Disclaimers: No, I don't own Xena and Gabrielle - I just borrow them. I'm putting them back were they belong, I swear...

Subtext: Yes, it is maintext in this story. Though it starts out innocent enough. Later on in the story there will be scenes of two women making love. If this bothers you, or you're too young - please don't read this story.

Violence: Yes. Nothing too graphic though. If this bothers you - please don't read this story.

A Note About The Story: This isn't a 'typical' alternative story. It isn't general fiction either. You could probably call it Uber in some ways. So consider yourself warned...

Language: I don't use English in my day to day life so I apologise in advance for any spelling or grammar mistakes. You're welcome to point them out to me, though (But please be nice...<smile>) (I will use 'proper' English spelling – just thought I mention that, too. It just stuck with me after school.)

Any comments are welcome. My e-mail address: gritjahning@hotmail.com






Falling - part 3

by Grit Jahning




from the moment that we met

I knew that we would connect

your eyes had told me that somehow we shared a history

feeling fearless I took a chance

couldn't let the moment pass

I felt that fate had played a hand

and brought you here to me

but happiness can be short-lived

and pain can bring you to your knees

<chorus> don't think

that I'll get over you

don't know

if I can make it through

my darkest days without you in my life

and don't think

that I can face the pain

I'll never see your face again

I close my eyes and wonder when, will it ever end

got as close as we could be

felt that you could see through me

you read my mind, you knew my life

became a part of me

took for granted precious times

thought we had it on our side

by some cruel twist of fate

I had to watch you fade away

<chorus> don't think

that I'll get over you

don't know

if I can make it through

my darkest days without you in my life

and don't think

that I can face the pain

I'll never see your face again

I close my eyes and wonder when, will it ever end

(*"Over You" written by Gabrielle/Jonathan Shorten)




- 18 -


The sound of stone against metal. A rhythmical motion. Repeated over and over again.

Flickering firelight dancing merrily on polished metal.

Throwing reflections against dark canvas. Adding another source of light in an otherwise darkened space.

A soft humming became audible. A low voice. Hoarse. Emotionless. .... Tired ....

The whetting motion stopped and the blade was tilted towards the firelight. Highlighting a pair of pale blue eyes. Their gaze wandering over the sharp surface and then a long tanned hand ran ever so lightly over its edges.

Leaving a thin line of crimson-coloured blood.

The dark head tilted to one side. Long midnight-dark hair falling loosely around chiselled features.

And then a small smile played around pale, thin lips. Cruel. Cold.

Sounds of an army getting ready for battle drifted into the dark tent. Snorts of horses. The clanking of swords and armour. Husky voices shouting orders. Hoarse laughter and ribald jokes.

The tall form rose and slid the sword back into its resting place on her back. Reaching for a black cape nearby pale eyes swept across the small space. Draping the cape over broad shoulders.

A soft sigh stirred the air. And then a pair of hands took a pale green shirt. Torn. Crimson-coloured spots covering one side. A face buried into the cloth - breathing in the last traces of a scent that tore at an already hurting soul. Absorbing tears no one ever saw.

The shirt was pushed into the space between a brass armour and dark leathers. Immediately warmed by the body heat emanating through the leather. Becoming a constant reminder.

Another sigh.

"... one last time, little one..."

And then the tall form moved through the flap serving as a door and vanished into darkness beyond.

Leaving a softly crackling fire.

And a pain and grief so intense the air seemed to vibrate with it...



- 19 -





It would take them three days by foot to reach the borders of Thessaly. Argo couldn't carry both of them the entire way but Gabrielle was more than happy to walk. Never really fond of horses.

But at the moment she was still in the place she'd been as they had left earlier this morning. Snuggled into Xena's arms. Her head resting against a broad shoulder and her eyes closed.

She had intended to just rest a little bit. The week of travelling had taken its toll on her body.

Xena tilted her head and a gentle smile played around her lips as she heard the soft sounds that so characterised Gabrielle's sleep. It wasn't really snoring. Just contented, little noises - something she found endearingly cute.

She shifted her arms into a more comfortable position. The small frame moving with her.

She dropped a gentle kiss on a nearby temple. Still not quite believing that this was happening. Always expecting to wake up in her tent inside an army camp. ... Or wherever....

No, this is real! And I'm going to do anything to keep it that way!


- 20 -


The sun was blazing through a thick carpet of fresh green leaves and Xena wiped her forehead. Sweating profoundly. Aided by the small frame snuggled in her arms.

She smiled. Not that she would change this even if she would faint because of the heat. As if...

The smirk got broader and she felt like singing or shouting ... or anything ... just to express her happiness. Argo must have picked up on her mood because the mare started to prance a little. Jostling them.

"Hey ... girl ... easy there."

The pale horse calmed down some but kept on throwing her head a bit. Xena frowned and turned her attention to their surroundings. At first there wasn't anything unusual. Only sounds that were so familiar she noticed them and then ignored them immediately. Only ....


She took one hand from its resting place on Gabrielle's belly and her eyes narrowed.

It wasn't a sound but a scent that caught her attention.

Something about it...

Pale eyes scanned the trees around them. Not quite sure what to look for but she felt her instincts rise. Something she had learned not to ignore.

She sat up a bit straighter. Daring anyone to attack them.

But nothing happened. No sounds that seemed displaced. After a long moment of waiting she shook her head at herself. "... my, my warrior ... "

But she kept the strange sensation in the back of her mind. Wanting to be prepared for anything. Now that she had so much to live for...

Just then the warm body in her arms moved and a soft sigh warmed her shoulder. She squeezed the slim waist and brushed her lips against a soft cheek. "Hey ... sleepyhead."

"Mmmh..." A sleepy whisper and then green eyes blinked up at her. Obviously not quite awake yet. "...gods ... did I fall asleep?"

A low chuckle. "Yup ... guess that means I'm not as good an entertainer as I thought, huh?"

Gabrielle rubbed a hand across her face and sat up as straight as possible in her current position. Groaning a little as stiff muscles announced their presence. " ... I'm sorry ... I didn't mean to ... "

"Hey ... it's okay, really. You looked like you could need some extra rest."

Gabrielle's turn to chuckle. "Great ... now she tells me I look awful ..."


Fair eyebrows furrowed and she turned to look at Xena. And blushed as she saw the look on those handsome features.

A large hand cupped her cheek and a thumb stroked her skin in a very soft, almost hesitant caress. "You're beautiful, Gabrielle ... "

Unnoticed by them Argo stopped and trotted to the side of the road. Nibbling at fresh grass she found there. And for a moment it seemed that she rolled her eyes.

"... so beautiful ..." The thumb stopped its stroking and she ducked her head and kissed trembling lips. "Don't ever doubt that." A serious whisper.

Gabrielle swallowed. Breathlessly looking up into shining blue eyes. She felt her heart double its pace and then she blinked. Breaking the tension between them. She closed her eyes and simply lay her head back against Xena's shoulder. Unable to come up with anything to say but " ... thank you ... " And you call yourself a bard.

But Xena seemed to understand because long arms resettled themselves around her waist and squeezed lightly.

Pale eyes looked around, confused why they had stopped moving. "Hey ... girl ... c'mon. We have places to go. No time for that, now."

An indignant snort answered her but Argo resumed her walking.

Xena shook her head at the pale horse. Wondering what had got into the mare.


"Ugh ... I think I discovered muscles that I didn't even know existed." Gabrielle groaned and stretched again. Getting amused blue eyes and a badly disguised smirk.

They had decided to make camp early. It was late afternoon and the heat had retreated some. And with a slowly setting sun a very welcome chill started to settle around them. Nearby a river was murmuring softly and faint splashing sounds indicated that they would have fish for dinner.

Xena's smirk got wider. Mmh, maybe take a swim, too...

Quite without her permission pale eyes returned to Gabrielle. Appraising the small frame with an appreciative look. Yeah...

"Let's make a deal ... you join me for a swim and I'm going to give you a backrub, later. What do you say?"

Twinkling green eyes turned her way. Then Gabrielle sighed dramatically. "Let me see ... after today's heat you're going to force me to take a swim in a probably cold river ... and give me a backrub? ... " Another contemplating sigh. "Oh, twist my arm, warrior."

Gabrielle laughed and shook her head. Blinking innocent green eyes at a tall advancing form. And then she drowned in suddenly deep blue eyes and she swallowed. Realising that taking a swim would mean to get undressed.

She winced inwardly as she felt her face blush furiously.

She dropped her gaze and started fussing with the hem of her shirt. And felt a gentle hand tilt her head up.

"Hey .. if this makes you uncomfortable ... we don't have to ..."

"NO!" Her blush deepened still at the vehemence in her voice. "No ... I ... it's okay." An embarrassed whisper. Boy, is it ever.

She reached for the belt keeping her skirt closed but a large, tanned hand covered hers and a low voice brushed her ear. "Let me?"

By now her heart was beating so wildly she was surprised it wasn't echoing through the clearing. She swallowed again and looked up into a gently smiling face. And then soft lips touched hers in a light kiss. "Trust me." A low whisper.

All she could do was to nod wordlessly.

And then a large hand brushed blonde bangs to one side and came to rest against her cheek. "... hey ... easy, okay? ... We're taking a swim."

She answered the smile and covered the hand on her face with a much smaller one. "I know."

And then she felt those hands tug her shirt free from the belt. And slowly opening the laces keeping it closed. And she noticed that they were shaking slightly.

Their eyes met again and she couldn't help but lift a teasing eyebrow. And was answered by shrugging shoulders, a sheepish smirk - and a raising dark brow as a finger ever so lightly draw a line from the top of her skirt up her stomach. Oh gods...

Her eyes fluttered close as the finger was replaced by a warm hand rubbing her belly in a soothing motion. It didn't help against the nervous little flutter inside her stomach or against her violently beating heart, though. Nor against the soft blush that rose across her chest up into her face.

And then her upper body shivered as the early evening chill hit its flushed skin. Her shirt making a soft sound as it brushed down her arms. Two hands came to rest on her hips. Thumbs brushing slowly up and down. And she couldn't help the soft sigh that left her lips. Exhaling shakily she opened her eyes.

And was face to face with blue eyes that had deepened still. And then Xena's forehead touched hers. "... beautiful ... " Said on an equally trembling breath.

Her belt came loose and her skirt hit the ground with a soft thud. Followed by her underwear. And then twinkling blue eyes sparkled at her. A smirk playing around red lips. "Does it tickle?"

It took a moment before she understand what Xena meant and then she couldn't help but giggle. A low voice joined her. Efficiently breaking the tension that had been building up between them.

She swatted at Xena's arm and shook her head. "No, it doesn't ... gods, was I ever that young?"

Xena laughed. Her heart racing inside her chest at the vision before her. Despite herself she swallowed and had to take a deep breath before continuing. "Well, yeah ... but you were cute, too. ... You should have seen your face then, though."

And then she turned around and indicated her back. "Those leathers close in the back." Wondering if her voice sounded as unsteady as she thought.

Silence. And then she felt a pair of warm, small hands on her back. Tugging on laces. Taking their time loosening them. Brushing the broad straps from her shoulders. She let the leather drop to the ground. Aware of the motionless silence behind her. Knowing that her back was covered by some pretty bad and large scars.

Her stomach jumped as soft fingers traced over each one of them. She was close to fainting when those fingers were replaced by even softer lips. Oh gods... And then a forehead came to rest between her shoulderblades. A soft whisper a featherlight caress on her skin.

" ... I don't know what I would have done ... if ... something had happened to you ... "

She swallowed and turned around. Facing teary green eyes. She cupped Gabrielle's face between her hands and shook her head.

"Don't. ... Don't think like that! I'm fine. I'm here ... And the gods know I'm not going anywhere, anymore."

The small, slightly trembling frame moved forward and Xena closed her arms around her. Her eyes fluttering close as their bodies touched for the first time skin on skin. But there wasn't anything sensual about this touch. This was about easing Gabrielle's pain.

She waited a moment and then ducked her head. Searching pale green eyes. "You're okay?"

The pale head nodded and Gabrielle wiped at her tears. "I don't know what came over me ... but seeing those scars ... " A soft exhale. Then long fingers brushed through her blonde locks.

"It's okay." Xena cleared her throat. "C'mon ... buck up, little one. ... Hey, we wanted to take a swim, didn't we. ... Tell you what ... Race ya!"

And with that the tall form sprinted towards the river.

Green eyes blinked in surprise and then narrowed in mock indignation. " ... you just wait, warrior." She laughed. The dark feeling inside her fading rapidly. And then she was off, sprinting after Xena. Knowing she had no chance catching up with her.


"Were a lot of them friends?"

Large hands stopped for a brief moment but then resumed their work. Lathering blonde locks with the herbal scented soap they had brought. "Some of them. ... But it was ... easier not to let anyone that close ... okay, duck."

The pale head disappeared beneath the pleasantly cool water. Surfacing with a splash. Brushing wet blonde locks back. "Whoa. ... Brrr. ... It is cold."

Xena smirked and took step closer. "I could warm you up." But instead of the expected blush she got a raised fair brow and a sly smile. "You could do that, warrior ... if you ask really nice."

Caught speechless all she could do was blink surprised blue eyes at a triumphantly smirking small blonde.

Gabrielle laughed softly and with a few strokes swam passed the taller body. "Two can play that game, Xena."

Composing herself she turned towards a still smirking Gabrielle. She took a few steps closer but Gabrielle wisely paddled back. Recognising that look and knowing all too well what it meant. "So I see."

Taking advantage of her longer arms she caught up with Gabrielle with little effort and without warning dunked her into the water.

Surfacing with indignant yelps Gabrielle started splashing water at her.

And before long they were engaged in an all out waterfight. Happy giggles and low chuckles floating through the quiet air.

Deciding to put an end to it Xena caught Gabrielle by settling her arms around her waist. Pulling her close to her own body. Smiling as Gabrielle didn't even so much as struggle against her grip. Smaller arms reached around her neck and their eyes met.

They moved together. Meeting somewhere in the middle.

And then the cold water was forgotten. As was the setting sun that painted them in rich orange and red. Glittering on calm water that broke into waves against their bodies.

Their kiss deepened and Xena could feel her body reacting violently to the closeness of Gabrielle's naked body. Easy, easy...

She slowly, gently broke their kiss. Taking a deep breath. A pale head dropped against her collarbone. A soft sigh. "... gods ... "

They both caught their breath. But never releasing their hold on each other.

"You're okay?"

Deep green eyes looked up at her and a dreamy smile spread across Gabrielle's visibly flushed features. "Oh yeah. ... I'm great."

Xena laughed. Feeling her heart and soul release yet another dark memory. To be replaced with that smile and that look in those green eyes. Taking another step to healing her still hurting soul.

A small hand brushed a few stray, wet dark locks from her forehead and then came to rest on her chest. "I love you."

She actually felt her heart miss a beat and she swallowed. "You better." On a hoarse, trembling breath. She ducked her head and placed a soft kiss on Gabrielle's forehead. Pulling the smaller form close again. " ... love you, too ... "


They hadn't fish for supper after all. Xena decided to check the perimeter around their camp. The strange feeling from earlier today was still niggling her mind. And came across a family of rabbits.

Therefore, soon their camp was filled with the scent of roasting meat and tea.

Gabrielle lay on their bedrolls, busily writing on a piece of parchment. And Xena could see that another of her habits hadn't changed. If she moved forward just a little she could see just the tip of Gabrielle's tongue peek through slightly parted lips. Her fair brows wrinkled now and then, causing the bridge of her nose to wrinkle as well.

Something this war-hardened, solitary, taciturn warrior found just too cute to be true.

Xena thought about that for a moment and then shook her head at herself. Continuing to whet her sword. "My, my ... you sure have fallen hard." Another look at Gabrielle and she felt her face form into an easy, gentle smile. Yup, sure have.

Just then green eyes turned her way. And it took only this one look to warm her body ... and soul ... to its deepest points.

She put the sword away and went over to their furs. Dropping to one knee next to a gently smiling Gabrielle.

" ... hey ... "

" ... hey, yourself ... "

She wasn't quite sure how she ended up with Gabrielle in her arms again, or how those laces on her shirt got open - nor how her hands ended up beneath Gabrielle's sleeping shirt. Losing themselves in soft, warm skin. Slowly drifting upwards....

Wait, wait, wait....

"...Gabrielle ..." She slowly pulled away from their kiss, her breathing ragged. "We ... need to stop..." Confused green eyes blinked at her. And then the confusion formed into hurt and the small frame underneath her tried to sit up. Moving away from her.

"Don't you want to ... " Hurt green eyes turned away and Xena hurt just looking at Gabrielle. So she put a finger under a slightly trembling chin and turned Gabrielle's face back to look at her.

"I can't tell you how much I want to touch you. ... Feel you ... Make love to you ... but..." Another look into the dark surrounding them. "We're being watched."

It took a moment before the words registered with Gabrielle but then she gasped. "What!!??"

"Yup, ... two in front of us ... and three to our left and another three to our right."

Gabrielle tried to make out something ... anything ... in the dark. "Are you sure?"

Xena nodded. And then caressed Gabrielle's cheek. Her voice serious. "I want our first time to be special. ... And an audience doesn't qualify as special." Smiling when she saw Gabrielle blush. But she didn't drop her gaze. Only pulled the large hand to her lips, placing a soft kiss on callused fingers.

"Although I probably have to cut out their eyes because they saw you ... um ... you know." She gestured with her hand. An ever so slight smirk playing on her lips.

That cute face went blank for a second and then Gabrielle coughed in shock. "What?? ... How long have they been here?"

Broad shoulders shrugged nonchalantly. "Couple of hours."

"...couple of ho..." Gabrielle blushed a deep red and buried her face in a nearby shoulder. Just to poke the conveniently close stomach. "I can't believe you didn't tell me."

Xena chuckled and was suddenly face to face with angry green eyes. "Hey, I was only kidding. ... I noticed them this morning but they returned just half a candlemark ago."

Doubtful green eyes looked at her and Xena sighed. Leaning forward, touching their foreheads together. "Do you honestly believe I would have let anyone that close?" She kissed Gabrielle's nose. Lifting a questioning brow.

Gabrielle smiled sheepishly. "Sorry .. I...."

"Don't be sorry ... I shouldn't have started it in the first place. ... Gabrielle ... I won't ever let anyone hurt you. I promise."

"I know that."

They looked at each other for a long silent moment. Small smiles playing on their lips. Then Gabrielle took one of Xena's hands, playing with her fingers. "What are you going to do about them? ... Do you think it's that Marius guy?"

The dark head shook and then she got up very slowly. The warmth leaving her pale eyes as she reached for her sword. "No, I don't think it's Marius."

Gabrielle frowned and turned into the direction Xena was looking at. And froze.

There were dark figures coming their way. All of them obviously armed. Their faces hidden behind ... Gabrielle squinted. Masks?


- 21 -


Four of them stopped several metres away from them while the rest of them walked up to them. Close enough so Gabrielle could make out the shape of those marks. Bird beaks. The masks themselves decorated with feathers.

Xena stepped between the advancing strangers and Gabrielle. Her eyes coolly roaming over well trained bodies dressed in short brown leathers. Doing nothing to disguise the fact that it were women standing in front of them.

She felt Gabrielle move closer to her back and then a small, warm hand coming to rest on the small of her back.

They looked at each other for a long silent moment and then one of the women cleared her throat. Moving another step closer.

"You're Xena?"

The dark head nodded curtly.

"Our queen wants to talk to you."

Xena actually chuckled at that and relaxed her position slightly. "Well, you can tell her where to find me. Right?"

"...Xena..." A soft hiss behind her.

The woman in front of her obviously hadn't expected that reaction and hesitated for a moment but then straightened. But still several inches smaller than Xena.

"We're your escort to our village. Our queen wishes to meet you there. ... It would be considered an insult to refuse her ... request."

Behind her the rest of the group lifted their swords. Their faces still hidden behind those masks.

Xena lifted an eyebrow. "Well ... wouldn't want to insult a queen. ... We will need some time to get ready."

"Of course. Meet us at the crossing to the east."

Without another look back the women disappeared in the dark forest. Xena shook her head and turned around to meet astonished green eyes. "What?"

"A queen? Who were those women? And did you see what they were wearing? And ... and...."

"Easy there, little one."

Xena chuckled and took Gabrielle's hand in her own ... just because she could.

"Those were Amazons. And we just got 'invited' to meet their queen." She let go off the smaller hand and started to change into her own leather. Putting their things together.

"Amazons?" Xena looked up and right into sparkling green eyes. "Wow."

"Yeah ... well, I'm not sure about that but ... might as well find out what they want. ... " Her voice became thoughtful. "They seemed to be looking for me, though."

"Mmh." Gabrielle mused while she was collecting her own clothes. Followed by appreciative pale blue eyes.

She pulled her shirt over her head and started fussing with the laces - until a pair of tanned hands took over. Brushing ever so lightly over her breasts. She swallowed and looked up into a smiling face. "We still have a conversation to finish, right?"

"Oh, yeah ... su ... sure." The dark head tilted to one side and dark brows furrowed in thought.

"Am I pushing you?"

"No! No ... I ... " A deep breath. "I'm just nervous."

" Perdicus and you never .... ?"

Gabrielle shook her head and put her hands on Xena's chest. Her own voice serious. "It didn't feel right when he touched me." She dropped her gaze despite herself and blushed. A gentle pink that spread across her cheeks. "... always you ..."

And missed the look of almost childlike wonder on those chiselled features.

Xena cleared her throat. Her hand stroking one blushing cheek. She couldn't come up with anything to say so she ducked her head and kissed Gabrielle. Lingering a small eternity.

"C'mon, let's find out what those featherheads are up to."


The village their were led in was quiet. Just a couple of guards greeting them and whispering something to their escort. Torches were placed all around a square. Lighting the dark shadows of several huts circling the square.

"It's late. ... There is a hut that has been prepared for you. The queen will talk to you in the morning."

The woman, obviously the leader of the escort, motioned to one of the guards and turned back to Xena. "I take it that one hut is enough?" An amused tone very obvious in her voice.

Xena saw out of the corner of her eyes Gabrielle drop her head and she felt cold anger rise inside her. She clenched her jaw and stepped closer to the smaller woman in front of her. "Yes." Her voice low and cold. She saw the throat of the other woman move and satisfied, took a step back.

A moment later they entered a small room. Furnished with a rather large bed. A dresser and a table and two chairs. A bench was placed beneath a window. And one wall was taken up by a fireplace.

The woman that had escorted them, almost as tall as Xena but a lot less muscular, with long red hair and twinkling green eyes smiled and motioned across the room.

"I know, it isn't much but ... well, it's got the essential. ... The food hut is just across the square and there's a bathing hut to the back of the village. ... Um, but I'm sure someone will show you around tomorrow."

Gabrielle looked around and then a delighted smile lit up her face. "It's got a real bed. That's all I need right now." With a soft giggle she throw herself on the bed, closing her eyes and sighing in obvious bliss.

Xena couldn't help but smile and shook her head a little. But then her face turned into a scowl as she saw the look on the face of the Amazon ... what was her name? Theresa? Something... There was a certain shine to her eyes as she looked at the small form laying on the bed.

Xena took a step closer. "I think we have everything we need. Don't want to keep you from your duties."

Theresa tore her eyes reluctantly from the vision on the bed and - swallowed as she met ice-blue eyes. "um ... right ... yeah ... I'm .... " She waved her hand in a helpless gesture and stumbled out of the hut. Leaving a rather smugly smirking Xena behind.

"What's wrong with her?"

The soft voice sounded behind her and she turned and looked at Gabrielle. Who still lay motionless on the bed, her eyes closed - just her toes wriggling in her boots giving an indication that she wasn't asleep.

Well, Xena mused as she moved closer. Her eyes slowly taking in Gabrielle's body. Can't really blame her for looking. Now can I? No, she couldn't blame her but make her stop doing it - that she could do.

"Don't know. ... Amazons."

Gabrielle moved and rested her upper body on her elbows. "You met them before?"

The dark head nodded while she arranged their bags. Making a mental note to check on Argo as soon as possible. Not quite trusting the Amazon that had let the mare to a stable.

"Yeah ... had some in my army. Good fighters but ... " She turned and lifted a brow. "You know ... women."

Gabrielle laughed. "I hate to tell you this but we .. are women, too."

"Well, that's true .. but we're no Amazons. And trust me, there's a difference." She chuckled softly and started removing her armour. Soon aided by a pair of smaller hands.

"How are they different?"

A brief look at a pale head ducking under her arm to get the buckle at the back. "Um ... well, they ... " She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. ... It's ... they are more difficult to lead than men. If I would have to choose between leading an army of Amazons or men? I would choose the men. ... Saves you a lot of trouble. ... I mean ... imagine that: an army full of women cycling at the same time..." She mock-shuddered.

Gabrielle giggled and leaned against her side. Patting her on the stomach. "Grump."

Indignant blue eyes turned her way. "Hey ... I'm not ... " And was silenced by a soft kiss. And soft fingers tracing down her cheekbone to her neck. Lingering on her pulse point. Knew they could feel its wild fluttering.

Green eyes looked at her after they broke apart. "I did that?"

She smiled. "You sure did. ... One look ... one touch ... " A small hand traced the smile. Moving up to brush through dark locks.

"You should smile more often, you know?"

She caught the hand and brought it to her lips. "In the last two days I smiled more than in the last two years."

Gabrielle sighed and leaned forward, immediately embraced by long warm arms. She turned her face a bit. "I really ... really ... want to ... " She let her fingers stroke up and down Xena's stomach. Feeling the ripples of muscles. "... you know ... " Large hands rubbed her back.


"But ... I'm really tired too and ... do you ... could we wait just a little longer?"

Long fingers lifted her chin. "Hey ... we do this whenever you're ready, okay? ... No pressure."

Shy green eyes met blue and she nodded. Allowing herself to be led over to the bed. Curling up against Xena's warm body. Closing her eyes with a contented sigh.


- 22 -


It were the faint sounds of birds that woke her. Feeling the first shy caresses of the morning sun playing on her face.

Slowly pale blue eyes opened. Surveying their surroundings and remembering where they were. Oh yeah ... Amazons ...

Then she became aware of her position. They had obviously moved during the night and now her taller frame was spooned against Gabrielle's back. Her right arm securely wrapped around a softly moving waist.

She closed her eyes again. Breathing in the scent of Gabrielle's sleep-warmed body. How did I ever survive without this? Now that she knew what it felt like to hold Gabrielle in her arms ... kiss her ... touch her ... feel her ... No way would she ever give this up again!

Her hand moved and stroked ever so lightly over Gabrielle's belly. Moving slowly upwards... Feeling the smaller frame move closer to her chest. She ducked her head and brushed long, blonde hair to one side. Her lips dancing gently over soft skin. Gabrielle moved again, rolling over onto her back. Xena stilled her caresses and waited for a moment.

Smiling when those green eyes blinked open. "Mmh ... why did you stop? ... "

She chuckled and kissed Gabrielle on the lips. "Why ... wouldn't want to ravish you in your sleep."

A small hand brushed a few dark locks behind her ear, tracing its shape with gentle fingers. "No?" Followed by a teasing smirk. "And here I thought you're a real warrior."

Xena felt her heart double its pace. Very aware of her hand resting on warm downy skin - just beneath Gabrielle's breasts. The tips of her fingers grazing the soft flesh ever so lightly. She swallowed and moved her head forward. Kissing Gabrielle again and, deepening their kiss she moved her hand to ...

<knock, knock>

They stopped their movement. Their foreheads touching in obvious frustration. Xena growled deep in her throat. "You know ... I have to kill whoever is out there. Me being a real warrior and all..."

Gabrielle smiled warmly and rubbed a small hand across her back. Slowing the motion to a caress. "Maybe they leave?"

Xena lifted a brow and counted ... And as if on cue ...

<knock, knock>

"Or maybe they don't." Gabrielle giggled and pushed her chest lightly. "C'mon, before they think something is wrong and storm in."

Another growl. "They better not." The tall form heaved a frustrated sigh and got up. Not without claiming another kiss. Then she moved to the door and flung it open. "What?!"

The woman standing before her blinked surprised grey eyes at her. "Oh ... um ... " And then she took in the tall form standing before her. Blushing a deep red. Xena wore only her sleeping shirt, which did show quite an expanse of long, muscular legs.

Xena shook her head. "What?"

Grey eyes lifted and she saw the throat of the woman move visibly. "Um ... breakfast's ready."

A warm voice sounded behind the tall form. "... breakfast? ..."

It took a bit of an effort for Xena to suppress the smile that threatened to break across her face but she managed to keep the scowl one her face and only nodded briefly. "Thanks. We'll be right out."

Without another word she stepped back into the hut and closed the door. Amazons...

And was face to face with eager green eyes. "I did hear something about breakfast, right?"

She chuckled and ruffled dishevelled blonde locks. "Yup."

Gabrielle's smile got bigger and she turned around. Moving to their bags to look for a set of new clothing. Pulling her sleeping shirt over her head and dropping it on the bed to her left. She straightened - and felt a warm presence at her back. Two long arms settling around her waist.

"Did I mention already that you have a beautiful body?" A low, husky voice.

She closed her eyes and leaned back against the warm body. "I ... I think .. you mentioned something ... like that, yesterday."

And then she felt soft lips on her neck and a warm breath caressed her suddenly sensitive skin. And she couldn't help the soft moan that escaped her. "Good." A gentle finger that ran down the length of her spine.

Then the warmth moved away and she had a moment to compose herself. She took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart. Her skin was tingling and she knew that she was blushing. Gods ... She never ever expected it could feel like this. Nothing Perdicus ever did felt even nearly as ... She searched for a word. ... As right as what Xena could do to her with a simple touch.

She felt like her entire body was on fire. And there was only one touch that she craved ... wanted ... needed ...

She ran trembling hands through her hair and finished dressing. Turning around to meet inquiring blue eyes. "You're okay?"

A rueful smile. "I'm perfect. ... But I think I need a cold bath. ... Or something ..."

Xena chuckled and settled one arm across her shoulders. Moving them to the door. "I think both of us could need one."


They sat in a hut that seemed to serve as meeting hall of sorts. A long table ran through the entire length of the room, chairs placed along its sides.

And the room was packed with women in short leathers and with curious eyes.

Xena sighed silently and bit her lip to keep a smile from her lips.

Breakfast had been ... well, it wasn't nearly as good as what her mother used to make and it left a certain small blonde rather grumpy. Mumbling something about: "... and they call this food?..." Nope, that cute blonde hadn't been pleased.

And the company wasn't much better. The moment they entered the food hut silence had dropped. Their every move had been followed by a dozen pairs of eyes. Now and then whispers drifting through the air.

She caught some bits of conversation. And every prejudice she might have had about Amazons ... had been proved right. Not that she disagreed with their characterisation of Gabrielle ... she certainly was cute ... and yeah, hot ... and yup, that was one cute bellybutton but ... it was her partner they were looking at. And ...

It was only Gabrielle's warm hand on her forearm that kept her from throwing one ... or a dozen of those featherheads through the hut.

She shook her head. Hopefully this was over soon and they could be on their way again. They did have to finish a certain conversation... Quite without her permission she felt a smile tug at her lips - and felt a small hand on her knee. Which didn't help her momentary state of mind...

"If you want to be that tough, invincible warrior ... you might want to get rid of that ... impossibly cute smile there." Gabrielle's low voice held a gentle teasing tone and she turned her head a little to look into sparkling green eyes.

She pursed her lips. "You keep that up, bard. ... We'll see who is going to walk all the way to Amphipolis."

Gabrielle bit her lower lip and blinked innocent green eyes at her. And was saved from any response by the entry of three Amazons.

All the other Amazons got up from their chairs and dropped to one knee. Their heads bowed.

The three walked past them and the woman in the middle sat on the chair at the head of the table. The two others flanking her side.

She wasn't tall. Maybe a couple of inches taller than Gabrielle. Long wavy dark locks framing a face that had very aristocratic features. Dark eyes surveying the room with keen interest. Lingering on Xena for a moment. Then she motioned with a hand and everyone else sat down again.

"So, ... you're Xena. ... My sister told me a lot about your ... skills ... as a leader." Their was a certain undertone to her voice, causing Xena to raise an eyebrow. "Her name's Tereis. Maybe you remember her."

Dark brows wrinkled as Xena thought ... remembering another battle ... her body still on fire ... too much ale ... and a pair of willing dark eyes ... She nodded her head slightly. Very aware of confused green eyes watching her.

The dark head inclined in a brief greeting. "I am Queen Melosa."

Xena didn't give any indication that the title or the situation they were currently in impressed her. Actually she was rather bored and the only reason she was here was to find out why the Amazons had made the effort to find her.

A slight smile played around red lips and Melosa leaned forward a little. "I guess, you are wondering why you're here."

"To be honest ... yes."

"I want to make you an offer."

Dark brows furrowed and Xena shrugged. "All right."

She felt Gabrielle move next to her and captured a small hand in her own. Squeezing it lightly.

"I probably don't have to tell you that Greece is falling to the Roman Empire. ... We tried to stay out of most of the battles but now ... The Romans have attacked several Amazon villages in the north and our sentries have reported that there are Roman legions moving into our territory."

Xena's face was an unreadable mask. Causing Melosa to flicker her eyes nervously to the two women standing at her side.

"I also heard that there is a bounty on your head."

A small hand tightened around her own almost painfully and she knew green eyes were looking at her. But she shrugged nonchalantly. "And your offer?"

"We would grant you asylum on our territory if you lead our army against any Roman attack. ... I heard you are the best there is. ... And at the moment that's what we need."


Faint sounds of birds. Wind brushing through leaves. Breathing from the rest of the people present. Rustling of leather.

"I'm sorry but I have to decline that offer." The low voice seemed almost displaced in the quiet.

Melosa blinked. She hadn't expected that. From what she had heard Xena would never refuse a chance for a fight. What had ... Her dark eyes moved to the small blonde sitting very still next to the tall, dark form.

"I admit I am surprised. ... Xena, there a bounty hunters out and about all over Greece. ... Are you sure about this?"

And got a bright smile for that question. "Trust me, I'm sure I can handle any of them."

"How about you think about my offer for another day? We have a joining tonight. There will be music, dancing ... You are ... " She inclined her head towards Gabrielle, making sure to include her in her invitation. "... very welcome to join us. Maybe we can talk about my offer over a mug of ale?"

Xena listened only with half her attention. Becoming aware that Gabrielle had got very still next to her. Her blonde head dropped. Only the tight grip on her hand helped a little to ease her worry.

Pale blue eyes met waiting dark and she shrugged. "Sure ... sounds fine with me. Although I won't change my decision."

Melosa didn't response to that. Not willing to give up just yet. If she could get Xena to lead her warriors ... Surely other villages would join them and they might stand a chance against the Romans.

She stood up. For a moment gaining the advantage of looking down at the tall form.

"You will be informed when the festivities start. Otherwise you are free to move around our village."

And with that she and her guards left. Followed by the rest of the Amazons that had been present. Leaving them in a suddenly very quiet room.

Xena cleared her throat and turned to Gabrielle.

" ... hey, little one ... what's wrong?"

She watched with growing unease as Gabrielle worried her lower lip. Saw her chest move as she took a deep breath and then hesitant green eyes raised to meet her searching gaze.

"If ... it's okay ... if you want to stay here ... with them. I mean ... there's ... leading their army and all ... I understand ... if ... "

"Whoa. Stop right there. ... Stay here? ... Didn't you listen to what I just said? I don't want to lead their army." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I had enough of that to last two lifetimes."

Hesitant green eyes looked at her. A thumb stroking the back of her hand. "It's just ... I see them looking at you and ... "

"And what?"

"And I know I can't compete with them."

Compete? What in Hades are you ... Oh ... "Gods ... Gabrielle ... there is ... no competition here." She cupped her hand around a soft cheek. "I want to be with you. I don't want to lead another army. ... And there is no one that could compete with you, okay?" Her thumb caressed that soft skin. "I love you."

Gabrielle blinked at her. A faint blush noticeable on her fair skin. "I love you, too." They looked at each other for a long time. And then Gabrielle smiled sheepishly. "Sorry I got like this."

"Don't apologise ... I want to know when there is something that bothers you."

Then Gabrielle's face turned serious and she moved a little to look at her. "What is this about a bounty?"

"Oh." Xena shrugged nonchalantly. "It's something Caesar came up with. He didn't like the fact that I ... well my army, really ... defeated him near Corinth and ... I don't know ... maybe he thought my men would turn on me or something."

"But Melosa said ... "

"So far not one bounty hunter had showed up. And it doesn't really bother me. For all I know he probably thinks I'm dead by now."

She wasn't entirely honest there, though. The bounty had been enormous. Three hundred thousand dinars. And she knew that Caesar had been really miffed because of the defeat near Corinth. Taking it really personally. And the fact that her army had kept defeating his legions hadn't helped any. So, she had to admit to herself that she was a bit worried but no need to worry Gabrielle, too.

Gabrielle didn't really seemed convinced. Her fair brows wrinkled in worry. A large hand reached up and smoothed them out again. Lingering for a moment.

"Don't worry okay?"

A quiet sigh. "Okay."

They got up and headed towards the door. And were met by three Amazons that had obviously been waiting for them. Xena raised a questioning brow at them.

"Hi ... my name's Ephiny and this is Solari and ... over there that's Eponin."

Gabrielle smiled and shook their hands. "Nice to meet to you."

Xena simply nodded at them. Not quite happy with the way all three of them kept looking at Gabrielle. "Is their something we can do for you?" Her gruff voice got her surprised green eyes and a small hand that rubbed her back in a light caress.

"Um ... yeah, actually there is ... we heard you are staying here for ... at least another day?" After a brief nod she continued. "Right ... and we were wondering ... " A hand brushed through long curly, blonde hair. "We heard all about your battles. Maybe you could teach us some ... um techniques ... stuff ... you know?"

Xena thought about that for a moment. Well, it's not like they had any plans for the day, Right? She turned to Gabrielle and raised a brow. The pale hair moved in a nod. "Sure why not."

"Great." The three women smiled broadly. "Okay. Meet you in a candlemark at the training field?"

Xena nodded and they watched the three women leave. Then she turned to Gabrielle and sighed. "So much for a quiet day." She smirked and got a poke in her ribs. "Hey..." She reached for the smaller form but Gabrielle stepped out of reach. Shaking her head in a pitying way.

"Looks like you could use a bit of training, warrior. ... And to think that you defeated Caesar."

Pale eyes narrowed in mock-anger and she took a step closer. Again reaching for a now giggling blonde. But Gabrielle was prepared and turned around, racing to the hut their were staying in.

Xena took a moment to look around, seeing astonished eyes all over the place and winced inwardly. So much for my reputation. ... A shrug. What the Hades. And chased after Gabrielle's retreating form. Catching up with her just as she was about to mount the stairs leading to the hut.

She trapped her between her own body and the closed door. Touching their bodies together.

"Now ... " A low growl. "What was that about me needing training?"

Gabrielle's chest moved as she tried to catch her breath. Her face flushed from the race. It was ... Xena swallowed. Gods...little one, what you do to me ...

And felt a pair of small arms reach around her neck. Pulling her head down for a kiss. And being immensely grateful for the shadows surrounding them as she felt her face warm in a blush as they broke apart and twinkling green eyes looked at her.

She tried to come up with something to say. But all she could do was open and close her mouth. Soft, gentle laughter and then a small hand tweaked her nose.

"I did mention that I love you, right?" Innocently blinking green eyes.

She released a breath and simply shook her head. Resigning herself to the fact that she turned into six foot of mush around a certain awfully cute blonde. "Your luck."

Laughing they entered the hut.


- 23 -


It had been an interesting afternoon, to say the least Gabrielle mused.

She lay on their bed. Eyes closed, her hands folded behind her head. Thinking about the day while Xena was out and about getting them something to eat. Ephiny had told them they would be a pig roast tonight but her stomach had chosen that moment to announce its presence and with a teasing smirk Xena had been on her way.

When they'd arrived at the training field ... Gods ... it had seemed the entire village had decided they needed a brush up on their fighting skills.

Pale brows wrinkled.

Some of them practically throwing themselves at her tall partner.

Seeing that had made her really angry. And very jealous. And she couldn't help but look at those women and then at herself. Wondering what Xena saw in her. And as if she could read her mind Xena had come over. Capturing her chin in a gentle hand - and kissing her quite throughout in front of all the Amazons.

It had been so quiet she could hear Xena's heartbeat. Or it was her own. Or whatever ... But it had caught them for a small eternity. When there was nothing but pale blue eyes and that small smile. And the gentle hand caressing her face.

A soft sigh stirred the air. A small hand tracing her still tingling lips. Gods ...

The training itself ... she'd never seen Xena drill before. Sure, she had seen her in that one fight with those raiders back in Amphipolis all this years ago. But other then that ... Xena never wanted her to see that side of her.

But today ...

There had been a certain grace to the way Xena had moved with her sword. The way her body moved and twisted. The way her muscles had moved beneath that soft skin. It had been ...

A soft blush.


Xena had made it look almost sensual and after she admitted that to herself she watched the women sparring with her. Catching bits of hushed whispers.

That's what the Amazons thought, as well.

It had felt almost irrational good to be able to think: You can't have her! She's mine.

And if she had ever any doubts left - they were gone today. Because she saw the truth every time those pale eyes turned her way. Saw it in the way Xena was oblivious to any advances those women made.

Another happy, little sigh. "... yup, sure is mine." And felt a heavy body settle across her waist.

"Am I?"

She blinked her eyes open. And saw a smirking face at very close range. "Oh um ... Xena ... I didn't even hear you come in .. "

The smirk got bigger and a long finger traced her lips. "Do I even want to know what caused that look on your face?"

A smirk of her own. "Don't know. What is it worth to you?"

A tanned hand brushed dark locks to one side and then resettled itself next to a pale head. "You're worth everything to me, little one. ... Everything."

She brushed her hands through dark locks pulling Xena's head down to meet hers. Losing herself in the kiss. Moving slightly as warm hands raised her shirt and cool air hit her skin. Keeping her eyes closed as soft lips left hers and moved slowly down her neck. Arching her back as she felt a tongue lick ever so lightly at her collarbone.

Unable to suppress a soft moan. And felt a gentle hand on her face. "You doing okay?"

Deep green eyes fluttered open and Gabrielle had to take a breath before she could answer. "Oh yeah ... but I won't if you stop now."

A low chuckle. "I don't plan on stopping, little one. ... Ever ..."

They kissed again and ...

Then the door burst open and a squealing pig came racing into the small room.

Followed by three Amazons. Cursing colourfully.

They jerked upright and against the headboard. Gabrielle reaching for her shirt to cover her body. Xena for her sword. Her eyes narrowing dangerously.

The pig turned around wildly. Its squeals high-pitched and desperate as it ran right into a table support. Dazed, it shook its head. Looking around and noticing the advancing women. It squealed again and scrambled to its feet. Racing right through their legs and out again. Followed by cursing women that didn't even so much as spent a look at the two women sitting on the bed.

The door closed. Leaving the room in shocked silence.

And then soft giggles filled the air as Gabrielle rolled to her side. Holding her stomach.

Dark brows rose. Xena not quite able to see the humour in what just happened.

Green eyes raised to look at her only to fall into another fit of laughter. "Oh gods ... I can't believe ... "

Xena crossed her arms over her chest. One brow descending. Waiting for the small blonde to calm down.

Gabrielle took a few deep breaths and sat up. Brushing blonde locks from her face. "You realise that no one is ever going to believe that, right?"

Slowly, reluctantly a small smile played around Xena's lips. "Yeah." She pursed her lips in thought. "Hey ... " She got up from the bed. "Maybe they need some help with that beast..."

She already reached for the dagger she kept in her boots.

A small hand came to rest on her forearm. Stroking over her skin in a light caress. "Don't be mad."

Pale eyes turned around in surprise. "I'm not mad. ... I just ... " She sighed and sat down on the bed again. Feeling a small body move closer. And then a pale head peeked around her back. "I wanted this just as much as you, Xena."

"I know that."

"Good." A small hand came to rest against her cheek. "Because I have a little surprise for you tonight ... so maybe it was just as well that ... we were so ... " A badly disguised smirk. " ... rudely interrupted."

Suddenly very interested pale eyes turned her way. "A surprise?"

She kissed soft lips and nodding moved from the bed. "Yup." Followed by waiting blue eyes.

"You're not telling me, are you?"

Gabrielle turned around and put her hands on her hips. Raising a fair brow. "Well, ... duh!"

Xena thought about that for a moment. A surprise. Mmh ... She looked up at Gabrielle and ...

"Oh no, warrior!! Don't you dare to pout!" Small hands covered green eyes. Peeking through... "Xena! ... C'mon it's a surprise!"

Xena relented and chuckled softly. Getting up as well she pretended a nonchalance she didn't really feel. "I can wait. ... Don't really want to know what it is, anyway."

And got a gentle poke in her ribs. "Right."


"Do you think she will like it?"

Ephiny cleared her throat and ... given the permission ... looked the small frame in front of the mirror over. Her eyes tracing gentle curves now covered by soft, light-brown leathers.

" ... I ... yeah, I think she'll like it."

Gabrielle sighed. Her hand rubbing a suddenly very exposed flat stomach. Actually ... she turned a little ... there was an awful lot of her upper body showing. The leather top really leaving nothing to the imagination.

She ran her hands through her blonde locks and pulled them into a loose ponytail at the back of her neck. Brushing blonde bangs casually to one side. She frowned again.

It was ... she didn't look bad. She had to admit that. And actually, she did feel comfortable in the soft leather. She looked older, somehow.

Ephiny watched her with a little small playing around her lips. "You look great, Gabrielle."

Green eyes turned her way. "Yeah?"

She nodded. Not trusting her voice at the moment. Gods ... if it weren't for tall, dark and deadly over there ... Half of the village would be all over the small blonde.

She couldn't really explain it. Something about Gabrielle ... Maybe it was the way those green eyes seemed to look right through you. One look and she seemed to know all of you. And still there was nothing but ... warmth and acceptance.

But ... she was also very obviously taken. That kiss this afternoon making that more than clear. Did it ever... More than one of them had needed a cold bath after that little show.

They all had heard of Xena. Who hadn't? The fierce warrior whose army seemed to be unstoppable. Until that last battle. It had been Melosa's idea to find out if Xena was still alive. And if she was to make her an offer she couldn't refuse. Gaining another army to revenge her defeat. Maybe getting up against Caesar himself. The news about the bounty seemed good enough a temptation.

No one had expected that she would refuse.

No one had expected to see her in love, either.

She looked at Gabrielle again. Who was - again - fussing with her top. Not that she could blame her.

But ... Melosa was right. If they could get Xena to lead their army other villages would join them. There was no doubt about that. And they might stand a chance in saving the Amazons.

She sighed silently. Remembering what Xena had told her this afternoon as she had questioned her about the offer.

Those pale eyes had looked at her for long, silent moment and then a small, gentle smile had appeared on her face. Her look turning for a moment to Gabrielle. "My priorities have changed. ... "

It was all she had said but Ephiny understood.

In front of her Gabrielle heaved a resigned sigh and dropped her hands. "You know what, Eph?"

The Amazon cleared her mind of her thoughts and turned her attention to a waiting Gabrielle. "What?"

Gabrielle smiled. "I decided, I like it."


Darkness had fallen over the village by now. A huge campfire was roaring in the centre of the square. Its flames painting everything in shades of orange, red and ochre.

Pale eyes studied the action going on around them. Long arms were crossed over a chest and a very noticeable scowl was on chiselled features.

Noticeable enough so that even the bravest among the Amazons had decided to give the tall form its space.

Her mood hadn't improved since Melosa had left. Urging her again to reconsider her decision. Telling her what a great opportunity this would be for her. Telling her that it would be for a good cause. It was their lives they were talking about. And she had been right.

But leading an army again also meant returning to be someone she so desperately tried to escape from. She knew that she couldn't hide from that part of herself but she could try and learn to control it. And the last two days had shown her that there was so much more she could be. Friend ... lover ... playmate ...

And there was no way she was going to give this up again.

Melosa hadn't been thrilled. Reminding her again that there was a prize on her head. By that time she had been very close to losing her temper. And not knowing where Gabrielle had disappeared to hadn't help any. So she had turned a cold look at Melosa and said she would think about it when they returned to Amphipolis.

Obviously that had been enough to appeal to the Amazon Queen and Melosa had left.

But it had also put this warrior into a real bad mood. She looked around again. Searching for a familiar pale head.

Just something I have to take care of ... she says ... I'll be right back ... she says ... Xena's brows wrinkled even more and she narrowed her eyes at an Amazon wearing a mask that headed her way. Great .. another featherhead ...

The Amazon was rather small and Xena tilted her head a little. Her eyes scanning the small frame with more interest. Noticing quite despite herself a very nice looking body. And gentle curves softly outlined by the light leather she wore.

And then she swallowed. Recognising the little swagger to those slim hips.

Small hands reached up to remove the mask. Revealing blonde locks and a smiling face.

Pale eyes slowly travelled down the small frame. And she felt her own body warm in a very nice way.

Gabrielle stepped closer and pointed at the seat to her left. "Is that taken?"

Now at very close range to all the exposed skin Xena couldn't help the sultry smile playing around her lips. She raised a brow and leaned back. Her eyes very obviously moving up and down Gabrielle's body.

"What is it worth to you?"

And then she was face to face with deep green eyes. Soft breath caressing her cheek as Gabrielle leaned closer to her ear and whispered: "Everything."


- 24 -


For all she cared it could have been centaurs dressed in frilly dresses dancing around the campfire.

Or something ...

She wasn't aware of anything but Gabrielle.

She reached for another mug of wine. Trying to get rid of her suddenly very dry throat. I wonder how long they expect us to stay at this party. Her mind alive with images. Touches. Soft whispers. Even softer skin...

Pale eyes turned to the side looking at Gabrielle who was taking in the proceedings around them with bright, interested eyes. Mmh.

"Hey, Gabrielle ... the joining part is over and ..."

"Yeah, that was nice, wasn't it? I liked the little speech Melosa held."

Speech? "Uh ... right, yeah ... that was nice ... but um ... I was wondering ..."

Green eyes looked at her and a fair brow raised in question. A faintly teasing smirk playing around red lips.

"I ... " Inwardly Xena was shaking her head at herself. Not quite believing that she was stumbling over her words like some teenager with her first crush. She was still trying to come up with a nice way to say: Let's go back to our hut. ... Without seeming too pushy.

And felt a small hand cup her face. Felt gentle fingers caress her skin. "Are you asking me to go back to the hut so we can make love?" No teasing. Only a gentle smile. Warm green eyes.


And was rewarded with soft lips as Gabrielle kissed her. She watched in a daze as the small frame got up and held out a hand. The pale head tilting to one side. Still no teasing. Only a gentle smile. Warm green eyes.

She swallowed. Not aware of anything beyond Gabrielle. The world could have crumbled all around them. Her anchor to sanity a pair of green eyes...

Getting up she took the smaller hand into her own. And for a brief moment was back in Potedeia over ten years ago. Remembering big green eyes and a sunny smile. And a feeling of coming home she finally recognised, now.

She pulled the smaller frame close - and not caring who was watching lifted her up into her arms. Smaller arms settling around her neck.

"I love you, Gabrielle."

Blinking green eyes and soft fingers that traced down her jaw. Touching their foreheads together. "... love you, too ..." A trembling whisper.


She had no idea how they ended up in their hut.

They stood in the middle of the small room. Looking at each other. Smiling at each other.

And she lowered the precious bundle in her arms down on the bed. Their lips touching softly while she slowly, ever so slowly let her hands ran up and down warm skin.

Her fingers peeled away soft, warm leather. And she couldn't help but notice that they were shaking. This time there was a slight teasing tone in the warm voice. "You do know how do this, right?"

She chuckled softly. "I'm not sure anymore."

Small hands brushed through dark locks. "Will it hurt?" A hesitant whisper.

"A little, yes." She kissed Gabrielle again. Capturing small hands she raised Gabrielle's arms above her head, entwining their fingers and deeping their kiss as she gently lowered her body down. Touching their naked skin together. Swallowing as she saw green eyes flutter close at the contact. "I try to be as gentle as I can. I promise."

Deep green eyes opened. "I trust you, Xena."

What do you answer to that? She exhaled softly and kissed her again. Whispering: " ... thank you ... " Their lips still touching.

And then she left them reluctantly. Moving her way down soft, downy skin. Losing herself in warmth and love. And soft moans that drifted down to her.



A breathless moan that drifted down to her as she slowly, gently withdrew her fingers from their warm haven.

She kissed the trembling thighs next to her and slowly moved up the small frame – making sure to caress and kiss every inch of soft skin she passed.

Until they were face to face again and green eyes fluttered open to meet her gaze and a slightly trembling hand reached up to caress her face. Brushing away dark, sweat soaked bangs. Closing her eyes she leaned into the gentle touch.

" ... hey ... " A soft whisper.

" ... hey yourself ... " She whispered back.

Their lips met again. Soft. Lingering. And she found herself humming into the kiss. Causing Gabrielle to smile. Feeling the motion through their still joined lips.

The small frame snuggled up to her and long arms closed around it. Tanned hands caressing a warm back until the soft breathing evened out. Telling Xena that Gabrielle had fallen asleep.

Pale eyes closed in silent wonder. Never in her dreams had she imagined it could be like this.

To touch her...

To taste her...

To feel the small frame trembling in her arms...

A soft sigh stirred the quiet air.

She was happy. It was as simple as that. I'm hopelessly in love. ... and I'm happy ... gods ...

From outside faint sounds drifted in. The crackling of dying embers. Soft sounds of wind brushing through leaves.

Pale blue eyes blinked open. Looking down at the naked body snuggled against her own.

Was it possible to be that happy?


- 25 -




Pale eyes surveyed the camp. Taking in the hundreds of moving bodies. Horses. Weapons. Sounds that drifted to her.

Not really seeing any of them.

Not feeling the cold wind that had gained in strength and flapped her cape around her body. That was dancing through long, dark hair.

Was it possible to be that happy? Her jaw clenched and long hands tightened into fists. The urge to scream almost overwhelming.

The sky was still dark. Heavy clouds being chased by the wind raced across it. And a soft drizzle set in. She lay her head back. Closed her eyes. Hoping to drown in the softly splashing drops. A hesitantly cleared throat caught her attention and she turned around.

Pale eyes looking at a woman standing there. Knowing she once remembered her name. Not that it matters, right?


She tilted her head. Wordlessly encouraging the woman, an Amazon, to continue.

Ephiny swallowed and took a deep breath. There was so much she wanted to say. Something ... anything ... to see the pain and grief fade in those pale eyes but she knew there was nothing to say. Not anymore.

"There ... there's someone who wants to talk to you."

A dark brow raised in surprise.

"Should I escort him to your tent?"

The dark head turned again. Dark locks dancing in the wind around hard, chiselled features. Ephiny saw Xena's chest move in a silent sigh and then blue eyes turned to her again.

"Yes." Low. Hoarse.

Ephiny watched the tall form enter the tent again and turned around. Heading to a group of Amazons guarding a young man. Tall. Sandy-blond hair. And strikingly blue eyes.

"Okay, let's go."


Lyceus exhaled softly and then entered the dark tent. His eyes needing a moment to adjust to the dim light.


He looked around and finally made out a dark form in the back of the tent. He moved slowly forward. Not sure how to approach his sister.


They looked at each other for a long silent moment. Lyceus trying to find traces of a sister he once knew. Who had taught him how to catch fish. How to ride horses. Who used to ruffle his hair. A sister whose pale eyes had been alive with warmth and mirth.

But the pale eyes looking back at him now were ... He exhaled. Oh, they were alive. But with a fire so different from what he once knew. And yet so lost...

He broke their gaze and looked around the tent. Spotting a chair nearby. "Do you mind if I sit down?"

She simply shrugged and motioned with a hand to go ahead.

He sat down. Resting his hands on his legs. Trying to hide his nervousness. Feeling very uncomfortable in Xena's presence. Something he thought would never happen. He thought would be impossible.

"What do you want?"

He looked up. Gods, even her voice had changed. It was still low but ... He frowned a little. Hoarse as if she had been screaming for a long time ...

He cleared his throat. "I ... I want to talk to you about ..." He gestured towards the entry of the tent. Meaning the army and everything else outside. "...this."

A low chuckle and he saw that she had sat down as well. Her hands playing with a ... he squinted ... piece of light-coloured cloth.


"Why?! Xena ... you're on your way towards Rome!! ... This ... this is madness!"

The dark head simply tilted to one side. Pale eyes looking at him without revealing any emotions. Only the grip on the cloth intensified. Obvious by the way her knuckles turned white due to the pressure they were under.

He leaned forward. Hoping to break through to her. "Xena, this has to stop somewhere! ... This isn't a solution." His voice became quieter.

Her eyes narrowed. "A solution?"

Lyceus swallowed. He knew that he was treading on thin ice. But ... Five years. Five godsbedamned years! "You freed Greece. Why not stop now, huh? Is it worth to risk all their lives because ..." He fell silent. Cursing himself for the slip of tongue.

The tall form got up, turning away. "It's over when I hold Caesar's head in my hands. ... It's over when I feel his warm blood running through my fingers. ... It's over when I say it's over." There was no malice in the low voice. She was very obviously only stating a fact.

He got up as well. Stepping up to her not willing to give up just yet. But also not quite sure why he even bothered to reason with her.

"Xena ... I ... understand that it is hard for you. I know that you hurt. ... But ..."

She turned around slowly, ever so slowly and pale eyes were burning right through him. She took one step in his direction. Close enough to touch. And yet years away...

"You ... have ... no ... idea ... how ... much ... I ... hurt ..." The words were quiet and yet forceful. Causing him to swallow nervously.

He wanted to say something but she shook her head. "You have no idea what he took from me." Her voice became a whisper. " ... no idea ... "

She turned away again. Her hands still clutching at the cloth.

Lyceus took a breath. Knowing that this might be his only chance to save his sister's soul. Throwing caution to the wind he said: "Gabrielle is dead, Xena. ... This war won't bring her back."

Silence. She didn't even move. And the tent was alive with a tension he could have sworn was tangible. And then he heard a pained whisper. " ... Gabrielle ... "

Taking this as a sign that he had got through to her, he nodded even if she couldn't see it. "And I'm sure she'll be waiting for you in the Elysian Fields. ... You'll be together again, Xena. Just..."

The words died on his lips as Xena turned around. The look in her eyes causing him to take a step back.

"Elysian Fields?" Her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Do you honestly believe the likes of me are going to end up in the Elysian Fields?" She obviously didn't expect him to answer because she continued. "This ... " Her hands lifted, indicated something beyond the confines of the tent. Her voice pained. "This was my chance, Lyceus! The only chance I ever had. ... My chance to do it right!"

He swallowed as he saw tears running down her face.

"My only chance to love her ... care for her ... be with her ... " Her voice gained in volume. "And he took that from me. .. He took her from me."

She fell silent. Only looking at him. And her eyes shining with a grief and pain ... He swallowed again but not able to come up with anything to say.

"You were right ... I hurt. .... I hurt so bad I don't know how I manage not to scream all the time. ... how I survive yet another day. ... I'm bleeding, Lyceus. Deep down. Everything that had been her ... he tore that out with a dull knife. ... And I'm going to make him pay for it."

"It won't make the pain stop." He didn't know where he took the courage from to say that. Surprised when he saw her smile at that. A faint, almost amused smile.

"No it won't."

And with that she turned away again. Her tall form emerging in the dark in the back of the tent. "Goodbye, Lyceus."


No reaction and he exhaled softly. Turning around hesitantly, his eyes always flickering back but she didn't stop him. But he wasn't ready to give up. "Do you think that's what she would have wanted?"

Her eyes were two points of light in the dark. "No. ... But it's what I need. ... It's all that keeps me from going insane."

Lyceus didn't know what to respond to that. So he dropped his head and sighed softly. "Goodbye, Xena."

The soft sound of the flap the only indication that he had left. The tall form seemed to lose in height as broad shoulders dropped in silent defeat. And then the dark head buried in the warm cloth her hands held. Her mind alive with images from a time when there had been light. Warmth. Love.

A deep sigh. "... all I need ..."


- 26 -



The shuffling of hooves. Birds. Small creatures. It were those sounds that slowly intruded into the pleasant haze of her sleep. She exhaled slowly and blinked blue eyes open. Smiling against soft, warm skin.

Gabrielle lay on her stomach. One arm stretched out to one side and her own taller frame resting half on top of her back. Their fingers entwined where they met outside of their bedroll.

Soft warm rays of the morning sun were dancing across the clearing they had made camp in yesterday. The grass around them steaming gently. Dew sparkling brilliantly on thin blades of grass which were swaying slightly due to the weight.

She kissed the soft skin so conveniently close by. " ... hey, sleepyhead ... " A unintelligible mumble answered her and she smiled again. Now she licked a slowly moving shoulder. Waiting for a moment - and getting a soft moan this time.

She moved her kisses slowly to Gabrielle's neck. Brushing blonde locks to one side. Nibbling at a small ear. "... hey ..."

The smaller frame moved and turned to one side. Snuggling closer and Xena saw a small smile play around those soft lips. She released Gabrielle's hand and gentle fingers started tracing soft flesh.

And then sleepy green eyes blinked open and Gabrielle rolled onto her back. Looking up at her. Raising a hand and smoothing out dark brows.

Xena stilled her tracing and rubbed a flat stomach. "Morning."

A sleepy smile. "Morning ..."

They kissed and despite herself her motion on Gabrielle's belly turned into a teasing caress. She broke their kiss slowly and was about to remove her hand when a smaller one came to rest on top of her own.

"Didn't say that I mind, did I?"

Xena smirked. Well, breakfast could wait...


It was a beautiful day. Sunny but not too hot. A gentle breeze rifling through leaves and blonde and dark locks.

Xena was leading Argo, walking next to Gabrielle who was talking animatedly. Their hands clasped together. She was listing with a small smile on her lips, enjoying the sound of Gabrielle's voice as much as the story she was relating.

Funny really, the way she was aware of her surroundings. She noticed flowers near the road, little birds in the trees, the soft humming of bees. The way blonde locks moved with every step. The faint scent that was Gabrielle.

She tilted her head a little. Her eyes tracing Gabrielle gentle features, the soft downy skin that covered her face. And then she became aware of green eyes looking at her expectantly. Oops.


Gabrielle smirked and moved closer. Leaning her smaller frame against her side and her arm settled in an almost unconscious gesture across her shoulders.

"I asked how long it is going to take us before we reach the Thessalian border? ... Where were you, anyway?"

"Oh." She smiled sheepishly and blinked innocent blue eyes at twinkling green. "Just thinking... if we can keep this pace we should be at the border this evening. We can take a room at an inn in one of the small villages there."

"Ooh," Gabrielle cooed delighted. "And sleep in a real bed?"

Xena smiled and couldn't keep the sultry tone out of her voice. "Well,... sleep wasn't really what I had in mind, but ... yeah that could work, too."

The pale head dropped but not before she saw the expected blush. She chuckled softly and let go of Argo's halter. Closing her arms around Gabrielle and rocking her gently.

"Hey ... I was only teasing."

A slow exhale warmed her chest and then green eyes raised to look at her. "I ... I really like what we ... do ..., you know? I ... it's ... I never expected that it could feel like this." The blush deepened and Gabrielle dropped her gaze. Her fingers tracing the edge of dark leather. "Sometimes I look at you and...and I think about you touching me...or me touching you and..."

A helpless shrug and the pale head buried against her chest.

Xena had listened in silent wonder and now dropped a gentle kiss on the pale head resting against her chin. "There's nothing wrong with that. You know that, right?"

The pale head nodded. A motion Xena felt more than she saw it. "Good. Because I really enjoy making love with you. And all I want is that you enjoy it, as well."

"I do. Very much." A soft whisper. A soft caress of breath against her skin.

She tightened her hold on Gabrielle and for a small eternity there wasn't anything beyond them and the gentle warmth they were basking in.


- 27 -




She sat in her tent. Not knowing how much time had passed since Lyceus had left. But his words had reopened a wound so deep ... Had made her remember that day five years ago. She swallowed. Her entire body cramping remembering the pain that had settled on her soul then...

The village hadn't been big. A handful of houses. A stable. An inn. Sounds of sheep and goats. The faint noises of bells they were wearing ringing in odd harmony.

And to this day she tried to find out what she had missed...

Because suddenly they had been face to face with a Roman legion. Led by Marius.

She'd turned to Gabrielle, taking a deep breath. "Okay, little one. Get up on Argo."

Confused green eyes had looked at her until understanding clouded them and the small frame took a step away from her. "Don't Xena ... don't you dare send me away!"

She had swallowed, steeling herself against the pain. "Gabrielle, we don't have time to argue about this! Get up on that horse!"

Gabrielle had shaken her head. Tears running down her face. She had taken a step forward. Cupping the small face in her hands. Her thumbs wiping at tears. "Please, little one ... Take Argo and return to the Amazons. You should be save there."

" ... Xena ... " A choked whisper.

"I follow." If I can.

And Gabrielle must have seen something in her eyes because suddenly small arms had hugged her waist tightly and a pale head had buried against her chest. Choked sobs barely audible.

She had closed her eyes. And then ducked her head. Touching her lips to soft ones waiting for her. Imprinting the sensation in her heart. In her soul. Sealing it away deep down...

They had broken apart and a small hand had come up to touch her face in a soft caress. "I love you, Xena."

She choked back tears and captured the small hand in her own. Raising those soft fingers to her lips. "I love you, too, little one."

And then she had watched as Gabrielle got up on the pale mare. That one last look burning right through her...

Had watched her leave.

There really wasn't much she remembered after that.






And then there had been darkness and her only thought ...Gabrielle ... Gabrielle ... Gabrielle...

She'd awoken in a tent furnished with furs, pillows. Chairs and a table. Maps. And dark eyes had looked at her triumphantly. He had walked up to her - a sickly sweet smile on his face. A smooth low voice mocking her.

"How the mighty has fallen, huh, Xena?"

She had tried to move but had found herself bound to a tent pole. She'd looked around wildly, trying to locate Gabrielle. And he had laughed. "You know, you were becoming more of a problem than I first expected. ... You surprised me. ... And I don't like to be surprised. "

His flat hand had struck her. Splitting her lips. But she hadn't felt anything - her mind trying to remember where Gabrielle had been before she was captured. Had she escaped on Argo as she had told her to? Oh gods ... please let her be all right ...

Caesar had obviously been annoyed at her unresponsiveness. He'd struck her again but she'd simply looked at him and then ... Then Marius had entered the tent and whispered something to the dark-haired Roman.

And she had been dragged from the tent out into the camp. Roman soldiers forming an alley she'd been led through.

Caesar talking in an entertaining voice. "You know, Xena ... I thought about simply killing you. ... It would have entertained me but ... with your death it would have been over. And I thought to myself no, that's not what I want to do. ... I want to destroy you, Xena. Body and soul."

They had arrived at a cleared area.

And then her world had crumbled into a million little pieces. Piercing through her soul. Through her heart. Blinding her mind.

They had tied her to a tree. Her pale shirt torn by countless lash marks. Her blonde hair dirty. Bloody.

She remembered screaming.

Caesar had just kept on talking. A smile playing on his lips. "And then Marius here told me about a little blonde you were travelling with. ... That caught my attention."

They had got closer to the unmoving form. She had not idea how she had managed to keep breathing. And her soul had been very slowly swallowed up by darkness.

It had been creeping through every vein in her body. Settling somewhere close beneath her skin. Making it tingle and she had very slowly straightened. Her eyes never leaving pale skin darkened by bruises.

"And then there was someone who was very interested in three hundred thousand dinars." Next to him had a tall red-haired woman appeared. Theresa.The Amazon that had shown them the hut the night they had arrived at the village.

Caesar had chuckled as he had seen recognision in her eyes. "And just like that I had my tool to destroy you." He had nooded to the men that had kept her under control.

She hadn't felt anything. Had only noticed that the sky had clouded over and a soft drizzle started. Turning into heavy rain with every passing minute. With every passing blow of fists. Had seen the guards walking up to Gabrielle's body. Cutting it lose from the tree. Had seen in slow motion as she had hit the wet ground with a soft thud.

Had she been screaming again?

And then one of the men had kicked the unmoving body.

And she had felt her hands tighten into fists. Her fingers straining under the pressure.

Marius had leaned close to her. An ugly smile on his face. "And she had been as good a fuck as I thought the first time I saw her."

And then the world had exploded inside her head.

His neck had snapped without a lot of resistance in her hands. Theresa's chest had ripped open as easily as she'd plunged his dagger deep into the flesh.

Had the hoarse cries been hers?

She had lost count of how many she'd killed.

Her body had been trenched in blood and rain.

There had been nothing but darkness.

And blood.

And screams.

... and pain ...


- 28 -


Pale eyes fluttered close and a pained whimper stirred through the quiet air. Her body was trembling with the urge to hit something ... anything ... and with a scream she threw the chair Lyceus had sat on through the tent. Watching it splitting against a tent support.

She dropped to her knees and buried her face into her hands. Trying to drown out the memories.

But they kept flowing through her mind...

Kept whispering...

" ... Gabrielle ..." A pained whisper. But it might as well could have been a scream.


The next thing she'd remembered was her arms holding a beaten and broken small frame. Rocking it gently.

"... hey, little one ... we need to get going here. Mum's waiting." She'd kissed cold lips. Stroken stray blonde locks behind a small ear. Traced its shape. Remembered laughing. "You know ... I never knew anyone who was ticklish at their ears. ... "

The rain had turned into a heavy downpour. Thick drops exploding on her skin. She'd covered Gabrielle's face and had shaken her a little. "C'mon, sleepyhead. ... Wake up!" And her voice had gained in volume. "You're scaring me!"

And then green eyes had fluttered open. Ever so slightly.

And a trembling hand had lifted up to her face. Caressing her face. Wiping at tears. And a soft whisper had drifted up to her. "... love you ..." And then there had been silence.

And she'd been screaming until she had no voice left.

And she had felt herself falling. Falling in an abyss deep and dark. And yet so familiar and comforting she'd hopelessly ... gratefully ... helplessly ... drowned in it ...


- 29 -


Strange how blood tends to form into little balls when dropping on marble. It was rolling along the white, polished surface until it was caught by plush carpets.

Pale eyes were looking at him for a long silent moment. The dark head now and then tilting to one side. Around him were his guards. Not that any of them could help him now. Those that had kept their heads were dead nevertheless.

And he was alone with the tall, bloody form standing before him.

He swallowed as she took a step closer. Those pale eyes filled with ... madness, rage ... and yet they seemed so lost...

He had created a monster five years ago and as all man-made creatures tend to do she had turned on him in a vengeful war. Had pulverised his legions. Had kept moving steadily towards Rome. In his arrogance he had never thought that she could make it. She freed Greece - that was one thing but defeating the Roman Empire had seemed impossible.

"How the mighty has fallen, huh, Caesar?"

Her low voice sounding eerily through the silent room. Through the huge windows a chilly breeze blew in, whispering through thick curtains.

He searched his mind in a desperate attempt to come up with something to stall her. Maybe make her change her mind.

"Look Xena ... " He shifted a little. The hard, cold marble hurting his knees. "Let's make a deal. I was about to announce myself the Emperor of Rome. ... I ... I could make you one of the most powerful women in the entire world."

Xena had turned her back to him. Her eyes travelling beyond the scenery outside. Beyond impressive structures and temples. Beyond gently rolling hills. Beyond a deep-blue sky and a slowly setting sun.

She felt numb ... hollow ... and the pain inside hadn't eased a bit. A silent sigh.

"Bring her back."

Caesar frowned at the quiet whisper. "Huh?"

The tall frame turned again. Looking at him with those eyes. "Bring her back."

It took a moment for the meaning of those words to register with him and he shook his head a little. Surely this wasn't what the war had been all about, right? Some little ... blonde she'd been sleeping with?

"I'm offering you Rome, Xena. ... And all you can think of is some ... " He fell silent as her eyes narrowed.

She took a few steps closer to him and crouched in front of him. "Remember what you said that day? ... You wanted to break me. Body and soul. ... And you did."

The tall frame got up again. Pale eyes straying across the room. Lingering for a few moments on the dead bodies around them.

"You had it tied, beaten and broken, to a tree. ... "

He moved nervously. Her quiet almost contemplating voice sounding strangely displaced.

"Xena, think about it ... Rome! You could have any legion you want. I offer you the world!"

She actually laughed at that.

And then he heard the soft hissing sound swords make when you move them very fast and he saw light glittering on polished metal and his last thought was 'how strange that it doesn't hurt.'

Pale eyes watched the head tumble to the floor. Blood spraying across the shiny surface.

"I had love. What do I need the world for?" A soft whisper.


- 30 -




The small lake was calm. Its surface only now and then broken by fish coming up to catch a fly. Or by tiny creatures hurrying across the water. Sunlight glittering on the water, breaking in myriad of colours.

It was quiet.

It was peaceful.

A soft breeze ruffling through leaves. Through slightly swaying blades of grass.

Through dark hair.

Across closed eyelids. And an unmoving tall frame laying in the grass.

But suddenly the air was stirred by more than a breeze.

And then a small hand came to rest on the still face. Smoothing out furrowed dark brows. Tracing down the chiselled features in a soft caress. Lingering on red lips for a small eternity.

And a gently voice whispered:

"Come home, warrior."






"....Wie ich mich müde zurücklehne, zuckt Schmerz auf. Aber ich weiß es nun so sicher wie damals: Du liebtest mich doch ... Und das ist es, warum ich nun weinen kann."

Thomas Mann



The End




Thanks for reading. If you want to write me what you think about the story ... or if you want to complain about the end <smile> ... you're welcome to do so.

My email-address: gritjahning@hotmail.com

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