The The Warden's Wish

by My OSage

Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess do not belong to me. They do as they wish, with or without my permission. And although they may not be perfect, they're always entertaining.

Spoilers: None. But having seen the episode, "Locked up and Tied Down" from Season 4 is a must to know the references to Thalassa and to what transpired on Shark Island. That "glorious week on the Isle of Lesbos" I refer to can be found in my story "Sappho's Inspiration".

WARNING! I've put infidelity in this story not because I condone it. But I am willing to concede that sometimes events happen that may make a relationship stronger or tear it apart. But don't worry, no angst here. The challenges and blessings we encounter are what life and love are all about, n'est pas? As usual this story contains explicit, consensual sex between women, sometimes. And certainly romantic involvement between women, always. Because that's the way I like it. If this kind of thing is not to your liking, then go away. It's a far reaching Internet out there.

Dedication? Why yes, my first: For that intriguing Canadian.

"You're doing it again."

"Doing what?" Xena sounded slightly irritated.

Gabrielle shot her an exasperated look. "You're trying to keep the danger you'll be involved in from me."

Caught again by the bard/peacemaker who knew her so well, Xena had the courtesy to look somewhat chagrined. "I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I don't know if there is actually going to be an uprising at the prison or not. The warden just asked that I be in the vicinity in case there was. There are quite a few extremely dangerous men in that prison."

Another of the many violent situations that needed Xena's attention. It was nothing new. But now that she didn't participate in the conflicts that continued to involve Xena, sometimes she felt kept at a distance. Once she'd been concerned that the fighting created one more bond between them. Now, not fighting was one more division between them.

"Hey," Xena said softly to catch her distracted lover's attention. "We're so close to the Academy for the Performing Bards. Why don't we stop there until I hear from the warden?"

Gabrielle smiled at Xena's attempt to placate her. "You know I'd love that."

She reached up and kissed Xena softly. "You know what else I'd love?"

Xena knew very well what Gabrielle loved. They'd been intimate for over three years and she knew everything that Gabrielle enjoyed. But out on an open road was not Xena's favorite place for distractions. Even a beautiful blonde one.

"I know. But why don't we wait until we're at the academy's guest cottages?"

Gabrielle sighed and released Xena. She knew her warrior's instincts were correct. But she also wondered if lately there was just less urgency in their lovemaking. She knew they still loved each other adamantly. But the need to express that love physically had subsided somewhat in recent months.

When they arrived in Athens, they noticed the addition of several buildings not far from the academy. They soon discovered that these buildings constituted a new school for the arts affiliated with the academy. Gabrielle was thrilled with the idea of a school that taught young artists how to nurture their talents. It was a new and original concept. She and Xena obtained directions to the administrator's office to inquire more about this innovative creation.

When they neared the business offices, they spotted a woman crossing the main courtyard toward the same buildings. From a distance, she was of medium height, slender, and walked with a confident gate. Her dark blue skirt fell below her knees, but did not cover the soft leather boots she wore. Her v-necked shirt was a sky blue, had long sleeves and a sheen to it that indicated a silk fabric. But it was not the attire nor the walk that caught their attention. It was the auburn hair set ablaze by the afternoon sun and the apparent loss of her right forearm that confirmed her identity for them. Gabrielle stepped forward first.

"Thalassa? Is that you?"

Thalassa stopped cold when she heard the familiar voice call her name. The rich tones that she remembered so well caressed her ears like a lover's breath. How long had it been?

"Gabrielle, Xena," she greeted, holding her emotions inside. "What in the world are you doing here?"

"What a pleasant surprise to see you." Xena's manner was sincere, as was her smile.

Gabrielle approached her laying a hand warmly on Thalassa's arm. "We came to visit the Academy for the Performing Bards. I attended the academy some time ago. And then we heard about the School for the Arts. Are you a teacher here?"

"By the gods, no." Thalassa replied, slightly flustered. "I'm the administrator. I left Shark Island three years ago." She smiled slightly at her visitors. "I find that the lack of hatred and violence here suits me better."

"I'm glad." Gabrielle released her arm, but Thalassa could still feel the imprint of her fingers.

"Will you be staying long? I have a meeting just now….."

After a few more amenities, Thalassa agreed to meet Xena and Gabrielle later and made her escape.

Once inside her office, Thalassa dropped into her chair, still stunned at the chance encounter. She had never expected to see her again. She'd resigned herself to be content with only the recollection of her. The gentle spirit that had risked her life for the sake of her friend. Thalassa still remembered the colorful clothes she wore while masquerading as a healer. Her hair the color of ripened wheat and her emerald eyes filled with compassion. She had walked into Thalassa's domain, captured her heart and released her imprisoned soul. And she'd been in love with the memory, with this phantom of a woman she hardly knew, ever since.


"She looks different, don't you think?" Gabrielle asked Xena once they were alone again.

"No. She looks the same to me. But it has been over three years."

"Well, she looks different to me." Gabrielle insisted. "Without the hatred, she seems to glow from inside." The bard paused for a moment, searching for the right description. "She's radiant."

Xena regarded her partner carefully. Thalassa had tried to have her killed three years ago. She had understood the need for revenge against herself. The warrior had subjected the young auburn haired beauty to unspeakable torments during her warlord reign. So it made perfect sense to Xena that Thalassa had meticulously planned her imprisonment. But Gabrielle's only trespass had been in trying to rescue Xena from paying for the one crime it turned out she had not committed. The fact that Xena had never officially paid for a multitude of other crimes as the Destroyer of Nations had not deterred Gabrielle in the least.

But that was before that glorious week on the Isle of Lesbos when she and Gabrielle had become lovers. After their long journey together, they were now completely united has lovers and friends. Although she no longer wielded a staff, Xena still considered Gabrielle to be her partner against injustice. Gabrielle sought peace through nonviolence now. But that did not inhibit Xena's willingness to use her own skills to protect the innocent and the wronged. She was a warrior in this life, after all.

"Maybe you can stay here while I attend to the prison's problems."

They had fallen into the routine of Gabrielle staying somewhere safe if Xena was going into a situation where violence would be a certainty. As the bard would not physically defend herself, Xena could concentrate better on the tasks at hand if she knew that Gabrielle was not in danger. Although this kept them apart at times, the arrangement had probably saved both their lives on occasion.

"That would be great!" Gabrielle's eagerness was obvious. "Thalassa can show me the new School of the Arts. Do you think she'd mind?"

Xena smiled at her enthusiastic lover. She knew that Gabrielle would travel the world with her as long as she felt the compulsion to do so. But this was really the kind of place her bard belonged. A place where craftsmanship, theater, and music flourished. Not on some bloody battlefield, where she most often practiced her own particular art form.

"I'm sure she'd be delighted to have you," confirmed the warrior as she enfolded Gabrielle in a fierce embrace.

After a two day ride, Xena looked down into the valley where the squat, ugly prison stood. It housed some of the most dangerous and violent men that she had ever known. She hated this place. It was the prison that had failed to keep Callisto incarcerated. She hadn't condoned the inhuman chair that they had used to restrain Callisto. But she could understand why they'd felt it necessary. They feared the blonde murderer. And in the end, even that brutality hadn't been enough to contain her.

Again, Xena was thankful that Gabrielle wasn't with her. Every thought of Callisto reminded her of those who had suffered and died by that villainous hand. Her lover's guilt would never be completely assuaged. And the fact that she was safe at the academy filled Xena with relief. At the slight pressure from her knees, Argo started toward the prison.

Thalassa spent the few days Xena had been gone entertaining Gabrielle. She showed her the student's works and took her to the theatrical events. On one occasion, they enjoyed the bard competition taking place that week. When the academy administrators realized that Gabrielle was a former contest winner, they prevailed upon her to perform. The bard was flattered at the attention and regaled the audience with her best stories. Their appreciation of her talent was evident in the standing ovation she received and the barrage of students clamoring to speak with her afterward. Thalassa smiled at the besieged blonde, thinking that Gabrielle was everything she'd imagined her to be…..and more.

When Gabrielle finally finished speaking with the last of her admirers, she and Thalassa started back toward the administrator's office.

"Thalassa, wait!"

Gabrielle and Thalassa turned to see an agitated young man fast approaching them. He had a wispy goatee and long unkempt hair.

"What is it, Shakespartacus?"

"It's this new play I'm working on," the young man stammered. "I'm having problems with the title." His beseeched look told Gabrielle that it was not the first time he had sought Thalassa's advice. "It's about these friends, that have a fantasy about love… kind of a dream they have part way into summer…"

"Midsummer," amended Thalassa.

"Yes, of course….right." Shakespartacus mused. "A Midsummer's Dream, that would work…, wait. A Midsummer Night's Dream….yes, I like that better….."

The young playwright meandered away, mumbling to himself, lost in concentration.

Thalassa caught Gabrielle's amused expression.

"His plays are a touch melodramatic. But he does have considerable talent. You may even see his work on stage someday."

"You have such a way with the students here, Thalassa." Gabrielle had seen many artists from the different disciplines seek out Thalassa for her opinion, her help, her advice. She assisted them with everything from their individual academic concerns to their love lives with equal tact, wisdom and fondness.

The affection was clearly returned. "You certainly have found your calling," she concluded.

"Yes, these students are some of the best and brightest in Greece." They turned and headed back to Thalassa's office again. "We've had Homer come back for seminars. And even Sappho spent a week here teaching verse."

"You've met Sappho?"

When Thalassa nodded, she said, "She's an intriguing woman, don't you think?"

Thalassa couldn't stop the images of the time she'd spent with Sappho from appearing in her head. The woman was absolute magic. Sappho had shown her the incredible way women could make love with each other. And for once, she'd been the avid student. While not in love with the great poet, she'd enjoyed their brief affair immensely. Unfortunately, the experience had also become another means for Gabrielle to haunt her dreams.

"Why Thalassa, you're blushing," teased Gabrielle when Thalassa colored from the sudden influx of erotic memories.

"I am not," denied Thalassa. "Sappho was very generous with her time, very informative while she was here."

"I'll bet." Gabrielle was not going to let Thalassa get away that easily. As her blush deepened, Gabrielle couldn't resist. "That good, huh?"

Knowing she'd been caught, Thalassa conceded. "Yes, if you must know. She was exceptional."

Thalassa picked up their pace trying to ignore the snicker at her side. When they arrived at her office she crossed over and sat down at her desk, scanning the polished top for pertinent messages. Gabrielle stood in front of the desk and studied Thalassa for a moment. Sappho would certainly have found the former warden attractive. The rich, auburn hair was fashioned less severely than at the prison. It was now only partially pulled back and loosely braided. It's shade and new styling complimented the fair skin and sparkling blue eyes. Gabrielle no longer saw the jagged facial scar that Xena's sword had made so many years ago. And the reality of her amputated right forearm had also faded into a distant memory. From what she could detect, Thalassa's body was inviting. She was long and lean, yet shapely in all the places Gabrielle enjoyed. The bard was surprised by the small stab of arousal that nicked her when she thought of Thalassa's body, and what Sappho might have done to it.

"Thalassa…..has there been anyone?"

Momentarily distracted by an important message, Thalassa answered unguardedly. "No one since you….."

Suddenly realizing what she'd revealed, Thalassa looked up quickly and sought recovery.

"…..and Xena saw me last."

But it was too late. It was there in her eyes, present in her demeanor. Gabrielle easily saw through the backpedaling as Thalassa stood and turned away.

"Thalassa, what is it?" Gabrielle's tone was gentle, encouraging. "Please talk to me."

Thalassa sighed audibly. "I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I never meant to divulge my feelings." She turned and faced the woman who'd enchanted her so. "I fell hopelessly in love with you at Shark Island. And I've been unable, or perhaps unwilling, to feel anything for anyone else since."

She should've been shocked at Thalassa's disclosure. But she wasn't. Hadn't they shared an unspoken connection? Gabrielle remembered the immediate chemistry between them. But she'd been so concerned about Xena, that it hadn't registered as strongly as it might have otherwise.

"You know I'm with Xena," she said gently.

Thalassa smiled softly, sadly. "Of course I do. It was never my intent to try and take you away from her." She dropped her gaze and toyed with a quill absent-mindedly. "I would never want to separate you from a world where you so obviously belong."

"Then what do you want?"

Thalassa looked back up at Gabrielle and held her eyes. She came around the desk and stood behind her. She spent a moment breathing in Gabrielle's unique scent. Then she brought her fingers up to graze the left side of Gabrielle's neck. It was less than a caress, but more than an aimless brush. The fingers wandered down the soft skin, no longer protected by long hair, to the cloth covering strong shoulders. Exploring with subtle purpose, Thalassa's fingers roamed further down to Gabrielle's lower back. They tantalized the bare skin at her waist. Then they swept around to the exposed ribs underneath Gabrielle's breast.

Gabrielle felt the sensuousness of the exploration. She straightened slightly as Thalassa's hand spread out over the muscles of her abdomen and pulled her close.

"This, Gabrielle. This one moment with you." Thalassa's words whispered across Gabrielle's ear. "This is what I've wished for, dreamed about, for so long."

The lips that brushed the back of Gabrielle's neck sent spirals of sensation through her body. She knew these were not Xena's lips. It was not Xena's hand that reached up her back to the pearls that held the top of her sari together. As the small buttons gave way, she felt the fabric slide off her shoulders. Then reaching up between Gabrielle's breasts, Thalassa's hand splayed across the smooth chest drawing the bard against her body again.

Thalassa could hardly believe what was happening between them. Her lips tasted Gabrielle's skin. Her hand grazed the soft nipples, causing the bard to inhale sharply and drop her head back onto Thalassa's shoulder. Her hand alternately cupped each breast as her lips nibbled at a delectable ear.

The hand that roamed over her upper torso was obviously proficient. 'Sappho must have taught her well,' thought Gabrielle. Pleasurable feelings flooded into her body. The intensity of Thalassa's desire and need was almost tangible. When that talented hand began to untie the last piece of her sari, she didn't object. And she knew she wasn't going to.

The soft gold wrap came loose easily. Thalassa dropped it to the floor and slipped down the red undergarment that was the last barrier between them. She turned the willing bard and sat her on her desk. This was not the place to be having this wanton tryst. But Thalassa didn't care. The parchments and scrolls were swept away as she lay Gabrielle down atop the smooth wood. It was a strong, sturdy desk, with a finely polished surface made for her by a grateful class of carpenters. As Gabrielle reclined, Thalassa separated her legs and stood between them. She watched Gabrielle's eyes as she leaned down for her first taste of the responsive nipples. Then they each closed their eyes at the contact.

Gabrielle's hips surged against Thalassa's shirt in a rhythm of their own. Her hands first clutched at the back leaning over her, then she urged the activity lower. Thalassa kissed and stroked her way down Gabrielle's abdomen. When she arrived at the soft patch of dark blonde curls, she was treated to the fragrance of Gabrielle's arousal. Thalassa straightened and pushed Gabrielle's legs further apart. She brushed the back of her fingers against the damp hair. Then she moved down to the bard's entrance and let a finger enter her. The woman she'd dreamed about for so long was all warmth and silk. Sliding inside her was like slipping into a heated glove that fit perfectly. Thalassa added a second finger and additional pressure to the front wall of Gabrielle's slick tunnel.

The sweet, quiet invasion awed Gabrielle with it's power. How could such a subtle touch inspire her emotions so? Or had it just been too long since someone had craved her so badly. The mental analysis disappeared as her body began to respond to the consistent stimulation.

Enthralled, Thalassa watched as her fingers first disappeared into Gabrielle's core and then reemerged from the dark coral opening. Over and over, she watched the penetration and Gabrielle's rhythmic reaction. She didn't realize that she had slowly lowered herself toward Gabrielle's sexual center until she arrived just inches away from it. There was no hesitation in her mind or her actions. She fastened her mouth to the hungry node while she continued the impassioned stroking. Her lips kissed the wetness and her tongue sought to further inflame the excited woman sprawled across her desk.

Gabrielle buried her hands in Thalassa's rich hair. The auburn head moved skillfully over her center, perfectly timing the surge of her hips. Thalassa was relentless in her pursuit of Gabrielle's gratification. Only the most exquisite orgasm for the bard would satisfy her. The speed of her thrusts and the quickness of her tongue increased as she sensed Gabrielle nearing an emotionally charged eruption. As the bard begin her ascent, the former warden's wish was granted by the beauty of every sound, every taste, every movement. Committing to memory a moment, an event, that would forever define love for her.

After her climax had shattered her composure, the bard found herself embracing Thalassa tightly. Her mind demanded to know why she had surrendered to the former warden. But she couldn't articulate a rational answer. Gabrielle hadn't meant to be unfaithful to Xena. And she knew she didn't love Xena any less. But there was a driving force behind Thalassa's yearning that Gabrielle had been unable to deny. She was the witness to a dream come true, a fantasy realized, a memory wrenched from the past and thrust into the present. The power of Thalassa's desire had overruled her reason. She'd gotten lost in the kind of desperate devotion that had recently eluded her in her own relationship.

Thalassa held Gabrielle close and tried to soothe her. This was not what she'd expected to happen between them. But she'd been unable to stop herself. When Gabrielle had let her delicate explorations continue unchecked, she'd given in to her longing. She untangled herself from the embrace and retrieved Gabrielle's clothes. Helping the bard dress, she could neither apologize nor celebrate.


"Don't." Gabrielle looked up into Thalassa's face. "Please don't."

As Thalassa fell silent, Gabrielle took her hand and led her out of the office.

Upon entering Thalassa's quarters, Gabrielle walked over and stopped at the bed. She didn't turn around, but indicating the buttons to her sari, she said. "Help me?"

Thalassa's mind was still reeling as she expertly unfastened the tiny buttons again. As Gabrielle slipped off the golden fabric once more, Thalassa had to speak. "Gabrielle, you don't have to do this….."

The blonde turned then and faced Thalassa. "I know that."

"Then why…..?"

Gabrielle closed the distance between them and cupped Thalassa's face gently in her hands.

"Because you've awakened me."

And then she kissed the former warden.

It was that first kiss that would become the embodiment of all that Thalassa had envisioned, had wished for so long ago. It would not be the exquisite climactic moments of sexual satisfaction that she would experience that night nor the illicit nature of their affair. But this first, single, tentative kiss that would mark her for the rest of her life. She felt both lost and found.

"…..and the guards are inadequately trained…"

It was very late, but Xena was trying to listen to the long list of problems that the new warden of this prison had discovered in his short tenure. He was a consciences man, trying to do his best in an undesirable situation. The warrior would do what she could to help and then leave this place as soon as possible. The warden continued until there was a loud crash and the sound of shouting voices. Whatever trouble the warden had feared, was now in progress. Xena ran from the office toward the commotion.

Gabrielle's subconscious began to caution her while she slept. She stirred uncomfortably…..

Xena arrived amidst a melee of guards and unrestrained prisoners. She drew her sword and set into the fray.

Another subliminal alarm tugged at the bard's semi-consciousness. She began to frown in her sleep…..

The battle between the guards and the prisoners would've easily been won by the prisoners, if it had not been for Xena's presence. They were a vicious lot of men with varying fighting skills. But it was their ruthlessness that overwhelmed their guards. The blood flowed freely as men died on each side. Xena cut a variable path of destruction through the throng of villains tipping the scales in the guard's favor. As she dispatched one convict after another, she did not notice one fallen man who lay dying behind her. Dying, but still aware, still moving.

Gabrielle's eyes snapped open. She tried to register her unfamiliar surroundings. The strange room, the foreign bed…..

The man behind Xena still had his sword in his hand. He could see her fighting on in the most amazing display of skill that he had ever seen. As he pushed himself slowly up to his knees, he thought that maybe she was an immortal, a god. Maybe she couldn't be killed. But he was going to find out.

Gabrielle sat up quickly. Something was wrong. She had an undeniable feeling of panic. She glanced over at Thalassa, still sleeping peacefully next to her. Now that her eyes had adjusted to the darkened room, she could see that there was nothing amiss. But the unease within her heart and mind was escalating…..

The prisoner drew close to Xena's back. As he raised his weapon, he knew that this final blow of his sword would make him a famous man. Even though his mortal wounds pained him terribly, he basked in the glory of being the man who killed the Warrior Princess.

There was now distinct terror thudding in Gabrielle's chest. She tried to identify what could possibly cause her this kind of fear. Instantly she knew that it would be if the most important person in her life was in danger. Closing her eyes, she concentrated her energy, her mind, and her love into a single thought. The name whispered out into the darkness…..


Just before the gloating prisoner could deliver a fatal blow, Xena turned and barely blocked the attempt. As the man's sword cut a minor wound into her arm, Xena ended his life quickly. She could not have said what it was that made her turn at the last second to defend herself. Her extraordinary instincts had always been reliable. But somehow she felt an extra measure of protection around her. It was as if she was being shielded by the gods themselves. As the riot began to abate, she smiled to herself at what Gabrielle would say to the very thought of the gods keeping the Warrior Princess safe.

The bard opened her eyes and stared into the shadows. She felt better now and didn't really understand why. Looking down at Thalassa, she softly brushed a strand of auburn hair away from her face. She knew that a night like this would never happen again. Then she slipped out of the former warden's bed and dressed quietly. As she opened the door, she hesitated. This intimacy had influenced her in ways she couldn't have predicted. As she left Thalassa's quarters, she did not look back.

The warrior stared into the fire. Her hands had stopped midway down her sword as her thoughts overtook her actions. She'd done what she needed to do and had once again managed to emerge victorious. But she had come so close to dying at the hands of some despicable criminal. One small lapse in instinct or judgment, the tiniest of mental or physical errors, and she would be dead. How many times had she escaped that very fate in the past by luck or circumstance? How many more times would she be as fortunate? When would the time come when she was a shade too slow, a little less strong, or not quite as clever?

She wasn't concerned for herself. But what about the love of her life? What if the last time she saw her bard was when she'd left the academy? What permanent memory would Gabrielle carry of her? Xena knew that the fervor of her relationship with Gabrielle had waxed and waned in the years they'd been together. She smiled as her mind briefly flashed back to the first time they'd made love. The blaze of desire they'd created was burned into her memory. She could replay every single moment in her mind. She shifted uncomfortably.

But how long had it been since they'd made love in such a desperate way? Wouldn't the last time be what Gabrielle remembered if she was suddenly gone? Why wasn't it as clear in her mind? Had their expressions of love become so routine that she no longer paid attention? Surely if she knew that it would be the last time, she would try to thrill Gabrielle as much, if not more, than she had the first time.

Xena knew that she loved her bard more than life itself. When she returned, she would make damn sure that Gabrielle knew it.

Xena rode into the courtyard of the School of the Arts the next morning. She dismounted from Argo and tied her to the railing outside the academic office. When she turned toward the entrance, she saw Gabrielle standing just outside the door watching her. It had taken Xena a while to get used to the golden sari that Gabrielle now wore. Her short, blonde hair and the lines of the mehndi were still indicative of turbulent times. But to the warrior, she had never looked lovelier than she did right now. She inhaled deeply to try and make room in her chest as her heart swelled with pride and love.

Gabrielle's stride as she approached her warrior was unhurried, yet determined. She stopped as she neared Xena, searching her eyes. Although she remained silent, the bard was clearly relieved by her lover's safe return. In answer to Xena's slightly cocked eyebrow, she brought her arms up around Xena's neck and kissed her. It was not a kiss of urgency or passion. But it did imply a subtle possessiveness that amazed them both.

Normally Xena would've frowned on such a public display of the bard's affection. But this kiss, this embrace, was communicating more than just Gabrielle missing her. She savored the soft lips until Gabrielle let her go.

Later that afternoon, Gabrielle and Xena stopped at the administrator's office on their way out of the school. The courtyard was empty. But Thalassa was waiting for them.

"Thank you for your hospitality, Thalassa." Xena said. "I'm grateful to have had a safe haven for Gabrielle during that prison trouble."

"You're welcome, Xena. But it was the least I could do."

Xena nodded and started away with Agro.

"I'm coming." Gabrielle said to Xena as she turned toward Thalassa. She looked into her eyes briefly and then embraced her.

Thalassa's mind was a jumble of emotions. Most of her feelings would take months to understand. But she whispered into Gabrielle's ear two thoughts that were crystal clear.

"I wish for you the best that life and love have to offer, Gabrielle. But if you ever need someone, remember, you'll always have a place in my heart."

The bard hugged her tighter before she let go and smiled.

"Thank you."

The two women traveled the rest of the day in relative quiet. Both were lost in the conflicting feelings of their separate experiences. Xena turned from the main road at dusk and led Gabrielle to a secluded, wooded area near a small stream.

The bard took care to notice the activity in the forest as they set about making camp. The smell of water close by. The noises that the small animals made as they sought safety for the night. She heard the sound of an owl, warning it's quarry of impending capture. Gabrielle felt as though she could identify with the great bird of prey. The intensity of capture and surrender was what she was looking for tonight.

They finished their evening rituals in companionable silence. Xena left to gather enough wood to see them through to morning, even though the night would be warm and balmy.

When Xena returned and set the wood down, Gabrielle was standing at the fire's edge. She stopped when she noticed the stillness in the bard's form.


The small blonde approached Xena with purpose. When she got close, she brought her right hand up to the warrior's chest and gave her a gentle shove.

"Lay down, Warrior."

Xena recovered her balance and stared at her lover. "Gabrielle, what…."

"Down." The second command was not so subtle and was accompanied by another shove against her chest. This time Xena let the force push her back and she sat on their bedrolls.

The bard said nothing more as she maneuvered Xena back onto the blankets. The warrior reclined and laced her hands behind her head as Gabrielle knelt at her feet. She watched as her lover removed her boots and then reached up under her leathers and gently pulled at the breeches she wore underneath. As the thin material was slipped past her hips and down her legs, Xena relaxed. She closed her eyes in anticipation of Gabrielle's touch. After the fighting at the prison, perhaps a soft, sweet seduction was just what she needed.

Gabrielle spread Xena's legs and leaned down between them. Her warrior had not had time to become aroused. But that would be remedied in an instant. Instead of the slow, sweet pleasure she knew Xena was expecting, she immediately fastened her mouth to the nerve center that drove her lover's needs. She grabbed the warrior's hips and suckled intently at Xena's unsuspecting node.

Xena gasped and almost sat up at the sudden intensity of Gabrielle's ambush. This was not what she'd anticipated from her usually gentle bard. But before she could object, her desires and the demands of her body responded to her lover's ardent assault. She dropped back onto the bedroll and clutched at the blankets as she rapidly approached an orgasm.

The bard knew that her lover's pleasure would be intense and very quick. While Xena's mind may have been caught off guard, Gabrielle understood that the warrior's body was in a constant state of readiness for all kinds of entrapments. And as she predicted, her lover surged to a raging climax before Gabrielle even had a chance to enter her. She could hear Xena's labored breathing as the warrior tried to recuperate from the voracious carnality. She smiled as she softly kissed the sexual bud that had been her partner in subduing and astonishing her lover.

As she recovered, Xena regarded Gabrielle carefully. When would she ever learn to never underestimate her beloved partner? How many times had Gabrielle done the unexpected, amazed her and delighted her? Again she intertwined her fingers behind her head and beamed at her lover.

Gabrielle straightened and crawled up Xena's body. Sitting astride her lover's hips, she placed her hands on her own thighs and leaned over Xena, purring suggestively.

"Your turn."

Xena reacted immediately. She reached up and pulled the top of Gabrielle's sari off her shoulders. The fabric peeled down to her waist, exposing her breasts while still trapping her arms in the short sleeves. The warrior kept a strong hold on Gabrielle's arms and slowly started to pull her down.

"My, but you are a lusty wench tonight, aren't you?" Xena grinned lecherously at the semi-nude blonde. "Is this what you want…..what you need?"

"No." Gabrielle's eyes burned into Xena's. "I want you to love me like it's the first time." The sea green eyes beseeched sky blue ones. "I need you to want me more than you've ever wanted anything else."

The passion that burned in her lover's eyes shocked Xena. Where had this fire come from? Or more importantly, where had it been?

Xena pulled Gabrielle to her lips. She kissed her lover with a gentleness that contrasted with the grip of her hands. The warrior licked and nipped at her skin between sweet kisses, while she avoided entering the bard's alluring mouth.

Then suddenly sitting up, she slid her tongue through Gabrielle's lips. The blonde clutched at the steel-like forearms that still held her prisoner. Xena finally released her enough to let her slip her arms out of her sleeves. The bard pushed her top further down her waist and pressed her naked breasts against the armor Xena still wore. The difference between her warm, soft skin and Xena's cold, solid shielding made her jump.

The kissing became uncontrolled and lascivious. Xena could sense Gabrielle's sexual appetite sharpening. She could feel her own need to touch her lover begin to burn. Wanting the bard was quickly turning into taking the bard. Xena pushed herself away from Gabrielle mid-kiss.

"What?" Gabrielle's face was flushed with desire. Her eyes held a look of momentary confusion, while her breathing communicated her willingness to surrender everything.

"Stand up." It was not exactly an order. But the tone in Xena's voice indicated to Gabrielle that she would benefit greatly from doing as her lover commanded.

She stood up and over her warrior. With her feet planted on either side of Xena's hips, the warrior could've easily tasted her lover had she been naked. But she wasn't…. completely. That would have to change.

"Undress for me, my sweet woman." The direction was soft and solicitous. Gabrielle would have done anything that Xena asked of her in that manner.

She reached around her back to undo the buttons to the top of the sari now bunched at her waist. Working to release them, she was unaware of how the position thrust her breasts closer to Xena's inspection.

The warrior did not, however, miss the lovely way her lover was exhibited. She wanted to reach up and encourage Gabrielle by fondling her. But she was developing plans that would require a touch of control. Later she'd give in to her lust for this woman.

When the gold top was opened and discarded, Gabrielle waited for further instructions.

"The rest, my love," came the barely restrained bidding. "I want it all off. I want you to be completely mine."

Gabrielle smiled and stepped back until she was standing between Xena's thighs. She took her time untying the gold fabric at her hips. Dropping it on the bedrolls, she slipped her fingers inside the red undergarment she wore and sensuously lowered it off her hips and down her legs. Her sandals quickly followed.

"Like this, my demanding warrior?" she asked sweetly.

"Exactly like that." Xena moved her legs out from around Gabrielle and tucked them underneath herself. Then she ran her hands up Gabrielle's legs until she could grasp the firm thighs in her hands.

"Come here." A gentle pull and the blonde was standing directly in front of her. Xena parted her lover's legs slightly more until Gabrielle's sex was almost in contact with her lips. She could smell the soft scent of her bard's arousal. It attracted her like a bee seeking honey.

Gabrielle should not have been overwhelmed when Xena kissed her so intimately. She had started this erotic scenario after all. But the feel of Xena's lips in such a personal exploration of her made her knees almost buckle and her heart race.

"You're going to have to stay standing, my sweet." Xena murmured into Gabrielle's hair between kisses. "No one ambushes me without paying a price."

Xena's hands wandered ever closer to where her lips were tasting the smooth skin between Gabrielle's legs. The bard knew when she'd waylaid her lover that Xena would come after her. Retaliation was the warrior's specialty. Thank the gods…..

Xena slipped her long fingers inside Gabrielle. As the bard moaned at the sensation, Xena unleashed opposing stimulations at her lover's center. Her tongue's stroking was direct, focused and intense. While the penetration of her fingers was lazy and slow. The contrast was building a fire in Gabrielle's core that was making it difficult for her to remain standing. She threaded her fingers through Xena's hair in an effort to stabilize herself.

'So close, my love', Xena thought to herself as she worked to please her lover. 'Give me all you have….'

At that moment, the blaze smoldering at her center ignited and scorched a trail up Gabrielle's body. The orgasm flashed through her hips, up her torso and into her heart and mind. Her limbs tingled and she felt weak at it's conclusion. Slowly she bent her knees and sank down onto Xena's lap.

As her lover rested across her, Xena relished the small spasms that still twitched inside Gabrielle. She wanted to start over. But the woman in her arms seemed momentarily spent. Again she'd underestimated her lover.

Gabrielle pushed herself up away from the comfort of Xena's shoulder where she'd been resting her head. She didn't try to escape the strong fingers that still claimed her inside. But she purposely scanned her warrior's body.

"You're overdressed."

Xena chuckled and finally slipped out of her lover's depths. She allowed Gabrielle to unfasten her armor and untie her leathers. Then she removed her breast plate and pulled her battle dress up over her head.


Gabrielle appraised her lover's beautiful, naked body. "Oh yes, much better." Putting her hands on Xena's shoulders she pushed gently. "Now lay down."

"You certainly are domineering tonight, my love." Xena observed as she lay back again.

"Oh, I know how much you like to be in control, my gorgeous warrior," Gabrielle shifted off Xena's hips. "Let's just see how much control you have, shall we?"

While Xena waited to see what her creative lover had in mind, Gabrielle pinned her hands on either side of her head. Bending down, she gave the warrior soft and gentle kisses. Xena was enjoying the talented lips immensely when the bard moved lower and extended equal devotion to her breasts. The warrior could've easily freed her arms and fondled her bard as well. It was in fact what she was starting to do when Gabrielle spoke to her from where she was tantalizing a nipple.

"You want to touch me, don't you?"

Xena was cautious. "Yes……"

"You can't."

Now Xena was somewhat puzzled. Gabrielle released her hold on the warrior's arms and smiled down at her lover.

"I want to love you again and I don't think you can keep from touching me while I do that."

The warrior thought about the implications of the simple challenge. It would be difficult not to reach out to Gabrielle as the bard catered to her. It would take a warrior type of concentration. But it wasn't impossible.

"I can do that."

Gabrielle unveiled a slow, sly, sexy smile.

"Ok…. But remember, keep your hands to yourself, no matter what I do." She started to smooth her hands over Xena's chest and abdomen. "If you don't…." She moved down to her hips and thighs. "I win…." She bundled the blankets up under Xena so that her legs spread and her hips tilted up. "And you belong to me…."

"I already belong to you, Gabrielle."

The bard heard the subtle admission of love. And even though she did not verbally acknowledge it, she felt her heart skip a beat. She propped up more of the blankets behind Xena's head so that she wouldn't miss any of the impending seduction. Then she swept her hands over every inch of the lovely body at her mercy.

Xena sighed at the exploration. The bet might not be so difficult to win. If she just concentrated on what her lover was making her feel, she'd be fine.

But Gabrielle had no intention of playing by any rules Xena may have assumed in her mind. As the warrior relaxed, Gabrielle aimed her head toward Xena's hips. She swung her leg over the resting body and braced her knees on either side of Xena's arms. Then she positioned herself in an intimate pose, temptingly close to Xena's face.

Xena was stunned as Gabrielle's mouth started to descend between her legs. Surely this display had to be considered cheating in some way. How in the world was she supposed to ignore the enticing view that was being presented to her? She said as much to her lover.

The bard looked back over her shoulder. "I said no matter what, Xena." Gabrielle replied to the half-hearted complaint. "If you want to concede now, I'll still continue with what I'm doing."

"No… no…. It's alright. I can do this."

Gabrielle had to suppress her amusement at the petulant tone in Xena's assurance. She returned to the still wet skin she'd aroused earlier. Her tongue and lips sought to control the warrior again, although not as greedily. She guided one hand down to her lover's opening which was flowing again with her excitement. It took some maneuvering for the talented bard to be able to slip her fingers inside the warrior while she lavishly attended to the sensitive skin outside. But she was determined to best her confident lover. Even if she had to produce one of the most spectacular orgasm Xena had ever felt.

In Xena's mind, Gabrielle was on her way to doing just that. Her lover's tongue and fingers felt extraordinary. And the delicious scenery on display in front of her was driving her to distraction. She could see Gabrielle's sexual essence still coating the beautiful skin and the inviting tunnel she'd just enjoyed. Even as Gabrielle pleasured her, Xena's mind sought to invade her lover's tempting cavern again. She wanted to sink her fingers deep within Gabrielle's warmth like she knew she could from this angle. She longed to hear the bard cry out as she suddenly become the hunted instead of the hunter.

Gabrielle knew she was bringing Xena close to the limit of her endurance. And she was well aware of what her warrior was thinking of doing to her. But that just increased the excitement for them both. Even if she lost, she thought happily, she won.

Xena sensed her control slipping. Gabrielle was doing things between her thighs that sounded and felt so amazingly wonderful. There was a sensation beginning at her center that she recognized as the start of her orgasm. And from the way it was building, it was going to be very big indeed. She braced her forearms against the back of Gabrielle's thighs. If this was not allowed in their loving rivalry, Gabrielle didn't object.

'I'm all yours.' Gabrielle spoke silently to her soulmate. 'Please, my love. Please come after me. I don't want you to be able to resist me….'

Xena's climax was beginning where the bard was so perfectly playing with her body. She gripped Gabrielle's thighs unconsciously. She stared at the beauty of her lover, desperate to touch her as she peaked. The game, the captivating contest became unimportant. Xena wanted Gabrielle to join her in the explosion. She couldn't stand to leave her behind.

As Xena climbed to the height of her pleasure, she pulled Gabrielle down to her mouth and buried her tongue deep inside the soaked bard. 'Oh…. yes,' Gabrielle thought as she felt the sweet invasion at the same time she felt Xena shudder under her own administrations. It was a perfect blend of concentration, surrender and joy. It was the intriguing ache of giving up, giving all and getting everything in return.

Afterward they rested, wrapped in a possessive embrace, completely enthralled with one another. The restoration of their mutual passion was obvious. They were once again centered on each other, grateful for each other in a way that had eluded them for some time.

Gabrielle shifted slightly in Xena's arms.

"I won, you know."

Xena smiled slightly, still not completely able to move without effort.

"No you didn't. I didn't use my hands…"

The bard actually sat up halfway to dispute the comment.

"It doesn't matter what you used, Xena," she countered. "You still couldn't resist touching me."

Xena smiled at her smug lover. She couldn't very well contradict that statement. Nor did she even want to try.

"Well, you may have won, my love. But it was a poor wager on your part." When Gabrielle raised a questioning eyebrow, Xena continued. "It does you no good to gamble for something that you already possess."

With a soft smile, Gabrielle leaned in and kissed her warrior. And to their wonder, the innocent gesture gradually turned into another intimate encounter. Slower, less intense, sweeter somehow.

Later, the bard stared into the small fire that still burned despite the early morning hour. Xena was asleep now, completely fulfilled after their extensive lovemaking. Gabrielle was content, but sleep eluded her. She had not told Xena about the direction her relationship with Thalassa had taken. She knew that she should. Gabrielle's perception had changed in a way that would affect them both. The brief transgression had served as a wake up call. She and Xena could never let themselves fall into mundane or mediocre expressions of their love. Their dangerous and precarious lifestyle would not permit it. But beyond that, she had shared something special with the former warden that she wanted to keep for herself.

The bard ran her hand through her hair. It's short length still startled her at times. She thought back to some of the women who'd tried to come between them during their relationship. These women had gone to great lengths to try and take her away from Xena. And they had all failed. She remained steadfastly by Xena's side, bound by history, devotion, friendship, and love. But separating her from Xena was not what Thalassa had wanted. She'd known all along that Gabrielle would never forsake her soulmate. All Thalassa had desired was the smallest measure of Gabrielle's love. And Gabrielle had granted her that. And in exchange for rescuing her soul, Thalassa had made a commitment to love Gabrielle no matter what her circumstances in life might be. Gabrielle knew that she would always have a place in Thalassa's heart, whether she was ever in her embrace again or not.

She recalled what Thalassa had wished for her when they'd said good-bye. Settling back down next to the incredible woman who shared her life and her love, she realized that the former warden's wish had already come true.


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