A Visit Home, An Awakening

by Frau Hunter Ash

Disclaimers:  The usual rundown - I don't own Xena, Gabrielle, Argo or Gabrielle's family. This story is written for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended. Don't bother suing me - it really wouldn't be worth it.

Sex/Subtext: Yup and it's between two consenting adults of the same gender. If this is illegal in your state or country, or if you are under 18 years of age, leave. Wait until you're older or change your laws.
If this type of story bugs you, sorry, find something else.

Violence: Nope, just thoughts of throwing someone through a window but our warrior is patient for once.

Summary: A "first time" story with Xena and Gabrielle visiting Gabrielle's family and the relationship between them being forced to the surface.

Feedback: Definitely! Please! Beg, beg!

 Revised: June, 2001

Gabrielle had finally broken away from her mother and her endless questions.  The bard was tired and irritable.  She and Xena had been at Gabrielle's home for two days, and nights, and the bard was more than ready to leave.

As she slowly walked around the house, heading for the barn, she stopped.  The little Amazon realized that she was more than ready to leave, in more ways than one.  Gabrielle stood looking at the barn door, as if trying to make a decision.  The bard nodded to herself and changed direction, heading for the pen that held the goats, picking up the food bucket, as she moved. 

Unknown to Gabrielle, her mother Hecuba was standing at the kitchen window, watching her daughter, reading the young woman's body language with a frown.  The older woman was well aware that Xena was in the barn attending to her horse, Argo and now Gabrielle was moving away from the barn.

The last two days had been tense and it was tearing at Hecuba to see her daughter withdrawn and obviously upset.  No matter what questions the worried mother asked, she wasn't getting any answers from her daughter.  The bard's mother could sense that Gabrielle was at a crossroads.

Gabrielle was also wondering the same thing, as she fed the goats. 

The bard would have also used the description of a crossroads to describe her thought process.  It just seemed time for decisions and Gabrielle was not thrilled with any of the choices or paths.  The blond unconsciously brushed a hair back from her forehead and reflected again on how tired she was.  Countless nights of fitful sleep, long days spent feeling tense, were beginning to take a toll on the small woman. She was tired and she was tired of being tired.

She was also tired of being frustrated. 

If Hecuba was a little closer she would see a familiar setting of the bard's jaw. The bard replaced the bucket and headed for the barn.

Argo nudged the warrior when Xena's hand stopped brushing the horse, the warrior lost in thought.  Xena smiled at her horse and continued the brushing and talking. 

"It's probably a good thing you can't talk back, girl. You'd probably tell me I'm an idiot too. Gods, this is hard." Xena leaned her head forward and buried her face in Argo's mane for a moment.

She hated visiting Gabrielle's family.  Gabrielle's father barely tolerated the warrior and the bard's mother kept trying to play matchmaker for her runaway daughter.  Lila, Gabrielle's little sister, was filled with questions, almost as curious about things as her older sister.  Each family member seemed determined to drive the usually stoic warrior out of her mind. 

Gabrielle had finally suggested that Xena see to Argo for awhile so she could help her mother with lunch.  Xena had quickly seized the opportunity and almost dashed out the door, leaving the bard to fend for herself and now Xena was feeling guilty about that too.

Gabrielle opened the door slowly and slipped inside, not surprised to see her best friend Xena tending to Argo.  Earlier the bard had given the warrior an easy out by suggesting that Xena look in on Argo and escape the bard's mother's endless questioning.

Gabrielle was surprised that Xena hadn't heard her come in; this was highly unusual, and the bard decided to take advantage of it, standing a moment, watching Xena brush Argo's coat and mane.  The bard felt a familiar heat beginning in her loins and spreading throughout her body, as she watched the warrior's muscles rippling with each long brush stroke. Gabrielle quickly fought her heartbeat back to a more regular rhythm.

"Gods, Argo, I have to be more patient. I can't strangle her father, I can't strangle her father, I can't strangle her father." Xena whispered, resuming her brushing.

The fierce warrior spun around rapidly on her heels, face blushing bright red when she heard a giggle behind her.  She tried to stammer something out when she caught Gabrielle's green eyes laughing at her.  The young bard was holding her ribs, trying not to fall to the floor laughing.  Xena tried glaring at her friend and that only succeeded in making the blond laugh even harder.  Gabrielle finally caught her breath and closed the barn door.

"Gods, Xena. Don't you think I feel the same way!?" she giggled, watching the warrior resume brushing the horse with a scowl on her face. .

"I know, sorry I left you alone in there." Xena mumbled.

The battle scarred warrior was surprised but pleased when Gabrielle's arms circled around her and she found herself in a tight hug.

"It's okay, I figured I had to get you out of there before you threw him through the window." the bard giggled again.

Xena was very aware of how hot she suddenly was.  As her breath began to quicken, the warrior found herself closing her eyes and leaning back into the embrace. 

Gabrielle leaned into the warrior, relishing the scent that was uniquely Xena: leather, soap root, and musk.  With a start, the bard realized she was rubbing her face against Xena's leather top and holding the warrior tight.  A roaring filled her ears and she felt her entire body flush with heat. 

The warrior suddenly realized that she was about to turn and take the bard in her arms and kiss the small woman.  She straightened up and felt Gabrielle's arms leave her. 

Gabrielle quickly backed up out of the hug, trying to catch her breath.

Xena kept from whimpering but only from years of self-taught control.  Then, when she thought she could face Gabrielle, she turned. 

Looking deep in Gabrielle's eyes, the warrior almost lost all that control but managed to hold firm.  Gabrielle seemed just as lost in the moment as both seemed frozen in place.

The barn door slammed open, breaking the spell between the two women and both blinked in the sunlight and intrusion.  Lila rushed in with a frustrated look on her face.

"There you two are! Lunch time!" and she was gone again.

Xena noticed Gabrielle blushing, eyes downcast and stammering. "I... we should go in."

"Uh huh." Xena agreed.  Gabrielle quickly turned and was gone after her sister, leaving a stunned warrior holding a brush with a puzzled look on her face.

"Argo," she whispered, "what just happened?"

Lila grabbed her older sister's arm, stopping the bard, looking back at the barn door and realizing that Xena wasn't stepping through immediately, Lila turned to Gabrielle.

"Well?" she demanded.

"Well what?"

"Did you tell her how you feel?" the youngster snapped.

"No, of course not! I've told you, she doesn't care for me like that!" Gabrielle snapped back, beginning to walk back to the house again.  Lila caught up with her sister.

"Looks like it to me!" Lila protested.

"We sleep under the same blankets every night, I'm in her arms every night, we eat together, bathe together, sleep together and she hasn't shown any interest in me sexually.  She thinks I'm a kid." Gabrielle complained.

"I think you're both hooked and won't admit it to each other!"

"Glad you think so, I'm the one living with this!" Gabrielle stopped dead in the middle of the common yard and glared at Lila.  "It's torture, Lila. My body and soul ache just to touch her.  I almost just kissed her!"

"Do it! What can you lose?"

"My best friend and I couldn't live with that." Gabrielle whispered. 

Xena kicked at a non-existent pebble as she walked back towards the family home.  She was confused and that always made her grumpy.  She hated not being in control and the one thing she was NOT in control of was her feelings towards her best friend. Xena didn't know when she had fallen totally in love with the bard but she had finally admitted it, at least to herself.  To no one else, of course.  Well, Argo didn't count, she thought with a sarcastic smile. 

The problem was that she knew the bard wasn't interested in women sexually and only thought of Xena as her best friend.  It was beginning to drive the warrior crazy.  With the cool fall weather they were spending every night under the same blankets, the bard in Xena's arms.  The warrior had lost count of how many nights she had lain awake with the blond sleeping peacefully in her arms.  Xena didn't know how many times she had leaned down and kissed the bard softly on the hair, the forehead and finally the lips, careful not to wake the young woman.  Every muscle and fiber of her being wanting to take the bard and make love to her. 

It was becoming more and more of a distraction. Xena found herself thinking of the blonde every other minute.  Gabrielle's hair shining in the sun; the movement of Gabrielle's well toned body as she dried her hair and body after a swim or bath was enough to almost bring tears to the warrior's eyes in frustration; Gabrielle's muscles rippling as she practiced with her staff; the thoughts of the bard's hands as the young woman slowly removed her boots at night; the contented sigh she always gave when she settled into Xena's arms.  Xena smacked a house pillar, hoping to distract herself, somehow.

'Some self-punishment streak,' the warrior decided, admitting that she was torturing herself slowly.

No one seemed to notice that Gabrielle was quiet during lunch, something really unusual for the young woman.  Her mother had noticed the dark circles under her daughter's eyes and had commented on it several times with a disapproving click of her tongue, eyes glaring at the warrior.

Gabrielle clenched her jaw, the familiar setting that warned most anyone who knew her that she was tense and her infamous stubborn streak was about to show itself.  The bard looked over and saw Xena concentrating on her food, her jaw also clenched.  Gabrielle was confused. At times, Hecuba questioned her about the men she met, wondering if there were any she was interested in and then her mother would turn around and ask detailed questions about Xena, as if sizing up a potential mate for Gabrielle. 

The bard knew that her father could barely stand having the warrior around but tolerated her so that he could see Gabrielle.  The bard knew that he still blamed Xena for his daughter running off to the road, following the warrior woman and pursuing the dream of being a bard.  Hecuba was more receptive of the warrior, but uncomfortable at the same time.  Gabrielle wanted to scream. 

Xena clenched her jaw again.  She too had noticed Gabrielle wasn't sleeping well lately and had done everything she could think of to help her bard but she was at a loss as to what to do and having Gabrielle's mother point out her failing didn't help Xena's mood any.

"Are you sure you're all right, Gabrielle?" her mother asked again.

"I'm fine!" the bard snapped.

"Hey, don't talk to your mother in that tone, young lady!" Herdoctus threatened, pointing a finger at his oldest daughter.

"I'm just worried about you," Hecuba said softly.

"I'm fine, Mother."

"You could visit your mother a little more often! You act as if you don't care about her feelings.  Leaving here with only a brief note!" Herdoctus' voice began to rise.

"Traveling around, putting yourself in danger, of course she's worried!"

"Stop it, both of you! I'm fine, I'm doing what I want to be doing! Can't you let it alone?"  Before tears could escape the green eyes, the bard had jumped up and rushed out through the kitchen.

Xena knew that visiting her parents had been bothering Gabrielle but now she could see it was also wearing on the bard's nerves.

Lila kept her eyes fixed on her food and Gabrielle's parents faces were bright red.

Xena stood up slowly, "I think I'll take Argo out for a ride, excuse me."  she carried her dishes to the kitchen and looked out the back door.  She frowned when she didn't see her bard anywhere in sight.  She sighed, hoping to find the young woman in the stable, knowing Xena would follow but she was disappointed not to find Gabrielle there.

Xena began feeding Argo an apple and tired to sort things out, especially her feelings.

Gabrielle hit the back door running, and didn't stop until she was through the fields and running by a stream.  The bard finally collapsed beside a familiar old oak, gasping for air and trying not to cry.

The bard sank further to the ground with her back to the tree, welcoming the shade and the soothing sound of the water rushing by over the rocks.  She crossed her arms over her knees and rested her head.  It was then that she finally let loose and began crying.

After awhile the tears had finally slowed down and she leaned back against the tree.  She closed her eyes and let her body relax.

"You know you were always my favorite tree when I was a kid," she said simply to the tree behind her.  "You always listened and you never told another soul of my doubts, my dreams, my fears or my pain.  I'm glad you're still here, old friend."

"Gabrielle?" a tentative voice questioned.

The bard opened her eyes and smiled at her younger sister standing nearby.  "Hey," she answered and motioned her sibling to sit down with her.

"Hey," Lila sat down looking around.  "I come here when Dad gets angry."

"Was my favorite spot when I was home." Gabrielle said with a smile.

"Want to talk?" Lila picked up a rock, and tossed it into the stream.

"Yeah, I need to talk to someone." Gabrielle hesitated, "I'm leaving tonight."

"I didn't know you two were leaving until tomorrow."

"I'm leaving alone." the bard whispered.

"What? Without Xena?!" Lila demanded, and saw Gabrielle's eyes filling with tears.

"Yes, I can't take it any longer!"  Again the bard's control broke and Lila took her bigger sister into her arms and held Gabrielle while she cried once again.  "I love her so much but I can't keep going the way it is and I can't stay here!"

"Where will you go?"

"Athens, I was accepted into the Academy there once, they'll have me again."

"You can't leave Xena, you two are just right for each other." Lila protested.

"I can't live like this!" the bard cried and Lila held her close.            

Xena had only taken Argo out for a short romp through the countryside, taking it easy on the horse.  The warrior knew if she released her feelings and translated them to the horse they might end up in Athens before Xena could think straight again.

She had come back before dusk, knowing the family would be expecting her for dinner and discussion afterwards.  The last thing she wanted to face was another meal and discussion with Gabrielle's family but she didn't want the bard to think Xena was avoiding her as well.  Again she had frowned when Gabrielle wasn't in the stable or nearby waiting for Xena.  Usually the bard sought her out when she needed comforting but lately the woman had been withdrawn and more quiet than usual.

Xena was wondering if Gabrielle was changing her mind about leaving the road.  Was her parent's arguments getting to the bard? She had left Xena once for marriage, for a simpler life and the warrior wondered if the bard was craving that again but struggling against her family's overbearing wishes.

The two sisters made their way back to the farm when it started getting close to dinner time.  Lila hurried off to feed and water the pack horse, while Gabrielle started towards the kitchen to help her mother with final dinner preparations.

The bard was puzzled to find the kitchen empty and voices, from the common room.  She moved across the room and started to open the door and stopped at the tone of her father's voice.  She knew that tone and it chilled her to the bone.  If Gabrielle had been fifteen she would have crept back out the door and headed right back to her favorite oak tree, maybe to even spend the night in its welcoming branches, but she wasn't and she was determined not to be afraid any longer.

"She can't leave here again! It's time she settled down and gave us grandchildren!" he snapped.

Gabrielle moved closer to the door and opened it a crack, listening with her jaw beginning to clench.

"You can't keep her here, Herdoctus.  She's not a farmer and she's a grown woman." Hecuba protested.

"You going against my wishes?" he hissed.

"No, of course not!" her mother's voice held a familiar tone: fear.  Gabrielle almost opened the door to throw her father through the window, but held tight.

"I thought this mess was behind us when she married Perdicus, but, not! Because of that damned warlord bitch, he goes and gets killed and our daughter takes up with that war-bitch again!" he yelled.

"It wasn't Xena's fault he died! It was that madwoman, Callisto."

Gabrielle's head was roaring and her eyes were hazing over with red.  She could feel her body trembling with the rage that was building inside of her.

Xena had decided to enter through the kitchen, the door being the closest to the barn area when she stopped suddenly and ducked back out the door as she spotted Gabrielle standing by the door separating the kitchen from the living area of the house.  Xena dared a glance around and saw her bard was listening at the door and Xena held her breath.  The body language of the younger woman was readable even in the twilight.  The bard was furious.

Gabrielle's fists were clenched, one at her side and the other on the door jam as she listened at the door.  Xena was surprised to see the bard's body trembling and she recognized the stubborn set of Gabrielle's jaw. Whenever Xena saw that familiar clenching she knew that she was in for an explosion or an unbending bard.  Xena knew people called her stubborn but most of them had never gone up against Gabrielle once the smaller woman had set her mind to something.  Xena smiled to herself, even the Conqueror of Nations gave in before her little bard.

Xena's curiosity was more than intense and she quietly left the doorway and made her way around to the window on just the other side of the doorway of where Gabrielle was listening.  She wanted to know what was causing Gabrielle such distress.

"I still say it's not right!" her father was saying loudly, Xena presumed to Gabrielle's mother.

"I agree.  Who will have her when she finally decides to settle down? After traveling with that she-demon! We were fortunate that Perdicus still wanted her, but he had been a soldier, after all." the voice of Gabrielle's mother reached the warrior and she found herself seeing red. 

Then Xena sagged against the wall and sat down with her back to it.  She could still hear everything but her strength seemed to have fled.

Were they right?  What man would want to settle with Gabrielle after being with Xena, one of the most feared warriors in the land.  One of the most feared women warriors of the land?  Was she cutting off Gabrielle's future?

"You know what they are saying about our daughter?" her father demanded.

"Don't," her mother's voice pleaded.

"You know what that stupid merchant said last week? Before he knew who I was?!" the father's voice was loud and angry.

"Please don't, I don't want to hear it. We hear good stories about them, too." her mother protested.

"Oh yes, the good that they do, rescuing people, doing good deeds but this is about the two of them together!" he raged.


"They actually think our daughter lies with that demon!" he ranted.

"Stop it!" her mother's voice went shrill.

Gabrielle felt a growl beginning in her throat. 

"I agree, it's time to stop this!" Gabrielle threw the door open and stormed into the common room, facing her father and mother, hands clenched and jaw muscles twitching.  The bard felt like she could spit fire, at the moment.

Xena's head snapped up at the sound of her bard's voice, sharp and calm but Xena could hear the tension undertones, but the warrior didn't dare risk a glance through the window, Gabrielle was probably right in the doorway across from her.

Xena's heart skipped a beat and she nearly died when Lila crawled around the corner.  Then the little sister signaled the warrior to keep quiet and crawled along the walkway to join the warrior.  She smiled and placed a finger on Xena's lips and pointed to the window.  Xena understood what Lila was saying, she did this often. Xena blushed a deep purple at having been busted spying on her best friend's family and then having Gabrielle's sister join her in that spying.

Gods, this was complicated!

"Gabrielle, please, we .... we...." her mother's voice stammered.

"Yes, I know, just discussing my future and your concern for me." Xena could almost see Gabrielle's clenched jaw and she saw Lila's eyes were wide and curious. "Yes, mother, I know.  What you both need to get through your heads is that I am where I want to be!  I don't care what anyone thinks about me!  I don't care what they whisper!  And I especially don't care what some idiot farmer thinks about my marriage potential!" Gabrielle's voice finally rose to a shout.

"But you'll want to marry someday!" her father protested.

"I want to get married now!" the bard snapped and wished she could take back the words.  This was not where she wanted the conversation to go but now it was too late.

Xena's heart sank and her head dropped forward.

"You do?  To whom?  Do we know him?" her mother's voice was excited.

"Yes, you know who I want for my bond-mate but it's not going to happen." Gabrielle muttered, trying to fight back tears.  Xena and Lila barely caught the words.

"What? Why not? Aren't you good enough?" her father demanded.

"It's not like that, Father.  I am in love, so deeply in love that no one else will ever touch my heart like this again, ever."

"Oh, Gabrielle, then what's the problem?" her mother wailed.

Lila rolled her eyes at her mother's tone and Xena growled.  Who could Gabrielle be talking about?  Not Perdicus, could she?  Was she still silently grieving that much?

"She doesn't realize it." Gabrielle said simply and steeled herself for the next blow, whether physical or verbal.

"She?" Gabrielle's father, mother and Xena all asked in the same moment, fortunately Xena had whispered her question.  Lila's eyes were as wide as saucers.  Xena's heart began to pound almost loud enough to keep her from hearing the rest of the conversation.

"What!? It's true? You do bed that demon!?" her father demanded.

"That's enough!  Right now!  You say another word against Xena and you'll never talk to me again! No, I don't have sex with her.  I sleep with her but we only share the same space but that doesn't mean I don't want to!"

"Gabrielle, you want....." her mother's voice broke and Xena could hear the woman begin to cry.  Xena herself was stunned.  Gabrielle wanted her?  Was she hearing right?  Was this a weird nightmare sent by Morpheus?

"Yes, Mother.  I want her.  Not just sexually but.... oh gods, talking relationships with your parents is not my idea of a good time." the bard muttered.  "I love her, do you understand? I want her as my mate, totally - emotionally, spiritually, physically, everything.  She doesn't want me in that way, though." Gabrielle wiped an angry tear away.

"I can't believe this! You want to travel around, fighting all the time, putting yourself in danger just to bed a woman?!" her father demanded.

"No! I travel with Xena not only because I love her but because of the good we do.  I will be content to spend the rest of my life with her and not touch her, if necessary!  She is the best person I've ever met, damnit!" Xena heard Gabrielle smack her hand on the table with a frustrated growl.

Lila was looking at the warrior with wide eyes.  "You didn't know?" she whispered.

Xena shook her head and dropped her eyes.

"You love her like that?" Lila whispered and Xena nodded.

Lila reached out and hit the warrior on the arm, hard.  Xena looked up.

"That's for making her wait." the young teen hissed and then cocked her ears to listen.

"Why doesn't she want you?" Gabrielle's mother asked.

"She doesn't, all right." Gabrielle muttered.

"You haven't told her?"

"What do you mean, asking her that? You approve?" her father's voice was shrill and Gabrielle wanted to shove him through the door.  

Xena resisted the urge to rush in and grab the man by the throat and throw him out the window.

"I don't know.  I want her to be happy." her mother protested.

"Happy? How can she be happy with a female warrior? How can she be happy fighting for her life all the time? Just traveling with Xena will get her killed.  You know what we've heard. How many times have you been attacked, just traveling the road?"

"None of your business!" Gabrielle snapped.  "I would spend an eternity in Tartarus just to be with her!"

"Gabrielle, don't say that!" her mother's voice was horrified.

Xena was stunned, surprised at the depth of the feelings the bard was voicing about her.

"It's true! She came back from the dead for me and we aren't even lovers." Gabrielle fought back from having her voice break, from the tears that were filling her eyes.

Lila started to ask questions but Xena held a finger up to her lips.

"I forbid this! It's not natural! It's not right!" her father yelled.

"Oh shut up, Father. Who says it's not natural, even the gods share their beds with someone of the same sex." Gabrielle suddenly felt weary.  She could sense that her father was losing his steam of anger, and she felt hers draining away as well.  The bard was also wondering why she was arguing with her parents about this and explaining everything?  She wouldn't be with Xena, soon anyway.

Xena could hear the weariness in Gabrielle's voice and ached to hold the young woman in her arms, anything to comfort her.

"Family, how can you have a family with her?" Xena sensed that the bard's father was losing his hold on the argument and searching for any ammunition to use.

"Who says we can't have children and we can't raise them? Besides, all that assumes that we're lovers.  We're not and it's killing me!" Gabrielle's voice cracked and Xena heard the kitchen door slam and then the outer door.  Xena sat against the wall, still stunned.

Lila punched her in the arm again and motioned for Xena to follow her.  When they had gotten away from the house Lila turned and punched the warrior again.  Xena's eyes narrowed, she had let the teenager hit her enough, thank you.

"You two are so damned stubborn!" Lila yelled at her and looked like she was going to hit the warrior again.  Xena held up her hand warningly.

Gabrielle had grabbed the travel packs she'd hidden in the barn earlier that morning, and started out the barn door, when she heard Lila's irritated voice just outside.

"She told me last time you were here how she felt, I thought you two would have settled this by now. Do you know she's planning on leaving?" Lila demanded, hands on her hips, the same stubborn set to her jaw.

"No, I thought we were staying another night."

"No, not with you," Lila shouted. "Without you!"

Xena's heart stopped and a chill came over her body.  "Without me?" she whispered.

Could Xena care whether she stayed or went, Gabrielle wondered.

"Yes, she can't take it any longer. It's killing her to be near you and not touch you. She thinks you don't want her because she's not in your league."

"What? I'm the one that isn't good enough!" Xena protested.  "After everything I've done, how could she want me?"

"Beats me, I think you're okay." Lila shrugged with a smile. "She thinks you're from the gods and would do anything for you but she's dying inside."

Gabrielle was considering killing her young sister for telling Xena all of this.  The bard wanted to crawl under the ground somewhere and hide.  Xena would know everything!  She wouldn't want the bard, she wouldn't want her around anymore!

Then Gabrielle listened to the warrior's words.

"She's light itself!" Xena continued to protest. "Anything I am today is because of her!"

"Then tell her, not me." Lila snapped.  "Adults! You make it so complicated!"

"Wait till you fall in love," Xena snapped back, "and see how easy it is."

Love? Gabrielle thought her heart had stopped.

"You love her, right?" Lila demanded.

"Yes, with all of my being. I don't think I can live without her." Xena whispered.

Without thinking the bard opened the door.  "Xena?"  a voice called, softly.

Xena and Lila spun around to see Gabrielle in the doorway of the barn, her bags in her hand. 

Xena and Gabrielle found themselves caught in another frozen moment of time.  Both losing themselves in each other's eyes.  Lila finally broke the moment by shoving the warrior and bard back through the barn door and shutting it behind them.

"You mean it," they both asked at the same time, both breaking into smiles and relaxing finally.  Gabrielle sighed and sat her travel bags down, walked over to a hay bale and sat down.  She brushed a lock of hair from her eyes and Xena once again found herself wanting to do that for the young woman, to touch just her hair would be enough.

Then heat spread over the warrior and she thought that maybe just touching Gabrielle's hair might not be enough anymore.  They had both heard too much to go back and she knew Gabrielle sensed that too.

The bard sat for a moment, trying to think rationally and couldn't find a way to make any sentence hold together. She swallowed deeply and risked it.

"I love you, Xena." Gabrielle said quietly, not lifting her eyes up.

Xena moved slowly and carefully, kneeling in front of the bard.  Tenderly she lifted Gabrielle chin up until the green eyes were looking into her deep blue ones.  Tears were filling both their eyes.

"I love you, so very much, Gabrielle. I've been in love with you for so long." Xena said softly.

"Oh, Xena!" Gabrielle threw her arms around the warrior's neck and grabbed her in a tight hug, tears falling.

Xena, feeling tears falling from her eyes as well, welcomed the bard into her arms and held the other woman tightly.  The warrior felt months of tension easing out of her muscles and a healing of her soul beginning.  She pulled back slightly to look Gabrielle in the eyes.

"I...." the warrior stammered.  "I love you so much, I've never felt like this before." Xena took the bard's hands in hers.  Gabrielle kept quiet, watching her warrior struggle with the words.  Getting Xena to talk about emotions was like pulling a tooth from a horse, almost impossible, the bard knew.

"I've had lovers, many of them, but not like I want you. Not even Borias, it's different with you. If you want me I'm yours but it has to be a commitment. If you let me love you it will be forever."

Tears flowed freely from both women as the warrior struggled with the words.

"I love you, Xena, more than life." Gabrielle whispered.

"You are the other half of my soul and I know if you love me that we'll be together for eternity. I don't want just sex, I want to marry you." Xena managed to stammer out.

Marry me? the bard questioned in wonderment quietly.  

Gabrielle was so quiet for a moment that a feeling of fear began to grab at the warrior's heart and then the bard grabbed her again in a bone-crushing embrace.

"Yes! I love you totally and completely.  I've wanted you as my mate for so long!" Gabrielle whispered. 

Both women held each other for several moments before Xena pulled out of the embrace.  She held a finger up to Gabrielle's lips to indicate silence.  She slowly stood up and unlaced her chakram and placed it at Gabrielle's feet and then did the same with her sword and the dagger hidden between her breasts.  She knelt on one knee in front of the bard and Gabrielle thought that her heart would stop forever.

"I offer you my sword and my life.  I will love you forever if you'll have me." Xena pledged. 

Gabrielle wiped tears of joy from her eyes.  She knew this warrior's pledge was the ultimate pledge Xena could make and was touched beyond words.

"I love you, and I accept your pledge and your love, warrior Xena. I pledge my love and trust in you and promise to love beyond time itself.  I know that not even death will separate us from this point on."  Gabrielle pledged and pulled the warrior up to her lips.

The kiss was meant to be soft and gentle but the electric shock that passed through both women at the first contact sent both of them backwards. 

"Wow." Gabrielle whispered, touching her lips in wonderment.

"Wow? I'll say." Xena agreed and sat back up, reaching for her bard when angry voices brought her to her feet, chakram at the ready.  Gabrielle reached up and placed a reassuring arm on Xena's arm.

"It's all right, it's my father, not an army." the bard grinned and Xena lowered the chakram, blushing that her warrior instincts had won out again.  Gabrielle knew that Xena's heightened senses and warrior instinct had only lessened slightly all the months they had been on the road together.  Gabrielle had come close several times to being knocked unconscious by the warrior, when the bard had accidentally startled Xena.  She didn't think Xena would ever be totally relaxed and without those highly toned and trained muscle instincts.

Lila's voice was shrill and answered by an angry shout from her father.  The door of the barn slammed open and he stood in the doorway, obviously fuming.

Gabrielle stood up angrily.  "What, Father? Expecting to find me rolling naked in the hay with her?"  She certainly wasn't going to tell her father that's what she had been hoping for, just a moment before.

Xena blushed, that was what she had been intending with the bard as well but wasn't going to say that to the girl's angry father.

"I want her gone!" he demanded.

"We were just about to leave." Gabrielle snapped back.

"You're not going anywhere this time! You're still my daughter and I won't have you become the laughing stock of Greece because you sleep with her!"

Gabrielle quickly grabbed Xena by the arm as the warrior growled and took a step forward.  The bard reached out and eased the chakram out of the warrior's hand and Xena let her, trying to calm her breathing and the roaring in her head.  She fought against the raging anger building up.

"If you keep this up I won't be your daughter any longer!" Gabrielle threatened.  Lila stepped into the barn, holding her cheek.  Her eyes were red from crying.  This time it was Gabrielle who growled.  "You hit her?" she demanded.

Her father's jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed.  "You are not leaving here," he hissed.

"Don't threaten her," Xena growled back, stepping a half step in front of Gabrielle.

"What will you do, warrior?" her father sneered.  Gabrielle's head was spinning, this was happening too fast and everything was out of control.  With a moment of clarity she knew that Xena was about a moment away of injuring or killing her father and her father was going to push the warrior into it.  And there was a good chance of Lila or of Gabrielle getting in the way. 

Gabrielle quickly pulled Xena back and stepped in front of the warrior, the bard placing her hands behind her back to keep bodily contact with Xena.

"Father, calm down!  Both of you! I love you both!" Gabrielle pleaded and felt Xena relax slightly behind her.  Her father scowled but didn't move any closer.  Gabrielle almost screamed in frustration when her mother peeked in the doorway and entered.  "Fine! Everyone come in and let's settle this!" she muttered.  Her mother crossed over to Lila and began to examine the girl's cheek.

"Xena has just asked me to bond with her, to marry her and I have accepted.  What that means to us is more than just a simple bonding ceremony like I had with Perdicus.  If Xena agrees, we will be bonded in an Amazon ceremony.  I've already pledged my soul to her and plan to spend eternity with her.  Accept this or lose me." Gabrielle said simply.

"I love you, Gabrielle. I don't understand but if she makes you happy then you'll both be welcome here." her mother said quietly and Lila nodded enthusiastically.

"I forbid it!" her father shouted.

"Oh shut up, Herdoctus." her mother snapped and he looked at his wife, stunned.

"She's our daughter and all that should matter is that Xena is a good person now and Gabrielle thinks that she will be happy with her. Accept it, I'm not going to lose my daughter because of your pride!" She approached her husband in a fury and he backed up quickly, surprised and stumbling.  She poked a finger in his chest and he took it.

Gabrielle and Lila's eyes were equally wide with surprise.

"Don't you ever lay a hand on either Lila or Gabrielle again or you'll never wake up again!" her mother shouted and then spun away from her husband.  She approached Gabrielle and Xena slowly.  With a hesitant smile she gathered her daughter into a hug and Gabrielle grinned, hugging her back.  Lila, unable to resist the moment, rushed over and joined in.  Xena was grateful they didn't try to include her in the family hug although Gabrielle's mother did hug her awkwardly after detaching herself from Gabrielle.

"Make her happy, please." she said to the warrior.

"I will spend my life trying." Xena promised.

"We're leaving, Mother." Gabrielle stated.

"I know. Let me pack your food bags before you go." None of them were surprised to find her father had slipped out of the barn.  "Don't worry about him, he'll fume for awhile but settle in once you two are gone." her mother reassured them. She turned to her other daughter.  "Lila, go and pack Xena's bags, I'm sure she doesn't want to run into your father right now.  They need some time to cool off."  Lila hugged her sister again and then surprised Xena by hugging the warrior and then dashing off quickly.

"Xena, could I have a moment with Gabrielle?"

"Of course, I'll saddle Argo." Xena retrieved her chakram from the bard's hand and bent to retrieve her other weapons with panther-like grace.  Gabrielle was unaware of the desire on her face as she watched her warrior move.  Her mother, however, knew the look and smiled, it was just awkward to see that type of look on your daughter, she thought.  She's still my little girl. She then touched her daughter's arm and they moved outside the door.

"Gabrielle, I love you and I'd like to you to visit again." her mother brushed a tear away from her weathered face and Gabrielle hugged her mother again.

"We will. Just give us a little time, this is new for us too."

"Gabrielle, your father...." her mother stammered and they moved to sit on two hay bales by the door.  "I think he's always sensed something about you and has fought against it since you were a baby."

"That I prefer women to men?" Gabrielle asked, puzzled.

"No, something else. If anything happens to him or me I want you to go to your Uncle Harpalion in the next village, he has a parchment for you."

"What is it, Mom?"

"I can't tell you right now. Just know that it might answer some questions you've had during your life.  It may even answer some of the questions I've been asking you. Is she your soulmate?"

"I think so. I just know that I couldn't go on without loving her totally and I can't live without her." Gabrielle hesitated.  "What's in the parchment, Mom?"

Her mother smiled and held up a hand to cut off any protests. "I know your curiosity, Gabrielle. Promise you'll wait."

The stubborn jaw was well known to the mother but she continued to stare sternly at her daughter.

"All right, I promise."

Lila came running out of the house with the packs.  "I'll go and pack your food bags," her mother said with another quick hug.

Lila grinned at her big sister. "Finally got your warrior, huh? How far did you get?"

"Lila!" Gabrielle shrieked.

"Xena?" The warrior was surprised and more than a little cautious when she turned and found Herdoctus standing near the stall.  She slowly walked out from saddling Argo and faced her love's father.  He dropped his eyes and when he looked back at the warrior she was stunned to see tears in his eyes.

"Can I talk to you before Gabrielle comes back in?" he asked softly.


"I'm..... I'm not a good father." the man began to pace and Xena waited for him to continue.  "I try, I just don't know how to handle emotions and feelings. I swore to the gods when Gabrielle was born that I would never lay a hand on her like my parents did me but.... I've failed both her and Lila."  He looked over at the warrior.  "I've heard things about you, can you understand the rage?"

Xena nodded, softening a little.  She had been fortunate, her mother and her brothers had been a good family.

"I swear I will never touch Lila again." he swore passionately.  "I'm sorry about earlier. You asked her to marry you?"

"Yes," Xena nodded.

"You mean it, you won't just use her and then tire of her?" Herdoctus stopped, looking deep into the warrior's eyes.

"I've told Gabrielle that I've had many sexual partners, most of them have been one time encounters. Gabrielle is different, I intend to spend my life with her."

"You've not been with her yet, have you?"

"Herdoctus!" Xena growled.

"No, please, don't misunderstand me. It's just that, how do you know you'll stay with her?"

"How does anyone know? She is my soul, I can't live without her any longer." Xena shrugged and Herdoctus nodded.

"Swear to me that you'll try and make her happy."

"I've already sworn that oath to Gabrielle."

"Then that's enough. I'm sorry, warrior. She deserves better than me for a father." Herdoctus complained.

"You're attempting to change, Herdoctus. So am I and with Gabrielle's help I'll make up for my past. It's up to you to make up for yours with your family.  Go talk with Gabrielle and tell her you're trying."

"No," Herdoctus shook his head.  "It's too soon, she won't believe me."

"Yes, she will. She has a talent for seeing only the good in people, she'll believe you." Xena insisted.

"Next time, warrior." Herdoctus promised and was out the door before Xena could protest further.

"Damn! Stubbornness must run in the family!"

Xena was grateful that Gabrielle had agreed to ride on Argo when they left the village.  They were late in getting started, later than Xena liked but she knew that Gabrielle didn't want to spend another night in her family home.  Xena hadn't been able to convince either father or daughter to talk to each other.  Gabrielle was still angry and hurt over his words and he was too ashamed to take them back yet. 

Gabrielle had been puzzled by Xena's actions; up to the point when they left, the warrior kept trying to convince the bard to talk to her father.  Gabrielle's jaw had taken on that familiar clench and the warrior had to concede defeat.  The bard was just too angry to talk to her father right then!

Gabrielle had been pleased but surprised when Xena asked her to ride in front of her on Argo but didn't understand why.  Until Xena slipped her arms tightly around the bard and began to nuzzle her neck from behind.

"Oh, no fair!" the bard protested with a moan as Argo walked steadily along once they were out of sight of the village.

"All's fair, my bard." Xena whispered and began to nibble on Gabrielle's earlobe.

Gabrielle leaned over and back, Xena finally was able to kiss the bard like she had wanted to in the barn.  Gabrielle's arm circled around the warrior's neck and held her tight in the embrace.  The kiss was everything both women had been dreaming about.  Gentle and tender at first but quickly turning into something very passionate.  Xena was surprised to find that her inexperienced bard was a bundle of energy and passion, her tongue demanding entry past Xena's lips and Xena moaned with the contact.  The she felt Gabrielle's hand tighten in her hair, holding her prisoner at the bard's lips. Both tongues began a fight for dominance that left both women breathless.  Xena pulled back laughing.

"Must remember to breathe," she muttered.

"Oh, Xena," Gabrielle reached back and grabbed her warrior by the thighs, welcoming the growl she received and delighting in the warmth she could feel her hands causing in the taller woman's body.

Xena's lips moved down, trailing her tongue along the bard's neck, sending shivers over the blonde's body.  The lips settled on the bard's neck and the warrior's teeth began to lightly nibble on Gabrielle's neck, causing her moans to increase, the bard's hand's beginning to move seductively between Xena's thighs.

Argo stopped dead in the road with a snort, drawing the women out of their haze.

"I think we need to find a place to camp." Xena suggested.

"I agree totally, my warrior." as a hand crept up between Xena's thighs and Gabrielle was delighted with the gasp from her warrior as her fingers began to struggle past the undergarments.

"You keep that up and we'll never get off this horse and that is not how I intend my first night with you!" Xena lightly slapped at the hand.

Gabrielle giggled but withdrew, leaning back into her warrior.

"Hmmm, doesn't look too inviting around here, we'll move on a bit."

"Okay." Gabrielle settled back into her warrior's arms and let the motion of the road lull her into a light sleep.

Xena was pleased with the trust the bard gave her, always trusting Xena to keep her safe, even on the back of a moving horse. The bard hadn't been sleeping lately and the visit with her family had been emotionally exhausting for everyone.  All Xena wanted to do was get somewhere safe and secluded for both of them to rest, heal and discover each other as well as what this new development meant for them.  Unfortunately the landscape wasn't cooperating very well. Poteidaia may have been a small village but the surrounding land was well developed farm land and wasn't offering much in the way of secluded campsites.  Xena frowned.

It was well into dusk when Xena finally found a site that would do.  She moved Argo carefully through the brush and almost thanked the gods when the horse worked her way unerringly to a good sized creek, tumbling over lots of boulders and creating mini waterfalls and pools.  The clean water promised fish and bathing and relaxing in the morning.

Xena managed to dismount Argo and pulled Gabrielle down into her arms and cradled the bard, softly carrying her to a fallen log.  Gabrielle mumbled and started to blink.  "Stay here," Xena ordered. "Just rest, I'll make camp."

The bard started to protest but Xena stopped her with a light kiss.  The bard smiled and leaned against the log.  Xena smiled and quickly went about setting up camp.  There was a chill in the air and she wanted a fire going as soon as possible.  They were both tired and their cold tolerance would be low.  Xena wrapped the bard in her traveling cloak and a blanket and set about starting a fire.  Within a candlemark she had a fire roaring, food cooking over it and their sleeping mat and blankets set up.  Xena was a little worried, Gabrielle had curled up next to the log and had been tossing in her sleep again, although she quickly slipped further into sleep when Xena would touch and whisper reassurances to the bard.

Moving to the log with their dinner she sat next to her bard.

"Come on, sleepy-head, time for food." Xena lightly shook her bard and was pleased to see Gabrielle smiling at her.

Gabrielle felt familiar hands shaking her, and the most wonderful voice in the world talking to her; and she sat up, blinking.

"Smells good, you actually cooked." The bard sat up, rubbing sleep out of her eyes, looking around in wonderment.  "Wow, I must have been out."

Xena smiled.  "Yup, you've been tired and today wasn't easy."

"That's an understatement!" Gabrielle took the plate of food and began to eat with an appetite that Xena was glad to see return.  "Gods, I can't believe we went through that today!"

Xena frowned, "Any regrets about us?" she whispered.

"Not a chance!" Gabrielle lightly hit the warrior on the arm and leaned against the taller woman. "Now that I've got you I'm not going to let you go." the bard promised.  "I'm just glad I overheard you before I left. Thank the gods for Lila."

Xena grinned in agreement.  "I think that stubborn streak of yours runs in the family."

"Hey! What stubborn streak?" the bard protested playfully.  Her eyes beginning to droop a little.  "Whoa, did you put something in the food?"

Xena laughed and took the plate from Gabrielle's hands.  "No, little one. It's just all catching up with you and me."

Gabrielle looked up and saw the weariness on her warrior's face. "You too?"

"Yup, neither of us have slept decently for weeks. We've been driving ourselves crazy with our feelings and hiding them that we've been a bundle of nerves. Then the scene with your family wasn't exactly relaxing."

"You're right." Gabrielle agreed, her head beginning to drop forward and she snapped it back up with determination. "This isn't how I wanted the night to be like," she complained.

Xena knelt down and placed a finger over the bard's lips.  "Quiet, little one. Get ready for bed. We've got the rest of our lives and I don't want to rush this." Xena held out her hand and the bard was stunned to see it shaking.


"I'm nervous, I'm so scared of loving you and I'm too tired to think right. I want to hold you tonight and convince myself that it's real. Am I making any sense?"

Gabrielle reached out and held the hand to her lips, kissing each fingertip and then the palm.  "Yes, my love. Perfect sense. I want it to be special too."

"Let's sleep, little one."

For the first time in months they both slept soundly, Gabrielle laying curled against Xena, their fingers intertwined, Xena's arm over her bard, both dreaming of the coming day and their future together.

Gabrielle was very surprised when she opened her eyes and found the sun was all ready up.  She was almost in shock when she realized that Xena was behind her and still asleep.  This was such a rarity that the bard lay there, fingers intertwined with the warrior's, enjoying the moment, relishing the feel of Xena nuzzled at her neck.

They had been spending many more nights under the same blanket since fall had began but Gabrielle had never felt this connection before.  After months of agonizing over her feelings for the warrior Gabrielle now felt peaceful, nervous, calm and excited. She wanted nothing more than to turn over and begin loving her warrior, but she wanted both of them awake and coherent when it happened.  With a twinge of fear, the bard realized she wanted to really be sure that's this is what Xena wanted between them.

Careful not to make too much noise or movement, the bard got up and grabbed a towel from their travel packs.  Xena had mentioned a stream nearby and Gabrielle wanted some time to herself before the warrior woke up. 

With a grin, she left the other towel over a tree branch, grabbed clean clothes and her staff, and headed for the water.

The water was cold but refreshing and Gabrielle felt like months of tension was falling from her body as she streaked through the water in the pools and currents.  Feeling like a river otter without her clothes on in the water, the bard delighted in the sensation of the water and the sun beating down on her skin.  It promised to be a warm day for fall and she was grateful.  With a smile she crawled up onto a rock on the opposite shore and stretched out along the rock, letting the sun begin to warm her body.

Xena was surprised to find her arms empty when she woke in the morning.  She frowned, Gabrielle almost never beat her up, preferring to sleep as long as possible. Xena looked around and realized that the sun had been up for over a candle-mark.

"Wow, I must have been tired." she mumbled and then smiled. "And content."

Xena noticed a towel hanging on a tree branch near her and grinned.  Taking the hint she left her armor off, content to just carry her chakram with her down to the river.  When she spotted Gabrielle the warrior thought her heart had stopped.

Gabrielle reflected on her mother's question: Was Xena her soulmate?  The bard certainly thought so, and probably had since the first time she saw the warrior.  Gabrielle hadn't known the total depth of what feelings she would come to have for the former warlord, but she had been drawn to Xena since the beginning.  It felt like she was waiting her whole life to meet the warrior. 

Why had she resisted all her parents' attempts at marriage?  Every girl in the village was usually married by fifteen, except Gabrielle.  She remembered the long fights her mother and father had over it; he insisting she find a suitable mate and her mother holding him off.  Gabrielle had always been puzzled over that. It wasn't often that her mother stood up to Hedoctus but when it came to Gabrielle's dreams of something beyond Poteidaia, Hecuba had always been encouraging.

When Xena had saved Gabrielle and the other village girls from the slavers, the bard had seen fear in her mother's eyes and hatred in her father's.  Her mother had always puzzled her, she reflected.  She had been grateful to Xena for saving Gabrielle's life but had also been very thankful when the warrior had moved on.

Gabrielle's parents hadn't counted on the bard following on her own accord.

It was almost like Hecuba had been waiting for someone to sweep her daughter away, and had feared that was Xena.  Now, Gabrielle grinned to herself, it had been.

The bard was breath-taking.  Xena couldn't find the words.  Gabrielle had already been in the water and was now on a smooth rock, leaning back on her elbows, letting the sun dry her beautiful skin.  Xena hadn't seen the bard look so relaxed in forever.  Xena felt her heart pounding as Gabrielle lay back on the rock, her naked skin shining in the sun.    Xena grinned and stripped out of her nightshirt and left the towel and shift on the bank as she slowly entered the water, trying not to make any extra noise.  She almost yelped at the cold water though but gritted her teeth.

She ducked under the water and easily swam the short distance across the current and, with absolute silence, slid out of the water and up onto the rock where Gabrielle was sunning herself.  With the grace of a stalking tiger, the warrior moved slowly and carefully up close to her bard and then, with an evil grin, shook her head quickly, sending cold water flying all over the bard.

"Xena!" Gabrielle shrieked, sitting upright in a flash only to be captured by the warrior's waiting arms.  A muffled protest was cut short by Xena's lips and hands traveling over the bard's back.  The bard let the warrior lower her back to the rock slowly, keeping a firm hold around Xena and refusing to break contact with the woman's lips.  Again the kiss was passionate with tongues exploring, tasting, and reveling in the different textures and feelings the kiss was invoking.  Gabrielle's hands, no longer restricted by Xena's leathers, moved along the taller woman's ribs, feeling the soft skin covering the firm muscles underneath.  Xena's head moved down, kissing every inch of skin between the bard's lips to her nipples and back again.  By the time Xena's lips seized one of the nipples, Gabrielle was gasping for air and running her hands through her warrior's black hair.

"Oh gods, Xena."

Xena continued her exploration of Gabrielle's body with her tongue by kissing and licking away the remaining water off the bard's skin, sending shivers of delight over the young woman's body, her hands replacing her lips on the bard's nipples.  Gabrielle was squirming and gasping, her hands in the warrior's dark hair, unconsciously encouraging Xena's head lower.  Xena smiled and eagerly slid down the length of Gabrielle.

Xena looked up as Gabrielle moaned, green eyes meeting blue.  The warrior had never seen such unmasked desire on anyone's face like this before and she moaned with the intensity of Gabrielle's eyes. 

"Xena, please.... I've waited so long!" Gabrielle pleaded, raising her legs, her hips bucking, begging the warrior with her body as well as her voice.  Xena moaned again and gently parted the bard's lower lips, lovingly exploring her lover, causing Gabrielle to growl and toss her head back.  "Xena! Now, please!"

Xena groaned at how wet the bard was and knew this wetness wasn't from the water.  With ease she slipped two fingers into her lover and began her explorations of the bard's sexual lips with her tongue.  Within moments Gabrielle was rocking, matching the rhythm of Xena's fingers, which were entering slowly and backing out, teasing the small woman into a frenzy.  The dark haired woman's tongue reached out and began a slow teasing of the bard's clit, bringing forth cries of passion from the small woman.  Xena felt her own body responding to her lover's building orgasm.  Her attention to Gabrielle's body increased in speed and roughness.  Xena was rewarded with hearing the bard screaming the warrior's name again and again as Gabrielle's muscles began contracting, waves of her orgasm overcoming her, again and again.

When she could breath again, Gabrielle found herself in Xena's arms, being cradled and rocked.

"Hey, you okay?" Xena was asking.  In response Gabrielle hugged her lover fiercely.

"Gods, I never thought it could be like that!" she whispered.

Xena felt herself blushing and held her love tight.  "I love you."

"By the gods, I love you more than life itself, woman!" Gabrielle grabbed the back of Xena's head and pulled her down for a rough kiss, moaning at the softness of the lips and the taste of her own passion on those lips. 

Xena looked down at her lover, her fingers lightly tracing Gabrielle's lips. "You scared me for a moment."

"Hmmm," the bard muttered and began nuzzling Xena's neck, causing the warrior to shiver.  "You literally took my breath away, my love."

"I'll take that as a compliment." Xena grinned.

"You have no idea! Let me show you."

Xena found herself on her back on Gabrielle's towel with the bard attacking her neck with renewed energy and the warrior found that it was her that was breathless, gasping with the dancing energy shooting through her body.  Gabrielle moaned in Xena's neck as her hand found one of the warrior's nipples.  She moved from the neck to Xena's lips with a rough kiss that again took the warrior's breath away and then moved back to her neck.

"Remember the bacchae cave?" Gabrielle whispered as her hand began to dance lightly across the warrior's ribs and around her breasts.  Xena felt her body arching under the bard's hands, her body being played like a fine instrument.  The warrior wasn't sure if she was in any kind of control over her body any longer and was surprised to find that she didn't care right at that moment.

"Yes!" she hissed. 

"You have no idea how many nights I've dreamed of biting you again." Gabrielle's voice was low and husky and brought forth a moan from her warrior.

"Yes!" Xena's hands found the bard's hair and then her shoulders, grabbing on almost painfully, as if needing something to center on.  Gabrielle smiled and continued the downward trek of her fingers, playing in the dark triangle of Xena's hair, causing the warrior to growl with need.

"Gabrielle, please!"

"Begging, my warrior?" Gabrielle whispered and then bit down a little harder.  Any reply Xena might have had was lost in her cry as her body began to shake.  The younger woman sensed that her lover needed her and quickly.  She knew there would be time later for the soft and gentle loving that she suspected the warrior was capable of but for right now they needed each other, almost with a sense of desperation.  Having denied themselves for so long had taken a toll and their bodies demanded satisfaction and their souls demanded connection on all levels.

Xena felt herself giving over all control to the fierce little bard in her arms.  Never had she given up so much to a lover.  The warrior had always struggled to stay in control, never leaving herself open, especially her heart and now she found she was lost.  She couldn't control her body and its dance of delight under the bard's roaming fingers and talented bite.  She couldn't control her emotions any longer, Gabrielle had totally possessed her heart and soul and now was claiming her body.  Her body had never responded like this, not with anyone, not even Ares, with all his godly charm. 

Gabrielle was amazed, as the warrior's body responded to her every touch, and then felt a shock pass through her own body as it responded to Xena's moan.  Gabrielle whimpered with the intense feeling racking her body, matching her warrior's rhythm.

The bard had never felt anything like it before, not even on her wedding night with Perdicus.  Gabrielle also knew she would never feel like this with anyone else, again.  She willingly gave her heart, soul and body to the tall woman writhing beneath her hands and teeth.

Gabrielle thought she was going to go over her own edge, as she entered the warrior with her fingers.  The feeling was so incredible that the bard lost all coherent thought.  She whimpered as the warrior's body responded, muscles contracting to try and capture the bard's fingers and expanding, demanding more.  Again the warrior cried out at the new sensation, as Gabrielle's thumb found her sensitive spot and began stroking the warrior's clit.

Xena's hands grabbed the blonde's shoulders, her fingernails beginning to dig into the soft skin, and Gabrielle moaned in response, her own passion lost with the warrior's.

Xena wasn't sure which sensation was causing her body to rock and her soul to soar higher, the fingers dancing inside her, the thumb over her swollen clit or the teeth that seemed to have a talent of finding the most erotic spot on the warrior's neck.

Xena's hands grabbed the blonde's shoulders, her fingernails beginning to dig into the soft skin, and Gabrielle moaned in response, her own passion lost with the warrior's.  Gabrielle could feel the connection, her soul to Xena's - body to body.  Sensations she was pulling from the warrior, causing her own body to tremble.

The bard sensed the build up of energy in Xena as well, as within herself and glanced up to see the warrior's body arching, every muscle standing out as sweat covered both their bodies.  Gabrielle could feel the edge for both of them, she felt Xena's body shaking uncontrollably and saw a tear escape from the warrior's closed eyes and heard a small whimper.

Xena found herself approaching a point of no return and realized something that startled her, she was afraid to step over that point.  She had never gotten this far with anyone, her need to be totally in control at all times having stopped her before this point.  She whimpered with all the feelings running through her body and soul.

Gabrielle looked up from her nibbling and saw a tear escape the warrior's closed eyes and felt Xena's muscles tightening around her fingers and the warrior's nails almost breaking the skin on her shoulders.  The bard felt the shaking body and understood.

"I love you, Xena. Let go." she whispered and bit down again.

Xena screamed a primal scream and then the bard's name.  Wave after wave overcame the tall woman. 

This time it was the warrior being soothed, held safely in her bard's arms.  She reached out and held close to Gabrielle, tears flowing softly.

"It's all right, Xena. I'm here. I'm never letting you go." Gabrielle quickly drew the warrior into her arms, softly holding the gasping and sobbing woman, stroking the dark hair.  The bard kept repeating this over and over again, until she felt Xena responding.

"Sorry, don't know where that came from." Xena tried to sit up but the bard caught her lips again.     

"Don't apologize, damnit. All I know is that something incredible happened between us.  I love you."

Xena smiled and reached up to caress her lover's cheek.  "I love you, marry me."

Gabrielle grinned. "I thought I already said 'yes'."

"Amazon wedding?"

Xena grinned at the surprise and hopeful look on the Amazon Queen's face and sat up to face her lover. 

"You mean it? A bonding ritual?"

"I'm already your champion, let me be your mate." Xena leaned forward and kissed the blond again. 

"Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!" Gabrielle threw herself into the warrior's arms, both of them laughing and kissing.

It was only minutes before Gabrielle found out that Xena could, indeed, be a gentle lover as well as a tiger.

See what happens next in "Discovery, An Awakening II"

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