Disclaimer: Although I've taken the girls to a different time and place they still don't

belong to me and I have absolutely no intention of making any monetary profit off of this story. Although Xena and Gabrielle are not mine the story is so please respect that. This disclaimer will apply to all future story chapters as well.

Subtext: Yeah, and it can get quite explicit once it gets going. So if that is not your cup

of tea or if you aren't open-minded enough to read it anyway then you might want to trot off and find something else to read. If you don't heed the warning then don't blame me, I warned ya.

Series Comments: This is just chapter 1 of what is looking to be at least a four chapter

story. I don't know, could be longer it all depends on reader's feedback what strikes me as I am going along. Also, for those of you who have read the first three sections of my other "series" I promise that the next installment has at least been running around in my brain, even if I haven't put it to keyboard yet. Soon, I hope.

Misc: I apologize in advance for the profanity. I tend to swear a bit in life so it is

transferred over to my writing…sorry…If you like it please sent feedback to xfbard@yahoo.com I thrive on positive comments. Enjoy…

Second Chance at Forever

Chapter 1.

Meeting at VICAP

The first thing I noticed about Xena were her eyes, they were the clearest shade of blue that I had ever seen. When I walked into her office that first day of September I don't know exactly what I had been expecting, but it wasn't the six feet of reserved woman I was met with. I guess that I should explain a little bit about myself before I get too far into the story that has been my life for the past few months. My name is Gabrielle, Gabrielle Channon and I am a writer. I have published ten crime novels over the past decade. I am usually on the road researching, spending time with those who have investigated serial killings and crimes of passion. It is from these individuals that I derive my stories. After completing a satisfactory amount of research I retreat to my modest Georgetown apartment to write. It is through this process that I came to know Xena.

She was the lead investigator on a multi-jurisdictional serial rapist/homicide that had plagued the D.C. area about two years ago. She had worked in concert with her team for months at various crime scenes collecting evidence that would eventually convict a man by the name of Seth Wayne Dupree of six counts of rape and felony homicide. I was allowed access to her by the Assistant Director of VICAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, a division of the FBI. I had petitioned him for an interview, but it seemed as though it wasn't necessary as when we first met he put the name to my face and come to find out he was a big fan of my work. How convenient for me as this put me on the fast track down to get first hand details from the lead investigator herself. The only condition being placed upon my visits was an autographed copy of my next book for the Assistant Director. I could handle that. So, with briefcase and legal pads in hand I took the elevator to the second floor in search of office B-12, the workplace dwelling of one Special Agent Xena Demakis.

Like I said earlier, when I finally found her and she looked up at me over the edge of a manila envelope I practically fell on my ass. Those eyes! Who knew that a woman who spent her days tucked away studying violent criminals could be so gorgeous? I was quite possibly staring when her melodic voice captured my attention.

"Can I help you?" She asked as she put down her file and gave me her full attention.

"Ah, I hope so. My name is Gabrielle Channon and I was told you were the one to talk to about the Dupree case." I practically stuttered, very professional. "For a book I am writing." I hastily added. 'God Gab, get it together, it's not as if you have never seen an attractive woman before.' I berated myself.

"You're the woman A.D. Thomas just phoned me about." It wasn't a question, more of a statement of fact.

"Yes, I write crime novels and I was hoping you could help me with some of the more technical investigative aspects of the case. You know the inside stuff." I gave her my best conspiratorial smile.

"That information is need-to-know Miss Channon." She pushed her chair back and rose to her full height. 'Yikes, a tall one.' I thought as I watched her maneuver her way around her desk before coming to rest against the front edge. She was easily six inches taller than my five foot four frame.

"Please, call me Gabrielle." I gently asked; I hated being called by such a formal title. "I have been given full access. The case is closed, all appeals exhausted. Mr. Dupree is going to be executed for his crimes. The information is now a part of public record." I stated, indicating that I had done my homework and was not about to be dismissed so quickly.

"What do you need?" She asked, crossing her arms in front of her chest in a classic defensive position. It was at this point that I realized two things, one, she wasn't married for she wore only a silver Celtic band on her right middle finger and two, that she wasn't going to be an easy one to sell, but by the way she was looking at me, discretely taking in the view from head to toe I was beginning to believe I was going to enjoy the challenge.

"Well, I was hoping for at least an hour each day for a couple of weeks." She seemed to mull it over for a few seconds before replying.

"Ok, fine, but it will have to be after regular business hours. My plate is pretty full right now and I don't really have any time before five each day."

"Five is fine," I nodded, "do you want me to meet you here?" I asked, pleased to have at least gotten an agreement to meet with me.

"That is probably the most convenient."

"Great!" I enthused. "How about we start tomorrow; that will give me a little bit of time to gather my thoughts and compile a list of things I would like to talk about." I hastily pulled out my day-planner and scribbled in the time and place before neatly writing my home and cell phone numbers on a post-it note. "Here, in case anything comes up." She nodded and glanced at the paper.

"You live in Georgetown?" She must have recognized the prefix.

"Yeah, why?" I questioned as I gathered my things.

"Nothing, just a coincidence, I live in Georgetown." She shrugged.

"Oh." I smiled slightly. 'Oh, indeed. I'd never seen her anywhere while shopping. I would have taken notice.' "Maybe one night we can skip the office and meet in town for dinner or something." I offered, partly to gauge her interest and partly because it was more practical to meet in town instead of driving all the way to Quantico if she was just going to be turning around and heading home to Georgetown anyway. She lifted one dark eyebrow at my offer seeming to consider it.

"Maybe," I saw a small smile tug at the corner of her mouth, "we'll see how it goes." I took the response as a good sign and assented.

"Thank you in advance Agent Demakis. I'll try to make it as painless as possible." I said as we shook hands. I couldn't help but notice how nice her hands were, her fingers were long and graceful, her skin flawless.

"You can call me Xena." She replied and as I left the office I most definitely felt my interest in her rise, yep interesting indeed.

As I drove home on the beltway I tried to focus on what exactly I wanted to know about the Dupree case, but my mind kept wandering back to Xena. She was a striking woman, no doubt about it, tall, dark hair and an athletic build. I could tell even through her standard issue navy cargos and VICAP polo that she kept in shape. Not only was she intelligent, at least I could assume as much from her position of authority over an entire crime scene unit, but she was physically attractive as well. My type of girl.

It had been over eight months since my relationship with Emily had ended after a stint of three years. The breakup had been a mutual decision; we had just drifted apart, moved off in different directions in life. I still had been devastated. She was the love of my life up to that point and I had really thought that we would be together through old and gray. It had taken me months to even start looking at other people; I had thrown myself into my work and pounded out an entire novel in half the time it usually took me. Now it seems as though my mourning period was over as the beginning sparks of attraction were definitely present with Xena. And even though I usually made it a rule not to mix business with pleasure I admitted to myself that the blue-eyed Special Agent Xena might be my undoing; assuming my assumption about her panned out. Luckily for me, I usually wasn't wrong about these things.

"Yes!" I high-fived the steering wheel as I spotted and pulled into a parking spot directly in front of my building. Score another one on my good-day meter, parking within a quick walk of my apartment. Stepping out of my SUV I vowed to put Xena out of my mind for the evening, I had work to do. Well, I made it through dinner without thinking about her, but as I started a list of crime scene details I wanted to know my vow was broken. My mind drifted back over our meeting as I tried to analyze our interaction, to determine if there had been any sparks on her part. I guess time would tell. Sighing, I flipped on the TV in hopes of a distraction.

? ? ?

I entered Xena's office at five sharp the following day. Much to my dismay she wasn't there. The lights were on, but nobody was home. Tapping my foot impatiently I looked around the room taking in her office décor. The room was moderately sized and contained an expensive looking wooden desk and leather chair. One wall was occupied by numerous filing cabinets while another had a functional looking glass topped desk with a computer setting on it. Glancing at the art on the walls, tasteful images of historic architecture, I recognized the Parthenon, Notre Dame Cathedral and Stonehenge. Missing, however, were framed pictures of family and friends so my curiosity as to her 'status' would require a bit more investigating. Smiling at her decorative tastes I sat in one of the two chairs at the computer station. Glancing at my watch I realized it was quarter past and I started to sketch out a note that wouldn't belay my annoyance when I heard quick footfalls in the hall. Seconds later the would-be recipient of my note came through the door, a stack of folders under her arm. She was still wearing the standard uniform, but if it was possible she was even more alluring than I remembered from the day before, her dark hair was loose, held back by a pair of what I assumed were reading glasses.

"I'm sorry," she apologized, "I was headed back from the file room with these case histories when one of the men on my team flagged me down. He was droning on and on about something insignificant that was said at a meeting today and it took forever for me to excuse myself." She explained, looking at her watch and grimacing at her lateness.

"I was beginning to think you weren't interested in me," I slipped, "in helping me." I corrected quickly. 'Damn! That was smooth Gabrielle.' For the second time in as many days I got the eyebrow quirk and a hint of a smile.

"I'm interested." She added lightly as she placed the files in front of me on the table and sat down. I smiled inwardly at her purposefully ambiguous response. "So where do you want to start?" She switched gears and I pulled out my legal pad and recorder.

"Do you mind if I record this?" I asked first. She nodded her assent and I clicked it on. "First let me tell you how I work;" I started, "I collect information about actual crimes and then use that information to write novels, fiction novels." I paused to gauge her response.

"All the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent type of stuff?" She steepled her hands; her elbows coming to rest on the arms of her chair.

"Well, kinda," I laughed, "it's more of background. I come up with the people and situations. I just use the crime information to ensure accurate forensic and investigative details. So if I want to do a homicide novel I talk to the lead investigator in a high profile case in order to determine how it would progress, which steps would come first. Catch my drift?" I waved my pen in the air, trying to make my point.

"Yeah, ok. It's more like research material, less like the story of the actual case." I nodded. "Ok, so shoot." She fixed her warm gaze on me and I tried not to shiver.

"Well, my next novel is going to be about a serial homicide rapist and I figured since Dupree committed those acts you would be the expert, being lead investigator and all."

"How did you learn about me?" She asked, curious.

"Well, when the idea originally struck I thought back over the news articles I had read about Dupree. Your name was mentioned as being at the scenes and as one of the individuals who was largely responsible for catching him. You were quite popular with the local papers, always mentioned, but never photographed." I wondered about the last part.

"There is something about having your picture taken at a crime scene that is unsettling to me." She explained. "Now that you've seen me are you disappointed?" She asked, indicating herself by spreading out her arms a bit.

"Not at all, quite to the contrary actually." I smiled and watched as a slight blush colored her ears. She seemed about to respond when she suddenly drew back into herself, her eyes loosing the soft edge they had exhibited since she entered the office. Wondering about the quick change I jumped into my questions, making a mental note to try and get her to open up a bit at a later time. "Anyway," I started after a moment of silence, "I wanna know about your typical serial homicide rapist. You know, what you would do if you came across the victims, how you would collect the evidence, what to look for etceteras."

"Well, first of all there are no 'typical' serial homicide rapists. They pretty much vary greatly from case to case. In the Dupree case, he killed six young women, but he didn't kill them until after her assaulted them. That is not always the case; it all depends on where the thrill is derived. In violent crimes it's all about the fantasy. Sometimes the perpetrator will strangle with his bare hands, other times he uses a ligature of some sort. Again in the Dupree case he used a sweater that had belonged to his ex-girlfriend. He caught her cheating on him, but was willing to work past it. She wasn't, she dumped him and that along with some other contributing drug and mental problems pushed him over the edge. He was so angry that he took his rage at her out on innocent women who just happened to resemble her in some way." She paused, waiting for my next question.

"Ok, how about the act itself, is it usually planned or spontaneous?"

"Well, it's about half and half. Most rapists are all about the power of control not the sex act itself….." I nodded, made scribbly notes and she continued, answering my questions in great detail as three hours past. Finally around eight thirty we called it a night.

"Well, I guess I will see you tomorrow then." I said as I gathered up my coat and briefcase. She did the same, shutting down her computer for the night.

"Same place, same time?" She suggested as she led me out of the door and building to the parking garage.

"Sure, you think you can be on time?" I teased, still trying to test out the waters. Thus far she has seemed a bit reserved. Not overtly friendly, but not rude either. She had answered my questions with a learned efficiency, not adding any personal opinions or comments.

"I'll try. I won't leave the office after quarter till five." She promised lightly with a cross of her heart.

"Good enough." I smiled as I hit the power lock on my Grand Cherokee. I tossed my case into the vehicle and watched as Xena located her car and got in. She intrigued me. I thought back to our exchange when she came into the office, she had flirted with me a bit, I was sure of it, but then pulled back, became the utmost professional not breaking out of that mode until we entered the parking garage. And then that little bit about crossing her heart. There was more to her than met the eye and I wanted to explore, but I wasn't quite sure how to bring it up without seeming nosy or closing down the opportunity to get her insight for my research. I decided that I would suggest a dinner meeting for the day after tomorrow. Maybe in a more relaxed setting I would be able to get her to talk about more personal subjects.

? ? ?

As promised, Xena was seated at her desk when I came breezing in the next day. I had prepared the subjects I wanted to cover as well as preparing a little snippet about meeting the next night for dinner.

"See, seated at this desk, as promised." She stated as I pulled up a chair and made myself comfortable across from her.

"I'm impressed, guess I won't have to stick a needle in your eye." I taunted, playing off of her actions from the night before.

"Good thing, I may need that from time to time." I was pleased; she seemed to be in a relaxed mood. I hoped that I could keep her from withdrawing into herself as she had done previously. "So, what is on the score card for today?" She leaned back into her chair, resuming her now-familiar position.

"Well, I thought that we could start with offender types, maybe then progress into the standards of evidence collection the FBI uses. I know that you found a print on Dupree's last victim using superglue, I didn't know about that technique." I rambled on and she gazed at me with an amused expression on her face.

"Whoa there, that is quite a bit. How about we start with the superglue, seems as though you are quite interested in that." I nodded happily and switched on the recorder.

"Well, as you may or may not know finding prints on the skin is not an easy task so in occasions when we think there may be a latent print we can use a technique that involves vaporizing superglue. Using an airtight hood we heat the superglue and as it vaporizes it will rise and adhere to the oils in a fingerprint. Then as the superglue hardens the print will become visible and it can be photographed and then scanned into a computer for an attempt at finding a match in AFIS."

"That is pretty impressive, who would have thought that superglue would become an investigative technique." I was really impressed. "Have you ever done it, the actual procedure?" I questioned her enthusiastically and she laughed. I decided right then and there that in my next life I wanted to be an investigator.

"Once or twice back in the beginning of my career, but now I leave the evidence collection to my Scene Team. I look at the photos and reports they submit and try and get inside of the suspect's head and figure out where he may strike next and why."

"Do you think you could show me how you do that?" I asked, indicating the stack of crime scene photos and reports in the envelopes she had produced the day before.

"Yeah, sure." She sat up and began spreading the 8 x 10 color crime scene photos out on her desk. "These are a bit graphic, you ok with that?" She asked, a bit concerned.

"Yes, I've had lots of practice over the years." I assured her before taking a deep breath in preparation for the violence I was about to become a witness to.

"Ok, first look at these," she pulled aside a few shots, "this is his first victim and the alley where she was found…." I nodded and she proceeded to point out victim positioning, lividity and evidence found at the scene. I could tell by the way she talked animatedly that she knew what she was talking about and really enjoyed her job.

"Do you ever get nightmares? I would." I asked when she finished.

"You don't get nightmares when writing your books?" She inquired.

"Rarely, usually I am pretty good at turning off my brain at night, but sometimes I need to just watch something really happy and mindless on TV before bed." I explained.

"I don't usually, but sometimes, when a case is particularly bad yes. It's hard to get inside of a criminal's head for eight to ten hours and then leave it at the office." I nodded sympathetically and placed my hand on her arm. I felt her stiffen slightly and then relax.

"That must be hard."

"I've gotten used to it, well as much as one can get used to a cold sweat at three in the morning." She tried to lighten the moment with a chuckle. I smiled and slowly removed my hand from her arm when I noticed her quick glance at our touching flesh. I couldn't tell if she was relieved or disappointed at the action as her only movement was a momentary darkening of the color of her eyes.

"I think on that note I should let you call it a night, you must be tired." I sighed, realizing for the first time just how difficult and draining her job must be.

"It's ok, I'm fine. I wanna make sure I answered all of your questions." She rushed out and I began wondering if she too was trying to figure out if there might be a spark between us.

"You got them all," I paused and then added, "for today." I smiled at her hesitation to end our session together. As we prepared to leave I decided to spring my idea about the following night. "How about we meet in Georgetown tomorrow night? You know grab a bite to eat." I saw her hesitate, thinking momentarily about it. "Come on, nobody wants to stay at the office late on a Friday night." I urged and she relented.

"Alright, where do you want to meet?" She asked me.

"How about that place on the corner of M and 12th Street?" I suggested.

"That steak place?" She questioned, pulling on her fleece pullover.

"Does everything you own say VICAP on it?" I teased when I noticed the embroidery on the back.

"Ha ha. No, I do actually own other clothes for when I am out and about, off duty, but when in Rome…" She let the rest of the saying drop off.

"Makes sense," I conceded. "Anyway, the restaurant, it's called Larry's. Seven alright?" I questioned and she nodded. "Great, it's…" I caught myself before I made another slip, "I'll meet you there." I glanced at her as we walked out of the building, trying to ascertain if she had noticed the slight pause in my speech. She made no outward appearance that she had. Sighing with relief I bid her goodnight and headed back to my apartment.

? ? ?

Xena was right on time the following evening. I gave her a smile and a wave as she noticed me and began my way. She wasn't wearing her work clothes and I figured she must have gone home to change before meeting me. As good as she looked in her cargos she looked even better in the loose jeans and black v-neck sweater she was wearing. 'Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, Gab' I thought as I admired the way she weaved her way through the restaurant to where I was sitting at the bar. No way was I going to be able to remain professionally detached when she looked that good sitting opposite me.

"Hi." She said with a quick smile as she flagged down the bartender and ordered a beer.

"Hey, how was work?" I asked, sensing a bit of edginess to her mood.

"Normal day in Violent Crimes." She shrugged and took a sip of her drink. "Shall we sit?" She indicated a booth in the corner, away from the other patrons seated in the moderately sized room.

"Yeah." I picked up my drink and followed her to our table.

"So, tell me a bit about yourself." I prompted her after we had placed our order.

"What, no book research tonight?" She asked, and I could tell she was a bit surprised and thrown off guard.

"Just call this research. I still need a main character for my novel; someone to unravel the intricate web of crime that I shall weave." I joked, trying to lighten her up.

"Can I make a request?" She asked me seriously as she peeled the label off of her beer bottle. Apparently my lightness had not penetrated.

"Sure." I was intrigued; thus far she hadn't asked me anything other than a clarification of what I wanted for book information.

"Don't base your main character on me."

"Does this mean you won't tell me anything about yourself?" I inquired, disappointed. Maybe I had misjudged her.

"No, I will, I just don't want it to be for the purpose of creating a fictional character. If you want to know more about me I would hope it was because you personally wanted to get to know me." She explained, still focusing her attention on her half destroyed label. By the way she was looking away from me as she talked I couldn't tell if she wanted to tell me or just wanted me to back off.

"I do want to get to know you." I confessed. "But if you don't want me to use you in my book I won't." I promised.

"Thank you." She said softly, finally lifting her gaze up from the table.

"Are you sure you're ok? You seem a bit tense." I lifted the shredded label in example.

"Yeah, I'm ok, it's just," she looked around at the now crowded room then back at me, "I'm kind of a private person."

"Oh, I understand." I replied, feeling a twinge of hurt at her comments. I looked out over the many happy dinner patrons as I tried to refocus my thoughts away from personal matters. I guess my future love life was not as promising as I had hoped.

"No, I don't think you do." She reached across the table and placed her hand over mine in order to draw my attention back to her. "I'd like to spend some time with you, tell you about myself, just not here." She explained and I smiled, feeling the hurt float away, to be replaced by a feeling of warmth.

"I'd like that." I confessed and squeezed her hand briefly before letting go so that our waiter could place our dinner on the table. The remainder of the meal passed pleasantly as we talked about inconsequential things like the weather and the ridiculous price of apartments in Georgetown. As we paid the check I was a bit surprised when Xena asked me if I wanted stop by her place to have another drink. I agreed and we flagged down a cab; Xena gave him directions as we drove off into the evening.

"This is the place." She announced as she opened the door to her apartment and flipped on a lamp. "Just make yourself at home; I need to check my messages." She indicated the couch and headed down the hall to what I assumed was a bedroom or office. Xena's apartment was decorated just as tastefully as her apartment, the lines were clean an neat. Her furniture was impeccable, soft microfiber in muted green tones that set off the natural wood of her coffee and end tables perfectly. 'The woman has good taste.' I nodded to myself as I looked for a place to set my things.

Setting my purse down on a letter table that was beside the door I made my way to the couch stopping short when I noticed a copy of my last book on her coffee table. I was a bit taken aback by my own smiling face looking up from the table. I never liked those dust jacket photos. Why was it so important for my readers to know what I looked like? Amused that Xena was reading one of my novels I picked it up and noted the bookmark about two thirds of the way through.

"I guess I've been caught." I jumped at the unexpected voice from behind me. Quickly setting the book back down I turned and saw Xena standing next to the sofa.

"I didn't hear you come back down the hall." I confessed as I felt a blush color my cheeks.

"I should be the one blushing." She indicated the book on the table as she handed me one of the open beers she carried.

"Do you like it?" I asked taking a seat in a plush chair sitting adjacent to the couch.

"It's good." She confessed, also taking a seat. "Takes my mind off of the day job. Besides, I thought I should familiarize myself with you, your work, I mean, since we will be spending some substantial time together in the future. Nice picture, by the way." She rushed out the end part and I got the distinct impression that she was trying to flirt with me.

"Nah, I hate those things. Who has an office that neat anyway? It gives people a false impression of my tidiness." I shrugged. "I'm glad you like it though." I said awkwardly, unsure of where to go next.

"Look, I'm sorry about the way I acted at the steak house." She apologized and I shrugged. "I made it seem as if I didn't want to talk to you and that's not the case."

"Don't worry about it, I understand. Some people just don't like to open up to strangers. I just assumed that maybe we could be more than just professional acquaintances, friends maybe?" I asked; feeling like the interest I felt might not be reciprocal after all. God, this night was gearing up to be an emotional rollercoaster, up, down, up, down.

"I got the impression that you might want more from me than that." I felt the blush get deeper. There was no way to hide it now.

"I didn't think I was so easily read." I confessed, embarrassed.

"I'm an above average observer, it's my job."

"I guess you're right," I chuckled, "on both counts. Does that make you uncomfortable?" I inquired, almost afraid of the answer I would get.

"No." She said simply. "You interest me."

"I interest you?" I was confused, "Is that an I interest you because I might be a bit off kilter or an I interest you because you might want to get to know me a bit better too?" I inquired.

"Sorry, I told you I don't relate well, I guess it's a result of spending most of my time analyzing psychopaths, I don't get out into the real world much. The latter, though." I relaxed a bit, but she still seemed a bit unsure.

"How about we just start with the basics? Tell me a little bit about yourself, since all I know is your name and that you are one of the best profilers VICAP has to offer and you tend to be camera shy." I offered, trying to ease her discomfort a bit. She shrugged what I assumed to be an ok and began speaking.

"Well, I grew up in upstate New York, my parents still live there. I, uh, have degrees in criminal justice and psychology. The FBI recruited me right out of Grad School and I have been with them ever since, going on ten years now." I smiled at her lack of personal detail. It sounded like she was giving me her resume, not relating to me personally.

"Any brothers or sisters?" I asked.

"No, I'm an only child." Her answer was short, to the point.

"Xena," I said her name softly, "you don't have to..."

"I want to," she interrupted me, "it's just been a while since I have been in this situation. I guess I'm just out of practice with this whole opening up bit. I don't really have any friends outside of work and with them it's pretty much work all the time, they don't know anything about me and I don't know anything about them. Less complicated that way." She admitted.

"I can understand that. What about when you were in school? Do you keep in touch with any of your friends from that time of your life?"

"No, not really. I guess I didn't have a whole lot of friends in school. I pretty much stayed to myself, studying and stuff. I was kind of a geek, I guess I still am." She smiled a self-depreciating smile.

"I find that hard to believe. I don't think you're a geek."

"You don't know me that well. What about you, tell me about your life." She deftly changed the focus from herself onto me.

"Well as you already know I am a writer. I always wanted to write, ever since I was a little girl so when it came time to go off to college I majored in English and Business, just to be sure I would have something to fall back on if I totally sucked at writing." She laughed and I continued. "I am a pretty outgoing person, I like to talk and spend time with my family and friends, most of which are still back in New Hampshire where I grew up. Needless to say my phone bills are pretty high every month. And as I previously mentioned I liked to think that I wasn't easy to get a bead on, but you blew that theory right out of the water, thank you very much." I joked.

"Sorry." She apologized sheepishly.

"Don't be, it's always good to have the ego knocked back a peg every now and then." I paused for a moment and just looked at her sitting across from me on the couch. Her posture had relaxed a bit since we first entered the apartment and I figured that she was probably a bit more comfortable now, I don't know if it was because she was in a familiar surrounding or if she was just more comfortable talking to me in private. Either way, that was how I wanted to leave our first out of the office encounter. "Well," I sighed, finishing off my drink and looking at my watch, "I guess I should be getting home." I moved to slip my shoes back on; I had taken them off at some point during out conversation.

"Ok, well I guess I will see you on Monday then?" She questioned tentatively as she walked me to the door. I turned to respond and practically bumped into her. She was standing a lot closer to me than I had thought. Quickly she reached out and grabbed my shoulder to steady me. This brought us even closer together. Looking up at her I took in her strong features and realized with a wave of desire just how attractive I found her even if she was just a tad emotionally reserved for my taste. I made a quick decision. 'Well here goes nothing.' I said to my self as I closed the remaining distance between us, stepped up on tip-toe and placed a gentle kiss upon her lips, instantly I felt her grip on me intensify, but she didn't pull back.

"Night." I whispered a few moments later as I pulled away and left the apartment, not waiting to see her reaction. Well, that would put things in motion. Either move us forward or end our interaction all together. I quickly hailed a cab figuring that with her nervousness throughout the evening that she would want to work through her feelings alone. For now.

? ? ?

I spent the entirety of my weekend trying to decide if I wanted to try and contact Xena before Monday. I even went so far as to obtain her number from the phone book and dialing it halfway before hanging up. I was surprised at the intensity of my desire to see her again. I had only known her for three days. Was that long enough for me to have developed the strong desire I seemed to feel for her? The cab ride home from her apartment on Friday evening was spent in contemplation. Although she had said she was interested in me did she actually want more than just a friendship? And did I want to go there with a woman who seemed uncomfortable with her own feelings? I had been living openly, having relationships with women since I was in college and I didn't relish the idea of entering into one where the other participant seemed to be closeted.

Ultimately I decided that I did. After my break-up with Emily I had slipped into a sort of quasi-depression, not really going out of my way to meet new people, get on with my life, but then I met Xena. She instantly caught my attention, attraction wise and I didn't want to give up the possibility of developing something real with her. I was just going to have to be patient with her, if I could. So in the end, I decided that I would wait until our next meeting at VICAP and I would take it from there. Come to find out, I would have to wait a bit longer than I had anticipated; she cancelled our meeting for Monday, stating she had an unexpected meeting she had to attend. Ok, I could buy that, but when she cancelled Tuesday's meeting as well I knew she was avoiding me and I wouldn't have that. So irregardless of her cancellation message for Wednesday I drove to Quantico to see her.

? ? ?

"I get the distinct impression that you are avoiding me." I said lightly as I leaned against the door frame of her office. At my voice her head snapped up from the file she was reading.

"Uh…no…I…uh…" She stuttered, clearly surprised to see me.

"Since you are obviously not in a meeting." I allowed a bit of the anger I was feeling about her actions to enter my voice.

"Gabrielle, I didn't mean…" She obviously hadn't expected me to show up at office and she was clearly uncomfortable; part of me was enjoying making her squirm. "I just wasn't ready to…" I interrupted her.

"Ready to what Xena, face the fact that you are attracted to me?" I asked in an irritated tone. She immediately she looked past me into the hallway, and rose from her seat.

"Can we not talk about this right now?" She asked in a harsh whisper as she closed the door to her office, effectively shutting off our conversation from the rest of her division. This was the most emotion I had seen from her since we met.

"Not talk about this now, or not talk about this here?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest. I couldn't believe how angry I was getting, it wasn't as if we had slept together or anything, we only shared one kiss a fairly chaste one at that, but I was already emotionally invested so that when she made up excuses not to see me I was hurt.

"Here, please not here." She asked in a low voice and I could see in her expression that she was willing to talk to me, but that it was important that we take the conversation somewhere else.

"Fine, let's go." I said, as I opened the door to her office and walked out, expecting that she would follow me. I didn't turn around until I had reached my car. As I suspected she entered the parking deck moments after I did a grim look on her face as she crossed over to me in less than ten strides.

"I can't believe you came here." She said exasperated, placing one hand on her forehead the other on her hip.

"Why not, you kept canceling our meetings and I wanted to know why, and since you wouldn't take my phone calls I decided that I had to drive down here if I wanted to find out. I knew when I kissed you that you might react badly, but I figured that at least you would be an adult about it and not avoid me afterward. An 'I'm sorry Gabrielle, but I'm just not interested in you that way' would have sufficed." I placed my hands on my hips and glared at her as she glanced around the garage, checking to make sure we were alone.

"I reacted badly, I'm sorry." She apologized. "I just…" She faded off, shrugging her shoulders.

"Just what? I thought I 'interested you'," I made quotation marks with my fingers. "If I got the wrong impression I'm sorry, but you could have told me and I would have been embarrassed, but I would have gotten over it." I took a deep breath and tried to rein in my sudden burst of anger.

"You do, I told you that I am bad at this. I just, panicked, that's all." She tried to explain.

"Panicked? It was just one kiss." I lowered my voice, remembering that I had accepted the fact that I needed to go slow with her.

"I know! It's just I promised myself along time ago that I would never allow myself to feel like this again. I've been able to remain aloof and in control for so long and then you…you walked into my office asking me if I would help you with your research with your amazing eyes and…I knew...I knew I was in trouble." Ok, now things were starting to make a little bit of sense. There was a past I was unaware of here. I decided to call her out.

"What happened to you Xena? What happened that you won't allow yourself to take a chance on someone new?" I asked and by the way she flinched I knew that I had hit a nerve.

"I…" She struggled and shook her head.

"Fine, I guess I'll see you around then." I said coldly and turned to my car.

"Gabrielle, wait." She asked, but I ignored her. Slamming the door I cranked the engine and threw the Jeep in gear. I looked up to see that Xena was no longer standing in front of my car.

"Fuck!!" I slammed my palm on my steering wheel before gunning the gas and speeding out of the garage toward home. "You never should have let yourself get involved! Especially with a federal agent, they are notoriously repressed! You know that!" I berated myself as I sped along the beltway so involved in my own self recrimination I didn't notice the Volvo sedan that was following me. Throwing my keys down on the kitchen table I stormed through my apartment and flopped down on the couch, my hand covering my eyes. The knock that came moments later startled me.

"What?" I barked, not interested in any visitors.

"Gabrielle, please, let me in." I heard Xena's familiar voice through the door.

"No thank you. You shouldn't have followed me, Xena."

"Please, I want to explain." She tried again. Sighing deeply I rose from the couch, not knowing why I was willing to hear her out. Throwing the lock I turned on my heel and returned to the living room.

"So explain." I demanded as I sat cross-legged on the sofa. Xena didn't sit; she stood directly in front of me a coffee table separating us.

"It was a long time ago." She started. "When I was in college I struggled with my sexuality for a while. Was I gay, was I straight, bisexual? Eventually I didn't want to deal with the struggle anymore. I dunno, maybe I just didn't want to know so I put the issue on the back burner, threw myself into my work, anything to keep my mind off of what was really going on with me." She had begun to pace, but paused to look at me.

"Go on." I prompted at least I was getting some personal information now.

"Well, at the beginning of my junior year I met a woman named Sarah; she was a Grad student. She took an interest in me and for the first time I felt more comfortable with my attraction to women. We dated for a year and a half, she was my first. First serious relationship, first lover, first everything. She was caring and patient, allowing me to set the pace, not laughing at me when I was a fumbling idiot. I fell in love with her. Unfortunately, it wasn't mutual. She cared for me, yes, but she didn't love me. I found out just before graduation that she was cheating on me, had been for six months, with a classmate of hers. I was devastated." She had stopped pacing and was now just standing still, looking down at the floor, her hands lax by her side.

"I'm sorry." I said softly, feeling for a younger version of the woman standing in front of me, hurting for her lost love.

"I withdrew into myself, made a promise that I would never allow myself to hurt like that again. It wasn't that easy though. For months I was sullen, my parents couldn't figure it out. They asked, but I didn't say anything, I didn't want them to know. I was afraid of what they would say, how they would react.

"Eventually I went back to school and then directly to the FBI. I immersed myself in work. My self-imposed romantic exile was easy then. I'm good at what I do so I was always busy. Always analyzing other people; getting inside their heads. I never had time to look at myself. You changed that. I spent all weekend inside my own head for a change, trying to rationalize what I was feeling for you. How quickly I felt connected to you and how I want to know everything about you. Then the other night, when you kissed me and it surprised me. I wasn't expecting it, but when it happened I realized that I didn't want you to stop, it took everything I had not to chase you down the hallway and ask you to do it again. I felt such a rush of feeling that I haven't felt in years. Something about you enchants me and as much as I want to deny it, I can't, but that doesn't mean it's easy. I am drawn to you, but the memory of what happened is still fresh. I've been an emotional recluse for so long that when you came along I was broadsided. I didn't, I don't know how to act." She finished and took a deep breath, dropping her chin to her chest. Sighing I rose and moved around the table to stand in front of her.

"Why didn't you just tell me that instead of avoiding me?" I questioned gently.

"I don't know, I guess a part of me was hoping that these feelings were fleeting, that if I didn't see you for a few days then I could get my emotions under control, but I can't. All weekend I thought about you, about calling you and asking if you wanted to come over or something, but in the end I chickened out."

"Xena, it's natural to feel, to want human contact. Not everyone has the purest of intentions and sometimes we get hurt, but we have to move past that. I don't know what lies ahead for us, but I can tell you this, I am attracted to you. I have been since the first moment I saw you." I explained as I tilted her chin up so that her eyes met mine. The pain I saw there made me ache. "I'm sorry that she hurt you, but I am not her. Let me help you heal." I whispered and she nodded slightly. "I want to kiss you, is that ok or are you going to freak out on me again?" I asked.

"No." She whispered back.

"No what? No, I can't kiss you or no you won't freak out?" I asked, in attempts to clarify her response. "I need more than one word answers here, I am a writer and we tend to be verbose."

"I won't freak out." I smiled at her once again and stepped up on my toes before I sealed our lips together for the second time. I was pleased when I felt her begin to kiss me back. I pulled away after a few moments and I could tell that she was confused. Smiling I grasped her hand and pulled her back toward the couch where I urged her to sit down.

"You're too tall." I explained as I straddled her thighs, my knees digging into the couch on either side of her legs.

"Or you're too short." She joked and allowed me to pretty much pin her to the sofa. As I looked at her I noticed that the hesitation and uncertainty in her eyes was fading, being replaced by a warmer, gentler gaze. Slowly she was opening up to me, allowing herself to feel something.

"Hey now, no joking about the vertically challenged." I added before leaning in to resume our kiss. I kept our contact soft for a few moments before I ran my tongue lightly over her lower lip seeking entrance into her warm mouth. Much to my surprise she let me in. Happily I began to run my tongue over her own, coaxing her to respond. I sighed when she suddenly dueled hotly with me for control of the kiss. I attempted to get nearer to her, edging closer to her body. When my knees hit the back of the couch and I could feel the warmth of her body through my shirt she ended the kiss, dropping her head back to the cushion and leaving her eyes closed.

"Wait, please." She requested slightly breathless.

"Trust me, Xena." I whispered.

"I want to, but I need time. I've only known you for a week and it's been a long time." She explained.

"Want to or need to?" I asked with a hint of a smile.

"Need to. What I want is definitely not slow." She too smiled. It was the first time since the night in her apartment.

"We can take it slow." I said, knowing that it would be rough, but also knowing that it would be worth it.

"I think I should go." She said again and I got up from her lap.

"You don't have to." I offered, knowing that she would refuse.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" She asked as she stood up and ran her hands through her dark hair.

"Yeah. You wanna come here after work? After storming in there today I feel a bit foolish. I think I may need to stay away for a while. For your sake as well as mine. I don't want to make you uncomfortable with your co-workers."

"Don't worry about it. There was hardly anyone there. And besides if you hadn't come in I would probably still be sitting there, staring at the same page I had been looking at for an hour." She reassured me.

"An hour, huh?"

"Yeah, I was a bit distracted, have been for a week or so." She confessed.

"I'm so distracting that you neglected to wear your reading glasses?" I joked.

"Yeah, you are. And that is pretty scary for me."

"Well, you've been pretty distracting for me too; if that makes you feel any better." I admitted.

"Oddly, yeah it does. At least I know that I am not alone in this." I grasped her hand and squeezed it.

"Nope, not alone." I smiled when I felt her squeeze back.

"So," she sighed dramatically, "tomorrow?"

"Yeah, we can eat, talk some more about my book." I suggested.

"You want me to come over to talk about the book?" She raised an eyebrow. And I smiled at the apparent weight that seemed to have lifted off of her shoulders.

"Well, no not really, but…" I tugged on her fingers again. "You know you really don't have to leave." I wanted her to stay, even if we just watched TV. I wanted to spend more time with her, get more comfortable together now that we seemed to be over our first hurdle.

"Yes I do." She sighed. "Do you think that I could use your restroom first though?" She asked and I nodded, indicating the direction of the bathroom. While she was freshening up I quickly went to my desk and withdrew an envelope and a sheet of paper. After a moment of thought I scratched out a quick note;

In case you change your mind.


Digging around in my top drawer I withdrew my extra key and taped it to the note, slipped it into the envelope and slipped it into her discarded pullover as she emerged from the hallway.

"Have a good night." I said softly once she had donned the jacket and was standing in the doorway.

"Tomorrow?" She questioned.

"Tomorrow." I confirmed and kissed her quickly. "Check your pocket when you get home." I said as she walked down the hallway and out of sight. I didn't really think she would be back so I tidied up the apartment and headed off to bed, pleased with the progress we had made. 'Why do you always pick the troubled ones?' I pondered as I climbed between the sheets. "Maybe this will be the last one." I said to myself as I reclined into the pillows and thought about what made me desire Xena Demakis. I fell asleep thinking about the few kisses we had shared.

I woke from a sound sleep a few hours later unsure as to what had awakened me. I slowly scanned the perimeter of the room thinking that something had fallen off a shelf or something. A figure sitting in my corner chair startled me and I jumped.

"It's me." I relaxed at the familiar voice.

"Xena?" I grogged out as I tried to focus my eyes on her in the dim light.

"Yeah, it's me." She said softly, not moving from the chair.

"How long have you been here?" I asked, sitting up.

"Awhile." She confessed.

"Why didn't you wake me?"

"I wanted to let you sleep." She explained.

"You ok?" I questioned, concerned.

"Better now."

"What time is it?"

"About two thirty." She replied.

"Aren't you tired?" I asked.

"A little, but I wasn't sleeping at home so…" She trailed off.

"Come here." I beckoned to her, lifting the blankets next to me.

"I don't think I'm…" She started to protest.

"You need to sleep, I need to sleep, we can do it together." I suggested. I saw her hesitate for a moment before rising from the chair and moving up beside the bed.

"I'm still in my clothes." She argued.

"Top drawer on the right; there should be a t-shirt in there that will fit you." I pointed in the general direction of the dresser. She disappeared from my sight for a few moments before returning, wearing one of my bigger shirts. She was pulling it down around her thighs. Smiling at her shyness I once again lifted the blankets and she crawled in, settling on her back. "This ok?" I asked as I moved up against her side, placing one arm across her stomach.

"Yeah, it's ok." She sighed and relaxed her body.

"Sleep." I yawned.

"Sleep." She agreed. It wasn't long before I was once again dreaming.

? ? ?

I awoke to an empty bed the following morning. Rolling over I glanced at the bedside clock, nine thirty. 'She must have gone to work.' I mused as I gave one good stretch before rolling out of bed. 'Ahh the schedule of a writer.' I thought happily as I absently reached to fill the coffee maker with water. A plume of steam caught my attention when I opened the lid. Glancing down I realized the pot was half full.

"Hmm, she got up, made coffee and I didn't stir. I must have been more tired than I realized." I said to myself as I poured a cup, added some sugar and padded to the living room. It was as I sat down that I noticed the small yellow post-it stuck to the remote.

Had to go to work, didn't want to wake you. I'll call later.


"She'll call?! Progress indeed." I grinned and flipped on the morning news for background so I could begin tidying up and start writing. True to her word Xena phoned later in the afternoon. We talked about nothing in particular and then decided that she should just pick up a pizza on her way over. Surprisingly it had been a productive day for me. I had outlined my intended story and even written a few pages of notes for the first chapter. I was just shutting down my computer when I heard a soft knock on the door. I peeked through the peephole, just in case, and rolled my eyes when I saw Xena standing there with pizza in hand.

"You have a key." I said to her once we were settled on the living room floor, eating.

"I didn't know if you wanted me to use it." She explained sheepishly.

"Of course, it works all the time you know, not just in the middle of the night." I joked.

"Sorry about that." She apologized between bites.

"Don't, that is why I gave it to you. In case you wanted to come back."

"I didn't expect to, but I went home, found your note and was just sitting there thinking about how I didn't really want to leave but some frightened little prudish voice in my head made me. And then I couldn't sleep so I came back." She tried to explain.

"Look, Xena, this whole thing is on your terms. We can go as fast or as slow as you want. You don't need to apologize for wanting to go at a slower pace, I understand. What we do or don't do is entirely up to you. All I want is for you to trust me, trust my feelings for you and take what I say at face value. No more apologizing, ok? When you do something that you need to apologize for I will let you know." I ended with a smirk and a wink and she laughed.

"Thank you for being so patient with me, my moods and my past." I nodded and we finished our dinner with much less serious conversation. I told her about a cat I'd had as a child and she tried to fill me in on a bit more of what a growing up Xena was like. Eventually we agreed to put in a movie. Sadly, or not so sadly when you think about it, we didn't see much of it once we settled on the couch. Xena, much against her proclamations about going slow, immediately pulled me in for a kiss.

"I have been thinking about doing that all day." She confessed after we'd parted.

"Me too." I grinned and pulled her back against me, positioning us so that she was sprawled out on top of me. Instantly she started to get up. "Did you only think about kissing me once?" I joked.

"I'm too heavy." She protested.

"No, you're good." I assured her, wrapping my arms around her neck and forcing her to remain in place.

"You sure?"

"Yeah, now get back down here." I ordered and with a quick smile she did as told.

"Much better." I purred before resuming our previous activity. Our make-out session on the couch quickly grew a bit more heated as we each battled for control of our kisses. I was pleased when I felt her moan into my mouth after one particularly dominant thrust of my tongue. Wanting more control I tried to flip us over forgetting that we were on the sofa and had limited space. Promptly we ended up on the floor.

"Are you ok?" I asked between chuckles.

"I should be asking you that, you broke our fall."

"I'm fine, just forgot that we were on the couch. If anything I am a bit embarrassed." I admitted as I felt a blush begin to creep up my cheeks.

"It was unexpected." She was laughing now too. "I guess I am just a bit tall for necking on the sofa."

"Come on." I beckoned once she had lifted herself off of me.

"Where are we going?"

"Where we have more room." I grabbed her hand and led her back through the apartment to my bedroom. She hedged a bit when she saw where we were heading so I quickly kneeled on the end of my bed and drew her against my body. Our heights were more comparable now. Wanting to calm her sudden edginess I locked my gaze with hers.

"We only go as far as you're comfortable remember that. Just because we are in this room doesn't mean anything has to happen." I reassured her as I threaded my hands through the hair at her temples and tilted her head back to expose her throat. Lightly I brushed my lips over the column of flesh. Hearing no protests I began kissing her neck, alternating with soft nips to her skin. Careful not to leave any lasting marks I moved across to her ear, blowing softly into it before speaking.

"You ok?" I asked before taking the lobe into my mouth and sucking more forcefully. I felt her swallow hard before answering.

"Ye…eessss…" She dragged out and I felt her hands come to rest on my hips; the heat of her hands quickly penetrated my clothing and warmed my skin. Releasing my hold on her hair I brought my hands down to the buttons on the collar of her polo shirt. Watching her body language for any signs of discomfort I released the three small fasteners. Seeing no adverse response from her I parted the flaps of her shirt to expose the skin of her upper chest and collarbones and returned to my previous tasks, showering attention on her newly exposed flesh.

"That's nice." She purred and I felt her hands release my hips and drag higher up my ribs, un-tucking my blouse a bit in the process. Sliding my own hands down to her belt line I hooked my fingers into the loops and started to scoot back, urging her to follow me.

"Come up here." I beckoned and she moved up on the bed, kneeling in front of me. Releasing her belt I placed one hand behind her neck and pulled her down for another kiss immediately plunging my tongue into her mouth to stroke the insides of her cheeks and teeth. My other hand began to pull her shirt out of her pants so that I could explore more of her tempting skin. Running my fingertips lightly over her stomach I felt her shiver and then pull back. I thought that was going to be the end of our session, but she surprised me.

"Off." She stated as she pulled her shirt up and off over her head. I smiled as she revealed her torso to me, clad only in a simple white lace bra. The color contrasted nicely with her tanned skin and dark hair. Feeling that I too should shed some clothing I began to unbutton my blouse.

"Lay back, Xena." I said and she complied, moving to lie on her back beside me. Still releasing buttons I moved to straddle her hips, resting my weight on her thighs. Not content to just watch Xena started releasing buttons from the bottom and met me in the middle. Pulling off the now useless garment I threw it over my shoulder toward the end of the bed and leaned forward, running my hands up and over her abdomen toward her breasts stopping just short of the gentle swell of her chest. "Your skin is so soft." I purred.

"Mmmm…" She sighed deeply as she watched me caress her.

"More?" I asked as I slid further down her legs so I had easier access to her tantalizingly toned stomach.

"God, yes…more Gabrielle." She moaned and I complied, laving attention to the area just above her navel. Running my tongue around it I moved north leaving a damp trail in my wake. Skipping over one of the areas I most wanted to pay attention to I placed my hands on either side of her head to support my weight. Leaning in I flicked the tip of my tongue over her lips.

"What about slow?" I asked, feeling our lips brush as I spoke.

"Screw slow, it went out the window when you started kissing me like that. It's been so long that I think I had forgotten how good it felt. Feeling you against me makes me wonder why I ever wanted to go slow in the first place. Besides I may be emotionally scarred, but I never said I was a prude. Once things get going that is." She replied, dragging her hands up my sides and around to brush over my chest; I felt my nipples harden at the light contact.

"Xee-nahhh," I breathed, "it's hard to concentrate when you do that."

"That's the point." She smiled and continued to lightly brush her hands over my bra; I couldn't contain the growl that escaped my lips.

"Who are you and where is the Xena that was here last night?" I asked teasingly, secretly pleased with this newfound confidence that she seemed to have acquired in the span of twenty four hours.

"Oh, it's me, I just decided that I want to give this thing we have going a try." She explained, becoming bolder in her stroking, continuously rubbing my nipples through the thin fabric covering my chest.

"I'm glad." I said, slightly more breathlessly than I had intended, she definitely had my complete attention. Her only response was a slight smile and a firm tweak of my flesh that caused an answering jolt from my rapidly awakening center. "You're in for it now." I threatened lightly.

"I'm counting on it." She replied before lifting her head off of the bed, crossing the scant distance we had maintained while talking. Her kiss nearly took my breath away as it was all passion and heat. She knowingly probed my mouth, tangling her tongue with my own and coaxing it into the action. 'God, I could kiss her forever,' I thought as she claimed me with her skilled tongue. Pulling away I latched on to her neck once again, teasing her mercilessly with my teeth only to soothe the indentations I left with gentle kisses. In time I made my way back down her body till I met the waistband of her pants. With knowing fingers I unfastened her belt and button, dragging her zipper down with infinite slowness.

"Up." I instructed and I drew the heavy cotton fabric down her legs. Hopping off the bed I made quick work of her boots and socks as well as releasing her from the confines of her lowered pants. Popping the buttons on my jeans they too were delegated to the floor as I stepped out of them and rejoined my soon to be lover on the bed. Crawling I made my way up her legs.

"God you are so hot." I breathed as I took in the image of her before me. Her dark hair was splayed across the bedspread, her white lingerie and her hands, self consciously crossed over the stomach, the only things impeding my view. Despite her confidence of a moment ago she still seemed to harbor some needless insecurity about her body. Threading my fingers with hers I moved her hands away from her stomach until they were resting on my shoulders. "You are beautiful, don't hide from me." I whispered before placing a wet kiss in the dip just below her navel. Peppering kisses up her body I moved up to straddle her hips once again. "Turn over." She did as asked and I began to knead and caress her shoulders and back.

"Mmmm, nice." She moaned a bit breathlessly.

"Can I take this off?" I questioned, slipping my fingers under the hooks of her bra. She nodded a response. Deftly I released the clasps and slid the straps down her arms as far as they would go in her present position. "Lift." I instructed. Together we slipped the thin straps of satin down and off her arms. None to gently I tossed the discarded item in the general direction of our previously removed clothing. After she resumed her position I continued my impromptu massage until I felt no tension remaining in her muscles. Only then did I replace my hands with my lips and tongue, paying particular attention to her lower back and spine. I blew gently across the moisture I had left and noticed the goose bumps that raced across her arms. Sitting up I reached behind my own back and unhooked my bra, removing it completely before dragging my naked torso up her back. Expelling my own moan as her heated flesh tantalized my already needy breasts. Resting my weight on my hands I lifted up enough for her to flip back over. Capturing her crystal eyes I lowered myself onto her bringing our naked skin into contact for the first time.

"God!" I moaned when I felt the firm points of her nipples pressing into my own turgid flesh. Taking in a shaky breath she wrapped her arms around me, pressing her warm palms into my shoulder blades.

"Am I too heavy?" I asked jokingly as I brushed a few stray wisps of hair out of her face.

"No," she chuckled, "you're just right."

"May I?" I asked, looking down to where our breasts were pressed together.

"You'd better." She joked with a lopsided grin which quickly gave way to low moan as I moved down and enveloped one tight nipple in my mouth, sucking hard. Not one to be neglectful I rubbed the pads of my fingers over her other breast, placing the sensitive nub in the vee of two fingers and squeezing rhythmically.

"Harder Gabrielle." Xena moaned and threaded her fingers through my hair pressing me into her. In response I added sharp bites with my teeth, not enough to hurt, but enough to get her attention. "Yeeessss." She hissed and I switched breasts lavishing the same treatment on the neglected globe. When I felt her hips begin to thrust up against me I released her and placing a hand on each knee I urged her to spread her legs a bit more. When there was enough room I settled between them on my stomach. At first I focused my attention on her thighs running just the tips of my fingers teasingly over them. Her legs were fabulous, all firm muscle and tanned skin. When that wasn't enough I slipped two fingers under the thin side straps of her panties and began to pull them down. My progress was stopped when she encircled one wrist with a strong hand.

"It's been a long time, really long." She confessed, a touch of nervousness reappearing in her voice.

"Do you want me to stop?" I asked wanting to be sure she was certain about this.

"No, no I don't, just…" She hesitated.

"We don't have to do this now." I offered and she shook her head slowly.

"I want to; it's just suddenly I am a bit nervous."

"We'll go slow." I promised and she nodded, releasing my wrist so that I could continue to remove the last vestiges of her clothing. Tossing the white satin aside I focused my attention on going slowly. Pressing one hand to the inside of her knee I bent her leg outward and positioned it flat on the bed before grazing my finger over the crease where groin met thigh, Xena twitched in response. I inhaled deeply, the scent of her arousal assailing me as I touched her sex for the first time, parting the delicate folds with my fingers and running the tip of my tongue along her flesh.

"Mmmm, you are so wet." I moaned as I licked at her causing her hips to lift up off the mattress.

"Ahhh…that's so…good." She moaned and I intensified my efforts adding more pressure to my intimate caress, finding and focusing some direct attention to her engorged clit. "Shit…" She cursed, her hips surging upward with one particularly hard swipe of my tongue. With rapt attention I explored her center, swirling my tongue along swollen flesh, sucking and nipping occasionally; humming my pleasure as she moaned out her needs and desires to me. She was moving constantly now making it hard for me to focus my attentions where she needed it. My own sex was pounding out its need for some attention as well. Deciding that I wanted to feel her touching me I gave one hard last swipe and released her. "Wha…no…no, don't stop." She cried as I pulled away.

"Shh, I'm not, just switching positions a bit." I soothed her as I moved up to lie next to her on my side. Taking her hand in my own I placed it on my hip, urging her to remove the rest of my clothing as well. "I want to feel you touching me." I explained. She nodded and slipped her hands into the waistband of my panties and eased them over my hips. After tossing the scrap of material to the floor she traced the tips of her fingers over my lower back and ass. I couldn't help the moan that escaped my throat.

Needing to feel her firm body against me I scooched closer until our breasts were once again pressed together. Grasping her thigh I pulled it up to wrap around my hip before bending one knee and placing my foot flat on the bed. "Touch me, Xena." I whispered. Readily she complied, gently brushing her hand over where the softness of our breasts met and down my abdomen toward my sex. "Ahhh yessssss." I sighed when I felt her hand come in contact with my swollen flesh and she begin gently stroking me.

"Tell me what you want, how you feel." She instructed as she increased the pressure of her caresses, parting my folds easily and dipping inside.

"That feels…ahhh…so…good." I breathed when I felt one finger circle my own sensitive clit before setting up a slow rhythm of strokes. Her touch was exquisite, as I knew it would be, both gentle and firm. Much to my surprise I was quickly being propelled toward climax. My own fondling never aroused me so quickly, fantasies couldn't compare to a flesh and blood woman touching you. I couldn't imagine Xena going years without intimate contact, nine months and I was going to come within mere minutes. Wanting her to feel the same pleasure I was I draped my free arm over her hip so that I could touch her from behind. She jumped slightly as I traced two fingers through her folds.

"I want to feel you, inside." I whispered as I leaned in to rest my forehead against hers. Her breathing increased in tempo to match my own. She nodded and I slowly penetrated her with one finger. "Mmmmm you are so soft and warm." I purred as I felt her envelop me. She felt like liquid heat sliding against my hand.

"God, Gabrielle." She moaned as I began to pump my hand against her body. Her own fingers had stilled during my assault, just resting against my heated flesh.

"Inside Xena, I want you inside me." I prompted and shivered as I felt one long tapered finger invade my depths. With much difficulty I tried to focus on her, adding another finger to my thrusting and curling them slightly to rub against the ultra sensitive patch of flesh on the front wall of her sex with each rocking motion of my hand. Her response was immediate.

"Ungh…yeeessss…." She groaned and began rocking her hips harder against me. "More…please." She requested between breaths and I complied adding a third digit. Despite her distracted state she continued to match my pace, thrusting in counterpoint to my own movements inside of her.

"More." I husked and she immediately added another finger to her probing. With quickening pace we rocked against each other, the friction of our heated skin adding to the ever building pleasure. "I'm close…" I managed between moans, feeling the first threads of orgasm coiling in my belly. She too was on the verge as her inner muscles had begun to flutter against my invading presence.

"So…close…god…" She panted as she began pushing herself more forcefully against me. Wanting her to climax first I pressed my thumb against her straining clit, stroking it in time with our movements. The added stimulation was enough to bring her over. "I'm…ahhh…Gab-ri-eeelllleee." She moaned loud and long as her body clamped down on my fingers. Not one to be left out I pressed down hard against her hand, riding her to my own release.

"Xe-nahh…..yesssss." I called out as I felt the white hot bolt of release sear through me. Riding out the waves of pleasure together we lie, pressed close, trying to catch our breath.

? ? ?

"I want to know you, all of you." I purred some time later, after we had regained a normal breathing rate and were cocooned in the warmth of my bed.

"I think you pretty much have me covered, you were quite thorough." She joked and I smacked her lightly on the shoulder.

"That's not what I meant." I chuckled and propped myself up on an elbow so that I could look at her. Her eyes were closed and she was smiling. "I want to know about you, what you do on holidays, your favorite foods, hobbies, would your family like me? I mean, if they knew…" I faded off.

"I want them to know you." She confessed softly opening her eyes and tucking an errant piece of hair behind my ear.

"Really?" I questioned, surprised.

"Yeah, I have been thinking about telling them about me for a while now. Mom has started to ask when I am going to find the "right man" and settle down, I hadn't mustered up the courage to tell them that I would be looking for the "right woman" yet, but then you came along and made my decision easier. Knowing you, being with you the past few days has made me happier than I have been in long time, happier than I have ever been, despite how I may have acted in the beginning. It's about time they knew more about me too, about the important people and things in my life, you especially." She paused for a moment before continuing, "there is something I need to tell you." I felt my stomach clench. 'Oh, god, what?' Was the first thing that ran through my head.

"You need to tell me something now? After…" I gestured to our entwined bodies. My panic must have shown on my face because she was quick to reassure me.

"I think I am falling in love with you." She blurted out in one breath. Despite her desire to soothe me, I saw her hesitant expression and I felt my eyes begin to water and the fearful flutter in my belly being replaced by a fuzzy warmth.

"Me too." I confessed, my relief palpable. I couldn't help the few errant tears that fell when her expression melted into a beautiful smile.

"We've known each other for such a short time; do you think it's real, what we're feeling?" She asked, a bit fearfully.

"I can tell you this for certain, I have only been in love once and even though you've been in my life for such a short time I feel more for you than I ever did in the past." I confessed, tracing the tip of my index finger over her exposed collarbone.

"I'll admit that I am still a little bit scared, but when I look at you it all seems to fit, it feels so right." She sighed deeply.

"I feel it too and I am a bit scared as well. It's never easy putting yourself out there in front of another person and hoping that they feel as much for you as you do for them. It's a vulnerable position." She agreed and I felt the need to reassure her as to my intentions once more. "Trust how much I feel for you, Xena," I implored, "and I promise that I will do everything in my power to make those fragile feelings go away. I want you to be confident in my commitment to what we are making here." I lightly kissed her lips as I finished my little speech.

"Thank you, Gabrielle." She whispered as I tucked myself under her chin, one arm draped across her stomach.

"For what?" I asked.

"For taking a chance on me, for giving me the chance to explain when I was such a fool the other day."

"Mmmm, my pleasure, tenacity has always been one of my strong suits." I tightened my hold on her briefly. "Just don't wig out on me again, huh?"

"I'll try."

"That's all I ask." I smiled as I heard her yawn above me.

"Sleep, we'll have plenty of time to work out the details." I too felt the tug of sleep pulling at me. Sighing I closed my eyes and drifted off more content than I had been in a long time.

End Chapter 1

Chapter 2

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