by Xero

Part 3

The small group of friends continued to listen to the music of the drums, relaxing and chatting while enjoying the cool breeze. After about a candlemark, Solan, Xenan , and the other hunters returned to the village. Xenan joined his mom immediately, and soon fell asleep, resting his head on her lap. Solan meanwhile, went over to the centaurs at the cooking pit, keeping his back to his mom and her friends while he prepared whatever surprise dish he had caught. All Xena could see was that the boy carried something in a burlap bag, and that he didn't want any help from the others while he prepared his special treat. After finishing up his chore, the youngster made his way to join his uncle and the women, carrying with him a mug of fruited water that he liked to sip on hot days. Taking a seat next to Xenan, he took a satisfying pull on his drink, and smiled over at his mother and her newly joined partner.

"So, Solan..I see you've been successful in your hunt," Xena hinted for a clue as to what the boy was cooking for them.

"Yup." His blue eyes danced in the bright sun.

"What did the others bring back?"

"Don't know...I only wanted Xenan to help me with my catch."

Ephiny glanced at the boy. "Xenan helped you catch the game? But I haven't even started to teach him any hunting skills."

Solan nodded his head towards his small centaur friend at his side. "He was a big help."

"Xenan?" the dark haired woman questioned.


"You're not going to tell us how?"


Gabrielle nudged her lover. "Kinda talkative like his mother, don't you think?"

Xena bent in for a quick kiss. "Don't worry. You make up for whatever verbal skills we lack."

The bard lightly slapped her bound hand against Xena's thigh, leaving a small smudge in the process. "I'll take that as a compliment. And flattery will get you everywhere," she whispered so the others couldn't hear.

"I'll remember that," the warrior replied, bending in to steal another kiss.

Gabrielle closed her eyes as she felt her lover's full lips press against her own, her heart skipping a beat when Xena continued the slow exploration with her tongue. The bard acknowledged her complete submission to the woman she loved, not caring who was watching, as she strained closer to the warrior, needing to feel Xena's surrender in return. The two lost track of time momentarily as they escaped into the sensation of giving each other pleasure, and receiving it in turn. At last Xena pulled away, but not before capturing Gabrielle's bottom lip with her teeth, grazing the sensitive skin while the bard squirmed in pleasure.

"Oh, gods...Xena," Gabrielle practically moaned as she leaned her forehead on Xena's neck, loving the feel of the scented hair. "If you keep this up..."

"Yes, my love?"

"I'll never be able to make it."

"Oh, I think you will, my love."

A sharp intake of breath was the only response the bard was capable of at the moment. As she slowly regained her senses, she realized that the drumming had stopped and now Tenio was playing an emotional melody on his flute. Glancing up, Gabrielle noticed a centaur she had never met before standing in front of her and the warrior.

"Hello, Queen Gabrielle and Warrior Princess. I'm Siver, and I want to welcome you to our Nation."

Xena rose and helped the bard to her feet, and then grasped the centaur's arm in a warrior's greeting. "Thank you Siver. It's an honor to be asked to join such a great Nation." A streak of the drying paint was left on the centaur warrior as he then offered his arm in greeting to the bard.

Gabrielle shook Siver's arm and nodded her greeting. As the centaur moved away from them, a different centaur took his place.

"Gabrielle, my name is Moryl. My wife, Cady, was an Amazon. She would have been proud to see this day arrive, the day that our Nations combine in peace." The handshake he gave Gabrielle was heartfelt, and unable to help himself, he leaned down and hugged the shorter woman. Straightening up, he placed his hand on Xena's shoulder, getting his palm dark with the paint in the process. He looked the dark haired woman in the eye, and stated simply, "Welcome, Xena." Although a bit more formal than the greeting he gave the blonde, Xena knew from the squeeze he gave her shoulder that it was just as genuine as the one he shared with her partner.

Another centaur followed Moryl. Danaus and his boy Gowan stepped forward to greet the new members of their tribe. While Danaus pledged his support and strength in battle to the women, Gowan simply reached up and hugged first Gabrielle and then Xena. When Xena wrapped her arm around her boy's friend, he took the chance to whisper in the formidable warrior's ear, "I'd never thought I'd get to meet Solan's mom."

Xena released the boy from the embrace. "And I'm glad that my son has such a good friend. Thank you, Gowan."

The boy ducked his head shyly and stepped away, but not without first noticing the streak of brown left on this arm where Xena had hugged him. He felt that he too was accepted into the small group, and was happy that Solan now had someone else besides Kaliepus to look after him, to care for him.

Soon, all the centaurs lined up to meet the women. Xena tried to keep up with all the names and faces, but was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of centaurs and all the good wishes they pledged. Finally, the music stopped, and Tenio approached the pair.

"Xena and Gabrielle, thank you for giving me the pleasure of playing for you at your Blending Ceremony. I wish you peace and happiness in your new life together."

Gabrielle grasped the centaur's arm. "Tenio, it should be us that are thanking you. Your melodies are beautiful. I'll never forget this day, and the way you made it special for both of us. You are a true artist, blessed by the gods with your talent."

Tenio simply smiled and next approached Xena. "Welcome, Warrior Princess. My Nation is honored to be able to count you among our members. But now I have a solemn promise to ask of you. I have heard that Gabrielle is blessed by the muses, that when she tells her wonderful stories, she shares her soul with those listening. I must ask that you protect this gift of the gods, that she may always be able to share her spirit with others."

Touched by his words, Xena kissed the musician, and then leaned back so he could see into her eyes when she spoke. "I promise."

The drum player nodded, and then moved back to his instruments. Picking up the drum again, he played a slower tune. A few of the centaurs started passing out platters of food, while others were pouring larger mugs of port and ale. Without a word, it seemed that everyone understood that the time to eat the afternoon feast and celebrate the Binding with toasts and cheers had arrived.

Solan walked up to his mom and Gabrielle, and led them to a table filled with different meats, cheeses, and fruits of every kind. In front of two empty chairs was a platter covered with a cloth, hiding the special meal that Solan had prepared for them. He had even made sure that a glass of ale and another of port were waiting for the two women. After sitting down his special guests, the boy removed the cloth from the dish to reveal two young birds resting on a bed of grape leaves, surrounded by mushrooms and a few edible roots.

Xena broke off a piece of the meat, and fed it to her lover.

"Mmm... very good, Solan. What is it?" the bard asked, as she reached for a morsel with her free hand, and placed it in Xena's mouth.

"Stuffed quail. Uncle showed me how to make it long ago."

Xena liked the flavor of the herbs her boy had used. "Stuffed quail? It's delicious. What else is in it?"

"Look and see."

Gabrielle folded back the belly of one of the birds, which had been split open before it had been cooked. Inside where two small eggs, cradled by a handful of wild rice. She deftly cracked open an egg, and removed the shell before placing the delicacy on Xena's tongue.

"I don't think I've ever tasted anything like it," Xena remarked as she took her turn at breaking the hard skin off an egg and feeding it to her lover. "It's so different."

"Well, Xenan helped me collect the eggs. He made sure he was very careful not to drop or crack them. But Uncle told me he had made the dish for someone else who was welcomed into the Nation, and the dish had been his favorite. He made it for...for my dad, Borias." Solan glanced away from his mom quickly, trying to control his emotions when he thought of his dad, whom he would never get to meet.

"Honey, come here," Xena whispered as she held out her free hand to her son. He rounded the table and fell into her embrace as Xena hugged him back. "Your father would have loved you just as much as I do if he had lived long enough to see your birth. It means so much to me that you did this...not only cook this special meal that your dad liked, but that you've accepted Gabrielle and me. I love you Solan."

"I love you too mom," the boy whispered, and then stepped away from her to hug Gabrielle.

"Big guy, you're special to me too," the bard told him as she squeezed him to her. "I'm very lucky to have you both in my life."

Solan gave a quick grin, and then left them alone so they could enjoy their meal together.

The two women helped each other to the quail, the rice, the wild mushrooms, and everything else that Solan had prepared for them. After every few bites, they stopped for a kiss, and could taste on the other the last thing they had each ate. Gabrielle tasted port on Xena's lips, as the warrior savored the combination of rice and quail and deepened the kiss. Their bound hands were a hindrance at times, as Xena felt she couldn't get Gabrielle in a tight enough embrace, but gave into the sensation of such an intimate dinner. Closing her eyes, she wished that the evening's celebrations were almost over, so she could share with her lover a more intimate exchange. As if on cue, several more musicians joined Tenio and started playing a livelier tune.

Ephiny approached the table the women were sitting at, and holding a rather large mug in the air, announced, "A toast, for our friends!"

Cheers greeted Ephiny's shout, and once they died down, she continued. "To my Queen Gabrielle, one of my dearest friends. A bard by day, she uses her tongue for all to enjoy. At night,...that pleasure is reserved for one!"

A loud chorus of cheers and laughter greeted the amazon's toast. Gabrielle's face reddened with the sudden attention everyone was paying her, and she looked down in embarrassment. Feeling Xena squeeze her hand, she lifted her eyes to her lover and found herself being thoroughly kissed for all to see. Another raucous round of cheers went up from the centaurs.

"And to my other friend, Xena, Warrior Princess," Ephiny began again.

'Uh oh, here it comes,' the woman thought and prepared herself for the amazon's worst.

"She's dangerous with weapons or without. I've often heard her boast that she has many skills. Well, tonight, Gabrielle will find out just how many!"

The laughter was loud and boisterous. Even Xena had to chuckle at her friend's remarks. She caught Ephiny's eye and pointed at her, indicating that she thought the joke was a good one.

The regent lifted her mug a little higher, sloshing some of the port over the side, and then lowered the goblet and took a long drink. The centaurs followed suit, and then roared their approval when they spotted Gabrielle and Xena helping each other with their mugs. After another shared kiss, the two women stood up and joined the gathering in the middle of the field, ready to be the first to dance to Tenio's music.


It was as if nothing existed but the other. The two lovers held each other and moved to the beat of the music, barely recognizing that there were others in their midst. Her eyes locked on the bard's, Xena leaned down and pressed her lips against the welcoming softness of Gabrielle's mouth. A soft whimper escaped the blonde as Xena pressed her advantage on the distracted woman and intentionally pulled her closer to her, bringing Gabrielle's center into contact with her firm thigh. Xena felt the woman jump at the unexpected contact but wouldn't release her hold on the blonde's lips, preferring to taste and feel all of the softness she could.

"Gods, Xena," the smaller woman moaned, as she was finally released and allowed to take a normal breath. "You are trying to torture me, aren't you?"

The warrior loosened her steady grip on Gabrielle, allowing her to wriggle a small distance away from her, and away from the firmness of her sleek body. "No, my love. Just trying to convince you to leave this party with me. Will you?" she asked, and bent in for another kiss.

Moments later, a completely breathless Gabrielle leaned her head against Xena's chest, feeling and hearing the racing heart that seemed to be keeping time with her own. "It's too early..."

When Xena heard the weak denial, she again brushed her lips against her partner's, parting the full lips with her tongue, and gently asking for entrance. Unable to help herself, Gabrielle moaned when she felt her woman so easily slip past her defenses, the nerves of her body knowing she would soon be begging Xena not to stop. "Too early..." she tried again, conscious of the fact that she was already lost.

The warrior's lips left the velvet softness of her mouth and moved to the sensual column of the bard's throat. Moving upward, the questing tongue discovered an ear, and set about exploring all the interesting curves and niches before finally stopping at the lobe. Xena pulled gently at the exposed skin, drawing another pleasurable gasp from her lover.

"Too..." the bard protested, but there was no denying the warrior or her own feelings. Now completely at a loss for words, Gabrielle abandoned all hope of trying to rationalize the situation with her headstrong lover, and gave into the feelings that Xena could build in her so effortlessly. Pulling the taller woman's lips to hers, she returned the kisses with a fire that seared them both in its intensity.

Xena clung to the woman as best as she could, her free hand pressing itself on Gabrielle's back, seeking more contact with the smaller woman. Her bound left hand squeezed Gabrielle's in equal passion, but finally unable to control her need for more intimate contact, the older woman pulled back slightly so she could look into the bard's eyes. "Please..."

Gabrielle saw her own passion reflected in the eyes of her lover. Powerless to do otherwise, her answer was simple. "Yes."

Bending down for another burning kiss, the warrior would have picked up Gabrielle and carried her to Kaliepus' hut if their hands were not tied. Instead, she entwined her fingers more firmly in their grip on the woman, and slowly pulled away from their lingering kiss.

No one stopped them as they made their way out of the field. In fact, Ephiny was amazed that they had lasted as long as they had; she and Phantes had barely finished their feast together before they had made their exit from their own Blending Ceremony.


Someone, probably Kaliepus, had been in the hut earlier and had prepared it for them. Candles glowed softly in the kitchen and in the room Xena had been using since their arrival. Wild flowers were placed on the bed, and a wineskin or what turned out to be a smooth savory wine and two goblets waited for them on a small table beside the pallet. Xena led the bard into the small bedroom, and then wrapped the woman in another embrace before pulling back to marvel at the dancing green eyes of Gabrielle. "I love you," she smiled, and grinning wickedly, brought their bound hands up to eye level. With one quick movement, her white teeth flashed and effortlessly untied the loose binding that had held their hands together. "Finally, I get to hold you completely," she breathed, beginning to nuzzle the creamy skin at the bard's throat.

"Oh, I don't know, I kinda liked being bound to you," the blonde gasped as Xena's hands found the outside curve of her breast, and were teasing with the green garment there.

"Don't give me any ideas," came the muffled reply. The warrior's lips continued to lightly nip at the tender white skin of her lover's neck, while her fingers made their way underneath Gabrielle's half-top, playing gently with the firm mounds they found there.

"You don't need any ideas when it comes to pleasing me...ooh!" Xena's callused fingertips had found the sensitive nipples, and had begun to rub the already puckered flesh into heated life. Gabrielle arched into her lover's touch, feeling a jolt of pure electricity ripple across her body. Closing her eyes, she gave into the pleasure she was receiving, clenching her teeth to stop from crying out her lover's name. Xena continued to trace light bites over the bard's throat, steadily moving downward to feel the pulse point against her lips. The ragged breathing of the blonde told Xena all she needed to know. Still pulling and teasing the woman's nipples, she arched her hands, bringing the green fabric with them and exposing the pebbled flesh to her gaze. Unable to stop herself, the warrior's lips and teeth took up a new location on the bard's body, as her arms wound around the small woman, drawing her nearer into her warm mouth.

"Aaah, gods!" Gabrielle ground out, and with a sudden burst of movement born of practiced moves with her staff, she wrapped her arms around the bigger woman and half turned, throwing Xena onto the bed with her on top of the dark haired warrior. Eyes twinkling with mischief and blazing with longing, the bard observed her prey. "Now I've got you where I want you." She smiled at her woman. "And I'm not going to let you go."

"Well, I think we should get rid of my armor, don't you?" the blue eyes sparkled in the light of the candles.

"Let me."

Xena relaxed as she watched Gabrielle undress her, the expression on the bard's face at once serious and loving as if she were unwrapping a present while she removed the metal breastplate of the warrior, along with the armbraces, the boots, and the leathers before helping Xena out of her shift. After carefully laying the clothes to the side, the smaller woman quickly threw off her own clothes, not caring where they landed.

The bard looked at her partner, appreciating the marvelous curves, sleek lines, and toned muscles that made up the warrior. She crawled on the bed, pulling her body along that of the other woman until at last she was straddling Xena above her hips. Gabrielle sat back on her haunches, making sure that Xena could feel the wetness of her body resting on her tight stomach.

Xena took a deep breath and released it slowly. It took all her concentration not to grab Gabrielle in a tight embrace and switch their positions. The warmth, the wetness, and the sultry smile of the blonde made the warrior clench her teeth to stop from crying out her need for the woman's touch. At last, Gabrielle leaned down, and passionately explored Xena's mouth with her tongue.

The warrior felt an electric shock shoot through her body. With the bard on top of her, the smaller woman's breasts crushed into hers, she felt a rush of liquid escape from between her legs, her body signaling its readiness to her lover. She gripped Gabrielle around the small of her back, trying to increase the contact the two of them shared.

"Uh uh," Gabrielle whispered, breaking the kiss when she felt what the warrior was doing.

"Gods, Gabrielle, please..."

"Xena, I love you. Let me make love to you on this night." The smaller woman sat up straighter, and then removing the hands that still held her waist, placed them above Xena's head. "Don't worry, warrior, I'll take care of you." Still holding onto the callused hands, Gabrielle stretched out on top of the darker woman, and shifted one of her legs until it was between those of her partner. Instantly feeling the wetness that greeted her there, she bit her lower lip in an effort to slow her thoughts and actions. The amount of Xena's arousal signaled a quickening of Gabrielle's heartbeat. Acknowledging the truth to herself, she didn't know how long she could hold herself back from ravishing the dark haired beauty. Instinct took over when her strength of will failed. Gabrielle's hands slid down the arms of her lover as she lowered herself a bit more to pleasure the sensitive mounds of flesh that ached to be touched.

Xena remained motionless, except for a shuddering breath as she waited for what the bard would do next. She felt the arms of her partner caress her, the experienced hands moving over the taunt muscles of her arms and then tracing the outline of her sides until they finally reached the swelled curves of her breasts. There the hands stopped for a moment, and then expertly held the breasts up from the bottom, making the rock hard nipples a more inviting target for a warm wet mouth. The warrior helplessly arched up into the lips and teeth of the bard, offering herself up to the person she loved. A groan of pure pleasure escaped her lips, and she again felt a wave of wetness wash through her.

Gabrielle heard her lover's groan and knew it wouldn't be long before the woman underneath her reached her limit. Her mouth continued to suckle and nip at Xena's left breast as her hand teased and stroked the other, rubbing and blurring the paint that Ephiny had put there earlier in the morning. The bard groaned herself when she felt another splash of warmth fall against her leg. Closing her eyes, she moved lower on Xena's body, her left hand taking over her place at the woman's delicious breast. Gabrielle licked and nipped her way down her lover's body, teasing the flat skin around her belly button, tasting the wetness she had left there earlier, before finally working her way lower.

Helplessly, Xena bucked her hips when she felt Gabrielle's hands leave her chest and slide down to her hips.

"Steady now...I've got you," the bard promised, just as loving fingers arrived at the damp folds and gently moved them aside before a questing tongue stroked it's way along the wet ridges.

A low groan ripped from Xena's throat as she surrendered to the bard, and thrust her hips again in invitation. The slow licking that greeted her attempts for more contact had her thrashing her head from side to side on the pallet, her hands clenching and unclenching themselves in the blankets. Almost past coherent thought, all Xena could do was moan one word. "Please..."

Using the plea as her signal, Gabrielle thrust her tongue into Xena, swirling and circling it around the smooth muscles that gripped it back. The readiness, the wetness of her lover acted as an aphrodisiac on the smaller woman. While continuing to taste all of her partner, Gabrielle let one of her fingers stray to the hyper sensitive nub nestled within the folds of the woman. Just grazing over it gently had the larger woman arch her back, trying to bring her center even closer to the expert touches of the blonde. Still thrusting her tongue inside her lover, the bard held the woman up with her left hand as she continued to play with the hard bundle of nerves, softly fondling it, circling it, but never pushing her woman over the edge.

"Ahhh, Gabrielle," the warrior moaned, her breathing reduced to short quick pants. Her heart raced in a steady rhythm, threatening to explode out of her chest. Instinctually, Xena continued to push her hips at Gabrielle, offering herself up to her lover.

Xena's moans had their own effect on Gabrielle. She could tell her woman was close, with both the verbal and physical cues adding fuel to the fire that was burning inside the bard. Helplessly, she left the pleasure of tasting her lover's source, and gripped onto her center, sucking it while her teeth latched onto it and pulled gently. Two fingers slipped inside the sheath that her tongue had just left; the muscles there spasming against the digits, trying to draw them in further.

Xena gave into the expert assault; her jerking stopped as the bard continued to suck and lick her flesh. Eyes squeezed shut, her breath trapped in her chest, Xena felt every nerve ending explode in release and pleasure. Feeling as weak as a newborn puppy, the warrior collapsed on the pallet, her breathing now racing along with her heart. She weakly reached down, and grabbed Gabrielle by the arms, trying to pull the woman up close to her. Soon the blonde was snuggled up to her love, her head resting on a firm shoulder.

"You are so beautiful," Xena whispered, and held the bard tighter to her.

"I could say the same to you." Lying on her side, the bard's free hand made circling motions on Xena's flat stomach, slowly making it's way up to rest on the still hard flesh of her breast.

The warrior closed her eyes, and reluctantly pulled the hand from her chest. Shifting her weight, she pressed the younger woman into the soft mattress, and looked into the glowing eyes of the woman she loved. "And now I want to hear your moans, I want to hear you call out my name, while I pleasure my wife, the keeper of my soul."

Gabrielle looked up into the dark smoky eyes of her lover. Reflected in the glow of the candles, the smaller woman recognized the passion she saw there, and felt her heart lurch in her chest. She knew she had never been this happy, and was profoundly grateful to be able to share herself with her adored Xena. The bard raised herself up a bit, and kissed her woman while wrapping her arms around the strong back of the warrior. A soft moan escaped when she felt her lips parted by the soft advances of the other's tongue.

Xena tasted herself on the lips of Gabrielle. She cradled her beloved's face with her hands and slowly worked her way inside the mouth of her lover. The sweetness of the bard always amazed the warrior, even though they had been lovers for close to two years. Knowing now that they were truly partners, recognized by both the Amazons and Centaurs as such, only made her heart fill with more longing and love for the woman who decided against all odds to share her life with her. Xena closed her eyes and drew away from the soft mouth, to trace kisses on the brows, nose, and cheeks of her woman.

Gabrielle kept her eyes closed as she felt the soft lips trail across her face. The hands that were caressing her face dipped lower and started to explore her shoulders and arms. She felt her left arm being lifted, and then a soft kiss left on her wrist at the pulse point. A smile crept onto her face as she next felt the lips explore the inside of her elbow, and then a tongue leave a salty trail to her shoulder. The tongue moved with a will of it's own, until finally settling on a firm breast, circling the hardened skin before finally clasping onto a nipple. A shuddering cry escaped from the bard, her heart racing to keep up with her senses.

The warrior continued to suckle on the warm skin of her lover's chest, her free hand expertly rolling the other nipple between callused fingers. Not wanting to deny herself any pleasure, the dark haired woman was soon nuzzling the other breast, teasing and nipping, torturing the bard with sensations. Feeling a movement against her legs, she noticed that Gabrielle has spread her own wide, an open invitation to explore. A weak hip thrust accompanied the change of position, followed by a strangled moan. Xena knew her bard was ready, and unable to deny herself the pleasure, she slipped lower onto the woman, and between her legs. Helping the bard to bend her knees, Xena settled in and instantly burrowed her tongue against the engorged bundle of nerves inside the warmth of her lover.

Gabrielle arched helplessly into the embrace, spreading her legs a bit further, wordlessly pleading with Xena to increase her touch. A gasp escaped her as teeth took the place of her lover's tongue, pulling on the sensitive skin.

"Xe-na!" the bard screamed when three fingers plunged into her. Her legs shaking with unreleased passion, her chest heaving for lungfulls of air, she again urged her body downward, trying desperately to impale herself on her lover's hand.

The pace was slow as Xena held Gabrielle quivering against her. Still teasing the bundle of nerves, the warrior pulled her fingers almost out of her lover before again sliding them easily in. Gradually increasing the rhythm with Gabrielle's bucking hips, the dark haired woman was soon plunging in and out at a furious pace. The panting she heard equaled those of herself earlier, when the bard had been loving her. Flicking her tongue over the nub, Xena felt the bard go motionless as wave after wave of pleasure rolled through the younger woman. The warrior slowed the movements of her hand, and last stopping it completely. Then, unable to stop herself, she worked her tongue through the engorged leaves of her love, licking the remains of the passion they shared. At last giving in to the feeble attempts of Gabrielle to stop, Xena left the woman's center to lie on her back next to her, and brought the smaller woman closer to rest on her body.

"I love you, Gabrielle. You make me whole."

"Xena," the woman said quietly, her breathing beginning to slow to normal. "Promise me you won't ever leave me. I don't know what I would do without you."

"Don't ever worry about that, my love. I'll always be where you are."

"Hmm," was the quiet reply as the bard snuggled into her embrace and drifted off to sleep. "I love you."

"I love you too, my bard."



Gabrielle awoke to the sensation of someone lightly stroking her face. Smiling quietly to herself, she opened her eyes to see the one she loved most gazing down at her with such a look of devotion it momentarily took her breath away.

"Good morning, sleepy head."

The bard stretched, raising her arms above her head, and arched her back in a most delicious manner. She settled back to the pallet, draping her arms around her lover, and pulled her in for an intimate kiss.

"Mmmm," Xena responded to the bard's embrace. "I see I was is a good morning." The smile reached her eyes, making them twinkle all the more, if that were possible.

"And it's going to get better," the blonde promised as she shifted her weight slightly, and pushed Xena onto her back. "Unless you're in a hurry to leave...," her hands already making expert designs over the dark haired woman's body, kneeling by the warrior's side.

With a low growl, Xena stopped the wandering hands, grasping them softly but firmly, and guided them to rest atop her own breasts. She saw the woman above her close her eyes and grit her teeth as the evidence of her arousal was revealed, her nipples aching to be touched, just as the throbbing at her center became more insistent.

"Love me, Gabrielle. Show me and tell me how much..." Xena's hands pressed more firmly, needing her partner to feel her body's response to her lovemaking. The warrior entwined her fingers with the bard's, so both pairs of hands could make a sensual dance into a duet.

"I do love you," her voice ragged, Gabrielle fought to regain her composure while her senses were assaulted with the clues to her lover's readiness. She opened her eyes, easily recognizing the love she saw in the blue gaze, and knowing she was helpless to do anything else, she lowered her face to meet Xena's, her lips only a heartbeat away. "I knew I would have to be yours from the moment I saw you. Your courage. Your power. Your..."

The last word went unsaid as Xena surged upward, and captured those tantalizing lips, fiercely working her tongue into the warm, waiting embrace of Gabrielle. The kiss was returned with equal enthusiasm, Xena at last letting the bard regain her breath.

"Your passion." Heart hammering in her chest, emotions at their peak, the bard realized that Xena wanted this experience to be a ravishment, she wanted to be taken, and she wanted to give herself to Gabrielle. The sense of power that ran with that thought enflamed the young woman, and willingly, she accepted the challenge.

The bard increased the pressure she was applying to her woman's breasts when she felt Xena's hands slip away to curl into useless fists, beating ineffectually on the bed.

"But more than loving you," the blonde said as her right hand left it's duties, and trailed unerringly down the warrior's body, "I need you."

Gabrielle shifted again, bringing her knee between the longer legs of Xena, a musky scent filling the air, further heightening the tension between the two.

"I want you."

The insistent fingers tangled themselves in the wiry hair that covered the warrior's most private self. Gabrielle leaned down so she could whisper the last into Xena's ear.

"And I'm going to take you."

And without further warning or foreplay, she thrust three fingers into the silky inner wetness, plunging deep inside.

The cry that left Xena's lips was the only proof the Gabrielle needed to assure her that she was succeeding in her goal. The frantically bucking hips and arching back nearly threw her from her perch as Xena again and again slammed herself to the bed, only to rise again, wordlessly striving for the fullness she needed.

When Gabrielle effortlessly slid in another finger, she guessed what Xena wanted, and really needed from her. She waited for her lover to raise off the pallet again, and when she did, the younger woman slid home the last and fullest finger, feeling the inner working muscles of Xena drawing her inside, until she could feel the soft spongy part that always sent her woman over the edge.

"Ahhh, yessss..." Gabrielle groaned along with her lover, unable to hold back her own excitement, her own wonder of being able to possess Xena to this ultimate extent. "Yes...Xena, give me that, yes..." the bard managed to say before the following words became incoherent. Her fingers swirled and strained inside the warrior, who writhed under the sensual attack, her own breathing choked and gasping.

The sensation that followed was unlike any Xena had experienced before. Shudder after shudder of passion flooded through her body, her limbs almost becoming useless until that last wave hit her and took her under. She planted the soles of her feet on the pallet, and raised once more to feel the fullness Gabrielle brought to her, and screamed the name of her lover. After endless moments, Xena fell limply back to earth, her heartbeat ringing in her ears, her ability to catch her breath out of control. Still reeling from the exquisite feeling inside her, the warrior sighed when she felt Gabrielle slowly and carefully remove her hand from it's intimate glove.

"Ahh..." the strangled cry was ripped from her throat when the slippery hand latched onto the hyper sensitive nub. "Not again," Xena panted. "Not so soon," even as she felt her body respond to the touches as she crested yet another sensual wave. Incredibly, sensing that Gabrielle wasn't done with her yet, she threw back her head and arched helplessly when the bard's tongue circled her opening, seeking entrance as she lapped up the juices and soothed what little soreness that might be there. Unable and unwilling to stop her body's response to her lover, another surge of her arousal wet Gabrielle's lips, as Xena again climaxed against the woman. Exhausted, she again fell to the bed, her sweat soaked hair sticking to her forehead.

The younger woman finished stroking her lover's inner sheath, and couldn't resist nuzzling against the erect button one more time. The weak moan that greeted her convinced the bard that Xena couldn't possibly take another session, although she herself thought she could stay like this all morning. Instead, she climbed cat like up the warrior's body, letting her lover feel every inch of her skin rubbing against her own. A weak hand found the bard's upper arm, and dragged her to a comfortable position laying along side the resting dark haired woman. Taking advantage of the situation, Gabrielle laid her head on the strong shoulder, and possessively threw her left arm and leg over her partner.

"Thank you." The compliment was lower than a whisper.

"You're thanking me?" The bard softly kissed the arm that was cradling her. "Xena, you don't know how wonderful I feel when I make you lose control like that. All I ever want to do is show you my love, to make you feel safe, to be with you. I didn't know it was possible to love anyone as much as I love you. I...I just can't explain it any better."

"My bard is finally speechless?" A lazy smile spread across the warrior's face. "If I knew that joining with you would get you to be a little more quiet, I would have married you ages ago."

"Well, it doesn't work all the time, my big, weak, warrior." A quick kiss on the passion bruised lips and a small giggle escaped from Gabrielle while she playfully ruffled Xena's hair before reclaiming her position in the woman's embrace.

"Oh, and now you've gone from speechlessness to taunting me. You do like to take chances, don't you, my little bard? First, following a warrior on her dangerous path, and then marrying her." Xena wrapped her arms more firmly around her wife. "And I still think I can get you to stop talking for a while..."

Gabrielle shivered when she felt the backs of Xena's fingers travelling up and down her arm. She scootched up even closer to her woman, the body language telling Xena that the playfulness had changed into something else.

The warrior regained her familiar place above Gabrielle, and lowered her mouth to a waiting kiss.


Xena left her exhausted bard to wake by herself, and made her way to the bathing hut. Because the day had grown late, the warrior thought she would be alone at the hut, but heard little splashing noises when she approached. She opened the door cautiously, only to realize that Ephiny was the bather that beat her to the tub.

"Took you long enough to get up."

"I was busy." Xena removed the over sized towel she was wrapped in, and greatfully lowered herself into the still hot water.

"Yeah, I heard...," Ephiny began, but when she saw the dangerous glint in Xena's eyes, she finishd quickly, "...that you have many skills."

"Eph-i-ny," the warrior warned, the glint becoming electric blue.

"C'mon, Xena, even if the entire village didn't hear you, we all know what happens on wedding nights."

"Oh really, Eph? And what happens on the following morning?"

"The following...?" was all the regent got out before her head was plunged unceremoniously underwater, her breath coming out in uneven sputters when she was immediately released and broke the surface. "You are going to pay for that, warrior!"

One look at the dripping wet, bedraggled amazon leader had the darker woman laughing at her friend's plight. The once curly hair was plastered to Ephiny's head in such a way that it looked more like a helmet than the usual golden curls that flattered the woman's features. "You and whose army?"

"Oh, I don't need an army for what I have planned for you." Ephiny shot right at Xena, giving herself extra momentum by pushing off from the bottom of the large round tub. Unfortunately, she didn't count on Xena's quick dodge. She completely missed the bigger woman, and instead of finding herself on top of the warrior, she felt two strong hands on her back, pushing her under effortlessly. Rolling over underwater, Ephiny rose half way out of the tub, water glistening on her naked skin. Her look of disbelief turning to admiration, and then to a determined look of vengeance, she cupped her hands in anticipation and renewed effort. "You devilish bacchae, you don't know what you started."

Xena half stood up in the tub also, and moved in time with Ephiny, never letting her get any closer than she already was. The look of satisfaction was more than the regent could bear, and using a slight feint to the left, she managed to grab Xena around the shoulders from the right. She shifted her hips a quarter turn, and even though she went under the surface for a third time, the smaller woman managed to drag Xena down with her.

"Oooh, you're good," the dark haired woman complimented the other, once they had both popped out of the water. She again took up a crouchd position, readying herself for Ephiny's next move.

"What's going on here?"

Both sets of eyes tracked slowly to see Gabrielle standing inside the doorway, her hands on her hips.

Xena lowered her face a little, so she could look at her love from the tops of her eyes, hoping the bard would fall for the contrite look.

"And don't even think of trying 'the look' on me, Xena. I could hear you both all the way across the square." Feigning annoyance, Gabrielle placed the towel she had brought with her on a stool, and then wriggled out of the shift that she had hastily thrown on when she had woken up.

"Were we as loud as you two were last night?" A soft chuckle escaped from the regent when she saw her queen's face turn a nice shade of pink.

Gabrielle's eyes grew wide in astonishment as she realized what Ephiny was implying. She stepped into the tub and sat down in the warm water, motioning for Xena to join her.

"You see, Gabrielle? I had to defend your honor." By unspoken agreement, the married couple turned on Ephiny, splashing and throwing as much water in waves at her as they could.

Helpless against the turn of events, the regent sunk to the bottom of the tub, only returning to the surface once the two had quieted down. "You're right, Xena. I would need an army to top you. So I guess I'll just have to call a truce with my sister."


Xena's lopsided grin was infectious, and Gabrielle found herself laughing along with the others. "Well, I'm glad that's taken care of. I don't want my wife and my family fighting over me."

"No, I think we can share you during the day. As long as you come back to me at night."

The bard grabbed Xena's hand under the water. "I think I can live with that."

"Well, you two, I hate to break up such a happy group, but I'm turning into an over ripe grape. I should start saying my good-byes to Kaliepus and the others before I pack up to leave."

"Hmm, we should be getting ready to go, too," Xena agreed. "We'll see you when we're through here. Kaliepus and Solan have something to discuss before we go."

"Ok, see you soon." Ephiny got out of the tub, and wrapped herself in a towel she had thrown on a bench earlier. "And no more screaming!" A huge splash of water headed her way, but the regent avoided it by ducking out the door quickly.

"What am I going to do with her?" Gabrielle's mock disapproval made Xena smile.

"You could always demote her."

"But she's the best warrior I have." The queen seemed to think about it, moving closer to Xena all the while.

"Oh, she is, is she?"

"Well, you know what I mean." A raised eyebrow and twinkling eyes greeted Xena a few inches from her face.

"And what if I don't?"

"Then I'll just have to show you all over again," and leaning in, eyes already closing in anticipation of the contact to come, Gabrielle kissed her woman with the gentlest of touches and the warmest of hearts.

"I believe you." Xena's hands ran up and down her lover's spine, exciting in the tiny tremors she felt there. "How couldn't I when you kiss me like that? And I love you too."

"Good. Because you exhausted me so much I couldn't do anything else to convince you."

"My little bard tires so easily. I think you just want me to continue rubbing your back, but don't want to ask."

"Hm, would you?"

"For you, my queen, anything." Xena moved behind the bard, and let her lean back against her chest. Moving her hands again along the woman's back, she washed away the last traces of the ocher that Ephiny had used to paint them the day before. Unable to resist, she leaned in a bit closer, and nipped at the sweet skin at the side of Gabrielle's neck, where the thin column met her shoulder. "Are you cold? You're shivering."

"You know I'm not. It's always you that makes me tremble."

"I hope so. For as long as we live." The questing hands now trailed over the silky arms, rubbing and cleaning the brown pigment off. Xena kissed her woman at the base of her neck one last time before turning her in her arms.

"Now if I can get my wife to wash my back, we'll be able to get out of this cool water."

"For you, my warrior, anything."

After getting out of the tub, the two women dried off and helped each other dress. While Xena went to the stable to saddle Argo and check the saddlebags, making sure that they didn't forget anything, Gabrielle headed for Kaliepus' house. Hoping to find Solan, she was surprised when she saw only the centaur leader inside.

"Oh, Kaliepus. I'm glad I get to see you before we leave. Xena and I would both like to thank you for all you've done for us. I know what an honor it is to be made a member of your tribe. It's something I'll hold close to my heart always."

"Thank you, Gabrielle. It means a lot to me, and to my nation too. Ephiny has already mentioned opening new trade negotiations between our two villages. It looks like a prosperous time ahead for all of us."

"That's wonderful! I know Solari and the rest of my sisters will be glad to hear that when Ephiny returns. I'm glad things are working out so well."

"Yes, they are." A shadow crossed over the centaur's face. "And then there's Solan."

From the look on the man's face, Gabrielle knew that the boy must have talked to his uncle about his choice to stay or leave the village. The bard tried to be as delicate as possible. "What did he tell you?"

"He didn't have to tell me anything. I could guess from the look on his face. Gabrielle, please promise me to protect him. He's all I have."

"Kaleipus," the small woman started. "You know both Xena and I will do everything we can to raise him as well as you have. But are you sure his decision is to leave? He hasn't said anything to us about it yet."

"I'm sure. He was headed to the burial ground, carrying some of his things in a bag. Probably to see Borias' grave one more time."

"I wish there was something I could say. There's no easy solution to this."

"I know. Please. Just promise to take care of him."

"You know we will." The woman threw her arms around the strong shoulders of the centaur leader, and then went in search of Solan.

Xena found her partner and her son at the centaur's burial ground. She jumped down from her war horse and tied the reins to a tree in the small grove that bordered the area. Things had changed slightly from the last time she was there. There were a few more burial spots, but the thing she noticed right away was the balancing stone on Borias' marker. At one point it had been broken, but the three pieces were now tied together with what looked like the blue leather thong that she and Gabrielle had been bound with at their Binding Ceremony. She was going to ask Solan about it, but completely forgot when she saw the happy smiles on both the boy's and Gabrielle's faces.

"Hi, Mom. Gabrielle's been helping me with my stories."

"So you've showed them to her?"

"Yeah. She says I have a way with words."

Xena ruffled the boy's hair. "I knew you did." The warrior looked at the happy face of her boy, and imagined being able to see it every day. Solan sat on the ground next to Gabrielle, a sack of his things between them. Hoping that the bag might be a good sign, Xena plunged ahead with the question that was foremost in her mind. "So...have you thought about our talk and your decision?"

The boy immediately looked away and pulled in his lips a little. Xena knew instinctively what the answer was. Pulling the boy up so she could hug him, she squeezed him tightly into an embrace. "It's ok, sweetheart. I think you're making the right decision."

"You're not mad? I'm sorry..."

"No, don't be sorry. You need to be here with the centaurs. They can still teach you so much, things you probably wouldn't learn on the road with us. And it's not like we won't come by to see you...I love you, Solan."

Solan returned the hug, and felt Xena kiss his forehead. "Thanks, Mom...for understanding."

Gabrielle stood up and brushed some grass off her skirt. "And next time we're here, I want to see more of your centaur stories. You really do a good job describing your uncle and the nation, Solan." The bard gave the youngster a good-bye squeeze of her own, and kissed him on the cheek. "We'll miss you."

"I'll miss you too...and Mom, um...I want to give you a scroll." He pulled one out from the bag at his feet. Xena could see a few others in there, and knew the boy had been busy. "Don't read it now. Read it when...uh, you get a chance."

"I will honey. And thank you."

Xenan ran up to the small group, followed closely by Ephiny. The amazon regent had already packed up their things, and was headed towards the amazon village. The small centaur danced around the young boy, his youthful enthusiasm evident in his smile.

"Ssoolllan," the little kid chanted when the older boy ruffled his hair,

"Hey, buddy. I'm going to miss you too. Do you think I can visit sometime?"

Ephiny was quick to answer. "Of course you're invited anytime you want, Solan. We'd love to have you stay with us. And then you could get to know some of Gabrielle's and my sisters. Have you ever been to an Amazon village?"

"No, but I'd love to meet more of Mom's and Gabrielle's friends."

"Anytime you want, you're welcome to visit." Ephiny turned to the women. "And what about you two? Will you be coming with me and Xenan?"

Gabrielle spoke up. "Not this time, Eph."

"We're going to visit Gabrielle's sister in Poteidea," Xena explained. "But you know I won't be able to keep my sweetheart away forever. You'll be seeing us soon."

"That's good. I still need to get back at you for the near drowning you gave me."

"Well," the dark haired woman drawled. "You can try." She rolled her eyes, letting Ephiny know what she thought the amazon's chance of success was.

"I'll do more than try, warrior. Consider yourself warned."

Xena smiled and shook her head at the promised threat. She knew Ephiny was already planning something.

Gabrielle stepped between the two women.

"Bye, Eph," she said, and gave her regent a hug. "I'll see you soon."

"I hope so." Ephiny waved at Xena, and then started on the way to her village, Xenan running ahead of her.

Xena turned back to Solan, not really wanting to leave, but knowing they had to. "Bye, honey. Remember that I love you."

"I will Mom." The boy couldn't resist one last hug. "Bye, Gabrielle. Thanks for your help on the story."

"You just keep writing, sweetie. I expect to see plenty of filled scrolls next time we visit."

"You will," the boy promised, and watched as the two women walked away, his mom leading Argo away from the burial ground. They stopped once and waved, and then disappeared into the surrounding woods.

Xena was quiet for the first candlemark of their journey, as she thought about her boy. At last breaking her reverie, she put her arm around Gabrielle, and gave her a quick kiss. "So what story did you and Solan work on?"

"It's the first story he wrote, and you'll read it tonight. A heroic story, about the Warrior Princess."

Xena smiled and gave the bard another kiss.

-- End --

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