Disclaimers: This story is categorized as fan fiction. The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, et al, which have appeared in the series Xena: Warrior Princess, belong to the producers, writers and executives of Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal Television. I claim only to have borrowed them, without intent to profit or infringe these rights, for the purpose of creating this story for enjoyment of the series' fans, of which I count myself one of many.

Additionally, the story below contains references, explicit and implied, of a sexual relationship between two consenting adults of the same sex. If you are not of legal age to read this story, or such material is illegal where you live, or you do not feel comfortable with such content, please refrain from reading this story.

Timeline Notes: After "New Territory" and between episodes "A Comedy of Eros" and "The Furies."

When We Dance, Who Leads?
by LZClotho
(c) November 1997

E-Mail LZClotho at lzclotho@cfl.rr.com


Gabrielle sat in front on Argo as she and Xena continued their explorations further east. They had been on the road again four days out of Notch. The bard was enjoying the new scenery, and the relative calm they found here in the eastern Greek city-states.

"Look, Xena. Quails." The bard pointed to the small gray-brown birds tottering on their small spindly legs across the path and into the nearby underbrush as Argo's hooves beat a steady rhythm. She laid a hand over Xena's arm wrapped around her waist. "See? Over there."

Xena looked, and then murmured against Gabrielle's ear. "Yes, but there's a more beautiful sight I'd like to uncover at the next spring."

Gabrielle sighed as the warrior's breath aroused her. She felt herself dampen between her thighs, and squirmed. Xena nuzzled her throat just below the bard's ear and turned Argo down a thinner trail with one hand on the reins. With the other she brought her arm up tighter against the bard's breasts which strained against her green top. Gabrielle arched into the contact, the fine hair on Xena's arms arousing her still further.

"My impatient little bard," Xena murmured, kissing Gabrielle's exposed shoulder. "You should be able to scream to your heart's content out here."

Gabrielle blushed. Xena had discovered Gabrielle's one terrible embarrassment: no matter how hard she tried, the bard couldn't be quiet at the moment of release. If Gabrielle didn't scream at least once while Xena was tantalizing her flesh, the warrior tried again, and again, until she was successful. Which had the unerring result of leaving Gabrielle a quivering puddle of sensation when Xena pulled her tight to her body for sleep.

The two women pulled up alongside a small spring, the hot waters steamed in the springtime air. "This is lovely," Gabrielle murmured as Xena lowered her to the ground. If the bard found something else to concentrate on, getting on and off Argo didn't give her stomach fits.

She started to walk toward the water. Xena scooped the bard up and cradled her against her chest while lavishing her face and throat with kisses. The warrior strode to the edge of the spring. Without letting the bard down, Xena skillfully stripped herself and Gabrielle out of their clothes. Heated bare skin mingled and she lowered them both into the hot spring.

Gabrielle sighed at the touch of the warm water on her skin. Xena continued kissing her while massaging the firm muscles of the bard's rear. "Shh," Xena murmured against Gabrielle's mouth. "This should relieve any stiffness from the ride."

She sighed again and laid her head against Xena's chest as the warrior continued the massage up the small of the bard's back and into her shoulders.

"That's good," whispered Xena. She cupped the bard's cheek in her hand and met green eyes. Gabrielle saw the passion, banking like the fires of hot coals. Though her backside finally didn't hurt and the warmth of the water made her sleepy, she put her arms around Xena's neck and kissed the warrior's throat, just below her right ear. The moan that elicited stirred Gabrielle's embers into full-fledged flames.

But Xena's fire was higher. As the warrior guided their bodies to the edge of the spring, Gabrielle noticed that the warrior's hands were already roaming to sensitive places, sensual places, eager to fully stir the bard's passions.

They slid and fit together in the water that didn't seem quite as hot as they were. Xena's hands stroked Gabrielle's breasts, teased nipples then slid her broad palms lower. A hot mouth and rough tongue replaced Xena's hands. Gabrielle was grateful for the warrior's length pinning her against the bank of the spring. Her legs went completely limp and would not have supported her.

When she met Xena's sky blue gaze, she glimpsed the glimmer of conquering triumph. To prove it to herself, Xena then began bringing the bard to ecstasy in earnest. Firm fingers stroked over thighs and penetrated the bard's core. Hot flashes appeared before Gabrielle's eyes and her head fell back.

Xena's mouth blazed another trail over Gabrielle's throat, down her chest, to each breast, then down still further to the apex of her need. Dimly Gabrielle realized she lay against a dry blanket on the shore. Xena's strong arms had lifted her from the water when her tongue first touched Gabrielle's hot center. The bard's hips bucked in response. She squirmed beneath the warrior's ministrations, feeling the pressure build from deep within, spiraling outward in waves.

The warrior against the hot flesh as she dipped her tongue in the liquid seeping from the bard's center, "Gabrielle, come for me."

Xena's husky tenor had always resonated a need for contact within Gabrielle, triggering something warm and comforting even when they talked by firelight in the earliest days of their travels. Now that same silky voice reached deep inside Gabrielle and seized the bard's heart, squeezing it tightly and giving it wholly to the warrior... forever. Gabrielle grasped Xena's head, holding the warrior against herself as the first orgasm crashed over her. The warrior replaced her tongue with a light sworling caress. She claimed Gabrielle's panting mouth with her own and stroked the bard's quivering clitoris.

"Xe -- na," screamed Gabrielle, grateful for the muting effect of the warrior's loving kiss.

Xena stroked Gabrielle's flesh through two more screaming releases. Then she rolled onto her back, pulling Gabrielle against her side. Their skin quivered where it touched. Exhausted, Gabrielle threaded weak fingers through the warrior's damp hair, thrilling to the silky feel of the thick raven tresses. Xena's touch changed from arousing strokes to soothing caresses. Gabrielle registered the murmurs of her lover and opened her eyes, falling into blue, storm-tossed seas. "Beautiful. My bard," murmured Xena, tenderly kissing both of Gabrielle's eyes closed.

Slowly Gabrielle slid down Xena's body, ready to bring the same pleasures to the warrior's flesh. She left a trail of soft kisses over the warrior's chest, around each nipple and over taut stomach muscles. She rested her head on the lean thigh, gently cupping her palm on Xena's mound. She positioned herself between Xena's legs, putting her hands on the warrior's stomach.

When the bard's tongue touched the soft hood of Xena's center, the white hot flash of passion that coursed through the warrior took her completely off guard. Her eyes flew open. As Gabrielle's tongue made its first contact with the sensitive bud beneath, Xena stiffened. Abruptly she sat up. "Stop," she said, pushing Gabrielle up.

Gabrielle sat up and moved close trying to hold Xena, but the warrior wouldn't let her. "What's wrong?" There was no answer. She sighed. It had been much the same each time. Xena would bring Gabrielle to the peak then crashing over into release. But when the time came for Xena, the warrior couldn't seem to let go. Gabrielle began to wonder if she was doing something wrong. "Is it something I'm doing? Or not doing?" 

Xena shook her head, not meeting Gabrielle's questioning gaze.

The bard shook her own head, trying to rest it on the warrior's rock-hard shoulder. "Please tell me what's wrong?" When finally the blue gaze turned to her, there was an unmistakably deep pain in them. Comprehension dawned. "You can't let go, can you?" the bard asked quietly. "Even with me."

The thought made Gabrielle's stomach roll in tiny little fits of uneasiness. She laid back on their blankets and then rolled on her side away from Xena. The bard tucked her fist under her cheek and tried to sleep. Soon she felt Xena lay back and seek her own sleep.

Xena felt an ache in her chest and relieved it by propping herself on her elbows and drank in the smooth, creamy skin of Gabrielle's throat and breasts. How can just looking at you calm my soul, Gabrielle? Xena wanted desperately to awaken Gabrielle and love her insensate again. There was a safety, a security that Xena felt every time Gabrielle looked into her eyes, emeralds reflecting with the fire of arousal.

"Gabrielle. Gabrielle," Xena whispered. "Come back to me, my bard. I need you."

Gabrielle's eyes fluttered open and Xena fell into the languid pools, which reminded her of the wind-blown fields of the hillsides outside her home village of Amphipolis. Falling into Gabrielle's eyes was like falling back in time for the warrior. She let her mind float back to the life she'd almost forgotten, a carefree childhood she had long ago abandoned.

"Gabrielle, you are my heart," she said earnestly, not sure what she meant by it, but hoping desperately that Gabrielle would know, and understand. Gabrielle stroked Xena's cheek with the side of her right index finger. "These last few days with you have been incredible. I don't want it to end."

"I'm not going anywhere," Gabrielle murmured. "Ever."

Xena desperately wanted to believe that. Gabrielle had never spoken a false word to her since trying to hide the breast dagger from her in the town of Morpheus' temple over two summers ago. But everyone Xena had felt this strongly about, just when she considered surrendering her soul to them, thought of a future with them, she had been left.

Gabrielle watched Xena's face. The bard was trying to understand the emotions flitting across Xena's features, but the warrior could not speak of the uncertainties cluttering her head, or the aches of the past that made her heart brittle.

"Xena, what are you thinking?" Gabrielle stroked the warrior's collarbone as Xena rolled them over slightly so Gabrielle spread her luscious body over the warrior's muscled length. 

Xena smiled, and, not wishing the bard to know her uncertainties, she kissed the rising swell of a breast near her cheek. "I'm thinking how much I want to love you right now," she answered, sliding the bard down her body, letting the heat of their bodies mingle. Gabrielle's mound pressed to Xena's stomach as the bard bent close for a passionate kiss.

Gabrielle pulled away first. "You're thinking something, I know, Xena." The warrior raised an eyebrow. "I know it. But it's all right for now. I'm hungry actually. It's well past lunch."

Xena nibbled on Gabrielle's bottom lip and teased, "Are you sure you're hungry for food?"

Gabrielle nodded. "Yes, definitely. Can't you hear my stomach growling, oh ye of sharp hearing?" She pressed the warrior's hand to her stomach. "See?" she added, when the muscles of her stomach rippled under Xena's light touch.

"Time to go fishing." Xena pulled the bard upright and led the bard back to the water.

"Oh, please," Gabrielle moaned. "I'm exhausted."

Xena relented and let Gabrielle sit dangling her feet in the warm spring water. The bard watched the warrior make quick work of catching two fish. Just as Xena waded ashore, Gabrielle found the strength in her legs to recover her clothes. She was about to tie together the sides of her top when Xena walked around her and laid a gentle hand on the soft skin between her breasts.

Gabrielle looked up and Xena thought she saw distress. So she kissed it away, lightly touching her lips to the corners of Gabrielle's mouth and the corners of her soft eyes. "It's all right, Gabrielle. I'm here."

The bard smiled and Xena left her to clean and prepare their lunch.

"What did you catch?" Gabrielle asked, as she finished tying off her top and settled her skirt on her hips. Xena, unabashedly, set the fish down while still nude. "I'll clean them while you put on your leathers," she offered. "You'll catch cold."

Xena looked up as Gabrielle's hand came down on her shoulder. "Just your eyes meeting mine sets my body on fire."

"To think my warrior is a bard at heart," Gabrielle chuckled. "Go on. Get dressed. I'll take care of lunch."

"You're still leery of my cooking."

Gabrielle laughed. "Xena, if I didn't do the cooking we'd starve. We can't survive on love alone."

Xena laughed, thankful a million times for her bard, and the events that brought them together. While she dressed, she watched Gabrielle leaning over the fire and knew she wanted her again. They were about a day out from a small village. Argo could use rest and a few nights in a stable. Xena could then pamper Gabrielle in proper surroundings, like the fireplace-lit room of a cozy inn.

"How about we stop in town for a while? Take in a few sights," she suggested to the bard as she came up behind her.

Gabrielle looked up, a sparkle of excitement lighting her green eyes. All she could think about was the soft down of a goose-feather bed, a hearty stew, people to talk with, and a market.


"Gabrielle, can we go back to the inn?" Xena put her hand to the small of Gabrielle's back and stroked gently, conveying, despite the close press of the crowd, her desire... to be elsewhere. Gabrielle gripped the hand gently but put it off her back.

The bard looked over her shoulder and up into the eyes of the woman behind her. "Not yet, Xena. I want to shop a little more. There's a nice booth up ahead with some parchments and quills for sale."

"Then let's get up there, and stop this." 

"Not yet. I'm not done." Gabrielle was firm. She'd been cooped up in the inn where they'd gotten a room -- at Xena's suggestion, for the last two days. Despite the proximity of the bed, they'd made love everywhere in that room except on it. Any hour of the day or night. Gabrielle was tired.

As the bard moved toward the booth with the parchments, knowing that to push the issue would put the warrior in a foul mood, she considered everything that Xena did during their almost marathon sessions. Xena was very creative, finding new spots to caress, lick, or rub which made Gabrielle's head swim with the release of orgasm after orgasm.

So, what is wrong, Gabrielle? The bard mused, feeling Xena's hand again stroking the small, exposed portion of her lower back. While she tamped down on the emotions the sensations caused, she wondered if somehow she wasn't enough for her partner. "Xena?"

The warrior leaned close and murmured, "Hmm?"

Gabrielle winced at the dreaminess in the warrior's voice. "Xena, tonight can we eat downstairs?"

"Don't you like taking our meals in the room?"

Gabrielle nodded. "Yes, but... Well, we haven't seen anyone else in a long time. I kind of miss telling my stories."

"You can always tell them to me," Xena replied, leaning close and stroking the bard's cheek. She drew Gabrielle's face around and smiled when their eyes met. "You haven't told me one in a while."

"Yeah, but, Xena... An audience of one? I won't become a famous bard if I keep my audiences that small." Gabrielle sighed when Xena frowned. "Never mind." She stopped in front of the parchment booth and turned away from Xena to discuss a purchase with the merchant. "I need several rolls of parchment," Gabrielle asked.

"I have lovely papyrus parchments. Very smooth." He reached over to their left and brought a sample close. "See? I also have soft nib quills for that perfect stroke." 

Gabrielle nodded and pointed to the parchment. "Just the parchment. I need eight sheets. How much?"

The merchant quoted, "13 dinars."

Gabrielle replied, "It's unevenly cut. I won't give you more than eight."

The merchant replied, "Are you mad? This was arduously smoothed." He ran a finger across the surface. He replied with a counter offer. "I'll take 12. No less."

Xena sighed and stepped back, letting Gabrielle haggle. When the bard finished, she had eight sheets of parchment, a new quill and new ink for ten dinars. Gabrielle watched the warrior shake her head. "Ready to go, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle looked over her shoulder. "Yes." She tucked her new purchases into her satchel and linked her arm with Xena's. "Let's go enjoy a nice meal. Downstairs."

Xena groaned. "Then a bath?" Her voice was hopeful. She laid a hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and lightly rubbed the pad of her thumb over the bard's exposed skin.

Gabrielle fell into bargaining mode quickly. "Xena, if it bothers you that much, I tell you what. I'll eat downstairs and you can eat in the room."


Gabrielle sighed. Xena didn't bargain very well. Gabrielle was determined to not go back to that room until very late. When exactly, at least, was up for discussion. "Xena, I'm eating downstairs. Then I might tell a few stories to the patrons. Now, can you join me for the meal at least?" Xena met Gabrielle's green eyes and slowly, she nodded. "Good," replied Gabrielle. "Let's go. I don't want to get the stew from the bottom of the pot. It's always a little burnt."

Gabrielle and Xena returned to the inn where they had their room. In the tavern dining room, Gabrielle led Xena to a quiet table near the back and let the warrior take the seat against the wall. A buxom tavern maid appeared at their table.

None too soon for Gabrielle. The warrior had slipped her foot out of her right boot and was running the rough pads of her toes enticingly up Gabrielle's left leg. The bard sighed and looked up at the maid. "I'll have ale."

"Port," offered Xena, her eyes never moving from watching Gabrielle's face in profile.

"Anything t' eat?"

"Two bowls of your stew," supplied Gabrielle who frowned when the warrior only shot the maid a disgruntled "would you go away" look.

"Sure. It'll be a few minutes. We just started another pot."

Gabrielle smiled warmly, tucking her legs beneath her further, out of the reach of Xena's foot. "Great!" In her anticipation, Gabrielle could fairly taste it, just thinking about fresh stew.

The maid left them, and Gabrielle turned a frown on Xena. "That wasn't very helpful, Xena."

The warrior smiled... lecherously, a look Gabrielle had come to associate with a particularly vigorous night ahead. "Sorry," she said but didn't sound sincere.

"Xena, this has to ... stop. No, well, not exactly stop, but..." Gabrielle lowered her voice. "Please slow down."

Xena sat back, looked around the room once then back at Gabrielle's intent look. "I don't understand."

Gabrielle sighed. "I can't do this here, now. When we get in the room later I'll explain." Xena's face took on a decidedly dejected look, and Gabrielle's heart melted... a little. But she knew she couldn't relent; her body was tired. "Please?" she added gently and took Xena's hands in her own before the warrior could drop them in her lap. It was a gesture Gabrielle had quickly learned was Xena's way of drawing into herself, shielding herself from a painful thought.

Xena was indeed thinking painful thoughts. Gabrielle had been not interested in physical intimacy at all today, whereas Xena couldn't stop thinking about it at any given moment.

She realized that Gabrielle was still waiting for some sort of response to her request that she slow down. "I guess so," she replied quietly.

The tavern maid returned with their drinks and Xena downed hers in two quick gulps. "Another," she asked because the maid wasn't yet even out of earshot.

Gabrielle looked at Xena and wondered what was going on in that raven head. Xena seemed distressed about something. Especially if she was tossing back port like it was water. "Xena? Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Gabrielle," she replied curtly. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"Are you really that upset that we're not having dinner in the room?"

Xena studied Gabrielle's face a long time before replying, tracing with her eyes the path her fingers longed to trace along the bard's cheek, throat and collarbone. "It's not the dinner," she replied simply, knowing that was a half-truth.

Gabrielle nodded. "Okay, it's not the dinner. We'll talk about it later then?"

Xena shrugged, shook her head, then nodded. "What do you want me to say?"

Gabrielle sighed ... very gently. "All right, we'll do more than talk." Xena's head shot up and a genuine smile, one of the warrior's soft ones, graced her face at last. And Gabrielle remembered why she had wanted this woman in the first place. "I promise," she added quietly. "Just bear with me. All right?"

Xena nodded. The tavern maid returned with their stew bowls and while Xena ate quickly, Gabrielle interspersed her appreciative bites of the stew with musings on what story she ought to tell on the performance step that night.

"How about how you freed Death from Sisyphus?" she asked the warrior, always careful, as usual, to check with Xena first before telling a story in public about her. Xena nodded. "All right. 'Death in Chains' it is," decided the bard, already thinking ahead quickly, scanning the room to determine her 'angle' for this audience.

Xena smiled, feeling less put out watching Gabrielle begin to glow. It came from the bard's expectation and excitement about storytelling, and filled her face. That excitement, which Gabrielle got when she was in full bard mode, spoke to Xena like a siren's song. She loved listening to her voice, watching the muscles in her throat, following the bard's hands as she used them to help her set a scene, or a mood, or describe a character. Gabrielle was so physical when she told a story; Xena just couldn't get enough of watching her.

Gabrielle quickly finished her stew, swallowed the last of her ale and stood up. She looked to Xena who offered a smile, then walked, straightening her shoulders, to the performance step. "Good evening, citizens. I have a tale for you tonight."

Xena waved the tavern maid down and requested another port and a mug of water, for Gabrielle when she finished. On the step, Gabrielle began her tale and Xena closed her eyes, trying to shut out the room at large and believe the story was being told just for her ears. It didn't work. Her keen hearing picked up all the conversations that continued despite Gabrielle's performance. A pair of men argued over a game of Axes and Hammers. At another table a merchant arranged delivery of some bolts of cloth to the wife of the leader of the town council. 

Satisfied she wasn't hearing any negative comments about Gabrielle's presence on the step, Xena settled back, sipped her port and absorbed the bard's tale. Gabrielle came upon the end, her voice edged with the sadness she'd felt all those moons ago.

"When Death was freed, she said she'd come, not for Sisyphus, but for Talus. My heart broke. Such a brave young man didn't deserve to die. I demanded of Celeste, since we had freed her, for her to grant him his life. But Talus didn't want that. I looked at Xena. I knew she had known. He'd been ill a long time, and in a lot of pain. Death was welcome for him. Together Xena and I watched Talus follow Celeste into the swirling mists of a gate to the Underworld."

Gabrielle finished her story to the clapping and cheering of the tavern's guests. She nodded, curtsied and stepped down. She accepted quiet words of praise as she passed patrons, while walking back to the table she shared with Xena.

"Well done, Gabrielle," commented Xena. She pushed the mug of water close to the bard. "Here, I think you need this."

Gabrielle smiled and drank the water gratefully. Xena watched her closely, looking for something in Gabrielle's face, the bard could tell. Hopefully when they were alone in the room Xena would let her in on her thoughts. She finished her water and pushed the mug aside. "Ready to go upstairs?"

Xena nodded. "Finally," she murmured under her breath as she stepped out from behind the table to follow Gabrielle to the rooms above.


"I'm beat," Gabrielle said as they entered the room. Xena scanned first for unwelcome parties and then pushed the door wide for the bard to enter first. "Let's just wash up in the basin tonight and get some sleep."

Xena closed the door and tucked the latch into place. She quickly untied her wrist guards and her breastplate, setting it all in a pile on the floor next to the near side of the bed. She turned around to find Gabrielle leaning over the basin, splashing her face and neck with the cold water. She took in the rounded curves of the bard's derriere and walked over until she could trap the bard's arms at her side, coax her upright and press her body along Gabrielle's backside. She caressed the curve of the bard's hip and bent her head, nibbling along the line of her exposed neck. "I wasn't thinking of sleep," she murmured against the damp skin. Her warm breath sent shivers through the bard.

Gabrielle's head fell back, then she remembered she wanted to talk to Xena. "Um, Xena?"

"Yes, Gabrielle?" The warrior guided the bard to the bed, not separating their bodies for an instant. Her hands roamed the younger woman's body with a questing touch.

Gabrielle tried to keep her thoughts clear even as Xena lowered her to the bed and was removing clothing. Xena latched onto a rosy nipple with gentle bites and licks and Gabrielle sighed, then she recalled herself. "Xena, um... please?"

"Please what, Gabrielle?" Xena lifted herself over the bard and with her knee, nudged the bard's legs apart, then settled her thigh between them. She nibbled on the soft skin of Gabrielle's throat. She felt the hum as Gabrielle spoke, then stopped moving. She couldn't credit what she'd just heard. "What?" She lifted her head to study the bard's face. "What did you just say?"

"I asked you to stop."

Xena lifted herself from the bard and sat on the edge of the bed. "Are you serious?"

Gabrielle sighed. "Yes, Xena, I am. I wouldn't mind snuggling tonight. But no sex, please?"

"It's not sex, Gabrielle. You said so. It's love."

"Not this way, Xena. With you it's some sort of marathon run. I can't do it. Not right now. I'm tired. I do want to snuggle, but I don't want to have sex, all right?"

Xena turned and Gabrielle watched the muscles play on her lover's shoulders and back as the warrior woman moved across the bed toward her again, looking like nothing so much as a sleek tiger. "I'd like to change your mind," Xena purred, letting her breath caress the bard's throat, as a soft hand cupped a breast.

Gabrielle's head fell to Xena's shoulder and she put her hands on Xena's arms to steady herself and try to get Xena to back up. "I know you could easily change my mind." She nudged Xena's chin up. "But I'm asking you not to try."

Xena sat up. "I see. Fine." She moved off the bed and went to the saddlebags with their belongings. She fished briefly and came up with Gabrielle's shift. She tossed it to the bard. "Here. I'll sleep in the chair."


"What?" The warrior wasn't snapping, but her voice was certainly not soft, as she responded while settling on the chair.

Gabrielle sighed. "Please come to bed."


"To sleep, Xena," Gabrielle supplied on a sigh.

"I'm not tired," replied the warrior, leaning over and fishing out her whetstone and sword. She began rubbing the stone against the blade, up and down, up and down, hoping the noise would distract her from her other, deprived feelings.

Gabrielle slipped off the bed. "I'm sorry, Xena, but look, since I told you how I feel outside Notch week ago, you haven't let up once."

Xena continued to sharpen her sword, not looking up.

Gabrielle sighed, took the sword and stone from Xena's hands and knelt at the warrior's feet, looking up into the down-turned face. And saw the tears. "Why can't we just snuggle?"

"I've wanted to make love with you since this morning," Xena confessed. "I can't think of anything else."

Gabrielle grasped the warrior's hands. "Come to bed. Please?" Gabrielle stood and taking the warrior's hands in her own, led Xena to the bed. She gently pushed, finally moving Xena back until the bed bumped the warrior from behind and made her sit. Xena tried to pull Gabrielle down on top of her, but Gabrielle put a finger to Xena's lips when they came close to her own. "Shhh." 

The bard slid her body over Xena's until she was on the other side of the warrior who finally laid back. She put an arm over Xena's leather-clad stomach and put her head in the crook of Xena's shoulder. She felt the warrior's arm go around her back. She lifted her head and kissed Xena's cheek, then replaced her head on the warrior's shoulder.

"What do you want me to do, Gabrielle?"

"Right now, just close your eyes." She touched Xena's face gently, caressing the warrior's cheek and brow, and finally brushing the broad side of her hand over her eyes, encouraging them to close. "I love you, Xena." she kissed the warrior's exposed throat.

"I want to love you too, Gabrielle," replied Xena.

"I'm tired, Xena. I haven't had a good night's sleep in several days," Gabrielle murmured against the warrior's chest.

"But I thought I pleased you in bed." Xena frowned. "You sound like I don't."

"It's too much. Do you know since Notch, we've been together every single day. Often several times a day?"

Xena shook her head. "What's wrong with that? I want to bring you pleasure. I'm giving."

Gabrielle lifted her head and tried to get Xena to meet her eyes, but the warrior looked anywhere but at the bard. "You're taking over the sex in this relationship. I want to give to you too. That brings me pleasure even more than having an orgasm does."

Now as Gabrielle finally got the warrior's attention, Xena looked incredulous. Gabrielle just put a gentle hand over the warrior's mouth. "Don't say anything, Xena. Just listen." Gabrielle fell still. The only sound either woman heard was the pulse pounding in her head and the tandem beats of their hearts.

Gabrielle laid her head back on Xena's shoulder and wrapped her arms around the warrior. She sighed. "I'm sorry, Xena. Forget I said anything." Even as she also longed to lose herself in making love with the warrior, it wasn't the only thing Gabrielle wanted. She wanted Xena's heart. If she could only get Xena to remember what kinds of intimacy there were including sex. 

The kinds of intimacies they'd shared before Notch. Stargazing at night, quietly walking along together down the road, sharing a story next to the campfire, and practicing together. Gabrielle lifted her head at that thought. "Xena?"

"Yes?" Gabrielle grimaced at the wariness in the tone.

"Could we go practice together in the morning?"

"I suppose."


"Yes, Gabrielle?" A heavy sigh. Xena was obviously having trouble relaxing.

"Thank you." She hugged the warrior tightly and threw a leg over the warrior's stiff body. She squeezed tightly until she felt Xena's muscles release their tension.

Xena closed her eyes and tried to absorb everything Gabrielle had said. Not much of it made sense. On the one hand she had thought Gabrielle was satisfied with their physical relationship. The bard always had a soft look afterwards and fell asleep in Xena's arms. But Gabrielle seemed to be saying that she wasn't happy.

Xena was happy with the relationship. At least she thought she was. At times, when Gabrielle fell asleep, Xena recalled, occasionally she felt a little like something was left undone, but without a sense of what that something was.

She'd been solicitous of Gabrielle's needs above everything. Wasn't that what this was all about? Giving instead of taking? Pleasure instead of power? Wasn't power making demands on your partner? So she made no demands on Gabrielle. She asked only for the opportunity to bring her pleasure. What was wrong with that? According to Gabrielle there was a lot wrong with it. Xena fell into a troubled sleep. How am I going to fix this?

Mornings always came too quickly for the bard, Xena knew, even as she tried to stir Gabrielle from sleep, hoping to entice her into lovemaking before breakfast. She stroked the bard's lithe body, hand roving beneath the soft blanket over softer skin. Gabrielle always felt so soft.

Xena bent over her bard and kissed the soft skin of her temple, wondering what dreams played in Gabrielle's mind. She was about to nuzzle the curve of the bard's neck when there was a sharp rap on the door to their room.

Xena pulled the covers up closer about the bard's shoulders, and kissed her cheek. "Sleep well, Gabrielle," she murmured before crossing the room to cautiously open the door.

"What is it?" She took in quickly the entire appearance of the man standing at the door. He was reasonably affluent; his clothes were refined in cut and fit. He was middle-aged and well groomed, certainly not a laborer.

"I have come to ask a favor of Xena, the Warrior Princess. We had heard she was staying here."

"I'm Xena."

"You? But..." He stammered, floundering to his final thought. "But you don't look like a killer." He indicated her soft cloth shift and general disarray.

Xena smiled, which softened her appearance even more. Wait until Gabrielle hears this one. Someone actually thought she didn't look fierce enough to be The Warrior Princess of the legends. I must've outwardly changed too, Xena thought, stepping outside the room to address the man in the quiet of the hall while her bard slept.


Gabrielle awakened and stretched, finding herself alone in the bed. She looked around the room and frowned when she found Xena, the warrior's customary armor, and sword gone. 

Feeling well rested the bard had awakened in an amorous mood, interested in seeing to the warrior's desires. She was startled by a firm knock at the door. "Come in," She slipped back under the covers and watched the door open slowly. The innkeeper's wife, a slender woman of middle years, peeked around the oak edge.

"Are ye awake then?"

"What have you got there?" asked Gabrielle, curiosity drawing her off the bed, into a robe and toward the door.

"Your breakfast. Your friend wasn' so sure you'd want it t' up here, but says I, any woman would love breakfast in bed. My Erasmus does t' same for me once a moon." The innkeeper's wife moved to the table near the bed and set down a well-laden tray.

Gabrielle followed her, and picked up a small sweet roll. Before biting into it, she asked, "My friend? You saw her? Where did she go?"

Sitting on the edge of the bed, the innkeeper looked up into Gabrielle's face and replied easily, "Out to work her horse."

Gabrielle sighed. That was a good sign, however... "Was she in a good mood?"

"With ye to be having at night and ye have t' ask?" replied the innkeeper's wife, incredulity lacing her words. Then she fell silent. "Well, t' mention it. She weren't really smilin'." Gabrielle's face fell. The woman added quickly, "But she weren't frowning neither. Seemed to have a lot on her mind. You two missin' the boat?"

Gabrielle was confused by the expression. "What do you mean?"

"Well, it was yesterday you were sullen. Now today 'tis your friend. I figure there be a mite of missing signals."

Gabrielle sighed. "Something like that. Maybe." She sat on the bed next to the brown-haired woman and nibbled on her sweet roll. "I'm Gabrielle, by the way. Thank you for the tray."

"Tweren't nuthin'. You two just fix it up, all right? You and she are good together, I'm thinkin'. If you be needin' any one to talk to, I'm Melani." She patted Gabrielle's knee and got up to leave. "Don't worry about the tray. I'll have someone fetch it later. You do what you want."

Gabrielle thought about Melani's words while she ate from the tray of food. She tucked a sweet roll in a cloth and stashed it in her pouch to give to Xena later. There was also a small bowl of fresh grapes. She nibbled one and realized how sweet they were. Maybe the way to her warrior's heart was through her stomach? Gabrielle thought dreamily as she tucked the grapes away, knowing Xena's weakness for sweets. She began hoping, and trying to imagine an afternoon of pleasure.

Then she sighed. You really blew it, Gabrielle, she admonished herself. Telling Xena that she wasn't satisfying you wasn't the most delicate you've ever been.

Maybe she could get Xena to come back to the inn. Though after the mess she made of her explanation last night, Gabrielle wasn't so sure Xena was going to be all that easy to entice. Gabrielle quickly finished off a small mug of goat's milk, an apple and another sweet roll. Licking the sticky sugars from her fingers, she left the inn's room, pulling it securely shut behind her.

Gabrielle went directly to the town stable looking for Xena to return on Argo. She was chatting with a merchant preparing his stall for the opening of market day when the warrior rode up the middle of the street.

The bard sighed, drinking in the silky sheen of Xena's skin. She recalled the last time she'd watched the warrior in her morning workout. Nothing made Gabrielle's temperature rise faster than watching Xena's workouts. Now, just watching the easy manner of the cantering horse and long shapely legs hugging Argo's sides, Gabrielle felt a definite flush. She stood from the small stool she'd been using and stepped out into the center of the road, reaching for Argo's bridle even as Xena pulled the mare up and slid off her back.

"Hi, Xena." Gabrielle pulled one of the cloth-wrapped sweet rolls from her pouch. "I brought you something."

Xena absently took the food, and turned back to her horse. "I have to go out again, Gabrielle. Will you be all right here?"

Gabrielle paused, looked up at the inn but then slowly nodded. "Fine, I suppose. Where are you going?"

"There's a band of horse thieves in the area. I've been asked to look into disbanding them."

Gabrielle nodded, a bit disappointed, but understanding that Xena had to do this. "I'll be waiting for you."

Xena mounted Argo and turned the mare toward Gabrielle. She leaned over and captured the bard's lips swiftly in a kiss. "You do that."

As she rode away, Xena tried to shake off the feeling she was abandoning Gabrielle. The bard's eyes had been luminous with undisguised desire. And just her luck, Xena thought, I've now got something that may keep me away for some time.

Xena trotted Argo over to the community building where the city council awaited her. She thought on how to bring about the end of the impasse she seemed to have reached with Gabrielle. Obviously, from the bard's desire so plain in her eyes, yesterday had plainly been unusual. Xena considered herself able to ebb and flow with the best of them.

She listened with half an ear as every farmer who'd had a horse stolen told about the circumstances. Not much information helpful to tracking the thieves came out of the meeting, but as Xena mounted up on Argo again, she promised to find the thieves and recover any horses as quickly as possible. A particularly distraught farmer grabbed her arm just as she mounted up.

"Miss, be careful. Them thieves used weapons to take my horse."

Xena couldn't think what but that was the only unusual detail she'd heard all morning. "Something special about your horse?"

The farmer shook his head. "Can't really say, but she was just mated to a big war horse, the mount of our local constable."

Xena nodded. "Thanks. Where's the constable? I'd like to see his horse."

"Up the street about a hundred lengths." The farmer pointed over his shoulder.

"He does still have his horse, right?" Xena asked, turning Argo in the direction indicated.

The farmer thought a minute and then nodded. "Come to think of it, yeah, I think so."

Xena absorbed that with a smile, and nudged Argo to a canter. She covered the distance quickly, dismounting in front of a structure with bars on the windows. Local jail, Xena thought with a nod. She called out as she stepped onto the porch, "Anyone here?"

"In the back," came the reply. Then a big man stepped into the front room, as Xena ducked into the doorway. "Can I help you?"

"I've offered to track the horse thieves," she said without preamble. "I understand your horse is still here. Can I have a look at him?"

"Nothing special about my horse. But he's a good mount. I've had him for years."

"Have you been the law around here for long?"

"About three moons. I left my regiment when we were coming back from Troy just at the road out there. These folks had just lost their last lawman. To the horse thieves I think they said."

Xena nodded. Something didn't sound right. But for now she'd accept his story. So she gestured. "Please show me your stallion."

He shrugged and led her out back. "There," he said, pointing to a chocolate colored mount, tied with a long lead rope to a tree, that was cropping the grass. Xena inclined her head, silently asking to move in closer. He shrugged and she walked around the stallion, then felt his sides. She ran a hand over his shoulders, legs and throat. "Really a fine animal," she said finally, standing and dusting off her hands. "I'd better get on the road."

"Need a hand tracking?"

"You'd better stay around here. With me out looking for them, someone needs to be here to prevent another theft."

He nodded, and he and Xena walked back around the building to where Argo stood patiently waiting.

"That your horse?" he asked, his voice full of admiration.

"Yes, she's been with me for several years. I'm quite happy with her."

"She for sale?" He walked around the mare as Xena slipped a foot into her stirrup and pulled herself into the saddle.

"Not at any price," Xena replied firmly.

"You interested in breeding her?" His eyes gleamed with the possibilities.

Xena shook her head. "Maybe in a few years, but for now... No." She turned Argo's head and urged the mare into a gallop as they bolted from town. She had a feeling, she realized as she looked back over her shoulder at the lawman. But she had better check the woods for a camp of stolen horses first.

Especially before she accused the town's own law with breaking it.

Gabrielle waited patiently all day for Xena to return. When the warrior finally did, she was covered in dust, looked tired, disheveled and hungry. But Gabrielle saw only that Xena was back. As the bard watched Xena dismount from Argo, and walk the mare into the stable, Gabrielle could feel her desire like a pit of hunger in her stomach.

The low light of the setting sun caressed the warrior's skin in a tantalizing bronze. Gabrielle felt her mouth water at the thought of kissing Xena's soft lips. On the heels of that was a blush as she thought of tasting Xena's center. Then Xena strode across the street from the stable and enveloped the bard in her arms.

Gabrielle sighed, hearing Xena's heart beating against her ear. "You waited for me," whispered Xena, her nose buried in the fragrant abundance of Gabrielle's hair.

"Of course I did," replied Gabrielle. She pulled back in Xena's embrace and looked up into Xena's face. Seductively she tugged the warrior into the shadows near the inn door. "Are you as hungry as I am?"

Xena smiled, kissed Gabrielle's nose and nodded. "After I've eaten, all right?"

Gabrielle sighed, her mouth a beautiful pout. Xena almost laughed -- almost. Passion in addition to the hunger was riding her hard as well. But she'd be worthless in bed with Gabrielle if she didn't eat first. So she gently kissed Gabrielle, not a kiss to rouse passion, but a kiss of promise.

It seemed to soothe the bard and the two of them walked into the inn. Gabrielle watched Xena eat, unable to consider food herself. "You are incredible, Xena."

"Why because I'm eating? Most of us do it at one time or another, Gabrielle," Xena chuckled, loving the huffy look that suddenly covered the bard's face. "Relax, I'm only teasing." She offered a bite of stew. "Sure you wouldn't like some?"

"You torture me any more, Xena, and I'll demand that sparring match you promised me, just to spite you."

"And deny yourself the pleasure?" Xena replied with a sensuous smile.

Gabrielle sighed again, and waited for Xena to finish eating. "Want to go out for a little while? I'm ready to have my butt kicked in staff practice." She smiled.

Xena smiled in return and as they stood and walked to the door together, the warrior stroked her hand over the derriere under discussion. "I promise to kiss any bruises."

Gabrielle grinned. "I'm counting on it."


Gabrielle found her rhythm sometime during the fourth match. Xena had dropped the bard quickly in each of the first three matches, but Gabrielle had a need to work off some of her sexual energy. She focused on Xena's face again and lifted her staff to the ready position. "Go," she called.

Xena on the other hand had already dispelled the nervous energy acquired during her morning. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," responded the bard. And she took the offensive. Xena blocked the strike, which was quite on target for the warrior's stomach. "You promised to teach me a defensive strike."

Xena responded to the next charge by the bard, who was grimacing uncharacteristically, with the move she intended to teach Gabrielle. One end of her staff hit Gabrielle on the arm and when Gabrielle turned to the side to push it away, she caught the bard across the rear end throwing her off balance. When the bard was sprawled on the ground, Xena bent over her. "You have to be on the defensive first, Gabrielle." She pulled the bard to her feet. "Now, what is going on with you?"

Gabrielle frowned. "Just teach me that move." She lifted her staff again.

Xena sighed. "I haven't hit you in the head yet, but Gabrielle, I'm seriously considering it." She lifted her staff and the two women stood side by side, Gabrielle mimicked the staff movements of the warrior. After several circles, drops and sweeps, and getting a nod of approval from Xena, Gabrielle faced Xena again.

"I'm ready," she said.

Xena shook her head but began her attacks. Gabrielle defended well. And finally Xena made the attack that should be defended with the new move. Gabrielle picked up on the opening. Xena stiffened her arms and rolled with the strike. The hit to her backside hurt though and she didn't roll out of it, instead went sprawling just as Gabrielle had earlier.

Gabrielle was instantly at Xena's side. "I'm sorry. Are you all right?"

Xena rolled over and sat up. "Fine. I'm fine, Gabrielle. That last hit was just harder than I expected from you. Though the way you've been acting that was stupid judgment on my part." She stood and rubbed her backside. "I said I'd kiss all your bruises but I think that'll be the other way around."

Gabrielle fell into Xena's embrace, shaking. "I'm sorry, Xena. I don't know what's wrong with me. I didn't mean to hurt you."

Xena chuckled. "I'm fine. I told you. But I think you have the same problem I did yesterday." Gabrielle looked up. "Sexual frustration," Xena explained.

"But I didn't want --" Xena hushed the younger woman with a finger softly on her lips.

"I wasn't in the mood when I got back from my workout. So when I wasn't in the mood, you got all the energy trapped inside."

"And it was the same with you the day before? When I didn't want to?"

Xena nodded. "Definitely." She settled with Gabrielle, on a fallen tree trunk. "I love making love to you. And when you weren't interested..."

"It felt like this?" Gabrielle asked, rubbing her stomach. "I feel all knotted up inside. All I wanted was a change of pace."

"I'm sorry I'd been so focused on it."

Gabrielle shook her head. "I was beginning to think we were mismatched. It bothered me. Guess I should have said something."

"I wish you would have. I don't want you ever having sex with me if you don't want to."

"But you seemed to want it so much," Gabrielle replied quietly.

"I'm so sorry, Gabrielle. I forget sometimes what a control freak I am. I never want you scared of me."

"You're no--"

"Don't try to brush it up differently, Gabrielle. How else could I have managed to be the person I am if I didn't want everything carefully controlled?"

Gabrielle nodded. "I always called it intensity." She smiled wryly. "What can we do about it?"

"Let's get back to the inn and decide," replied Xena, grasping Gabrielle's hand warmly.


As the two women arrived back on the main street of town, a ruckus broke out on the street outside.

"Come back here with my horse!" Someone yelled, and Gabrielle had to back up covering her nose and mouth as a huge cloud of dust galloped past. Xena ran across the way, to where Argo was stabled, intent on giving chase.

But she appeared a moment later, as the dust was settling. Gabrielle walked up to her, noticing the rigid line of shoulder, the tautness of jaw. "What happened?" Gabrielle asked, putting her hand soothingly on the warrior's forearm.

"They grabbed Argo." Xena looked up at Gabrielle then up at the sky. "I should have seen it coming and kept her with us."

Gabrielle shook her head. "There have to be mounts still around here somewhere. We'll go after her. And the rest."

Xena shook her head. "Gabrielle, I tracked all day. I went through miles of that countryside. If they're camping out there I haven't got a clue where." She pointed up the street. "Look, they've vanished already."

"They still have tracks." Gabrielle shook her head again. "No, no. We'll find them. We will find Argo, Xena. I promise we will." Gabrielle started walking in the direction of the fleeing horse thieves. And Xena could do nothing but follow. "Until now, the horse thieves stayed away from riding mounts. Always farming horses. But that was the local lawman yelling. And also they took Argo this time."

"But they're all mares."

"Not the lawman's horse. But all the rest were mares."

"What's all that suggest to you?"

"Breeders," remarked the warrior, revealing a small smile. "I'd like to have another talk with that lawman." Xena stopped and started to turn back to town.

Gabrielle shook her head, grabbing Xena's arm. "No, if he's in it with them, we'll find him wherever they're camped, right? If he's there we'll deal with him, but our first priority is to get the horses back."

Xena's smile broadened. "Let's go." She started jogging down the clearly marked trail of the fleeing horses. Gabrielle was close behind.

Soon, however, both women slowed up. The trail became fainter, and finally disappeared altogether at the edge of the thick forest.

Xena searched for broken branches, anything at all which might indicate where the horse thieves had entered the forest with their bounty. Then she remembered something. "Wait a minute!" She stood up, and started looking at about shoulder height. "Gabrielle, over here!"

Gabrielle jogged over to where Xena pushed aside some bramble and noticed a scratched section of bark on a massive tree. "What is it, Xena?"

"What do you see here?" Xena was smiling broadly pointing to the denuded section of bark.

"Something knocked the bark off the tree there. So?"

"Do you remember when Callisto was in my body, and I had to track her and you in the woods to try and get back?"

Gabrielle nodded uncertainly. "Yes, you found us, you said, because... Argo led you to us." Gabrielle's smile reappeared. "You think Argo did that?"

"Looks just like the marks I followed to find you back then."

Gabrielle grabbed Xena's hand. "All right then, let's go."

Xena and Gabrielle moved on through the forest and every few trees or so found another chewed section on which to judge their route. Spirits were high, and got higher still until they came to a stream.

Gabrielle checked the near bank while Xena waded across and checked the far bank. There didn't seem to be any more chewed bark trees.

Xena was wading back across the river toward Gabrielle when both heard a soft whinny drifting to them from upriver. Xena pushed against the current, remaining in the water, while Gabrielle raced along the shore toward the sound.

Both women finally stopped just this side of a small rise in the river's path, and Xena joined Gabrielle on the bank. Both of them crouched in the foliage and moved forward on Xena's signal, to peer over.

There below them was a small camp, horses corralled off to the right, and men sitting around a campfire to the left, with a guard standing near the corral, watching his friends play Axes and Hammers.

"Yo, Callus. Put me in for twenty. Against you. No way you can make a temple with that hand," he yelled.

The man in question groused, tossed down his cards, stood and said, "You wanna play, you come over here. Seein' my cards ain't how to play the game."

"Glad to, if'n you watch these beauties." He tossed a finger over his shoulder indicating their collection of horses.

Callus, pocketed a very small pile of dinars and traded places with the guard. Eagerly the guard dropped to his hands and knees and tossed in a few dinars to get dealt into the next round.

Gabrielle and Xena worked their way slowly around the edge of the camp toward the corralled horses. At one point, Xena froze, finger to her lips. She pointed up ahead as Gabrielle looked at her in confusion. Ahead was a small family of quail. If the two women moved through their nest, the resulting disturbance would announce their presence for certain.

"Stay here, Gabrielle," Xena said.

"Why? I can move quietly too."

"I don't want those men getting their hands on you, all right?"

"How about if I create a diversion while you get over to the corral?"

"What're you going to do?"

"Scare a little quail," replied Gabrielle, inching forward. "You can circle around the other way, and give me a signal. The birds will make a diversion over here, while you get around over there," she said, pointing to the other side of the camp.

Xena nodded. "Good thinking. Promise me though you'll stay out of sight. I only want those guys to see bird tails, not your tail." Xena grinned and patted the bard's rear.

Gabrielle grinned back. "You be careful too."

The two shared a gentle kiss and then Gabrielle watched as Xena began sneaking back in the other direction, working her way around to the other side of the camp, near the men and their card game.

Gabrielle sat back on her rump and waited for the signal. She could just see the warrior's brunette head -- only because she was looking for it -- as Xena finally made it close to the corral. Then she leapt forward, scaring the quail family into taking to the air.

The men jumped up from their card game, swords at the ready, and chased into the woods the quail had just vacated.

Gabrielle scurried back and concealed herself in a thick bush. Finally, she took a deep breath and emerged into the clearing to find Xena and Argo reuniting in the corral.

Xena mounted Argo, drew her sword and started cutting lead ropes that tied the other horses together. "Up, Gabrielle!" Xena held out her hand after Gabrielle opened the gate of the corral.

Gabrielle shook her head and moved quickly around Xena, scaring the other horses into bolting too. Then she turned and smiled at Xena, taking the warrior's hand. "Now I'm ready. Let's go!"

Xena and Gabrielle, Argo and the other horses raced from the clearing just as the horse thieves reappeared. Xena turned Argo and while the other horses ran off, she met the challenge by the thieves.

With Gabrielle at her side, Xena didn't want to have to get off Argo, but finally, she realized she could not effectively capture all the men without getting to her feet.

"Gabrielle, stay on Argo." She swung at another sword, blocking it. "If anyone comes close, you get out of here." Xena slid off the horse not waiting for Gabrielle's reply. With her whip, she snapped off several tree branches. Then with a bit of physical tussling, she "corralled" all the thieves, unconscious, in the middle of an interwoven group of branches.

Gabrielle tossed her the rope from Argo's saddle. One at a time, Xena tied the men into a long line, by their hands. Then tied the other end to Argo's saddle.

Gabrielle led Argo and Xena, sword in hand, brought up the rear. And the small hunting party came back to town with their quarry.

When bard and warrior returned to town, cheers, and a very sour-faced lawman greeted them. "Where's my horse?" he asked, as he took the rope of men.

"No doubt he'll come trotting back very soon," Xena assured him. She raised her voice so that others could hear her next words. "All of them should return to their stables within a day."

A cheer rose again. Several happy farmers clapped the warrior on the back. The farmer who'd spoken to Xena as she left the council meeting earlier that day walked up to her and looked up into her face. "Thank you," he said simply.

Xena nodded. "You're welcome." He walked off happily. Gabrielle slipped under her arm and looked up into a smiling face. "Well, it's over now. Can we go get some sleep?"

Gabrielle smiled trailing a hand up Xena's arm seductively. "Tired, Princess?"

Xena nodded, then looked up and caught the gleam in Gabrielle's eye. "I'll let you lead this time."

The bard's eyes gleamed with green fire, and Xena could not resist the tug as Gabrielle led her into the inn, making their excuses under her breath.

Xena was very tired though as Gabrielle told her to go lie on the bed. In a trice though she tried, Xena could not keep her eyes open and was soon soundly sleeping.

Gabrielle sighed, put the food back on the bedside table and slid under the covers, pulling herself against the warrior's long, lean and warm body. Xena groaned in her sleep, and Gabrielle sighed. They had missed again.


Dawn came and found the two of them downstairs for breakfast. Melani bustled about them, everything she served "on the house." All Xena could think about was getting Gabrielle out of town. Her plan to treat the bard to some pampering had fallen far by the wayside in the wake of recent events.

Gabrielle for her part was finally finding her appetite unsatisfied despite all the food before them. She missed the warrior terribly, and though Xena seemed to have finally relaxed about needing sex every night, Gabrielle was now, herself, finding she could think of little else.

"When are we leaving?" she asked the warrior.

Xena smiled sensuously. "How quickly can you be packed?"

That night, as their campfire settled to a simmer, Gabrielle and Xena finished their dinner. They nestled together. With all the contact, Xena's fire began to build. Silence blanketed the two women for a long while. Finally, Xena spoke. "Gabrielle?"

"Yes, Xena?" Gabrielle leaned back into Xena's chest and closed her eyes, nodding her head. "I'm content for now." She grinned at the warrior's raised eyebrow. "In more ways than one," she murmured.

Xena stroked the bard's shoulder until she put her head back down against the pillow. "I'm glad we had that talk."

"Me too."

Xena rolled Gabrielle beneath her. "I'm tired of talking." She nuzzled Gabrielle's throat while stripping off the bard's top and skirt.

"So am I." She stroked her fingers through Xena's hair as the woman kissed down her stomach and left a wet trail she warmed with her breath.

"Gabrielle?" Xena's murmured words caressed the top of Gabrielle's golden covered mound. The bard's hips squirmed.

"Yes, Xena?"

"Can I?"

Gabrielle nearly died as the warrior's breathing stirred the hairs of her mound, causing a deep shiver of passion to erupt in her stomach. "Gods, yes," she moaned.

Xena smiled and settled herself between Gabrielle's legs, focusing on the glistening lips of her lover's center. She slipped her palms beneath the bard's soft globes and lifted gently, bringing the unique odor of her lover up to her nose. "You smell like honey," she murmured before touching her tongue to the glistening wetness. She sighed, feeling the shiver that her hot breath sent through the bard's body. "And you taste better than nutbread." She lowered her mouth to the bard's center and lapped up the sweet liquid passion.

"Xe-- na," moaned Gabrielle softly. She grasped at the warrior and kneaded the muscles across the braced shoulders. The warrior's hair rubbed along the inside of Gabrielle's thighs, sending more shivers coursing through the bard's already overloaded, and sensitized body. "Oh gods, Xe..." Gabrielle's voice failed her completely as a wave began to build in her loins. The pace of Xena's ministrations increased as Gabrielle's moans became pants.

The warrior felt the quiver start down in the bard's feet. Her knees tensed on either side of Xena's head and for the briefest moment, Xena paused, lifting her tongue away. She could see Gabrielle's scream of frustration gathering. The woman's chest expanded and then Xena slipped a finger inside the bard. She sucked the bard's throbbing clit into her mouth and felt the muscles of her lover begin to throb. She rotated her finger and carefully added another. She released the bard's hard nub and slid up Gabrielle's body to capture her mouth. She felt muscles grip her fingers and Gabrielle's scream of pleasure erupted into her own throat.

Panting, Gabrielle nestled in the crook of the warrior's shoulder as Xena maneuvered them a bit to get comfortable.

"Are you all right, Gabrielle?" Xena stroked the bard's arms and back. 

"Fine. Absolutely fine," Gabrielle murmured into the warrior's shoulder.

"Didn't mean to overwhelm you," Xena said softly.

"You do it so well. And to think neither of us had done anything like this before each other. Must be a natural."

Xena kissed the bard's mouth gently. "Making love to you is the most natural thing I've ever done in my life, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle found the softest blue eyes meeting hers. "You're wonderful, Xena." She nuzzled the warrior's throat, her mind beginning to picture bringing Xena to release.

"I thought you considered this part of our relationship overrated?" Xena said, lifting her chin to give the bard better access.

"Oh, not overrated. Just in need of a little role reversal from time to time."

"Is it enough... for... you?" asked Xena, as Gabrielle's hand began trailing again over Xena's sensitive bud. Gabrielle's mouth licked a hot trail down Xena's stomach, and the warrior's muscles jumped.

"I'd like to try something, Xena," she said, pushing gently against the warrior's shoulders.

Placing a grape firmly in her teeth, Gabrielle traced her lips over Xena's throat, wetting it with grape juices. She squeezed the juices out over the warrior's pulse point and then, after swallowing the grape, proceeded to lick the warrior's throat clean.

Xena closed her eyes, struggling to keep a level of control that she felt slipping away. "Gabrielle," she murmured, hoping to ask the bard to stop torturing her. But nothing else got past her lips as Gabrielle's mouth closed over hers.

"Shh, Xena. I'm going to take control for a little while." She nibbled the warrior's lower lip. Straddling the warrior's stomach, Gabrielle finished pulling down Xena's leather tunic, revealing the swell of generous breasts and dark nipples against cream-colored skin. She captured Xena's mouth with a passion-filled kiss, while palming a breast in each hand, thumbs flicking the nipples teasingly. The warrior began to squirm.

Gabrielle chuckled while trailing kisses down Xena's cheek, throat and collarbone. She descended, after a long moment lingering over the pulse point of Xena's throat, to suckle the left breast. Xena's hips leapt off the blankets. Gabrielle pressed her hips down against Xena's to secure the warrior's position. "Relax, Xena."

Gabrielle licked at the warrior's bottom lip causing Xena to meet the emerald green gaze. She saw the promise ... She saw too the love that the bard had for her. Xena grew weak again at Gabrielle's touch.

Xena remembered their first night outside Notch, how Gabrielle had told her she wanted to protect her, to defend the softness inside the warrior, to nurture it again. She remembered the brief moment of incredulity just before her control snapped and she felt her first orgasm at Gabrielle's hands that night. It was happening again. The warrior waited for the fear to start. Gabrielle grasped her hands and the anxiety began to slip away.

Just before Gabrielle's mouth reached Xena's bud, her fingers plunged into the warrior's hot, wet depths. Xena gasped and her hips jumped off the blankets. Before Xena's hips could rest again, Gabrielle grasped the bud between her lips and added a touch of pressure. That broke the last of Xena's control, and the warrior screamed, nearly as loudly as her bard at the moment of release.

Gabrielle kept her lips on Xena as the waves continued to crash over the warrior. Then she withdrew and only left a soft hand against the woman's mound as she slid up to cradle in Xena's arms. "I love you. Bringing you pleasure is the most wonderful thing in the world."

Xena sighed, panted, and waited for her heart to stop racing. "You're thanking me, and I should be thanking you."

Gabrielle pushed herself above the warrior for a moment, bracing her arms to either side of Xena's head. Her hair cascaded forward off her shoulders, hiding them both from the world outside behind its golden veil. She studied Xena's eyes, which met hers glimmering with firelight. "Scary?"

Xena nodded hiding her face in Gabrielle's shoulder. "But I think I'll survive letting you lead from time to time."

Continued in "Honeymoon's Over"

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