Intimate Strangers

From The Flophouse

This is affectionately called INTIMATE STRANGERS although it holds no relationship to the episode of the same name. To save space and wear and tear on your, by now tender eyes, if you read as much FanFic as I do, I will warn you now, I am disclaiming the Tartarus out of this piece.If you are too young, go find your pacifiers (and I don't mean your battery powered back massagers). Read on....

January 1997

"I do not pay more attention to Argo than I do to you!"

"You aren't even aware of your own habits!" Gods she was tired of this argument. They had been having it for the last three weeks. Now, sitting inside The Dragon's Breath Inn, Gabrielle had had enough.

"Look, I can't talk about this any more. I'm going for a walk. I'll see you in the morning."

"Where are you going to go? Gabrielle, it's not safe to be wandering the streets at this time of night. Gabrielle? Gabrielle!"

She left the inn without a backwards glance. Xena just stared after her as she walked out.

Xena could be so thick headed sometimes! She probably thinks I'll just walk around to the back door and up to our room, but I'm not going back up there now. I need to cool off.

It was uncomfortably cold out as she walked along the dimly lit street, pissed off and more than a little buzzed. Damn her. she thought as she stamped on ignoring the rude cat calls she got from young and old alike as they lurked in the alleys, like predators looking for a meal under the cover of night. The cold was becoming more apparent as she trudged on.

Damn. If Xena would just stop brushing me off, as if the problems of the world were much more important than taking the time to stop and talk about what was building up between us. Okay, so we do get into a few messy situations every now and then. But hasn't she learned by now that all the world could crumble around us, and as long as we were together, I wouldn't care! I know she has been feeling the strain of this 'thing' between us. Maybe that's why she keeps avoiding the conversation. The mighty warrior princess afraid of a little bard.

Gabrielle chuckled to herself at the thought and marched on into the darkness deep in thought. She didn't realize just how far she had walked until an Amazon archer caught sight of her nearing the town border and jogged over to her. Gabrielle tried to walk quicker. The last thing she wanted right now was an Amazon escort. They were more over protective than Xena sometimes, but at least she could order them around. The archer called out to her.

"My queen? My lady? Gabrielle, wait up!"

Zeus, Gabrielle thought as the Amazon neared her. Can't I get any peace?

"My lady! Stop, don't you recognize me?"

She looked closer. She did recognize the woman. She was one of her honor guards. They had spoken a few times and she seemed all right. "Erian, how are you?" Gabrielle just couldn't force any interest into her voice.

"Great, look what are you doing out here?"

Twenty questions, just what I needed. "I'm walking, Erian."

"Well you really shouldn't walk past the town walls, my queen. It can get pretty rough really fast out there. You're not even carrying your staff. Come with me, my lady, I'll walk you home."

Gabrielle considered it for a moment. That was a first. She had walked right out of the inn without her staff. Well, that just goes to show how distracted she makes me. It was too cold for her blood, and she guessed she had been gone long enough to make Xena worry. I'll probably get my ass chewed when I get back. Gabrielle smiled at the thought.

"All right, thanks," she said less than enthusiastically.

"Where is Xena, my lady? I thought she was your escort."

When Gabrielle continued to drift in her thoughts, the Amazon nodded her head in enlightenment.

"Just a little down tonight?"

By her tone of voice Gabrielle couldn't tell if she was being facetious or not.

"Look you don't want to go home right now do you?"

Oh, this warrior was a bright one.

"I know of a party going on close by, village people, you know, comfortable. What do you say we stop by for a while?"

Gabrielle looked at her more closely. They were about the same age. She was blonde and attractive with hazel eyes. Her smile seemed to come with relative ease and Gabrielle had to smile back. "Sure, why not?"

They walked past what would be considered to be the rough part of town until finally they stepped up to a two and half story house set far back from the road. The outside of the house was lit with the soft red and orange of oil lamps and there was the sound of music drifting invitingly in the night air.

"This is it," Erian said unnecessarily.

Gabrielle was still nursing her bad disposition as they went up to the door and Erian opened it.

The room was typically festive. There was a light layer of smoke, and people crowded around each other talking at once without listening at all. Erian introduced Gabrielle around then slipped away. She wondered about that, but not too strenuously after her third mug of wine. She milled around talking for an hour or so, then it began to occur to her that the faces were becoming somewhat fluid. She thought the people were familiar, but not entirely so. The people she had spoken to seemed to disappear for long periods of time no worse for wear. Erian never rejoined her and she began to get miffed. She noticed a girl Erian had introduced her to at the beginning of the evening sitting alone on a leather couch. She seemed quite contented to be there, with a vague smile at the corners of her soft mouth, so Gabrielle decided to join her.

"Sariah, have you seen Erian?" Gabrielle was done with this party and wanted to say a curt good bye. Her anger at Xena had ebbed away under the influence of the spirits, and she found that she missed her company, whether or not it was the type of company she was craving.

"Yes, I thought you knew where she was?" Her smile was soft, almost fearful as she looked up at Gabrielle.

"No, I haven't seen her since I got here." Gabrielle noticed the girl's smile became stronger and her attitude seemed to shift.

"Have you ever been to one of Floria's parties before?"

"No, I've never been in this town before."

It could have been her imagination, but it seemed to Gabrielle that the smile became a little bit wider. As she sat down on the couch the leather seemed to fold their bodies closer together. Sariah's hand fluttered around her hair and came to rest casually on Gabrielle's thigh which she ignored with great difficulty.

"I'm sure she's up in one of the rooms. Do you want me to take you to her?"

Again it must have been her imagination, but Gabrielle could have sworn she heard a challenge in her voice. She nodded her head despite her unease.

Sariah pushed herself off the couch, her hand still upon Gabrielle's thigh. As her hand slid up, she brushed Gabrielle's skirt close to her center. Sariah appeared not to have noticed, but Gabrielle did, and it made her aware that she was becoming damp there for some reason.

Sariah took two steps, stopped, and turned around. With the most natural air, she looked Gabrielle up and down. The strawberry blonde shivered uncontrollably as she followed her to the stairs at the back of the room. At the top they turned into a hallway with rooms lining both sides. The sounds coming from behind the closed doors were not that uncommon to Gabrielle. If you stay in enough inns, you get an education whether you want it or not.

A high-pitched female scream, that could have been pleasure or perhaps not, echoed in the hallway. Sariah seemed to be oblivious, but Gabrielle was beginning to feel a little nervous, It was a pleasant sensation, contrasted as it was with her day-to-day life. She was sure, in her naivete, that she would be able to back out of whatever was waiting, but the fact that she was getting wetter by the second piqued her curiosity. She wasn't a virgin, not by a long shot. And sex wasn't that foreign a language to her. But the blatant display and casual regard that this place gave the act made her wonder if she had been short changed in her all too brief experiences.

Sariah was moving around the building as if in her own home. Gabrielle clutched her wine glass (her sixth of the evening) closer to her body as they came to a door larger than the other rooms that they had passed. Sariah allowed herself the smile of a slave who's become a master.

As they entered the room, no obscene noise greeted them, just the soft, muted music from below.

Sariah glanced back to see if Gabrielle was following her. The bard gave her best impassive smile, which Sariah returned with what must have been her best "you ain't seen nothing yet" grin.

They paused in front of what Gabrielle took to be a mirror at first.Reaching for a lamp, Sariah adjusted the light around them. The "mirror" was revealed as a medium-sized window that looked into the adjoining room. Pacing behind which was one of the most beautiful women Gabrielle had ever seen. She felt a momentary stab of sheer female jealousy looking at her. Long black hair fell down her back to her waist. Her face was perfect in every way. She was tall for a woman, and she was wearing a black nightgown as they were meant to be worn. The silky lace covered her upper body and melted into a sheer black fabric that fell to her feet. A seam was split open leaving a tantalizing length of leg exposed on the left side. She reminded Gabrielle of Xena and at that thought she had to look away, feeling as if she was intruding on her best friend's privacy.

"Look," Sariah commanded.

And so she did.

A slender blonde-haired woman was entering the room. She was dressed in a leaf brown robe made of shiny, silk-like material. She didn't approach the woman she only stood by the foot of the bed. The Xena look-alike walked instead to a small bar set in the far wall.

The bard's mind raced with the thought of her warrior in the place of the stranger. She wondered if this was how Xena was as a warlord with her slaves and once the thought had surfaced, her imagination took over and she envisioned the woman was Xena and she was the slave.

"Who are these people?" Gabrielle asked, whispering for no apparent reason.

"Other guests like yourself who've come, or been brought here for fun. Relax and enjoy yourself. I'll be back in a little while."

She was distracted. This kind of voyeurism made her uncomfortable. She was mildly surprised when Sariah smiled as she turned and left the room, smothering the lamps on her way out. Gabrielle stood in the darkness, half wanting to follow her, half wanting to stay. Movement on the other side of the window made her mind up for her.

The tall goddess set down her glass and looked at her evening's entertainment. She crossed the room towards her slave, stopping within inches of her. They stood staring at each other, testing, challenging. The blonde dropped her eyes first, then backed way from the warrior, her legs bumping against the large four poster bed that dominated the room. She shook her head twice, as if she had just realized what she had lost by dropping her eyes.

With a victorious smirk, the raven beauty reached out for the delicately built woman.

The slave tried, in a flurry of motion, to roll away from her on the bed, but the warrior reached for her, easily grabbing her left ankle and pulling her back across the satin spread. With her right arm she pushed the small body back onto the bed, and with her left exposed the girl's thigh. Leaning down she kissed exposed flesh.

The slave tried to squirm away, but was restrained by a hand in her hair that yanked her head back. She relented, and the warlord returned all her attention to the thigh that had become her captive. She sank to her knees, dividing her attention between the two legs now exposed for her pleasure.

The slave's body relaxed and she began to move in rhythm with the warlord's tongue. She pushed her body towards the dark head, eager now to participate. With her right arm the warlord pushed her back, teasing her, controlling how much she was given. The slave snarled in frustration and violently pushed herself away from her captor. Sitting back on her heels she regarded the amused expression with malice, then launched herself at the warrior. Too quickly for the slave to respond, the warlord twisted the smaller woman, pinning her with an iron grip.

The conqueror moved quickly, tying her captive's left wrist with a soft white rope that had lay hidden in the covers, then looping it around the bedpost. With her slave still in shock, the warrior restrained her right wrist as well.

With two sure moves the raven warrior secured the slave's legs in ropes in a similar fashion, then stood away from the bed to survey her handiwork. Her smile was exquisite. Slowly she reached for the slave's brown robe, parting it at the center. Although the girl was slender, she was by no means small, and the chest she exposed was well muscled and strong, her breasts firm and plentiful. The warrior's smile brightened. She leaned forward enough for her hair to brush the slave's exposed skin. Still smirking, she reached down to the girl's chest with one finger, twisted one of her nipples around her finger, and pulled at it.

Gabrielle found herself compelled to respond. She hadn't realized she was touching herself until her fingers were pinching the flesh of her own nipples. She gasped in surprise, but didn't still her hand. Instead she drew her other hand up, took both breasts in hand and began massaging and caressing herself through her blouse. It wasn't the first time she had masturbated, and it certainly wouldn't be the last, but she had never before been so brazen as to touch herself while watching another's pleasure, although she thought once that Xena had masturbated while they slept side by side one night. That thought alone drove her on.

The slave's grunt of surprise was inaudible, but visible on her face. The complete helplessness of her position was starting to dawn on her. The warrior leaned her head all the way back, enjoying the sensuality of her hair against the young skin. She moved away from the bed, to the bar, and picked up the unfinished drink. She stirred it with her finger as she moved back to the bed, watching her slave tremble with a bemused expression. Withdrawing her finger from the glass, she ran it slowly around the slave's quivering lips. The warrior made an inaudible order and the girl quickly lifted her head and sucked hard on the offered finger. She laughed as she pulled away and set the drink down beside the bed.

Slowly, the warrior pulled the robe away, exposing her captive's lovely body. The girl shook her head from side to side, silently resisting, but the conqueror never slowed. She leaned across the bed, licking the girl's lips as her left hand traced a path up her right thigh. The slave squirmed under her ministrations, but made no attempt to pull away. The warrior flicked her tongue across tender lips that unwillingly parted at the invasion. The warlord wasted no time in delving into the sweet mouth. Her left hand was still moving up the girl's thigh, though the slave was hardly aware of it, until the searching fingers found the moist fur nestled between her legs. She jerked away from the intrusion, but she was easily brought back under control. Slipping her fingers into the valley, the warrior pulled her lips away to watch her slave's expression The girl moaned as the hard fingers dipped into her secret depths and claimed every slick space and, when the girl's breathing increased to quick gasps, the warrior quickly withdrew and leaned back to watch. The small girl glared at her, but she only smiled as she ran her fingers over the satin smooth skin of the slave's abdomen.

Gabrielle's mouth was slightly open, her breath coming in uneven pants as she watched the two lovers. Her fingers drifted to her thighs to slip up under her skirt. Quickly accessing her center, she closed her eyes and sighed at the wetness she found there. Stroking herself lightly, imagining it was Xena, she slipped a hand under her blouse and squeezed a soft mound. She pulled her fingers away and slipped them into her mouth tasting herself, then opening her eyes just enough to see, she gazed back into the other room.

The warrior had brought the girl close to orgasm, and was deliberately slowing her motions. The slave thrashed on the bed, desperate for satisfaction despite herself.

The warrior undid the front part of her own garment and, with a single motion, released a beautiful breast from its prison. She smiled down on the slave and with one hand on the bed, she raised herself up across the girl's face and slowly lowered herself down.

The slave gazed at the tender flesh offered to her and leaned forward to caress her. The conqueror's head arched back in anticipation of the sweet contact. The girl seemed to move in slow motion as she slipped her tongue onto the warm skin and tasted the salt of the warrior's breast. Gradually she moved inwards, lapping at smooth curves as she came closer to an erect nipple.

Unable to take anymore of the pace, the warrior took her by the hair in her left hand she guided the tongue to where she wanted it. She held the blonde head to her as the slave slipped the nipple between her teeth.

Gabrielle began to rock her hips against her hand. Pressing against her clitoris, she shivered at the jolt it sent through her body. Her nipples sang out and a flush rose up and rolled like a fog over her chest and throat. She stopped only long enough to rid herself of her blouse, then turned her gaze back to the window.

Warlord and slave were both drenched in sweat as the warlord thrust against the body beneath her. She rocked slowly, up and down, avoiding the girl's most desperate thrusts.

The slave's face twisted, and she appeared to be pleading with her mistress, her request so desperate Gabrielle could read her lips.

"Free me, I can give you more pleasure if I have full princess."

She looked down at her slave, then thrust her body down full on her, rapidly repeating the motion until they were both breathing raggedly. Abruptly she pulled away, slowly freeing the girl.

The slave drew a deep breath, and then she drew her arms and legs together and placed her hands on her mistress's back. She pulled her close to kiss her deeply, then maneuvered her onto her back. Their lips still bound together, she urged her from her side on to her stomach.

The warrior let her do so without response, but once on her stomach, she started to protest. Her slave held her fast with one hand on her upper back and the other making rags of her clothes. She exposed the beautiful muscles of the warlord's back and tossed the material to the floor. Her tongue snaked out and tasted the base of her spine and moved down. Licking her softly, she reached out and tasted the crease of her backside.

At some point someone entered the room with Gabrielle. Unable to tear her eyes from the scene before her or pull her hands from their current assignment, the bard just assumed Sariah had returned and silently welcomed her back. The newcomer moved around to stand behind Gabrielle, her breath just touching the back of the bard's neck, until she became acutely aware of the sexual tension crackling between them.

Her breath was warm, and Gabrielle's thighs felt as if they were near a fire. She felt the woman's heat as a calloused hand brushed lightly over her arm, the caress so soft she was barely aware of it. She touched Gabrielle's arm and gently traced a path across to her neck. Shivering in response, the bard never stilled her questing fingers.

Slowly, those strong hands wandered around Gabrielle's shoulders and down her chest, then pushed her fingers between soft breasts and down a taut stomach. They traced erotic patterns on her flesh, then danced their way back up.

Gabrielle didn't move. Couldn't move. She had never before been touched by a woman. Even as an Amazon queen, she had never been with any of her Amazons. They all seemed to be either too intimidated or thought she was off limits. She was shocked, and excited, and wished she had discovered this pleasure long ago. She had always been a very expressive person, and now her Amazons would know just how expressive their queen could be.

The stranger must have sensed Gabrielle's indecision. Her roaming slowed and she just brushed the tops of the bard's breasts, then suddenly, strong fingers curved to the bard's breasts, covering her own hand, feeling the entire expanse, caressing the roundness, and the fullness of them. Gabrielle leaned into her lover's touch without thought. The stranger gently pulled Gabrielle's hand away from her own breast to run the palm of her hand against the rising flesh. Gabrielle raised her free hand back behind the neck of the woman behind her, entangling her fingers into silken hair to tug the woman against her back. She felt hardened nipples press into her back and she pushed against warm curves with a sigh as she turned her eyes back to the next room.

The slave's tongue traced a devastating path over the warrior. She explored and devoured. The warlord's legs spread in open invitation, and Gabrielle felt her own legs do the same.

The slave girl spread her mistress's cheeks apart, and when the warrior did not move to resist her, she lowered her head to her and began to move along inside her, her teeth nipped at her sex and the warrior bucked against her as she plunged her tongue inside. Withdrawing, the girl licked lightly over the brown opening and the warrior writhed beneath her, but the slave held to her tightly and, without hesitation, pushed her tongue into the tight entrance. The warlord arched up into the caress with an audible groan.

Panting into Gabrielle's ear, the stranger nipped it gently and squeezed her breasts. Moaning into the thick air, Gabrielle felt a hand drift down to her thigh, then slide fluidly up under her skirt and touched her against the material of her breeches.

The woman moved her hand around the material and traced a path along it's edges. With her fingertip she lifted the seam of the cloth and touched Gabrielle intimately. Gabrielle knew she was soaking, and the sigh her strange-lover let loose at that discovery made her tremble. She let her own hand slip away as the woman drew her finger along engorged lips, before honing in on her clitoris. She caressed the tiny organ briefly before expanding her explorations.

Gabrielle surrendered to the pleasure as her lover touched her everywhere at once, sliding her across firm breasts, then back under her skirt where she fingered the flesh once more before pulling away. Gabrielle's legs trembled and she became aware of the sound of her own labored breathing. "Gods!" She was stunned by her lack of inhibitions. She was still imagining Xena and the slave, and that fantasy held fast even as her attention was pulled away from the window. In the darkness, fingers took hold of her chin and brought her head around and Gabrielle wondered at the softness of the gentle lips that met hers.

Without speaking, her lover took her hand and led her to a bed in the center of the room, then she laid the bard down on it, like a long lost lover. Tenderly, she kissed her face, her eyebrows, her nose, and placed the barest caress upon her lips.

She turned Gabrielle's head and breathed softly into her ear, "I love you."

In Gabrielle's fantasy, it was Xena's voice she heard vowing her love.

Slowly, and incredibly tenderly, the stranger brushed her hands along Gabrielle's shoulders, down her arms, and stroked each of her fingers in turn. She caressed her torso, gently paying homage to each breast, before slipping along her stomach.

Gabrielle was filled with a sweet languor, as her limbs became heavy and responded with a sensuous will of their own. She realized she didn't want the woman to stop.

That was the last thing on her lover's mind as she undid the fastening on the bard's skirt and pulled it away.

Gabrielle sighed with relief as soft hands came in contact with the bare skin of her lower stomach. They traced circular patterns on the flesh, making her ache for more. She was teased by the woman's nearness and her denial of ripe desires.

Maybe it was just what she had seen that night, maybe it was always an undeniable part of her, but she became bolder as she endured the gentle searches. Gabrielle reached for her lover, momentarily surprised to find she was completely naked. She recovered enough to move her mouth over her lover's breasts, letting her hot breath caress them as she kept her mouth poised over expectant nipples. Her lover moaned and slightly arched her back, and her body melted into Gabrielle's mouth and moved with ease onto her back.

With excruciating slowness Gabrielle licked her way up smooth curves. The sensation was familiar to her somehow. She was so accustomed to the hard, muscled flesh of men that to be so intimate with soft, yielding body like her own was intoxicating. She reached her lover's beautiful breasts, pressing her face into the natural valley in front of her before sliding up until they were nose to nose. In line with the woman pinned beneath her, she leaned down to kiss her.

Gabrielle moaned into her lover's mouth as her hands moved against her back, tugging at her shoulders. She captured her tongue, suckling softly, only increasing the pressure when her lover groaned. Her lover's control started to slip and she reached up to grasp Gabrielle's head in her hands, pressing her thigh between the bard's powerful legs to force them apart. With a strong push of her hips she urged Gabrielle onto her back. The bard went willingly.

Stretching her length out, she bent to Gabrielle's mouth and slipped her tongue between parted lips. They kissed slowly; the taste of her lover was sweet and wild while the feel of her tongue against the back of Gabrielle's throat made her cry out. Soft lips drifted over Gabrielle's chin to her neck, then took soft sucking bites in the journey to her shoulder. Her lover pressed whisper soft kisses along an elegant length of collarbone back to the dip at the hollow of her throat. She dipped her tongue into it and then held her tongue over Gabrielle's pulse, moaning into it contentedly. She kissed down her chest and moved her lips briefly over the tops of her breasts. She made small circles with her tongue working towards the center, but as she got closer to a nipple she stopped. Hovering just above, her breath washed over Gabrielle's hot skin. She nipped the flesh with her lips and then pulled back a little bit. Gabrielle whimpered and placed her hands on her lover's neck and pressed her back down. She flicked her tongue across the nipple and when a gasp escaped the bard, she wrapped her lips around her and took her into her mouth. The mere anticipation made Gabrielle dizzy, but the feel of her mouth taking her breast was unbelievable. Gabrielle arched her back into her as if to push more of herself into the worshipping mouth. Gabrielle pressed the head down harder. Her lover moaned into her skin and the vibrations went down her belly to her core. The strength of the sensation was uncontrollable and Gabrielle cried out as her orgasm came unbidden.

Her lover smiled against her as she absorbed the tremors and released her when Gabrielle's grip relaxed. She kissed across the heaving chest to the other breast and tested it with her kisses. Abandoning the nipple, she drifted kisses southward, tonguing Gabrielle's stomach, while her hand drifted on down and caressed her upper thigh, her finger tips drawing out goose flesh as they dipped to the inside of her legs. She moved her mouth down onto Gabrielle's breeches and licked around the edges coming in brief contact with her flesh. She started to ease the interfering cloth off of her and Gabrielle's own hands flew down to help her. With no remaining barriers between them, Gabrielle felt her lover stretch out between her legs.

In her dreams, Gabrielle had envisioned Xena lain out as such, strong arms wrapped around her thighs as her dark head moved against her, taking her with a beautiful smile; blue eyes, dark with her desire, looking up to lock with her own. Drowning in the vision, she almost believed the guttural moans drifting up from near her core were Xena's.

Starting at her inner thigh, just above the knee, her lover alternately licked, bit, and sucked her way up her legs making her almost insane with desire. Gabrielle grabbed her hair and forced her head along its journey at a faster pace. Her lover's tongue traced a light pattern on her sex, and she pressed her hips into the caress, offering herself up, but her lover pulled away enough to just maintain contact, without giving her what she wanted. She explored Gabrielle's swollen sex licking down lower and lower, running her tongue down along the sensitive skin where her thigh met her sex. She sucked lightly on the skin and a scream of frustration formed in Gabrielle's throat.

She must have felt the change in Gabrielle's body, because she moved back up and bathed the bard's pulsing clitoris. A scream of frustration was wrenched from Gabrielle as the sheer contact of her tongue moving against her brought another unbidden orgasm. Her wonderful lover stayed with her and Gabrielle could have sworn she felt her smile against her as she sank back down onto the bed. The woman moved her attention away from the over sensitive nub and explored the creases and crevices that were Gabrielle. She slid her hands under buttocks and lifted up as her tongue moved lower to tease her anus, then she pushed her thighs up over her shoulders and placed the palms of her hands on Gabrielle's stomach.

Unable to resist Gabrielle started to rock against the woman's face when the sound of her enjoyment drifted up to her ears. She slid her hands up to Gabrielle's breasts and massaged them in time to the rhythm she was creating, bringing the bard slowly back to a boil. Before long the sensations were altered and reborn, and Gabrielle's groan of delight became a scream of sheer pleasure as her over wrought body was again given what it craved. Her lover pushed her tongue deep inside of her, using the strong muscles to lap at the gift she was given.

As the spasms rocked her, Gabrielle let the fantasy of her beautiful warrior loving her so completely wrap around her until she thought the orgasm would never stop. Her chest heaved from the exertion, and fearing she could take no more, she arched her back in submission when her lover began again.

As she lay whimpering in exhaustion, her lover moved back up her sweat soaked body, her mouth still saturated with sweet juices as she kissed the bard long and deep.

"Gods you are so sweet, Gabrielle. I could do that forever."

The familiar voice reached the bard's ears, but she was still lost in the fantasy, so it took her a moment to realize the voice attached to the lips pressing kisses into her throat and neck was more than her over eager imagination.

"Xena?" Gabrielle's heart hammered in her chest, the shock of her realization overwhelming her. She lay perfectly still, hoping the voice wasn't a trick of her mind.

"Hmmm," came the satiny reply.

"Wha...What are you doing...I mean...what are you doing here? How?" she stuttered.

"I followed you. You left me pretty angry. You even forgot your staff. When you didn't come back after awhile, I got worried. You don't really think that I would have just let you walk around a village like this alone do you? I know you can take care of yourself, Gabrielle, but I can't help wanting to protect you."

"But how...."

"I saw you heading out of town and I was about to call out, but that Amazon caught up to you, and when you walked away together, I thought she was escorting you back. But you stopped in front of the brothel and I got a little curious. So I followed you in, and when the Amazon left you alone, I decided to ask her what she thought she was doing bringing her queen into a place like this and then leaving her unattended. She told me you just didn't want to come home, so I started to leave thinking it was just me you didn't want to be around. I stood there trying to figure out why, and then I saw you go upstairs with that girl. It took me a while to find out what room you were in and when I did I slipped into the room next door. I thought maybe she might try to force you and I wasn't sure if you knew exactly what kind of place this was."


"Shhhh," Xena raised up and kissed her tenderly. "Let me finish, love. I know you're probably angry with me for invading your privacy, but I was worried about you. I was just going to sit and wait for you just to make sure you weren't hurt. I found the window that looked into the room you were in, quite by accident, and I saw you..." Xena's voice quivered. "watching those two women in the next room and touching yourself and I...I just couldn't turn away...Gods know I tried, but I couldn't move. I kept telling myself that you would hate me if you found out that I had followed you and then watched you...I knew once you found out how I felt about you, you would leave me... but I couldn't stop watching you, you're so beautiful, and the way you... it was torture to me, I needed you so badly." Xena laid her forehead on Gabrielle's shoulder and drank in the smell of her body as she waited.

The silence stretched on until Gabrielle asked in a whisper, "How do you feel about me?" She squeezed her eyes tight and swallowed painfully slowly.

Xena's head raised up off of her shoulder and her hands gathered in Gabrielle's face. With moist eyes, she studied the features cast in shadow of the wonderful woman before her. "Don't you know by now? Why do you think I worry about you all the time? Gods, I would die if anything, anything ever happened to you. I love you so much, Gabrielle, sometimes I think I'll go insane with the power of it."

With this, Gabrielle slipped her arms around her companion and released a breath she didn't realize she had been holding and in a quiet voice opened her heart to her one true love. "I never thought that you could feel the same way about me. I've loved you for so long. There was a time when I thought I could live with just the dreams. My nights are so filled with the hope that you will one day come to me, but the dreams have spilled over into my morning and I find I no longer know what's a dream and what's reality. I've wrestled with my emotions until I am too weary to continue. I knew I needed to talk to you about them, for better or worse." Gabrielle stopped. Her heart was too swollen to breathe, let alone talk. She just wanted to stay in this place, be it dream or reality or somewhere in between.

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I never thought that I could feel like you make me feel inside. It was terrifying, it still is. I never knew I could let my feelings show without a sacrifice. Not until you, not until tonight." Xena's voice was reverent and choked. When she could no longer keep the tears in, she slid from Gabrielle's warm embrace and away from the bed.

Gabrielle sat up with her and taking a cleansing breath she moved to the other side of the bed. Xena had walked to a real window and thrown aside the curtains to look out into the moon. It cast an ethereal light onto her face and Gabrielle's throat closed off at the beauty of her. She moved to Xena's side and put her arm around the warrior's waist.

"I can't even cry in front of you," Xena admitted. "Am I so empty of emotion that I have none left to give to you?"

"No, Xena, you feel too much sometimes. You've just never learned how to release it." Gabrielle thought about her words and, in an attempt to lighten the mood, she smiled at her friend. "But you sure were doing a fine job a minute ago." She felt Xena shift with a silent laugh.

Xena looked at her with wet cheeks and a grin. "How do you do that? How can you make me feel so good when I'm so miserable?"

"It's one of my many skills," Gabrielle smiled brightly.

Xena found herself caught in those laughing eyes. They looked at each other for what seemed like forever. Then Xena turned to face her companion and, stepping in closer to her, reached up with one hand and traced her fingers along the back of Gabrielle's neck. She slipped her other hand into Gabrielle's and slowly lowered her head until their faces were a whisper away. "I love you so much," Xena breathed.

Gabrielle closed her eyes and let the reality of it wash over her. She was about to return the tender words when her lips were gently covered by Xena's. Tasting each other as if for the first time, they let their passion simmer, and just bathed in the wonder of the shared kiss.

Gabrielle opened her mouth and licked Xena's lips warmly. Xena froze, her heart threatening to climb up out of her throat. The feel of the soft, wet tongue tracing her mouth was electric and when it intruded inside, she staggered at the sensual weight of it. The kiss grew and a desperation hovered over them. Gabrielle caught a moan in her throat and pulled away first.

Xena whimpered at the loss, and she opened her eyes to see desire-filled green eyes sparkling up at her.

"I want to finish this, I owe you anyway," Gabrielle's voice was rough and heavy and it tickled Xena's ears. "But I don't want to stay here anymore. I think I can walk back to the inn, if you'll help me."

Xena smiled suddenly.

"I'll help you if you help me. I feel like a newborn colt trying to stand on wobbly legs."

Gabrielle smiled with her and together they found Gabrielle's clothing and Xena helped her dress, all the while her rebelling mind wondering why she was covering the beautiful form., then they went for Xena's leather and armor in the next room. As Gabrielle lifted the armor over Xena's shoulders a thought occurred to her.

She stood there gazing at her friend as she pondered the image that formed in her head. Xena was straightening her scabbard and turned to see Gabrielle staring at her perplexed.


"Oh, it's nothing." Gabrielle took her hand and they walked outside of the establishment.

"Gabrielle?" Xena inquired again as they walked down the deserted street.

Gabrielle smiled, half at the way her name sounded rolling from those lips and half at the fact that Xena was so damn curious. "Hmmm?" She thought she might prolong it.

"Gabrielle, what was that look you gave me back there for?"


"Come on, you know you want to tell me," Xena teased.

Gabrielle smiled and sighed in spite of herself. As they reached the Dragon's Breath, Xena tugged her closer with her hand and cleared a path through the patrons towards the stairs. "I was just thinking," Gabrielle started.

Xena slowed her pace as they ascended the staircase and turned her attention towards her bard.

"You said that you were watching me....touch myself... through that window, right?"

"Right," Xena felt her throat go dry at the memory. She reached out and opened the door to their room and followed Gabrielle inside, securing the door behind them.

"But what I want to know is..." Gabrielle pressed the warrior up against the door.

Xena swallowed hard.

"What exactly were your hands doing besides removing armor?" Gabrielle pressed a kiss into Xena's neck and smiled when she felt the warrior swallow again.

"Well, I could tell you," Xena lifted an eyebrow and purred. She wrapped her arms around the bard's waist and hefted her up. Gabrielleís legs wrapped around her automatically.

"But I would much rather show you...."


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