Why Are You Here?

by My OSage

Disclaimers! The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess do not belong to me. But I did wonder if it might be possible to tweak Season 1 slightly so that Xena and Gabrielle would realize their true feelings from the very beginning. So let's turn back the clock, shall we? And take another look……

Spoilers? None really. But there are slight references to the episodes in Season 1 up to and including "Hooves and Harlots." There are also minuscule references to the Hercules Trilogy and to Lao Ma in "The Debt I and II" from Season 3.

Warning! This story contains, explicit, consensual sex between women, sometimes. And it contains 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 big Internet out there.

Gabrielle could sense the nervousness in the patrons of the small Poteidaia tavern. She'd been telling stories here for over a year now and she had never seen these people so edgy. It was because she was here again. For the third time in as many nights, the stranger was sitting near the back wall. Gabrielle would have described her as dark, beautiful and dangerous. She was dressed in deep brown leather, incredibly gorgeous, (how could someone's eyes possibly be so blue?) and judging by her ominous looking weapons, definitely dangerous. Yet she'd bothered no one and certainly no one had bothered her. Gabrielle just couldn't think of any reason why this warrior woman would be in this little village. One would think if she was going to cause trouble, she would've done so by now. Why was she here?

The bard told her stories as she had on the previous nights. The small crowd seemed to appreciate the tales that distracted them from the mysterious woman sitting in the back. Whenever Gabrielle looked her way, the warrior was always watching her intently. Maybe she watched everything intently. But her eyes made it difficult for Gabrielle to concentrate. The intensity of the gaze felt almost physical.

As on the previous nights, the warrior left as soon as Gabrielle finished telling stories for the evening. Gabrielle didn't know where the stunning woman went at night or where she stayed during the day. Impulsively, Gabrielle slipped out the back with the intention of following the woman.

But Gabrielle couldn't tell where she'd gone. Then she heard the sound of a horse snorting in the nearby stable. Crossing over to the building, she opened the door and stepped quietly inside. Again there was no sign of the warrior. But there was a handsome palomino standing saddled outside one of the stalls. She approached the big horse.

"It's not a good idea for such an attractive woman to be out this late alone."

Gabrielle jumped at the sudden sound of a voice behind her. She spun around to find the warrior appraising her with what might have passed for an amused expression on her face. Her heart was pounding in her chest and it took her a moment to realize that this woman had just referred to her as attractive. Unable to hold the woman's gaze, Gabrielle dropped her eyes cursing the blush she was certain was spreading up her neck and face.

"I wanted to talk to you." Gabrielle said, trying to find some way to salvage her composure. "You're making this town uneasy. Why are you here?"

The warrior searched the young woman's face and her expression softened slightly. "Do I make you uneasy?" she asked almost seductively.

Gabrielle looked up into the lovely face with the piercing blue eyes.

"Yes……. you do."

"Then why are you here?" the warrior questioned softly.

Xena had been traveling aimlessly for over a year. When she had finally stopped and listened to her heart, she'd realized how worthless her life had become. The lessons from Hercules and Lao Ma had surfaced in her soul at last. The warrior had been trying ever since to find a different path for her life. And though she'd spent the last year anonymously helping people she met, her existence still felt empty. Her heart was missing something and she had no idea what it was.

Then she'd stopped in this insignificant village. She had only gone to the local tavern for a meal. But then she'd spotted the young woman who had turned out to be the town's bard. The moment Xena saw her, she'd felt her heart skip a beat. She couldn't say what it was about the young woman that mesmerized her so. But when the bard got up to perform that night, she'd stayed. And she'd stayed the next night, and the next…..

She knew that her continued presence bothered the townsfolk. Usually when a warrior stayed in any town it meant trouble. But she couldn't make herself leave the blonde storyteller. When the bard performed, Xena lost herself in the stories. She drowned in the sparkling, sea green eyes. She marveled at how the blonde's hair shimmered in the candlelight. She fantasized about the expressive hands as the bard wove her narratives. And what Xena could tell from the modest attire, her body was alluring, curvaceous……inviting.

'Damn,' she'd admonished herself after the third night of watching the bard. Lusting after this innocent girl was going to get her nowhere. She'd told herself she had to move on, leave this village and it's engaging entertainer behind.

Surprisingly, when Xena left to saddle her horse that night, the bard had followed her into the dim, secluded barn. Her name was Gabrielle, the warrior knew that now. The young woman had blushed at Xena's complement, questioned her motives, and had admitted her nervousness. Xena had stood in front of the lovely woman, wanting to touch her. But she was sure that she'd only frighten the bard further, especially if she'd told her who she was. So she'd left the girl standing there, unanswered.

Gabrielle lay in her bed that night unable to sleep. The image of the warrior asking her why she'd come to the barn kept replaying in her mind. The way the woman had looked at her made her body feel warm. She drifted into a restless sleep, still wondering who the woman was.

Xena was also restless after the encounter. She honed her weapons out of habit and thought of the pretty bard. There was an innate decency in the girl. She radiated kindness and humanity. And Xena was drawn to her like a magnet. It was unthinkable that this young, inexperienced woman might be the answer to what she'd been missing in her life. But she still had to see her again.

After the next night's work, Gabrielle went directly to the stable. Xena was saddling her horse, preparing to leave.

"Where are you staying?" she asked.

The warrior glanced at her and replied, "I'm camped in the woods at the north end of town."

Gabrielle approached the horse and petted her nose. "Your horse is beautiful. What's her name?" asked the bard.

"Argo." The warrior replied with pride. "We've been together a long time."

"And what's your name, warrior?" asked the bard more tentatively.

The warrior stopped attending to the saddle and sighed. This was the moment she always dreaded. She looked over at the bard and said. "My name is Xena."

Gabrielle couldn't stop the gasp from escaping her lips anymore than she could the involuntary step back she took away from the warrior. This woman was the infamous Warrior Princess who'd disappeared over a year ago? Was it possible she was standing before the ruthless warlord also known as the 'Destroyer of Nations'?

Xena's heart sank. The bard had reacted to her identity just as everyone always did. The fear was clearly evident on the young woman's face. The warrior picked up Argo's reins and led the war-horse past the unmoving bard without another word.

Gabrielle continued to stare at the exit long after the woman had departed. She tried to recall everything she'd ever heard about Xena, Warrior Princess. Most of it was not at all good. She had earned a reputation for ruthlessness that made that other warlord, Draco (who had narrowly by-passed this village over a year ago) seem tame by comparison. She and her army had pillaged and plundered the entire countryside with impunity. And then one day it had suddenly all come to an end. No one really knew why. The army had dispersed and the Warrior Princess had disappeared. What could've happened to her to change her into the quiet, lone traveler she appeared to be today? Gabrielle suddenly realized that she had goaded the warrior into revealing her identity. And her reaction to the name 'Xena' was exactly the kind of reaction that probably kept the warrior quiet in the first place. Gabrielle shook her head in disappointment. She'd expected more of herself.

The next morning, Gabrielle walked out into the woods where the warrior was most likely to have set up her camp. As she approached a clearing she heard what she thought was the sound of weaponry. When she looked through the thinning trees, she could see the warrior going through what were obviously fighting drills. Even to the untrained eye, the movements were powerful, graceful, deadly, almost erotic in their precision. Gabrielle had never seen anyone move as beautifully as this woman. Then in a moment, the warrior seemed to vanish right before her eyes into the surrounding woods. As she tried to see where the warrior had gone, she was suddenly swept off her feet from behind. She'd neither heard nor seen the warrior approach. But the was no mistaking the strong arms that embraced her body and held her tightly against leather and brass.

"Never sneak up on a warlord……it's dangerous," whispered the warrior in her ear.

"Ex-warlord," corrected Gabrielle. "And I wasn't sneaking, I was watching." Without thinking, she lightly swatted at the warrior's hold. "Now put me down."

Xena gently set the bard down and released her. When Gabrielle turned to look at her, she was astonished at what she saw. The warrior was smiling broadly at her. The transformation of the usually somber woman's face was amazing. Gabrielle had never seen so exquisite a beauty. She was absolutely radiant.

Xena noticed the bard's stillness as she stared. A look of concern replaced the beaming smile. "What is it?"

Before she could censor her thoughts, the bard simply stated. "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

The Warrior Princess softly smiled again. "You need to get out into the world more, Gabrielle." She walked passed the bard back into the clearing and sat down to retrieve her weapons for cleaning.

The bard turned to follow. She knew Xena was making fun of her. But she said earnestly. "I have always dreamed of traveling the world. I'd love to be a roving bard. Experiencing adventure for myself, writing my own stories." She sat across the dying fire from where Xena had started to polish her sword.

Xena looked over at the young woman. "That would suit you. You really are quite good. And I've heard enough bards in my time to know."

Gabrielle colored slightly and sat for a moment savoring the compliment.

"Why are you here, Gabrielle?" Xena asked the question that continued to bounce back and forth between them.

Then the bard remembered why she'd come. "I wanted to apologize for my behavior last night," she answered. "My reaction to you was rude. I'm sorry."

The Warrior Princess resumed her task. "You don't have to apologize to me, Gabrielle. I'm pretty use to people reacting to me that way."

But the bard, could hear the sadness in the statement. "What happened to you, Xena? What made you change?"


"THE Hercules?" the bard asked incredulously. "You actually know Hercules?"

"We have a history." stated the warrior bluntly.

For reasons she didn't understand, Gabrielle didn't like thinking about what Xena meant by a 'history' with Hercules. Instead, she asked. "How did he make a difference?"

"He showed me how pointless my life was and how I had the potential to change it."

Gabrielle suddenly thought of the rumors she'd heard of a lone woman warrior who'd been traveling Greece recently. The travelers who passed through town said that she helped people. They said she did incredible things for the good of those she met. They also said that she never revealed her identity.

It's you……" Gabrielle realized aloud. "You're the one who's been helping so many people during this last year. The warrior who's been changing people's lives for the better. Without an army……it's you…..isn't it?"

The warrior didn't look up as she continued working.

"But you never tell them your name." Gabrielle continued as if the warrior had actually confirmed her guess. "Why don't you tell them who you are?"

This time Xena did look up. "Like I told you last night?" The warrior's despair flashed briefly in her eyes.

The blush that rushed to cover Gabrielle's face this time was caused by shame. Yet she knew her reaction to the infamous warlord was typical. How could the warrior ever hope to change her life, when everyone still thought of her as a monster?

That evening Gabrielle began her entertainment with a story about Hercules and his labors. When she'd finished, she saw the warrior nod to her in acknowledgment of the bard's offering. Afterwards, when Gabrielle went to the stable, she found Xena sitting on a bale of hay waiting for her.

"I have a proposition for you," Xena said as she stood up and faced the bard.

"A proposition?" Gabrielle couldn't fathom what it could possibly be.

"Yes," confirmed the warrior. "I want you to come with me when I leave."


"Travel with me." She rushed to go on as if she might lose the courage to do so. "You could see the world as you've always dreamed, experience adventures, write your own stories. And I'd protect you from any harm." She crossed over to Argo and waited for Gabrielle to respond.

Gabrielle was completely taken aback at the offer. Never in her wildest dreams had she envisioned such a scenario. To actually leave this stifling little town and travel. To write her own version of the adventures she'd encounter with the Warrior Princess. It was the chance of a lifetime.

She smiled at Xena and said teasingly. "And what would you expect from me in return for this incredible opportunity?"

Xena didn't look at her, but continued to stroke Argo. "I'd want you to speak for me," she said quietly.

"To speak for you?" Gabrielle could see the warrior was quite serious.

"Yes," she went on quickly, turning to the bard. "If I traveled with someone as honest and trustworthy as you, people might start to believe that I can help them. If they began to hear stories of the good things we did, maybe they'd stop fearing me." Xena looked back at Argo. "And then when they heard my name, maybe they wouldn't always…..hate me."

Gabrielle's heart ached as she heard the sincere plea from the Warrior Princess. She could only guess how difficult the past year must have been for Xena. How alone she must have felt. Never given a chance to show how she'd changed. Maybe her mind didn't know it yet, but Gabrielle's heart had already said yes.

"Is that all?" asked the bard softly. "Just to speak for you?"

Xena had pondered the rest of her proposition all afternoon. She knew that if the bard traveled with her, she wouldn't be able to conceal her growing desire for the young woman for very long. Even if Gabrielle never returned her affection, she had a right to know every possible aspect of the offer before she ever left Poteidaia. But in telling her, Xena risked losing the bard altogether. It was a chance she'd decided she had to take.


"Oh? And what else would you want from me?" asked the bard, smiling.

"This." Xena answered by crossing over to the bard, sliding her hands through her hair, bending down and meeting her lips. The kiss was soft and full of promise, with the barest hint of passion. It lasted only a moment before the warrior released her and whispered. "Think about it, Gabrielle." Then she took Argo's reins and again left the bard standing stunned in the middle of the stable.

Everything was happening so fast, thought Gabrielle. She touched her fingers to her lips. She could still feel the heat of Xena's kiss. Gabrielle would have soundly slapped anyone else who'd have dared to try to kiss her uninvited. But with Xena, all she could think of was the taste of her lips, the thrill of her. Suddenly, Xena's proposition was more complicated, more wonderful, more frightening than she could have ever imagined.

'Stupid, stupid, stupid.' Xena scolded herself the next day. Why hadn't she just left after that first night. Now she'd opened herself up for failure. It was not a feeling she was used to or that she tolerated well. She should have just fed the desire and seduced the girl. Then she could've just continued on as she had been. Lonely maybe, but not making the kind of mistakes she'd made last night. The young bard was surely frightened of her now. But when Xena remembered the young beauty's soft mouth, the image still stirred enticing fantasies.

Gabrielle waited all evening for the Warrior Princess to appear. But this time the warrior didn't come. She told her stories by rote, hardly remembering what she'd said. Cutting the session short, she went quickly to the stable. Xena wasn't there.

In a panic, the bard rushed to the warrior's campsite praying that she was still there. She was. Gabrielle stopped short just inside the clearing, trying to catch her breath and calm the hammering of her heart.

"I thought you'd gone without me!" Gabrielle gasped, visibly upset at the thought.

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle." Xena stood. "I thought it over today and maybe it's not such a good idea for you to….."

"No!" Gabrielle exclaimed. She was physically calmer now, but agitated at the thought that Xena had changed her mind. "It's a good idea, really, it is."

It scared Gabrielle to think that the warrior would leave without her. She had also spent the day thinking of the prospect of traveling with Xena. Although she couldn't possibly know all of the ramifications of life with Xena, she knew now that she desperately wanted to go with her.

Xena walked over and stood in front of the distressed bard. Putting her hands on the young woman's shoulders, she tried to soothe her. "Gabrielle, don't be upset. I won't leave until you've had time to think about what you want to do."

"I have thought about it," said the bard stubbornly. "I want to go with you."

"Gabrielle, have you thought about….."

"This?" The bard finished the warrior's question by reaching up and slipping her arms around Xena's neck. Pulling her down, Gabrielle kissed the astonished woman. Xena brought her arms down and wrapped them around the small bard, pulling her close. Both women were surprised by the sensuousness of the connection. The soft lips met over and over, communicating an equal desire. When they finally separated, Gabrielle stayed in the warrior's arms and told her, "I've thought about everything."

The next day Gabrielle had packed her few belongings and had taken leave of her family. While walking to Xena's camp, her thoughts returned to the night before. Never in her life had she acted as brazenly as when she'd kissed the warrior. After dreaming about it all night long, she still couldn't believe it had actually happened. And the warmth she'd felt was very much like when she sometimes touched herself. Although she was still a virgin, she knew that being with Xena was what she wanted. But by acting so boldly, Xena might not realize that she was a virgin. Would Xena be reluctant to take a novice on the road with her? Gabrielle hoped that her lack of experience wouldn't make the warrior change her mind. She had such hopes for a future of traveling with Xena. She didn't want to disappoint her in any way.

When she got to the clearing, Xena had just finished brushing Argo. Gabrielle walked up to the big horse and petted her nose. "Good morning."

Xena smiled at the bard, secretly glad to see that she hadn't changed her mind. As she started to walk past the bard towards Argo's saddle, Gabrielle blurted out. "I'm a virgin."

Xena stopped abruptly at the sudden outburst and smiled amusedly at the bard. She briefly cupped the side of Gabrielle's face with one hand.

"I know," she responded gently.

As Xena released her and went to pick up the saddle, Gabrielle turned to her and asked, "How did you know?"

"It's stamped across your forehead."

Gabrielle had already reached up and touched her fingers to her forehead before she realized that Xena was teasing her. So the great Warrior Princess has a playful side, she thought to herself. Who'd have thought it?

Xena came back to the bard and placed the saddle on Argo's back.

"Xena." The warrior felt the bard's soft hand on her arm. "I don't want to stay that way."

The warrior smiled down warmly at the young woman. It had been a long time since someone had wanted so much to please her. "Don't worry, Gabrielle," Xena replied, the teasing gone from her demeanor. "You won't,

I promise."

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena and rested her cheek on the softness just above the leather bound cleavage. She waited for the warrior to return the embrace before she sighed and whispered, "Thank you."

The two women traveled uneventfully into the early afternoon. Gabrielle had talked almost nonstop in her excitement of realizing her dream. Xena tried to listen to the chatter, but mostly just reveled in the sound of the bard's voice. Traveling with someone would take some getting used to on her part. Not only would she have to look out for the young woman's safety, but for her health and welfare too. But Gabrielle was a bright and intuitive woman. Xena didn't think it would take her long to learn the ways of the road.

Their first test came mid afternoon. They came upon a small wagon stopped at an odd angle on the side of the road. At first it seemed to be abandoned. Gabrielle touched Xena's arm lightly, something didn't feel right to her. Xena was glad that she'd been right about Gabrielle's instincts. As they approached the site, several people came into view. Xena slowed Gabrielle with a hand placed on her side. She gently pushed the young woman slightly behind her.

There were four men, one woman, and two small children in front of them. One of the men looked as if he might belong with the woman and children. The other three definitely did not. 'Common thugs,' Xena said to herself. How often she encountered men like these who preyed on innocent travelers.

"Good afternoon." Xena greeted them as if she thought nothing was amiss. "I wondered if you might be able to spare some water for my horse."

"You get nothin' from us," growled the apparent leader standing closest to the woman. "Everything here belongs to us, get it?" Two of the other men agreed ominously. The family remained silent.

"Funny, that's what I thought you'd say." In a flash, Xena had thrown her chakrum, rendering the leader's right arm useless. He had been using it to hold a sword suspiciously close to the woman's abdomen. He howled in pain, switched his weapon to his left hand and charged Xena. The other two thieves left their captives and joined him.

Gabrielle had never seen anything like the Warrior Princess in battle. She was outnumbered and it made no difference. As she dispatched the first thief with a vicious sword thrust, Gabrielle gasped loudly. As the warrior turned in her direction, one of the men seized the opportunity to land a vicious blow to the side of her head. Xena stumbled slightly, but recovered immediately. The three thugs were dead in moments.

Gabrielle approached the family that had cowered near the wagon during the fray. The woman had shielded the children from the fight. They all waited to see what the warrior woman would do to them now.

"We won't harm you," Gabrielle spoke in a reassuring tone. "Where are you going?"

The man spoke tentatively. "We were moving to a new town a few hours from here. Those men wanted our money, our possessions…..they were going to……my wife." He looked helplessly at the woman beside him.

The bard thanked the gods that they'd arrived in time to save this family. "Well, you're safe now." Realizing that Xena had said nothing so far, Gabrielle decided take the initiative. "My name is Gabrielle. And this is my friend, Xena, Warrior Princess."

When the identity of their savior was revealed, the family reacted as Xena knew and Gabrielle suspected they would. Their fear was unmistakable.

"No, you don't have to be afraid," Gabrielle went on quickly. "She's not a warlord anymore. She fights for good and innocent people, like she did for you today. She's changed. I'm a bard and I'm going to write many stories about her heroics."

The woman approached the warrior who had killed the rapists/murderers. "I don't care what you've done in your past," she said in a shaky voice. "I'm just so grateful for what you've done today, for my family..……for me."

Xena nodded and gave the woman a small smile. "I'm glad we could help."

Xena and Gabrielle accompanied the family to the town that had been their destination. When the children found out that Gabrielle was a bard, they'd pestered her to sit in the wagon and tell them stories all the way.

When they reached the safety of the outskirts of the town, the man offered a warrior's handclasp to Xena. As she took it, he said, "I can never repay you for saving my life and the lives of my family. But please know that many people in the future will travel that road safely from now on because of you."

The woman turned to Gabrielle as she climbed down from the wagon. She laid a hand on her arm and asked. "Isn't there anything we can do for you?"

Xena was silent, but Gabrielle had an idea. "We're trying to do good deeds as we travel. Should anyone ask you about the events of today, tell them how Xena has changed. Tell them decent people have nothing to fear from the Warrior Princess."

The woman smiled at Gabrielle. She walked over to Xena and searched her face for a moment. Then she reached up and kissed her cheek. "Yes," she said firmly, "We will definitely stand as witness for this Warrior Princess."

They had traveled a few more hours before setting up camp. Both women were preoccupied with the day's occurrences. Xena showed Gabrielle the routine of settling in for a night on the road. Gabrielle did indeed learn quickly. Soon they'd eaten, done chores and were sitting together in front of the fire.

"Thank you for your help today, Gabrielle. I haven't been so well received by strangers in a long time."

The bard felt a warmth invade her body. She thought it came more from Xena's appreciation than from the fire in front of her. She looked over at her companion and was about to respond when she noticed a dark bruise coloring the warrior's left cheekbone. "You're hurt!"

The warrior looked up and smiled at the young woman's concern. "No, I'm all right." She tried to reassure the bard. "I heal quickly. It'll be almost gone by morning."

Gabrielle touched the bruise gently. "That happened when I distracted you, didn't it? I'm so sorry, Xena. It won't happen again. It's just that I've never seen such fighting before. It's a lot different in real life than it is in stories."

"It's ok." The warrior's eyes held the bard's. "I'm just not used to looking out for someone else when I'm fighting. I'll learn."

Gabrielle reached over and lightly kissed the injury. Then she continued the gentle exploration down to the warrior's neck. As she kissed her way back up to Xena's ear, she whispered, "Uh, Xena…….about that virgin thing……"

Xena actually laughed out loud. She turned to the voracious blonde and pretending shock said. "Why Gabrielle! You mean to tell me that you'd have intimate relations with someone you've known for only a few days?"

Blushing, Gabrielle smiled at the warrior's mock astonishment. This time she wasn't going to give up any ground to her teasing companion. "Of course, I would," she retorted. "Why do you think I'm here?"

"Well, you're moving a little fast for me, my bard." Xena answered truthfully, unaware of the affectionate term she'd used.

But Gabrielle didn't miss the possessive endearment. She continued to smile softly as she thought to herself, 'Oh yes, I will have you, my warrior.'

Xena allowed Gabrielle to nestle up against her as she fell asleep. Under the bedroll's blanket, the warrior held the small blonde close to her heart. It would have been so easy to take her pleasure with the bard. Gabrielle was obviously willing and eager. In the old days, she would've thought nothing of having sex with the girl and then leaving her by the side of the road in the morning. But she couldn't do that anymore. Especially not to the woman sleeping safely in her arms. Xena then realized that she wanted something far more intimate from Gabrielle than her virginity. She wanted her love.

Days on the road turned into weeks, the weeks into months. The two women fell into an easy alliance. Gabrielle was reluctant at first to perform in the towns they passed through. But with Xena's encouragement, she found herself becoming a successful bard. During their travels they'd experienced incredible adventures. They'd rescued an amazing assortment of famous individuals, like Pandora and Prometheus. They had saved entire villages from Morpheus, the Titans, Ares, and various warlords. And the bard was beginning to write her own stories of the Warrior Princess. When she started including them in her repertoire, they turned out to be the most popular of her stories. In fact, she was good enough to earn the extra dinars they needed to supplement their life on the road as well.

The warrior continued to do what she'd been doing anonymously for over a year. She rescued innocents wherever she could. But with Gabrielle as her testimony, she was now becoming famous for her heroic deeds. Many still feared her. But now they were more often unsavory individuals, rather than decent people. Her reputation grew, as did the bard's who traveled with her. They were becoming known as a remarkable team.

After an unspectacular rescue of a kidnapped child, a grateful innkeeper offered Xena and Gabrielle the use of a small cottage for as long as they chose to stay. The bard looked forward to a soft bed for a change. They could replenish their supplies at the town's marketplace and attend to Argo's needs as well.

Gabrielle hoped they could stay long enough for her to catch up on her writing. She'd learned so much during the last several months. And while her life was an open book, discovering Xena's history proved much more difficult. She knew Xena trusted her. But she thought that the warrior's past might still be too painful for her to share in more than bits and pieces at a time. Even though she learned more about Xena everyday, she still knew virtually nothing about the warrior's dark side. Gabrielle could afford to be patient. She planned on being with the Warrior Princess for a very long time.

While Xena took Argo to the stable, Gabrielle contemplated the other aspect of their relationship. They had not yet become the lovers she'd hoped they'd be by now. Xena had said she wanted to move slowly. She'd not wanted Gabrielle to rush into a sexual relationship with a virtual stranger. In public, there were no displays beyond friendship. But when they were alone, they were very affectionate and slept wrapped in each other's arms at night. Gabrielle sighed. Of course she would wait until her companion was ready. But the small cottage was so romantic…….

Xena couldn't help thinking of Gabrielle as she walked back to the cottage. It was impossible for her to resist her young traveling companion any longer. At first, she'd held back to allow the bard the chance to get to know her better. But as she'd continued to avoid making love with Gabrielle, she realized it was because she wanted more. Now Xena knew how empty the conquest would be without Gabrielle's love. Most enjoyable, no doubt, but empty. Somewhere along the way, Xena had fallen hard for her young partner. Gabrielle was bright, charming, imaginative, clever, kind and brave. She had fine instincts and an elemental integrity about her. 'And she's so lovely,' Xena sighed to herself. The sea green eyes, the golden tresses, the soft lips pulled her in as much as the tantalizing body. She may have wanted to deny it, but she couldn't ignore the truth. Xena was in love with Gabrielle.

When the warrior entered the cottage, she found a fire going and food on the table. "The innkeeper." Gabrielle said to Xena's inquiring look.

The warrior smiled and approached the bard who was standing at the table sorting through her scrolls. Xena stopped next to her, reached up and slipped her index finger under the top edge of Gabrielle's peasant blouse. The bard looked up in surprise as Xena slid her finger across the bard's chest between fabric and skin. Gabrielle closed her eyes and shuddered at the subtle intimacy. Xena then walked behind the bard and put her hands on each of Gabrielle's shoulders.

"About that virgin thing….." she purred into Gabrielle's ear.

"Yes….." was all the bard could manage to say. It could have been a question or permission.

"I thought we might do something about that," Xena continued, nibbling on the delicate earlobe.

"That's why……. I'm here…." Gabrielle couldn't think with Xena's lips tracing her skin that way.

The warrior's hands gently slipped the peasant blouse off the bard's shoulders. She kissed the bare skin. Then she slid her hands around and cupped Gabrielle's breasts through the flimsy material. The moan was barely audible from the bard as Xena slowly pulled the blouse down to Gabrielle's waist. Then the bard surprised Xena by taking the warrior's hands and pressing them back up on her breasts. She made Xena squeeze and fondle her. The warrior teased the firm flesh and toyed with the reactive nipples.

"I have wanted you from the moment I saw you," whispered the warrior as her tongue licked at the bard's ear and neck.

"I know…"

"How did you know?"

"stamped……..forehead……" Gabrielle couldn't get the teasing words out. Xena's hands and lips felt so good. She was feeling that warmth inside her body again. It was how she always felt when Xena touched her, looked at her, kissed her. She realized briefly that she would probably always associate the Warrior Princess with heat.

Gabrielle turned slightly in the warrior's arms. Xena's mouth descended on her immediately. Their lips connected hungrily and she entered the warrior's mouth just long enough to tease her into returning the favor. When Xena's tongue reached out and slid across Gabrielle's upper lip, the bard caught her and sucked her in possessively.

After a few moments, Gabrielle released the warrior. Xena looked down into Gabrielle's face. "Turn around, Gabrielle." As the bard turned, Xena lifted her blouse over her head. "Now reach over and put your hands on the table." When Gabrielle hesitated, Xena whispered, "Please…...do it for me."

The bard bent over slightly and placed her hands on the table in front of her. She was both nervous and excited. But she calmed somewhat when she felt Xena's hands begin to roam over her body. They wandered all over her breasts and abdomen, up her arms, and down her back.

Xena explored Gabrielle in a continuous sweep of her hands over the bard's enticing body. Her sensitive hearing and fingertips would remember every response the bard made. She knew her constant motion would somewhat hypnotize Gabrielle and relax her. And then the inexperienced woman would hardly notice when Xena slid her hands down her thighs and up under her long skirt.

Gabrielle was indeed slow to grasp the change in direction. Xena had already pulled her cumbersome skirt up above her waist and slipped her breeches down to her feet before she reacted. She tensed at the sudden exposure. "Trust me, Gabrielle," Xena murmured from behind her. The bard's mind made a quick decision, one her body had already decided long ago. She did not object further as Xena lifted each foot and removed her breeches, stockings and shoes.

The warrior was having a little trouble concentrating on her seduction. The bard's body overwhelmed her senses. She was entranced by the smooth skin under her hands, the toned, lightly muscled legs, and the shapely, firm hips on display before her. Xena caressed the bard's backside with the same steady movement she'd used to mesmerize Gabrielle earlier.

"Spread your legs for me, Gabrielle," Xena commanded softly.

The bard took a small step not knowing what the warrior had in mind.

"Wider, my love," came an even quieter instruction. "Trust me."

At the sound of the unintentional endearment, Gabrielle let Xena spread her legs several feet apart. The warrior then reached through her thighs and felt for the wetness she was sure would be there. She stroked the bard's soft protective hair and slipped her fingers over the smooth, slick skin of her sex. At first, Gabrielle was startled by the unexpected search. Then she tilted her hips back toward Xena and opened her legs wider.

Xena experienced her own surge of excitement as Gabrielle further presented herself to the warrior's inspection. Unable to resist her, Xena easily entered Gabrielle with gentle fingers. Slipping into the wet opening, she rubbed against the inner walls where no one had been before her. The thought humbled her as she began a slow probing inside Gabrielle. Then she brought her other hand up to cover the bard's clitoris. She put her hands together so that there would be a steady stroking of Gabrielle's sexual node with every penetration.

Gabrielle firmly grasped the table while she submitted her body to Xena's exploration. She'd never imagined feeling so much pleasure at someone's touch. She had orgasmed under her own administrations. But the warmth and passion she was feeling as Xena took control of her body was beyond anything she'd ever done for herself. Xena's fingers stroking her inside and out created such a delicious friction. The heat was spreading throughout her body, the pleasure starting to run rampant. She was unaware of the moans slipping past her lips or the lustful movements of her body. She only knew that Xena was finally touching her, pleasuring her, loving her.

Xena was aware of everything. Every move, every sound Gabrielle made, every breathe she took registered with the warrior. She memorized the bard's body and reactions to everything she did to her. Sensing the bard's approaching climax, her need for release, Xena increased the speed of her hands. "Come for me, my sweet bard." The warrior had only meant to think the command. But instead she spoke it with a hushed urgency.

A climax rushed through the bard as she soon as she heard the erotic plea and endearment from Xena. She cried out Xena's name, imploring her and a variety of gods to satisfy her need. The fervent storm finally caught up to her, leaving her awash in emotions completely new to her. When it abated, she felt her energy leave her. She wasn't surprised to find that she was held up safely by a strong arm around her waist.

Xena hadn't expected their first sexual encounter to be so powerful. The driving need to touch Gabrielle, to satisfy her, and the response of her own lustful urges, surprised her. She knew she'd accomplished her first two goals. The young woman's body had spoken volumes about how much pleasure she'd felt. The tremors and spasms inside the bard, where her fingers still rested, were proof of Gabrielle's satisfaction. Yet she was unsure how she was going to alleviate her own hunger for her companion's touch.

When she finally felt Xena slip her fingers out from inside her, Gabrielle slowly straightened and turned. As her skirt fell back into place, she leaned on the side of the table for support and considered her lover. Xena's hands were now by her sides as she stood there smiling. It was obvious to Gabrielle where those hands had just been by the glistening coating that covered those long fingers. She felt a spasm inside her that coincided with a blush.

"You're just full of surprises, aren't you?" she said trying to sound exasperated.

"So are you," replied the warrior as she swept hungry eyes up and down Gabrielle's half nude body.

Gabrielle pushed herself off the table's edge and stood in front of the warrior. She brought her hands up to that beautiful face and pulled Xena into fierce kiss. As the warrior returned the fervor, Gabrielle felt an involuntary thrust of Xena's pelvis against her. The bard ended the kiss and searched the lapis colored eyes for confirmation of the wanton need she'd felt from Xena's body. The warrior couldn't hide her desire. But she said in a light tone, "Guess we took care of that 'virgin thing,' huh?"

"Not quite," replied the bard, with a lecherous gaze of her own. "There's still one part of my education that's sorely lacking." Gabrielle started to unbuckle the warrior's breast plate. "And you, my exquisite warrior, are going to provide it."

Xena didn't know how to respond to the subtle authority in the young woman's voice. Gabrielle continued to undress her as she backed Xena up towards their bed. In a matter of moments, Xena was completely naked. The bard slipped her own hands under the waistband of her skirt and sensuously lowered it to the floor. She was trying to maintain a sense of composure that she didn't feel. The Warrior Princess was absolutely the most stunning creature she had ever laid eyes on. How could she possibly hope to satisfy this magnificent beauty? She had no store of sexual knowledge, no tricks of the trade to rely on. So she did the only thing she could do. She moved back up onto the bed and opened her arms, welcoming the warrior.

When the bard's open arms beckoned her, Xena could feel her heart pound almost painfully in her chest. This beautiful, innocent young woman, was prepared to give her all to the ex-warlord. Honesty, sincerity, and the desire to please radiated from Gabrielle. The invitation of her arms was a promise to be cherished for a few moments, or perhaps a lifetime. Xena didn't care which it was for now. She knew only that she wanted it so badly.

Xena climbed up on the bed and covered Gabrielle's body with her own. The bard embraced the warrior fiercely. This was what she wanted. She wanted this woman to need her. She would learn to do whatever it would take to make Xena happy. Slowly she turned the warrior over. Looking down at her lover, Gabrielle wanted to ask her what she wanted her to do. But Xena's breathing had become slightly labored and there was a fevered brightness in her eyes. Gabrielle decided to explore the excited woman on her own.

As Gabrielle descended down her body, Xena felt somewhat out of control. She wasn't accustomed to feeling this way. But she so desperately wanted the small blonde to touch her, to love her. She let her restraint go and embraced the sensations Gabrielle was creating.

The bard was discovering the perfect breasts usually hidden under Xena's brass armor. They were full and soft in Gabrielle's hands. She kissed them and gently rubbed her face in their softness. She let her fingers play across the nipples until they became harden tips. Xena was arching towards the bard in response. This pleased Gabrielle so, that she started to run her hands all over the warrior's body. She remembered how her thinking had blurred and her body had felt like it was on fire when Xena had done that to her.

The bard continued down toward the sexual core of her heart's desire. Xena willingly spread her legs to accommodate Gabrielle's body. The young woman parted the dark, curly hair between Xena's legs and examined the silky skin underneath. Xena was soaked with readiness. This also pleased Gabrielle as she bent down to kiss the exposed area. Xena jerked up and moaned loudly in response to the tentative lips brushing against her clitoris. Encouraged, Gabrielle let her tongue sneak out and lap softly at the stimulated sexual shaft. "By the gods, Gabrielle!" was one of the only coherent things Xena could get out. Exhilarated by the warrior's reactions, the bard stopped her sensual licking for a moment. She pushed Xena's legs further apart and penetrated the warrior's overflowing entrance. At the sudden invasion, Xena almost climaxed. It was all she could do to rein in the raging fire so that she could feel more of the bard's explorations.

And the bard had much more to give. She returned to the hungry sexual node and feasted on it with her lips and tongue. She continued to thrust in and out of the bucking warrior. Xena's inner walls sucked at her fingers, while she in turn stroked their smoothness. Gabrielle was also experiencing an amazing amount of renewed wetness between her own legs. She would have to ask Xena to touch her again when she was finished.

Xena held nothing back as the bard continued pleasuring her. She called out Gabrielle's name and even more endearments to the young woman. Her body's needs should have strained her novice lover's endurance. But the tenacious little bard refused to stop until the warrior was completely sated. Finally the warrior surged one last time and pleaded for Gabrielle to penetrate her deeper, harder. The bard complied willingly and Xena shattered.

Afterwards, both women rested. Xena was still breathing fast and the spasms inside her clutched at Gabrielle's fingers. The bard lay with her head on Xena's thigh and watched the storm pass. She was thrilled that she'd been able to please her warrior. But she was also in total awe of the power of this sexual interaction between them. 'Was it like this for everyone in love?' she wondered. Suddenly, she realized the meaning of the thought she'd just voiced in her head. 'In love….' She tried out the phrase in her mind. 'I'm in love……' The idea took root not only in her mind, but in her heart. 'I'm in love with her, I'm in love with Xena.'

The bard was so still, so quiet, that Xena wondered if she was all right. The spasms had subsided, yet Gabrielle remained inside her. "Gabrielle? Are you ok?"

Gabrielle looked up from where her head was resting on Xena's thigh, and smiled at the warrior. "I'm fine, how're you?"

Xena brought her hands down and softly stroked what she could reach of Gabrielle's blonde hair. "Well, I'm considerably more than fine, thank you."

The young woman climbed back up the warrior's body. With her revelation still on her mind, she asked. "Xena, is it always……I mean…..before….."

Xena knew what her bard wanted to know. She wanted to know if the intensity Xena had experienced with her was normal for Xena's sexual conquests. The warrior had been with her fair share of lovers for a variety of different reasons. Each had been unique in their own way. But no one had ever penetrated her soul as well as her body with such a potent connection. She could honestly say that making love with Gabrielle was beyond anything she'd ever experienced before. She looked down at the young woman in her arms, knowing she was feeling a love for her that was also beyond anything in her past experience.

"No one has ever affected me the way you do, Gabrielle," confessed the warrior. "Honestly, I have no frame of reference for this. There's nothing in my past that can possibly help me explain how you make me feel."

Gabrielle was astonished at the heartfelt admission. She reached up and kissed the warrior gently. What she wanted to convey to the warrior was her love. But it quickly became apparent that her lust would fight to get noticed too. The kisses turned impassioned, and the warrior responded. She turned the blonde on her back and wandered down her body. She tasted the small, firm breasts that she had missed the first time. Gabrielle tried to concentrate on the variety of manipulations Xena was doing to her. She wanted to remember so she could do the same things to Xena. But she soon realized that she would have to ask later. The pleasure was just too overwhelming for her mind to function clearly.

Xena continued down the bard's alluring body and once again sought permission to spread her legs. Gabrielle opened them immediately. "Please Xena, don't tease me. You've excited me too much to wait."

The warrior smiled at the flood of wetness she could see dripping from her lover. "So I see, my bard." Xena parted the bard's soft, wet folds. "We'll go slow some other time."

At the promise of future love making, Gabrielle tilted her hips up toward Xena. The warrior took immediate advantage and covered the bard's sex with her mouth. "By the gods, Xena!" Gabrielle couldn't help crying out as she felt the first strong stroke of Xena's tongue. At the same moment, the bard felt those long fingers enter her again. The combination turned her warm feelings into a raging inferno. Xena controlled her, drove her towards another climax. As she reached an impossibly high peak, she cried out, "Oh, Xena, please…..By the gods…..Xena!….. I LOVE YOU!"

Gabrielle's orgasm crushed any resolve Xena may have had to keep her feelings from the bard. Upon hearing her lover scream out her name and her love, Xena felt the rest of the world drop away. There was only this woman. This tender, gentle, incredibly wonderful woman loving her, willing to be loved by her. Nothing else mattered.

When the chaos of emotions had subsided, Gabrielle found herself crying quietly in Xena's arms. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry…."

Xena rocked her, soothed her, kissed her hair. "For what?"

Gabrielle turned into the comfort of Xena's chest. "You probably think I'm just a silly village girl with a crush on a famous warrior."

The warrior smiled. "I happen to think that you're an incredibly sexy village woman who happens to scream out undying love at the height of orgasm."

Gabrielle laughed at that and lightly slapped Xena's arm. "Stop that, you know what I mean."

Xena turned serious. "I know what I hope you mean." Xena did not intend to have this discussion lying naked with her distracting lover. She reached over to the bedside table and grabbed two of their shifts. She handed one to Gabrielle and donned one herself. When they were both sitting on the edge of the bed, she looked out into the cozy room. "Gabrielle, this is all very new to me. Traveling with a companion, changing my life. I hadn't planned or expected to fall in love with you. But apparently that's exactly what I've done." She turned and looked at the bard who remained silent. "I was drawn to you from the moment I saw you. And it didn't take me long to figure out why." Here she hesitated. "I love you, Gabrielle. I don't know quite how that will affect our lives together. But we'll have to think of some way to make it work.

The bard got up from the bed and walked a few paces away. When she turned back to Xena, she said. "Ask me again."

When Xena cocked a questioning eyebrow, the bard clarified. "In the barn, that first night…….ask me again."

Xena smiled then, remembering what she'd asked Gabrielle months before. "Why are you here?"

"I'm here because I love you."

They wound up spending over a week in the little romantic cottage. They rested, made love, tended Argo, made love, replenished supplies and made love. The bard was able to finish writing about their recent adventures. Gabrielle was so completely happy. And Xena practically glowed whenever she was near. But eventually the road beckoned and they bid the innkeeper, his wife, and the romantic cottage good-bye.

"Where to now, Xena?" asked the bard, eager to be involved in more adventures with her gorgeous lover, both in and out of bed.

"I thought we'd travel to Amazon country. It's not far from here." she replied.

"Really?! Amazons?! That's fantastic! Going to see the Amazon Queen! I wonder what she's like? That would make such a great story!"

Gabrielle's enthusiasm was infectious. She chattered away, practically dancing up ahead of the warrior. Xena knew that Gabrielle would enjoy the prospect of meeting the amazons and their queen. And anything she could do to make her energetic partner happy, she would do.

'That's why I'm here,' she smiled to herself as she caught up with her mate.


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