Copyright: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA/Universal and Renaissance and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this story, it was written only for the enjoyment of myself and other readers and I am not getting any profit out of it. The story itself belongs to me, and should therefore only be published elsewhere with my permission.

Sex and Violence: There is some violence, after all, this is Xena and Gabrielle we're talking about, but nothing more than a good scrap. This story also portrays a loving and sexual relationship between two consenting, adult women. If you are underage or if this sort of thing offends you, please read no further. If not, I hope you enjoy it :)

On with the story...


Sleepless Night
By The Upside Down Kiwi-Bard (UDK_Bard)

Gabrielle was NOT having a good night.

No matter what she tried, she couldn't get to sleep. She had tried everything, every dull, repetitive, tedious mental exercise she could think of. She was desperately hoping that eventually, sheer boredom and exhaustion would force her to close her eyes and drift into slumber. Nothing. It wasn't that she didn't feel tired, they'd had an incredibly busy day. Xena was in a hurry to get back to Amphipolis so she'd been pushing them to travel hard. The band of a dozen or so ruffians who had mistaken the two women for an easy mark hadn't helped either. Maybe that skirmish could account for the dull ache that Gabrielle seemed to feel in every part of her body tonight. Funny thing though, the ache really didn't feel like muscle strain of any kind, just a general tension and unease. She was tired but she still couldn't sleep, and she had no idea why. Maybe the ground was too hard, or the fire was too bright, or the small creatures scuttling around on their nightly forays were too loud.

As if to emphasise that thought, an owl screeched not too far from camp, making Gabrielle jump. *Just an owl, hunting, Gods I'm jumpy tonight* Gabrielle chided herself. She changed position for the tenth or twelfth time, keeping her movements as quiet as she could so as not to wake Xena, and tried to distract her mind. Her hope was that by forcing herself to concentrate on one particular thing, sleep would sneak up on her. The technique had worked before, so there was no reason to believe it would fail now. So... what to think about? The journey ahead of them, yeah that would work. Xena's mother had sent word that two of Xena's distant cousins had dropped in unexpectedly. Xena had told her the exact relationship once, but she had trouble remembering what it was, her mother's cousin's half-brothers nieces or something like that. Anyway Xena was very fond of the twins and was excited at the prospect of seeing them again; thus they were travelling at top speed towards home. Xena's home anyway, Gabrielle's home and family were in Potidaea, *my original home that is* she corrected herself, *now my home is wherever Xena happens to be*. Exactly when she had started making THAT distinction, Gabrielle wasn't sure. All she knew was that at some point in the last few months she had realised that she could never go back to live in Potidaea. In fact she could not imagine ever being apart from her travelling companion. Perdicas's death had changed everything. Potidaea held far too many memories of him. Gods she missed him, his smile, his laugh, the fun they had growing up together. Even though they had only been able to spend one night together, she missed the feel of him lying next to her, his arms wrapped around her, his hands caressing her...

*Okay, that's NOT a line of thought conducive to sleep* Gabrielle sternly told herself. But her body was still busy remembering his touch. The feathery strokes of his fingers running down her back, her sides, her breasts, her thighs, her... *Stop that!!* Gabrielle scolded herself. Now she was wide-awake, her body thrumming gently. *OK thinking about home wont work, home leads to family which leads to Perdicas, which leads to... I REALLY need to find something else to concentrate on.* Gabrielle forced her thoughts away into a safer area. She decided to recall the events of the day. She had not had much luck writing her scroll tonight, for once unable to find the words to describe the events. Perhaps she could sort it all out now.

They set out early in the morning, after breaking their fast with some leftover stewed rabbit from the previous night's dinner. Seeing Xena was in such a hurry, Gabrielle agreed to ride behind the warrior on Argo, not something she usually enjoyed much as it was uncomfortable sitting behind the saddle. Today was different though, Argo's rocking gait seemed smoother than usual. Gabrielle had wrapped her arms around Xena's waist, clasping them across the warrior's stomach and almost fell asleep several times, her head leaning on her friend's shoulder. She was actually quite disappointed when Xena pulled up after a few hours, but the tension in the older woman's frame warned the bard that something was amiss.

"What's wrong?" Gabrielle whispered. Xena turned her head to one side.

"I don't know, something is trying not to move in the bushes up ahead." She whispered back. "Come on." Xena swung quietly off Argo's back, taking her scabbard and attaching it to her back in the same graceful movement. Then she raised her arms and caught Gabrielle as the smaller woman slid down to join her. As usual Gabrielle was a little awed by the strength in her friend's arms as she was gently and quietly lowered to the ground. "Stay close to me for now, but if anything happens you try to stay out of it okay?" Gabrielle nodded and they set off, moving forward at a steady walk with Gabrielle now leading the horse.

As Xena had predicted, as soon as they drew level with the bushes a group of men rushed out to surround them. They were scruffy and unshaven and, Gabrielle discovered when she sniffed, they were smelly. All were holding rusted weapons of varying descriptions and they looked like they meant business. Completely unfazed by their appearance, Xena eyed them calmly, one eyebrow raised and her lips pursed, this was one of Gabrielle's favourite expressions (as long as it wasn't aimed at her) and she couldn't help smiling to herself.

"Think this is funny blondie?" Apparently this was the leader. He leered obscenely at Gabrielle who gripped her staff and forced herself to keep smiling, though it took some effort.

"Oh no, not at all." She replied lightly, also glancing around appraisingly. From the way a lot of the men held their weapons, they were very poorly trained, so this should be a doddle for Xena.

"What do you want?" Xena asked impatiently, not liking the way the leader was looking at her friend.

"Well, why don't we start with emptying out those saddlebags and we'll see if you have anything we need huh?" The man stepped forward, doing his best to be threatening; though the look in Xena's eyes was clearly starting to get to him. Xena snorted quietly.

"Be my guest." Drawing Gabrielle with her she stepped a little away from Argo, and crossed her arms. The man smiled again and walked towards them, obviously thinking this was going to be easy. As he neared, Xena's arm lashed out and grabbed him around the neck, the sharp edge of her Chakram just cutting into his throat a little.

"Now, we can do this the easy way or... on second thought, forget the easy way, I've been itching for a good fight all morning!" Xena clubbed the man viciously on the side of his head and before he had even hit the ground in a senseless heap, she had flung herself into the fray with her traditional battle cry. The men rushed at Xena and Gabrielle from all sides, clumsily swinging swords and maces. Gabrielle ducked, parried and hit as often as she could, while working her way out of the main group as Xena had instructed her. One of the men leaped onto Argo, obviously intending to ride off with her. However the horse had other plans, she reared up, throwing him off balance, then just as quickly lowered her head and bucked. The man went flying over Xena's head, knocking over three of his comrades in the process. Argo then followed Gabrielle out of the fray, trampling a couple of unconscious men for good measure. Xena was now standing alone in the middle of a group of maybe ten men, and they were hopelessly outnumbered.

Now and again one of the men Xena sent flying out of the brawl would notice the young bard standing off to one side and make an attempt to attack or capture her. Gabrielle was really starting to get the hang of using her staff though, and if she suffered a few bruises and minor cuts along the way, she didn't have too much trouble with them. There were going to be a few headaches in this bunch by the time they woke up. Now she was clear of the main fighting, Gabrielle had ample time to watch as Xena beat the living daylights out of the rest of the disorganised bunch. The warrior was laughing maniacally as she punched, jumped kicked and swung, mostly using the flat of her sword. Within minutes, the last few men gave up and ran for it, most of them hobbling or cradling injuries. They left eight of their group sprawled on the ground, either out cold or too exhausted to move.

"Come on Gabrielle, I think we're finished here." Xena had barely worked up a sweat. The bard took up Argo's reins and they made their way out of the area. Xena paused only to deliver one final kick to the leader who had finally woken and was trying to get up. He slumped back to the ground with a moan and didn't try again until they were long gone.

"Well, you were a lot of help." Xena teased as they left the clearing. She grinned broadly at her young friend. "I saw you standing there leaning on your staff." Gabrielle smiled back.

"Hey, you told me to stay out of it! And besides, you looked like you were enjoying yourself so much I didn't have the heart to spoil your fun." Xena laughed and clapped her hand on Gabrielle's back just below her shoulder blade. The bard winced and Xena frowned with concern.

"Are you alright?" Gabrielle was touched by the concern in her friend's voice.

"I'm fine, it's just a bruise." She replied. Xena gently lifted the back of her top, prodding gently, Gabrielle hissed again.

"Well there's nothing broken. Here, stop a second." Xena rummaged in the saddlebag for a moment and took out one of her healing salves. She spread it gently over the bruise on Gabrielle's back, and on two others she spotted on the bards arms.

"Hardly any this time, I must be improving." Gabrielle joked. "Thanks Xena, that feels better already." It did too. The salve had a lovely strong smell and it burned slightly as it soaked into the bruises, replacing the pain with a nice warm glow.

"No problem." Xena swung herself back up onto Argo and reached down to help Gabrielle up behind her. Once again the bard wrapped her arms around her friend, breathing in the aroma of warmed leather she had come to associate with the warrior. As soon as she got comfortable and leaned her head on Xena's shoulder, they set off again. The rest of the day was uneventful and as dusk fell they stopped. Xena estimated they had another half days ride to Amphipolis, but there were no inns in the outlying areas so they set up camp in a small clearing well away from the main track. Gabrielle didn't mind sleeping rough these days, in fact she was beginning to prefer the evenings out on the road where it was just the two of them. They went through the usual routine, Xena caught a rabbit, Gabrielle made a meal with it while the warrior mended a minor tear in her leathers. Then after dinner the warrior sharpened her weapons while the bard tried to work on her scrolls. Eventually they had laid out their blankets, Xena had given Gabrielle's bruises another gentle treatment and they had turned in for the night. Which led up to now.

Gabrielle sighed, she still wasn't sleepy. Her stubbornly active mind kept going back again to the battle, and to Xena. When Gabrielle had first met the warrior, her ferocity in battle had frightened the bard a little, but now she was used to it, expected it. If she were totally honest with herself, she would even admit that she enjoyed it, found it exciting. Gabrielle privately revelled in the memory of today's skirmish. Xena had been right, there had come a point in the fight where Gabrielle had merely leaned on her staff and enjoyed the show. The sight of Xena in full battle-heat was a glorious thing to observe. She was an indescribable mix of grace and ferocious power, her movements quick and catlike. Xena had used all her favourite moves this morning, seemingly out of sheer exuberance. The men weren't nearly good enough to even trouble the warrior but still Gabrielle had rarely seen her put that much energy into a fight. With her mouth dry and her heart pounding oddly, the young woman found herself mesmerised by Xena's powerful muscles. She watching them rippling as the warrior sprang in the air and delivered kicks to two faces at once, then whipped around to backhand another man behind her as she landed. She'd hardly needed to use her sword today, but when she did, she far outmatched any of the men fighting her. The warrior's incredibly strong hands could hold her sword against the heaviest blows these men could deal without even flinching, though Gabrielle knew that most others would have a numb hand for hours after some of those hits.

*Those hands are amazing* Gabrielle mused, her mouth going dry again *they're strong enough to lift me up to Argo's back one-handed without strain, but they can be so gentle when she wants to be*. She remembered how tender Xena had been treating her injuries, something she had perhaps taken for granted in the past. The long, slender fingers were callused from all the swordplay, and felt a little rough against Gabrielle's skin. *Rough but oh so nice.* The thought came unbidden into her mind as she closed her eyes and remembered the feel of her friends fingers as she rubbed the salve in. Her heart began to thump like it had in the battle. She could almost feel Xena's hands on her again, gently stroking, caressing her back, shoulders and sides, maybe trailing around to her stomach and up to her... Gods!! What was she thinking?? This had to stop, it had been happening way too often lately. Disturbed by the direction her mind was heading; Gabrielle groaned and flipped herself violently over to her belly in the bed-sack. She banged her head into the pillow as if trying to drive these thoughts out by force. Instantly Xena was awake and at her side.

"Gabrielle are you ok?" The worried tone in the warrior's voice hit her and Gabrielle gulped as she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She groaned again, quieter this time, and sat up, taking a deep breath to steady herself.

"I'm sorry Xena, I didn't mean to wake you, I just can't sleep tonight, I don't know why." She hugged her knees and glanced apologetically at her friend, hoping her face and voice wouldn't betray her. She fully expected Xena to accept her words and go back to bed, knowing how much the older woman liked her sleep, but Xena didn't. Instead she stroked Gabrielle's arm lightly, and Gabrielle had to exercise a lot of self-control to hide the shiver that ran down her back at Xena's touch.

"Is something bothering you?" Xena asked, her voice low. She probably meant it to sound gentle and caring, but to Gabrielle, her friend's voice was somehow both husky and silky at the same time, and completely intoxicating. Sweet Hades, what was wrong with her? Xena was looking at her, waiting patiently for an answer, and all the bard could do was shrug, struggling to fight off her growing attraction to her friend.

"I don't know," she began, desperately searching for something to say without giving herself away. "It's been getting worse for a few days now. I'm tired, so tired my body is aching, but I just can't seem to settle. My mind won't stop thinking long enough for me to drop off, which is crazy because when I'm trying to write my scrolls, it goes blank!" Gabrielle rolled her eyes in frustration, surprised to feel tears stinging in them. Xena frowned and opened her mouth, but before she could speak, Gabrielle interrupted. "And before you ask, yes I've tried counting sheep, and naming all the gods, even the Northern ones. I even tried counting all the stars I could see! Nothing helps!" She stopped with a gulp as Xena's hand slid back up her arm to clasp her shoulder gently, sympathy burning in those ice-blue eyes.

"Easy Gabrielle, I believe you." Xena said, smiling and giving Gabrielle's shoulder a quick squeeze. She frowned again. "Gods above, you're tense... C'mere, turn around." She said, gently prodding Gabrielle to face away from her, she began rubbing Gabrielle's neck and shoulders. The strong fingers dug into the muscles, smoothing away the knots she found there. The bard hummed with pleasure. "No wonder you can't sleep, why didn't you tell me you were so wound up?" Xena asked.

"I didn't realise I was." Gabrielle replied. The tension was starting to drain away under Xena's skilful kneading and her eyelids were beginning to droop.

"Well you are, now what I would like to know is why? Something must be getting to you for you to be this knotted up. What is it?" Gabrielle tried to shrug again, unused to her friend being so conversational, and almost wishing she hadn't chosen now to do it.

"I don't know, I've just been thinking about y... Perdicas... a lot lately." She hoped Xena wouldn't notice the quick substitution. Gabrielle was wide-awake again, realising how close she had been to letting something slip. Xena's hands paused for a moment, perhaps sensing the return of the tension in the bard, then almost hesitantly she began working again.

"You miss him." More of a statement than a question.

"Yeah, I do. But it's more than that Xena, I can't explain it, but I've been thinking more of our wedding night than anything." Gabrielle blushed a little. "I think what I miss most right now is the way he held me, I felt so comfortable and safe. Then when he kissed me..." her voice took on a dreamy note. "That was really nice, it made me feel sort of... tingly." She could feel the blush warming her cheeks and cleared her throat, dragging her thoughts back to the present. "Anyway, I'm sure you can guess what happened then."

"I have a vague idea." Xena drawled. They were silent for a moment, then the warrior spoke again. "So it's the sex you miss." she said matter-of-factly. Gabrielle turned crimson.

"No! Yes! Oh I don't know!" Gabrielle sighed, she was finding Xena's hands very distracting. She almost wanted to ask her to stop, but it was so nice...

"Well, you enjoyed your wedding night didn't you?" Xena asked.

"Yeah, I guess so... but I didn't get any more sleep then than I have tonight." Gabrielle heard Xena chuckle, and if she could have turned redder, she would. "Not because of that!! I mean... that hurt more than anything, at first anyway. And by the time I sort of started to enjoy it, it was all over. I would have liked to have tried it again, but Perdicas had fallen asleep."

"And you didn't want to wake him." Xena finished, Gabrielle nodded. "So you weren't satisfied." Again, it was more of a statement. Gabrielle twisted her shoulders out of Xena's hands to turn and look at her. She didn't quite know what Xena was talking about, but seeing the knowing look on the warrior's face she was damned if she'd admit that, so she fumbled an answer.

"Well... no... not really." She found she couldn't maintain eye contact any longer and looked down, her cheeks still burning. This conversation was really getting into deep water, and Gabrielle was floundering.

"So you were left frustrated... well that explains why you had trouble sleeping. Did you do anything about it yourself?" Now Gabrielle was shocked and she shot the warrior a horrified glance. Xena frowned slightly.
"You do know what I'm talking about don't you?" she asked quietly. Gabrielle looked away, she did have a vague idea what Xena meant. When she was young she'd overheard some of the older village girls talking about touching themselves, and being touched by boys, and how good it had felt. They discussed it in such hushed tones interspersed by many giggles, and Gabrielle could tell it was something forbidden. Years later as her body matured Gabrielle had tried it a few times herself, but nothing much had happened. Because she knew in her heart this was something her elders would probably frown upon she had given up, feeling somewhat dirty. She struggled for a response to Xena's question that wouldn't betray her discomfort too much.

"Yes! I mean... I know it's possible, and I sort of wanted to, but I couldn't! It wasn't Perdicas's fault he..." Gabrielle trailed off, Xena nodded her understanding and smiled reassuringly.

"I know, I'm guessing he didn't really know what he was doing any better than you did. I know he told you he'd done it before, but even so it's pretty rare for any couple to get it right the first time. And you never got the chance again did you?" Xena stroked Gabrielle's cheek gently, her blue eyes full of sympathy for the bard's loss. For a moment, Gabrielle closed her eyes, as Xena's touch sent a shiver down her spine and made her catch her breath a little. She dragged herself back, slamming the lid on another round of mental images. Desperately trying to lighten the mood and get control of herself, she forced a chuckle.

"No we didn't, and for some reason I've been thinking about it a lot, and it's pretty distracting, you know? These images pop into my head all the time. Whenever I'm not busy they just sneak up on me, and it's getting to be a big problem. I mean I'm even having thoughts about you." Gabrielle mentally slapped a hand over her mouth, and swallowed hard to stop herself from saying anything else. Xena raised an eyebrow, a small smile quirking at the corner of her mouth.

"Oh really?" Xena couldn't resist putting a slightly teasing note in that question because Gabrielle looked so flustered.

"Oh Gods Xena, I'm sorry, I didn't mean... Nothing like that, really, I just... Oh Gods!" All colour drained from Gabrielle's face and she hid her face in her hands. *Oh I've really blown it now* she thought, tears stinging her eyes. A finger gently hooked under her chin, lifting her face up.

"Gabrielle it's okay, don't worry about it. It happens... once you get to thinking about sex, all sorts of other thoughts pop up, and not always welcome ones. You've probably been thinking about every cute guy we've seen lately too, right?" *No, not really* Gabrielle thought, but she kept that thought to herself and merely nodded. "Gabrielle, I know I've asked you some pretty personal questions tonight, but I'm going to ask you one more. Have you managed to satisfy yourself at all since... since Perdicas died?"

"No! I mean... I can't do that!" The blush was back with a vengeance.

"Good Gods, no wonder you can't sleep... why not?" Even though she had suspected, it was now Xena's turn to be mildly shocked. "You HAVE done it before haven't you?"

"Yes of course I have! Sort of... but I haven't exactly been alone a lot lately, you know?" Gabrielle was beginning to think her face would never return to its normal colour. Noticing the puzzled expression on Xena's features, she floundered on. "Look, I can't... do that... with you sleeping nearby, I just can't!"

"Why not?" Xena asked again. "I do..." Gabrielle's jaw dropped.

"You do? How? Uh, never mind, I don't want to know how, but... when?" *That's it, the blush is a permanent feature, I'm going to go the rest of my life looking like I have a permanent sunburn* she thought.

"Of course I do... You know my background Gabrielle, do you really think I can go all this time without relief of any kind? And as for when, I either find somewhere secluded or I just wait until you're asleep."

*No wonder she stays up to have a "last scout around" so often* Gabrielle mused, then she glared at Xena indignantly. "Well, that's all very well for you isn't it? You don't like me going out of camp on my own, so that's out. And as for the other option, I sleep like a log, you wake up at the slightest noise! What if you heard me? I'd die from embarrassment Xena!" When Xena laughed, Gabrielle cringed and turned away, her eyes filling with tears of shame and frustration. Immediately the laughter stopped and Gabrielle felt Xena move up behind her and gather her into a warm embrace. Gabrielle leaned back against Xena's chest, exhaling raggedly.

"I'm sorry Gabrielle, really I am, I didn't mean to laugh. I've just never seen a look like that on your face before." Xena absently nuzzled Gabrielle's neck, setting off a fresh set of shivers which the bard clamped down on as ruthlessly as she had the earlier ones. She mentally shook herself as she realised Xena was talking again. "Now, first of all, I've never known embarrassment to be fatal, secondly, it wouldn't bother me if I DID hear you, it's a natural need that has to be taken care of once in a while. And thirdly, if it will make you feel better, I promise that if I ever do hear you, you'll never know." Gabrielle nodded slowly, having trouble finding anything else to say. She'd never really talked to anyone about sex before and after the last few days, this conversation was touching raw nerves. Add the fact that Xena's hands were now rubbing over her neck and shoulders again, and Gabrielle was finding it hard to even think. Xena studied her for a moment. "Or there's another possibility..." Gabrielle looked up, craning her neck around.

"There is?"

"Well yeah... I could always help you with it if you like." Xena drawled in a low voice, right next to the bard's ear, so close that Gabrielle could feel the warrior princess's breath down the side of her neck. Gabrielle's mouth fell open again and her mind reeled, *did she just say what I think she said or am I losing my mind?* she wondered.

"What?" Gabrielle squeaked, her throat suddenly too tight to let sound out. She felt Xena take a deep breath behind her. It was a moment before she spoke again.

"Look maybe I'm reading this wrong, and if I am I apologise, but you all but admitted that you were having thoughts... of that kind... about me. And I can't help noticing that you react every time I touch you. Hey!" She caught Gabrielle in her arms again when the bard tried to wriggle away in shame. Gabrielle found herself cradled securely in her friend's strong arms with two very blue eyes holding her gaze from above. "Gabrielle listen to me. It could be just that you've gone a long time without any sexual contact of any kind and you're frustrated, and like I said before, that can play all sorts of tricks on you. If that's the case then I will try to find a safe way to let you have some privacy if you're still uncomfortable dealing with it around me. But if that really is the way you feel about me, please believe that it doesn't bother me. In fact if you want my honest opinion, I'm flattered." When Gabrielle just stared up at her, no longer trying to look away, Xena went on. "And if you need or want my help to give you some relief, I want you to know I'm willing." Gabrielle had tears in her eyes again, but she couldn't speak. Seeing her distress, Xena stroked her cheek again. "Look Gabrielle I'm not going to force you to do anything you don't want..." she stopped when Gabrielle made an odd sound, half laugh, half sob.

"I don't know what I want!" She leaned into Xena's shoulder, letting tears fall. She began to tremble and Xena's arm tightened even further around her. Then a gentle finger wiped her cheeks and Xena laid her cheek on Gabrielle's hair.

"Gabrielle, would you let me hold you tonight? Nothing else, just let me keep my arms around you and try to make you feel safe and comfortable like Perdicas did. Will you let me do at least that for you?" Gabrielle nodded into Xena's shoulder.

"I'd like that." She whispered around a large lump in her throat. She allowed herself to be gently pushed back to the ground on her side, and she was aware of Xena moving her blankets closer. Then a strong arm wrapped around her waist and a warm body snuggled up behind her, in contact with her at as many points as possible. Gabrielle was amazed, even though Xena was so much taller than she was; they seemed to fit together perfectly. She could feel the tops of Xena's muscled thighs all along the backs of hers, shins pressed into Gabrielle's calves, and the warriors kneecaps nudging into the back of her knees. She was trying desperately not to notice the sensation of Xena's breasts pressing into her shoulder-blades, but she couldn't ignore the warm breath down the back of her neck. It tickled the hairs there and sent volleys of tingles all down her back. She felt Xena's arm tighten around her stomach, giving her a little affectionate squeeze, then she heard a whisper.

"Sleep now Gabrielle, sweet dreams."

"Good night Xena..." Gabrielle forced herself to close her eyes, and once again willed sleep to come to her.

No good.

Her mind had other plans... again.

This time Perdicas didn't have a chance, he didn't even make a token appearance. Xena's offer to help her relieve this itch had conjured up all sorts of images in Gabrielle's head and no matter how she fought them, they were going from bad to worse. It started much the way it had earlier that night, with the memory of Xena rubbing healing salve into her bruises. This time though she imagined she felt a kiss on her shoulder as those strong hands slowly slid around to her stomach. Somehow in this imagined scene, Xena was not wearing her armour, so Gabrielle could feel soft, leather-covered breasts pressing into her shoulders instead of solid metal bumps. The hands on her stomach were sliding upwards, pushing her top out of the way. Then they began to caress the soft skin of her breasts as Xena's lips kissed and nibbled up the side of her neck and behind her ear. A tongue snaked out to run around the rim of her ear and Gabrielle felt her earlobe being sucked at the same time as her nipples were gently tweaked.

Gabrielle moaned, awash with a burning desire that screamed for relief. It was only when she felt Xena's arm tighten around her again that Gabrielle realised she had moaned out loud. Very loud in fact.

"Gabrielle? Are you okay?" Xena asked, not sounding at all sleepy. Gabrielle tried to slow her breathing, tried desperately to get her thrumming body under control, but it was far too late for that now. She gave up, the need was too great to argue with.

"No... no I'm not... I need..." she took a deep, shaky breath. "I need you Xena... I need you to... help me." She heard Xena's intake of breath and twisted so she was lying on her back, looking up at her friend.

"Are you sure?" Xena's whisper was barely audible, Gabrielle nodded. Was Xena breathing faster all of a sudden? It was hard to tell.

"I'm sure Xena... if you're still sure you want to. I can't stand this any more, in my head I keep feeling you touching me, stroking me, kissing me. I need you to do that for real. I've never in my life wanted anyone to touch me as much as I want you to right now... Not even Perdicas." Gabrielle knew she was babbling, but now she had started, she couldn't stem the flow. "Not even WITH Perdicas!" Gabrielle closed her eyes, her face twisted with an agonised guilt. "Gods Xena, I loved Perdicas so much, but not THAT way! On my wedding night, it wasn't him I was thinking about. Oh Gods Xena... that night I realised I'd made a terrible mistake marrying him!" She was crying openly now in great gasping sobs. "When he was touching me, my body did nothing, I just felt ill. Nothing happened until I closed my eyes... and then in my mind it was YOU I saw!" Xena had gathered Gabrielle into her arms again, cradling the bard's head and shoulders against her chest, rocking her and making comforting noises as the emotions poured out. "I don't know why I have these feelings for you Xena, every time I so much as look at you my body tenses up and my stomach does flips. I know it has to be wrong for me to want you this much but I can't fight it off anymore! And I don't even really know what it is I want!!" She wailed.

Abruptly Gabrielle was silenced, for Xena had tilted her head up and planted a gentle kiss directly on her lips. Gabrielle breathed in sharply through her nose as her stomach clenched and her whole body shivered. As Xena pulled slowly away, Gabrielle looked deep into her eyes. There was an expression there that the bard had never seen before. She didn't know what it was and began to panic, thinking Xena had changed her mind. Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak but Xena placed a single finger across her lips, sealing them again.

"Shh, silence bard, for once it's my turn to talk." She whispered. "Gabrielle, there is nothing wrong with the way you're feeling. I'll admit it's not what most people would call "normal", but as for me... you have no idea how much I have been wishing one day you'd say what you just said." Gabrielle's eyes bulged, and she tried to open her mouth again but Xena pressed her finger a little harder into the bard's lips and she subsided. Xena continued.

"I've known for a long time now that I love you, but ironically it wasn't until recently that it dawned on me that I'm IN love with you too. I don't know how it happened, somehow you wiggled your way into a place in my heart I thought was withered and dead, and you brought it back to life. It hurt so much watching you marry Perdicas and knowing I would never be able to tell you how I feel. Ever since he died I've wanted to give you so much more than comfort but I've been to afraid to try, so I just kept telling myself it was too soon. Maybe it's STILL too soon. I've been going crazy some nights, lying so close to you and not being able to touch you. I'd just lie there for hours, listening to your breathing. I've wanted so much to take you in my arms and make love to you, but I was terrified that if I made a move, I would lose your friendship forever." Gabrielle was surprised to see Xena's eyes glistening with barely controlled emotion. She reached up and cupped her friend's cheek and the warrior leaned her face into it, closing her eyes. A single tear fell and Xena took a ragged breath. "It's been so hard to keep it all hidden away." Gabrielle laughed.

"Believe me I know how you feel..." she managed, gasping out the words between giggles. She knew she sounded hysterical, but she didn't know how to stop. Her emotions were spilling over whatever way they could tonight. Then Xena was laughing too, and pulling her into a fierce hug, almost crushing her.

"Oh Gods Gabrielle, you have no idea how much you've been tormenting me. Today was probably the worst yet, riding all morning and feeling your body pressed up against me. You had me so wound up I felt like I was going to burst. I was beginning to wonder how much longer I would be able to keep control of myself when we met up with that gang of thugs. Gods on Olympus I needed that fight." Gabrielle grinned, her eyes dancing merrily.

"That explains a lot, I remember thinking you were throwing yourself into it more than usual."

"I had to work off some excess energy, and fast, otherwise I think I would have lost either my self-control or my sanity." Xena grinned back, stroking a lock of Gabrielle's hair away from her face. Gabrielle closed her eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, she was suddenly serious, and nervous.

"So..." she began, reaching a trembling hand up to caress Xena's cheek again, "now that we've both bared our souls, what are you going to do with me?" She swallowed hard as she saw Xena's expression also switch from mirth to... desire.

"Whatever you want me to my love." She took in the worried look on Gabrielle's face and her expression turned again to concern. "What is it?"

"Xena, I... I don't really know WHAT I want you to do. With Perdicas I... he just sort of took the lead, I didn't really know what I was doing." She looked down, breaking the eye contact and whispered, "I still don't."

Xena gently squeezed her bard, conveying love and reassurance in the gesture. "It's ok Gabrielle, I can "take the lead", as you put it. We'll just do this one step at a time, I think I'll know if you enjoying it." She smiled, then caught the bard's gaze again. "But if I go too fast or you feel uncomfortable and you want me to slow down or stop, you say so alright? I don't want to do anything you don't want me to do... ok?" She felt Gabrielle relax in her arms and as the bard nodded, her smile widened. "Alright, then, I think the best place to start is... here." She leaned down to capture Gabrielle's mouth with another kiss. The kiss began much as the first one had, a mere brushing of lips, tender and gentle. But something in Gabrielle made her lean into it, wanting more contact. The pressure increased further as the warrior tightened her arms around her young lover, and the kiss abruptly turned hard and hungry. The gentle thrumming that had been wandering around Gabrielle's body for most of the night coalesced abruptly into a throbbing deep in her groin. She groaned and threw her arms around Xena's back, one hand tangling into the warrior's dark hair to pull her closer still. She felt Xena's tongue press against her lips and opened her mouth a little. The warriors tongue pushed its way in through the gap like the charge of the cavalry through a hole in the enemy's front line. Only this was no enemy, Gabrielle merely moaned again, allowing her mouth to be forced open. Their tongues duelled, sliding around and over each other. Gabrielle pressed an attack, sliding her tongue past Xena's teeth and exploring her mouth. She was rewarded by a deep groan from way down in the warrior's guts. The lovers broke off the kiss at the same moment, both gasping for breath. They gazed at each other for a few moments, Gabrielle's mind was reeling.

"Are you ok?" Xena seemed to be puffing as much as the bard was.

"Gods yes! Sweet Artemis, what are you doing to me Xena?" She gasped.

"Nothing compared to what I'm going to do to you." Was Xena's husky reply as she leaned in for another kiss. This one wasn't quite as forceful as the last, and Gabrielle closed her eyes to savour it. She felt a hand slip under her night shift and slide slowly up over her thigh, hip, stomach, before finally settling on her breast, stroking and squeezing it gently. Her back arched as Xena's touch sent a fresh set of tingles spiralling down to add to the growing ache in her groin. Unsure of what to do, Gabrielle decided to mimic Xena's actions as best she could. Leaving her right hand gripping the back of Xena's head, she slid her left hand down the warriors back, trying to find the hem of her night-shift, only to discover the warrior was sitting on it. Chuckling Xena pulled away, sitting Gabrielle up. Gabrielle was a little bewildered for a moment, but Xena wasted no time explaining. In one graceful movement she pulled her shift up over her head and tossed it to one side. Then she reached for Gabrielle, pulling her up to her knees and tugging off her clothing almost as quickly.

"Is that better?" She asked, one hand coming up to stroke Gabrielle's hair.

"Mmmm, much better." Gabrielle murmured, the sight of Xena's body in all its naked glory fair taking her breath away. She reached forward in awe to tenderly run her fingers over the soft skin of Xena's throat, and down to her breasts. Xena closed her eyes and shuddered at the touch. Gabrielle delicately traced one of the pale scars that were scattered here and there on her friend's body, evidence of the harsh life the warrior lived. Others might have found these markings repulsive, but to Gabrielle, Xena's body was perfection. One of the scars was ragged, it looked as though it had become infected and healed badly. Impulsively Gabrielle leaned forward to kiss it, as if by her touch she could wipe away the old hurt. Xena stiffened, almost pulled away, then whimpered quietly and pushed forward instead, accepting the healing touch of her lover. Gabrielle felt Xena's hands move up around her back, holding her tightly, and she raised her head to meet the warrior's lips again. They kissed with growing passion, their hands roving over each other's backs, sides, and wherever else they could reach with their lips locked and bodies pressed together. Xena's hands braced Gabrielle's back and she slowly leaned forward, lowering the redhead onto their blankets while somehow still maintaining contact with the bard's lips.

Xena gently eased Gabrielle's legs apart with her knee, and settled the full length of her naked body down on top of the bard. For a moment Gabrielle feared she'd be crushed under her lover, but Xena was balancing much of her weight on elbows and knees. All she felt was the delicious warmth and silky softness of Xena's skin on hers. They continued to kiss with open lips and roving tongues. Gabrielle felt her insides melt and moisture gather between her legs as their passion mounted. When Xena brought her knee up to press firmly into Gabrielle's groin, she gasped and her whole body shuddered, her stomach tightening almost unbearably. She let out a loud, high pitched moan, almost a scream. "Oh Gods Xena!" She cried out, she had not felt anything like this in that one fumbling encounter with Perdicas. Her half-hearted (not to mention unsuccessful) attempts at self-satisfaction had produced nothing even close to the pent-up tension and excitement that raged in her now. Xena shifted slightly, moving her body down and began kissing and sucking on Gabrielle's throat and breasts, one hand caressing the bard's firm stomach. The hand slid lower still, over the curve of Gabrielle's lower abdomen and into the soft curls that covered her aching centre. The fingers pressed gently and Gabrielle moaned again, feverishly, as even this slight pressure sent another shudder through her. She didn't know what was causing this feeling, she just knew that it felt GOOD.

"Ohhh... yesss." She hissed, wanting more.

Xena seemed to sense that her new lover's need was becoming urgent. She slid her fingers between Gabrielle's moist lips and started stroking her slowly, for now avoiding direct contact with the bard's sensitive nub. Gabrielle closed her eyes, revelling in the sensation, her hips began to move of their own accord, rocking against Xena's expert caresses. "Oh Xena... that feels so good." She whispered breathlessly. Xena slid her left arm under Gabrielle's shoulders and lifted her head up. She kissed the bard again, deeply, and began speeding up her stroking movements. Gabrielle started to sweat, her limbs trembled, her breath was coming in short, sharp gasps and her moans were constant. "Xena... what... what's happening... to..." her hips began to thrust jerkily against Xena's fingers, and the muscles in her whole body began to clench. The tense ache that had started in her groin spread through her pelvis and outward, she felt like she might black out at any moment. Then Xena's fingers finally moved up to the hard bud of Gabrielle's clitoris and began stroking it directly, once, twice, three times was all it took to shove Gabrielle over the edge. Her back arched, her hands curled into fists, and her whole body spasmed violently. She felt an incredible sensation, like lightening, travel through her body, and she cried out in ecstasy.

"Oh... oh gods... XEEENAAA!!!"

Xena held her shuddering lover's body tightly, her fingers not slowing down their movements until Gabrielle started to come down from whatever part of the heavens she had gone to. Then she slowed and stopped, and gently removed wet fingertips from the pool of sticky fluid between the bard's legs. Unseen by Gabrielle, she regarded her fingertips for a moment, considering whether to lick them clean. But as she glanced down at her bard, whose eyes were still shut tightly, she decided not to and wiped them surreptitiously on the edge of the blanket instead. Plenty of time for that aspect of lovemaking once Gabrielle had got used to the rest, for now she didn't want to do anything that might alarm her new lover.

Under the circumstances, it was doubtful that Gabrielle would have noticed, it took a quite a while for her to come back to her senses. Lying in Xena's embrace and gasping for breath was all she could do at first. Eventually she opened her eyes, blinking to clear sweat out of them. She gazed in wonder into her partner's beautiful blue eyes, too stunned to speak. Xena smiled and kissed her softly.

"I'd say you needed that." Xena said, possibly making the understatement of the century. Gabrielle laughed, a trifle hysterically, even as she blinked away tears.

"By all the Gods on Olympus Xena, what did you do to me? I have never, EVER, felt anything like that in my life!" She caught Xena's surprised look.

"Never?" Xena drawled, raising a questioning eyebrow. Gabrielle felt a little uncomfortable under the intense regard, and the flush that had been slowly ebbing from her features rose up again. She lowered her gaze, looking anywhere but in the warrior's eyes.

"Uhh... no... never." The bard suddenly felt tears pricking in her eyes. She suddenly felt a little embarrassed by her innocence, and inexplicably afraid that the warrior would laugh at her lack of experience. Her fears melted away as she felt herself being wrapped in a fierce embrace, her face pressed against the warrior's shoulder.

"Oh my sweet Gabrielle..." the bard felt warm lips press firmly against the top of her head. "In that case I feel doubly honoured that you shared this with me... that I could be the first person to give that to you. You have no idea how good that makes me feel."

"You... you mean that?" Gabrielle raised her glistening eyes to meet the ice blue of her lover's. The single tear that escaped was kissed away by the raven-haired beauty. The passion-reddened lips then descended on hers once more in a kiss so tender and loving that the bard felt her heart would break. Xena broke off the kiss to stare into her bard's eyes again.

"Every word..." she breathed, "every single word." Gabrielle's eyes filled with tears again. She reached up and pulled the warrior's head down to kiss her once more.

"I love you so much Xena, you're the best thing that's ever happened to me, you know that? And the things you do..." The bard's sense of humour resurfaced and she let out a breath in an exaggerated whoosh, fanning herself. "Another of your many skills huh? That was incredible... YOU are incredible... how do I even begin to say thank you?" Their lips met again, and Xena chuckled into her bard's mouth, the mirth rumbling low in her chest.

"Don't thank me yet, I'm not finished with you my love." Xena paused for a moment, her expression growing serious and tender, she stroked Gabrielle's fringe away from her sweat soaked forehead. "Now that I've introduced you to the pleasure of sexual release, I want to show you what making love is like... there's a big difference you know." Gabrielle's eyes widened and she gulped, feeling yet another flush rise.

"Ahh, Xena... thanks, but... I couldn't possibly... It just wouldn't..." she paused, trying to gather her thoughts, disconcerted by the look in Xena's eyes. "You took care of things pretty thoroughly, really... I don't think I could even...."

"Let me guess, kinda numb down there? Feels like you'll be out of action for a week?" Xena asked, Gabrielle nodded. Xena repositioned herself slightly so that she was lying on her left side facing Gabrielle, with her right knee hooked up on top of the bard's muscled thigh. She propped her head up on her elbow, her raven coloured hair cascading down over her shoulder and the arm that still cradled the bard's head and shoulders. She smiled crookedly and reached out with her other hand to stroke Gabrielle's blonde tresses again.

"What you've just experienced is merely a physical release. Believe me Gabrielle, it won't take half as long as you think for you to respond again. After all these years of denying your body, there's no way one orgasm will be enough, even one as... intense... as that one." She smiled again at the flush that crept over the bard's skin, starting in her cheeks and spreading down her neck and chest. "Oh I'm sure if you tried you would sleep like a baby now, but you'd wake up tomorrow morning feeling twice as bad... trust me, I'm speaking from experience." She caught Gabrielle's surprised look and made a face. "Yes, I've been there... believe it or not I was young and inexperienced once too!" When Gabrielle laughed, Xena scowled, pretending to be annoyed, but she knew couldn't maintain the charade for long. Smiling, and with an evil glint in her eye, she drawled, "of course, I figured it all out a lot earlier in life than SOMEONE I could mention." She chuckled. Gabrielle bristled for a moment, then she saw the loving look that replaced the mischief in the warrior's eyes and realised that Xena was only teasing her. Still, she wasn't about to let the warrior get away with cheap digs like that without throwing in one of her own.

"Yes, well, we all know by my age you'd slept with half of Greece... doesn't mean the rest of us have to." She grinned at the shock in her lover's eyes, but as an answering grin appeared, Gabrielle knew she was in for it now.

"Why you cheeky little..." growling playfully, Xena attacked.

"Oh no! No tickling!!!" Gabrielle shrieked, withering under the assault from strong fingers that somehow managed to aim right for the most sensitive spots down her sides and stomach. She curled in a ball and tried to roll away but found herself pulled back and pinned as the warrior straddled her, sitting on her thighs. The bard clamped her elbows to her sides, trying to protect her sensitive stomach with her hands, but again, Xena was too strong for her. Somehow the warrior managed to grip both of Gabrielle's wrists in one large hand, pulling her arms up and away, and resumed the assault on Gabrielle's struggling form.

"No! Please!... Mercy!! I give up!! I'll do anything you want!! Just... stop... tickling me... PLEASE!!!" She gasped. Before the bard knew what was happening, Xena had both of her arms pinned over her head, hands clamping both of Gabrielle's wrists to the ground.

"Anything?" Xena drawled, a hungry look on her face. Gabrielle swallowed hard, she suddenly realised she was completely helpless and she wasn't sure how she should feel about that.

"Uhh... what did you have in mind?" She asked, licking her lips nervously. Xena seemed to sense that Gabrielle was a little scared by her aggressive manoeuvre. She loosened her grip a little, so that her lover could break away if she really wanted to. When Gabrielle made no move to free herself, Xena leaned down close to her, so their faces were only an inch or so apart.

"I think you can guess what I have in mind." She said, looking deep into the bard's eyes. "But what about you? Is there anything you'd like to do?" Instead of a verbal answer, Gabrielle did the only thing she was able to do right then, she lifted her head up and brushed her lips against Xena's. The effect on the warrior was immediate, she pressed her mouth down onto Gabrielle's, forcing her head back onto the pillow. As Xena's tongue found it's way in between her teeth again, Gabrielle was somewhat surprised to feel her body already responding faintly. The feeling of being pinned down and completely at her lover's mercy somehow both frightened and thrilled her at the same time. She became aware that as Xena had leaned forward, her rear end had lifted slightly, and Gabrielle's legs were not quite immobile now. Remembering something Xena had done earlier, Gabrielle brought one knee up, pressing into Xena's groin. Obviously Xena wasn't expecting a move like this, because she let out a sudden, loud, surprised moan, closing her eyes as her hips bucked against Gabrielle's thigh.

"Are you okay Xena?" Gabrielle asked, a little concerned, Xena was breathing heavily all of a sudden, and a light sheen of sweat had appeared on her face.

"I'm fine Gabrielle, you just caught me by surprise that's all." Xena pressed her face into Gabrielle's neck, taking a moment to catch her breath and regain her self-control. After a few moments, she lifted her head again, and Gabrielle swallowed again at the feral look in the icy-blue eyes. "Now, where was I? Oh yes... I was making love to the most beautiful." She began to kiss Gabrielle again, in a slow and leisurely way this time, interspersing the caresses with words. "Sexy..." Gabrielle closed her eyes and savoured the feel of those soft lips pressing against hers. This time Xena's tongue stayed in her own mouth, she just used her lips to caress Gabrielle's, planting kisses on her mouth, along her jaw-line, and up to her ear. "Oh so tasty..." she gently sucked and nibbled Gabrielle's earlobe for a while, and Gabrielle sighed with pleasure, awash in renewed tingles. "Woman..." said bard wasn't even aware of Xena releasing her wrists, until she felt a hand cupping one of her breasts. "That I..." a thumb ran over and around one erect nipple. "Have ever met." Gabrielle's back began to arch, lifting her breasts up to the caresses. Taking her time now, and murmering a constant flow of gentle endearments, Xena began to stroke her, lovingly stimulating every part of her bard's upper body. She trailed another line of kisses, this time from her earlobe down the side of her neck and then onto her breast. As one of Xena's strong hands massaged one breast and rubbed at the nipple, the other hand lifted the other breast to her roving mouth. She took one nipple into her mouth and sucked on it, flicking the tip with her tongue, causing Gabrielle to gasp. She buried her hands into Xena's long silky hair, feeling the ends of it tickling her stomach as it cascaded over Xena's shoulders.

The familiar ache was coming back now, beginning in Gabrielle's stomach and moving slowly down. She bit her lower lip as Xena moved on to her other breast and began to suck on that nipple as well, giving it an occasional squeeze with her lips. Xena's fingers trailed down the bard's sides. Where earlier they had tickled mercilessly, now they caressed, evoking completely different feelings. Gabrielle squirmed as the first faint stirrings of renewed desire caused a fresh flow of moisture between her legs. She pulled Xena back up, needing to taste her lips again. They kissed slowly and tenderly at first, then began nibbling at each other's mouths, faces and necks with gradually mounting passion. The burning embers of Gabrielle's desire were being rekindled into a low flame that would only keep building. At one stage Xena's knee gently slid back in between the bard's legs, rubbing into her groin occasionally. Feeling the little tongues of fire that this sent through her, Gabrielle wanted to give Xena the same sensations in return. When she found that being underneath made it difficult to apply the right amount of pressure to the right place, she grasped both of Xena's hip bones firmly with her hands and pressed down on them. Xena responded with another loud groan and without thinking bit down rather hard on Gabrielle's shoulder where she had been nibbling. The bard cried out in shock and pain and the warrior jerked her head up.

"Oh Gods Gabrielle, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you!" Xena said, her voice frantic.

"It's okay, you didn't." Gabrielle gasped, unwilling to admit that the brief pain had sent a thrill right through her. She just lifted her head to capture Xena's mouth again, still applying pressure to Xena's hips, which were now grinding moistly against her thigh. As their passion rose to new heights, and Gabrielle's loins began to throb again, Xena began to move. She started kissing, nibbling and licking her way slowly down Gabrielle's neck, over her breasts and down her stomach.

"Where are you going?" Gabrielle asked. Ice-blue eyes lifted to meet emerald ones, and Xena smiled slowly. Gabrielle felt her heart skip a beat, Xena now looked for all the world like a predator staring down its prey.

"You'll see..." she said, and continued to move down, sliding her body over Gabrielle's until she was directly over the thatch of reddish-gold curls that adorned the top of the bard's thighs. Breathing hard and trembling with desire, but beginning to feel a bit bewildered at this turn of events, Gabrielle propped herself up on her elbows, confused.

"Xena what are you doing?" She felt a little uncomfortable that Xena's face was so close to her moist centre. She was aware that the fluid that formed there had an odd smell and she was a little embarrassed, knowing the warrior must have picked it up by now. But if Xena was put off by the aroma she gave no sign, she just reached up to stroke Gabrielle's stomach, smiling reassuringly.

"Relax Gabrielle, and trust me, there's something I want to do for you. It may seem a little strange at first, but you'll like it I promise... just lie back and enjoy." Gabrielle was still unsure, but she trusted that Xena wouldn't do anything to hurt her, so she lay back on the blankets. She felt Xena gently move her thighs apart and then the tall warrior settled herself down between them. Gabrielle felt Xena's hand stroke her stomach again, the gentle swirling touch soothing the younger woman. Then the warrior dragged her fingernails lightly along the soft skin of the bard's inner thigh, causing Gabrielle's hips to lurch. She was aching to be touched, and every stroke of Xena's hand was increasing the tension. When Xena repeated the stroke followed by the scratch on the other leg Gabrielle had to bite down on a scream of frustration. The hands were so close, but Xena was touching everywhere but the moist centre where Gabrielle needed her most. If Xena didn't do something about it soon, Gabrielle would have to do something herself.

"Xena... Please..." she whispered.

"Yes Gabrielle?" Came the answering whisper. "What is it? Tell me what you want." The hands never ceased their stroking and caressing.

"Touch me... please... I need you to touch me..." Gabrielle breathed.

"Where?" Xena asked, a note of amusement in her low-pitched voice. "Here?" She asked, stroking Gabrielle's thigh again. As Gabrielle groaned in frustration, she heard Xena chuckle. "Here?" Now she was caressing Gabrielle's stomach again, feeling the sculpted muscles rippling under her roving fingers. Gabrielle just moaned feverishly, beyond words. Finally she felt Xena gently slide her fingers down her stomach, over the soft red-gold curls, and slip them down between her thighs, caressing her moist lips, stroking them gently before probing deeper. Gabrielle's hips lurched again and she groaned.

"Ooohhhh... yes... there!" Gabrielle moaned.

Xena began to stroke in a slow pattern, circling around Gabrielle's moist opening, running her fingers up to gently caress the hard nub at the top, then back down again. As Gabrielle's hips began to rock, Xena slid a fingertip a little way into the bard's wet opening. Gabrielle gasped in shock, flinching a little, remembering the pain she had felt when Perdicas had penetrated her there. But this time there was no pain, just a small spasm of muscles that sent a shudder through her. Before she could back away, she felt Xena's finger penetrate her as far as it could and the impulse to escape was replaced by a flood of pleasure. She felt Xena slide a second finger in to join the first, stretching her insides. This did hurt a little bit because she had tensed up, but this pain was nowhere near as bad as when she had been with Perdicas, and it disappeared quickly as she forced herself to relax. As Xena's fingers began to gently move in and out, stroking the inner walls of her vagina, Gabrielle's hips began to rock again, matching the rhythm of those questing digits that stimulated the nerves inside her.

"Oh Gods Xena, that feels incredible!" Gabrielle's eyes were closed now, and waves of pleasure were rippling through her, spreading outward from where Xena's fingers were buried inside her. She could feel herself building slowly towards another climax. Then something unbelievable happened. She felt Xena's head dip between her legs and a hot, wet tongue gently probed her centre, sliding around and over her clitoris and stroking the full length of her. Gabrielle felt a shock wave go through her at the sensation and she groaned, clutching wildly at the first thing she could grab, which happened to be her blankets. Her knuckles turned white with the strength of her grip.

"Xena what are you doing to me?" Gabrielle breathed, the feeling of being penetrated and licked at the same time was incredible. The throbbing inside her was rapidly gaining in intensity, and she knew she was going to lose it any moment now. As if sensing this, Xena's began licking and sucking faster, in time with the pace of her fingers and the rocking of Gabrielle's hips. The bard was grinding and thrusting against her, completely out of control. She began moaning and calling Xena's name, unaware that she was doing so. Xena's tongue and fingers were wreaking havoc with her body and it wasn't long before Gabrielle couldn't take any more. Her body stiffened, her inner muscles clutched at Xena's fingers in a death-grip, and her back arched so far it lifted her shoulder blades off the ground. When the shock wave hit, Gabrielle heard herself scream as this time not only one, but several orgasms ripped through her, each one more devastating than the last. Xena was relentless, her tongue and fingers driving Gabrielle to climax after climax until the bard had to beg for her to stop.

"Please! Xena... stop! I can't... Ahhhhhh!!!" After giving her lover one final shuddering orgasm, Xena relented, withdrawing her tongue. She gave the red-gold curls a final kiss, and lifted her face away. Gabrielle moaned as Xena gently removed her fingers from their moist lair, an after-shock causing her stomach to spasm again. Her body went limp and while trying to get her breath back Gabrielle watched curiously as Xena sat up, wiped her face and began to lick her fingers clean, humming her enjoyment of the task. The warrior noticed her regard and smiled.

"Feel better?" She asked, stretching out on the blankets next to Gabrielle again and resuming her cleaning. Gabrielle tried to get words out between deep gasps.

"I feel... I... that was... I can't describe how I feel... that was the most unbelievable thing I have ever experienced." Gabrielle's mind was still reeling, but she was also watching in slightly horrified fascination as Xena chased the last remnants of fluid between her fingers with her tongue. She swallowed, "uh, Xena, do you... do you actually LIKE that?"

"Hmmmm" Xena purred, giving her fingers one last suck. "Ohhh, yeah... it's been a while, but..."

"You've done this before?" Gabrielle blinked in surprise, feeling a sudden stab of jealousy. "I mean... with a woman?"

"Once or twice..." Xena rolled on her side to face the bard. "Does that bother you?" she asked, studying her lover's face intently, a little frown of worry creasing her own.

"It... surprises me," Gabrielle admitted carefully, chiding herself for her unreasonable reaction. "I mean... You've mentioned a few of the men you've been with but until... this... I had no idea you..."

"Like women that way too?" Xena finished, Gabrielle nodded and the warrior smiled wryly. "It's not something I advertise."

"Hmm, I guess it wouldn't be really." There was still a shadow of doubt in Gabrielle's eyes. "I'm still a little surprised that you feel that way about ME." Now the doubt was replaced by entreaty. She knew she was being silly, but Gabrielle found that her confidence had been rocked badly by the knowledge that this was not a first for the raven-haired beauty.

"Come here bard." Gabrielle found herself being gathered once again into an embrace. Xena rolled onto her back, pulling her young lover on top of her. She placed one hand on each of Gabrielle's cheeks, forcing the bard to meet her eyes. "Now you listen to me Gabrielle. I love you. You hear me? Please don't ever feel threatened by anyone I may have been with in the past, male or female. Most of my past relationships have been about power, not love! Only once in my life have I ever felt anything close to what I feel for you and that was..." Xena's eyes clouded for a moment, then she shook herself. "Well, it was a long time ago... another lifetime." Xena smiled and drew Gabrielle's face down to plant a kiss on her forehead, then looked her in the eye again with an intensity that was almost frightening. "Never doubt how I feel about you Gabrielle. I live for you, I would die for you. Every good thing about me comes from being with you! You are the best thing in my life, and I will be with you for the rest of it. That's a promise." That said, she wrapped her arms around Gabrielle and almost crushed her in another fierce hug. Gabrielle felt tears sting her eyes again, but her whole being was suffused with tremendous warmth. She leaned into her lover's shoulder with a contented sigh.

"I love you too Xena, with all my heart, and with all my soul." Gabrielle was content now to lay in Xena's comforting embrace, feeling her lover's breath ruffle the hair on the top of her head. The reality of the evening's events began to sink into a brain that until now had been riding on a sensual high. *Wow* she thought *she loves me. Xena, the big tough Warrior Princess, loves me, the pesky, over-talkative bard of Potidaea. That's amazing. I'm in love with this incredible, strong, powerful, gentle, wonderful, ohhh so talented woman, and she's in love with me too... Wow.* She lay there for a long few moments, just revelling in the thought.

"Dinar for your thoughts?" The low voice intoned, a note of gentle humour in the words. Gabrielle twisted to look at her, propping her head on her left arm.

"I'm just thinking how incredibly lucky I am. Who'd have thought we'd end up here?" She grinned, realising how unlikely it was. Xena chuckled, her eyes glinting.

"Well, you know, this is the main road to Amphipolis, so it's really not that strange that we'd be here." She drawled. Gabrielle slapped at her stomach.

"Silly. You know what I mean. Us... this..." She gestured at the closeness of their naked forms. "When we first met, and even in the first year we were together, I found it amazing that you'd even put up with me, I never imagined we would end up being such close friends... never mind falling in love and..." she blushed again. "Being intimate."

"Neither did I... but I'm glad we did." Xena's eyes burned into Gabrielle's.

"Me too." Gabrielle smiled, feeling another wave of warmth suffuse her soul. She settled herself on her side, one hand shyly reached over to trace idle patterns on Xena's stomach with her fingertip, wondering at the softness of her lovers skin. A thought struck her. "Xena?"

"Hmmm?" Xena purred the query. She was smiling, her eyes closed, enjoying the feel of her bard's fingers stroking her skin.

"When did you know?" One sapphire blue eye opened, an eyebrow raised.

"Know what?"

"That you loved me... when did you start having those feelings about me?" Xena looked at her quizzically, then raised an eyebrow in speculation.

"That's a tough one to answer Gabrielle. I didn't open my eyes one day and realise I loved you, it developed slowly. I just gradually began to realise how much I liked having you with me. I think Thessaly made me realise how much you meant to me, how much I needed you." Xena's eyes filled with the remembered pain of almost losing Gabrielle and she blinked a few times, smiling to let the bard know she was ok. "When exactly that changed from loving you into being IN love with you I'm not sure. I DO know when I realised I was attracted to you sexually." She grinned at the flush that crept up over Gabrielle's face yet again.

"Well, when was that then?" The bard demanded.

"When you bit me." The answer left the bard stunned for a moment, stopping all movement.

"What?" The word exploded from Gabrielle's lips. Xena chuckled, her face showing only a slight trace of embarrassment.

"When you were a Bacchai, part of me got this incredible charge from watching you. You were so wild, predatory. I couldn't help it, watching and feeling you stalking me just turned me on like nothing ever has. Then when you pulled my hair to one side and bit down on my neck... Gods I thought I was going to come right there on the spot. It took all my self-control just to stay standing. I have no idea how I managed to defeat Bacchus when I was so distracted." Xena chuckled again, chagrined. Gabrielle just gawped, rendered speechless yet again. She looked away from Xena, then back, then away again, her mouth opening and closing like a stranded trout. She looked so comical that Xena almost lost it. Finally the younger woman found her voice.

"You wanted me, even then?" Her hand resumed its doodling, though its owner was almost unaware of the movements.

"Especially then, but yeah. It made me wake up to the fact that my thoughts and feelings about you were turning decidedly more erotic than was perhaps safe between friends." Her eyes lowered, unable to hold the bard's gaze now.

"So that's why you didn't say anything... when I married Perdicas. I... I had felt you drawing away from me in the few days before he found us. I guess I thought maybe you wanted me to marry Perdicas so you'd be rid of me." Gabrielle leaned into the hand that clasped her cheek, tears glistening in her eyes.

"I'm so sorry, I never meant for you to think that. I knew you loved Perdicas, I thought... I wanted you to be happy, and I thought you had a chance to be happy with him. I couldn't tell you how I felt about you Gabrielle. I had no way of knowing if you reciprocated my feelings and I couldn't risk admitting how much I loved you if it meant losing what we had. Letting you go was the only decision I could live with, even if it hurt me to do it." Xena closed her eyes, remembering how she had felt her heart break as she stumbled from the little temple into the woods, growling something at Joxer so he wouldn't try to talk to her. She had made her way blindly to her campsite and collapsed onto her bedroll, sobbing like a broken-hearted child. She hadn't cried that much since the night she had given Solan to the Centaurs. It felt much the same, like part of her soul had been ripped from her. She wished she could hate the young farmer-turned-soldier who had walked into her life and carelessly ripped her heart out, but she couldn't. She'd seen the love shining from his face, it was the same love she strove so hard to hide. How could she blame him for loving Gabrielle? If even a tough, thick-skinned ex-warlord was powerless to prevent falling for the girl, what chance did a simple farmer have?

A long silence fell while Gabrielle pondered Xena's words. She was unaware that one hand was continuing its wanderings, trailing over the warrior's smooth, chiselled stomach muscles and upper thighs. To love someone enough to let them go... even if it broke your own heart in the process... it was a pretty amazing concept. To the bard, it emphasised just how much she really meant to Xena, and it was almost overwhelming. She knew right down to the depths of her soul that there was nothing she wouldn't do for the warrior princess, so deep was the love she felt for this woman. To have that love returned was simply...

"Gabrielle..." the note of warning in Xena's voice brought the bard back from her musings.

"What is it?" Gabrielle's eyes searched the surrounding forest, looking for whatever danger the warrior had detected.

"You're gonna have to either stop what you're doing, or help me finish the job because right now you're driving me nuts." Xena's low voice crackled with tension. Gabrielle was only now aware of the hand that was sliding over the warrior's hip and up towards her chest. Only now did she feel the muscles tense and ripple under her exploring fingers.

"Oh!" Gabrielle's hand paused momentarily as she took in the sight of her warrior. Xena's eyes were closed, her hands were slowly and rhythmically clenching and relaxing in the furs under her. Every so often a small tremor ran through her body, which was coated in a light sheen of sweat. The bard felt a surge of guilt, realising she'd been rather selfish. While Xena had spent the last candlemark or so bringing her to the heights of ecstasy, she had not given herself the same relief. If what she felt was anything close to what Gabrielle had felt earlier, then the bard could understand how Xena might be losing her grip on sanity. "I... uh..." she knew what she wanted to do. "I... want to give you pleasure too Xena, I'm just... I don't know what to do." She trailed off, feeling lame. Xena opened her eyes and smiled and Gabrielle once again felt a wave of love from the warrior wash over her, leaving her suffused with a cosy warmth. Xena reached out and gathered her into another close embrace.

"Just follow your instincts, do whatever comes naturally. I really doubt you can do anything wrong right now, but if you do I'll let you know. And believe me my body will tell you if you're doing something right." Xena purred this last comment and Gabrielle shivered, remembering how she had responded to the other woman's touch. Leaving most of her body pressed against the tall woman, she propped herself back up and leaned in to capture Xena's mouth, delicately nipping and massaging the warrior's lips with her own. Then in a sudden bold move she parted them, thrusting her tongue deep inside. Under her hand, Xena's stomach muscles clenched as a loud groan ripped out of her throat. The sound caused Gabrielle's loins to tighten as well, sending another shiver through her. As her tongue explored the soft wetness of Xena's mouth, Gabrielle's hand moved up to a breast and began to rub, squeezing the ample flesh in her palm. Occasionally she gently pinched the now rock hard nipple. Xena responded to these caresses with soft grunts and moans as her tongue duelled with the bard's.

"You like that huh?" Gabrielle whispered, breaking off the kiss after a particularly loud moan. Xena could only nod, her chest heaving. The bard smiled, wondering what else the warrior would like. She lowered her head and delicately sucked a nipple into her mouth, enjoying the salty taste of her lover's skin. She squeezed the nipple then let go, extracting another moan. "Oh yeah, you like that." The warrior's answer was to reach up and tangle her hands in Gabrielle's hair, pulling the bard's head back down to her aching breasts. As her mouth continued to tease and taste Xena's breasts and ribcage, Gabrielle's hand wandered off again. As if acting on it's own it moved slowly lower, enjoying the play of muscles rippling under the soft, warm skin. The hand carefully bypassed the thatch of dark curly hair and instead slid down one leg almost to the knee before coming back up again, running her nails along the soft skin of Xena's inner thigh, almost to the top. Xena's back arched and her moans reached a higher note, with a slightly desperate edge.

"Oh Gods Gabrielle..." Xena whispered. "Please..." Gabrielle's hand repeated the movement of sliding down the warrior's leg and gently scratching up the inner thigh, eliciting a similar result. This time the bard did not stop short, this time she allowed her fingers to run over the curly hair, wiry, yet soft. Xena held her breath as the bard's fingers eased down, beginning a wondrous exploration of the silky wetness she discovered there. Her touch was tentative, as if afraid of hurting her lover, and Xena moaned again softly, her hips moving up against the questing fingers, seeking firmer contact. By now Gabrielle had abandoned the warrior's breasts and was watching the emotions play across Xena's face as her fingers slid back and forth, taking her cues from her lover. Xena's eyes were closed, and her breathing was shallow and ragged. Acting purely on instinct, Gabrielle moved her hand deeper into the wetness, sliding down until she found Xena's opening. She ran her fingertips around the edge. "Ohhh yesss..." the warrior breathed, almost begging to be taken. Wanting nothing more than to give her pleasure, Gabrielle did as she was asked and slipped two fingers into the tight warmth. She was amazed by the feel of muscles clenching around her digits, drawing them in. Xena's hips began pumping slowly. Her movements matched the rhythm that Gabrielle's fingers created, sliding in and out of the panting, squirming warrior. Xena moaned with every breath, her pelvis thrusting harder, trying to get Gabrielle to move faster. But Gabrielle wasn't finished her exploration yet, so she deliberately slowed down her fingers while she repositioned herself between the warrior's knees. Xena's eyes flew open, sensing the bard's intent. "Gabrielle... you don't... have to do that." She gasped out, her hips still undulating with the bard's slowly pumping fingers.

"Would you enjoy it if I did?" Gabrielle asked, holding the warrior's gaze.

"Yes... ohhh yes." Xena could only answer with the truth. "But ONLY if it's something you really want to do."

"Well, then we're fine then, because I really want to try this." And with that, Gabrielle leaned down, inhaling the musky scent of her lover for a moment before placing a kiss in the soft, very wet curls. Xena threw her head back onto the bedroll and groaned deeply, a groan that got louder as the bard's tongue snaked out, tasting her. Gabrielle licked her lips, analysing the flavour, and deciding she liked the salty sweetness. She plunged in for more, lapping eagerly at the delicious liquid.

"Oh Gods!" Xena groaned, clutching at handfuls of fur, her hips thrusting madly in time with the pumping fingers and tongue. "I'm close Gabrielle, I'm really close! Just... move... up a little... just..." as the bard took the direction and found the hard little nub amongst the wetness, Xena almost screamed. "Ohhh, yes!! Right there! Right... UUUUNNNNGGHHHH." Xena's groan seemed to work it's way up from her toes as her entire body tensed and shuddered with her climax. Gabrielle felt the muscles inside Xena clench almost impossibly tight, then spasm rhythmically as Xena's wetness gushed out to coat her hand. As the tremors finally eased, Gabrielle slowly slipped her fingers free, sparking another shudder. She continued to lap at Xena's sex for a few moments, cleaning up the excess fluid and enjoying the continuing twitches and groans from the other woman. Finally giving the area one last swipe, she crawled her way back up to lie on top of her lover. She was then wrapped in a slippery wet embrace and kissed thoroughly by a very out of breath Xena.

"By the Gods Gabrielle that was amazing..." Xena panted, "are you sure you haven't done that before?" Gabrielle grinned. "I knew you were a fast learner, but if I didn't know you better, I'd suspect you'd been getting private tuition from those Amazons of yours. And I'd be very... very... jealous." Xena growled. Her voice was rich with a sensuality that Gabrielle had never heard before. It sent delightful shivers down her spine.

"It was that good?" She breathed, somewhat surprised.

"Good doesn't begin to describe it... Gabrielle if I wasn't already totally..." she planted a kiss on the bard's cheek. "Utterly..." another kiss was placed on the opposite cheek. "Madly..." a third kiss to the forehead. "In love with you... I'd be in big trouble now, because you've ruined me for anyone else." Whatever Gabrielle had in mind as a reply was silenced as a fourth kiss landed squarely on her mouth and drove all thoughts from her head. Caught up in the kiss, she was barely aware of her hips flexing forward to press her dripping centre against the warrior's hard thigh. Xena noticed however and before the bard knew what was happening she had been rolled onto her back and was being ravished all over again by a very amorous and energetic Warrior Princess.

The dawning sun was just peeking over the horizon by the time the exhausted lovers finally succumbed to sleep. A supremely happy warrior pulled sleeping furs over herself and her completely satiated bard. She placed one final affectionate kiss atop the blonde head resting on her shoulder, and closed her eyes. Her last conscious thought before she drifted into Morpheus' arms was of how comfortable she felt with Gabrielle's warm, naked body pressed against hers. And that she never wanted to fall asleep any other way ever again.

When Xena finally awoke again, the sun was almost directly above them. She considering rolling over and going back to sleep, but at that moment her stomach made it known that it had been patient long enough. She stretched, impeded slightly by the sleeping bard still wrapped tightly around her. She groaned quietly as her muscles protested all the activities of the day before... and the night. *Ahh, but it was worth it* she thought, her mind going back and reliving the experiences.

"Come on Gabrielle, wake up." She stroked the bard's back, eliciting a contented sigh from her young lover. "Hey you, up and at 'em, it's time we were going... actually it's long past time we were going." Her voice held a note of amusement. When the bard snuggled in closer, Xena just smiled, knowing it was hopeless. She disentangled herself from the limp form of her lover and grabbed her under-shift as she went to find a convenient bush to relieve herself. That taken care of, she returned to camp and set about lighting a fresh fire to make some tea. She rummaged in their packs for some bread, cheese, and a few chunks of rabbit left over from the previous evening's meal. It took a lot of coaxing before the tired and somewhat sore bard would even open her eyes and accept the mug of tea Xena brought over to her. Eventually though, Gabrielle woke up enough to eat, dress and help pack up their belongings. To Xena's surprise, Gabrielle elected to ride behind her on Argo again, using their delay as an excuse, and the warrior was all too happy to accept. They rode in comfortable silence for a few candlemarks, and Xena was beginning to suspect that the bard had fallen asleep, but eventually she spoke.



"I love you." Gabrielle emphasised this by squeezing the warrior's waist. Xena smiled, feeling a warm, sunny glow filling her soul.

"I love you too." She replied, giving the bard's forearms a return squeeze. Silence descended again. For another half-candlemark or so the only sounds surrounding them were the thuds of Argo's hooves, the swish of her tail, and the song of the birds in the surrounding trees.


"Yeeesss..." the warrior drawled, smiling again. The bard stretched up, as close to Xena's ear as she could get.

"I want you." Xena's eyes opened wide and her breath caught as Gabrielle's hand reached down to clasp her thigh. "Right here..." the hand slowly slid upwards, working its way under the leather straps of her skirt, and leaving no doubt in the warrior's mind as to where it was headed. "Right now." The bard finished as her hand reached the warrior's britches and her fingers began to wriggle their way inside them. Xena groaned.

"You'll be the death of me Gabrielle, you know that?" She stated, grinning and realising that she didn't mind in the slightest.

The End (yeah sure)


Well meant feedback is welcome at: udk_bard@orcon.net.nz

I will do my best to reply :)

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