I donít have to cook for a few nights.

When Gabrielle returned, Xena was down on her knees by the head of the bed, in the process of tying two poles (originally used for loading heavy cargo onboard the ship) onto the netting of the bed, at the foot and the head. The bard had to admit, it appeared the warrior had a good idea that just might work. Yet, she still wasnít sure she was comfortable with the idea of being so close right now. What if she had one of her dreams and rolled over on Xena and.... Oh my, the implications were just too much to even consider!

"So... whaddaya think?" Xena asked, as she stood up, sounding proud of her accomplishment.

"Looks.... good," the bard admitted. "Should... be more comfortable for you."

"Not just for me, Gabrielle. For us," the warrior stated, reaching out and tightening one of her knots. "Remember either we both sleep here or... on the floor. And I know this would be more comfortable than that dirty wooden floor."

"But..."

"No buts Gabrielle," Xena interjected. "And thatís final," she added, as she glanced over at her friend. "Now... what did you find to eat?"

"Cheese, fruit, fish and bread," the bard responded, walking towards her friend now, the plate extended towards her.

"Nothing to drink?"

"Oops, I forgot that. You donít know what I had to go through to get this."

"I bet. Well, no matter, Iíll go get something. Sit down," the warrior offered. "Try it out."

The bard eased down backwards onto the bed, surprised at how well it supported her weight. "You did real good," she commented.

"Thanks. Go ahead and start eating. Iíll be right back."

"I... Iíll wait for you," the bard responded, as she once again considered the prospect of sleeping so close to Xena.

I might not dream at all, tonight, she thought. Iím so tired that I may fall asleep real fast and sleep so deep that.... Yeah, right! she corrected herself, Youíre gonna fall asleep when sheís that close. Better think again! Youíll be up half the night, afraid to move. Oh no, no matter what Xena says, Iím sleeping on the floor. I donít think our friendship can stand much more strain. And if she doesnít feel the same way about me, then... our friendship will be ruined! Yep! This little manx is sleeping on the floor tonight for sure.... and thatís final!

Xena came back with two wooden cups filled with water. "Best I could do," she said, offering Gabrielle one.

The two friends then sat side by side on the bed and ate in uncomfortable silence. Each trying hard not to look at the other. Yet, in such a small room, with so very little else to command their attention: one lantern, one chamber pot, one small porthole high up on the wall, three more blank walls and of course, the bed, it was inevitable that their gazes would meet on several occasions. And in each instance they both smiled, then turned away, searching for something to converse about. The episode in the land of Chin, however, stood between them like an invisible barrier. Each was equally reluctant to even broach that subject. Nor was either one going to talk about what lay ahead for them that night. Although thatís exactly what was on their minds.

Xena watched her friend out of the corner of her eye, as the bard chewed on a piece of bread, then licked her lips, leaving a few crumbs behind.

Wish I could lick those off for her, the warrior thought, then shook her head slightly. What am I thinking? Just listen to me... wanting to lick crumbs off her lips. Oh boy, have you got it bad, she thought, reluctantly tearing her eyes away from the lovely little bard beside her.

Wonder what sheís thinking, Gabrielle mused, noticing Xena shake her head. I canít ask. I know she wonít tell me.

Youíre not telling her what youíre thinking, either, a voice in her head reminded.

Yeah, but ... I canít tell her what Iím thinking.

Why not? the voice prodded.

I canít tell her that!

Why not?

Because sheíd.... probably slap me. No... not slap me. Sheíd... know I was going crazy, which I most certainly am, sitting here talking to myself like this.

Maybe she feels the same way about you.

No. No, she couldnít..... could she?

Donít you remember all those looks sheís been giving you lately? Staring at your lips?

Yeah, why was she staring at my lips, I wonder.

And remember she said she loved you.

Yeah, but only because I told her first.

And you think Xena would say something she didnít mean?

She hasnít said anything since.

Neither have you.

Got a point there. Neither one of us is... sharing our thoughts at the moment.

So, why not tell her?

No, I canít... I might... lose her. And... I couldnít bear that. Not again. Not so soon after....

Donít even wanna think about Chin, do you? the voice prodded.

No, I donít. Thatís... over and done with. The main thing is Xena is still alive and...sheís here with me now. I should... just be thankful for that. The rest doesnít matter.

Oh really. Then why are you so uncomfortable?

Because... Iím... Iím afraid of... sleeping so close to her tonight. Iím afraid Iíll.... she paused.

Wake up in her arms? the voice questioned. Reminding her of the night before Lao Maís messenger had shown up. And how sheíd moved a good ways away from their camp, because sheíd awaken to find herself cuddled up in Xenaís arms. You liked that, didnícha? the voice prodded.

Yes, I mean... no.

Oh come now. You loved it and you know it. You laid there for quite awhile just looking at her and... wanting her.

The bard shook her head. Thatís just it... I shouldnít want her like that.

"Something wrong?" Xena queried, interrupting her thoughts, her voice taking on that soft, raspy tone she used for quiet chats.

"Uh... no," the bard replied, returning her attention to the food.

"That herb still working?"

"Uh... yeah, seems to be. I... Iím just not... quite as hungry as I usually am."

"Hmph," Xena grunted. "Five days of this," she added, glancing down at the food on the plate between them, "and I might be ready to eat my own cooking."

Gabrielle grinned. "I doubt that."

"Hmph. I sure could go for some of those little dumplings you make with the red stuff insideíem."

"So could I," the bard agreed, sniffing of the sharp smelling cheese, before taking a small bite, which was just as bitter as it smelled.

"I do love your cooking," Xena admitted, breaking off a piece of bread. "If you hadnít come along, Iíd probably have starved."

"No, you wouldnít. You wouldíve learned how to cook for yourself."

"Not likely," Xena countered. "I hate cooking. And my own makes me... nauseous, like the sea does you."

Gabrielle smiled. "Well, guess itís a good thing I followed you and... forced my friendship upon you."

Xena glanced over at her friend. "You didnít... force it upon me, Gabrielle. I... I just didnít feel right about you leaving your home that way. I mean, I knew I was... more than likely headed for danger. There doesnít seem to be any leaving that behind me." The warrior paused and sighed heavily. "I just didnít wanna subject you to that."

The bard merely grunted, remembering their first night together. Xena telling her she would take her back home in the morning and her own response of: "I wonít stay home, Xena. Iím not the little girl my parents wanted me to be. But, you wouldnít understand that."

"Iím glad youíre with me, Gabrielle," Xena acknowledged, as she reached over and touched the bardís arm. "I canít imagine life without you by my side." She paused, as Gabrielle looked up at her. When their eyes met, their gazes seemed to lock. "And I wouldnít want it any other way," she added.

"Are...you sure about that, Xena?"

"Yes," the warrior answered without hesitation, as her thumb moved back and forth across the soft skin of the bardís arm. "I want you....." she paused, her gaze falling to the bardís lips now, "by... my side, always," she added, her eyes traveling back up to their previous position. "Youíre a... part of me, Gabrielle. A part I never... ever want to lose."

"You wonít lose me, Xena," the bard responded, her own eyes utterly captivated by the sincerity in the warriorís blue ones. "I love... being with you," she added, a few moments later, as she involuntarily torn her eyes away from her friendís, before she said something she shouldnít. Her gaze then fell to the hand on her arm.

Xena cleared her throat, as she released her hold and opted to pick up a piece of fruit that she didnít really want. "Wonder what this tastes like?" she mused, changing the subject and tossing the round orange colored fruit in the air and catching it.

"You tell me," Gabrielle responded, with a slight smile. "I wasnít going to be the one to try it."

"No? I thought you were always eager for new experiences," the warrior teased.

"Yeah well... I think Iíve had enough of those... for right now," the bard responded, as she turned away.

Oh that was brilliant, Xena chided herself. You just reminded her of Chin, you knucklehead, she added, biting into the fruit. "Umph!" she groaned.

"What? Is it that bad?" the bard questioned, as Xena spat the fruit back into her hand.

"Ooh... that skin is... tough and... bitter," Xena responded, making a face, as she licked her lips. "Umph, but... the inside..." she paused, gazing down at the orange insides, which appeared to have juice encapsulated in very small oblong shaped membranes. "Hmph," she grunted, licking a bit of juice flowing into the palm of her hand. "Umm... thatís good," she announced, then glanced over at Gabrielle who was watching her intently. "Here,... taste," she offered, extending her hand with the juice still leaking into her palm.

"Hmph," Gabrielle grunted, as she hesitated to lick the proffered hand.

"My hands are clean," Xena assured her.

Gabrielle stared at the fruit, feeling reluctant and yet at the same time quite curious, as well, about indulging herself in these two new sensations. She glanced up at Xena who was steadily watching her.

"Go ahead," the warrior urged. "Believe me, youíll like it," she added, licking her own lips. "Hurry up or itís gonna start dripping."

Throwing caution to the wind, the bard leaned forward and caught a drop of juice with her tongue. "Umm... that is good," she agreed.

"Told ya. Now get the rest of it before it...." Xena never finished her thought; for, the sensations caused by Gabrielle taking hold of her hand and then licking the juice off, sent shivers down her spine. "Umm," she murmured, as the bardís tongue slide over the side of her hand, catching every drop of the sticky sweet juice.

When she was through, Gabrielle glanced up at her friend briefly, seeing Xena staring at her lips again.

Xena clamped down on her lips with her teeth, as she noticed the bardís tongue easing out to capture the juice on her lips now. The warrior felt that arrow of desire as it traversed the length of her torso and hit home in the pit of her stomach, sending sparks flying off in all directions. Her groin muscles tightened involuntarily.

By the gods, how much Iíd like to do that for you, she thought, then cleared her throat and quickly turned away, her hand still tingling as it came to rest on her leg.

"Whatís wrong?" the bard asked.

"Uh... nothing," Xena lied, still staring down at her hand.

"You donít like it?" Gabrielle prodded, obviously referring to the fruit.

"Oh yes, I... do. I just... well, here..." she paused, offering the large part of the orange in her other hand to her friend.

"No, you eat it. Thereís two more," the bard responded.

"Oh..." Xena said, glancing down at the plate between them.

"You eat that one," Gabrielle suggested. "Iím gonna try my hand at peeling this one to get rid of that skin."

"Uh, yeah... good idea," the warrior acknowledged.

Xena watched in silence at the bard peeled the entire outer rind from the fruit.

"Strange isnít it," the bard, commented, holding up the seemingly naked fruit with only a thin white covering still on it. "Well, would you look at that," she announced, as she separated the fruit into two neat halves. "Itís so neatly arranged," she continued, taking special note of the way the fruit appeared to have sections. "I bet you could eat these one at a time," she added, pulling one small section away from the rest and popping it into her mouth. "Itís... s-so... sw-eet," she mumbled while chewing.

Like you, Xena thought, as she glanced back down at her sticky hand. Iím being silly not wanting to lick this hand again, she chided herself, feeling a drop of juice hit her leg. "Hmph," she grunted, as she reluctantly raised the still tingling hand to her mouth and lapped up the sticky sweet substance.

What was that look all about? the bard wondered, as she watched Xena peel the pulpy insides from the rind with her teeth. If I didnít know better, I could have sworn that was a look of desire, she thought. But then.. I do know better, she corrected herself, peeling off another section and taking only a small bite this time. Hmph, this tasted better out of Xenaís hand, she acknowledged. Oh by the gods... what am I saying?

At that moment, Xena glanced over at her. Their gazes locked once again and Gabrielle nearly choked on the juice easing down the back of her throat, as she once again glimpsed what appeared to be desire in those crystal blue depths. She coughed, breaking eye contact.

"You okay?" Xena asked.

"Um..." the bard cleared her throat. "Yeah, Iím... fine now," she added, glancing back up at her friend.

She watched as Xena turned away and licked her own lips. Wonder what those would taste like? the bard mused. Then she too turned away.

The bard couldnít help feeling that something important had transpired between them, during their initial experience with this strange fruit. She had the distinct feeling that she had indeed seen desire in Xenaís eyes. For, she recognized it from when the warrior had been... well... mad with desire, for the lack of a better phrase. But, could she be wrong? Could it have only been enjoyment of the unique tastes of this tangy sweet fruit?

Has to be, she told herself.

Iíve gotta get outta this cabin for awhile, the warrior thought, her groin still experiencing repeated jolts each time she looked at Gabrielle. I want her so badly I can... almost taste it, she mused, still savoring the sweet tangy flavors exciting her taste buds. Great Zeus, how can I stand this for five days? she wondered. And more importantly, four nights, she continued, thinking about sleeping so close to the lovely little bard. Boy, is it getting hot in here. I gotta get outta here soon before I say... or do something that... could turn her against me forever. And I couldnít live without her. Sheís the only thing that gives my life meaning.

Once again, they sat in companionable, but uncomfortable silence, each trying even harder now to avoid looking at the other.

After finishing their two pieces of fruit, Xena offered to dispose of the discarded peelings and picked up the plate.

"Youíre not going to toss the rest of that overboard are you?" Gabrielle asked, as Xena headed for the door with a plate full of rinds, one orange and a piece of bread.

"Uh no, I... I think I know someone who... could use this more than us, right now," the warrior replied.

"And who is that?" the bard queried.

"A stowaway," Xena responded. "I saw him when I was looking for those poles in the cargo hold."

"I see," Gabrielle acknowledged softly, wiping bread crumbs from her lap. "Him, huh? Young or old?" she further prodded, her tone sounding less like curiosity and more like disappointment, Xena thought.

"Young, I think," the warrior answered. "I didnít...get a good look."

"Uh-huh," the bard said with a heavy sigh, the memory of seeing Xena in the tavern with that young blonde guy flooding her mind now. So this is the look I saw, she thought, It wasnít for me after all. Didnít even have anything to do with me. Might know Iíd jump to the wrong conclusion. She was thinking about him. Wonder if sheíd wanna hump his.... She abruptly stood up, interrupting her own thoughts.

"You donít mind, do you?" Xena asked.

"Oh no... no, Iím sure he could use... whatever you wanna give him," the bard responded, as she picked a small piece of cheese from her skirt, then turned her back to her friend.

She sounds... kinda angry, Xena thought, but why? "Are you sure you donít mind?" she prodded. "If you want the fruit, Iíll..."

"Oh no, no... thereís plenty more where that came from," Gabrielle assured her, trying to keep her tone light. "Now go on and... Iíll just... make up our beds while youíre gone."

Xena merely grunted, as she concluded that the bardís tone must have more to do with domestic matters. For, laying out their bedrolls had become another one of Gabrielleís chores. Or at least, the bard had assumed this responsibility recently.

The warrior shrugged and opened the door. She didnít care to sort out Gabrielleís moods at the moment, for she was having enough trouble with her own.

Continue to part 2

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