Powers of the Queen Part 3

Standard Disclaimers apply - No copyright infringement intended; just Classic Alt FF that takes you to places TPTB never did.   There are graphic love scenes depicted between two women, very tastefully done, I might add ;-) and some violence (a little thug head-banging) in this story.  (Complete Disclaimers in Part 1)

Helpful and constructive feedback is always appreciated; contact us at: wiseroostr@hotmail.com or xanjaa@yahoo.com


Argo’s warm broad rump felt soothing against Gabrielle’s pleasantly sore thighs. She’d never felt so alive nor loved so completely. Random thoughts, snatches of ideas and pleasurable memories floated across her consciousness as she dozed against Xena’s solid back. When they’d begun riding that morning, she noticed that the stiff battle dress creaked as they rode, but as the day wore on it had softened with the heat from Xena’s body and the warmth of the early summer sun. With her cheek resting against the pliant leather, smelling richly of Xena’s scent of cinnamon and musk, Gabrielle drifted in a reverie as she recalled their sensual morning together.

They had awakened for the first time as lovers and in that half aware state made slow and tender love again, reaching the pinnacle and riding the crest joined as one; ending finally with a sigh in each others arms. Shivering slightly as she recalled the sensations, she smiled. They’d been traveling for hours now. Xena had insisted that she ride too. It would be faster for one thing, but she suspected the stoic warrior wanted to keep her close as their recent separation was still too fresh in their minds.

Xena took comfort in the feel of Gabrielle’s arms around her waist. She smiled as she glanced down to see the smooth skin of her lover’s hands flex and twitch as she slept. Xena raised her eyes to the heavens and gave silent thanks to what ever benefactor had so blessed her unworthy self with such a gift as this young woman.

She’d woken this morning to find a still sleeping Gabrielle sprawled half across her body. Her right leg had migrated between Xena’s knees and it rested pleasantly against her center. She’d only meant to plant a chaste kiss on her lover’s sleep softened mouth, but that kiss had been immediately returned and Gabrielle had moved against her with purpose. Things had quickly escalated and in moments they were rocking together in the ageless dance of love. Feeling herself becoming aroused again at the pleasurable memories, Xena looked for a distraction.

It was early in the season for it to be this warm. The endless blue sky reminded Xena of the placid waters of the Aegean, but the heat that had been so pleasant only a candle mark ago now had become an oppressive presence. She knew a place. Don’t I always, she reflected. After spending so many years roaming every backwoods’ path and game trail there were few secret places hidden from her. But this was another special place, private and secure where they could enjoy a midday meal and cool off from this sweltering journey. Turning Argo off the main road, they made for the spot a mile further back into the thick forest. The splashing sounds from the waterfall alerted her that they had arrived. It was time to begin waking Gabrielle, a deep sleeper under any circumstances.

"Gabrielle." Nothing. "Gabrielle, time to wake up, Love."

A mumbled reply came, "naw..sleeee..ng."

Xena chuckled and turned slightly in the saddle to assess her slumbering lover. "I know you’re not sleeping. Are you hungry? I might be prodded into catching us some fresh trout for lunch."

In reply the young woman stretched, flexing her arms and then releasing them. Xena was mildly shocked at the strength in those arms as they gripped her middle. Gabrielle has changed and grown so much in the past two seasons. I can hardly believe this is the same girl that followed me from Poteidaia. Pulling Argo to a stop near a large spreading olive tree, she noted the crystal pool and the falls that cascaded in sheets down steep faced cliffs.

Pulling her face from the hot sticky surface of her leather pillow, Gabrielle peeled herself loose. Xena dismounted as Gabrielle looked around again struck by all the beauty she’d been privileged to experience since traveling with Xena. The granite faced cliffs from which the water rushed down to meet the aqua blue pool below reflected diamond like sparkles under the brilliant sunlight. Several olive trees grew in clusters, stretching their gray-green leaves up to meet the sun. The biggest tree, the one they’d stopped beside, stood alone in the middle of the meadow. Tender new grass grew all around giving the impression of a park, much like the small patch of greenery that always grew in the village square each summer in Poteidaia where she grew up. The entire scene lent her an inner peace she’d been lacking in the face of their recent trials. Smiling, she broke from her reflections as strong arms reached up to lift her down from the golden palomino’s tall back.

Xena kept her hands on the bard’s shoulders and looked carefully at her face. What she saw pleased her. However, she was worried about, how she, a warrior of few words, would ever express the wonder of it, the warmth that filled her from just being in the presence of this remarkable young woman, now her lover? She mentally shook herself and determined she’d find the words some how, but not now. It was always better to put off these things and go for what she knew.

"How about a swim to cool off first?" she asked her dazed looking blonde companion.

"Ummm, that sounds heavenly. I had forgotten how sticky it gets just riding."

Yeah, riding fitted so close together we could have been one rider can get sticky, very pleasantly sticky, Xena thought to herself. An involuntary smile broke out. She strode to the edge of the azure pool and quickly began to strip down. She glanced over her shoulder to see Gabrielle lick her lips as she watched Xena disrobe.

Xena smirked back knowingly. And although she was having exactly the same thoughts said, "Come on, ya just gonna stand there getting sun stroke?" With that she executed a swan dive, her nude body making a perfect arc as it sliced into the crystal blue water.

Entranced by the vision of Xena’s naked body knifing through the air and splitting the calm surface with barely a ripple, Gabrielle walked to the edge of the water, mesmerized. The sight of Xena doing anything physical always brought a thrill to her, but seeing Xena doing it naked was enough to stir the libido of a corpse and Gabrielle was very much alive.

As she watched, Xena popped up just inside the waterfall, her hair glistening like a shiny otter’s pelt, the water sheeting from her head, and then she disappeared again, diving back under the shimmering waters only to emerge again seconds later outside the falls. Flashing a crooked smile at Gabrielle, she dived once more, this time emerging with a large rainbow trout in her grasp. The big fish thrashed in her grip. Scales shining like new dinars, she threw the catch to an unsuspecting bard, still trying to undress on shore.

The slippery trout caught her square in the chest, jerking the half-dressed bard out of pleasant fantasies to find herself grappling with their lunch. Finally, she deposited the wriggling fish in some tall grasses near the shore. She stood hands on slender hips contemplating for a moment; thinking just how aptly named the trout was as every color in the rainbow sparkled in the bright light of Apollo’s chariot. She watched the creature struggle to breath and decided the kindest thing would be to kill it quickly. Without pause, she grabbed up a near by stone and hit the fish solidly between the eyes. Instantly, it lay still and Gabrielle uttered a silent prayer of thanks to Artemis for the gift of this food even as she thanked the spirit of the fish and sent it on its way.

"Come on, Gabrielle. The water is purrr fect." She rolled the words off her wet tongue.

Stripping quickly out of the rest of her garments, she left her clothing in a heap beside Xena’s leathers and executed her own version of a swan flop. As Gabrielle surfaced smiling and spitting a stream of cool water, she spotted Xena still near the falls and moved in that direction. Her arms cut deep furrows in the crisp cool water, as she swam easily to where Xena waited.

Xena watched as her sleek blonde companion approached. Xena’s heart filled as she remembered that awkward village girl who’d turned her back on home and family, on all she knew, to follow without question - a tired and beaten warrior. She’d seen the small changes; the building of confidence, the acquiring of survival and weapons skills and the development of muscles, all contributing to the transformation of that girl into this beautiful competent woman swimming toward her. Her heart swelling with emotion, Xena acknowledged to herself that she loved Gabrielle beyond anything she could have ever imagined.

When Gabrielle reached her lover she wrapped small yet strong legs around Xena’s torso and tan arms around her shoulders, and then buried her head in the crook of Xena’s shoulder.

Ah, bliss. She thought.

Bliss until her playful lover began a slow and methodical tickle across her ribs and down her navel. Gabrielle hung on for all she was worth, but it was hopeless, she was the most ticklish woman in the known world and the warrior knew it.

"Stop, Xena, Stop! I can’t breathe." Gabrielle screamed with laughter and squirmed as the relentless attack continued unabated until she cried out for mercy.

Xena pulled back then and planted a gentle kiss on her nose, then on her eyes, then on her cheeks, and finally on slightly parted lips. Then and only then did they share a deep soulful kiss, the need for air finally forcing them to pull apart to gaze with tenderness into each other’s eyes. That look was Xena’s undoing. She needed to somehow express her deep feelings for her new lover.

The scissoring of Xena’s muscular long legs had kept them afloat in the deep water. Now still holding Gabrielle in her arms, Xena kicked forcefully toward the shore and soon her feet found the sandy bottom.

Holding Gabrielle close, she breathed in her scent and gathered her thoughts which seemed scattered like a flock of geese rising before the hunter’s arrows. Pulling back to look into green eyes filled with love and trust, Xena spoke hesitantly.

"Gabrielle… I … I would do … I want to…" Stopping and starting several times, she finally trailed off miserably.

How could she express the depth of her feelings for this precious woman she held as they stood in the middle of a river? She could barely acknowledge to herself that she had those feelings.

Over the years she’d told one casual bedmate after another she loved them; most often as a ploy to get what she wanted. The words had become meaningless drivel. She’d learned to see love as a weakness; a weakness that could lead to disaster. Feeling the need to be strong and able to respond to any danger, she could never allow herself to trust anyone. She’d been betrayed by love too many times. To love meant to trust, trust that those fragile feelings weren’t turned into a weapon of power over her.

Now when she felt compelled to feel and express the deepest emotions in her heart, she was unable. She had always been a woman of few words; her actions spoke for her. No matter that Gabrielle had proved her love and devotion time and again, Xena was uncomfortable with displays of affection. Most often Xena had expressed her true feelings for Gabrielle in a playful or casual way so that she could use the camaraderie as a shield, never having to admit the depth of her caring.

She looked away to the big olive tree under which Argo grazed. She could not meet Gabrielle’s eyes. She was so afraid that Gabrielle would see the chink in her armor and recognize her for the fool she was. But gentle fingers at her jaw, insistently turned her head back to look into verdant green eyes that she swore opened directly into the bard’s soul.

I can look into those eyes forever the warrior thought.

"I’m right here, Xena. You don’t need to be afraid to talk to me."

Xena blew out a gush of air through her nose. "You scare me. Love scares me. Makes me feel; I don’t know. It scares me that maybe I can’t protect you. And I always try to protect my family." She stopped for a moment, remembering a time long ago. "And some times I fail."

"Cortese you mean? Xena, you were a child."

"Even before that. Gabrielle, children without fathers learn to be strong and protect themselves and those they care about."

"And now you love me," Gabrielle said. It was a statement of fact. "Do you think I don’t know that? Do you think I could ever doubt it?"

Choking on her own words, Xena struggled to breathe. A battle raged inside her, a battle few knew was even being waged; the war to tear down the walls around Xena’s heart versus the need to keep that tender place, protected and safely tucked away. Blue eyes pleading for understanding, bored into the young woman. Please understand what I cannot say; and know what I’m afraid to feel and please don’t ask me to say it if I could find the words.

"Xena, I know this is hard for you…"

"No!" The word was harsher than we wanted.

Then, more softly, to ease the hurt caused by her emphatic reply, Xena said, "No, you don’t understand; can’t really… words come easily to you; your heart is so open and honest and mine is… mine is closed… so many seasons, so many lost years... it’s hard for me to even feel love… or admit that I can love and now with you.. I want … I want to show you… everything…" It ended on a whisper with Xena touching her own heart and then she looked away again.

Gabrielle longed to pull Xena against her breast and just let this go, but something held her back. No, if they were to ever have an honest and equal partnership, it needed to start now, no more diversions, no more banter and no more excuses. It needed to start with Xena trusting her enough to say what was in her heart and accepting that Gabrielle would honor and protect that trust.

Taking a breath, she began, "Xena, look at me!"

Slowly Xena’s head turned back and the fear and hope that Gabrielle saw there almost undid her resolve

Determined, she forged on, "I love you. Do you know what that means?"

Uncertain, Xena shook her head side to side and then up and down.

Gabrielle nearly burst out laughing, but held on. This needed to be done. Looking at the horizon to regain her equilibrium, Gabrielle absently noted puffy white clouds floating lazily in the pale noon day sky, the brilliant sun light having washed the heavens of its color.

Looking straight into Xena’s deep blue eyes, very like the color of the pool they now stood in, she continued, "It means that your heart is safe with me. Xena, I am asking you to trust me. You think I’ll see you as weak, or that I’ll ask something of you that you can’t give me, but you couldn’t be more wrong. I, of all people know you for the strong and invincible woman you are, and I know what this is costing you to let your guard down. And I know what a gift it is to me for you to do this."

Xena was stunned by the bard’s depth of understanding, although why she was surprised, she couldn’t say. Gabrielle had always shown perception far beyond her years. Looking into the endless depths of Gabrielle’s green eyes, Xena saw only compassion, honesty and love reflected there.

"Gabrielle, I’m trying to tell you that no one has held the place you do in my life and in my heart. I’d do anything to prove that, lay down my life; make any sacrifice."

Shaking her head, she paused and sighed, disgusted with herself. "And no matter what words I say, it feels like only words, not enough."

Touched that Xena was able to come this close to expressing the inexpressible, Gabrielle replied, "Why do you think it’s not enough?"

"Don’t know."

She took a deep breath still trying to find the words which would make Gabrielle see that she was afraid, afraid that she wasn’t equal to or worthy of this priceless gift. Xena had always felt much more comfortable with action.

"I guess… I just feel like I should do something to prove it."

"You don’t need to do or say anything to prove your love. I see it in the way you look at me; the little things you do for me."

Smiling she thought of the little carved lamb that Xena had given her for last winter’s solstice. Sending a silent prayer to Artemis that she wasn’t overstepping here, Gabrielle said, "Ummm, there is one little thing."

Xena cocked her eyebrow in question.

"Maybe you could try to treat me more as your partner and not so much like the little girl that followed you out of her village two years ago? I don’t always need your protection and supervision… I mean, I can pull my weight. Do you think you could let me be the person you make decisions with, fight with and tell your thoughts to?"

"Hmmm, and go to Amazon celebrations with?" Xena tried joking, but soon realized her error as Gabrielle graced her with a scowl. Quickly backtracking, she said, "I’m sorry. Sometimes I can’t believe it when I look up and see the capable woman you’ve become. I’ll try, okay. I will try."

Recognizing that this was as close to acquiescence as she’d get; Gabrielle leaned in for a quick kiss.

"Great, let’s eat." And then she laughed and was still laughing as Xena lifted her high and tossed her back into the deep pool; only the water closing over Gabrielle’s head extinguished the sound.


After a sumptuous repast of grilled trout wrapped in grape leaves and fresh wild yams cooked in the coals, Gabrielle was ready for a little nap, but Xena had other ideas.

"Gabrielle, we need to get going if we are going to get to the Amazon territory tomorrow."

Gabrielle looked longingly at the sleeping furs she held in her arms in preparation for a little afternoon siesta and whatever else might come up. Hopefully, she held up the bedding towards the warrior.

"I was just thinking, it’s so hot out and this close to the summer solstice we can ride well into the evening, so maybe just a short nap…" She pleaded with her eyes.

Laughing, Xena shook her head. She was dressed again in her leathers and armor for traveling, her sword stowed on Argo’s saddle so the bard could ride behind her.

"You, my beautiful bard can sleep anywhere, including right up here behind me." Seeing her partner’s disappointed look, she relented a bit.

"If we can get beyond the river before we camp, then it’s an easy ride to the territory tomorrow."

Gabrielle, who wasn’t convinced said, "I guess."

Xena leaned down and peered into the bard’s downcast face. "I promise you can sleep in." she teased.

Gabrielle shrugged.

Xena upped the ante, "I’ll even catch ya a nice breakfast."

Gabrielle seemed to consider this offer. "And will you clean it and cook it and feed it to me in bed?"

Xena laughed, "You wanna eat my cooking?"

"It’ll be worth it to not have to get up."

"Well, I doubt that, but okay, ya have a deal."

With that, Xena took the bed rolls from Gabrielle and tied them on behind the horse’s saddle. Then she mounted. Moving her foot from the stirrup, she bent down and offered her lover a hand up behind her. They moved off, heading slowly back toward the main trail.

Gabrielle looked back longingly at the water splashing into the blue pool they had played in. The falling water raised small waves in a multitude of colors, like tiny rainbows, they formed and disappeared back into the serene waters. The gentle sounds of the waterfall retreated into the distance and Gabrielle fell into a reverie once again and was soon asleep.

* * * ON THE ROAD AGAIN * * *

They’d been riding for over six candle marks, with only brief stops for quick trips into the bushes. Gabrielle had awakened and with her naturally sunny disposition had kept up a steady stream of conversation. Well, not quite conversation, more like a monologue as the warrior barely grunted out her short responses.

"Xena, see those trees over there; the twisted ones that look like two lovers coiled around each other?"

"Uh huh."

"Well that’s what I think they are; lovers I mean."

"They’re trees, Gabrielle."

"I know that, but see, sometimes, when two souls are meant to be together and then something happens and one dies and the other is left behind with only memories, and even the one that crossed over is lonely, well then they make a pact to be together in the next life and so these two chose to come back as trees wrapped together in each other arms for their entire lifetime."

"Gabrielle, I am not coming back as a tree!"

"It’s a story, Xena, use your…"

But before she could finish the sentence, Xena half turned in the saddle, her arm snaked out in front of Gabrielle’s face catching an arrow an inch from the bard’s cheek. In one smooth movement, she rolled to the rear carrying Gabrielle in her arms to the ground behind Argo. She had barely stood the bard upright and pulled her sword from its scabbard on Argo’s saddle before five thugs emerged from the surrounding woods.

However, Xena’s first concern was for the archer. Looking toward the trees from where the arrow had come, she caught a glimpse of color that didn’t belong and then heard the zing of the next arrow as it was loosed.

Got him, she thought. Snatching the second arrow in mid flight, she dropped it and in one fluid motion, pulled the chakram free with her fingertips launching it straight into the branches. The piercing scream and solid thunk of his body hitting the ground told her she’d found her mark, even as the whirling disk reappeared from the foliage, ricocheted off another tree trunk, clipped one of the bandits behind his ear and homed in on its owner. With nonchalance, she caught the circular weapon and reattached it to her hip.

Xena balanced on the balls of her feet, making figure eights with her weapon and smiling her patented feral grin. The remaining outlaws were well armed, and dressed in what looked like ragged uniforms. Mercenaries then, out of work and looking for easy pickings. Well boys, you just made a fatal mistake, she mused.

Three of them circled Xena while the fourth, a small grizzled man with blackened teeth and a stench that could knock over a horse stalked Gabrielle.

The bard quickly ascertained the situation and made a lunge for her staff still tied to Argo’s saddle. As she struggled to free it, the bandit grabbed her right arm and spun her around.

"Where do ya think your going, girly? You and me are gonna have some fun." He cackled; the fumes from his breath nearly gagging her.

Gabrielle did not hesitate; she slammed her foot down on his instep and while he danced around on one foot, retrieved her staff.

"I don’t think so." she stated.

Recovering quickly and madder than a badger wakened from a sound sleep, the marauder roared out his anger as he advanced on Gabrielle.

"You are gonna pay for that. Oh yes, you are gonna pay."

He lunged with his blade; she parried. He swung wildly with an over head slash and she blocked the shiny steel away from her head. Feeling confident in her skills, Gabrielle backed up luring the man into attacking. Eponin and Ephiny had taught her well the advantage of patience in a fight and their lessons came back to her now… parry, block, move back, watch his eyes and wait for his mistake… remember Gabrielle, all the time your opponent is attacking, he’s using his energy and wasting his strength… bide your time and then swipe low and follow with the overhead strike to take him out… all their instructions were vivid in her mind as she played her defensive strategy.

Gabrielle made no noise as she fought. Letting her staff do her talking for her, it clacked with loud claps against the outlaw’s blade. Grunting and huffing, the disgusting man repeatedly beat his sword against the hard wooden stick in fury.

The three men circling Xena, took turns attacking her, trying to keep her off balance. As strategies go, it was a good one and with most single opponents it would have worked, but Xena, seemed to have eyes in the back of her head. Just as the one behind her swung his sword at her unprotected skull, she spun, bringing her sword straight up to first block his attack and then turning the blade so it was hilt toward him, pummeled him between the eyes. Stunned, he went down like a bag of wet grain. Without stopping her turn, she dropped into a low crouch and brought her sword up in an arc which caught the next man high up on his thigh. As he went to his knees, clutching his crotch and screaming in agony, the third yelled, "Let’s get out of here." Grabbing up his fallen comrade with the deep thigh wound, the two ran for the woods leaving their unconscious partner behind.

Finally, the repellent cutthroat made his move and Gabrielle was ready. With a wild lunge toward her face once more, she blocked. Then bringing her staff around for the underhand sweep, she flew backward landing hard on her butt, as six foot of furious warrior landed in between her and her opponent.

With hardly a thought, Xena elbowed the villain under the chin, grabbed him by his whiskers with her two hands and head butted him into unconsciousness. Dropping him to the ground like so much rubbish she turned to Gabrielle.

The look on the bard’s face should have alerted her, but Xena was feeling only elation from the little skirmish. Seeing that Gabrielle was safe, Xena remarked, "Well that was fun."

"Just what in Hades name did you think you were doing?" a very angry Gabrielle spit out as she struggled to her feet dusting off her backside.

Oh Centaur crap, she never swears. I’m in big trouble. Xena now focused on her smaller companion, noting the body language. Gabrielle stood with her feet planted wide, hands on hips, green eyes flashing, chin raised. Xena tried feigning innocence, "What?"

"I thought we had an understanding, Xena. I thought we were partners… live together, work together, fight the bad guys together!" Gabrielle’s voice dripped sarcasm.

Looking around in panic, Xena realized her mistake. "Ummm, it was no big deal…" she stopped short seeing the bard’s color go from pink to maroon as her anger made itself even more apparent.

Quickly, she tried another tack.

"I mean, I didn’t see any reason for you to… it looked like… I thought I was protecting you. I didn’t want to see you hurt." She trailed off in defeat knowing she didn’t really have any excuse, short of the fact that she had been caught up in the moment. And yes, in her heart protecting the bard was the only real way she felt able to show her love. Helplessly she looked at the angry young woman.

"That’s not the point, Xena. We are partners. I can surely handle one out of five highwaymen."

"Well, sure you can… I just…" Xena tried to interject.

But Gabrielle was having none of it and talked right over her. "And Xena, I had him. I was about to take him down when you come flipping across the meadow and dump me on my butt before I can do it."

Looking positively chastened, Xena struggled for some way to make amends. A groan from the thug lying at her feet alerted her that the object of this discussion was still around reminding the mad Amazon Queen of Xena’s transgression. Then she brightened as an idea presented itself. Trotting the few feet over to Argo, she snatched their water skin off the saddle horn and jogged back.

While Gabrielle looked on in bewilderment, she grabbed the semiconscious man by his collar and jerked him upright. Holding him with one hand, Xena uncorked the skin with her teeth and doused the hapless outlaw with the entire contents. Sputtering and coughing from the near drowning, the outlaw pulled uselessly at her grasp.

"Okay, go ahead." Holding the struggling man up in front of her like a gift, Xena beamed.

"Xena, what are you doing?"

"Letting ya put him out." Again she held her gift out in front of herself proudly.

"You don’t get it!" Gabrielle threw her hands up in exasperation.

Unconsciously strangling the helpless crook as she pleaded her case, a contrite Xena said, "I’m sorry. You’re right, I shouldn’t have stepped in. So go on and hit him. It’ll make ya feel better."

Incredulous, Gabrielle stared back at Xena.

Into the silence, the bandit in question piped up, "Hey, don’t I get a say?"

"No!" they shouted at him in unison.

"Xena, I don’t want to hit him now".

"See, the shrimp don’t wanna hit me." The wretched man gleefully proclaimed.

"Shrimp?" Gabrielle ground out through gritted teeth.

With that Xena, hauled the stupid bandit up on his tip toes until she was nose to nose with him.

"And you better shut up and pray I don’t hand you over to her."

She jerked her head in Gabrielle’s direction and continued in an even more threatening manner. "I’ve seen her take out a dozen losers like you before breakfast."

She shook him hard for emphasis and watched dispassionately while the struggling man went from blue to purple from lack of oxygen.

Turning back to Gabrielle, she winked and asked. "So what do ya want to do with him?"

Her anger dissipated as she realized how ridiculous the situation was. It was almost impossible for her to stay mad at Xena, so she decided to play along.

Bending slowly, she retrieved her staff from the ground and began to advance on the prisoner. "Well, I suppose I could use the practice." She said, barely able to keep a straight face.

The crook’s eyes enlarged to the size of serving bowls as he wriggled like a fish on a hook. When Gabrielle was within a foot of him, he gave a mighty pull and twisted free. Screaming epitaphs about crazy, blood-thirsty, man hating women, he ran into the evening.

Staring after the fleeing figure for a moment, the two women then turned to each other and burst out laughing. Tears streamed down Gabrielle’s dust encrusted face leaving little trails. She and Xena clutched each other and howled out their merriment.

After several minutes the laughter died away. Pulling back to see Gabrielle’s face clearly, Xena said, "I am sorry. I forget sometimes how strong you’ve gotten and how skilled."

She hesitated as she voiced her worst fear. "I guess you don’t need me to protect you anymore."

"Xena, I’ll always need you."

"That mean I’m forgiven?"

"Yes." She replied softly.

Xena brought her lips down to Gabrielle’s initiating a quick gentle kiss. Sighing, Xena reluctantly pulled away. She knew they were too exposed standing there in the open.

Holding the bard out at arms length, she said. "I’d still like to cross the river today. Is that okay with you?"

"Yes, it’s okay. It’s not much further is it?"

"Only a short way. We’ll be camped in half a candle mark, I promise."

They walked hand in hand to where Argo waited patiently.


* * * DINNER FOR TWO * * *

It was just turning twilight as they made their way through a small opening into a secluded glade. Crossing the river had been uneventful. After the skirmish with the local outlaws, they decided to walk across the ford in order to clean some of the dust and grime from their bodies.

At one point, Gabrielle caught up a handful of water and doused Xena who had quickly reciprocated by nearly drowning her playful partner in a tidal wave of water. Gabrielle knew better than to start any military action against Xena, but her natural lighthearted optimism always seemed to conspire to make her do things she later wished she hadn’t.

Now in camp, they quickly stripped out of their wet clothing and donned their sleep shifts and then each went about their usual tasks in setting up camp. Xena gathered some firewood and got a small blaze going then went off to hunt something for dinner, while Gabrielle refilled their water skins, laid out their bedding and hunted though their gear for what ever dried foods they still had. After that, she started some water boiling and sat back on their furs her back against a fallen log to write a few lines in her scrolls about the last several days.

Tapping her lips with the feathered end of her quill, she pondered all that had transpired. When she had an idea of where she wanted to begin, she started to write in her neat precise hand.

Getting to the part of Artemis’s role in all this, she paused. She needed to make sure Xena understood the importance of her debt to the moon goddess. Not only had Artemis restored Xena to life and full health, but Gabrielle was her chosen and owed her allegiance and homage. She turned suddenly as a freshly skinned rabbit was dropped near her feet.

"Dinner," Xena announced.

Gabrielle was prepared for it. Seldom, did Xena go off hunting and come back empty handed and tonight was no exception. When they were on short journeys, she usual kept her hunt to the smaller game animals, so Gabrielle had made a skewer from a cypress branch.

Threading the animal onto the spit, she then sprinkled some of their crushed herbs over the meat and laid the hare across the coals to cook. Bubbling in the pot were some fresh tubers and mushrooms she’d found nearby. Heavenly cooking smells filled the early evening air as they settled back to await their food.

Rummaging through their saddle pack, Xena found her sharpening stone. Taking a seat close to Gabrielle, she proceeded to hone her sword blade. The steady scrape, scrape, scrape of the stone against steel was soothing to them both. For them it was a normal sound of their domesticity, as much as the scratching of the bard’s quill against parchment.

They worked in companionable silence for a quarter candle mark before Gabrielle decided that this might be a good time for her to broach the Artemis issue. Sighing, she laid her quill aside and said, "Xena, you understand how important this trip to the Amazon territory is to me."

"Yep; it’s why we are pushing so hard to be there before the solstice. The Amazons need their queen." Her eyes twinkled with both pride and good humor and she nudged Gabrielle in her ribs and squeezed her thigh.

Slapping Xena’s hand away playfully, she decided to try to convey the seriousness of it for her. "Yes, all the festivals are important to the Amazons, but this trip is about more than that. We need to thank Artemis for restoring your life."

The steady sound of the honing tool against Xena’s blade stopped. Into the quiet, Xena spoke softly. "Gabrielle, I am going with you and will do my best not to embarrass you with the tribe, but I have no use for gods." She paused for a beat. "And I have serious doubts about Artemis’s real motives in this whole thing."

Blushing crimson Gabrielle couldn’t think of an adequate reason to explain Artemis’s actions. But then who could understand the ways of gods. She, herself, was embarrassed and not a little ashamed of her behavior with the goddess, although it seemed beyond her power to stop it from happening. And the truth was, she’d do it all again, if it would bring Xena back to her.

"I don’t know what to say, Xena. We both know the gods don’t do anything without a price… a high price sometimes." She ended on a whisper.

Setting her sword and stone down, Xena spoke gently, as if explaining a mystery to a small child. "The thing about gods is there is usually more to what they do than they say… I know you want to believe in the moon goddess, that she is different, but my experience is to not trust them."

"Okay; I’m not asking you to pledge allegiance to Artemis or even thank her, but I need to go make an offering to her and I need you with me in the Amazon village."

"Gabrielle, I’ll be there."

"By my side during the festivities?" Gabrielle forced the issue by asking and then begging for Xena’s word. "Please?"

Blowing a stream of breath out in resignation, Xena realized she could never refuse this precious woman anything. "If that’s what you want, then yes."

In joy, Gabrielle jumped up and plopped herself onto a surprised warriors lap, planting a sweet kiss on her mouth while she murmured, "Thank you."

Strong warrior arms wrapped around the smaller woman drawing her closer as Xena responded to the kiss. How she longed to express her deep love for Gabrielle, to say the words.

Xena groaned into Gabrielle’s mouth as she used her tongue to force her way inside. She deepened the kiss even more while her busy hands ran over the bard’s back and down her hips finally coming to a stop at firm buttocks where Xena kneaded the pliant flesh through the bard’s short sleep shirt. Gabrielle’s whimpering response fueled Xena’s own desire. Her lust exploded and she pushed the garment up around the young woman’s waist. Reveling in the velvety softness of the bard’s cheeks, her fingers traced the crack of Gabrielle’s buttocks running up to the two dimples at its base and then down lower where a flood of wetness now gathered. Seeing the staccato beat of the pulse in the hollow of Gabrielle’s throat, Xena lowered her lips to it and sucked.

"Uuuhhh - mmmmm" Gabrielle could not contain the sound that escaped

From behind them the fire crackled and popped as the grease from the small rabbit dripped down onto the coals. The sounds of roasting meat joined with the hungry suckling sounds of the two lovers while the scents of cooking mingled with the smells of their arousal. The merging of the different sensory stimuli caressed Gabrielle’s already overloaded senses arousing her further.

Finally, realizing their dinner might be ablaze, Gabrielle broke off the kiss.

"Oh gods, Xena." Gabrielle gasped as she panted trying to recapture her normal breathing. She glanced over her shoulder to the fire.

Xena just watched her partner through heavy lidded eyes glittering with unspent passion. "Hmmm, are you hungry, my bard?"

Gabrielle was at a loss. She wasn’t completely sure what Xena was talking about. Oh yes, she was hungry in ways she could not articulate. The smell of the roast rabbit from the fire pit and the smoldering look in Xena’s eyes were both fueling unspeakable hungers that she could barely understand, let alone control.

"I… I… yes… but, I don’t want to… stop… I want..." She choked out in jerky broken phrases.

Xena carefully laid her precious bard down on their bedding and gracefully stood up. Snagging the spit of roasted meat, she waved the skewer in the air a few times to cool it. Then she turned and looked down at Gabrielle semi-reclining on their furs, with her weight braced on her arms.

"Let’s eat then."

Kneeling down in front of her lover, Xena’s passion darkened eyes locked onto Gabrielle’s smoldering green ones. Slowly, ever so slowly, she brought the roasted game close to Gabrielle’s mouth which opened of its own accord, her eyes never leaving Xena’s.

Delicious aromas rose from the meat as Xena delicately brushed the roasted rabbit across Gabrielle’s lips, top and then bottom lip coating them with juice and grease until the bard opened her mouth further and accepted the gift. Tender succulent meat and hot juices melded together in her mouth as she bit down. The bite was larger than she had expected causing sizzling drippings to roll out the corners of her mouth and on to her chin. Xena leaned in then, and with strong warm tongue lapped at the fluids as they ran down her face. In long laving strokes, Xena feasted on the juice and sweet taste of her lover, bringing her tongue closer to Gabrielle’s mouth. Then she gently lapped at the grease on those sweet lips, licking and stroking and caressing her lover’s mouth.

"Ummm, delicious." Xena said as she pulled back slightly, then she whispered. "Eat."

Convulsively, Gabrielle swallowed the bite and watched mesmerized as Xena brought the savory flesh to her own mouth. Never dropping her gaze from her partner’s hypnotized stare, Xena chewed opened mouthed, wrapping her tongue around the luscious morsel as she chewed, the liquid from it coating her mouth. As if in a trance, Gabrielle leaned forward; using her index finger she carefully caught one golden drop as it tried to escape and brought the precious fluid to her lips. Her tongue snaked out and circled her finger as Xena watched, groaning out her own passion and desire.

Sitting back against the log, Xena drew the bard onto her lap with her legs straddling Xena’s hips. She leaned in and kissed those precious lips again and sucked them into her mouth, tasting the delectable flavors on her partner’s skin. Then, pulling back, she pulled off another morsel of game and offered it with her finger tips to her lover. Opening her mouth and taking in both meat and fingers, Gabrielle sucked the digits sensuously even while she swallowed the meat. Her tongue kept up a rhythm as she laved and sucked and moaned around Xena’s two fingers.

Taking turns at the spit of meat they continued to feed each other’s hunger and each other’s passion. Finally, the carcass was stripped bare and tossed back into the fire pit where the hungry flames hissed greedily around the new fuel. Xena reached out with greasy hands and placed one finger into her lover’s mouth. Obligingly, Gabrielle sucked it clean and then each one in turn until there remained no trace of the rabbit’s juices on Xena’s hands. Xena watched her, a roaring inferno building low in her belly. She never took her eyes from the bard’s. Gabrielle stared back with undisguised lust.

"Still hungry, my love?"

Gabrielle could only groan.

"I’ll take that as a yes."

She pulled the bard closer against her stomach. The wetness from Gabrielle’s arousal had completely coated Xena’s upper legs and now she longed to feel that wetness against her belly. Running her hands over the bard’s backside again, she brought her arms up and divested Gabrielle of her juice stained sleep shirt.

As her passion filled eyes took in her beautiful companion, Xena said, "Oh Gabrielle, what you do to me. You’re so beautiful."

Shaking out her long blonde hair, Gabrielle’s eyes burned with desire as she now leaned in and captured Xena’s mouth in a powerful kiss. Her hips taking up a steady rhythm against Xena’s hard stomach muscles. The bard could not contain the hungry sounds that escaped from her throat as her ardor spiraled higher.


Hard nipples pressed against Xena’s own breasts and begged to be touched. Xena broke the kiss lowering her head to the pink areola surrounding one of the tiny hard points flicking it with her tongue, and then sucking it hard.

Throwing her head back Gabrielle moaned out her pleasure as jolts of pleasure flashed through her belly warming her all the way down into her center. Her hips picked up the pace as her passion mounted. She gasped out her pleasure, "Oh gods, oh gods…"

Not so fast my love. Xena rose up to her knees still holding her partner and carefully laid her back down on the bedroll, then covered her with her own body to slow the pace.

Bringing her hands up to either side of the bard’s sweet face Xena looked into eyes like endless green pools. "I love you, Gabrielle, more than I can say. Let me show you."

Green eyes darkened to the color of ink as her passion ratcheted up another notch and she was only able to reply with a single word, "Yes."


Xena lowered her head and kissed each eye, then each cheek and finally captured her mouth in a searing kiss. Gabrielle thrashed underneath her, silently begging for more contact.

Breaking off the kiss, she moved lower, licking gently under the bard’s lower lip, and then kissing under her chin, finally pressing her mouth to the pulse point pounding in Gabrielle’s throat. Her hands followed another path, tracing over shoulders and arms. Picking up a hand, Xena placed a delicate kiss on the wrist and then sucked there too. Moving down the bard’s body, she worshipped at each stopping place. She blessed each breast with kisses, and then suckled at her nipples, first one and then the other.

As Gabrielle struggled for closer contact she moaned and begged, "Xena, I need --- please, I need you."

Xena obliged by slipping her knee between her partner’s thighs. Gabrielle sighed in contentment and then rocked hard against Xena’s leg.

Kissing her way down her lover’s body, Xena swirled her tongue around Gabrielle’s naval dipping the tip inside. Gabrielle’s hips jerked in response. Dropping lower still, Xena paused just above the thatch of golden curls, curls wet with the young woman’s fluids. Taking a deep breath, savoring the scent of her lover’s passion, Xena brushed her lips across the soft blonde pelt, tickling the hairs and raising goose flesh on the insides of Gabrielle’s thighs.

Finally, reaching her goal, she parted the bard’s legs and settled between them. Kissing each thigh, then the juncture of that thigh and her body, then slowly dragging her tongue through the downy curls, allowing just the tip to penetrate to the liquid heat within, Xena arrived at the place her lover wanted her to be, and began to feast. She licked and sucked at the warm slick velvety folds and stroked the swollen bundle of nerves again and again. Gabrielle responded to the pleasure by grabbing onto Xena’s head and holding her in place and crying out, "Yes, there, oh gods, like that!"

Xena knew her young partner was close. This time when she slid her tongue over the throbbing knot, she blew cool air on it while using her finger to trace around the entrance to Gabrielle’s center. As she gently pulled her lover’s swollen bud into her mouth, she plunged one finger deep inside and began a steady stroking.

Almost instantly, Gabrielle released in a series of violent contractions as muscles clamped down hard around her finger and the bard half sat upright in the throes of her climax. Screaming out in pleasure, her lover’s name was torn from Gabrielle’s throat, "Xeeee naaaa!"

Keeping up a constant pressure with her mouth until she felt Gabrielle’s spent body collapse back onto the furs; Xena moved back up and pulled her lover into a comforting embrace.

Tears of joy painted Gabrielle’s cheeks and Xena brushed them away with her finger tips. "You okay?" she asked. The bard could only respond by nodding.

They lay quietly for a while listening to the fire crackle and watching the stars come out over head. After a bit, Gabrielle turned her head and raised herself up on one elbow.

"Thank you Xena," she said softly, and then smiled mischievously and added, "Boy, do you have a way with words."

Xena laughed from deep within her chest. Her relief palatable, she hugged Gabrielle close to her. Maybe she’d never be able to express herself the way Gabrielle could, but for tonight it didn’t seem to matter.

As the laughter died away, Gabrielle spoke again, looking uncertainly into deep blue eyes. "I may be the one with the endless vocabulary, but tonight I don’t want to talk. I want to touch. I want to touch you in love. Is that alright?"

Perhaps she could show Gabrielle the depth of her love this way, by placing her self into the young woman’s hands. Looking up at her small lover with trust, complete trust, Xena made a decision. "Yes, Gabrielle, anything you want."

Gabrielle sat up and crossed her legs. Reaching out she slowly raised Xena’s sleep shirt, revealing firm thighs, black pelt of hair at juncture of legs and torso, coppery colored skin stretched over smooth hard stomach muscles and finally firm high breasts and solid muscular shoulders. Xena rose up as the bard insistently tugged the fabric up and over her dark head.

Xena then stretched out on her back with her fingers laced behind her head, allowing her lover an unobstructed view. Gabrielle simply sat for a moment observing the dark haired beauty in all her glory. The glow from the flames polished a golden gloss to Xena’s naturally tanned skin.

Watching her young lover through slitted eyes, Xena asked. "What cha looking at?" Her light tone and the slight smile playing at the corners of her mouth, told the bard it was indeed okay to look.

"Gods but you are beautiful."

Xena snorted. One of her more endearing qualities was Xena’s lack of vanity about her own appearance. "Gabrielle, I’m covered in scars."

It was true, but to the bard, Xena’s beauty glowed from within and exceeded the exterior beauty. The fact that Xena herself was so unaware of her inner light made it burn that much brighter.

Slowly reaching out with tentative fingers, Gabrielle began a journey of the flesh, tracing each curve, valley, and swell on Xena’s body. Beginning with her beautiful face, Gabrielle sketched on human canvas the unlined brow, high cheek bones, straight nose, and solid jaw. Traveling down the warrior’s body, she paid homage to muscular shoulders, long shapely arms and strong hands, and then the deep hollow at her graceful throat and finally down to soft mounds of flesh with erect nipples peaked in the cool evening air. Using the flat of her hand, she smoothed the abdomen watching with delight as strong muscles jumped under her palm. She brushed gently over the soft black curls, causing Xena’s breath to catch on a gasp and her hips to strain upward slightly against her finger tips. Smiling, she passed on to the well defined thighs and long calves and, lastly, to her feet. Here, she paused and kissed each toe.

"Do you like this Xena? Do you like it when I look at you, and touch you?"

Xena could only respond with a groan.

"Not very talkative tonight Xena. Do you want me to stop?" the bard asked playfully.

"Gods, no," she responded.

Gabrielle had pleasured her own body and could count her other sexual experiences on one hand, but still she was wise enough to realize that people were different and if she was ever going to be the kind of lover she herself wanted to be for Xena, she knew she needed direction. Leaning in, she placed a gentle kiss on her partner’s full lips, and then deepened the kiss, pushing her tongue inside Xena’s mouth. She moaned when Xena responded by sucking hard on her tongue and enfolding her in a strong embrace, pulling the bard down next to her.

Lying in each other’s arms now, touching all along the length of their bodies, Gabrielle reached out with an unsure hand and caressed Xena’s breasts; first one and then the other with such a light touch that Xena groaned in frustration.

Sensing she wasn’t getting it, Gabrielle pulled back and looked into passion darkened blue eyes, "Show me. Show me what you like, Xena."

Looking deeply into Gabrielle’s eyes, Xena could only see unconditional love reflected there. Taking the young woman’s hand, she led her to a taut nipple. She closed the bard’s fingers over it and pulled the puckered nub and twisted slightly.

"Like this," she husked out and moaned.

Gabrielle watched mesmerized at Xena’s body’s reaction. Her sweet musky scent permeated the evening air and the dark curls glistened with the warrior’s fresh warm juices.

Leading the bard’s hand to those same curls, she pushed Gabrielle’s fingers deep within the slick warm folds.

"And like this."

The wet velvety feel sent shivers of delight through the bard’s own groin. Swirling her fingers in the warmth of Xena’s most secret places, she was amazed at her own reaction to just touching her partner.

Aware that her young partner was also re-aroused, Xena pushed her knee between Gabrielle’s’ thighs. Placing hands on the bard’s hips, she rocked Gabrielle as their passion spiraled higher.

Moving in the ageless rhythm, Xena picked up the pace as she pushed against the bards fingers. Gabrielle took a nipple in her mouth suckling and biting gently as the movement of Xena’s hips escalated even more.

Now Xena voiced her need, "Inside Gabrielle, inside."

Instantly the blonde slipped two fingers inside. "Oh gods, Xena, so soft, so warm," she gasped in wonderment as she stroked the pulsating inner walls.

"Harder," was all Xena could grind out as her hips bucked around the bard’s hand.

The bard complied, pumping her arm harder and faster in time with Xena’s movements. Finally, almost without warning, Xena stilled for a moment before free falling from the peaks of her arousal, convulsing in release. She emitted one long piercing cry as she climaxed, "Gab-ri-elleeee."

As Xena’s orgasm shook her, Gabrielle unconsciously increased her own pace rocking her center hard against Xena’s muscular thigh and soon she too slipped over the edge into that ultimate pleasure of love making. Wracking spasms rocked her world before slowly fading away and she lowered herself gently onto her solid human pillow. Strong hands rubbed comforting circles on her back. They lay quietly as the cool of the evening dried the sweat from their naked entwined bodies.

Eventually, the cool night air drove them under the covers. Gabrielle tucked herself against Xena’s chest spoon style. Snuggling together their breathing soon became more regular as sleep closed in on them. Just before she was carried into Morpheus realm, a sleepy Gabrielle spoke.



"I love you."

"I love you too, Gabrielle."

"See? It’s not so hard to say."

Xena smiled into the bard’s hair. "No. Getting easier."

<Conclusion in part 4>

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