Pathway To Love

by Ms Mil Toro
latoro@interlog.com


DISCLAIMER

The following story contains graphic descriptions of sexual activity between two consenting adult women. If you are below 18 years of age, or if you are offended by this type of material, please go away and come back when you grow up.

AUTHOR'S NOTE

This is a "what if" story. "What if" Gabrielle married Perdicus and Callisto never killed him? (I know - depressing, ain't it?). "What if" Xena never visited Gabrielle despite her promises that she would knock on Gabrielle's door so often she would be sick of her? "What if" Gabrielle returned to Potadeia with Perdicus and stayed to raise a family? "What if"?

Some of these events may be disheartening to some so be forewarned, however, in the end, they live happily ever after. We *are* talking about Xena and Gabrielle here.


Chapter 1 - Meandering Pathways

It was plainly and simply the worst day of my life. Twenty years have not lessened the impact of my inaction on that day. Although I think of it less now than when it first happened, each passing day points to the single most important crossroad in my life. A crucial turning point was when I found it within my heart to prevent a small baby from being slaughtered and renounced my evil warlord days. Hercules showed me there could be another pathway to being a fearless warrior. Yes, that was a monumental turning point but it was Gabrielle's marriage to Perdicus that changed my life in ways I could never have comprehended at the time.

Here I sit, alone, wishing after all these years I had said something. I wish I had shouted at her and shook her awake. "Don't marry him! I love you! You belong with me!", but I couldn't. I couldn't let her continue to follow me, a young beat-up warrior who never knew when an assassin's arrow would be lurking around a tree. How many times could I tempt the Fates? She was the pathway to my heart and thus an easy target for my enemies. I could not allow that to continue. In any case, I was never sure if she loved me in quite the same way.

She followed me unquestioningly on my dangerous adventures. Anything I did became fodder for her bardic tales and my ego soaked in the glory. As well, a part of me cringed at my deeds. I always recalled the tales differently. I always remembered the shameful parts. While Gabrielle would regale the glorious adventure of how I stopped an all out war between the Centaurs and the Amazons, I only relived the instant I pierced my sword through the traitor Celano's heart and enjoyed it. Those unsavoury pieces I kept to myself. If only she knew how much I kept from her, she would not have wanted to stay with me. Perdicus became an easy way out. For me.

Oh how I loved her, though. She was so opposite from me. She was cheerful and optimistic while I was brooding and cynical. She was blonde and young, I felt dark and old. She would never hurt so much as a fly but I, I would snatch the fly in mid-air with my bare hand and clutch it in my palm just to see if I could. I never told her the pleasure it gave me to compete against nature and that's all being a warrior really was to me. A war against nature. Gabrielle saw it as a part of me I was sure to overcome. It hasn't left me yet.

Many years have past since I last saw her. Twenty long years of endless roaming. No one has ever filled her spot on the trail beside me. Oh there were a few companions I allowed to accompany me from time to time, some men, some women, but no one has captured my heart. I still try to follow her legacy of non-violence but that has become increasingly more difficult these days. It seems the older I get the more my enemies challenge me. As if because I am older they will have more of a fighting chance against me. My body has numerous battle scars, but the older I become, the wiser, as I use my wit now more than brute force. My mind is as keen as ever. An increasingly alluring option may be for me to lay down my sword and fall on it. These days, I seem to have less fighting spirit than ever. The time to give up may be near.

I saw her again last night, but I know that I shouldn't. Oh, of course, it wasn't Gabrielle, but the young golden redheaded bard could have easily been my Gabrielle from long ago. The lilt in her voice, the laughter in her green eyes, the innocence and naiveté of youth all brought memories rushing back to me in torrents. I went to listen to her every day until finally she wondered why the infamous warrior woman Xena sat in the corner and watched. I could only offer her a drink and conversation. She accepted and deep into the night she invited me to her room. I made love to her wishing it was my Gabrielle. Wishing her soft lucent skin was Gabrielle's, wishing her tender full lips were Gabrielle's, wishing the fine downy hair between her legs was Gabrielle's, wishing the sweet nectar I tasted was Gabrielle. Again I tortured myself by seducing yet another young redhead to fulfil my yearning for Gabrielle. Over the years it has never gotten any better. I would use them to satisfy my own needs but then I would leave to wander the roads again and wonder if Gabrielle was happy.

In all my roaming, I've stayed away from her village, I dare not even think its name, for fear of meeting her or Perdicus by accident. I have travelled long circles around the perimeter and many a time wasted precious days avoiding that town. I could not bare to see her.

I remember the weeks after her injury outside the Thessalian temple. It's funny now that I should call it an "injury". She was dead, plain and simple and I could not live without her. I screamed hysterically for her to come back, for her not to leave me, for her to wake up from this silliness. How could she leave me when I loved her so much? But she did for a moment and in that moment I knew I couldn't lose her. I knew she couldn't leave me or I would be lost. How did I get from that moment to allowing her to leave with Perdicus? I do not know, I only know that I did.

For weeks after, she needed to ride with me atop Argo, my first Argo horse. I treasured those moments when she hugged my back for support. Her soft breasts pressed against me and made me dizzy with desire. She tired easily and her head rested securely against the back of my shoulder. Her arms anxiously clutched my waist and I was never happier than to be her support, her rock of strength, her Warrior Princess. But I dared not confess my longings to her for fear she would think I was taking advantage of her weakened state. I selfishly bemoaned the day when she was well enough to walk on her own again. I put aside all temptations to confess and hid the truth of my hysteria.

I remember the moment she said no. No, she was not going to marry Perdicus. I was so relieved though I could barely suppress my excitement and then I said some stupid things. What I wanted to say is I hope you never marry anyone but me, but instead I heard myself say "seeing you happy will make me happy, and if that means settling down with Perdicus, you have my blessing". My voice nearly faltered on the name Perdicus because I never wanted to say that. I really didn't think she would change her mind and say yes. She had already told me her answer was no. Oh how I rue the moment I spoke those words.

Then I remember the moment she said yes. Yes, she was going to marry Perdicus. My heart thudded in my chest and stopped beating. Marry Perdicus? I thought she said no! Then I remembered my words about her being happy would make me happy and it could not have been more painful than if I had put my own dagger to my heart. I did not sleep the entire night. She slept like an angel.

The next to the last time I saw her seems like yesterday. She had flowers in her hair at the ceremony. She wore virginal white and I selfishly longed to be the one to deflower her maidenhood. I watched her kiss Perdicus to seal their fateful marriage and something screamed in me to stop him and stop her. She had a right to know she was my eternal love. But no, I watched as a voice, my voice, a seemingly disembodied voice, told her I would visit her everyday and that she would become sick of me. She protested no but I knew right then that I would never see her again. I could not bare to see her so happy with another even though I felt no ill will towards Perdicus.

I kissed her lightly almost on the mouth and almost on the cheek. I restrained myself from kissing her like I wanted to. I wanted to take her in my arms, sweep her off her feet and proclaim my eternal love. I wanted to denounce her marriage to him and take her away from that wretched ceremony. But I didn't. I stood there like a fool and kissed her lightly almost on the mouth and almost on the cheek. I hugged her gently and put on a brave face. A warrior's face. I heard my voice announce I was happy for her but I knew it was a bold-faced lie. She couldn't read through me so caught up in the ceremony was she and then I thought I saw a faint flicker of regret when I kissed her. I never found out what that flicker meant. I nearly cried as I stood and watched her walk out the door with Perdicus.

The last time I saw her a toddler clung to her apron. Her son. Perdicus' son. I was flattered they named him Lyceus. A new baby was on the way. It was painful but I steeled myself against it. She seemed happy to see me. I was ecstatic to see her. To hear her melodic voice. To see her cherubic smile light up her green eyes. I saw all that and my heart shattered into a million pieces. What had I given up? How could I ever find happiness again? She could not come with me and so I had to go. I kept Gabrielle in my heart but I never returned to Potadeia because my soul could not withstand the piercing pain.

A sword stabbed my side earlier today. Cowardly bandits. Many swords and arrows have pierced my side. Over time my body recognises the pain and now embraces it. So I rode in agony as I knew that I would not be healed alone in the forest. I knew there was a village a half day's journey and I spurred Argo on at increasing speed. I kept thoughts of Gabrielle close to my heart because I knew she was the only one that could keep a light near my soul. I finally arrived at the village. Argo steered me to the inn where I dismounted with great effort. The ground rose up to meet me and I fell helplessly as everything went black.



They told me a woman warrior was injured. They called me from outside. Gabrielle, they cried, it's Xena! Xena, my Warrior Princess, a name that had not passed my lips in many years even though a day does not go by that I don't think of her. Xena, where have you been all my life? I asked her silently. Why did you leave? Why did you never come back? I heard tales of her exploits over the years, mostly from road weary travellers. I was glad she kept her promise not to go back to the dark side of her soul in my absence.

They brought her in from the road and carried her body to a warm bed. A healer was summoned and bandages gathered. Another sword. Another wound. Another time. Never had my life been so exciting, so passionate, so close to the edge. For many years later, my stories were rich with the colours of my youth. People came to see the bard who once travelled with the Warrior Princess. Some didn't believe it and asked me where she was. I could never tell them, I could never tell them my Warrior Princess deserted me and left me to a tedious life of farming. A farming accident took Perdicus three years into our marriage and shortly thereafter our daughter, Xena, was born. I was left alone with two small children. I named my daughter Xena and my son Lyceus but Xena never came back to find out how I was or how our children were. I was bitter for many years, thinking of Solan and how easy it seemed for her to abandon him, her own son. The son she never told who his mother was.

I remember the next to the last time I saw her. It was the day of my fateful marriage to Perdicus. Yes, he was a good man but it was Xena who captured my heart. I waited for her to say something to stop events that reeled ahead at lightening speed. I wanted to scream wait, I love you, Xena! But she made no move to claim me, instead she let me go and promised she would visit so often I would be sick of her. She did not keep her word.

I saw her only once and that was agony. I wanted to go back on the road with her and leave my family behind. I would have given up everything if she had asked but she did not. Lyceus was just a toddler and I was with child with little Xena. Perdicus was still alive and he was gracious enough to allow us most of our time alone together. She stood tall and brave before me, her piercing blue eyes ignited my loins and melted my heart. My common sense prevailed despite her nearness. My heart shattered when she left two days later never to return again.

Someone once said, time heals all wounds, and so I clung to that thread and healed myself. Yes, Xena left me but I didn't exactly tell her how I felt about her. I'm the one who married Perdicus, I'm the one who left her. She probably found another more experienced, less naive travelling companion while I was to left to farm. Why did she never visit after the one time? I asked myself that until I nearly went insane. Then one day I realised I had to get on with my life. Xena wasn't coming back, Perdicus wasn't coming back and the babies needed me. I moved on.

Then Iris entered my life. Iris, who had a warrior's heart. She was much like Xena in her take charge ways. With her brave soul, she could have easily commanded an army but it wasn't in her spirit. The only thing she commanded was our craft shop and my heart. The way I wished Xena had so many years ago.

Iris was a travelling craftswoman who stopped in Potadeia and listened to my bardic tales. She too had heard of Xena, who hadn't, she asked. I didn't bother to ask her where Xena was. I didn't want to know. Fear tightened around my heart that she may be close by and hadn't come to visit. Iris charmed me and made me feel protected. She filled a large gaping hole in my heart that Xena left. In the short time Perdicus and I were together, nothing felt right. It wasn't until Iris appeared that some of the emptiness from Xena's absence made me begin to feel whole again.

Nevertheless, pages of Xena's life came back to me through travellers' tales. How she killed Callisto and her army. How she dumped an ambrosia bitten Amazon into a lava pit. How she crushed Gareth, the Giant who killed her friend Goliath. How she and Atalanta defeated the Sphinx by her own riddles. But as time marched on, the stories began to wane and I was not even sure if she was dead or alive. I supposed Xena's death would have made great news but I was not absolutely positive until today when they brought her prostate body into the inn. I waited for her to heal and then I would speak with her.



I laid in a soft bed and dreamed of Gabrielle. In the dream she wiped my sweaty brow and followed the cloth with a trail of kisses. How sweet those kisses were. I told her to be still, to lay beside me and hold me. I needed to feel her next to me, to know that she had not left my side. And then my eyes opened and it wasn't Gabrielle. It was a tall woman of warrior's strength that looked down at me. Where am I? I asked with great effort, my throat dry and parched from the fever. Phidias, she replied. You rest, don't worry, we will take care of you. Water, I croaked. She gave me water. Gabrielle, I thought, how gently she used to nurse me back to health even though I was the one who knew more about healer's ways. My Gabrielle healed me from her heart. Then the blackness washed over me once more.

My mind drifted to the night after Gabrielle's wedding when I discovered Callisto's encampment in a cave and seized her. I broke my promise to Gabrielle that I would not become a monster but my heart was so full of despair without her that I single-handedly killed every one of Callisto's men. Callisto, I kept alive. I dragged her off as my prisoner not quite sure what I would do with her. My thinking was clouded by my love's absence. I desperately wanted to fill the gaping hole in my heart. Callisto was there, so close, within striking distance of my anger. There was no one or anything that could come between us and so I took out all my helplessness on her. I imprisoned her securely against a tree and crushed my lips against her mouth. I ripped off her armour and her chainmail broke away violently in my strong manic hands. Then I had my way with her. She enjoyed it and compelled me to reach my dark side saying she knew I had it in me. And I did. She eagerly goaded me on and I obeyed her commands. I wanted to hurt her and she allowed it, even encouraged me. When I was through with her and my soul was momentarily satisfied, I let her go. However, she would not leave.

For weeks, perhaps months on end we kept each other company. She without her army and I without my beloved. I gave up fighting for the greater good. I only fought Callisto. Day after day we bickered, clashed swords and then made love. She liked it rough and I willingly complied. The gentle part of my hands and heart left me like Gabrielle as I fruitlessly tried to fill the vast emptiness inside. Finally I said enough. I had to get on with my life. I bid farewell to Callisto and never saw her again. Word came back to me years later that she was killed by a renegade band of Amazons.

Eventually, I made my way back to the Amazons. Ephiny welcomed me into their circle with open arms. She loved Gabrielle and sympathised with my plight. She was incredulous that I would not go back and claim my beloved bard but I refused and would not explain. She succumbed to my wishes and tried to take my mind off of her. She encouraged me to spend company with a few Amazons who were more than willing to please me. I spent my time with no one. I wandered aimlessly through the village in a daze.

One night I drifted back to Ephiny's tent. She understood my love and longing better than anyone save the Gods. She again told me to go back, to reclaim Gabrielle but again I refused. She held me and comforted me. She suggested that maybe Gabrielle had been waiting for me to stop the wedding. I told her no, Gabrielle wanted to get married. She wanted that life. I was convinced Gabrielle didn't want to continue travelling with an old battle scarred warrior like me. I felt much older then than I do now. Ephiny and I spent many a night in each other's arms. She knew my desolation like no other and eased its hold on me.



I wiped Xena's brow as the fever took its toll. The sword wound was infected and it would be days before she recovered. I watched her sleep. She seemed so at peace with her eyes closed even though the lines in her face betrayed a different story. I still regret that I did not profess my love for her. How could I have? It did not seem that she wanted me there. She did not claim me as her own. On the eve of my wedding, she was silent and brooding. At first, I tried to talk to her and make it seem as if everything would be fine. She did not answer and so I dropped it. I lay awake the rest of the night feigning sleep that would not overtake me.

I watched the rise and fall of her chest as her lungs breathed in air. After so many years, I was still mesmerised by the raven haired beauty. Her thick long tresses were streaked with grey. Her eyes were closed but I imagined her azure blue eyes were as piercing as ever. The blanket that covered her could not hide the outline of her still muscular figure. Over and over I chastised myself for not declaring my eternal love for her. Desire that had not been lessened by the intervening years seized my loins. I recalled the dreams and wishes I had then of ravishing her magnificent body.

I remembered when I rode atop Argo with my arms wrapped around Xena's waist. I clutched her firm stomach and revelled in the strength of my Warrior Princess. Occasionally, my hand would brush against her thigh and I marvelled at the incongruity of her hardened muscles and soft skin. I longed to soothe my face between those powerful thighs. I laid my weary cheek against her muscular back wishing that I never had to leave the comfort of my beloved. But then my body healed and I was well enough to walk unencumbered and I could not think of another excuse to cling to her back.

I remembered the time she made love to Marcus at our campfire. I pretended to be asleep and was ashamed that I could not resist listening to the sounds of Xena's pleasure. I cried myself to sleep yearning for it to be me she moaned for. Wanting it to be me who brought her to the height of her climax and back. It was never to be, we never made love. I never held her in my arms and kissed away her pain. I never heard her cry out my name in passion. With Iris now by my side, I don't see how it could ever be.

One day, a handsome Solan came to visit us in Potedeia. He was a blacksmith by trade but he had heard tell of a bard that once travelled with the Warrior Princess. He remembered when Xena and I visited him eons ago. He was big and strong, no doubt a great likeness to his parents' physical stature. I imagined he had his father's looks because he didn't look like Xena save his piercing blue eyes. They were hers, for sure. Seeing Xena in those eyes, I could not hold the truth from him. He repeatedly asked me questions I could not answer. They were all about his mother and Xena. He did not know they were one and the same but the pain in his life was clear. He needed to know the truth and I gave it to him.

When I told him, he seemed relieved as all the pieces of the puzzle slipped into their proper slots. For many years it had been a riddle he could not solve. He was angry to be sure, but when I explained the full story, the revelation that he would probably be dead now if Xena hadn't protected him from the truth and her enemies. He listened and then I couldn't get him to stop asking questions about the Warrior Princess. Mainly he wanted to know where she was. We all wanted to know that. That I couldn't tell him but he would never tire of me telling him Xena stories over and over again. He was like a sponge that soaked up all there was to know about the Warrior Princess through me. I gave him all that I had. He stayed with us for months and then he was gone, determined to live a prosperous future now that he had a solid past.

My own children have grown and left. Iris and I moved away from Potedeia and settled in Phidias nearly 2 years ago when Lyceus married a woman from there. There was nothing left to hold me to my home village. Both my parents were gone as was Lila, and little Xena travelled the countryside. She wanted to seek out adventure before settling down. I told her to go for she knew her mother did the very same thing in her youth.



I woke up and saw Gabrielle at my side. She wiped my brow and smiled at me. You've come back to me, she cried, her eyes flooded with tears. Was it a dream? I wondered, but Gabrielle seemed older and wisdom reflected back at me through her ageless green eyes. She was even more beautiful than my faded memory. She tenderly kissed my hands and pressed my hot palm against her cool cheek. You are safe, she said, you're going to be fine. A tall warrior woman Gabrielle called Iris put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Yes, she's going to be fine, she echoed. My Gabrielle then kissed my palm and reached closer to me until she hovered over my face and lightly brushed my lips with hers. She pressed more firmly and licked my lips as her tongue darted inside for a thorough search. I moaned aloud as her tongue made my body, from my toes to my fingertips, tingle with desire. I reached one hand behind her head and with the other I gathered her body close to me. Her soft curves moulded into my own form and the fever in my body competed with the smouldering blaze within my loins.

Chapter 2 - The Road Home

Xena awoke with a start, her eyes flew open and her heart palpitated erratically. She peered at the sleeping form across the glowing embers and saw the golden red hair flowing out of Gabrielle's bedroll. She sat up against a log and gazed into the stars as teasing bits of her dream flooded her waking mind. All she remembered was she had a fever and Gabrielle was lying on top of her, pressing her young supple body against her. They were kissing passionately and Xena's loins were on fire. Xena was now wide awake but the inferno between her legs had not diminished. It was rekindled with every snippet of the dream she remembered. Her mind turned over each fragment as if examining it for still new sensations. She could not recall why she had a fever in the dream or anything else about it, for that matter. She only saw and felt Gabrielle mould her soft curves into Xena's muscular body.

Then reality set in. Callisto was on the loose out there somewhere. And oh yes, Perdicus, how could she forget? Xena wondered sardonically. The wedding was planned for tomorrow in Phidias, a nearby village. This was going to be Xena and Gabrielle's last night together but earlier that night at the campfire, Xena had barely put two words together. Gabrielle tried to reassure her that everything would be fine, but Xena knew that wasn't true. So she retreated into a brooding silence. Gabrielle surrendered to the false tranquillity.

Xena gathered up her bedroll and laid it out beside Gabrielle. She sat cross-legged on the blanket and hesitated before shaking Gabrielle's shoulder.

"Gabrielle, wake up," she whispered softly.

Gabrielle turned and shifted onto her back.

"I'm awake, Xena. I couldn't fall asleep,"

Xena was confused and puzzled. Gabrielle always slept like an unmoving log no matter what the circumstances. She was afraid of what she was about to say but she considered the alternative, a life without Gabrielle. She only hoped that Gabrielle wouldn't pity her.

"Gabrielle, we have to talk."

The bard simply nodded.

"Gabrielle, do you remember when you were injured at the temple in Thessaly?"

"How could I forget? I nearly died."

"You didn't 'nearly' die. You were," Xena's voice caught in her throat as she shuddered at the memory of how hysterical and out of control she was on that day. She swallowed hard and continued. "You were actually dead. Your heart stopped beating and you stopped breathing. I thought I'd lost you forever."

Gabrielle sat up hanging on Xena's every word. It was on the rare occasion that Xena spilled her emotions in this way.

Xena took Gabrielle's hand in her own. "I never told you this but, on that day I lost control. I became a wild woman and beat your chest to make you breathe. The thought of you leaving me was unimaginable. I knew I couldn't go on without you." She stopped again as anxiety clenched at her heart.

"Xena, I...." Gabrielle started.

"Shhh, let me finish." Xena put her forefinger to her lips to silence the young bard. If she didn't she would never be able to get out all that she wanted to say before it was too late. She withdrew her hand and took in a deep breath. She tried to compose her nerves and give herself more courage than she'd ever needed on any battlefield in her entire warrior life. How could she say it without making it sound like blackmail? How could she say it without making it sound like a egotistical demand? How could she say it without gaining Gabrielle's pity? She did not want Gabrielle to stay with her out of pity. That would be the worst.

"Gabrielle, I don't want you to marry him," she blurted out not even wanting to say the man's name.

"Xena!"

"I want you to stay with me. I....I wouldn't be able to go on without you. I couldn't do it back then at the temple and I don't want to do it now." A flood of tears blocked her throat. Xena brusquely got up from the blanket and ran blindly into the forest.

Gabrielle called after her, "Xena, I won't.....I love you!"

Xena could not hear as she was too overwhelmed by her emotional outburst.



Xena sat at another tree deep in the forest. She stared into the black night and listened to the surrounding nocturnal creatures. She had run away from Gabrielle and the chaos of her emotions. She hadn't wanted Gabrielle to see her so defenceless and vulnerable. How could she go back and face her? But she had to. She had vowed to herself a long time ago that she would never willingly hurt the younger woman. She would go back and put on her warrior face and stand with her at the wedding ceremony despite her aching soul. She would do it for Gabrielle. Eventually she quelled her trepidation and steeled herself against the inevitable. Then Xena rose to return to the campfire.

As she quietly made her way through the thick forest, she laughed at herself for being so upset that she ran into the woods with nothing on but her shift. Even her feet were bare. She was always astonished at how much Gabrielle could get under her skin. Her heart softened as an image of Gabrielle's beautiful smile flashed before her. Suddenly, she remembered Gabrielle's words that rang out within shouting distance of her trek into the forest.

The words, "Xena, I won't.....I love you!" echoed in her brain. What did she mean? 'I won't'! Won't what? She's not going to marry Perdicus? There was no questioning the intent in her last words, 'I love you'. Xena hurried back to the campfire.



As Xena approached the campfire, she slowed her pace. She didn't want to alarm the bard in case she was sleeping but she had a strong feeling she was not. She took a deep breath and regained her composure so that she would not appear over-anxious just in case her hearing had been distorted by wishful memory.

Gabrielle laid exactly where Xena left her. She had the blanket covered to her neck but she was not asleep. She patted the bedroll next to her.

"Xena, it's okay. Come on, lay down." she suggested.

Xena sat down. "I'm not really tired, you go on and sleep."

"I'm not tired either, but you can at least rest your muscles even if your eyes stay open, can't you? Come on, lay back." she encouraged. Xena complied.

Xena turned her head towards Gabrielle and started to speak, "Gabrielle, I'm sor-----"

Suddenly, the bard's mouth smothered the words Xena was about to say. Moments later she flicked her tongue over Xena's lips inviting her to open her mouth. Once open, she darted her tongue inside seeking out the warm wet orifice. Xena moaned beneath her and her hands instinctively reached over to draw Gabrielle closer to her. She tossed off the blanket and gasped when she realised the bard was completely naked underneath. Her callused warrior hands freely roamed over Gabrielle's soft pliant skin until Xena thought she would go mad with longing.

Gabrielle trailed her wet tongue down the side of Xena's neck igniting little fires along the way as each new cell awakened to Gabrielle's caresses. Her wandering hand found its way under Xena's tunic, and grasped the side of the older woman's torso. She inched her hand upward and gently squeezed Xena's ample breast. She rolled the hardened nipple between her fingers elicting a passionate sigh from Xena's throat.

"Gabrielle," she panted. "What about Perdicus?"

"Please, Xena," she whispered, her voice husky with desire. "I want to stay with you,"

Xena reached behind Gabrielle's neck and guided the bard's mouth back to her own. Gabrielle steered Xena's hand between her legs and Xena marvelled at the sopping wetness. Her own centre dampened her undergarments and she desperately wanted to remove the material that separated them. She rolled Gabrielle onto her back and straddled her thighs. As she removed her tunic and undergarments, she admired the radiant beauty that was her beloved bard. No daydream or fantasy had ever prepared her for this.

Gabrielle's eyes were shiny with lust as Xena planted feathery kisses on the bard's face. Her elbows supported her as she parted Gabrielle's legs with one strong thigh. She followed the hollow of Gabrielle's neck and licked the sweaty sheen to her collarbone. Her mouth continued along the bard's shoulders twirling a random pattern that led to her breasts. The warrior cupped the delicate flesh and raised it to her lips. She sucked on the delicious nipple as Gabrielle cried out. The bard arched her torso as she responded to Xena's expert ministrations. A heady wave of fire embraced Xena's loins as she thoroughly enjoyed the effect she was having on the younger woman. She continued her assault on the bard's other breast as Gabrielle wove her hands through Xena's jet black tresses urging her on. Finally, Xena's mouth moved on in search of new flesh to conquer.

Xena's lips roamed to the bard's navel, her thick black hair trailing behind her. She darted her tongue inside the tiny crevice before exploring the fine downy hairs of Gabrielle's red triangle. She manoeuvred her shoulders under Gabrielle's legs so that her head was enveloped by the bard's smooth pliant thighs. She inhaled the musky aroma of the bard's arousal and pushed back the soaked hairs with her tongue, savouring the honey sweet taste. She moaned loudly into the slick opening anticipating the pleasure they would soon enjoy.

Xena's tongue explored the satiny folds of Gabrielle's steaming centre. She devoured the sweet elixir intent on seeking out every nook and cranny of the luxuriant flower. Her tongue stretched to impossible new depths as Gabrielle's hands pressed Xena's face closer to her. The redhead's body moved to and fro as she desperately tried to keep up with Xena's insistent rhythm. Her breathing was ragged and laboured. Then Xena's mouth closed over the bard's engorged clit and her tongue flattened out against the little nub.

"Xena!" Gabrielle gasped as her back involuntarily arched, raising her body up off the ground. Xena's mouth stayed with her not letting go of the steady rhythm. Her tongue flicked faster and harder against Gabrielle's central core until the bard could not hold back the rolling tidal wave that washed over her. She rode the wave until Xena brought her back to the calm side of the shoreline.

Xena kissed her way back up to Gabrielle's neck and whispered, "I love you, Gabrielle."

"I love you too, Xena," Gabrielle answered, her breathing steadily returning to normal. "Please, just hold me."

Xena wrapped an arm and a leg across Gabrielle and breathed in the luscious fragrance of the gentle bard. Gabrielle stroked her hand along the slope of Xena's back down to the protruding curve of her buttocks. She gently massaged the firm muscles and followed the curve further down the back of Xena's supple thigh. Her other hand played with the strands of Xena's long hair.

Gently, Gabrielle rolled Xena onto her back. Xena spread her legs as Gabrielle's hand sought out the drenched mound and massaged her slick vulva. Xena moaned pleasurably as the bard's fingers played a sensuous dance on her nether lips. Gabrielle's fingers pulled away and she placed Xena's hand where hers had been just moments before.

"Xena, let me watch you." she whispered. Xena opened her eyes to see Gabrielle gazing at her. The bard's hand pressed over Xena's as she urged the warrior to massage her wet centre. "You do it," she said. "Please?"

Xena groaned as every nerve fibre in her being convulsed with a hunger she'd never known before. She reached up to claim Gabrielle's mouth with her own as her hand replaced the bard's between her legs.

The younger woman broke off the kiss. "Let me watch," she murmured.

Xena rubbed her fingers against her flooded centre as she watched Gabrielle's shiny emerald eyes glaze over in renewed lust. Xena felt the bard's hand lightly massage her breast spurring the warrior on to greater heights of ecstasy. For the moment, she avoided contact with her sensitive bud so overwhelmed was she by the tingling sensations coursing through her body. Gabrielle's fingers found their way to a taut nipple and she pinched it gently intensifying the wave of passion between Xena's legs.

"Oh Gabrielle!" Xena screamed. She could deny herself no longer. Her fingers quickly found their way to her clitoris and she steadily increased the pressure against herself. As the familiar onslaught of orgasm approached, Xena panted, "Gabrielle, squeeze it harder, please," The younger woman obeyed, squeezing the taut nipple harder and followed Xena's wildly bucking body until the warrior arched her back one last time. Xena's breasts were smothered with Gabrielle's kisses as she tried to inhale much needed air into her lungs. Her body was one long open ended nerve. She gathered Gabrielle into her arms and held the smaller woman tightly against her chest.

After several moments of contented sighing, Gabrielle broke the silence.

"Xena, I love you so much. I never want to leave your arms again."

"Oh don't worry, Gabrielle. You are never going to leave me ever again."

"Hey! Is that a threat or a promise?"

"Both!" Xena laughed.

Gabrielle giggled. "Well promise me this, Warrior Princess. If I ever so much as think about flirting with somebody else, sweep me off my feet and drag me away!"

"I promise," Xena smiled. She kissed the top of Gabrielle's head. "I promise you this as well. I never want it to be this hard between us again. I almost let you marry Perdicus because I was afraid to tell you how I feel. I don't want something like that to happen again."

"I didn't exactly let you know how I felt either, Xena. But I promise I will too." Gabrielle's face broke into a wide grin. "Cause you're stuck with me now, Warrior Princess." She smothered Xena's mouth with another passionate kiss.

Epilogue

The sun beat hotly on Xena's face. Gabrielle slept contentedly on her shoulder, her naked body still clinging to the warrior's own. Thank the Gods, it wasn't a dream, Xena smiled to herself. She played with the loose strands of Gabrielle's soft golden-red hair and thanked her lucky stars for her great fortune. Gabrielle didn't hate her, she didn't pity her but most importantly, she wasn't going to marry Perdicus. She shuddered once more thinking of all she could have lost. She quickly pushed that thought aside when her hand roamed freely down the curves of Gabrielle's back.

"Gabrielle," she whispered. "Time to get up, sweetie." Gabrielle didn't budge. Xena grinned at the amazing ability the bard had to sleep through just about anything.

She carefully rolled the slumbering woman onto her back and sought out the bard's full lips. She kissed the younger woman aggressively, slipping her tongue inside. Gabrielle moaned quietly and ardently kissed back the older woman, her body moving suggestively against the warrior.

Xena pulled away, "I was wondering what it would take to wake you up," she beamed.

"Hey, what did I miss?"

"Let's just say, we had a great time," Xena teased. She began to stand up. Gabrielle grabbed her by the waist.

"You mean we....?" Gabrielle shook her head. "No...I would've woke up for that!" her brilliant green eyes lit up. "Why don't we keep going? I'm wide awake now," she smiled shyly.

"You know I'd really love to," Xena's raven hair hung down from her face as she planted another kiss on Gabrielle's mouth. "But we can't. We have to get going. There's a lot we have to do today."

They both got up to get dressed knowing full well what was ahead.



Xena and Gabrielle packed all their things and were about to embark on their journey.

Gabrielle hesitated.

"Can I ride on Argo with you, Xena?" the warrior stared down at the bard in amazement. She'd never wanted to ride the tall horse before unless it was absolutely necessary.

"Sure, are you feeling okay? I mean you never----"

Gabrielle motioned Xena close to her so she could speak directly in her ear. Xena leaned down. "It's just that I can't keep my hands off you, do you mind?" Gabrielle giggled. Xena raised an eyebrow and barely managed to stifle a smirk.

"Sure, hop up," Xena hoisted the smaller woman behind her atop Argo. Gabrielle clutched the warrior's firm stomach and the bard's soft breasts pressed against Xena's back making her weak with renewed desire. The bard rested her head securely against the back of Xena's shoulder.

"Hmm, your hair smells great," Gabrielle said.

Xena shook her head, "Gabrielle, you're distracting me enough."

"I am?" she feigned innocence.

Xena glanced back and rolled her eyes, "You know, by getting me so worked up, you are going to pay for this later."

"I'm counting on it," the bard laughed.

"Well, let's go find Perdicus, deal with Callisto and then I will have my way with you," she said as a warrior, a bard, and a horse happily rode away to close a chapter on their latest adventure.


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