After Jordon left them Gabrielle planted herself firmly in the warrior's lap and wrapped her arms around her neck. "I am so proud of you." She said as she began kissing Xena's neck with tender little kisses. "I have something I want to give you." She got up and crossed to the fireplace, taking a scroll from the mantle and returned to the warrior's lap. "This has been a work in progress for sometime. I finished it this morning."

Xena took the scroll and unrolled it, beginning to read as the bard continued to nuzzle her neck.

I get lost in your eyes
And I feel my spirits rise
And so like the wind
Is it love that I am in
I get weak in a glance
Isn't this what's called romance
Now I know
Cause when I'm lost
I can't let go
I don't mind not knowing
What I'm headed for
You can take me to the sky
It's like being lost in heaven
When I'm lost in your eyes
I just fell, don't know why
Something's there, we can't deny
And when I first knew
Was when I first looked at you
And if I can't find my way
If salvation seems worlds away
I'll be found
When I am lost
In your eyes

Xena re-rolled the scroll and sat it on the table. She looked deeply into the green eyes of the bard. A single tear slipped down the warrior's cheek. Without a word between them, Xena lifted Gabrielle up and carried her into the bedchamber.

This time she laid her down ever so gently and kissed her soft lips, lovingly. Xena slowly removed the bard's clothing, kissing every part of her flesh that would be uncovered during this exercise in restraint. Gabrielle unfastened snaps that held armor in place and slipped the warrior's leathers off. Then as Xena sat on the bed and kissed the back of Gabrielle's neck she knelt down before the warrior and removed her boots. As she stood back up, she allowed herself to begin the exploration of her lovers' body for the first time. Xena felt her bard's hands shake as they began moving over her.

"You don't…" A finger to her lips ended her train of thought.

She laid Xena back onto the bed. They lay facing each other with just a breath of a distance between to bodies that ached for each other. They caressed each other, slowly, lovingly. Gabrielle closed the distance and began kissing the warrior's neck and shoulder. Xena let her head drop back to enjoy the touch of the bard's lips against her flesh.

Gabrielle could feel the warrior's pulse quicken and hear the soft moans that escaped her lips. The combination flooded the bard's senses. She could no longer see the warrior, she could only hear her breathing, feel her body, and smell the sweet mixture of passion and pleasure that was beginning to enrapture them both.

The bard tenderly kissed Xena's collarbone and then for some unknown reason she felt the need to move back up to her neck. The desire was just as strong as it had been one other time and without realizing it, she bit down on the warrior's neck. She didn't draw blood this time, just a loud pleasurable moan from her lover. As she held her mouth there for a moment she flicked her tongue over the two little scars she had left behind the last time she was this close to the warrior. She released the bite and returned to her downward decent.

Xena pulled her as close as she could and ran her hands all over the bard's body. The fire between them had never burned like this before. She hadn't felt this much pleasure in so long. Her entire body began to shake with the thoughts of Gabrielle finally being this close to her and touching her in ways she had only dare dream of, until now.

Gabrielle was doing very well for her first attempt, but Xena could tell she was nervous and hesitant. Slowly she rolled the bard onto her back and began kissing her. First those wonderful, soft lips. Then her neck and further down her body until she reached the bard's breasts. Taking a nipple into her mouth she played with the bard. She felt her body tense up and her back arch as they continued to make love.

Again the warrior took the bard. Again the bard allowed herself to be taken by the warrior. Such pleasure, her body had never known before. Their bodies entwined around each other as they moved over the silk sheets. Hands clasped together with such force, muscles ached from their erotic dance.

Gabrielle gasped and moaned as Xena move between her legs and kissed the inside of her thighs, nuzzling her softly and then consuming her with a passionate, hungry mouth. The bard grabbed the sheets and gripped them with all of her might as the warrior drove her to the edge of the explosion she so desperately wanted.

"Please…" She begged through ragged breaths. "Please Xena."

This only served to make the warrior more intent on making the bard wait. She slowed her love making to soft simple strokes and kisses intentionally designed to make the bard cry out.

"Please don't stop."

Xena was enjoying the torture she was inflicting upon the bard. All was going well until she felt the bard's hands wrap themselves up in her hair. There was absolutely no question about what was being demanded. She returned to the passionate consumption of her lover. Gabrielle arched and shuddered under her. Xena wrapped the bard's thighs up in her strong arms and held her there as she continued to drink in every sweet drop. The first rush of pleasure caused Gabrielle to cry out as she rode the wave. The second caused her to set up and collapse onto the warrior who still managed to maintain her loving kisses. The third sent the bard to Elysia. She collapsed forward again and whimpered.

"Stop. Stop."

The warrior stopped her loving strokes and gently laid the bard back down and pulled her into her arms. Gabrielle continued to shudder from the after effects of their lovemaking. Her eyes were closed and Xena knew she was well on her way to being sound asleep. She covered them with the sheet and settled down to hold the light of her life. She kissed her on the forehead and whispered softly, "I love you." It wasn't long before the warrior was also slumbering peacefully.

He slapped the water on the reflecting pool as he watched them fall asleep in each other's arms. "Nothing is going my way today!" Rumbled Ares as he began pacing back and forth. He was so frustrated he didn't even notice the arrival of his sister.

"Sweet isn't it bro?" She asked as she looked in the pool at the vision of the lovers.

Ares turned, anger flashing in his eyes. "You! You're responsible for this aren't you?"

"Well duh. Of course I am."

"I want you to release Xena from whatever spell you have put on her."

"Oh there's no spell here bro. They really love each other. I just had to give them a shove in the right direction."

"Aphrodite, Xena is not capable of being in love. I know her better than anyone."

"I few years ago I would have agreed with ya' on that one, but not now. She'd walk through fire for that little bard."

"She just might have to before I'm done with her."

"Oh get a grip. It's over, let her go."

"Never! She's mine. She always has been and always will be."

"Ares we all know this is the right thing to do and no one is going to let you interfere anymore. Xena has worked hard to change and the Gabster is an important part of that change."

"I don't care. I want my warlord back!"

"Oh quit whining. It's so unbecoming. Just let them have their time together. Let them be happy. Just because you lost one lousy warlord you would think Zeus was about to send down lighting bolts and destroy the world."

"I wish he would."

"You have dozens of other perfectly good warlords to play with…"

"Yeah, but every time I try, Xena stops them."

"So basically you're upset because she keeps breaking your toys?"

"Oh would you just go away." He hissed.

"Yes dear brother, I will go away. I just came to tell you that the rest of the family has decided that if you keep trying to interfere it's only going to end badly for you."

Aphrodite was gone in a flash and Ares just continued to rage on.

Gabriele was awake before Xena. She snuggled in next to her sleeping lover and just sighed as she thought of everything that had taken place over the last couple of days. It was then that she noticed it for the first time, Xena snored. Not loudly, just a quiet little snore, almost like a cat purring. Not long ago that probably would have annoyed her, but now it just served as a reminder that her love was close to her and content.

The sun was starting to set and she knew that they had to meet with Jordon for the evening meal. Jordon wanted to introduce Gabrielle to Kaylan and his fiancÚ. It would also be a good first test for the restraint of the warrior. As badly as she hated to do it, she knew it was time to wake Xena. She tenderly kissed her on the ear and the neck.

"Gabrielle if you want to make it to the dining hall anytime soon you'd better stop."

"Oh so you are awake. You cheat."

"There's nothing that says I can't lay here with my eyes closed and enjoy the feeling of just being close to you."

Gabrielle made a mental note to add that to the list of rules for making love. No pretending to be asleep. She moved over the warrior and lay herself down on top of her. Xena wrapped her arms around her and held her close.

"Why did you stop me?" The bard asked softly.

"What?"

"When we were making love. Why did you stop me? Did I do something wrong?"

"No my love, it was nothing like that. You just seemed a little hesitant. I don't want you to push yourself. It will take time before you're ready to give of yourself. Just relax."

"Are you sure? Because I could most certainly…"

"You will not. I'm willing to wait for as long as it takes."

"We really do need to get up and have a bath before we go down stairs." Gabrielle said resting entirely on top of the warrior.

"If we want to make it downstairs at all then I suggest separate baths."

"Probably not a bad idea under the circumstances."

"You go first." The warrior said giving the bard a playful little shove.

"Why me? Why not you?" Shoving back.

"Because maybe I'm in the mood to just lounge in bed for a few more minutes."

"Oh yeah, I buy that one. I suppose you've got a coliseum in Athens you'd like to sell me too."

"Do you doubt me, bard?" Xena asked lifting her eyebrow.

"I'm in trouble aren't I?"

"You're gonna be if you don't get out of this bed and go take a bath."

Gabrielle hesitated for a moment then decided against her next action, which probably would have ended up with her getting dumped onto the floor. She just kissed her lover and dashed into the bathing chamber. Xena did indeed spent the next few moments lounging in bed until someone interrupted her relaxation by pounding on the door.

"What is it with this place?" She grumbled as she got up and put on her robe. She stretched as she entered the main room and headed for the door.

She opened the door and Jordon dashed in, completely out of breath.

"What's wrong?"

Taking a moment to regain a little princely composure. "You know how you get to a point where you just don't think your life can get any more complicated than it already is?"

"Yeesss." Xena drew it out as she eyed the young 'prince'.

"Come here." Jordon led Xena to the window. "Look."

Outside the walls of the village, an army was amassing. Two or three hundred soldiers. "Do we know who it is?" Xena asked as she surveyed the scene in front of her.

"Oh yeah. That's how it get complicated."

"You know Jordon you have an amazing talent for understatement. Who is it?"

"Jorgus."

"Jorgus? Oh gods. What's he doing here?"

"He brought his daughter here hoping, no, make that demanding I take her as my wife."

"Let me guess. He says that if you don't marry her, he'll attack the village."

"Do you have any suggestions on how we might handle this?"

"Yeah, but I'm gonna need a few things to pull it off."

"Name it."

"I'll make a list. Have Darrius collect all the items and bring them up here."

She sat down at the table and made a list of the things she needed. Handing it off to Jordon she asked, "Who else knows Gabrielle and I are here?"

"Just the palace staff and Kaylan."

"Tell Kaylan that no matter what he see or hears tonight, not to react to it."

"What are you going to do?"

"Before I tell you. Send a messenger out to Jorgus and invite him to dinner. Tell him you want to discuss his kind 'offer'. Then come back up here and I'll tell you what's going on."

"Okay. I'll be back in a few."

Jordon took the list and dashed from the room. Xena looked out at the army and just shook her head. "Me and my bright ideas. Take a vacation I said. Have a little fun I said. Next time I'm just going to keep my big mouth shut." She chastised herself as she made for the bathroom.

"Gabrielle do you have you're amazon jewelry with you?"

The bard was surprised by the question and it took a moment for it to register. "Ah, yes, of course."

"Good. Wear it tonight. All of it. And you know that little dagger I gave you for spring solstice?"

"Yeah."

"Carry it tucked away tonight."

"Xena what's going on?"

"We've got company."

"Oh I don't like the sound of that."

"Yeah, well it isn't going to be fun for any of us but if we handle it right the problem should take care of itself." Xena sat down of the edge of the tub. "Gabrielle I'm about to tell you to do something you may not like, but it's very important that you do exactly as I say."

"What? What do I have to do?"

"You have to own me."

"Oh but I already do warrior. You just don't know it yet." She purred.

"Come on Gabrielle I'm not joking around here. You're going to have to give off the impression that you defeated me in battle, and that you kept me as a prize." She paused and drew a deep breath, "A slave."

"I don't like the sound of that."

"I didn't think you would. It's the only way we're going to convince Jorgus…"

"The warlord Jorgus?"

"The one and the same. His army is amassed outside the village. He has brought his daughter here to marry Jordon."

"Could things get any more complicated?"

"Let's hope not or one of us may have to commit ritual suicide." Said an exasperated Xena as she lay a towel on the side of the bat tub. Just finish your bath so we can get you dressed."

There was no answer to this. Just the glugging noise that always accompanied someone sliding under water. Xena turned just in time to see the bard's head disappear. Only little bubbles remained.

Xena returned to the bedchamber and chose clothing appropriated for the both of them. She laid the clothing out on the bed and returned to the window's edge, being extremely careful now not to be seen. Jorgus' army had grown and it looked as if he were recruiting men of a little better quality these days. This may not be as easy as she thought. 'No time to worry about that', she said to herself as she heard Gabrielle come out of the bathroom. She turned. The bard wrapped in a towel was making her way across the room.

"No stay there. I don't want to take a chance on anyone seeing you yet. Go in the bedchamber and get dressed. The black leather number is yours."

She turned and headed for the bedchamber mumbling something about ownership. All though Xena hadn't heard the whole statement she decided to play off of it. "I heard that." She yelled at the bard.

"Good!" Came testy the reply.

Xena bathed quickly and went to get dressed. As she came out of the bedchamber, she found Jordon had returned. She was adjusting to her new clothing, simply boots, leather trousers and a white shirt with long sleeves. She felt almost naked, no sword, no chakram. Both Jordon and Gabrielle just sat at the table in the main room. Jordon looked a little nervous and Gabrielle looked, well Gabrielle looked just ravishing in the black leather outfit Xena had chosen for her. She also looked a little miffed as she sat there, legs crossed and bouncing her foot in an irritated manner. Xena decided to ignore this fact for the moment.

She walked over to the table and began inspecting the items that had been brought, per her request. Gabrielle picked up a black leather collar and held it up on one finger, just letting it dangle there. "What is this?"

"It's a collar." The warrior said dryly, her gaze never leaving the items before her. She picked up two more items that looked like the one Gabrielle held in her hand. The only differences being they were smaller in diameter and hooked together by a chain. She pulled on the chain and frowned. Looking around she spotted what she needed; reaching over she retrieved the dagger from between Gabrielle's breasts. She handed the cuffs and the dagger to Jordon. "Use some of that demi-god strength and pry those end loops apart a bit. I want to be able to get out of them if need be. Not to much though, they have to look solid."

Jordon took the cuffs and began the task. Xena took the collar. "Thanks." She said and then fastened it into place around her own neck, making all the necessary adjustments so it would at least be somewhat comfortable. She looked down at Gabrielle who now had tears in her eyes. All the anger gone, replaced now by something the warrior couldn't quite identify. She knelt down in front of Gabrielle and smiled. "It's going to be okay."

"I don't like this. I don't like what you're asking me to do and I don't like seeing you this way."

"Gabrielle it's the only way we're going to convince Jorgus that Jordon isn't interested in his daughter."

"And exactly how is all of this going to do that?"

"I was wondering that myself." Jordon muttered, handing the dagger and the cuffs back across the table to Xena.

Xena took the items. She handed the dagger back to Gabrielle and once again examined the cuffs. "Okay," She started as she tugged on the chain again. "I've met Jorgus in battle four times and defeated him every time. So logically speaking, anyone who can beat me…"

"Can beat Jorgus." Jordon chimed in.

"Exactly." She said as she snapped the cuffs into place around her wrists.

"Okay, call me stupid, but I still don't get it." Gabrielle said as she tugged on the chain between Xena's hands.

"Gabrielle if Jorgus thinks you defeated me in battle he won't challenge your right to marry Jordon."

"And why not?"

"Because if you and your army can take me down. You can probably take anyone."

"Well, aren't you full of yourself warrior. Besides I don't have an army."

"Oh but you do," Xena replied deciding to let the first part of Gabrielle's comment slide. "You have an entire nation at your disposal My Queen."

"The amazons?"

"Un-huh."

"But they're not here."

"Not yet, but they will be arriving for the impending nuptials." The warrior said raising an eyebrow, hoping that the bard would catch on.

"And if anything happens to their queen in the meantime…"

"Now you're getting it."

"So why don't you just go don't there in warlord mode and do your thing?"

"Because I don't have an army, nor do I have one I can call on that's big enough to battle the two hundred soldiers outside these walls. Besides why should anyone get hurt?"

"But this," the bard said tugging on the chains again. "This hurts."

Xena smiled at her love and leaned up to give her a gentle kiss. "Thank you. It's just my pride it'll heal. Besides if I have to belong to someone…" She continued with an evil little grin.

"Xena this is not funny."

"No it's not, but it is necessary. So now we have to give you lessons in how to be a slave owner. Stand up." Xena could she Gabrielle was reluctant. "Come on stand up. Gabrielle our lives may depend on your performance."

"She rose and stood before the warrior. "All right what do I have to do?"

"First, get a feel for that outfit, because my love you do look good in it. You should wear leather more often."

This was the first time Gabrielle had really considered the outfit she was wearing. Black boots to her knees, where the black leather skirt started or ended as the case may be. Then a black leather bodice that did a good job covering everything but her cleavage. She had on the armbands, wristbands and necklace that identified her as Queen of the Amazons. There was also a signet ring that Xena had made for her in Athens.

The breast dagger was in plain view. Xena had given it to Gabrielle as a gift to be used in making her daily activities such as cooking and sharpening her quills a little easier. It had never meant to be used as a weapon. How quickly things could change. Xena thought about making her move it, then she decided it was good right where it was. 'Easy access' she thought as she inspected the bard. "Okay, first things first. Take that whip and put in on your side, there on that hook."

Gabrielle picked a small black whip up from the table and eyed it suspiciously. "What exactly am I suppose to do with this?"

"It's a slave whip. If I get out of hand…"

"I will not take a whip to you!" She yelled, throwing it on the table.

Xena calmly reached over with both hands and picked up the whip and put it back in the bard's hands. "If it's a choice between whipping me or getting yourself killed. You WILL take this whip to me. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"

Gabrielle took the whip and placed it on the hook, keeping her eyes lowered and nodding her head yes.

"Good. Now take the belt there and put it around my waist." Gabrielle picked up the thick leather belt and put it in place. "Now lock the wrist cuffs in place, here in the front." Again the bard did as she was told. "The chain and the key on the table, take them. The key is for my cuffs and the chain is my lead." The bard reluctantly picked up the items from the table. "Now I want you to give Jordon your signet ring and I want you to go into the bedchamber and lay down for a few minutes. Okay?"

Gabrielle was numb at this point. Without comment or even without really thinking about it she handed the ring to Jordon and left the room. When Xena was sure she wasn't coming back anytime soon she turned to Jordon.

"Take those tongs and heat that over a candle. Get it good and hot."

"Why?"

"Just do it." Jordon did what was asked. When Xena thought the metal hot enough, she had Jordon pull the shoulder of her shirt down and lay the hot metal on the flesh of her left shoulder blade. She gritted her teeth as the sound of searing skin sizzled in her ears. When it was over a small round brand was left. "Now I want you to hit me."

"What?"

"Hit me and make it good. It's your only chance you may as well take it. I know people that would pay good dinars to take a swing at me and live to tell about it."

Jordon had given up trying to understand the warrior. Pulling back slowly, the punch came out of no where, sending the warrior sprawling over the table and landing on the floor with a thundering crash. Gabrielle came out of the bedchamber and went immediately to Xena's side. The warrior was dazed and now had a spilt lip and the beginnings of what was going to be a beautiful black eye in a few moments.

"What in Tartarus did you do?" The bard asked Jordon as she helped Xena to her feet."

"She told me to." Replied Jordon, also assisting the warrior to her feet.

"And if she told you to jump off a cliff would you do that too?"

"Gabrielle," Xena said, "I told her to do it. It's for realism." She shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Feels real enough." The blood from her lip has already begun to splash down on her shirt leaving crimson drops to soak through. The bard had found a cloth on the table and began to stop the flow of blood. "Gabrielle you can't show me this kind of tenderness."

"Shut up!" She commanded as she continued to try and stop the bleeding.

"Gab…" Xena started, but she soon found herself being pushed down by the chains at her waist until she was on her knees in front of the bard. Gabrielle grabbed the warrior's face and tilted it up. "I said shut up!" She held the cloth in place until the bleeding stopped. Xena ran her tongue across her swollen sore lip. She didn't however make eye contact with the bard, who, in her opinion was beginning to feel right at home in this 'mistress' role. The next thing she felt was the click of the lead being put on the collar and then being drawn back to her full height by a tug.

"Is this the way it should be done?" Gabrielle asked with harshness in her voice the warrior had never really heard before.

"Yes."

Another jerk on the lead. "Yes. What?"

Xena smiled ever so slightly as she replied. "Yes…Mistress."

Gabrielle smiled back. Xena just shook her head and turned to Jordon. "Go on down, Gabrielle and I will be down in about half a candle mark."

Jordon sighed deeply and left the room. Xena turned back to Gabrielle who had lost her smile again.

"So, warrior," she began with a jerk on the chain "I own you?"

"No." Xena said defiantly waiting to see if the bard had it in her. Soon she was back on her knees. 'Promising' she thought as she kept her head down, refusing to look at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle took the warrior by the hair and pulled her head back. "Do I own you?"

"No." Still testing the waters. There was a jerk on the chain that brought the warrior further down to the floor. She was on her hands and knees know. Then the boot to the center of her back sent her entire body to the floor. Face down with her hands pinned under her, she waited. She felt the bard straddle her back and lean over. Her lips close to the warrior's ear.

"Do I own you?" She growled.

"No." The sensation of the dagger at her throat was exhilarating and completely unexpected.

"Not the answer I'm looking for warrior. Do I own you?"

Xena decided Gabrielle had played a good game and let her have the victory. "Yes."

"All right," the Queen of the Amazons said as she pulled the warrior up by her lead. "Now that we've established who's in charge here let's go down for the evening meal so I can't show off my prize."

'Oh, boy I could really be in trouble here' Thought Xena as they headed for the door.

Gabrielle stopped and looked lovingly into the warrior's eyes. She placed and open hand on the side of her face, "I love you."

"I love you too." Xena said.

Gabrielle pulled down on the chain and kissed Xena, hard and fast. Leaving the warrior breathless. "It would be my guess that you're going to be of service to me later." She said as they walked out of the room.

As they made their way to the dining hall they paused briefly at the entrance to hear what was going on.

"This is a disgrace!" An unfamiliar voice boomed. "You're out of you're mind if you think I'm buying this for even one moment Jordon!"

"How dare you address my brother in that manner! He is the crown prince and you will address him as Your Highness." Another voice retaliated.

"Be quiet boy! This does not concern you!" The older voice spat out.

"Enough of this!" Jordon commanded. "Jorgus you are here at my invitation. You will not speak this way to my brother in my home. I was hoping we could talk this situation through. I wanted to try and make you understand, but if all you plan on doing it raving, then my guards will be perfectly happy to remove you."

"If I leave this village tonight. It won't exist in the morning."

"Is that a threat Jorgus?"

"A promise" He paused "Your Highness." The sarcastic tone was unmistakable.

Gabrielle took a deep breath and made her entrance. Xena walked two paces behind her, trying her best to look the part of the defeated warlord imprisoned by the little amazon. She kept her head down, but at every opportunity tried to have quick look around to get a handle on exactly what their odds were should this plan fall apart.

Besides Jordon, Kaylan and Jorgus there were two women in the room. Xena surmised that one was Kaylan's fiancÚ and the other was Jorgus' daughter. There were four of Jorgus' men standing along the walls. Jordon had already countered that problem by placing two palace guards for each of the soldiers. The warrior was so engrossed in taking a head count she had totally missed Gabrielle's first command to her. For her apparent lack of attention she was rewarded with a hard jerk on her chain which snapped her back to reality.

"Down!" Gabrielle commanded, indicating that she should kneel next to an empty chair.

"Yes Mistress." She said as she knelt down. Eyes lowered she smiled to herself as she noticed that Jordan had evened out the odds even more by having various small weapons attached to the underside of the table. 'Clever' she thought as she chose which one she would utilize if need be. Gabrielle 'secured' her lead to the table and then turned her attention to Jordon.

She moved in and leaned down with such seductive movements it was all the warrior could do to keep from blowing the whole thing right there. "So my dear Jordon. Why all the yelling?" She purred as she leaned in and kissed the prince.

When the kiss was over Jordon cleared his throat and smiled a nervous little smile. "Well you see my dear, our guest here doesn't seem to understand that I have found my queen and am no longer looking."

Gabrielle stood up to her full height. She turned to the warlord. "What exactly don't you understand?"

The warlord sized up the woman and smirked. "What could you possibly offer him?"

"Well now," Gabrielle continued to purr as she took her seat and began stroking Xena's hair, petting her as if she were a beloved pet. "I am royalty. I have a strong army at my disposal and I take the most delicious prisoners."

The warlord took notice of the warrior for the first time. It was quite obvious that he didn't recognize her. "What's so special about that particular slave?"

Gabrielle wrapped her hand in Xena's long raven hair and pulled her head up. Jorgus drew a deep breath when he realized who sat beside this woman. "Xena?" He croaked.

Xena did her best to look beaten. It wasn't hard given the condition of her face. She lowered her eyes and choked out, "Yes My Lord."

Jorgus smiled. A new respect for the amazon crept into his features. "Well now. A new twist to the little puzzle. Tell me Your Majesty how did you come to have such an interesting prize?"

"Tell him Xena." Gabrielle said knowing that the warrior would be better suited to tell a story of battle than she would. 'Go with what you know' she thought as she encouraged the warrior to tell the story.

"Yes Mistress." Xena said softly before turning her attention to Jorgus. "I tried to raid the village of the Amazon's. Queen Gabrielle's warrior's wasted no time in defeating my men. In less that three candle marks my entire army was facing defeat. Most of my men lay either dead or wounded. Some of the coward's retreated into the forest. I thought that my only chance to salvage what was left was to defeat the queen. So I challenged her. It turned out to be my downfall. I underestimated the power of my mistress. After a short engagement I found myself on my back, defenseless with her sword at my throat. I had watched her kill several of my men single handedly and I knew she wouldn't think twice about cutting my throat. When she gave me the choice between submission and death, I chose submission."

"You defeated Xena in battle?" He asked not quiet believing it.

"My Gods man you are thick." Gabrielle countered. "Isn't that what she just told you?"

"Somehow it just doesn't seem possible."

"Why not?" Gabrielle hissed at the warlord. The tone in her voice sent chills down Xena's spine.

"Well you're…so…" He stammered.

"Yes?" Gabrielle answered as she made a reach for her breast dagger.

Jorgus raised his hand. "No insult meant Your Majesty. If Xena says you defeated her in battle then I believe it."

Gabrielle settled back in her chair and took a sip of her wine. As she finished she put the goblet to Xena's lips and gave her a drink of the wine. Xena sipped slowly. First, it was difficult to drink this way and secondly she had no desire to get drunk. Gabrielle put the goblet back down and smiled down at Xena. "Now, if I remove your bindings do you promise to behave?"

"Yes Mistress."

Gabrielle unlocked the cuffs and removed the chain, leaving the collar in place. "You may remove the waist restraint." She said to Xena in a soft tone.

Kaylan watched the entire exchange. He had forewarned his own wife to be that things might be 'unusual' this evening. They both managed to maintain an air of normalcy, as if they had become quite accustomed to this whole thing, when in reality they hadn't even been introduced to the powerful young amazon that Jordon proclaimed to be in love with.

Jorgus and his daughter sat quietly and took in the scene as Xena removed the restraint and gently laid it beside her. Gabrielle smiled at Jordon and leaned over towards him. They met half way and Gabrielle once again planted a soft kiss on the prince's lips. Xena watched. Half of her just wanted to get up and beat Jorgus senseless so this charade could come to a close. The other half of her was intrigued by the display of affection between the two women she cared for so very much. 'Do go there' she silently chastised herself. 'You'd never be able to handle it.'

"So Jordon when is the wedding?" Jorgus inquired with a very demanding tone in his voice.

"Gabrielle and I thought that we would be married with Kaylan and Atallia during the spring festival."

"Really now. Well I may just have to stay for that. Two royal weddings at once, I'm sure it will be quite the spectacle."

"You know Jorgus," Jordon began "if I didn't know better I'd say you were mocking me."

"Far from it Your Highness. I just think it's only fair. I mean after all, my daughter and I did travel a great distance to get here and I think it would be rude to leave before the wedding."

"When did you ever care about being rude?" Xena had let it slip out before she had even realized it had happened.

She expected what happened next and was glad to know that Gabrielle was right on top of the situation before it could get any worse. Xena found herself lying on the floor on her stomach. The bard had her knee planted firmly in the warrior's back. The slave whip brushed Xena's cheek.

"Apologize!" She demanded.

"I'm sorry Mistress."

"Not to me, to him," She indicated Jorgus "and to Prince Jordon. How dare you insult a guest of the royal house."

Suddenly Xena felt the whip wrap around her throat. It wasn't as tight as it could be, but it certainly made the point very clear. Gabrielle brought her up to her knees using the whip as her leash. "Apologize before I take this to your hide!"

"Please My Lord forgive me. I forgot my place. I meant no disrespect to Your Highness or to your guest."

Jordon couldn't do anything but nod in an approving manner. It was tearing the prince apart to see her friend like this. Gabrielle looked over to Jorgus.

"Is that satisfactory to you Jorgus?" Gabrielle asked, hoping against hope that it would be because she didn't think she'd like the options that were going to be left.

"Yes. Just to hear the great warrior princess so humbled and begging is satisfaction in itself."

'Thank the Gods' Gabrielle thought as she released Xena with a shove that sent her sprawling backwards. The bard turned on the warrior, stood over her menacingly and shook the whip in her face. "You do that again and I'll kill you right here. Do you understand?"

"Yes Mistress."

Before turning back around the bard gave the warrior a quick smile and a wink. She took her place at the table and Xena returned to her place at the Queen's side. Regardless of what everyone else in the room thought, Gabrielle was grateful that the warrior was there to protect her.

By the end of the meal, Jorgus made it quite clear he wasn't leaving anytime soon and even hinted about accommodations in the palace. Jordon had determined that she couldn't very well make him leave but she didn't have to make him comfortable and she didn't make any offers. Xena was indeed grateful that her young friend was a warrior at heart and was thinking tactics all of the time. Gabrielle also felt a rush of relief when it became clear that he wouldn't be sharing any more space with them than absolutely necessary.

At the end of the meal, the palace guard escorted out Jorgus, his daughter and the soldiers. Once it was assured they were gone Gabrielle immediately removed the collar from Xena's throat and pulled her to her feet wrapping her arms around the warrior's waist.

"I'm so sorry." She cried into the warrior's shoulder.

Xena kissed her on top of the head and ran her fingers through her hair. "Don't be. You did a wonderful job."

"I almost believed it myself for a moment or two." Jordon offered as she stood to be with her friends. She nudged Xena to remind her that Kaylan and Atallia were still in the room. Xena knew immediately what the nudge was for and turned a very confused Gabrielle loose. Jordon immediately took over and wrapped a protective arm around the bard. Gabrielle started to protest then she realized the slave fašade might by over but the engagement fašade wasn't.

"So," Kaylan began "the warrior is still a warrior and not a slave at all."

"Not by a long shot." Xena said as she went forward and embraced the young man. "How are you Kaylan?"

"I'm fine Xena and very relived to see you are your old self."

"I'm far from that Kaylan. I am however champion of the Queen and her humble servant in so many different ways you can't even begin to image."

The comment was lost on Kaylan and Atallia, but Gabrielle and Jordon understood the meaning immediately. Jordon brought Gabrielle forward for introductions. "Gabrielle, Queen of the Amazons may I present my brother Prince Kaylan and his fiancÚ Atallia."

Kaylan knelt and took Gabrielle's hand kissing it gently, "Your Majesty I am honored."

"Please Kaylan, get up. You and I will be brother and sister soon. You shouldn't kneel at my feet."

Kaylan got up with a smile on his lips. "Now I see what Jordon sees in you. Your so much alike."

"Thank you Kaylan. I take that as a great compliment."

"So would somebody like to explain to me what just happened here."

"Kaylan," Jordon began "I'll explain everything to you in awhile. Right now I want to get Gabrielle back to her chambers. I'm sure she's exhausted."

"Jordon," Xena interrupted "It's okay. I can take the Queen back to her chambers. You should fill Kaylan in on everything that's going on." With that Xena picked up the discarded slave garb and she and Gabrielle left the dining hall.

Once safely back in their chambers, Xena sat on the couch in the main sitting room and massaged sore muscles. Gabrielle had gone to change. She wasn't fond of the leather and wanted to be out of it as soon as possible. When she returned, Xena was leaning forward, massaging her right shoulder. Gabrielle went over and sat down next to the warrior and took over, without a word being spoken between them.

Gabrielle worked on the shoulder in silence for awhile, then she just couldn't take it any longer. "What's wrong my love?"

"It's silly. Don't worry about it." Xena said as she moved her head from side to side trying to work the knots out of those muscles as well.

Gabrielle moved her hands to the warrior's neck and began manipulating the tight muscles she found there. "You can't lie to me Xena. What's wrong?"

"Did have to kiss Jordon?"

"Yeah at the moment I thought it was the right thing to do." The bard said standing her ground. "You wanted convincing…"

"Yeah I was convinced." Xena said.

"Then it stands to reason, that Jorgus was convinced too."

"Maybe. I don't know. He seems awful bent on staying for the wedding."

"So he stays for the wedding. What's the big deal?"

"You're not the one who has to be a slave until it's over. Not exactly how I wanted Jordon's people to perceive me."

"Ah, warrior's pride. I see."

"Yes Gabrielle, pride." The warrior responded with just a trace of a pout.

"You said it would heal."

"With some help from you, it might."

"What kind of help?" Gabrielle said with a mischievous grin.

"Well you could kiss it and make it better."

"Just tell me where it hurts."

They lay in each other's arms; Gabrielle ran her hands over the warrior's skin. It was still damp with the perspiration of their most recent lovemaking. As she ran her hand over the left shoulder of the warrior Gabrielle felt her flinch.

"What's wrong did I miss a spot?" Gabrielle said with a giggle.

"It's just still really tender."

"From what?" Gabrielle pushed herself up and for the first time saw the brand her signet ring had left.

"Great Zeus Xena what have you done to yourself?"

"Nothing that didn't need to be done I assure you. If Jorgus had doubted our story he would have asked to see your mark."

"My mark? I don't understand."

"All slaves are marked Gabrielle. Identifiable to their respective owners."

"I can't believe you did this to yourself."

"I had to be done. Besides I do belong to you my Queen, heart and soul. You've already left your mark on me."

Gabrielle wanted to cry, but she realized it was done now and couldn't be undone. She gently kissed the brand that would someday be another of Xena's battle scars. Xena pulled the bard back down and kissed her on the forehead.

I love you, my little one. Please, no matter what happens from this day forward don't ever forget or doubt that." The warrior said softly. To Gabrielle it almost sounded as if she were pleading.

"I won't Xena. I promise." Gabrielle played with the end of Xena's hair as she watched the warrior in the moonlight that was streaming into their room. "Xena?"

"Hmmm?"

"When did you know?"

"What?"

"That you were in love with me."

"I don't remember the exact moment Gabrielle. It's been building for sometime now. Although you were awful cute on the nutbread." Xena said with a smile, Gabrielle blushed. "Every time I looked at you, you would capture a little more of my heart. The thought of being without you began to tear me apart. I knew that eventually I was going to have to tell you how I was feeling before it destroyed me. I was just afraid that the truth would drive you from me so I kept putting it off. I'm not very good with words and I was afraid of saying the wrong thing."

Gabrielle reached across the bed and intertwined her the fingers of her right hand with the fingers of the warrior's left hand. She caressed the hand and just thought about what the warrior had just said.

"What about you?" The warrior's question broke through the stillness.

"The last night we were out in the woods. You know, when I kissed you."

"Oh come on!" Xena said pulling her head back a little so she could look down at the bard. "You're kidding right?"

"No I'm serious. I knew from the first minute I saw you, I had to be with you. I just didn't know to what extent until that moment.

"Why didn't you tell me the other night?"

"Just scared I guess."

"Scared? Of what? Me?" The warrior's heart was about to break at the thought that Gabrielle could be scared of her. Of course she had every right to be, after all that had happened between them. She had shown her dark side to the gentle little bard and she would always regret it.

"I was afraid you would send me away. I mean I'm not exactly the type you normally go for."

"And what type would that be?"

"Oh you know, tall, dark, handsome, deadly."

Xena Chuckled and hugged the bard. "Male?"

"Yeah."

"Now Gabrielle you know very well that I have had a variety of…um…well…" 'Now I've done it' she thought as she tried to find an ending to that incredibly stupid sentence. "Experiences."

"Oh yes let us not forget the other women in your life. Women who could teach you more in a month than I could in a lifetime."

"Gabrielle it's not what you've taught me. It's what you've given me."

"Given you? What could 'I' possibly have given 'you'?"

"The ability to love. To finally accept being loved. You are the light that keeps me from being swallowed by the darkness of my soul. You gave me my life back." Xena could feel the warm tears of the bard's falling from her eyes. "Hey what's that all about?"

"For someone who doesn't talk much when you do it's always a surprise I hadn't expected."

"Should I stop? I mean if you're gonna cry every time I open my mouth…"

"Don't you dare. I love it that you've started opening up to me. It shows me that you trust me."

"With everything I am, my little one. With everything I am."

Soon the bard was asleep in the warrior's arms once again. Xena slept lightly that night, expecting someone to come crashing in on them again. She awoke several times through the night, each time relieved to find Gabrielle sleeping next to her. Rolled on her side and just watched the bard sleep. It wasn't the first time she had just watched her sleep and now she knew it wouldn't be the last. Quietly she slipped from the bed and went into the main room.

Gabrielle awoke with the morning light, stretched and reached out for her warrior who was gone. In her place Gabrielle found a single long stem rose and a scroll. She took the rose and inhaled its sweet scent then she unrolled the scroll and began to read,

My Darling Gabrielle,

I know that I'm not good at expressing my feelings and it seems like the harder I try the worse I make it sometimes. I just wanted you to know that I truly love you. Nothing will ever change that. Now that I have found you, I'll never let you go. My words are not as beautiful or as elegant as yours are but they come from my heart. I thought I'd write them down for you because it seems like every time I talk to you lately, you start crying. Happy tears or not, I hate to see you cry.

Every thing you are
Every thing you'll be
Touches the current of love
So deep in me
Every sigh in the night
Every tear that you cry
Seduces me
And all that I am
And all that I'll be
Means nothing at all
If you can't be with me
Your most innocent kiss
Or your sweetest caress
Seduces me
I don't care about tomorrow
I've given up on yesterday
Here and now is all that matters
Right here with you is where I'll stay
Every thing in this world
Every voice in the night
Every little thing of beauty
Shining through in your eyes
And all that is you
Becomes part of me too
Cause all you do
Seduces me
And if I should die tomorrow
I'd go down with a smile on my face
I thank Gods I've ever known you
I'd fall down on my knees for the love we've made
Every sigh in the night
Every tear that you cry
Seduces me
Seduces me
And all you do
Seduces me

I hope you understand what you really do mean to me.

Love,

X

You tell anyone about this and I'll deny it until my dying day.

Gabrielle smiled and rolled up the scroll. She curled up with the rose and the scroll and drifted back into a deep slumber. Two candle marks later she was rousted out of bed by a frantic Jordon.

"Gabrielle, get up its Xena!"

She sat up like a shot. Wrapping the blankets around her she focused on Jordon. "What? What has happened to Xena?"

"She came down this morning to help with the school. She was still doing the slave bit…" Gabrielle was off the bed and getting dressed while Jordon continued, " Jorgus brought a small group of men into the village. Before any of us knew what was happening his men surrounded her and began…" Jordon paused.

Gabrielle feared the worst. "Jordon Xena's not…"

"No. My men rescued her, but she badly beaten. My healer has her. Come let me take you to her."

"What about Jorgus?"

"Taken prisoner by my men. He's in the dungeon. We'll deal with him later, right now we've got to get you to Xena."

Jordon took Gabrielle by the hand and led her through the castle to the healer's quarters. An elderly man was just finishing up wrapping up Xena's ribs. Gabrielle was relived to see her warrior setting up on the bed, grimacing with every painful tug on the wrappings. The bard knelt in front of her and looked up into a face that was now more bruised and bloodier than the night before.

"You just had to go outside didn't you?"

"The school…"

"The school? Xena Jordon has plenty of people…"

Xena cut Gabrielle's words short, "I'm sorry. Forgive me."

"Of course. Now let's get you to bed."

Gabrielle helped the warrior to her feet. Xena grimaced again. The healer handed a small packet to the bard. "Those ribs are broken. It's going to be awhile before she should do anything strenuous. That will help the pain. You can give it to her in tea. I'll come up later to check on her."

"Thank you." Gabrielle said as she helped the warrior to the door.

Back in their chamber Gabrielle put the injured warrior straight to bed, over many protests. She very slowly undressed her and laid her back in the bed. A light sweat began to break on Xena's brow. Gabrielle got fresh water and towels and sat on the bed carefully wiping down the bruised face.

"Sometimes I just don't know what to do with you." She said as she ran the cool cloth over her lovers' face and neck.

"What do you mean?"

"It seems like you're always looking for trouble."

"I wasn't looking. It just manages to find me finds me."

"Don't I know it."

They both chuckled. Xena's laugh cut short by her lip which, reopened and started bleeding again. Gabrielle was once again right on top of it and carefully wiped the blood away. She leaned in and gently kissed the warrior. Xena was careful not to flinch even though it hurt just a bit. She didn't want the bard to get upset.

"So now that I'm out of commission. We're going to have to find another way to deal with Jorgus." The warrior said as she absent mindedly picked lint from the blanket.

"You just leave him to me. When I'm done with him he's going to wish he were dead."

"Gabrielle what are you thinking?"

"I'm not thinking warrior, I'm doing and you can't stop me."

"Gabrielle Jorgus is a dangerous man…"

"Not nearly as dangerous as the amazon queen he's managed to piss off."

Xena couldn't believe it. There was a fire in the bard's eyes that actually, well for lack of a better term, frightened her. "At least tell me what you're planning to do."

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because if I do you'll just try to talk me out of it."

"Gabrielle I don't like not knowing what's going on."

The bard smiled. "Yeah it sucks doesn't it." With that she got up and left the room.

A short time later a maid entered the chamber and brought Xena a hot cup of tea. "I have a message from Her Majesty for you." She said meekly.

"Yes?" She said as she accepted the cup of tea.

"Her Majesty wanted me to relay to you that she had posted a guard outside the door and if you try to get out of that bed, she will personally 'kick your butt from here to Amphipolis'."

Xena smiled and sipped the tea. Her mind wrapping itself around the knowledge that she would just have to trust the bard on this one. She was in no condition to take a chance that she just might try that 'butt kicking' thing.

In the dungeon, Jorgus sat in the cell. Waiting now. He had raved, he had ranted, and he had paced and yelled to no avail. Now he just waited. His head snapped up when the door opened and the Amazon Queen walked in. She stood before the bars of the cell and just stared at him.

"Don't tell me you're going to try and execute me for beating a slave?" He said with a smirk. "Or maybe you two are more than owner and slave."

"Xena services my needs quite nicely thank you." The tone wasn't lost on Jorgus.

"I thought as much. I've heard stories about Amazon ways. And I know Xena's appetites."

"So do I. Xena has many appetites. Her greatest appetite is still for battle and blood. You see I haven't had her that long. I haven't managed to break her warrior spirit. Not that I would want to really, it can come in quite useful on occasion. So this is what I've decided to do." She began walking back and forth in front of the bars. "Once she is healed I'm giving her, her freedom."

"And your point would be what?"

"You will be held here until she's strong enough to defend herself properly."

"You've lost your mind Amazon. If I don't return my men will…"

She cut his word short with a wave of her hand. "Word has all ready been sent to your men that you have committed crimes against the crown of this village and the amazon nation and that you are being held here pending trial. They have also been told that if they make any attempt to gain entry into the village your life will be forfeit. You will be killed before the first man makes it over the wall. I hope you treated your men well Jorgus."

"You have no intentions of giving me a trial do you?"

"Yes, yes I do. I'm just going to let Xena be the judge, jury and," she paused. The dramatic effect was not lost on Jorgus. "executioner."

"You can't do that!" Jorgus yelled. He was on his feet rushing the bars now.

"Oh, but I can and I have and I will." Gabrielle said before turning and leaving the caged man to his rage.

"Your Majesty please…you can't turn me over…"

Gabrielle ignored the pleading from the cell and continued walking until the door slammed shut behind her. Jordon was leaning against the wall outside waiting for her.

"That sounds like it went well." Jordon said pushing off the wall

"Yeah it did. I kind of enjoyed it too. He's a little more than nervous now."

"What did you say to him?"

"I told him as soon as Xena was well enough to defend herself I was going to give her, her freedom and turn him over to her."

"He'll be begging for a swift execution by morning."

"To bad he won't get one." Gabrielle said as they started walking down the hall.

Xena was sleeping quiet soundly when they returned to the room. Jordon took off her sword and put it down on the table and fell into a chair. As Gabrielle came back in from the sleeping chamber she noticed how tired her friend looked. She made Jordon a cup of tea and then began massaging tired shoulders.

Jordon closed her eyes and let the bard continue to work on her knotted muscles. "How's Xena?"

"Sleeping like a baby."

"I find that hard to believe. I don't think Xena was ever a baby. I think she was just born the way she is. Gods, that feels good. No wonder she loves you."

Gabrielle blushed at this comment and realized that she was indeed giving Jordon the same kind of massage that she normally reserved for the warrior. She lightened her touch and released it completely soon after.

"Gabrielle I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"It's okay. I shouldn't have…" Her words trailed off and were lost to a deep sigh as she sat across the table from Jordon. "So tell me about the wedding."

"Nothing to tell really. You show up. We get married. You and Xena are on your way after the coronation."

"It's a warrior thing isn't it?"

"What?"

"The lack of romance. I mean you and Xena must be cut from the same cloth in that department."

"Oh, my dear I can give you all the romance you would like. I just thought it might be detrimental to by health."

Gabrielle laughed. Jordon smiled. They both knew she was right.

"But speaking of such things Gabrielle. Now that we have Jorgus safely tucked away for the moment if you want me to explain the wedding to you I will."

The words rang in Gabrielle's ears. Wedding. She hadn't realized until this very minute, she was getting married, again. "You know I just can't seem to get this wedding thing right."

"What do you mean?"

"Well I gotta warn you. The people I marry tend to end up…well…dead. Sometimes they actually start out that way." She laughed, Jordon looked confused. She took the time to explain about Perdicus and her brush with a certain already dead monarch.

"You two have been through a lot haven't you?"

"You simply wouldn't believe it."

"How does my little problem compare?"

"It pales."

"Tell me about your travels with Xena."

"You're the one who said that we had a wedding to discuss."

"It's waited this long it can wait a little longer." Jordon said as she got up and rang for Darrius. He appeared within the flicker of a flame. Jordon ordered food then returned to her spot across the table from the bard. All of her attention now focused once again on those beautiful green eyes. 'Yes it was no wonder this woman had brought the Warrior Princess to her knees' Jordon thought as Gabrielle began telling of her travels with Xena.

It had been early in the day when Gabrielle had started. Most of the day had slipped by as they talked. A grumpy warrior standing in the doorway of the sleeping chamber interrupted the latest installment.

Xena what are you doing up?" Gabrielle was at her side trying to guide her back to bed.

"Well I figured that if you two were going to set out here and talk about me. I should at least be here to defend myself."

"You're going straight back to bed."

"No. Gabrielle I'm so tired of being in bed at the moment, just take me over to the couch. I'll lay down there."

Gabrielle helped her over to the couch and laid her down. She sent Jordon for pillows to make the warrior more comfortable. Once she was settled Jordon took a seat at the table while Gabrielle prepared a plate of food and a cup of tea for Xena. She sat down of the very edge of the couch and handed her the tea. Xena sniffed the offered liquid.

"Something wrong?" Gabrielle asked.

"I'm just checking for sleeping herbs. The last cup of tea I had was LOADED with 'em." She said lifting the eyebrow at her bard.

"Herb free. Now let's get some food into you." She said as she prepared to feed the warrior.

Xena took the plate, embarrassed by Gabrielle's attentions in front of Jordon. "Gabrielle I can feed myself."

"Oh yeah of course." Gabrielle sat the plate down on the table next to the couch.

"So I've been hearing lot's of embarrassing Xena stories, but you know what I haven't heard?" Xena said as she sipped her tea.

Gabrielle cleared her throat and began to look very nervous. "What?"

"Not one embarrassing Gabrielle story."

"How long have you been listening?" She asked as she returned to her chair.

"Long enough. I notice you didn't mention the 'nutbread' incident."

"Yeah well…" Gabrielle started.

To Jordon, "She was talkin' to rocks with that one." To Gabrielle, "Or the raw squid incident."

"Xena Jordon's not inter…"

"Or the…"

Gabrielle's head collapsed on the table. "Oh Gods. All right you win. You're enjoying this aren't you?"

Xena smiled, gave her a 'who me?' look and took a bite of bread with a little cheese. "So what did you do to Jorgus "

Gabrielle lifted her head from the table and smiled. "I put the fear of Xena into him."

"Any exactly how did you do that?"

"I told him that as soon as you were well enough I was going to set you free and turn him over to you."

Xena smiled, and nodded approvingly at the bard. "Clever my dear, very clever."

Gabrielle smiled that smile that only she could when she knew Xena was pleased with her efforts. "Yeah I thought so."

There was a knock on the heavy door. Xena smiled at Jordon as Gabrielle went to answer the door. "I've been meaning to talk to you about this."

"What?"

"Aren't there any other doors in this place to knock on? Seems like someone is always at mine."

"Is it my fault if you're popular?" Jordon said with a snicker.

"Oh very funny. Don't give up your day job."

Gabrielle returned with the healer who didn't look at all pleased that the warrior was out of bed. Without hesitation Xena pointed at the bard, "It's her fault."

"What? I…I…" Gabrielle started to protest, then just dropped the idea all together.

"Doesn't matter," The healer said he as sat on the edge of the couch. "What are you doing out of bed?"

"Having my evening meal?" She mustered with a grin.

"Un-huh." The man put his hands under her robe and began to examine the broken ribs. Xena grimaced with every painful touch, clenching her jaw and gripping the sides of the couch. Not so much because of the pain, but just to keep from punching the healer. He finished his examination and removed a small bottle from the pocket of his robes. "I brought this oil for you to rub on your ribs. Take a hot bath later and then apply it."

Xena took the bottle and glared at him. "Right." She said dryly as he got up. While his back was turned to her she mouthed something about his parentage. When he turned back, she was all smiles.

"It could be several weeks before you're back to full strength. You need time to heal. If you don't take care of yourself it could be longer."

"I promise to be good and take care of myself. Besides, if I don't I'll have an angry amazon to deal with."

"Well we wouldn't want that now would we?" He said with a smile.

"No we sure wouldn't." Xena smiled at the bard who just stood there with her arms crossed.

"I'll check you again in a couple of days. Until then behave yourself. If you need me don't hesitate to call on me."

"Oh she won't." Xena said, implying the bard's willingness to find a healer for every little scrape the warrior got.

"Well I'm glad someone around here has the sense the Gods gave a goat." He said as he headed for the door and left the room.

The trio burst out laughing after the older man left the room. Xena had to hold her injured ribs to ease the pain. It was worth it.

"He doesn't have much tact but he's one of the best healers I've ever seen." Jordon said, as her own laughter subsided.

Jordon spent the rest of the afternoon in the company of the bard and the warrior. She finally departed as the sun began to set and the staff came in to prepare the room. After they were alone again Gabrielle brought the pile of furs from the fireplace and sat on the floor in front of the couch, near her warrior. Xena reached out and ran her fingers through her golden hair.

"She's falling in love with you." Xena said quietly.

"What?" Gabrielle looked back at Xena.

"Jordon, she's falling in love with you."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Gabrielle I know that look. I've seen it in the mirror to many times."

"But she knows you and I are…"

"Yeah, she knows and that's the only thing that's from stopping her from telling you how she's feeling about you." Xena said as Gabrielle turned around to face the warrior.

"I think you're just being jealous and a little over protective."

"Un-huh, we'll see."

"Should we leave?"

"I'm not in any condition to travel right now."

Suddenly there was a bright flash of light in the room. Xena and Gabrielle both had to shield their eyes from it. When it subsided they blinked to readjust to the light in the room. They looked at each other for a moment until Xena leaned forward and collapsed into Gabrielle's arms, unconscious.

Jordon sat on the edge of her bed. She inhaled deeply as the voice came to her. "It has been done." She reclined on the bed and fell into a deep sleep.

Gabrielle caught Xena in her arms and laid her back on the couch. The swelling and bruising on her face was gone. Gabrielle gently shook the warrior. "Xena? Come on Xena wake up."

Slowly she began to regain consciousness. "What happened?"

"I don't know. There was the light and then you passed out." She reached up and palmed Xena's cheek. "Your face."

"What about it?"

"It's completely healed."

The warrior took a moment and then stood up. All of her injuries were healed. The broken ribs, the cuts were gone. All bruising had either disappeared or was slowly disappearing.

"Xena what's going on?"

"I'm not sure, but I think Jordon may have had her mother pay a visit."

"Athene?"

"Un-huh. Goddess of warrior's, you know."

"I know. Why would she heal you?"

"I don't know Gabrielle, but this time I'm not going to complain about interference from the Gods."

"Well I think that your theory about Jordon just went out the window."

"I don't. I think that just strengthened the argument."

Jorgus didn't argue when the guard came and opened the door to the cell. He simply figured the Queen of the Amazon's had finally come to her senses and decided it would be better to let him go. As the guards escorted him outside however began to get a sinking feeling. Jordon stood on one side of the entrance with his arm around the Amazon Queen. When the sword got tossed at his feet he knew he was in for it.

The warlord looked up slowly from the sword to the figure of the Warrior Princess, in full battle armor, smiling at him. "Pick it up." She said.

"Xena how…? Look I didn't…" He stammered.

"PICK…IT…UP!" She growled.

The warlord bent down and picked up the sword. Xena unsheathed her sword and the two squared off with each other. "Come on Jorgus. You wanted a piece of me yesterday. Come and get it."

"Xena I don't want to fight you."

"No? That means you just wanted to beat me senseless when I was unarmed and defenseless."

"Defenseless isn't exactly a word I would ever have used to describe you."

"Jorgus you gutless coward! You and your men ambushed me yesterday when I had no weapons and no armor."

"Speaking of that…"

"I heal fast." She cut him off.

He eyed her. There was no way she could have recovered that quickly from the beating she took. It must be a bluff. He raised his sword and slashed down at her. She blocked the blow with ease. The swordplay became fierce. Jorgus realized to late what he had gotten himself into and was now sure the Warrior Princess wanted him dead. His only chance was to defeat her. If the little amazon could do then he most certainly could. Xena fought with a smile on her face the whole time Jorgus was struggling. She did so enjoy a worthy adversary, now if she could only find one. Somewhere Jorgus found a rush of energy and charged the warrior. He pounded relentlessly on her sword, driving her backwards. He did manage to get in one good stroke that opened a wound on her arm. She looked down at the blood trickling down her arm.

"Okay that's it! Now I'm mad!" She charged him and drove him to the ground with the thunderous blows to his sword. Just before he hit the ground the blade of his sword snapped in two. He scrambled backward as the warrior advanced on him and raised her sword.

"Xena please! Please don't kill me!" He begged as he tried to scoot away from her.

She brought the point of her sword to his throat. She had worked up a good sweat and it was rolling down her face giving it an eerie glow. "I should you know?" He nodded his head as the point of her sword pushed harder into his throat. "Tell you what I'm going to do."

"What?" He croaked as she eased up.

"I'll let you live on two conditions."

"Name them."

"First, I want you to put your men to work on that school over there. I want a detail of men working on it day and night until it's finished. Second, when it's finished, you and your men ride out of here and never return."

"Done."

Xena stepped back and sheathed her sword never taking her eyes from him. She signaled the palace guard who picked him up from the ground and escorted him to the gate. Xena drew a deep breath and tried to bring the shuddering in her body under control. Gabrielle watched, she had seen Xena in fights before but had never seen this reaction. She started to take a step toward the warrior. Xena held up her hand and shook her head. "Don't", she said softly.

Jordon gently pulled Gabrielle back. She resisted at first then remembering Xena's words about battle she eased backwards into Jordon. "What's happening?" She whispered, never taking her eyes from her warrior.

"She wanted to kill him. Her mind and body are coming to terms with that fact and that she didn't do it. Just give her a moment."

Ares grinned as he watched the reflecting pool. "That's it princess rage on. Come on Xena don't fight it. Give in to it." He urged as he continued staring into the pool.

"ARES!" A female voice broke through the silence. The God of War spun to face his sister, Athene. She didn't look pleased.

"What?" Ares whined.

"Leave her alone."

"Who?"

"You know who." Athene said as she crossed the cavern and looked into the reflecting pool. "I want you to leave Xena alone."

"Yeah, well if wishes were…"

"Don't start with me Ares."

"What is with you women? Always sticking together."

"If we didn't men like you would ruin it for everyone else."

"Oh very amusing sister dear. Now tell me. Why all the sudden interest in my warlord."

Athene poked him in the chest. "She's not your warlord anymore."

"Sure she is. Just look at her," He waved toward the pool. "She's losing it."

Athene looked into the pool and watched Xena as she closed her eyes and tried to push down the rage that threatened to erupt from her. Athene passed her hand over the water and suddenly the warrior seemed to be winning the internal battle.

"Hey that's not fair!" Ares yelled as he gripped the sides of the pool. "You're not allowed to interfere like that."

"I didn't interfere with Xena. I simply blessed my village."

"You interfered. I don't care what you want to call it."

"Ares, Xena has my blessing…"

"Yeah while she's within the walls of Seranasia, but once she's outside those walls…"

"You don't seem to understand. Xena has had my blessing since the day she turned her back on you."

"Well of all the double crossing…"

Athene held her hand up and quieted her enraged brother. "Why do you think that we brought her and Gabrielle together. Artemis, Aphrodite and I know that these two have a great destiny to fulfill. We won't tolerate anymore of your childish games."

"Oh yeah?"

"What a mature response that was."

"Fine, fine I'll just have to pick another." He grinned menacingly as her turned back to the pool. "How about Jordon?" He raised his eyes towards his sister and licked his lips.

"NO! Jordon has nothing to do with this Ares."

"Oh I don't know. Seems to me like I should get to know my own niece a little better."

"You know?"

"Yeah I know. You did a very good job of hiding it. How old is she now? Twenty-four, twenty-five seasons old. You know now that I think about it. She would serve me better, considering she is half goddess."

"Yes Ares and because of that you can't take her."

"No, but if she willing comes to me there's NOTHING you can do about it."

"She won't do that."

"I dunno. She's in love and women in love tends to do stupid things."

"In love? With who?"

"Look for yourself."

The image in the pool turned to Jordon who still held a comforting arm around Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle belongs with Xena," Athene stated. "Jordon knows that."

"Sure she does, but that didn't stop her from falling in love with her."

"Ares I'm warning you. If you try anything with Jordon I'll make you regret it for eternity."

"It could be worth it." Ares turned and walked away, disappearing in a flash of light.

Xena's breathing began to ease as the warm breeze swept through the village. Her mind began to clear. The trembling stopped. She looked at Gabrielle and smiled. She extended her hand and Gabrielle took it. Xena pulled her into a warm embrace. The warrior kissed the bard on top of the bard's head and just held her.

"We need to get your arm stitched up." Gabrielle said softly as she began guiding the warrior towards the palace.

"I want you to do it Gabrielle." Xena said almost in a whisper. "Please."

"Xena if I do it I'll leave a scar. Let the healer do it. It'll heal…"

"Please Gabrielle. I don't want anyone else to touch me right now."

"Okay. Let's go back to our room."

Gabrielle gently wrapped the arm up. Xena sat with her head down. "I wanted to kill him." She said softly.

"But you didn't. You stopped it before it went that far." Gabrielle leaned over and kissed the warrior, a soft gentle kiss.

"Gabrielle you really don't want to go there right now." She said turning her head, trying to discourage the amorous bard.

"Yes I do." She purred as she nuzzled Xena's neck.

"Really, Gabrielle," Xena gasped as the bard continued to kiss her neck. "You don't want me right now."

"Yes I do." She said again continuing her explorations of the warrior's neck and shoulders.

"Gabrielle it could be more than you are ready to…" The gasp was unexpected and cut her words short.

"I'm ready." The bard whispered in the warrior's ear.

Xena sat quietly for a moment. "You don't know what you're opening yourself up for here. I can be very demanding at time like this. Gabrielle I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't."

"You don't know that."

"Yes, yes I do. You won't hurt me." She put her lips close to Xena's ear. "Take me warrior. Make me yours. Do with me what you will." She bit down on Xena's neck, sending a tremor through the older woman's body.

Xena closed her eyes and felt the power transfer between them. Her warrior instincts were telling her to do what came naturally after battle. Take her prize and satisfy the hunger that was trying to consume her. The part of her that truly loved the bard didn't want this to happen.

"Gabrielle…I…can't…" She was slowly losing the battle.

"Yes you can." Gabrielle moved and knelt in front of the warrior. "We will never be complete until you have taken me when you are like this.

"Are you…sure… you want…this?" Xena asked as she ran her fingers through the bard's blonde locks.

"Yes." Gabrielle gasped at the warrior's touch.

Xena looked deeply into the bard's green eyes. The power soon over took her and she felt her own finger tighten in the blonde hair. Jerking the bard's head backward, she took a kiss. A kiss that was designed to conquer and make submission a must for the purpose of survival.

"You're mine!" Growled Xena, taking another kiss. Hard and fast.

"Yes." Gabrielle moaned.

The warrior wasted no time now. Her hunger and desire overrode every sane thought she had ever had. She pushed Gabrielle backward. The bard slipped and landed on her backside. Gabrielle looked up at Xena who was now standing before her. "You have no idea what monster you have unleashed, little bard." Xena growled.

Gabrielle was frightened. More frightened than she had ever been before, not of Xena, but of the unknown. This experience would be like no other, she was sure of that.

"You will address me as "Lord". Xena growled.

"Yes lord." The bard said quickly, hoping to appease Xena in some small way.

"Go and make yourself ready for me. I'll join you in a few moments."

Gabrielle rose and started for the sleeping chamber. She hoped she would be able to satisfy the warrior's needs.

Xena appeared in the doorway of the sleeping chamber. Gabrielle was in bed. She looked tentatively at the warrior and smiled. Xena had removed her armor and slid out of her leathers as she made her way to the bed. She slid beneath the blankets and took the bard by the back of the neck and pulled her close. The warrior ran her hands along the bard's body. Strong, rough hands made a silent inspection of the soft flesh. Sensitive ears could hear the change in to bard's breathing as her explorations continued.

"You know what I'm going to do don't you?" The warrior asked with a low growl.

"Yes lord." Gabrielle gasped as the warrior placed her lips on the bard's neck and nipped the soft flesh there.

Xena could feel Gabrielle trembling at her touch. The realization of what was about to happen hit her and she bolted from the bed. She quickly put on a robe and left the room. Gabrielle followed soon after. Xena stood in the doorway of the balcony looking out.

"Xena." Gabrielle said softly.

"Yes."

"What just happened?"

"Nothing."

"Well yeah I'm aware of that. I mean why. I thought that you…"

"I wanted to Gabrielle I really did, but I was going to hurt you and I never want to hurt you."

Gabrielle approached carefully. "Is it all right to touch you?"

"Yes."

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the warrior from behind and laid her head on her back. "I love you."

"I love you too." She said as she laid a gentle hand on the bard's arm.

As the days passed (far to slowly for Xena's liking) wedding preparations were made. The population of the village seemed to grow ten fold as the beginning of the spring festival and the impending royal nuptials grew closer. Gabrielle and Jordon were spending a lot of time together, Xena had decided it would be better if she just didn't get involved until she had to.

This was hard enough without being constantly reminded of it. She spent her days exercising Argo and checking on the progress Jorgus and his men were making on the school.

She rode the golden war-horse slowly in circles around the building. Jorgus and his men stood quietly waiting for her to finish her inspection of the building. She drew Argo up and stared down at him.

"You have done a good job Jorgus. You should be proud, but since I doubt that's possible for you, just take your men and get out of here. Remember our bargain. Don't come back!"

There were no other words spoken. The warlord and his men mounted their horses and were gone in a few moments. Xena was headed back to the stables when a familiar figure caught her eye. 'Oh wonderful' she thought as she dismounted Argo and handed the reins to a stable boy. "Brush her down good and give her a couple of apples." The boy nodded and quietly led the horse away.

Xena's eyes had never left the figure she had seen. She followed him as he wound his way through the crowd. She quickly caught up to him and grabbed his hand just as it was slipping into the pouch of an unsuspecting vendor.

"Don't do it Autolycus."

He turned and smiled at her as she held his wrist in a vice like grip. "Xena hi. What are you doing here?" He said with his usual charming smile. The fact that the warrior had a grip on his wrist seemed like perfectly natural situation for him to be in.

"At the moment stopping you from doing something incredibly stupid."

"Oh that," He laughed. "I was just practicing. It's been a long time since I've done simple pick pocketing."

"Well don't practice here." She released his hand.

He rubbed his wrist. He could tell something was wrong. Her mood was even more foul than normal. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." She said as she walked toward the inn. "You want a drink. I'm buying."

"Sure." He said following along behind her. Autolycus never turned down a free drink. It wasn't that often the Warrior Princess offered to buy. "Hey by the way. Where's Gabrielle?" He heard her mumble something as he followed her. He stopped, shook his head and called after her. "Did you say wedding dress?"

They sat at a corner table, trying not to draw attention to them selves. As of late Xena was finding that was easier said than done. Not only had her position as the future queen's champion been made known, it also didn't take long for the story of Jorgus' defeat to get around either. The patrons at the tavern smiled at her. Gods she hated it when people smiled at her. One man even took it upon himself to put his hand on her as she walked past. If it hadn't been for Autolycus' cat like reflexes in removing the offending appendage the man probably would have left the tavern without it.

They settled into the booth. Autolycus leaned forward, his hands wrapped around his mug. "So you wanna tell me what's going on?"

"Gabrielle is getting married. She's going to be queen." Xena said as she took as long drink of her port.

"How did all this happen? I thought you two, were…well…ah…"

"Lovers?" The eyebrow went up.

The King of Thieves felt himself blush, just a little at his friend's frankness on the subject. "Yeah."

"We are now. We haven't been until now though."

"But when we were with the amazons and you used me to…oh I am sooo confused."

"It's a long story Autolycus."

"I've got all day, my friend.

Xena looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. Yes, yes this man was her friend. They had shared more than two mortals should ever be allowed to and even though his line of work was questionable, he was indeed her friend. He always seemed to be there when she needed him. She leaned in and looked into his dark eyes. He hung on her every word.

Several candle marks later the seriousness of their conversation was left behind as they continued to drink. Both of them were pretty well lit by the time Gabrielle wandered into the tavern. Autolycus saw her first.

"Uh oh, now you're…now you're in trouble." He slurred as he punched the warrior on the arm.

Torn between watching Gabrielle wind her way over to them or breaking Autolycus' arm, she chose to keep her eyes blissfully settled on the bard. Gabrielle stopped in front of the table and crossed her arms.

"Hello Autolycus."

"Hiya Gabrielle." He was trying to hide his inebriated state from the little blonde, without much success.

"Don't…don't pay any attention to him Gabrielle. He's…he's drunk." Xena managed to say with a slight grin.

"He's not the only one." The bard said, tapping her foot.

"I resemble that remark." Xena smirked as she took another drink.

Autolycus snickered. "I told ya' you were in trouble."

"No I'm not. Am I Your Majesty?" She turned to Autolycus and smiled while pointing at the bard with a very relaxed hand. "She likes it when I relax and have a good time. She thinks I'm to brooding."

"You! Brooding? Who ever would have thought." The thief countered with another laugh.

"All right you two. Let's go." Gabrielle said, her patience wearing extremely thin.

"Bet you go with her." Autolycus said in his best tormenting voice.

"If I go, you go." Xena said trying to focus her eyes on his features.

"Oh no, I'm not attached to anyone or anything," He said proudly poking himself in the chest with his own finger. "I am a free spirit. You on the other hand have been tamed and captured."

Xena considered his words for a moment and then punched him square in the face, knocking him out cold. She stood up, took his arm and brought him up over her shoulder. "Let's go." She said to Gabrielle and then proceeded to follow her out of the tavern.

The sun had begun its descent by the time Xena awoke. She didn't feel all that bad considering the amount of port she had consumed. She focused her eyes and realized that she was lying on the couch in the sitting room of their chambers. Autolycus was still asleep on the furs in front of the fireplace, which roared with a freshly built fire.

Slowly she sat up. On the table next to the couch was a mug of some unknown beverage and a note. 'Drink me.' Was all the entire note said. She picked up the mug and inhaled deeply. It seemed harmless enough so she took a sip. 'Yuck', she thought to herself, but she kept drinking. She knew it would stop any hangover that might try to develop later. She could hear water splashing from the bathing chamber. She took another long drink and headed for the bathing room.

Gabrielle sat in the tub, head back, eyes closed. Xena watched her for a moment and then knelt down next to the tub and dipped her hand in the water.

"Am I in trouble?" She asked softly.

The bard inhaled, held it, exhaled and opened her eyes. Turning her head slowly to the warrior. "You should be, but you're not." She smiled. "I know this is hard on you. I'm grateful that you chose to just sit and have a few drinks with a friend rather than…"

"Brooding?" She said as her hand moved lazily through the water.

"Yeah. So did you have a good time?"

"It was different. Just setting there, talking and drinking. I've never really done that before."

"So did you have a good time?"

"Yeah, yeah I guess I did at that."

"Then that's all that matters."

"So how was your day?"

"My day was fine. Are you going to continue making chit chat or are you going to get in?"

Xena smiled and undressed. She slid into the tub. Gabrielle immediately wrapped herself around the warrior. "Is there any particular reason that you haven't made love to me recently?"

"You've been so tired with all the preparations for the wedding…" She trailed off.

"I'm not buying it warrior. You have had no interest in me since that morning after your fight with Jorgus. Are you finished with me?" The last part of her statement rang with venom.

"No. Gabrielle how could you even think such a thing?"

"It's not hard Xena. In two days time you made love to me three times and then nothing. Nothing for the last few days." Gabrielle looked into the blue eyes of her warrior. "What's going on in that head of yours?"

Xena looked at Gabrielle. She brushed golden locks from her forehead as she considered her words. Now was the time for honesty. "I wanted to give you a chance to change your mind."

"What? Where did that come from?"

"You seem to be enjoying yourself here. You and Jordon are so perfectly suited for each other…"

Gabrielle pushed back and cut Xena's words short. "Wait just a…Oh…I…" Her words refuse to leave her mouth. She took a moment to try and compose her self. "You think that I want to stay here? You think that… Oh I don't believe this."

"Gabrielle don't be angry."

"Yes, yes I will be angry! How dare you!"

"Gabrielle I just want what's best for you."

"You! You big dumb warrior! You're what's best for me! I want to be with you! I love you!" She stood and started to get out of the tub. Xena pulled her back and kissed her. She started to resist, but found it impossible as her lover continued.

"I love you Gabrielle." She said as she nuzzled the bard's neck.

Gabrielle gasped. Xena picked her up and started to carry her out of the room towards the bedchamber. Gabrielle grabbed the doorframe. "Xena Autolycus is out there."

"Let him get his own girl."

"Xena I'm serious."

"So am I." She stepped forward and continued on her way.

Autolycus was awake now. He turned to look at his friends and then quickly turned away. He was hung over and didn't need this in his life at the moment.

Xena smiled and paused. Gabrielle hid her face, which now was a bright shade of red. "Autolycus I'm taking Gabrielle to bed and I'm going to make mad passionate love to her. Make yourself at home."

He never turned around. "Ah yeah well if it's all the same to you I'll just get going now." The embarrassment in his voice was unmistakable. "I'll catch up to you two later. When you're less, ah…never mind. I'll see you later.

"Suit yourself." Xena said and continued to the bedchamber. The sound of the door closing helped Gabrielle relax, a little.

"You are evil." She said with a giggle.

"Yeah I suppose I am." Xena replied as she gently laid the bard on the bed. She lowered herself down on top of her and began exploring the bard's body with her hands and lips. Gabrielle shuddered involuntarily as the fire was rekindled. She wrapped her arms around the warrior's strong back and began kissing her neck and shoulders. The lovers soon found themselves feverishly exploring each other.

Gabrielle had decided this was the day. She was going to make love to her warrior. She had considered that this could be the problem. No matter what Xena had said or no matter how much she meant it at the time, Gabrielle knew a person could only go so long without being satisfied before they would lose interest in their partner. She wasn't about to let that happen. "You know what?" She whispered in the warrior's ear.

"What?" Xena continued her oral explorations of the bard's neck and throat as her hands caressed her soft flesh.

"I'm going to take you warrior. I'm going to make you mine. All mine." Gabrielle said this so softly and tenderly Xena didn't even realize that she had been rolled onto her back and was now pinned under the little blonde. When she did realize it, she didn't care.

Gabrielle moved her hand softly and gently down the warrior's body. She stopped at her beautiful breasts and took a nipple between the fingers of each hand. They were already hard, but the pinch that Gabrielle administered made them that much more sensitive. Xena shuddered and her breathing became ragged. The bard watched her lover, her eyes were closed and her head thrown back. She was biting her lower lip. "Don't hold back on me warrior." Gabrielle said as she took a nipple into her mouth and began teasing it with her teeth and tongue. The flesh was sweet. The bard discovered a new passion this very moment. What a wonderful discovery it was too. Her hand slipped down to the thick patch of hair between her lover's legs. She stroked the outside gently but firmly, letting the warrior know she was there. Xena moaned and arched at the touch.

"Tell me what you want Xena. Tell me what to do." The bard knew perfectly well what to do, she just wanted the pleasure of Xena's voice.

"Make love to me Gabrielle." She said as her hands ran over the bard's back.

"Oh I intend to my dear, but first I want you to tell me what pleases you. Does this please you?" She questioned as she took the nipple in her mouth again and licked it.

"Yes."

"And this?" She asked as she bit down, gently.

Xena couldn't answer until the spasm had passed. "Yes."

"What about this?" Gabrielle asked as she slipped her hand into the warrior's warmth.

"Oh Gods yes." Even the slightest touch sent the shivers of anticipation through the warrior's strong body.

Gabrielle gently rubbed and stroked Xena. The warrior felt as if she were going to lose her mind. Gabrielle knew perfectly well what she was doing to her. Xena made a mental note that the bard would pay later. "Gabrielle please, please make love to me."

"How do you like it warrior? Do you want passionate and tender or do you want rough and conquering?"

"I don't care."

Gabrielle smiled at the world of possibilities this answer opened up for her. She kissed the flesh of her lover as she worked her way down. Xena drew a deep breath and held it as Gabrielle placed her mouth over her lover's wet, warm center. Her explorations were tentative at first, but the musky odor and the reaction of Xena's body made her aggressive very quickly. As she buried her face deep within her lover she reached up and took both of Xena's nipples between her fingers and gave them the attention they demanded.

Xena lost control of her body. Giving it over to this wonderful, beautiful woman who was so expertly loving her. She was being conquered. She was giving in. She knew from this very moment that the bard had captured her. That final line had been crossed and now there was nothing more she could do about it. She belonged to the bard now heart, soul and body.

Gabrielle moved up and pulled Xena into her arms. The warrior collapsed there and fell into a deep peaceful sleep. Gabrielle smiled and kissed her warrior on the forehead. "You're mine warrior." She said softly as she fell asleep.

Xena awoke the next morning. She hadn't expected last night, and she decided to remain there with the bard and enjoy the memory. Gabrielle had moved away during the night. Xena extended her hand and laid it gently on Gabrielle's side. The bard moved back automatically and curled up next to Xena. The warrior inhaled the scent of her hair, and nuzzled down into it, inhaling again. "So sweet." She murmured. Gabrielle stirred, rolled over and opened her eyes. She smiled. Xena smiled.

"So how did I do?" Gabrielle asked as she planted small soft kisses on Xena's shoulder.

Xena blushed ever so slightly. "You were wonderful."

"I'm glad you're pleased."

"Pleased doesn't even begin to cover it."

Gabrielle snuggled down as a contented sigh escaped her lips. Xena pulled the bard even closer. "Xena?"

"Hmmm?"

"You have to be fitted today for your uniform."

"What uniform?"

"It's the uniform of the royal guard. You know since you're supposed to be my champion. That automatically makes you part of the royal guard and you have to have a uniform for the wedding."

"Oh I do, do I?"

"If you don't mind. Please?"

Oh there it was. That well placed 'I can get anything I want by saying please'. Xena let out a low grumble that sounded like "I suppose."

Gabrielle didn't really care what the warrior had said. She had agreed and that was all that mattered. "Thank you." She murmured as she drifted off secure in Xena's arms.

They got up later in the morning. Choosing to have their morning meal in their room rather than going to the dining hall. Gabrielle watched as Xena ate silently. The warrior felt the bard's eyes on her and looked up. "What?"

"Nothing."

"Un-huh. Come on Gabrielle out with it."

"Well…I…um…never mind."

"Oh no you don't. What's on your mind?"

"I was just wishing that it was going to be you…" She trailed off.

"Me, what?"

"You know during the ceremony. I wish you were going to be up there with me."

Xena smiled and took the bard's hand. "Are you proposing My Queen?"

"Ah no. I mean, I, oh Gods. Xena I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

"Sounds like a proposal to me."

"I'm not allowed to propose."

"Excuse me?"

"By amazon law. I'm not allowed to propose. Only those who seek to be my consort can propose to me."

"I see. So what you're telling me is that it's up to me to make an honest woman out of you."

"Yeah I guess so." She answered, her face a little crest fallen.

"Hey what's the matter?"

"Well I know that marriage isn't something that you would…" She trailed off again.

"Something I would what?"

"Ah, Tartarus Xena, you just really don't seem like the marrying type to me."

"I don't huh?"

"No. You're a free spirit. You're not going to want to get married and settle somewhere. It's just not in your nature."

"I see."

"Now you're mocking me."

"I am not." The warrior defended herself. "I'm listening to every word you're saying."

"Are you agreeing with every word I'm saying?"

"I don't know Gabrielle it is your opinion and everyone is entitled to their own opinion." She said with a grin.

Gabrielle could see that this was getting her nowhere. She finished her meal in silence. She didn't notice the sly grin that remained on the face of the warrior.

Xena shuffled back and forth, fidgeting as the royal tailors measured her and fitted her for her new uniform. Gabrielle sat back in a high back chair and smiled.

"I hate this you know." Xena growled.

"It will all be over with soon enough."

"I don't see why my regular leathers and armor aren't good. They've always served us well enough before."

"Because Xena you are now apart of the royal guard and this is their uniform."

"I feel silly in trousers. They don't allow enough movement."

"It's only for a few days." Gabrielle offered, hoping it would soothe her lover's pride.

"You know I wouldn't do this for just anyone."

"I know. That's what makes it so special. You're doing it for me."

The warrior looked over at the bard, who smiled and winked. Xena threw her a lopsided grin and straightened up to make the tailor's job a little easier.

The square was being prepared for the beginning of the festival and upcoming royal marriages. Xena walked though the square on her way to the stables. Suddenly she stopped and looked around, taking note of the change in the air. As she looked around it became quiet clear that no one else had noticed. Then her skin began to crawl.

"Ares…" She mumbled.

Jordon's wedding gift to Gabrielle was going to be a fine mare from the royal stables. After picking a horse that suited her, Jordon mounted the animal and took her for a ride outside the gates of the city. Jordon was sizing up the nature of the animal as she rode through the countryside. Gabrielle had mentioned that sometimes traveling with Xena could be frustrating because she spent most of her time on foot while Xena rode. She admitted that Argo's size intimidated her and it seemed also, that the horse just plain hated her. So now with a fine strong horse much smaller than Argo, Gabrielle would now be able to ride if she choose too. If not the animal could most certainly carry their belongings which would also lesson Agro's load. This animal was a good one, a chestnut mare with a gentle nature. Gabrielle would be able to handle her just fine.

She turned to make her way back to the city when he showed himself. The mare whinnied, pounded the ground with her hoof and jerked as the dark clad man stood his ground in front of her. Jordon looked down and drew a deep breath.

"Ares what do you want?" She asked as she patted the horse's neck to try and calm her down.

"Satisfaction…" He sneered.

Xena knew Ares was around somewhere, she could feel it. It was odd that he hadn't come to torment her again. She decided to forgo her ride this afternoon to look around and see if she could find him. As she walked through the crowd she spotted Autolycus again and whistled to get his attention. The King of Thieves turned on his heel just in time to see her headed for him.

He threw up his hand and backed away. "I'm being good. I swear."

"Autolycus I need your help. Ares is here somewhere…"

"Ares? Oh no, Warrior Princess. I like my head right where it is. I become accustomed to it being right there on top of my neck. Gives a much better view from up there than it would on the ground."

"C'mon Autolycus this crowd's too big. I'll never be able to find him by myself. And if he's here, he's here to start trouble."

"Trouble I don't want to be involved with, I'm sure."

"It could be trouble for Gabrielle…" She said allowing the bard's name to hang in the air.

His shoulders slumped, his head fell and he sighed. "All right. Let's go."

Xena smiled triumphantly. She knew that most people might be able to fore sake her and leave her to the dogs, but when it came to Gabrielle that was a different story entirely. There wasn't one of their friends who would desert Gabrielle. This gave the warrior a great deal of comfort. It made her feel good to know that no matter what happened to her, someone would always watch out for the bard. Xena had always considered the fact that Gabrielle and Autolycus would make good partners. Gabrielle could take care of herself and she didn't really need a warrior type anymore. Did she just think that? Yes, she did think that and she realized it was true. She sighed as they made their way into the crowd.

"Exactly why are we doing this again?" Autolycus asked as he attempted to look at the face of every person he passed. "He may even be in disguise."

"Yeah, but I'll know it when he's close." Xena said as she did the same.

"How do you do that?"

"I have…"

"Many skills. Yeah, yeah I've heard that song before."

"I don't understand why he hasn't made his presence known to me. I'm the one he usually likes to pick on."

"Maybe there's another warrior in the area that he's trying to get to."

His words rang in her ears. "Oh Gods!" Xena yelled as she grabbed Autolycus by the front of his shirt and dragging him with her. "Come on!" They headed for the palace.

Xena was frantic when she found out that Jordon had gone out for a ride and was a candle mark over due. She ordered Argo saddled and a horse for Autolycus. Very soon they were headed for the gates of the village. They hadn't ridden for very long when they found the chestnut mare grazing in the field. Jordon was no where to be seen. They retrieved the horse and searched the area.

Jordon stormed into the palace. She went directly to Xena and Gabrielle's room. She pounded on the door so hard it vibrated beneath her fist. "Open the door Gabrielle!" She yelled. "Open it or I'll break it in!"

The door opened. Jordon forced her way into the room. Gabrielle stumbled backward and crashed into the table as Jordon stormed toward her.

"Jordon? What is it what's wrong?" She asked as she tried to put more space between herself and her enraged friend.

Jordon stopped and shook her head, bringing her hand to her eyes and shaking it again. She looked at Gabrielle. There was a battle going on inside this person. Gabrielle had seen the same look on Xena's face the day she fought Jorgus. "Gabrielle pack you things and go! Get Xena and go!"

"Jordon I don't understand…"

"I'M NOT ASKING YOU TO UNDERSTAND. I'M TELLING YOU TO GO!" Jordon screamed at the bard. Jordon's breathing became hard and hot, she began shaking. She looked at Gabrielle, fighting the urge to go near the bard. Suddenly she turned on her heels and opened the door. Without turning around. "There's not much time Gabrielle. Leave."

Jordon left the room. Gabrielle just stood there, in total disbelief of what she had just witnessed. Something was obviously very wrong here. She needed to find Xena. She opened the door slowly and looked out to make sure Jordon was gone, the last thing she wanted was to get surprised by the irate monarch.

Just as Gabrielle was about to leave the palace she found Xena and Autolycus headed in. "Xena!"

Xena didn't waste any time, she grabbed Gabrielle by the shoulders and asked her quickly, "Have you seen Jordon?"

"Yes, just a few moments ago. In our room, raging around like a maniac, telling me we should pack and go."

"Sounds like good advice to me." Autolycus said as he started to slink away. Xena caught him by the back of the shirt and just held him in place.

"We've got to find Jordon." Xena said to Gabrielle as Autolycus continued to squirm in her firm grasp. "Ares is up to something and I think that Jordon may be his latest victim."

They made short work of checking the palace. Jordon was no where to be found. Xena started to show the frustration she was feeling as they walked into the crowded square. She scanned into it only find her view blocked at every glance. "Ah Tartarus!" She finally yelled as she realized she had to get above the crowd if she was going to see anything. She vaulted up onto the top of a building and began scanning the crowds.

"How exactly how does she do that?" Autolycus asked as he followed her with his eyes.

"I'm not sure." Gabrielle admitted, not even bothering to look up any more. "But by the Gods it can be annoying."

"I think it's great." The thief said still looking up.

Gabrielle slugged him in the arm hard when she realized his eyes were lingering just a little longer than they should.

"Hey!" He said rubbing his arm and glaring at the bard. "I was just appreciating the view."

"That's my view. Eyes off."

"Oh yeah, I forgot. I'm sorry." He continued to rub his arm. "You've got some arm there kid."

She punched him in the other arm. "That's for the 'kid' remark."

Xena found Jordon. She was walking into the center of the square with her sword drawn. She hadn't decided who she was going to kill yet but it wouldn't be long, Xena knew that looked.

Gabrielle heard the war cry and looked up just in time to see Xena flip from the building into the very center of the square. She didn't draw her sword, she just began circling her friend.

"Jordon put the sword down."

"Ah, Xena here to play? I told Gabrielle to take you and leave." There was venom in her voice.

"Jordon, you're not thinking straight. Put the sword down." Xena tried to reason with her friend as they continued to circle each other.

"You have no idea Xena." Jordon began twirling her sword. "Looks familiar doesn't it Xena. I'll bet you're sorry you taught me everything you know aren't you?"

"Jordon don't make me hurt you. Ares has done something to your mind. Let's go see your mother."

Jordon charged Xena, blade forward. Xena side stepped the charge and drew, her own sword. "Jordon! Listen to me…"

"You don't understand." She gasped. "He was going to kill Gabrielle to get you back. I couldn't let that happen. I had to give him something else instead." She explained during a brief moment of clarity, it didn't last long and she charged Xena.

Their swords clashed. The swords met at the hilt and the two friends we're face to face struggling. "Jordon we need to go to the temple." Xena growled as she felt her own blood start to boil, partly from the fight that was starting here, but mostly from the anger she felt at Ares.

"It's no good Xena. I freely gave him what he wanted." Jordon broke off. Then she swung again. The fight was on.

Gabrielle and Autolycus managed to make their way through the crowd that had now formed around the two warriors. Gabrielle started for them only to have Autolycus pull her back. "No Gabrielle you can't get between them you'll get killed."

"We have to do something." She said, feeling absolutely helpless.

"Xena can handle this. Let her." Her said sternly, holding onto her arm.

The two warriors continued to fight. The fact that Jordon was many seasons younger and half Goddess didn't do much for Xena's odds in this fight. Her muscles were already getting sore from defending the blows that were being delivered. Jordon brought her sword high above her head and chopped straight down, forcing Xena to block the blow. The force knocked her to the ground and broke the blade of her sword. She rolled away as Jordon tried to deliver what would have been a deathblow.

Autolycus' quick reflexes relieved a soldier of his sword. "Xena catch!" He yelled as her tossed her the blade.

She got to her feet and caught the blade. Whirling around she blocked another blow and disappeared under Jordon's arm, causing the prince to stumble forward towards the crowd.

An unsuspecting spectator found the business end of the bladed. Jordon just smiled and kicked him off before turning on Xena.

"My first kill. I so wanted to give you that honor." Jordon sneered as she approached Xena.

"Jordon stop this before any more innocent blood is spilled." Xena said as she tried to get a better position.

"Like you should lecture about spilling innocent blood."

That comment cut Xena to her soul and gave Jordon the opening she was looking for. She struck at Xena slicing through her leathers at the midsection. The wound wasn't deep but it hurt. She could feel the blood dripping down her front and beads of sweat forming on her forehead. She charged Jordon and their sword locked again.

Another moment of clarity for Jordon. "Kill me Xena. Please. Don't let that bastard have me."

Jordon pulled back and charged again, as she neared Xena she lowered her sword and for all intensive purposes threw herself on Xena's blade. Xena was stunned, she let go of the sword.

Jordon fell to the ground. Gabrielle and Autolycus rushed forward. Autolycus looked to Xena who just stood there staring at her fallen friend; he finally reached over and removed the sword. Gabrielle pulled Jordon into her arms and cradled her.

"I had to do it…"Jordon whispered. "For you." Her eyes closed and she was gone.

Soldiers that had been standing by, rushed forward and seized Xena by the arms. As they prepared to take her away a shimmering silver light formed. Athene stepped forward.

"Let the Warrior Princess go. She did what she had to do to protect this village. Jordon had been forced by Ares to give her soul to him. Xena had no choice. Athene knelt by the body of the fallen warrior and looked into Gabrielle's tear filled eyes. "She is with me now Gabrielle. She wanted me to tell you that." Gabrielle nodded but continued to look into the face of the fallen warrior.

Xena still stood motionless. "Athene," She croaked "I'm sorry. Jordon was my friend, I didn't mean to…"

Athene put a hand on the warrior's shoulder. "You did what had to be done warrior. Her hate and anger would have destroyed this village and everyone in it. You need feel no shame, no guilt. I'll see to that Ares pays for what he has done. In the meantime," the Goddess paused and a new sword appeared in her hands. "Take this warrior. It has no special powers but it is the sword that my chosen carries."

" Your chosen? I can't be…" Xena said in disbelief.

"Yes Xena, now that Jordon is gone, that responsibility falls to you. You are my chosen." She handed her the sword

Xena took it with shaking hands and said something she swore she would never say to any God, "Thank you."

Xena wore her new uniform. She wore it for the three days that she stood guard over Jordon's body as it lay in state in Athene's temple. She stood stone faced and unmoving for three days and nights as the mourners came to pay their respects to the fallen prince. Gabrielle had tried to convince her to take shifts with other guards, but she refused. So she remained there, dressed in the uniform of the royal guard, the dark red and black uniform that should have been worn to herald Jordon's succession to the throne, not her funeral.

Gabrielle watched the unmoving warrior from the back of the temple. Her heart was breaking for the pain she knew Xena must be in. She had killed a friend, a true friend. Xena had taken a life that until that very day had never harmed another. Athene's words were no comfort to the warrior. To her Jordon's death laid heavily upon her shoulders and probably would for sometime to come.

Jordon's body was placed in the family tomb, next to the father that loved her so much. Kaylan was married in a small quiet ceremony and then crowned king. Xena had been watching the ceremony from the back of the room. When it ended she turned to leave when suddenly she felt a hand on her arm. She turned back the face Kaylan.

"You always have a place here Xena. You've always been a friend to this family and you always will be." He paused and then looked up. "My sister loved you both."

"You knew?" Xena was shocked.

Kaylan smiled and nodded. "Of course I knew. Most people in the village know. Jordon was a just to kind of heart, but we all knew there must have been a reason, so we remained quiet."

"You're going to be a fine king." Xena said with a smile

"Will you and Gabrielle stay for a few more days?"

"No, it's time for us to go."

"It's still getting cold at night. Let me give you some extra equipment and rations to see you through."

"That would be appreciated. Thank you."

With the light of the next morning, Kaylan said good-bye to Xena and Gabrielle at the gates of the village. He watched as Xena rode away on Argo and Gabrielle walked next to her, leading the chestnut mare that carried their supplies. They paused and looked back, he smiled and waved, then, once again they were on their way.

"So exactly where are we headed now?" Gabrielle asked.

"Does it matter?"

Gabrielle looked back on last time. "No," she said quietly. "No, I guess it doesn't."

End


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