By lynka ©1996

Dusk was quickly approaching, as the day wore on. Xena looked at Gabrielle, wondering why the young bard stayed with her. Her endless roaming, trying to set things right after all the pain she caused to so many. Pain she could never erase no matter how long she tried. She could only think of the shame that had befallen her family and friends. She wasn't sure when, or even how she lost her way, only that she had. Now, she had to find her way back. Somehow, her young friend was to play an important role in the restoration of her heart.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Gabrielle. "Xena, look!" Xena reluctantly looked away from Gabrielle as she followed the direction of her pointing finger. "An inn. Can we stay? I'll pay. I made some extra dinars in the last village with my wonderful tale of Artemis' great hunt with Orion." Gabrielle knew all she needed was a carefully executed 'please' and the Warrior Princess would give in. She looked up at Xena, "Please."

Xena smiled as she looked at her friend. She knew she couldn't deny her anything, so without thought she simply replied, "Sure."

As the two women approached the small cottage that passed as an inn, there was a quiet calm about the place. "It's so peaceful," Gabrielle offered.

"There is a stable 'round back for your horse." She said when the two were within earshot. When they entered the inn's boundaries, an elderly, gray-haired woman met them at the gate. "Welcome, my friends." She shouted as she waved them in.

"How many dinars will it cost for a bath and bed for the night?" Gabrielle asked.

The woman waved her hand in refusal at the offer. "It will cost you nothing to stay in my inn. Gabrielle, Xena, welcome."

"How do you know who we are?" Xena's voice was sharp and cautious.

"Everyone has heard of The Warrior Princess and her traveling companion, The Bard. They say you spin a fine yarn, young lady. Please, please, you both look tired and hungry. Please, come in and rest." After the invitation, the woman went inside to wait for her guests.

Xena dropped Argo's reins to the ground and whispered softly, "Stay here. I'll be right back." Xena stepped inside first, as she always did, to be sure things were safe before she would let Gabrielle in. The Warrior Princess felt very uneasy but could not sense any danger. "Gabrielle, stay here while I look after Argo. I'll be back soon. Be careful." Xena left to bring Argo to the stable.

Gabrielle stepped inside out of the doorway. Her eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room. She noticed how cozy the room looked. There was one small, round table covered with a white lace cloth in front of a blazing fireplace. The room was lit by two large candles, one on the table and one on the hearth of the fireplace. She noticed that the women wasn't in sight. Just then, the woman came from the other room. "Come, sit." She motioned for Gabrielle to sit at the table as she placed a carafe of wine and two glasses down.

Gabrielle walked toward the chair, "I didn't see a sign out front. What is the name of your establishment?"

"I call it Diana's Place. As you might guess, I'm Diana."

"Where is your help?"

"I run this place myself. I invite only those I wish to. If you'll excuse me, I must check on dinner. I will return shortly, please help yourself to a glass of wine. Xena should be back anytime now."

Before she turned to leave, Gabrielle said, "Well, thank-you, Diana, for inviting my friend and I in."

"It should prove to be most interesting, I think," Diana replied as she left the room. Gabrielle was confused and pondered what Diana meant while she waited for Xena.

As Xena was taking care of Argo, her thoughts began to wander again. All she could think about was Gabrielle. She loved her more than life itself. How could she tell her without scaring her away. She couldn't bear to lose her. If this is all she could hope for than she would have to accept it. No matter how much it hurt to even look at her. She prayed to the gods, "Please, if anyone is listening if anyone can help?"

"Xena, can I help?"

Xena was so lost in her thoughts, she never heard the older woman enter the barn. Xena turned on one heel and looked at the women suspiciously, "Who are you and how do you know me?"

"As I told your friend, my name is Diana."

"Do I know you?" Xena's eyes narrowed.

"I see the love in your heart, even though others may not. And what you seek can be found in the one who sees into your soul. A debt repaid. Two lives One heart." The woman turned and was gone as quickly as she came, leaving Xena stunned.

Xena didn't move. Her head was spinning, not knowing what had just taken place. She didn't like feeling helpless, and that was how she was feeling. Her desire for Gabrielle was on the brink of being out of control, and now this woman was talking in riddles. Slowly, she concentrated on the basics, breathing. Her head started to clear and she felt more in control. Only then could she head back to the inn, stroking Argo on her nose before she went. "Rest well, girl."

Xena stepped inside the inn closing the door behind her. She saw Gabrielle sitting at the table, the candlelight bouncing shadows off her fair skin. Diana was placing bread on the table, "Come, sit and enjoy." Xena took off her sheath and laid it next to the fireplace. She sat across from Gabrielle, unable to take her eyes off the beautiful young woman sitting there smiling at her.

"What took you so long?" Gabrielle asked.

Before Xena could answer, Diana came in with the rest of dinner. She poured both glasses with wine and told them to call if they needed anything else. "I'll be preparing your bath."

Diana stood in the shadows listening to the two women, waiting for the right moment to interrupt.

"She's quite a woman, don't you think, Xena?" Gabrielle asked as she took another bite of bread.

Xena replied, "Yes, she's quite mysterious." The warrior's blue eyes stared into Gabrielle's eyes. Maybe it was the wine, they finished the carafe Diana had left, but Xena had become careless with her glances.

Gabrielle had sensed a difference in Xena since she returned from the barn. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but she thought she saw love. Or more accurately..passion. "Xena, is everything all right? You haven't been the same since you returned from the barn."

"I'm fine, Gabrielle." Xena said and quickly turned away from her friend for fear she already had seen too much.

Diana knew that she had to move quickly or the warrior would put up her guard again, leaving Gabrielle stranded outside. "Your bath is ready. If you'll follow me I'll show you to your room." Diana extended her arm towards the doorway that led down a small corridor. The two women stood to follow Diana. "Don't worry about the table, I'll fetch a new carafe and glasses for you."

Xena and Gabrielle followed Diana down the hall to the room at the far side of the inn. Diana opened the door, allowing a full view of the room before the women entered. She had a feeling that Xena always led the way to keep her friend safe.

As they stepped into the room they saw a roaring fire in a stone fireplace. Next to it, steam was rising from a large tub. Within arm's reach of the tub was a small table, wine and glasses already set on a lace cloth. The large bed against the wall was covered with a white feather-filled comforter. Wildflowers adorned the pillows filling the room with their aroma. The room was dimly lit by two candles, standing side by side on the hearth of the fireplace. Xena and Gabrielle stood side by side in awe at the perfection of the room.

"Everything you need should be here, but if I've forgotten anything please ring the bell. My room is on the other side of the cottage and as you are my only guests tonight, I shall be retiring early." Diana smiled as she closed the door, "Have fun ladies." She murmured to herself.

Xena turned to bolt the door, but there was no bolt on the door. "Xena, leave it. Diana did say we were the only guests tonight. Come feel the water." Gabrielle was standing by the tub, undressing while she spoke.

Xena turned and was immediately mesmerized by the beautiful creature standing before her. Her heart was pounding wildly and she couldn't release her stare. Gabrielle stood naked, staring back at Xena. Their eyes locked and neither could speak. Finally, Xena stepped forward trying to release her armor as she walked toward Gabrielle. The warrior fumbled with the clasps, something she never did before. Gabrielle reached to help her, a task she took upon herself to do. Of course, Xena never objected. She wanted to feel the bard's hands against her body. She shuddered everytime she even thought of it. As Gabrielle removed her leather tunic, her hands brushed Xena's bare skin. Both women held their breath. Gabrielle moved her hands to remove Xena's bodice next. Xena stood naked with her back to Gabrielle. They had seen each other naked many times before, but tonight brought such raging emotions from both women.

As Xena turned to face Gabrielle, the bard took a step forward. Their lips were inches apart. Both women wanted to reach out, to take the other into their arms, to kiss each other's lips, but both women stood frozen with fear. Did it show on their faces? Slowly, Xena put her hands on Gabrielle's cheeks, lifted her face and bent down to kiss her. As her lips brushed Gabrielle's, she quickly pulled away. "Don't." Gabrielle's eyes pleaded. "Please don't pull away," her voice was soft, almost a whisper. "I've dreamt about this for so long." Gabrielle stepped into Xena's embrace, shuddering as their two bodies met. Their lips met again, this time without reservation. Their kiss was long and passionate. Xena parted her lips. Following her lead, Gabrielle also parted her's. Their tongues met..their passion rising.

Xena swept Gabrielle into her arms, carried her to the bed and gently laid her down. Only then did their lips part. Xena laid on top of her lover. Slowly, she began to kiss her neck, her lips, her shoulders, until she finally reached her breast. Gabrielle's back arched as Xena covered her nipple with her mouth, biting gently. Xena moaned as Gabrielle's nipple hardened, "Gabrielle, are you sure this is what you want? If I go any further, I won't be able to stop. I have wanted you....this for so long."

Gabrielle cupped Xena's cheeks in her hands and pulled her up to her lips kissing her with a passion the bard didn't know she had. That was all Xena needed. Gabrielle started to say something, but Xena put her finger on her lips and softly said, "I understand."

Xena parted her lover's legs with a gentle nudge of her knee and laid herself between them. She was surprised at the wetness she felt. She knew Gabrielle wanted her as much as she needed her. Xena put her hand between Gabrielle's legs. First touching her inner thigh, then the triangle of hair, and finally bringing her hand into her lover's wetness, smiling at the way Gabrielle shuddered beneath her. She covered Gabrielle's nipple with her mouth again. Xena removed her hand, bringing herself up to touch Gabrielle's lips with her own. Gabrielle could smell herself on Xena's hand and smiled as Xena put one finger at a time into her mouth. Xena began to move her hips, pressing herself into Gabrielle's sex. She kissed her lips and neck, moving to her chest and breasts, finally sliding down to kiss her stomach. Gabrielle was wild with passion, "I want...I need to feel you, Xena, oh pleaseI"

Xena moved herself down until her shoulders rested between Gabrielle's legs. The warrior gently slid her hand down and placed one finger inside her lover. Then her tongue touched Gabrielle. Gabrielle exploded into an array of colors as Xena kept moving her tongue over her. Her back arched as she grabbed the spread, holding it tight in her fists. She moved her hips in time with Xena's tongue, faster and faster until she stiffened and finally felt release. She pulled Xena away and held her hands out for Xena to follow. Xena laid on top of her until her bard stopped shuddering. She laid her head on Gabrielle's chest until she felt her heart quiet.

"I've loved you for so long, Gabrielle. I thought I would have to live with wanting you. Always afraid to touch you or to tell you how I felt. I could never stand losing you."

"Oh Xena, all the time we've wasted. I have loved you from the very start. You are my heart." Xena smiled and kissed her. Gabrielle could taste herself on Xena's lips and wanted nothing more than to make love to her. "I don't know how," Gabrielle began shyly.

Xena pulled her closer whispering, "Put your knee up." Gabrielle happily complied. Xena straddled her leg and began rubbing herself against her thigh. Xena was already consumed by her passion. She moved faster as Gabrielle held her tight. Xena cried out as she reached her climax. She laid quivering on top of her lover. When her heart began to beat with some regularity she looked deep into Gabrielle's eyes, seeing the love she always needed to see. Xena raised herself off Gabrielle whispering, "How about that bath?"

Gabrielle stepped into the tub and was amazed that the water was still hot. She thought that by now it would have cooled off. As the water moved she could smell the perfume fill the air. "Hummmmm,"" was all she could manage as she slipped into the water. Gabrielle looked over at Xena thinking how beautiful this women was that stood before her. The passion and churning she felt between her legs was not a new one, it had been there for a long time. Everytime Xena touched her, or she dreamed of Xena making love to her, before she didn't understand. But now, she knew. Gabrielle slipped beneath the water tipping her head back to slick her hair away from her face as she rose above the water again. "Are you going to join me?"

Smiling, Xena walked over to the tub, "Just wanted to keep the fire going." She said as she poured two goblets of wine. Stepping into the tub, Xena handed a goblet to Gabrielle. Reaching for Gabrielle, Xena pulled her closer putting her right arm around her. "To you my love." She said raising her glass. Gabrielle smiled, turned her head to the side and could only repeat Xena's words. They each took a sip of wine as if to seal their words in an oath.

Gabrielle started to lather the soap in her hands. Gently, Xena took the soap from Gabrielle's hands whispering, "Let me do that." Deliberately they explored each other's bodies as they washed and massaged each other. When the water had finally cooled, the lovers finished rinsing each other off. Xena stood pulling Gabrielle to her feet and kissed her passionately. Wet body to wet body they moaned, holding each other tightly.

Xena stepped out of the tub, picking Gabrielle up in her arms. She carried her bard over to the sheep skin laying on the floor in front of the fireplace. She gently lowered Gabrielle down. Xena sat behind her holding her in her arms. Xena hummed softly as she rocked her gently. Gabrielle leaned back against her lover, feeling so cherished.

Gabrielle kissed Xena's arm that held her safely. Her passion consuming her, Gabrielle turned to face Xena. Slowly, she started at Xena's neck, biting her gently just below her ear. Xena's head went back and she whispered, "Gabrielle, please don't stop." Gabrielle laid on top of Xena as they fell back on the skin. Gabrielle rested between Xena's legs. Kissing Xena's neck Gabrielle whispered softly, "Help me make love to you. I don't know how. My love, tell me how to please you."

"You're doing just fine." She said in a soft voice as she took Gabrielle's hand placing it on her breast. Gabrielle smiled and quickly moved to cover her other nipple with her mouth. For the first time, she felt Xena quake beneath her. Xena put her hands on Gabrielle's sides. "Press yourself into me." Gabrielle complied with her warrior's wishes. "Oh, yes just like that!" Was her reply. Slowly, Gabrielle explored every inch of the warrior's body with her tongue until she reached the treasure she so desperately sought. Xena opened her legs, inviting her lover in. "You don't have to do that."

"Yes. Yes, I do. I want to love you like you loved me." Gabrielle was timid with her tongue until she realized how much she liked the taste of her lover. She then began moving her tongue in circles touching all of Xena's sex. "Your fingers." Xena managed to moan. Gabrielle slipped her fingers in Xena's opening and Xena went wild with pleasure. Xena moved her hips keeping in time with Gabrielle. Gabrielle moved her tongue with more intensity over the swollen spot she found keeping rhythm with her fingers gliding in and out of her lover. She felt Xena's muscles tighten then loosen and tighten once more. Gabrielle glanced up at Xena's face. Her eyes were closed. Gabrielle could feel Xena shiver and quake as her tongue danced upon her lover's wetness. Xena moaned, "Ooohhh Gabrielle." Gabrielle continued to move across the most sensitive part of Xena. Within seconds Xena was arching herself again and feeling that wonderful release. Despite Gabrielle's objections, Xena reached down and pulled her up. "I need to breath. Come here and just hold me." Gabrielle obeyed her wish, laying herself on top of her warrior. She could feel Xena still quaking beneath her as she held her tight. "I love you, Gabrielle. You are part of my soul." Xena paused, then smiled to herself. She finally answered the riddle.

"Your love is my life." Gabrielle whispered while kissing her neck. Xena rolled Gabrielle over and began making love to her again. When the last of their energy had been spent, the two lovers fell asleep entwined in each other's embrace.

Daylight had broken through the window. The sun's rays tapping Gabrielle lightly, waking her gently. She raised herself up on one elbow, looking down at this women who claimed her heart. She had never seen Xena so peaceful, so calm. Always it was as though she could see the battle in her soul when she rested. But today, Xena actually was sleeping peacefully. It was as if Xena had finally found peace in her heart. Gabrielle tried to restrain herself but couldn't. She reached over slowly moving her hand in a circular motion across Xena's stomach and breasts. Xena stirred, arching herself into the gentle hand awakening her. "I thought you were sleeping."

"I was. But with a touch like that, who could stay asleep?" She whispered as she kissed her lover. They made love again with the same passion they had found in each other the night before. After, as they laid in each other's arms, Xena said, "I think we should be getting up and on our way. I wouldn't want to overstay our welcome."

"Hummmmmmmmmm." Was all she could manage.

It was late morning as they dressed. Gabrielle noticed the basket of food and drink waiting for them on the table. "How did this get here?" Gabrielle questioned. "Look, there's even apples for Argo." She walked over to Xena who was standing in front of the fireplace. "Is the fire out?"

"Huh huh." Xena was looking at the two candles still burning on the hearth of the fireplace. The two candles had melted together during the night leaving no trace there had been two candles to begin with.

"Look at this." Gabrielle said pointing to the candles.

"Two lives one heart." Xena murmured to herself mostly. Xena reached her arm around Gabrielle's shoulders. Gabrielle looked up at Xena. Before she could question her warrior, Xena simply said, "Later." She kissed her lover one last time before they gathered their things and left the room.

Diana was no where to be found as the couple was ready to leave. Gabrielle left a note for her that simply said,

"Thank-you from my heart."

As they stepped out of the inn, a sudden wind came through the path. They looked at each other, turned around and saw the inn was gone. They were standing on the same road they were on yesterday. Argo was tied to a tree on the side of the road. Gabrielle looked at Xena puzzled. Xena put her arms around Gabrielle's shoulders, pulling her tight. Looking up at the full moon still visible in the morning light, Xena said,

"Thank-you, Artemis."


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