Note from the Nutcase:  

Y'know...the whole idea for this contest generated from Xena's line that

ended the episode "You Are There".  


With that in mind...


Technically, this submission appears to not meet all the criteria for this

contest.  Since, technically, this one does not have an original interviewer

character in it but, as the Bard pointed out...there are lots of

questions/answers flying around.  Technically, in there, someone is doing an

interrogation...ummm...interview, of sorts. AND, technically, eventually, the

subjects are interviewing themselves also...kinda sorta.

Technically, close enough for me.  <.g.> 



Surrender, Xena

Chest heaving, legs burning, eyes stinging with sweat, the young woman doggedly continued on her quest—determined against all odds to find her friend…her partner.

The neat braid that Xena had created for her that morning had come undone as she ran, and her strawberry blonde hair continually fell into her eyes and stuck to her sweat-drenched neck.

She wasn’t sure how long she had been running, but the sun had been high in the sky when Xena was taken, and it was perilously close to setting now. Once it grew dark she would have no chance of finding her. Her tracking skills were mediocre at best, although they had steadily improved during the time she and Xena had been traveling together, and she knew that she was not skilled enough to follow the trail in the dark.

The men who had taken Xena had not taken many steps to hide their tracks, and for that she was grateful. As she considered that thought, however, she was beset by doubt. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that they didn’t bother to cover up, she admitted. Xena would know…Xena always knows.

As she continued to run, she allowed herself to have a moment of stark panic as she considered what would happen to her if Xena…if Xena didn’t return. Unable to put the horrible thought into words, she reminded herself that they’d been in far worse situations and that Xena had always found a way out.

Yeah, but how often does a pack of ten men, skilled fighters from their looks, take her weapons and tie her hands behind her back? she asked herself. She had cringed when the men had tied a sturdy rope around one booted foot, looped the rope under Argo’s tack, and then secured her other foot. That won’t allow her to vault off, which she could normally do even with her hands tied, she had thought with dismay.

Still, there was one thought that returned to her again and again, and she clung to it desperately. If they were just bloodthirsty, they would have killed me. They not only didn’t kill me, they barely looked at me. They wanted Xena…they wanted her alive.

# # # #

Just as the last rays of the warm summer sun crept behind the mountains, she heard the first sounds…faint, muffled, but definitely coming from humans. Her heart started to beat faster…knowing that even though they hadn’t wanted her before, they would change their minds if they found her spying on them.

Creeping stealthily, using every technique that Xena had ever taught her, she drew as close as she dared. Astoundingly, the camp was not guarded. There were no sentries in the trees; no one had seen her approach. She was sure of that, since she would have been captured if they’d had even a semblance of security precautions in place.

She was so close now that she could see the clearing, smell the wood fires that had recently been extinguished, see the men scurrying to pull up camp. Oh please, no! she cried to herself when she considered having to follow a dozen mounted men in the dark.

Her eyes scanned the area, finally lighting on her friend. She let out a gasp as she took her in…hands still bound behind her back, stout ropes binding her securely to a stake. As always, Xena’s expression was cool and calm; and from where she stood, Gabrielle could not detect any sign of damage to her beautiful face or the rest of her body.

A well-armored man, likely the leader of the group, strode across the clearing, his voice loud and powerful as he addressed her. "We meet again, Princess," he said, as he stood in front of her.

Her eyes flicked across his face, and Gabrielle could see the recognition dawn in them. "Malthius," she said with an almost cordial tone. "It’s been a while. Is this the best welcome you could offer?"

"I have no quarrel with you, Princess. If you recall, I didn’t lay a hand on you during your…trial."

"Walking the gauntlet isn’t quite the equivalent of a trial, Malthius, but I acknowledge that you didn’t strike me." Her lips curled into a cold smile as she added, "You didn’t try to help me, either."

"The odds were not in my favor," he said, shaking his head. He stood a bit closer and said, "The army fell apart after you left. A few of us have been signing on with various camps…just trying to get enough food to stay alive." He turned and clasped his hands behind his back, beginning to pace back and forth in front of her. "We’ve decided to set off on our own," he said with conviction. "We’d like you to join us."

It didn’t take long for her to consider her answer. "No. Never again." He cocked his head at her, having anticipated her reply.

"I won’t force you, Princess. You’re not the type of woman who could be intimidated into joining with me."

Another cold, haughty smile split her lips, and she nodded in agreement. "Since we’re agreed, I’d like to go now."

He turned and shook his head, looking almost sympathetic as he said, "Not until you tell me where you stockpiled the surplus weapons. I know it was near here, but of course, only you and Darphus knew for sure. I will let you go, Princess, but I can’t survive without the weapons and the gold that you stashed."

Her head shook from side to side, and as it did, Gabrielle felt the knot in her belly grow larger. Hands clenched so tightly that her fingernails dug into her palms, she knew that the torture would begin soon…and that Xena would not give in…no matter what horrors they visited on her.

Malthius extended his hand and snapped his fingers a few times. Seconds later a young man, looking as harried as he was terrified, emerged from a tent, a large cup in his shaking hands. "Is the potion ready?" Malthius asked, his demeanor giving the clear impression that "no" was not an acceptable answer.

"Yes," the man said with as much confidence as he could muster. "I think so, sir. I’m hoping it is," he trailed off.

"What’s the problem?" Malthius thundered, his voice echoing sharply through the forest.

"I’m not sure of the dose," the man said, appearing to grow smaller as he spoke. "I’ve never used this potion before, and I don’t know how much to give."

"All of it," the fledgling warlord declared, his eyes focused fiercely on the healer.

"But it might…I don’t know what it might do to her!" he protested weakly, his voice trembling.

"I suppose we’ll find out," the warlord stated. He turned to Xena once more and said, "You’ll tell me one way or the other, Princess. Why not make it easy on yourself?"

She didn’t deign to answer, her eyes staring straight over his head as though he had already left the clearing. With two long strides he was on her, his men immediately gathering around to help. One meaty hand grasped Xena’s hair, pulling it sharply to angle her head back. Another locked his sausage-like fingers onto her nose, forcing her mouth to open so that she could breathe. Slowly, methodically, Malthius poured a small amount down Xena’s throat, waiting until she swallowed to begin again.

Gabrielle finally had to resort to wrapping her arms around a sapling to prevent herself from running into the clearing and knocking the potion out of the man’s hands. She knew that if she betrayed her presence, she would be killed or beaten or in some other way rendered unable to help Xena. She had to help Xena…and the only way to do that was to stay alive and conscious. That was her mantra…the only thing that let her remain still.

The potion was obviously working, since the warrior’s strong legs appeared to give out on her after just a few minutes. The men all stood around, watching her critically, trying to determine if the herbs would kill her or make her talk. Malthius ordered that her hands be unbound, and her body sank to the ground in slow motion as the ropes were eased.

The small blonde woman wondered who was beating a drum, but realized after a few dozen rapid beats that the furious pounding was her own heart. She worried that the men would hear it, but she slowly realized that they were a good twenty five paces from her, and were so fixated upon Xena that they would likely not hear her if she was standing right next to them.

With a pathetic moan, the warrior rolled onto her back, panting softly as she tried to force herself back into consciousness. Time seemed to stand still, but the natural world moved on, the sky now fully dark. Gabrielle had no idea how long they all waited, but occasionally Malthius would nudge the prone woman with the toe of his boot. Finally, the dark head lifted, and Xena heaved the contents of her stomach all over the ground, the liquid splashing noisily onto the leaf-littered floor of the forest.

Two of the men grabbed Xena by the elbows and hoisted her to her feet, forcing her to remain upright as Malthius questioned her. "What is your name?" he asked, his voice loud and clear as he enunciated sharply.

Gabrielle couldn’t hear the response--her friend was far too groggy and disoriented to be able to project her voice--but Malthius was obviously pleased by her answer. He shot a confident smile at his men and continued asking question after question, nodding his head after each answer.

Xena’s head bobbed about aimlessly, the drugged woman unable to gather the strength to hold it steady. Finally, Malthius cried out, "Yes! Yes!" and gave a signal to his men. The large body slid to the ground and landed in a heap, where she remained as the men packed up the final remnants of the camp and rode off.

Flying across the clearing, Gabrielle gathered her friend in her arms and rocked her gently, searching her eyes for any signs of recognition. "Gab’el?"

Xena asked with a thick tongue.

"Yes, Xena, it’s me," she choked out, the tears finally starting to fall.

"Tro up." Xena’s words were garbled, and Gabrielle shook her head, showing that she didn’t understand.

"Help tro up," she tried again, making a vague gesture at her mouth with a wavering finger.

All at once the younger woman understood, and she used all of her strength to roll the warrior onto her side. Wiping her hand furiously on the fabric of her skirt, she gently held the strong jaw open and gamely inserted her finger into the warmth of Xena’s mouth. It took a few tries, but she finally hit the sensitive spot in the back of her throat, and Xena vomited again, very little coming forth this time. "I think you’ve gotten out as much as you can," Gabrielle assured her. "Now let me roll you away from all of this, or I’m going to be doing the same thing in about two shakes of a lamb’s tail."

To the blonde’s extreme pleasure, Xena found that funny, and she blinked up at Gabrielle as she tried to form a laugh. She had enough strength left to be able to help a little, and together they managed to wind up near one of the partially extinguished fires that the men had used to prepare a meal before they departed. Gabrielle got their sleeping furs from Argo and got Xena settled, wrapping her in all of the furs to keep the chill away. She spent the next few minutes reviving the fire, chattering away at Xena the entire time.

Her usual style while performing tasks around their campsite was to speak about whatever came to her mind, but tonight she felt it imperative that she do so. She wanted to engage Xena’s mind as much as possible, and keep her conscious and alert. Within a few minutes the fire was sparking to life, and Xena was blinking up at her. "Wa…water," she said, her voice slightly more intelligible than it had been before.

Jumping to her feet, Gabrielle got their water skins from Argo and held one to Xena’s lips, a fond smile covering her face as the warrior drank lustily.

"You’re feeling better, aren’t you?" she asked softly.

"No," Xena replied with uncharacteristic candor. "Hurts everywhere. Head," she said, placing her hand on her head. "Sleep."

Gabrielle blinked at her, having never heard Xena admit to an ache or a pain, no matter how bad her injury. She wracked her brain, trying to remember everything she had ever heard Xena tell her about injuries, quite sure they had never encountered this particular problem before. In the middle of cradling Xena’s head on her lap, she had a flash of memory and said, "You always say not to sleep with a head injury. This is like a head injury, isn’t it? Isn’t it, Xena?" she asked sharply, shaking the warrior roughly.

A heavy sigh came from Xena’s lips and she said, "Don’t know. Too tired."

"Xena! Xena!" Gabrielle got behind her and forced her into a sitting position. "Xena, I want you to drink every bit of the water in that skin. That might make the drug leave your body faster."

She held the skin up, managing to spill as much down the woman’s cleavage as she got into her mouth, but she could feel Xena swallowing dutifully. When one skin was empty she forced the other to her lips and squeezed the rest down her.

Once again, all of her strength was summoned as she maneuvered and wrestled Xena to her feet. "We’re gonna walk," she informed her. "We’re gonna walk until you’re my Xena again."

The stumbling woman barked out an indistinct laugh as she muttered, "My Xena."

Oh Gods, Gabrielle cried to herself. I said that out loud! Please let her not remember that!

"My Xena," the warrior continued to mumble. As the smaller woman dragged her large companion around in a wide circle, the deep voice rumbled out, "Am I your Xena?"

Gabrielle's heart was racing as badly as it was when she'd watched the men ride away with her companion. She didn’t know if she should answer or try to change the subject, but Xena provided the answer to that question moments later. "You’re my Gabrielle," she said softly, sounding more like one of the drunks they encountered at every inn, than her normal stoic self.

By the Gods! the blonde cried to herself. Now what do I do? She desperately wanted to make the warrior talk some more. Xena had already spoken more than she did in the average day, and Gabrielle wanted to plumb the depths of her stunningly open heart. But something held her back, and with a start she realized what it was. This felt wrong, somehow…like she was stealing Xena’s thoughts and feelings. She desperately wanted to know exactly what the warrior had implied, but she wanted "her Xena" to tell her…not the Xena who had no choice but to be honest.

Trying to brush her off, Gabrielle smiled up at her friend and said, "Sure, Xena. I’m Gabrielle. That’s right. I’m your friend, Gabrielle."

They stumbled around the clearing for quite a while, the warrior using all of her focus to avoid falling on her face. Their pace had been quick and after a bit Xena began to pant, her reliable body letting her down tonight. "Water," she begged, her pathetically sad face almost breaking Gabrielle’s heart.

"I passed a stream a little while back," Gabrielle said. "If I lay you down in your furs, will you be all right?"

She nodded, not willing to waste the energy to speak. Gabrielle got her settled, and leaned over her and spoke softly, but clearly. "I want you to stay awake, Xena. Do you promise that you’ll stay awake?"

The deep blue eyes blinked slowly as the warrior formed her answer. "Do you promise to stay with me?"

Gabrielle shook her head and twitched her chin in the direction from which she had come. "I’m going to get water, Xena. I can’t stay with you right now."

Long, cool fingers slid up her bare arms, as the gaze sharpened. "Not now," she said, showing that she understood Gabrielle’s errand. "I mean forever. Will you stay with me…forever?"

If she didn’t know better, the blonde would have sworn that Xena was about to take her into her arms and kiss her…and… She shook her head to clear that thoughts that flew about, trying to understand what was happening. The intent blue gaze was unwavering, and she knew that she had to answer, but it was so hard to meet Xena's eyes and not give in…to whatever the warrior wanted from her. She wasn’t sure why she said it, but she found herself nodding, whispering, "Yes, Xena. I will stay with you…forever." As the words left her mouth, she realized with a shiver that ran down her entire body that she meant them…and had meant them even before Xena posed the question.

Her whole body felt numb, and she patted the cool cheek that peeked out of the sleeping furs. "Don’t fall asleep, okay? You promised."

The dark head nodded, the gaze still sharp and focused. "So did you," she said, the import of her words nearly knocking Gabrielle to the ground. She somehow managed to grab the skins and a large water bag for Argo and took off. Her mind was a whirl of thoughts and scattered images from the time they had been together.

She thought of the slow thaw that she had seen developing in the warrior’s stoic, taciturn personality. Recalled how they had fallen into a pattern of gentle touches and quiet hugs when the day had been particularly bad. She nearly stumbled on a rock as she remembered a day, not long ago, when she had looked up from writing in her scrolls and had seen the intense blue eyes staring at her from across the fire. As soon as Xena knew that she had been seen, she looked away, but her cheeks flushed with embarrassment--the first time Gabrielle had ever witnessed that emotion from the enigmatic woman. As she recalled the incident, she had to admit that the thing that had flustered her was not that Xena was staring-- it was how she was staring…and where she was staring. Gabrielle had been lying on her stomach, using the ground as a table that night, and she distinctly recalled that Xena’s eyes had not been on her face. They had been several inches lower than that, fixed upon the cleavage so prominently displayed by her position.

Oh Gods! she sighed heavily, no longer able to dispel the truth of what had occurred that evening. She was staring at my…at my… She couldn’t even make herself think that about her friend, and yet, the mere thought of those eyes taking her in made her pulse race, and her knees felt a little weak at the thought of returning the favor.

Like you’ve never stared at her when you bathe together, she scoffed. Like you don’t watch the play of her muscles when she sharpens her sword in the light of the fire…or you don’t sometimes wake in the middle of the night and watch her eyes dart under her lids, missing their bottomless blue depths when they’re shuttered, even in sleep.

Oh Gods! she cried again. What does this mean? What do I want it to mean? Does it mean anything at all if Xena’s not in her right mind?

# # # #

Staggering back to camp, the heavy water bags filled to the brim, Gabrielle was both relieved and dismayed to see Xena looking much more like her normal self. She was sitting up against a rock, her eyes open and wandering idly around the camp.

"Hi," the blonde said as she set the water bag up for Argo to drink.

"Hi. I missed you," Xena said, her voice low and soft.

Oh-oh, not normal yet! "I missed you too," she said brightly, trying to act like this was something they normally said to each other.

She handed a water skin to Xena, and the warrior drank deeply, sighing as she swallowed and swallowed. "I need to keep drinking," she said decisively. "That idiot should have given me a thimble-full."

Gabrielle fell to her knees in front of the warrior. "You knew what he was giving you?"

A nod.

"Why didn’t you just tell them?!" She was aghast that Xena allowed herself to be poisoned and nearly killed when she knew the potion would be effective anyway.

"I thought they’d kill me or beat me half to death after I told them," she admitted, her forthrightness still startling for the younger woman. "The drug is a pain-reliever as well." She shrugged her broad shoulders, giving Gabrielle a helpless look. "No sense in feeling all of that pain if you don’t have to."

A thought occurred to Gabrielle and she slapped Xena sharply on the arm. "Why didn’t you tell them not to give you so much! Did you know it was dangerous?"

"Warlords don’t take direction well, Gabrielle," she smirked. "Besides, it’s not too dangerous. It just makes you talk a lot, and tell practically everything that comes to mind. The gods only know how long the effects of taking this much will last." She smiled at her friend and revealed, "It’s nice not to feel any pain for a change, though. I haven’t felt this good since I left Amphipolis."

"You mean when we saw your mother a few moons ago?" Gabrielle asked, thinking that was a very long time to be in pain.

"No," Xena smiled. "When I left to fight Cortese."

Sea-green eyes fluttered closed, as the blonde head shook. "You’re really always in pain, aren’t you?" Without realizing it, Gabrielle found that she was holding Xena’s hand and skimming her thumb across the smooth skin.

"Uh-huh. Everybody who fights for a living is. Part of the job." The warrior lifted the skin to her mouth and drank again, letting out a sigh as she drained the last. "I’m going to lie down," she declared, and Gabrielle noticed that she was shivering.

"Are you cold?" Releasing Xena’s hand, the blonde stroked her hand up the long arm, noticing a definite chill.

"Yeah. The drug can do that. Don’t worry about it."

She snuggled herself down into the furs, noticing how soft and fluffy they felt under her body. "Your fur is under here, too, isn’t it?" Her eyes were sharply focused on the bard, and Gabrielle found her head nodding. Xena rose up on an elbow and said, "I’d rather not give it back if I don’t have to." A look Gabrielle had only seen on her face once before settled onto her features and she asked, "Will you lie with me?"

She’s looking at me just like she looked at Marcus when he returned from the dead! Discomfort warred with desire, and the smaller woman found her traitorous head nodding again. She’s herself. This is Xena…my Xena. She’s just telling me all of the things I’ve been dying to ask her. Don’t run from this, Gabrielle. It might be the only chance you get!

Feeling more nervous than she could ever remember, the bard knelt, then slipped between the furs, trying to stay as far away as possible from the warm body that lay beside her.

Xena obviously had different ideas. She rolled onto her side and cocked her head slightly as she asked, "Can I hold you?" She asked the question so ingenuously, with such a matter-of-fact air, that it didn’t seem as earth-shattering as it really was.

Once again, the blonde head nodded, as she tried her best to stop the shivers that rolled up and down her body at Xena’s touch. The long, strong arms slid around her, and Xena tugged her body into place, settling the bard against her side. She snaked an arm around her back and rested a hand on her hip. Letting out a relaxed breath, the warrior murmured, "This is nice, isn’t it?"

"Yes. It’s very nice." She knew her voice was quavering, but she had no control over it. Xena, of course, noticed it immediately.

"Do I frighten you, Gabrielle?" she asked softly.

"N…n…no, Xena," she answered honestly. "You don’t frighten me." Surprising herself, she began to chuckle and added, "You intimidate me, but you don’t frighten me."

"Good," the warrior laughed gently. "My plans are working."

The smaller woman shot up and glared at her, sputtering, "You try to intimidate me!?"

"Uh-huh," Xena replied, her voice casual and smooth. "If I intimidate you, I figure you won’t disobey me as often. You’re really headstrong, Gabrielle. I worry that someday your instincts will get you into trouble." Her eyes gentled as she said, "I couldn’t bear it if you were ever hurt."

"Oh, Xena," she sighed, settling back down against the larger woman. "That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me."

"I think lots of nice things about you," she admitted. "I just don’t say them."

Rising up on an elbow, the green eyes gazed at the blue, a relaxed, benign smile on the warrior’s lovely face. "Why don’t you say the nice things you think, Xena?" She knew that she was taking advantage of the openness, knowing that Xena would never answer a question like that if she were in her right mind. But she had to ask…she had to know what went on behind those inscrutable blue depths.

Her ability to censor herself completely gone, Xena gazed at her friend and said, "I don’t want to frighten you."

"Frighten me?" she asked tentatively.

"Uh-huh. I think about how beautiful you are, Gabrielle. I look at how the sun reflects off your hair when we’re walking in the forest, and how much your eyes look like the first leaves of spring. Sometimes I want to touch you so badly that my whole body aches."

Gabrielle knew that her eyes were so wide there was a possibility they would pop right out of her head, but she desperately wanted Xena to continue. So she just snuggled up tighter against the strong body and tried to control the shaking. "Why don’t you?" she found the courage to ask, stunned by her own question.

"Because I haven’t thought that’s something you’d be comfortable with," Xena said. She lifted Gabrielle’s face with the tips of her fingers and asked, "Have you ever been with a woman?" She searched the wide eyes, the stunned look on the younger woman’s face answer enough. "I didn’t think so," Xena surmised. She tightened her hold on her friend and asked, "Have you ever thought about it? Even let the idea play around in your mind?"

There was a longer silence than the smaller woman was comfortable with as she tried to answer as honestly as she could. She felt it was the least that she could do, since Xena had no choice in the matter, so she found herself saying, "I didn’t know such a thing was possible until I met the Amazons. Since then…yes, I have thought about it, Xena." She smiled up at her friend and added, "Often."

"Do you think about me when you think about it?" the dark beauty asked, a warm smile curling up the corners of her mouth.

Gabrielle nodded, her eyes fluttering closed as she began to flush. "Exclusively," she whispered. The young woman cleared her throat, managing to ask, "You’ve been with…women before, right?"

"Uh-huh," Xena nodded. "Lots of them."

"When was your first time?" Gabrielle asked, tossing out one more question that would normally never have been answered.

"With a woman?"

"Yeah. With a woman," Gabrielle replied.

"I was fifteen," Xena said, a faraway look in her eyes. "I’d been fighting for a few months, and I’d seen more in that short time than I could have ever imagined."

Gabrielle chuckled against her and said, "I know the feeling."

Xena echoed her laugh and said, "I guess you do, don’t you? I forget some times that you’re not much older than I was then."

"No, but I’m not leading people into battle," Gabrielle gently reminded her. "I’m the sidekick."

That drew an even heartier laugh, and the larger woman chided her companion, "Not hardly."

"Will you tell me about it…your first time?" Gabrielle asked gently.

"Sure. She was working in a tavern…I forget the name of the place, but it was near Athens. I was in the place with a bunch of my men, and someone dared me." She grinned down at her friend, the full-fledged, toothy grin that only made rare appearances. "I can’t resist a dare."

"Weren’t you frightened?" Gabrielle gasped. "Just to go up to a woman and proposition her?"

Another gentle laugh, and Xena assured her, "That was her job, Gabrielle. She was a prostitute."

"OH!" The younger woman colored fiercely, hiding her head against Xena’s chest as the surface under her face rumbled with laughter. "I thought she was just some young girl helping out in her father’s tavern."

"Nope. She was twice my age, had some nasty rash right where you don’t want one, and she hadn’t bathed in longer than I hadn’t. It wasn’t the kind of thing you rushed to memorialize in a scroll. I don’t think even you could have made it sound romantic."

The thought of a beautiful, innocent young woman with the creature that Xena painted was making her stomach clench. "Did you let her…?"

"Yes, I let her touch me, but only with her hand. I wouldn’t have let her do that, but I didn’t want to cheat on the bet."

Green eyes peeked up at her as Gabrielle asked, "Did you like it?"

"No!" Xena shuddered in distaste. "She acted like she was milking a cow! After just a minute or two, I hitched my pants up and got out of there. Letting her touch me was enough to win the bet, but I knew that’s the most she could do for me."

Gabrielle smiled up at her, chuckling at the disgusted look still covering her friend's face. "I assume that your other experiences were more to your liking?"

"Yes, you might say that. I enjoyed the company of both men and woman, Gabrielle, and through most of my life I don’t think I could have chosen one without missing the other." She gave the bard a squeeze and said, "That all changed with you." Gently, she turned the smaller woman onto her back and leaned over her, with Gabrielle staring at her in wide-eyed wonder. "If I never touch another, it will be too soon." Xena reached down and captured one of the small hands, bringing it to her lips to kiss the warm palm. "I never want any other hands, or any other lips to touch me again." With a tender smile, she dipped her head and kissed her companion, her touch so soft, so gentle, so incredibly romantic, that the smaller woman nearly swooned. She breathed in her bard's intoxicating scent, and let her lips savor the velvety softness of the pink lips until they were too soon lifted from the place she knew they belonged.

"Oh, Xena," she breathed, her chest aching with the desire that burned within her, "I’ve waited for that kiss for so long."

"So have I," the warrior murmured. "You’ll always be able to remember the night that I wasn’t able to censor myself. The night that I first told you how much I love you."

Gabrielle threw her arms around the strong neck and squeezed her so tightly that she was afraid she’d break something. Her joy was all encompassing as she gushed, "I love you too, Xena. I’ve loved you from the start! Even when I didn’t know that it was possible to love a woman, I swear that I loved you!"

Xena held her tight and rocked her in her arms, breathing in her scent, luxuriating in her embrace. The blonde head tilted up, and a furrow gathered between the mist green eyes. "You said that I’ll remember this night," she repeated slowly. "You specifically said that I would remember it. Won’t you remember it?"

The dark head shook, a look of infinite sadness washing over Xena’s beautiful face. "I won’t remember a thing, Gabrielle. From the time I took the drug until at least morning I will have a compete and utter blackout."

Gabrielle hurled herself onto her back, letting out a sigh heavy with frustration. "I assume it wouldn’t be wise to tell you what you’ve told me tonight," she asked, her voice flat with resignation.

"Would you want to know that you missed the first time you told me that you loved me?" The blue eyes were gentle and conveyed a great deal of sympathy. "I won’t remember, Gabrielle, but I am fully myself tonight. I’d love to show you how I feel about you." It was clear just exactly how Xena envisioned doing this, but Gabrielle once again surprised herself by shaking her head.

"No, Xena. I don’t want to be the only one who remembers. I want it to be something that we share for the rest of our lives." Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena's neck and kissed her gently, pulling her head away before the kiss became too intense. With infinite care, she pressed against the desirable lips with the tips of two fingers, tracing their shape, their softness, trying to memorize the sensation until she could experience it again. "I know you won’t remember tonight," she murmured, "but I will. I’m going to spend the whole night squeezing every little bit of information I can out of you, Warrior Princess, and I’m going to use every tidbit against you."

"Oh you are, are you?" Xena smirked.

"I am," Gabrielle assured her. "I’m going to use your own weapons against you, Princess, and one day I’m going to break through that façade and make this Xena my Xena."

"I hope that day comes soon," Xena sighed. "It’s hard being stoic." She looked so winsome that Gabrielle had to offer another hug.

"I know it’s hard, Xena, but one day you won’t have to be stoic around me. It might take a while, but someday you’ll be mine."

"I already am," the warrior sighed. "I just have to learn how to surrender."


The End

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