DISCLAIMER: Standard disclaimers apply. Don't own the people depicted. Not trying to make dinars. Don't want trouble, just a little romance.

Feedback is welcome. (Meanies keep out!) send mail to: Zzelami@aol.com

84,858 text characters
18,091 words
1,607 lines
747 paragraphs
37 pages
5 months work (yes, I write very slowly...)
2 hearts
1 story


by Zzelami

Xena walked into the tavern, immediately scanning the crowd for danger and for the red hair that always caused her heart to begin pounding in her ears. Sometimes she found both at the same time. And often, it was Gabrielle speaking quickly and gesturing emphatically, standing between two looming hulks trying to tear each others throats out. And just as often, when the bard removed herself from between the hulks, it was so they could shake hands and laugh at themselves.
Other times the danger was not so agreeable to a rapid dissolution. Many a time the bard and warrior calmly walked out with tables flying overhead as men began macho displays, thinking to impress a special lady, or wanting revenge for a neighbor's escaped one-horned bull who impregnated a prize cow. Zeus knows, Xena was not one to back down from a fight, but she was also smart enough to know when not to get involved in the personal problems of people she did not know. It was a matter of choosing what to fight for.
Then there were the times when a warlord's soldiers came to town, bullying and berating the townsfolk and needed to be taught a lesson or two which she relished doing.
But none of that was the case today. Today there was peace and quiet.
And most of all, there was Gabrielle sitting peacefully, beautifully alone in the middle of the tavern, elbow on the table, head resting in her hand, small concentration lines etched deep into her face, staring at three mugs that sat scattered on the brew doused table top.
With a brief stop at the bar for an ale (and to give her heart time to get its beating under control) Xena was almost on top of the bard before Gabrielle looked up and noticed her walking toward the table.
"Xena!" Gabrielle jumped up and hugged the warrior. "You made it! And it's still early!"
She returned the hug awkwardly, but happily. "Of course I made it. I told you I would, didn't I?"
"Yeah, but I thought your business with that king would take longer."
"It was just a little consulting, Gabrielle. That's why I left you here. Boring stuff. Palace security issues, strengthening his defenses and the like. I knew his kingdom was in fairly good shape already, so there wouldn't be much I could tell him. Therefore, it wouldn't take long at all. And it is dangerous territory," the warrior smiled as she sat gratefully. "So did you get a chance to squander some hard earned money?"
"Yes, I did. But at midday, I came back here to get some lunch and you'll never believe who I ran in to. Hercules and Iolus! So I sat with them and we talked and they drank. They'd already had a few before I got here and I gotta tell you, they're both pretty funny when they're drunk! It's a shame you missed them."
"Yes, it is," Xena smiled affectionately. "I've seen them drunk before. They're like a comedy team when they really get going."
Gabrielle leaned close and whispered "You know what Herc told me?"
"Something silly and completely forgettable, I'm sure."
"It was about you..."
"Oh? What did he say?"
"Naw. Nevermind. Just something silly. Completely forgettable, I'm afraid," she teased.
The warrior's eyes narrowed. "Spill it, Gabrielle."
A smile broke across her face. "He said you kissed better than anyone he has ever kissed. That's when Iolus started choking. He had been swallowing when Hercules said that. When he could finally talk, he agreed."
Xena smiled.
"What? No comment?"
"I have many skills, Gabrielle."
"Well, that's one I'd like to have, myself."
The thought came to mind that she would love to teach the bard that particular skill.
"So tell me, Xena. How do you do it?"
"How did you get to be a great kisser?"
"It's a learned process. Although a bit of natural talent comes in very handy."
"So teach me!"
"Teach you?" she asked incredulously.
"Tell me what do you do that makes you such a great kisser."
The warrior grinned widely. "That's not something that can be described, Gabrielle. It needs to be experienced."
"OK. Then kiss me."
"I want to be a great kisser. And you seem to have that talent, so if you have to kiss me to teach me, so be it. Then if I ever have someone to kiss, I can sweep them off their feet. So kiss me."
Xena felt sure that her heart stopped. Either that, or it was pounding so fast she could not distinguish the beats. A single droplet of sweat began to trickle down her back. Attempting to speak serenely, a slight waver infected her voice, betraying her calm. "Gabrielle, I am not going to sit in the middle of this tavern and kiss you."
"Then let's get out of here," she said as she stood. Grabbing her staff, she turned to leave when she realized Xena had not moved from her seat.
"Are you coming?"
'Not yet, but if I kiss you...' the warrior thought wryly as she stared hard at the table.
"Xena! Are you listening to me?"
"Sorry. Yeah, I'm listening, but I just got here and just got something to drink. Can I at least enjoy it before we go running off?"
Besides, I don't think my legs will hold me up at the moment.
"Fine," Gabrielle muttered, plopping back into the chair. "Then I might as well join you."
She caught the attention of the barmaid and ordered herself another ale. Then sat quietly staring into her mug.
Unaccustomed to fighting her emotions, Xena clenched and unclenched her jaw, desperate for control. Normally, if she did not want to deal with something, she quashed it effortlessly. But the mere thought of her dreams becoming reality, her lips tasting those of the woman whose face both haunted and comforted her dreams set her nerves vibrating so intensely she was afraid she would be jarred right out of her chair.
Gabrielle, on the other hand, could only wonder how she had gotten to the point of almost daring Xena to kiss her. Now that she had done it, it astonished her that she had never thought of it before! Even if Xena was not particularly anxious or thrilled about kissing her, this was an opportunity the bard would not let pass. The feel of the warrior's lips haunted her dreams. Even though Xena had been in Autolycus' body, it was the warrior's lips she had felt on her own. She knew the moment Xena's spirit had left and Autolycus took over. The embrace changed. The feel of the lips changed. The fire of the kiss abruptly died. And now here was a chance to have it happen again, to get that fire back. A chance she would not relinquish. The need had suddenly become too great.
She took a long swallow from her mug. "So are you going to teach me?" she asked again.
"Don't do this Gabrielle," came the semi-gruff warning.
But the bard was undeterred. "Whassamatter? Sscared?" she said, slurring just a tiny bit.
"Scared? Of course not! I... I... I... I just don't think..."
"I don't believe this! The great and mighty Xena:Warrior Princess, scared of a little kiss, chickening out."
"Chickening out?" she said, danger tinting her voice.
"Bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk," Gabrielle clucked, her eyes boring into Xena's.
"Gabrielle," she smiled wickedly.
"Come on, Xena, I dare y..."
"DON'T make this a dare," the warrior purred, cutting her off. "You know I don't like to lose."
Gabrielle lifted her mug and drained the remaining contents. "You're a big chicken, Warrior Princess," she stated, slamming the empty mug onto the table for emphasis.
Xena eyed her steadily. 'Yup, she's a bit tipsy. Maybe if I get her one more drink it will be enough to make her forget about this. Or at least get her to the point where she won't pursue it anymore.'
The warrior raised her mug and drained it also, slamming it onto the table next to the bard's. "Barmaid!" Xena called, eyes locked with Gabrielle's. "Two more, please."
"Make that one!" the bard called to the barmaid, eyes locked with the warrior's. And to Xena she said, "I don't need another. Besides, I don't want to be tipsy for this."
"Bring two!" Xena ordered the barmaid.
The woman stopped, hands on her hips and glared at the pair. "Well? What am I supposed to do?" she snarled.
"Two," Xena said softly, smiling her most winning smile at the serving woman. "I'm terribly sorry for the confusion. My friend and I always seem to be at odds. It's just a game we play. We weren't trying to be difficult."
The barmaid, immediately disarmed, smiled back an apology. "Certainly. Sorry for snapping," she murmured as she scooted off to the bar.
"How do you do that?" Gabrielle asked.
"Do what?"
"Charm people so easily? And get your way?"
"I got my way because you know that we are not going to settle this... this... discussion... until later. And I charm people because," she smiled seductively, "I'm just a charming kind of gal."
And with motion almost faster than Gabrielle could see, Xena pulled out her breast dagger and hurled it across the room, pinning the sleeve of a thief to the wall behind the money box he was about to steal.
"See?" she smiled sweetly. "I could have killed him, but I'm too charming."
Gabrielle just shook her head, laughed and watched the flurry of activity as the thief was hauled away.
The barmaid returned with their drinks and Xena's dagger. "Thanks for stopping that guy," she cooed to Xena. "These are on the house. Along with anything else you might want. You just saved my boss from losing all of yesterday's sales!"
Xena smiled, nodded her thanks and the woman swished away, smiling over her shoulder at the warrior.
"Whatever it is, you've definitely got it," Gabrielle mumbled as she took a good long pull from the full mug.
"Nothing, nothing," the bard sighed.
Xena sat with a self-satisfied smile, long legs stretched under the table, all muscles, bronze, leather and blazing blue eyes. Gabrielle felt dizzy from the sight.
Screwing up her courage, the bard stared at her friend and stated, "Let's discuss the conditions of this little dare."
"Dare? What dare?"
"Oh, how soon we forget! Let me put it this way. I believe you owe me a kiss."
"You're drunk."
"I certainly most not am drunk." She stopped, knowing she said something wrong, but could not figure out what it was, so continued. "I'm just a little loose. And I do not plan to lose this dare." She stopped, a look of concentration covering her face. "You know, if I was writing this down, I would be very confused right now."
"And why is that, Gabrielle?"
"Lose. The word lose. I always get confused on the spelling of that. Is it L-O-O-S-E or L-O-S-E? You know what else confuses me? Lay & lie. When do you use which one? I got a metal block about those."
"Mental block."
"Hmmm?" she asked taking another sip.
"Mennntal block, not metal block."
"Mental? Well no wonder that expression never made any sense! I always thought it was METAL!"
Xena chuckled. "Are you sure you're not drunk?"
"Well, maybe just a little," she chuckled. "So do you know about lying and laying?"
Xena's smile shone. "A bit, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle began laughing as she realized the innuendo of her question. "That laying thing has got to have a big tie into you being a great kisser," she said, collapsing into a fit of hysterics.
"Oh, that's it! You must be drunk to get such a kick out of that," Xena chuckled. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
"Wait, wait, wait," she cried composing herself. "So about that dare...."
"Well," she swallowed, suddenly feeling quite sober. "Are you going to go through with it?"
"Do you think you're up for it?"
Had she answered the question the way her body wanted to, Xena would have been sprawled on the table with the bard on top of her being kissed thoroughly. But Gabrielle could only reply, "Yup. I'm up for it."
Softly, Xena asked, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Either kiss me or admit defeat," the bard charged with false bravado.
"I never admit defeat," she said.
Gabrielle just smiled.
Xena hesitated. "Let's talk about it first, Gabrielle."
"OK. Talk. But you are not going to get out of it unless you admit defeat."
"It is not my intention to get out of it," Xena smirked. "There's just a few things I need to make clear."
"Go for it, Xena. I'm all ears."
'And such lovely ears they are,' Xena thought. 'Perhaps soon I will have my lips... STOP IT!' she scolded herself. 'Or you'll never live through this.'
Clearing her throat and her head, she began. "First of all, a good kiss involves much more than lips meeting."
"Well, yeah. I would think tongues would have something to do with it, too."
"But it's more than that Gabrielle. Physically, it's a 'whole body' thing. But an important part is metal also."
"You mean mental," she smiled.
"Nevermind. Go ahead."
"Close your eyes," Xena ordered. As soon as the bard had complied, Xena reached over with one finger and seductively trailed a gentle path down the bard's arm causing her friend to shiver slightly. "OK, open your eyes. What did I just do?"
Gabrielle opened her eyes and smiled, a little confused. "You touched my arm."
"Which hand did I use? Left or right?"
"How am I supposed to know that?"
"Exactly. You don't."
She smiled enticingly. "But if you continued touching me, I would be able to figure out which hand it was."
"Sure you would. But your instinct is to enjoy the touch and not be concerned about which hand delivers it."
"Ummhmm," she nodded, confused and wishing she knew what the exasperating warrior was getting at.
"Now you realize, if you closed your eyes again and I brought someone over here to touch your arm, you wouldn't even know if it was a woman or a man, right?"
'I'm catching on,' she thought, smiling devilishly. "Right."
"Or if I brought someone over here and they kissed you, you wouldn't immediately know if it was a woman or a man, right?"
"So drop any conceptions you have about the sex of your partner. Make that irrelevant in your mind."
"OK," the bard said easily, glad that she didn't need to worry about such things anyway.
"Fine. Next." She took a deep breath. "For it to be any good whatsoever, there has to be some degree of sexual tension or attraction between the participants."
"Sexual attraction. Check," Gabrielle said factually while she felt her stomach go into a tight tuck and then flip.
Xena's eyebrow shot up. Now did she mean 'check, as in there *is* sexual attraction or 'check, as in I understand there is supposed to be sexual attraction.'
"What else?" the bard asked.
"Willingness. Check." Double flip.
Gabrielle smiled. "Anything else?"
"Both parties have to participate actively. One person can't just lie there like a rag doll. It's a two way thing."
"Participation. Check. More?" Please more.
"I mentioned it is a whole body thing, right? That means...
"That means you use your whole body. Hands, legs, whatever. I get it Xena," Gabrielle chuckled. "Are you trying to stall?"
"No! I just need you to understand everything. I don't want to do anything that would scare you or let you down in case this doesn't live up to your expectations."
The bard's mind reeled. 'You are going to press your lips against mine,' she thought. 'The reality of that alone far exceeds my wildest expectations. And it just might cause me to faint when that happens!'
"OK, OK." she said apprehensively. "Let's just this get started."
"Gabrielle," the warrior said softly with a lazy smile. "We already have."
"You're not making sense, Xena," she said, but at the same time, she felt a jolt of desire ripple through her body because of the warrior's words. "Now is there anything else I need to know?"
"Well, there are the actions that bring to mind other actions."
"Care to explain that?"
"When you kiss a guy, you can treat his tongue, well... you can... you can...." she took a deep breath and continued. "His tongue can be like his penis. The way you caress it with your tongue causes him to think about...."
"Oral sex. Got it. OK, so we lose out on that part."
"No, not really," she said, seduction coloring her tone.
Gabrielle squinted at her in question.
"On a woman, there's this, right here." Leaning forward, Xena reached across the tiny table and placed the tip of her finger on Gabrielle's top lip at the spot directly under her nose. "See how this part of your lip sticks out a little?"
The bard swallowed hard and nodded, eyes wide, barely moving her head.
"This is suggestive of the most extremely sensitive part of a woman's anatomy. The feminine equivalent of the penis. The clitoris." Xena continued, lightly brushing her finger tip across the soft nub of Gabrielle's lip. Her voice dropped slightly, each word pronounced clear and low. "And caressing it with your tongue or sucking on it or devoting any kind of exclusive attention to it should be interpreted as a promise... of things... to come."
Gabrielle swallowed stiffly and closed her eyes. The image that burst across her conscious, (Xena's eyes flashing at her like blue lightning as she lowered her head between the bard's thighs,) stole her breath and caused her body to flush with heat.
She opened them to an unwavering mischievous stare.
"That's quite an image," Gabrielle stuttered.
A smile curled a corner of Xena's mouth. "Quite a feeling, too."
Silence stretched comfortably between them, as each allowed their mind's eye to entice and excite them. When they looked up, both were smiling.
"Well?" Gabrielle asked.
The eyebrow leaped.
"Are we on? Are you going to, umm... teach me?"
"Gabrielle," she said softly, "Do you really want to do this? With me?"
The reply came swift and definite.
Xena looked away, seemingly unsure. She suddenly found a bare tavern wall of utmost concern and appeared to study it intently for a long moment. Resolving the dilemma, she turned decisively back to the bard.
"If we are going to do this, I want to do it right."
Gabrielle looked at her, knowing she would explain herself when ready.
Xena reached over and took the bard's hand. "Gabrielle?" she asked gently. "Would you go out with me tonight?"
Gripping the warrior's hand, a confused look played across her features. "What do you mean, Xena?"
Xena's eyes smiled. "I'm asking you for a date, Gabrielle." She chuckled embarrassedly as she continued. "I know it's short notice, but if you're not busy tonight..."
"A date?" the bard questioned, unbelieving.
"Yes. A date."
"Xena, are you playing with me?" she asked seriously.
"No, Gabrielle," she smiled. "I just want you..." She placed a second hand around the bard's and spoke quietly yet earnestly. "There is so much more to a kiss than just the kiss. It's... the emotion, the surroundings, it's... it's... everything that has lead up to that moment." She took a deep breath before she finished. "I want to give you all of that. You deserve at least that much, Gabrielle," she said shyly.
The bard shook her head in amazement. This woman melted her heart so effortlessly, like a scrape of wax tossed into a raging inferno. It was no surprise how in love she was.
"Will you go out with me?" she asked again.
The bard's eyes shone. "I would be pleased," she smiled.
With a large grin, Xena released a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Grabbing the small pouch that had been hanging from her chakram clip, she dumped some of its coins on the table.
"That king paid me well," Xena replied before Gabrielle could ask where the money came from. She thought for a moment, her face tightening in concentration. "You do still have the room you stayed in last night, right?"
The bard nodded yes.
"OK, then. Here," she said, pushing some coins towards the bard. "Go shopping, take a nap, get a bath, do whatever you want. Just meet me back here in three hours. Is that OK?"
"Three? I think I have to give up the room in two hours or pay for another night."
"Humph," she muttered, stroking her chin in thought. "Alright. Two hours. But if I'm late...." She looked up into playful, excited eyes and sighed. "I'll be here on time. I promise."
"Well I would hope so. After all, I don't expect my date to keep me waiting," the bard said mischievously. "But where are you..."
"I have some things to take care of," she said. "And not much time to do it," she mumbled as she stood.


Gabrielle's bath had been steaming hot, exactly as she had ordered. It was almost a surprise, considering how long it had taken her to run through the market in a frantic search for lavender oil to add to the bath water that awaited her. She adored the way the oil left her skin so silky for days and loved the way it smelled different on her than on anyone else. Something in her body chemistry reacted with the oil and the scent transformed, losing the heady floral properties normally associated with it and gaining a subtle earthy character unique to her. And, she reluctantly admitted to herself, the fact that Xena had once casually remarked, "Hey, you smell really nice" after such a bath, had more than a little to do with the desperate search.
She sat soaking, leaning forward, arms around her knees, her mind beginning to wander, creating a scenario that could become this 'date.'
Xena would meet her in the tavern downstairs, they would have a beautiful dinner, perhaps in a corner, away from the rest of the crowd, then maybe go for a walk ending up far outside of town near a lake. With the bright moonlight reflecting beautifully off the lake's surface, because there is going to be a full moon tonight, Xena would stop and turn to her, blue eyes blazing, take her into those strong arms and lean towards her.
"Gabrielle," she would murmur, blue eyes blazing. "Kiss me."
No, wait. That's not right.
"Gabrielle, you smell so wonderful," she would say. Then Xena would pull her closer, blue eyes blazing. "Kiss me."
No, no, no. She wouldn't say that. She'd just do it. Back up a bit. Let's get this right.
They stood in a small clearing in the woods, near the lake, Gabrielle talking about the beautiful full moon that shone overhead, Xena listening, a gentle smile playing on her face.
Walking towards the bard, Xena said, "Gabrielle, I agree the moon is splendid tonight, but its radiance is nothing compared to you."
Yeah. That's good.
Gently, Xena's hands rose, coming to rest on Gabrielle's biceps. "Look at me, Gabrielle," she said softly. "Really look at me. Can't you see how I feel about you? Can't you see that I would do anything for you? I came back from Tartarus for you. Only for you. I love you."
Then slowly, ever so slowly, blue eyes blazing, she leaned down, her lips softly claiming the bard's. Gabrielle's world began to spin as Xena's arms enfolded her, drawing her in, the kiss becoming more demanding. Her own mouth opened to the warrior's explorations, filling her, taking her higher, causing the water to splash around her.
Leaning back onto a convenient tree trunk, Gabrielle felt Xena's hands begin to wander over her body. Allowing the warm soothing water to caress her as she stretched out, she closed her eyes, her hands following Xena's lower, toward the demanding ache that seemed to permanently exist between her thighs.
Breaking the kiss, Xena stepped back, a primitive smile of lust on her face. She swept Gabrielle into her arms, carrying her as easily as if she were floating. Bedrolls appeared next to a roaring fire and Xena gently laid her down, covering the bard's body with her own.
Barely decipherable whispered words of passion fell from the warrior's mouth as kisses rained down upon her neck, her shoulders, her chest, all taking Gabrielle higher, forcing her breath to become heavier, forcing her hand to move faster and water to slop over the sides of the small tub.
Blue fire seared into green hunger as Xena lifted her head to capture the bard's lips again, her tongue dictating a surrender which Gabrielle eagerly offered.
She climaxed as her imagination brought Xena's teasing tongue to the nub of her upper lip, sucking hard, her fingers driving deep inside, water dousing the floor.

The bard drifted comfortably to sleep in the small tub, blazing blue eyes accompanying her into Morpheus' embrace, waking an hour or so later when the water began to chill her.
As she dressed she realized it was almost time to meet her date and she could not help but dream again about the moment the warrior's lips would touch hers. And each time she made the image clear in her mind, tremors rushed through her body making her knees weak and her breath catch.
"Gods, Gabrielle! Get a grip on yourself!" she said, then let the rush overtake her once again. "If I don't get this under control, I'm going to be acting like a love struck puppy!"
The release she gave herself in the bath did nothing to satisfy her mounting urgency. If anything, it acted as a stimulant, intensifying her want, sharpening her desire. She only hoped she could control herself enough so as not to attack her warrior the moment she came into view.
She checked herself in the mirror one last time, straightened her skirt, pushed a stray hair behind her ear, took a deep breath and left the room. At the top of the steps, she scanned the tavern below for the dark hair that always caused her heart to begin pounding in her ears. It was with minor relief that she realized the warrior was not yet present. At least she would be able to get down the steps without tripping over her nerves.
Xena stood outside the tavern, checked herself one last time, straightened her leathers, pushed a stray hair behind her ear, took a deep breath and entered the room. Once inside she scanned the small crowd for the red hair that always caused her heart to begin pounding in her ears. And there, just reaching the last step of the staircase, was the sight that always took her breath away. Hair shining, skin glowing, an unsure smile on her face, Gabrielle stopped at the bottom step looking around. Then spotted Xena.
The bard thought she would be blinded by the afternoon sunlight streaming through the window and bouncing off the highly polished bronze of the warrior's breast plate. Fragmented from the swirls of metal, the light danced all around the tavern as if it were shooting out of Xena like a thousand miniature bolts of lightning. The bard had never seen the plate shine so. Xena took a step forward, out of the sun's ray and Gabrielle noticed her breastplate wasn't the only thing shining. The warrior's leathers were so well cleaned and oiled they looked brand new and each stud on the battle dress sparkled. The rich, supple brown gleamed as Xena strode gracefully across the room.
"Gabrielle, you look lovely," Xena smiled as she stopped in front of the bard.
"So do you," she said, embarrassed, yet she did not know why.
"This is for you," Xena said softly. Lifting her hand, she presented the bard with a single perfect flower. "I picked it because the color matched... you."
The flower was daisy like in its shape and character, the petals, a rich maroon with wisps of gold leading to the center. The center was the same chocolate brown color as Xena's leathers.
"It's for you to wear. May I?"
Gabrielle stood rooted as Xena stepped closer. Reaching up, the warrior delicately placed the back of her palm on the bard's chest, stretched her fingers under the material of the top and lifted. The bard stopped breathing and concentrated on not losing her balance as the heat of Xena's hand on the swell of her breast made her quite dizzy with desire. Xena fastened the flower to her shirt, ever so slowly slid her hand out from under the fabric and stepped back, smiling.
The little flower complimented the bard's skin and hair color. It softened the brown of her skirt and tied all the earth tones together. It even made the sickly green top she wore look a little richer. It was perfect.
'She's perfect,' thought Xena.
Gabrielle, for her part, could only think, 'To Tartarus with the rest of this date. Kiss me now!'
Xena extended her arm to Gabrielle. "Shall we?"
Mutely taking the offered arm, they headed towards the door.
"What are we doing on our date?" Gabrielle asked when she had gotten her voice back.
"Let me keep it as a surprise. But we are going to start with dinner," she said as they exited the tavern.
"Oh good! I'm starved!"
"Well that's just a shock," Xena mused.
Gabrielle lightly punched her shoulder.
Xena laughed. "I figured I'd better feed you first or I'd have to listen to your stomach rumble all night."
The warrior turned to her and flashed a smile that made her heart jump. "Yes?"
Staring into that warm, glowing smile, the question that had been poised in her mind slipped away. As did her heart.
"Gabrielle?" she asked, her smile widening.
Xena laughed, an intimate, relaxed sound from deep in her throat. The bard let it caress her like a breeze. "Were you going to ask me something?"
"Oh! Yes. I was."
"I don't remember," she admitted bluntly.
Xena just smiled.
"Oh! I remember! If we are going to eat, why did we leave the tavern?"
"I have some place special I want to take you," she said as she guided the bard into the street. "Just relax and enjoy the scenery."
They walked comfortably through the town, arm in arm. Xena put away her 'warrior' mask and began making small talk. Bizarre comments spilled from her lips, about such things as the beauty of the statue in the town square or the cute little boy running down the street. Gabrielle wasn't sure what to make of the woman strolling at her side. This was the Xena that could have lived her life as a tavern keeper like her mother, or a boot maker or even a blacksmith specializing in making swords, not using them. This was how Xena might have been all the time had she not become a warrior. And the bard liked this Xena too.
'This is certainly going to be a night to remember,' she thought.
Turning down a small alley, they walked up to a door with a tiny sign that stated "Mikalopos." Xena opened the door and ushered Gabrielle in.
After a moment, the bard's eyes adjusted to the dim intimate lighting of the small passage as Xena helped her navigate her way through the crowded entryway. Reaching the front of the crowd, Gabrielle looked out. She saw small tables spread throughout a big room, each draped with a beautiful cloth and a matching napkin. A single candle and a vase with a single rose adorned each table top. Couples sat eating at many of the tables, a group of people here and there but none of the tables were empty. Apparently everyone in the entryway was waiting their turn to sit.
They were greeted by an elegant, perfectly dressed, impeccably groomed young man.
"May I help... You are Xena?"
He smiled brightly then nodded to Gabrielle. "Please follow me."
Gabrielle looked questioningly at Xena.
Xena raised an eyebrow and smiled in response then with a wave of her hand, gestured for Gabrielle to follow him.
He lead them through the room to a hidden nook in the corner that was almost a private room. As the bard passed the threshold, she stopped in her tracks. On the table sat a large vase overflowing with a huge bouquet of the same daisy-like maroon flowers as the one she wore.
A serving woman stood pouring wine into two silver goblets on the table. She stopped as the man introduced her.
"This is Iphania," he said "She'll be your server tonight. If there is anything you need, please ask and she will be happy to accommodate you."
But Gabrielle could only stammer, "The flowers... where...?"
Iphania smiled broadly. "Your friend brought them in a while ago. But I see she saved a special one for you," she stated nodding at the flower the bard wore.
She turned to Xena. "You...?"
A slightly embarrassed smile crossed the warrior's face. "Let's sit down," she said softly.
Iphania held Gabrielle's chair as she sat, then turned to Xena.
"May I help you off with your sword?" she asked.
Xena turned and smiled. "Yes, thank you."
The woman moved behind the warrior and efficiently detached the scabbard from her back, as if she had done it one hundred times before.
Gabrielle felt a surprising pang of jealousy at that.
Iphania hooked the scabbard to the back of Xena's chair. "I'll be right back with your appetizer," she said and left them.
"I took the liberty of ordering when I reserved the table. I hope you don't mind," Xena said.
"Not at all," the bard said, still distracted by her surroundings. "Xena, I've never been in a place like this. It's so elegant." She looked at the vase again, then at the warrior. "And these flowers. You picked them yourself? For me?"
Xena began to stutter a response when she was thankfully interrupted by Iphania's return.
The server entered carrying a basket of assorted breads and three plates. Two of the plates were empty and she placed them in front of Xena and Gabrielle. The third was much larger and quite full.
"These are lamb and feta stuffed grape leaves," she said as she lay the dish on the table. "This is breaded, fried eggplant and these, of course, are cured black olives stuffed with anchovies and capers." She deposited the basket of breads next to the dish and disappeared.
Xena smiled as she watched the bard's eyes grow large.
"Did she say these are the appetizers? She must be wrong. This is dinner!"
Laughing, the warrior corrected her, "This is the appetizer, Gabrielle. Dinner comes next."
"Then lets get started," the bard said as she began to reach towards the plate.
Gabrielle stopped in mid-reach.
"I'd like to make a toast," she said as she picked up her goblet of wine.
"OK," the bard said, also picking up her wine.
Clearing her throat and taking a deep breath, Xena began, barely loud enough for the bard to hear. "Gabrielle, I know I'm bad at telling you how I feel sometimes." Xena paused, waiting for the wisecrack from her friend, but Gabrielle, knowing this was different, said nothing. "And when I do get up the courage to express myself, I usually don't do it very well. I guess I just want to say thank you. For..." She took another deep breath and let it out in a sigh. "For always being right where I need you. And for believing in me even when I don't believe in myself." She looked directly into the bard's eyes. "For being the best friend I've ever had. For being my family." She shrugged, not knowing how to finish. "I don't think you'll ever fully know what all that means to me. I love you for all of it... I love you just... just..." she stammered before finishing. "...for being you. And I promise, I will always be here for you."
Gabrielle felt her throat tighten as Xena's words swept over her. Reaching over, she placed a gentle hand on the warrior's arm and quietly, simply said, "Thank you."
A night to remember indeed.

Dinner consisted of pheasant stuffed with bread crumbs, raisins & peas with a sweet berry/port glaze, thyme & vinegar roasted potatoes, and yellow squash with maple sugar and walnuts. All of which the bard marveled over and joyously feasted on.
But more than that, she feasted on Xena's attention. And that attention was unwavering. Xena made sure the bard's dish was always full and as a switch, told Gabrielle stories about when she was a child. The bard especially liked the one where an adolescent Xena defended a young boy from a group of older bullies by hurling a bee's nest into their little wooden fort. The youngster became the first lieutenant in her make believe army. And even though the rest of her friends and playmates were much older, the young boy was always welcomed by the warrior-to-be.
Xena had, amazingly enough, just finished telling yet another joke when Iphania came in and began to fill their goblets yet again.
"Wait," she told the server. "Gabrielle, I think we've both had enough wine, don't you? I don't want either of us to be tipsy tonight. Is that OK with you?"
The bard's breath caught in her chest, though she was not sure why. She nodded her assent and Iphania left.
"Have some more pheasant," Xena said as she began to serve more of the delicious bird to the vision sitting at her side.
"Oh, no, Xena. I couldn't," she moaned, rubbing her belly.
"I knew it! You don't like it," she stated. "I had asked them to serve raw squid since I know how much you love that," Xena teased. "But they didn't have any today."
"You're very funny, Xena," Gabrielle shot back with an amused glare as she snapped her napkin at the warrior.
But Xena's lightning fast reflexes blocked the cloth using the handle of her spoon and it fluttered harmlessly to the floor.
Laughing, both leaned down to retrieve the errant napkin and stopped short when they came close to knocking their heads together. Faces close together, they paused, smiling at each other. Xena took the opportunity to covertly inhale Gabrielle's scent once again. Using her eyes to hold Gabrielle in her place, she leaned down and reclaimed the piece of cloth.
Offering it back to the bard, Xena asked, "What is it that you are wearing?"
Gabrielle looked down at her clothing, confused.
"I mean the scent. You smell so wonderful, Gabrielle. You've worn that once before but I don't know what it is."
"Oh!" she smiled. "It's lavender."
"That is not lavender. I know what lavender smells like," she chided.
"But it is Xena. Honest. I know it smells different, but it's just the way the oil reacts to my body."
"I guess that's not surprising," she murmured, then quietly added, "It's not the only thing here reacting to your body."
Gabrielle stared at Xena.
But before she could respond to the comment, Iphania appeared. "May I bring your dessert?" she asked.
Mouth open, the bard continued to stare, mystified, at Xena.
"Gabrielle," Xena laughed, her eyes twinkling. "Iphania is waiting for your answer."
"What? Oh! Dessert. I don't think I have room for dessert," Gabrielle stated happily. "I am stuffed."
The server looked confused. "But your friend had us make baklava, special for you." She looked to Xena. "What shall I tell the cook to do with it?"
"I guess you can just offer it to anyone who would like some," Xena shrugged.
The bard piped up. "Excuse me? Did you say baklava?"
"Oh, yes. And our cook makes the best baklava in this region!" she said proudly.
"Oh, well, maybe just a small piece..." Then the servers comment sunk in. She turned to Xena. "You had them make it special? For me?"
Xena smiled. "I know it's one of your favorites."
Gabrielle stared with wonder at the warrior.
"I think you can bring it out," Xena said to Iphania. "Looks like she found some more room in that bottomless pit of hers."

After three pieces of baklava and a leisurely cup of mint tea, they left the restaurant and stepped back into the street.
"What now?" the bard asked, eyes sparkling with excitement and expectation..
"First we go get Argo out of the stable," Xena replied, then continued silently, 'And if your eyes keep doing that, I'm never gonna make it through this date.'
"OK, Argo first. Then what?"
"Then you'll find out what we're doing when we do it," Xena teased.
The bard pouted. With a smile on her face.
"Gabrielle, let me keep it a surprise. Please?"
"Well, I do like surprises..."

The stable boy brought Argo out and even she seemed to be at her best. Her coat shined like it never had before, her mane rippled with the slightest breeze. And oh, how she seemed to be standing proudly, saddle leather gleaming, saddle fur soft and clean.
Gabrielle waited as Xena quietly spoke with the stable boy. She watched Xena press something into his hand and saw his eyes grow wide. He thanked the warrior profusely assuring her that everything was perfect and he didn't let her down.
"What was that all about?" the bard questioned as they walked out of the stable.
"Nothing much," Xena muttered, a sly smile on her face. Then turning to Gabrielle, she asked, "Is it OK if we ride instead of walk?"
The bard hesitated.
"We need to cover a bit of distance," Xena explained.
"OK," Gabrielle replied, releasing a deep breath and waiting for Xena to mount.
But Xena bowed slightly and said, "You first."
Gabrielle laughed. "Xena, how are you going to get on with me in the way?"
"You won't be in the way, Gabrielle. You're riding in front."
"In front?"
"Yes, in front."
The bard silently considered the implications of this switch.
If I'm in front, I won't be able to wrap my arms around her, snuggle up to her back or lean my face against those magnificent shoulders. I won't even be able to see her. I'll be 'in front.' Which also means she'll be 'in back.' Pressed against me. With her arm around me. Maybe snuggled against my back. At the very least, I can lean back against her chest. And even with that damnable breast plate, that could be very nice. Very nice indeed.
"Hmmm. In front, huh? OK."
Grabbing the saddlehorn, she put a foot in the stirrup and hauled herself onto the big mare's back. She smiled down at the warrior as she offered her hand.
"Move up a little," Xena said as she took the extended hand and hoisted herself into the saddle.
She settled in behind the bard, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her close. Reaching around the bard with her other hand, she took the reins.
"Let's get going," she said, giving the reins a shake and starting Argo on her way.
They rode in silence for a while. Gabrielle reveled in the feeling of the warrior's arms around her and the heat radiating from the warrior's chest, through her leathers, warming her back. Xena lost herself completely in the sensations of the bard leaning against her; her arm wrapped around that taut stomach and the heat radiating from the bard's back, through her leathers, warming her chest.
The gentle rocking of Argo's gait aided in creating a growing excitement in both.
'This 'riding in front' thing is pretty nice,' the bard thought.
As they got farther from the town, she noticed Xena glancing at the moon now and then and felt her muscles tighten each time.
"Something wrong?" she asked as Xena once again looked into the sky.
"There are clouds moving in."
"Yeah, but it doesn't look like rain."
"No, not rain. But I don't want the clouds."
"Oh. So why don't you do something about it?" Gabrielle teased.
Xena glanced skyward again and growled, "I just might, Gabrielle. I just might."
It didn't take long before Xena once again looked up at the moon which peeked out from behind dancing clouds and stated, "It's getting late. We're going to have to pick up the pace."
"I take it we have to be somewhere at a particular time?"
"Mmmm-hmmm," she whispered, her lips brushing the bard's ear and felt her shiver. Smiling because she knew the answer to her question would be no, she asked, "Are you cold, Gabrielle?"
"No," the bard stated. "Not at all." Actually, it's pretty warm leaning against you with your arm around me. And I like it.
As if she heard the bard's thoughts, Xena leaned forward and tightened her grip on the bard's waist pulling her nearer. "Hold on to me," she said softly. "Argo, get up!" she called, touching her heels lightly to the mare's flanks.
The horse responded immediately and broke into a trot. One more spur from Xena and Argo began to gallop. Gabrielle bounced stiffly, a death grip on the saddlehorn and on Xena's arm. As they began moving faster, she realized this 'riding in front' thing was a lot scarier than burying herself into Xena's back.
The warrior wrapped her arm further around Gabrielle and pulled her even closer. "Relax," Xena told her. "Don't fight the motion, move with it. Come on, Gabrielle. Trust me. Relax against me."
After a moments hesitation and a deep, deep breath, the bard concentrated on relaxing her muscles enough so her body began to change its rhythm, shifting with the big mare instead of fighting its motion. Xena's body molded itself to hers and she felt the heat of the warrior's skin through her leathers.
Not long after, the two humans and the horse moved as one being, slicing through the air as effortlessly as rain. Gabrielle still tightly gripped the saddlehorn and Xena's arm, but the feel of the warrior's body warmly pressing against her, enfolding her, protecting her, helped her relax enough so to not throw off the rhythm of the gallop. As a matter of fact, she really was enjoying this.
They rode silently for a while, each delighting in the heat of the other's body where they touched and the rocking motion of the beast beneath that made them even warmer in places that were not touching.
"There's a fire up ahead," the bard said, spotting a small light in the distance. "We're heading right for someone's camp,"
Xena nodded in acknowledgment, slowed Argo but kept on the same course.
After a few moments, Gabrielle said again, "Xena? We're going to burst right in on someone if we keep up this heading."
Another nod.
"Isn't that dangerous?" the bard asked nervously.
Gabrielle heard a chuckle behind her. "Trust me," came the words.
Argo slowed to a walk as they approached the clearing where a fire blazed. Gabrielle felt her skin tingling in anticipation of trouble. Funny though, Xena, who normally would be on hyper alert in such a situation, seemed relaxed and indifferent.
Entering the clearing, Gabrielle quickly looked around for any inhabitants. Not seeing anyone, she whispered over her shoulder, "They can't be far away."
Xena chuckled and casually jumped down, offering her hand to the bard.
"So I take it you know who's camp this is?" Gabrielle asked as she dismounted.
"Look around Gabrielle. You tell me."
The bard looked closer at the bedrolls spread side by side near the fire. Her bedroll. Xena's bedroll. Near a big log rested Argo's saddle bags which she suddenly realized the mare had not been carrying. Their cooking pot, filled with water, sat close enough to the fire's edge that the water had warmed and light whiffs of steam rose from its surface.
"This is our stuff!"
"Why yes it is!" the warrior stated in mock amazement.
"How... how...?"
"Come on, Gabrielle," she laughed. "We need to get to the lake. It's almost time."
"But how...? The fire... how did you light the fire?"
Xena just smiled.
"It's not possible! There is no way you could have lit this fire before dinner, got to town to meet me, had dinner, got back up here and kept this fire going.... The stable boy! You had the stable boy come up here and start this fire!" She thought for a moment and spoke again, more to herself than to Xena. "But he never could have run up here and back to the stable..." She looked up into warrior blue. "You let him ride Argo," she said, wonder filling her voice.
Xena just smiled. "Come on," she nudged, looking skyward again and glaring at the clouds. "We need to get moving." The warrior reached out.
The bard took the offered hand but did not move.
"You let him ride Argo. You let some kid you don't even know, ride Argo!"
"Come on," Xena pleaded, pulling harder. "We're late."
"But you trusted some... some... strange *kid* with Argo!" Gabrielle stuttered in amazement as she was hauled along.
"More like I trusted Argo with the kid," she smirked. "Now come on. We have to hurry."
Gabrielle shook her head in astonishment then picked up her pace. Xena had let a stranger, a child, ride her precious Argo for the sole purpose of doing something nice for her. For making this night special. Oh, how she wished it would last forever.
They jogged up the little path to the lake, the warrior never releasing the bard's hand. Xena brought them to the edge of a rock which jutted out over the lake and there they stood, sides touching and hand in hand, waiting. Gabrielle, being content to stand this intimately close to the warrior, stayed silent, absorbing the warmth of the warrior's hand, drinking in the heat still radiating from Xena's body. She didn't know what they waited for, nor did she care. But she could tell her friend was becoming more agitated as the moments went by and she did care about that.
She reached up and touched the warrior's arm lightly. "What's wrong?"
"The clouds," Xena growled. "I hadn't planned on clouds."
Gabrielle laughed lightly. "You mean you don't control the weather?" she teased. "Then what am I doing hanging around you?"
That got a reluctant smile and a big sigh from the warrior. "I wanted this to be perfect," she mumbled.
Closing her eyes, Xena sent out a silent prayer to the Moon Goddess.
'Artemis, I know you're listening and I wanted this to be perfect,' she prayed. 'She is your chosen. DO. SOMETHING.'
Immediately, a breeze seemed to tickle her ear in reply. 'You didn't say please,' it whispered.
Out loud and in a clear voice Xena said, "Please."
"Please what?" the bard asked.
"Just watch," she said softly.
A breeze began to stir then suddenly strengthened. The cloud cover grew thin and disappeared. The mountain in the distance still concealed the moon, but the light from the orb formed an eerie halo around its peak.
They waited.
Abruptly, a blazing full moon burst out from behind the very tip of the mountain, flooding the lake and the entire valley in silvery spider webs of light.
Xena smiled and whispered a thank you to the goddess.
"Keep watching." Grabbing her chakram, she flung it towards the lake. The disk sailed low, then skipped across the surface. With the first touch to water, a cloud of gossamer rose from the lake, shimmering and sparkling, filling the air with a supernatural pearlesence. Like ten million little lights, tiny wings fluttered in the reflecting moonlight as a multitude of gentle insects took flight. Each beat of each wing on every creature sent a twinkling spark into the darkness until the lake itself looked as if it had transformed into millions of glittering stars and had taken flight. The insects rose as one body then began to separate, some descending back to the lake, some flying higher and away like a shower of silver, pink and gold sparks blanketing the valley.
The bard stood staring, awestruck. She had never witnessed such a magical moment. Unconsciously, she wrapped her arm around Xena's waist, pulling her close as Xena's arm came up to circle the bard's shoulders.
They stood close, silently watching the spectacular display that was theirs alone.
When all had settled and the valley was once again bathed solely in white-gray moonlight, Gabrielle found her voice and softly asked, "What are they?"
"I don't really know. I call them lakes'wings. Seems they are some kind of migratory insects. I discovered them here years ago and I've never seen them anywhere else. They only stay for a few days and then are gone again until the next autumn. And they always come during the full moon." She looked at the bard who still stood, staring over the lake as the last of the insects disappeared into the night.
"Xena, this truly is one of the most beautiful, magical... amazing sights I've ever witnessed," she whispered, still awed, still staring into the night.
"Me too... But I've never seen them as beautiful as they were tonight." Softly, she added, "You must have inspired them, Gabrielle."
The bard closed her eyes and turned her head away. Words like this, coming from Xena were a fantasy come true. She stuttered, unsure of how to reply. "Xena... I..."
"Do you know how beautiful you are, Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle stood silently and squeezed Xena almost imperceptibly tighter, unable to look into those eyes, afraid every emotion, every desire would be clearly visible in her own eyes.
Xena smiled to herself, knowing she had unintentionally embarrassed the woman whose warm skin she lightly caressed. But it was so true.
She gently nudged the silent storyteller. "Let's go for a swim," she said, wiggling her eyebrows.
Gabrielle froze, the compliment temporarily forgotten. "But it's so dark..."
"Gabrielle," Xena laughed, "The moon is bright, it's not that dark. Come on, it'll be fun."
The bard hesitated.
"You know how to swim," Xena said carefully. "What's wrong?"
"I'm not a great swimmer... and the water's so dark... It's scary at night."
Facing the bard, Xena placed a hand lightly on her shoulder and smiled tenderly. "Trust me, Gabrielle. I promise I won't let anything happen to you."
Still, she hesitated.
"What is it?" the warrior asked gently.
"When I was a kid, I snuck out of the house late one night and went swimming with some other kids. We were playing around and I lost my bearings in the dark. I got so tired and when I realized how far out I was, I started to panic and tried to get back to shore, but ended up in even deeper water." She stopped, then looked up at the warrior. "Xena, I almost drowned."
The warrior held her tighter. Gabrielle had begun to tremble at the vivid memory. "What happened?"
A small laugh escaped the bard. "Well, first I tried to float. But it seems I don't float. I sink. So I started screaming. Loudly. When my head was above water, that is. I thought I was about to die when one of the other girls came to my rescue and dragged me out by the hair." She took a deep breath. "I came too close to drowning. Kind of cured me of midnight swimming."
Xena gently rubbed her shoulders until the tiny quivers stopped. "I'm sorry, Gabrielle," she said softly. "I didn't mean to bring up bad memories. I just thought it would be nice to play in the water for a little while."
But the thought of 'playing' with Xena began to tickle the bard's imagination. First of all, to swim, they would have to get naked. Now getting naked with the warrior was something she always loved to do, no matter what the reason. Secondly, the fact that she was already a little afraid would be the perfect excuse to stay close to the naked warrior. Real close. Amazingly, nakedly close. And to top it off, this could be when Xena had planned to kiss her. Although, to be truthful, she had forgotten about the dare that started all this. She had been too busy reveling in the attention she had been receiving and enjoying the soft, romantic side of the normally ultra-composed warrior. But now that the kiss was back in mind, the thought of a late night swim was not nearly as scary to her. On the contrary. A naked swim could be nice right about now. Oh yes. Very naked, umm... very nice indeed! Swimming. What a great idea....
Leaning against the warrior, Gabrielle smiled. "Then again, maybe I should try to get past my fears. And a swim could be perfect right now."
Xena's eyebrow shot up. "Are you sure?"
"You'll take care of me, right? Stay close?"
"Always, Gabrielle," she smiled.
"OK then. I'm sure. Let's take a swim."
But the bard had already loosened the laces of her top and had begun to remove it, and as her breasts found their freedom, Xena lost her ability to breathe.
She turned her head away, not trusting herself to control the adrenaline rush and just reach out to pull the sweet women to her and kiss her until they both lost their senses. Which was something she had wanted to do for ages.
By the time Xena composed herself enough to begin removing her boots, Gabrielle had already stripped and dived off the rock into the cool, dark water.
"Woooo hooo! This feels great!" she yelled up. "Are you coming?"
'Yeah, yeah, yeah,' she thought. 'I can be...'
"Come on, slow poke! Don't leave me out her alone," the bard hollered.
"I'll be right there. I do have a bit more to remove than you do, Gabrielle."
"OK, OK. I'll be patient," she called. Smiling, she mumbled low so Xena could not hear, "Actually, you can take your time, warrior mine. I'll just stay here and enjoy the strip show."
Gabrielle treaded water, discreetly observing as Xena sat on the jutting rock removing her boots and knee guards. When she stood, a gasp escaped the bard.
Bathed in the white-gray light shining down upon her, Xena stretched then reached to begin unhooking her armor. The moonlight sparkled off the breastplate and the studs on her battle dress just as the sunlight had in the tavern. But this haunting, ethereal light gave new meaning to the word beautiful. The bard watched silently, intently, as each piece of armor, each bit of clothing was removed revealing a perfectly formed body. Xena lifted her shift over her head and a soft moan of pure desire was drawn from Gabrielle's throat as if water nymphs had crawled into her chest and dragged it out.
The silver light glimmered on every muscle, every dip, every rise, highlighting every awe inspiring contour of the warrior's sculpted body. Her black hair gleamed as it sexily caressed her strong broad shoulders.
She looked every bit the perfect goddess.
"Gabrielle?" Xena called into the moonlight.
"Right here, Xena," Gabrielle barely managed to croak.
Xena pin pointed the bard's position then executed a perfect, splashless dive, disappearing under the dark water.
Gabrielle waited. She knew the warrior would pop up somewhere next to her, it was just a matter of where. The bard continued to tread, looking left then right, knowing she soon had to come up for air.
Suddenly she felt herself being propelled high into the air as Xena emerged from below, pushing her straight up out of the water and sending her flying. She landed back with a squeal and a huge splash.
"Xena! That was great! You know, if I had been ready, I bet I could have done a flip like you do all the time!"
The warrior smiled. "Want to try?"
"Can I?" she asked, her eyes growing wide and sparkling in the moonlight.
Gabrielle paddled over until she was treading directly in front of Xena. "How do we do this?" she asked.
"I'll swim under you, push you up and you flip."
"Oh," the bard laughed. "It's just that easy, huh?"
"Yup. Just that easy," Xena said, then disappeared under the water.
A moment later, Gabrielle felt the warrior under her, propelling her skyward, but by the time she started to tuck, she had crashed back into the water.
Laughing, Xena said, "OK, maybe it's not just that easy."
The bard spit a mouthful of water in her direction.
"Alright, alright, let's try this. When I go under, you start counting to five. On three, lock your knees and stiffen your body. On four I'll be pushing you out of the water. On five, tuck and flip."
"Sounds like a plan. Let's do it."
Xena scowled.
'She had to say that,' she thought. 'She's naked, within arm's reach and she says, let's do it. Yeah Gabrielle. Let's do it. Let's make love right here. Let me just take you now, make you scream. Let me run my hands all over your body, press against you, kiss you, touch your...'
"Xena?" the bard questioned, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You OK?"
"Hmm? Oh! Ummm, sorry. I, uh... thought I felt a cramp coming on."
"Do you want to get out of the water?"
"No, no. Lovin' every moment," she said wryly. Then she stopped, looked into a green depth and repeated sincerely, "I am loving every moment." She gave the bard a lopsided grin. "Ready?"

Seven times they tried. Sometimes Gabrielle landed flat on her back, sometimes she went in head first, once she even belly flopped painfully back onto the rock hard surface of the lake, though how she managed that, Xena could not fathom. Yet she still would not give up.
"OK, Xena. I can feel it. This time it's going to work."
"That's what you said the past two times, Gabrielle."
"I know, I know. But my counting was off the time before and last time I tucked too late. I have to tuck on four one-thou, instead of five. So this time it's gonna work!"
"Four one-thou?"
"You know!" the bard laughed. "One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thou, and I tuck.."
"Sure, Gabrielle," the warrior dead panned.
"It will work this time! I know it."
Xena looked at her skeptically.
"Xena?" Gabrielle asked, concern evident in her voice. "Are you tired? Do you need a rest? After all, you're the one doing the hard work."
"No, I'm fine," she smiled. "Ready to do it?"
'Yeah,' Gabrielle thought. 'You're standing here naked in front of me, close enough to touch and you ask if I'm ready to do it?. Yeah, I'm ready to do it. That's all I seem to be able to think about lately. Doing it with you. Over and over and over. Let's do it, warrior mine. Right here, right now. I want my lips on yours, my body pressed against you, my hands on your...'
"Well, Gabrielle? Are you ready?"
The bard took a deep breath. "I'm as ready as you are," came the sultry reply.
The warrior blinked. If only she meant that the way it sounded. She shook her head, took a deep breath, and went under.
'Here goes," Gabrielle thought.
One, one-thousand. She waited.
Two, one-thousand. She waited.
Three, one-thousand. Knees locked, body stiff.
Four... She felt Xena beneath her, pushing, sending her flying towards the moon.
...one thou. She tucked her head, brought her knees up and executed a perfect flip, dropping back into the water feet first.
As soon as her head broke the surface, she began smacking the water and splashing excitedly.
"WE DID IT!! Sweet Artemis, we did it! You sent me flying and I did a perfect flip."
Xena smiled as she watched the bard prancing happily in the water, her own happiness coming from Gabrielle's joy.
But suddenly, the bard stopped and looked at Xena with a deadly serious expression. "If you sent me just a little higher, I bet I could do a double. What do you think?"
"Gabrielle, I think you could do anything you wanted."
A sexy smile crept so slowly across Gabrielle's face, Xena had to wonder just what the bard was thinking.
Gabrielle paddled over until she was directly in front of Xena. "Anything, huh?" she asked as she bobbed in the water.
Xena began to wonder about the intelligence of this swimming idea as she watched the bard's dark, taut nipples break the water's surface then disappear, again and again as if Aphrodite wanted to see just how much willpower the warrior possessed.
"Anything," Xena croaked desperately trying to keep her eyes on the bard's face.
"Then we can try?" Gabrielle asked, that sexy smile still on her face.
Unable to trust her voice in the face of that smile and those nipples, Xena could only nod her agreement.

It only took six more try's before Gabrielle executed a perfect double flip entering the water with hardly a splash. And if Xena thought she was happy before, well, the bard was positively ecstatic!
"Woooo HOOOO!!!!! Gods, Xena! That was FUN!! No wonder you do it all the time!" Gabrielle splashed happily, a huge smile on her face. "I did it! WE DID IT!" she yelled, throwing herself at Xena.
Unprepared for the bard's exuberance, Xena went under with the weight of Gabrielle's body.
And having expected Xena to catch her, Gabrielle sank under water also.
When the warrior's head broke the surface, she instantly realized her bard wasn't there. Dropping under water again, she felt Gabrielle grabbing on to her before she even began the search. Yanking hard, she pulled the bard high above the water. The bard's legs quickly wrapped around her ribs and arms around her head. Xena held her close, one hand on her lower back, one gently supporting her bottom, her face nestled against Gabrielle's breast.
Sputtering and spitting out water, Gabrielle held on, gulping air and trembling slightly.
"Gabrielle? Are you alright?" Xena asked softly.
The bard laughed a little. "Yeah, I'm fine. It just scared me," she said, not lessening her grip.
"Gabrielle?" she whispered, "Don't you know by now? I would never let anything happen to you."
Softly, the reply caressed her ear. "I know."
Paddling, kicking, and keeping one arm wrapped around her bard, Xena moved them toward shore until she reached a point where her feet touched the bottom of the lake. And Gabrielle hung on, her cheek resting on the top of the warrior's head.
"Are you alright?" she asked again, concern evident in her voice. "We're in shallow water now."
"I'm fine, Xena," she mumbled happily. "I just like it when you carry me."
Smiling, Xena replied softly as her hand gently caressed the warm wet skin of the bard's back, "Oh. So you're just using me, huh?"
Slightly easing her grip on the warrior's head, Gabrielle pulled back and looked down into blazing blue. "Using you?" That slow sexy smile reappeared and her voice dripped over the warrior like warm honey. "Hmmm. Use you. Yeah, OK. I could do that."
Xena's breath caught and an adrenaline rush tightened her chest. She suddenly felt every inch of Gabrielle pressing erotically against her, the scent of the bard exhilarating her. Slowly, Gabrielle slid down Xena's body till they were face to face. Xena felt their breasts pressed together, the intimacy of Gabrielle rubbing against her stomach.
"How do you do that?" Xena whispered delicately in her ear. "Even in the water the scent of you is... intoxicating," she said and she felt the bard shudder as legs wrapped tighter around her and softness pressed harder against her.
Gabrielle pulled her head back so she could look into the blazing blue of the warrior's eyes. "I, uh... it's the lavender," she barely whispered, staring at Xena's lips, only a breath away from hers.
"No, not lavender," she murmured. "It's you."
With a soft moan, Gabrielle leaned in until her forehead rested against Xena's.
Xena felt the bard's thighs flex as hips unconsciously pressed harder against her stomach and she knew her own emotions and restraint were beginning to spin out of control. She squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her jaw, using every bit of her will to try to stem the molten flow in her veins, yet her body would not cooperate. Even her hands betrayed her as they caressed the roundness of the bard's bottom, the tight smooth muscles of her back.
'Control,' she told herself. "Don't lose it now. Not yet.'
Xena inhaled some resolve, stilled her journeying hands then exhaled softly. "Let's go back. And dry off."

"This way, Gabrielle. Over here."
"But our clothes..." the bard stated, pointing over to the rock where they had stripped.
Xena just smiled.
Gabrielle stopped and laughed. "Yeah, yeah. I know. Trust you."
Xena nodded and led her friend out of the water away from where they had entered. When the bard climbed up onto the rock, waiting for her she found thick warm towels and a brand new shift with matching breech cloth made of some type of sensuously soft material she had never felt before. Both pieces were the same maroon color as the flower Xena had given her. There was also a set of the same for Xena, except hers were the same chocolate brown color as her leathers.
She stood, shivering slightly, dripping and gazing at the gifts laying before her, then felt a towel being wrapped softly around her shoulders, gently, slowly, soaking the water from her back, her arms, her sides. Xena stood behind her, so very close behind her, a fraction of a step away. She could feel the warrior's warm breath caressing her neck.
Taking that last step, Xena pressed her body against the bard, surrounding her with the towel, her arms crossing the bard's chest, holding her gently yet tightly.
Once again, Gabrielle could feel her friend's breasts pressing against her back, her hips rubbing slightly. Suggestively? Were Xena's hips really pressing into her? Or was it her own hips pushing back against Xena?
'If only that towel wasn't there,' she thought.
Relaxing her body and for the fifth? tenth? one hundredth? time tonight, Gabrielle reached up, holding on to Xena's arms and leaned back against the strong woman feeling safe, warm and excited beyond belief.
"This feels wonderful, Xena," she murmured.
"Yes, it does," the warrior replied softly in her ear as she brought her cheek to the top of the bard's head.
In turn, Gabrielle tilted her head towards Xena and leaned back, until her cheek rested on the warrior's shoulder. A slight whimper of contentment stole from her chest and a shiver raced across her body.
She drew in a deep, slow breath to calm herself and looked again at the gifts spread before her. "Xena, these are beautiful. Thank you."
"Gabrielle, they could be made of silk and they still would not be good enough for you."
Keeping the towel over her shoulders, the bard slowly turned in Xena's arms until they were facing and pressing against each other, skin to skin. They stood so tightly crushed together, in fact, she could feel her pounding heart being matched by the warrior's, beat for beat.
Tearing her eyes away from the deep green of the vision in her arms, Xena stated thickly, "Perhaps you should finish drying off," and quickly stepped away, turning her back and grabbing a towel for herself.
The bard just smiled and thought to herself, 'This is very intriguing. Could it be I am having an affect on you, my dear warrior? Are you feeling the same fire that is running through my veins?' Her smile grew as she watched an uncharacteristically clumsy Xena dry off. 'Have you romanced yourself as well as me? Have you reached a point where you might actually want to kiss me?'
With colossal emotional effort, Xena was able to dry off, put her shift and breech cloth on and walk them back to the camp site *without* attacking the bard and proclaiming her undying, never ending love. A gesture Gabrielle would not have appreciated had she known about it.

After a cup of hot tea to help ward off the leftover chill from the lake, they stretched out on their backs and stared at the sky, close enough so the lengths of their bodies pressed together. Letting the warmth of the fire dry their hair and the heat of their bodies warm their hearts, they relaxed in each other's company, neither wanting to be anywhere else in the world other than where they were at that moment.
Xena propped herself up on one elbow, facing the bard. "Close your eyes."
Gabrielle's eyes grew wide, a little dare suddenly remembered.
Xena smiled and shook her head no, seeming to read her mind. "I have a small surprise for you."
"What? Another surprise? Wait! I know. You have something buried under that rock next to you, don't you?" she laughed.
Scowling, Xena mumbled, "How did you know that?"
"Sweet Zeus, I was just kidding! Do you really have something under that rock??"
Xena smirked. "Close your eyes."
Gabrielle laughed as she complied.
Lifting the rock, Xena removed a small package from its hiding place. "It's something to eat." She picked up a small red orb and traced it sensuously across the bard's lips. Gabrielle opened her mouth and reached out with her tongue, but Xena pulled it away. "No, no, no," she teased. "Feel it first," she said as she lowered the fruit again, brushing it across her lips. "Can you tell what it is?"
"Smooth, round, firm," Gabrielle murmured, the fruit still massaging her lips.
Pulling it away again, the warrior commanded, "Open."
The bard obeyed and Xena brought the fruit to her mouth, slowly stroking the inside of her bottom lip, then scraping it against her teeth, breaking the fruit's skin, releasing some of its juices. She inserted it deeper into the bard's mouth, sliding the bleeding fruit across the bard's tongue, her own fingers brushing against Gabrielle's lips and tongue, then removed it.
The bard's eyes opened wide. "Cherries?! By the gods! How did you find cherries this time of year?"
"I collected some old favors," she smiled. "Sit up. I don't want you choking on the stone," she said as she held the fruit by its stem in front of the bard's open, waiting mouth.
Propping herself up on her elbow, Gabrielle opened her mouth as Xena placed the fruit on her tongue.
"Mmmmm. This tastes like spring," she said as she chewed happily then spit the stone into the fire. "Any more?"
"Only four more. It's all I could get," she said holding another cherry by its stem in front of Gabrielle's mouth.
The bard leaned forward and grabbed it only with her lips so that when Xena tugged to pull off the stem, the cherry pulled back out of the bard's mouth.
Xena froze. She couldn't explain it, but that seemed to be the sexiest sight she had ever witnessed. Until the bard leaned forward again, reached out with her tongue and brought the cherry back into her mouth. Then that became the sexiest.
Xena didn't seem to be moving, so Gabrielle snapped her head back enough to pull the cherry from its stem.
Xena swallowed hard.
"Your turn," Gabrielle said, eyes gleaming.
After a moments pause to get her jaw working again, Xena smiled. "No, Gabrielle. These are for you."
"Xena. I know you love cherries, too. And this is such a wonderful treat, well, I wouldn't feel right eating them all."
"But I got them for you..."
"One. Just have one," she smiled, the hint of a plea in her voice.
And Xena knew she could never refuse a plea from those lips.
"OK. One."
A smirk pulled at Xena's mouth as the bard held a cherry in front of her.
"This one doesn't have a stem," Gabrielle said, holding the fruit between thumb and fore finger, bringing it close to the warrior's lips.
Xena tilted her head forward, capturing the fruit and the bard's fingers in her mouth. Never releasing the bard's fingers, she nipped and sucked at the flesh of the fruit, removing it from the stone as the bard held it and not so accidentally nipping and sucking on fingers as well.
Gabrielle felt the inside of her chest burst into flames as Xena's warm, wet tongue curled around her thumb. Everything inside her melted and dripped into a big pulsing puddle in her groin.
Using her tongue, Xena spun the fruit again, gently removed the last of its flesh with her teeth and sucked greedily on the bard's fingers to capture any errant juices, leaving Gabrielle holding only the cleaned stone.
Surprised at herself for such an overtly sexual act, Xena knew complete control was fading fast. Who was she trying to kid? 'Complete' control had disappeared long ago. At this point, she considered herself lucky to have not made a complete jackass of herself.
She chanced a look into the bard's eyes.
What she saw there was more than just a reflection of herself or her passions. Deep in that heavenly green she saw a woman looking back at her. A woman with desires and needs of her own. A woman full of the possibilities of life. Of love.
They lie there, facing each other, each propped up on one elbow, Xena calmly looking into the bard's eyes. A slightly nervous, crooked grin played across Gabrielle's face.
Gabrielle tried to hold the look into warrior blue but when she recognized desire playing there, she nervously turned away.
'Is this a true desire for me?' she wondered. 'Are you suddenly looking at me through different eyes? Are you finally seeing me as a woman? Full of emotions, passions, needs, love? Are you picking up any inkling of how I feel about you? Or are you just caught up in the night of romance you created? And at this moment, with you so close to me, with lust in your eyes, do I really care?'
Reaching over, Xena placed a finger on her chin and guided her face back around. "Look at me, Gabrielle," she said softly.
Gabrielle looked up into a churning blue ocean for a moment then flustered, glanced away again. The dark woman's lust excited her beyond belief and, much as she hated to admit it, scared her a little. Sheepishly, she explained, "I suddenly feel a little nervous, though I don't know why. I mean it's just you, right?"
"Right," Xena smiled.
"And... and... there's nothing..." she trailed off.
"Right," came the soft reply. "There's nothing... So look at me."
She glanced up and then away again, a hot chill raging across her body.
Xena whispered a plea. "Gabrielle?"
Taking a deep breath for courage, the bard looked up once more. This time her eyes locked with the warrior's. She fell into those eyes, suddenly feeling as if Xena could sense every thought, every emotion, every desire she had kept so deeply hidden. And Xena continued to stare deeply, absorbing everything.
"You really are beautiful, Gabrielle. Do you know that?" she asked softly.
"Xena," she said quietly, her eyes again turning towards the ground, "You're making me self conscious."
"Don't be, Gabrielle. Anyone who you would allow close..." She paused and smiled softly. "Let's just say you would bless them."
"I can't 'bless' anyone, Xena," the bard laughed. "I'm not a goddess."
"Aren't you? I've always felt you were." The warrior smiled. "You've blessed my life, Gabrielle." Xena leaned in a touch closer and whispered, "You look like a goddess, too."
Unable to speak, the bard watched as Xena's eyes dropped slowly, following the line of her neck, resting momentarily at the swell of her breasts then continuing languidly down her smooth, taut stomach, to the gentle curve of her hips, her tight thighs, her muscled legs. A sexy smile played on Xena's face as her sightseeing tour followed the same lazy path back up Gabrielle's body ending where it started, staring deeply into her eyes.
For Xena, this was a chance to openly consume the glory that was Gabrielle without hiding her wonder or admiration, without fear of the inappropriateness, without fear of being caught. And she drank in the sight with relish, knowing her desire had begun to show on her face.
The bard felt her heart surging and pounding harder under the heat of Xena's devouring gaze and arousing words. Stirred desire had already begun to froth. She felt the magnetic pull of the warrior and unwittingly began to lean closer.
The warrior continued staring deeply into a meadow of green until a slow, easy smile began to dance across the bard's lips. Then all her attention was drawn to that perfect smile. And it told her so much. It spoke of years spent together, learning about each other. Learning from each other. Learning to respect. Learning to trust. Learning to love. That perfect smile spoke of everything that had passed between them. Of everything that lie ahead.
In the face of that perfect smile everything was possible.
Leaning forward, oh so slowly, Xena gently brought her lips to the bard's, just to the point of contact. Soft as the touch of a summer night's breeze their lips brushed against each other. All the combined energy of their bodies concentrated in the beginnings of the kiss.
And the thoughts of each woman mirrored the other.
'Soft. So incredibly soft.'
Xena pulled back slightly to look into the bard's eyes. She saw hesitation, perhaps a little fear and a swirl of unknown emotions. And hidden beneath it all, she saw the stirrings of desire.
A slow smile crept across the warrior's face.
Reaching up, Xena's fingertips gently brushed the bard's face. "Gabrielle, are you sure..."
"Bawk, bawk, bawk," Gabrielle clucked softly, displaying a deceptive, cocky bravado.
Xena's fingers stopped and her eyebrow shot up. Moving again, her fingers slid under the bard's chin, then slowly guided her forward.
The warrior watched the bard's eyes close as their lips moved ever closer. She stopped a fraction before they touched. But Gabrielle had no intention of waiting. Pushing forward, Gabrielle brought their lips together tenderly.
The rest of the world fell away as each sank into the inconceivable rapture of actually tasting the lips they had yearned for, of the one they loved. A force encompassed them like a cocoon, protecting them from the world outside and harboring the energy that flew like sparks around them, feeding off itself and growing exponentially until a meltdown seemed imminent.
Soft lips moved against each other slowly making discoveries as hands slid tentatively around shoulders and backs. Capturing the bard's lower lip, Xena sucked gently as her hand glided across the slightly trembling muscles of the bard's back.
Gabrielle moaned at the exquisite soft wetness of Xena's mouth. Her lips parted, wanting to taste more of the warrior, wanting to draw her in, wanting to conquer by way of surrender.
And conquer she did. The warrior's heart, which already belonged solely to the bard, liquefied at the earnestness of her partner, at the offering of her mouth.
Lips played against each other, exploring, discovering. Softness ruled everything as a give and take developed between warrior and bard. Hands continued to seek, discovering soft hair, firm muscle, curves and valleys, skin and cloth; all of these lightly explored, revealing textures, sensations, excitement. Further, more in-depth explorations would be forthcoming, but for now both women indulged themselves in the light caresses, the soft touches which helped to slowly free the fires of their long controlled passion.
Gently grasping the bard's lip with her teeth, Xena reached out her tongue, running it languidly across the surface, drawing another sweet moan from the woman nestled so perfectly in her arms.
The liquid flame of Xena's tongue ran through Gabrielle's whole body like wildfire, melting her muscles, stealing her breath, creating truth from fantasy.
Xena cradled the bard's body as it collapsed downward into the bedrolls, pulling her along. Lying above Gabrielle, Xena slowly, so very slowly, brought her weight down, covering the bard's body with her own. Hip to hip, breast to breast, both groaned at the exquisite pressure against them.
"Open your eyes, Gabrielle," Xena whispered, her lips still brushing against the bard's.
Gabrielle opened her eyes and electric blue filled her vision.
"Don't be afraid to look at me." Because I want you to know it is me who is kissing you, not whatever fantasy you are creating in your mind. It's me. Me, with my lips on yours, my hands on your body. Me, who is making you hot. Me, who is making you moan. Me. Who loves you. Me.
She felt the bard's lips curve into a gentle smile against her mouth as if she had heard Xena's thoughts. Again, her heart was swept away on an energy flow that lead always, directly to Gabrielle.
Gabrielle felt a surge from Xena's body. Or was it from the warrior's heart? She pulled Xena's bottom lip into her mouth and sucked. The warrior's body twitched then pressed even harder against hers. Raven hair fell around her face and muscled shoulders strained against her hands. Xena's tongue slid into her mouth, filling, searching, causing fires to erupt all over her body.
The sweet taste of her bard's mouth had a physical effect on Xena's body. She felt the muscles in her arms shaking and knew they would not support her very much longer. Her hips had begun pushing against Gabrielle, begging for contact of any kind.
Their tongues danced together sweetly, both offering and accepting, preying and capturing, demanding and surrendering.
Xena's tongue retreated slowly, stopping on the surface of Gabrielle's bottom lip. She traced its fullness as a hand slid lower and stopped on the bard's hip. Her tongue made a slow journey to the nub of Gabrielle's top lip and hesitated. She squeezed the bard's hip gently as her tongue began lightly brushing back and forth over the nub. Feeling the bard's body respond, she continued licking and teasing her lip, occasionally running her tongue along Gabrielle's bottom lip then immediately going back to that deliciously sensitive nub. She felt fires raging back and forth between their bodies as the bard seemed to go limp with surrender. Then, while abruptly pulling the bard's hips to hers, she drew the nub into her mouth and sucked hard.
Gabrielle felt her body rock as images began to flash across her mind; Xena naked, kissing her stomach, moving lower. Her own naked body bucking, hips lifting towards the warrior's eager mouth.
Unhindered moans erupted from her chest and her hands frantically clutched at the warrior's back.. Her hips pressed up against Xena desperate for contact and when even that was not enough, she grabbed the warrior's hips and pulled them more tightly to her, slipping her thigh between those long muscled legs.
The abrupt pressure against sensitive, aroused tissue ripped a growl from Xena's throat and an instinctive thrust against the bard. Xena attacked Gabrielle's mouth, invading, licking and sucking, drawing long moans, soft whimpers and uncontrolled writhing from the bard's body.
Warrior hands continued sliding over the bard's body, caressing firm muscles and soft skin as Warrior lips wreaked a willing havoc upon the bard's mouth.
Teasingly, Xena rolled her tongue around Gabrielle's, quickly withdrawing it when the bard tried to do the same. She moved in and quickly withdrew again, trying to encourage Gabrielle to reach out with her tongue, playing cat & mouse.
The bard caught on, beginning to reach out, tasting Xena's lips but Xena pulled back even farther, a playful gleam and a dare in her eyes. She leaned down quickly touching her tongue to Gabrielle's lips again and just as quickly pulled away.
But the bard's growing lust outweighed her patience. Pushing her body up, she wrapped her arms around Xena, pulling her down, reclaiming her mouth. The bard's tongue reached in and began an exploration.
Xena pulled back, out of Gabrielle's reach again, smiling wickedly yet still holding her close.
Gabrielle smiled back, realizing what Xena wanted.
Driving her body against the warrior, she slipped one leg under Xena and rolled, forcing Xena onto her back and rolling on top of her, supporting herself with elbows on either side of the warrior's head, knees on either side of her stomach. Lowering herself, she writhed against the warrior's body,
Moaning at the exquisite pressure, Xena pulled Gabrielle tighter, crushing her against her chest, surrendering her mouth to the bard's passionate assault, her body to the sweet weight of the woman now on top of her.
As Gabrielle proceeded to dissolve the last of the warrior's defenses with her explorations, she straddled Xena's thigh and began to rock slightly. The first sensations caused a growl to rise from the bard's throat and created a new urgency in her burning kiss. She could feel the wetness soaking through her breech cloth as she began to push harder against that firm thigh.
Waves of arousal poured over Xena as the bard's tongue demanded her submission and a sweet nectar coated her thigh. Her hands found their way to Gabrielle's hips and held tight as she lifted her thigh into the thrusting, increasing the pressure.
Bard collapsed against Warrior, allowing the sensations shooting from her groin to overrun her body. Heat drove her to strengthen the kiss once again, nipping Xena's lips, then, inspired, she drew the nub of the warrior's upper lip into her mouth, suckling, as she pushed her thigh into Xena's moistness and ground herself against that rock hard thigh.
Sounds of passion came from both as their bodies ground together, their lips locked in a hunger too long unfed.
The feel of the bard's mouth sucking... teasing... making promises... Xena knew she was losing control, surrendering to the woman she loved. That it would not take much more...
But she did not want this to be over so soon. This needed to last. Gathering all her resolve, she recaptured a tiny bit of discipline.
Gabrielle let her full weight fall on the warrior as her rocking increased.
"Oh, no you don't," Xena whispered, smiling without breaking the kiss. "Not yet."
Warrior pushed up against Bard, lifting her off her thigh which caused a moan of disappointment from both as the connection was severed. With a smile Xena rolled them onto their sides, legs still intertwined.
Lips still locked in a kiss, Xena reached around, her hand sliding slowly up the back of Gabrielle's thigh, hooking the shift and pulling it higher. Her fingers gently drove the bard insane as they continued the ascent toward the soft curve of a cheek. Coming to the band of breech cloth, Xena teasingly played, sliding her fingers first over then under the cloth, then reaching further back, following the band towards the back of sensitive areas.
Gabrielle lifted, trying to give Xena more access, pushing her body into the warrior, her breath shredding more every moment.
Xena changed direction. Gliding her fingers upwards, still along the band of breech cloth, she drew her hand across the top of the bard's thigh, following the crease of where thigh meets torso.
Soft moans escaped as Gabrielle rolled onto her back, legs falling open, hips lifting to Xena's hand. Inviting. Pleading.
Warrior and Bard lips still touched, breath still mingled, but they were not actively kissing. All attention was centered lower, on Warrior hands, on Bard responses.
Xena's fingers continued to follow the edge of the cloth downward, between the bard's open thighs. Fine hairs tickled her fingers as waves of heat radiated through the soaked cloth. Slowly, she slipped her finger under the band of breech cloth then stopped. Waiting.
Raising her body, Gabrielle offered herself. Nearly inaudible, she whispered her prayer against her love's lips.
To the magical resonance of her name falling from the bard's lips, Xena's finger slid through soft, slippery wetness.
Then in the briefest of moments, everything froze and Xena's mind flooded with thought.
You've succeeded. Congratulations. You've seduced her. She is yours completely, lying beneath you, offering herself to you, begging you to take her. You laid out a plan and it worked more perfectly than you ever imagined it might. You dazzled her, wined and dined and romanced her. Made her laugh, took her breath away. Pressed yourself against her intimately, aroused her, played your sexual expertise against her naiveté. Showed her sights of unparalleled beauty she'd never seen before and may never see again. Treated her as if she were the most precious gift on earth. You've teased and excited her. Schemed and connived. Made her want you. Made her desperate to touch you. Desperate to have you touch her. Desperate to have you make love to her.
And tomorrow she will hate you for it.
She'll hate you for using her. Hate you for beguiling her, bewitching her, for using her own body against her. Making her do something she would never have done if you had not aroused her. If you hadn't tricked her into it.
And you will lose her because of it.
She will leave you.
Xena froze, the truth of her thoughts crashing down on her like a landslide. She pulled her lips away from the bard's, a stunned expression on her face.
In horror, she stared at the woman in her arms.
Gabrielle looked up at her. "Xena, what's wrong?" she asked softly, suddenly terrified.
"I'm... I'm sorry. I can't do this... Gabrielle... I can't..." She rolled off the bard onto her back, squeezing her eyes shut against the physical pain that thundered through her heart and body. She turned her head away.
Gabrielle laid there dazed, unmoving. Her mind couldn't seem to comprehend what had just happened. Or why.
"Xena," she pleaded. "What..."
"Gabrielle, please," the warrior moaned. "I'm so sorry. Please don't make me explain."
Lost. Gabrielle felt utterly lost. What happened? What changed?
Xena laid there, dazed, unmoving. How could she have done this to the woman she loved? How could she have been so cruel, so selfish? She needed to do something to make it right. But what?
Start with an apology.
"Gabrielle?" she croaked. "I am so sorry. I know I went too far."
The bard's jaw clenched, fresh pain slashing through her heart. Quietly, she offered, "Xena, I would not have stopped you."
The same pain slashed its way through the warrior's heart. Poignantly sad, she answered her love. "I know."
Battling her tears, Gabrielle rolled, putting her back to her friend. 'My heart was about to explode with emotion, with love and to her it was purely sexual. No feeling for me. No emotional attachment. I was just a body. How could I have been so stupid as to think she really felt something for me? Gods, I want to die.'
Xena watched, defeated, as Gabrielle turned her back. She dragged her hand across her face, rubbing her eyes then letting her fingers come to rest over her lips. The unexpected scent of Gabrielle on her fingers assaulted her senses, ripping a new gash in her heart. Slowly, she reached out her tongue to taste the sweetness of the woman she loved lingering there and felt shame wash over her as she did.
Gabrielle stared blankly into the night, her emotions at war. 'She thinks she was taking advantage of me. At least she thinks enough of me to not do that. At least. This was only a stupid dare to her. What an idiot I am, thinking she could want me. Me.'
"Gabrielle? Are you OK?"
She sighed and replied wearily. "I'm fine, Xena. Really. Let's just go to sleep, OK?"
"Xena, please. I really don't feel like talking about this right now."
Xena stared at the redhead's back. 'She hates me. Dear gods, she hates me. I don't think I can stand that.'
"Gabrielle, please talk to me," she begged.
"I can't, Xena," she choked out, her voice cracking with emotion, tears threatening once again. Taking a slow, deep breath, she regained control of her voice and continued softly, "Not right now. Please. Can't we just drop this? Please?" And silently to herself, she explained, 'I can't talk to you because if I tried, I would tell you how much I love you. And now I know if I said that, it would drive you away. Because you don't think of me as a woman, as someone you could love. I can't stand the fact that you don't want me. I can't stand that you don't see how much I love you.'
Xena reached over and placed her hand on the bard's shoulder. "Gab..."
But Gabrielle jerked her shoulder away as if she had been burned. "Xena, PLEASE!" Then more softly, "I feel so stupid. Please don't put me through this."
Xena laid there, staring at her friend's back, her heart being torn bit by bit into confetti. 'She hates me for taking advantage of her. I can't let her hate me. I can't.'
The warrior quickly moved in and wrapped her arms around the bard from behind before she could be pushed away. Holding her tightly and immobile, Xena whispered intensely, "Gabrielle, please, just listen to me. You know I... I care about you. You mean so much to me. And I would never do anything to hurt you. Sometimes I'm just a big dumb... jerk. My desires can be... very motivating. And having you in my arms, your body so soft, your lips against mine..."
Gabrielle felt an involuntary shudder ripple under her skin.
"Please believe me, I would never do anything to hurt you, Gabrielle. Or to hurt us. I would give up this whole wonderful night to have not hurt you," she whispered fiercely.
With sudden clarity, Xena realized she spoke the truth. She was willing to surrender each and every memory of this most perfect night. Each touch. Each look. The feel of Gabrielle's naked body sliding intimately against hers in the lake. The look of awe on Gabrielle's face when the lakeswings took flight. The softness of her lips. The comfortable weight of her body leaning against her chest as they rode Argo. The exquisite pressure of her hips rocking against her thigh. Her scent. The pure delight on her face as dinner was laid out before her. The perfect smile just before the perfect kiss. She knew she would give it all up, give up every moment of the best, most wonderful night of her life to undo the bard's pain.
Xena felt Gabrielle shudder as she choked back tears.
"Please Xena, don't say that. This was the most wonderful night of my life. Please... please don't just give it away."
Hearing the bard echo her feelings about this night only deepened her pain at having so selfishly destroyed it for both of them. "I don't want you to hate me," she said so quietly the bard barely heard.
"Hate you? Xena, I don't hate you. Why would I?"
"For doing this to you."
"For doing what to me?" She clutched the warrior's arm across her chest, again fighting back the emotions and the tears. "The only thing you did to me was make me feel special." And almost to her self, she repeated softly, "So very special." She rolled in Xena's arms until they were once again face to face. Tenderly, she said to the warrior, "How could I hate you for that?"
Xena looked into angelic green eyes. And even though they were red with unshed tears, amazingly, they still shone with trust and love. Soft lips, just a breath away, beckoned her once again.
She closed her eyes tightly, every ounce of her love exploding through her skin and wrapping itself around Gabrielle, commanding her body to follow. But 'warrior control' won out and her body remained still.
"Gabrielle, are you OK?" It seemed to be all she could say.
"Yes, Xena. I'm fine. Let's just go to sleep." A lie. It's a lie.
As the bard began to roll away, Xena spoke up, "Gabrielle? Would it be OK if..."
Gabrielle turned back, waiting for the warrior to finish.
Xena looked into the bard's eyes and found she could not hold the frank gaze that looked back at her.
"Would what be OK?" Gabrielle asked.
"If we stayed like this?" Barely decipherable whispered words finished the question. "If I held you tonight?"
A sweet, sad smile crossed Gabrielle's face and tears again threatened to fall. "Sure, Xena. That would be really nice."
Xena could only nod as they settled themselves together comfortably into her favorite position; both on their sides, facing, Gabrielle's head tucked under her chin, arms wrapped around each other.
Gabrielle reached behind her, grabbing her blanket to throw over them. She settled back into Xena, her face pressed against the warrior's breast, warrior arms surrounding her. It was her favorite position.
After a while, Xena finally felt the bard's body relaxing, her breath deepening. Softly kissing the top of Gabrielle's head, she whispered, "You are special, Gabrielle." Tightening her grip slightly, her voice not even a whisper, she added, "So very special."
A single tear rolled, unhindered, down Gabrielle's cheek.

The fire had collapsed long ago but a temperate night and comforting body heat kept them warm. Xena continued staring blankly into the dark night, attempting in vain to battle the guilt her earlier actions had produced. She loved the woman in her arms with every ounce of her being and feared she had caused irreparable damage to their relationship. Soothingly, she rubbed her palm across Gabrielle's back. And felt her jump a little.
"You're not sleeping."
"No," the bard responded. "Neither are you."
"Are you all right?" Then more quietly, more desperately, "Are we all right?"
When Gabrielle didn't answer immediately, Xena clenched her jaw and asked, "Are you thinking of leaving me?"
Gabrielle looked up, frightened green into fearful blue. "Do you want me to?"
"No," she whispered fiercely, clutching the small woman tightly to her. "Please don't. Please don't leave me." I couldn't go on without you.
Gabrielle heard Xena's voice catch, heard her swallow hard. It seemed to be Xena's turn to fight tears.
"I'm not going anywhere, Xena," the bard soothed, rubbing the warrior's back comfortingly. "You can't get rid of me that easily," she joked, hoping to ease the fear both were experiencing. 'And,' she thought, 'I'm not giving up on us that easily.'
A smile and a sad light laugh from the warrior repaid her effort.

Gabrielle woke as she felt Xena removing her arms, her body from around her. The sudden chill she felt at the loss immediately sank deep into her bones. She remained unmoving as Xena tucked the blankets gently around her then stood and walked toward the lake.
Too cold to endure lying there alone, Gabrielle got up and mechanically began her morning routines. Rekindle the fire. Put the water on for tea. Shake out and roll up the beds. Start breaking down camp.
Xena returned shortly with the clothes they had left on the rock before their swim last night and three small fish for breakfast. Gabrielle looked up as she approached.
The warrior stopped in her tracks, a fear she'd never experienced suddenly gripping her heart like a vise.
Seeing the look on Xena's face, Gabrielle knew her first words would either begin to heal or destroy their relationship.
Carefully, she pasted her best smile on her face and took a deep, and hopefully casual looking breath.
"G'morning," she called cheerfully. "Plain old fish again? Whassamatter? Couldn't catch any eel?" Silently, she berated herself for not saying something better.
But that small comment told Xena what she needed to know. Everything would eventually be all right.
"You're lucky I didn't bring you lizard!" she smirked.
That brought a genuine smile to the bard's face.
They cooked and ate breakfast with relative ease, bantering and teasing each other as they normally did. Yet an uneasy current flowed under the surface. Both knew it would be a while before they came to grips with the occurrences of last night.
'Before I can look into those blue eyes and not feel your lips on mine.'
'Before I can touch even your hand and not feel your whole body pressing against me.'

As Gabrielle doused the fire, she stoked her courage. The question on her lips was one of a million that had been gnawing at her all night and as much as she needed an answer, it terrified her to know she may not like the response. She took a deep breath. "So Xena, is uh, that how you always treat someone you take on a date?"
Xena did not look up but she did answer after an initial internal struggle. Quietly, she responded. "No, Gabrielle. I've never gone to that... I've never done..." She stopped then looked into the bard's face, still avoiding her eyes. "It's because it was you. It's because you deserve every beauty, every glory this world can offer. I only wanted to make you happy. Because I owe you so much. And because I... I..." love you, she wanted to say. But couldn't.
She looked across the fire pit into Gabrielle's eyes and her mind began to scream. 'Look at me, Gabrielle! Really look at me. Can't you see how I feel about you? Can't you see that I would do anything for you? Only for you. Can't you see I love you? And one day, I *will* tell you...'
But for now, all she was able to say was, "Because I want you to be happy."
Gabrielle reached over and gently placed her hand on the warrior's arm. "Thank you. For everything, Xena. For a night I will always treasure. For being my friend. Thank you." She began to withdraw her hand, then changed her mind, grasping the warrior's hand in hers. "And Xena? I am happy."
The bard look across the dead fire into Xena's eyes. 'But can't you see it's because of you that I am happy? Because I'm with you? When are you going to look at me? Really look at me and see how I feel about you? Don't you see I love you? One day I will make you see. One day you *will* talk to me...'
Xena squeezed the bard's hand slightly and smiled. "Come on. Let's get dressed."

As the warrior donned her leathers, Gabrielle grabbed her clothes from the pile and pulled on her skirt. Turning so to block Xena's line of sight, the bard carefully removed the wilted maroon daisy from her shirt and gingerly closed her hand around it. She put the shirt on, then, walking casually to Argo, she pulled one of her older scrolls out of the mare's saddlebag. Unrolling it, she tucked the limp flower inside and quickly rolled it back up before Xena could see.
But Xena saw.
'Someday, I *will* mean something more to her,' the bard thought.
And the warrior's mind replied. 'Someday, she'll *know* how much I care.'

"Ready?" Xena asked, walking up and standing beside Argo.
Smiling brightly with unfelt cheer, she grabbed her staff and replied. "Let's go."

'OK, Gabrielle,' she said to herself. 'One foot in front of the other. Don't look at her. Don't think about it now. Breathe in. Breathe out. Keep going. It's just another day.'
'All right, Xena,' she said to herself. 'Foot in the stirrup, pull yourself up. Don't look at her. Don't think about it now. Breathe in. Breathe out. Keep going. It's just another day.'


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