Disclaimer: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle are owned by RenPic and Universal.  This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

If you would like to send email to Rosemary - please forward your mail to Mary at kira@zip.com.au and Mary will forward your mail to Rosemary.



by Rosemary

Copyright Rosemary August 30, 1996

"I'd been hungry all this years, my noon had come to dine. I trembling drew the table near and touched the curious wine." --Emily Dickinson

Gabrielle shifted slightly, trying to find a more comfortable position. Her short skirt riding up to her hips. Strong arms held firm around her, while muscular thighs tightened to keep her in place.

"Stop fidgeting." Xena said in a low voice, her warm breath caressing Gabrielle's ear. Gabrielle willed herself to stop moving and relaxed into Xena's embrace. Xena bent forward pressing her leather covered breasts into the smaller woman's back.

"If you want to learn to ride Gabrielle, you have to let yourself go." Xena pulled the reigns tighter forcing the younger woman closer to her. "Let the horse do the work." Xena released her hold, and leaned away from the bard. Argo continued to canter in a small circle as the two women rode in silence. Gabrielle enjoyed the easy rhythm, and began to delight in the ride.

After several minutes, Xena pulled the reigns and halted Argo's progress. Swinging her legs, she jumped easily off her back. Reaching up she helped Gabrielle dismount the tall horse. Xena led Argo away towards a wooded area as Gabrielle struggled to keep up. "How did I do?" She questioned. "Okay, for a beginner." Xena tempered her comment with a warm smile. "Tomorrow you can try riding her by yourself." She added with a chuckle. Gabrielle shuddered. "Maybe not." She paused. "Hmmmm, how about another couple rides together first?" She asked hopefully. Xena turned to her companion and grinned. "We'll see." Working out of long habit they made camp, and by the time the sky had turned dark, dinner had been eaten and the debris cleared away. Xena lay on her back, enjoying the serenity of the evening.

Gabrielle stretched out, hands under her head. The silence deepened and her eyes began to close, before she knew it sleep had taken her away. Xena lay quietly watching her friend as she slept. After a long while she stood and dusted herself off. Reaching Gabrielle's side she pulled the blanket close around her. After removing her own clothes she settled herself to rest.

Gabrielle, never an early riser found herself the first one awake in the early morning mist. Surprised at seeing Xena still asleep, she paused to watch the warrior, her face so animated while awake, was still and calm. Her lips slightly parted.. Realizing her time alone was short and feeling suddenly protective of her strong friend, she reached for her staff. Hoping that Xena would continue to sleep, she took her staff and moved off to the nearby creek.

Reaching her goal, Gabrielle began to practice. Arms outstretched the staff began to flow into intricate circles as she swung the weapon around her lithe body. A fine sheen of sweat enveloped her.

Xena awoke to the sight of an empty camp. Suddenly apprehensive at Gabrielle's absence she grabbed for her sword at the same time a new sound reached her sensitive ears. Slowly she headed toward the small creek. Almost upon the stream, she found shelter in a grove of trees. Silently she watched as Gabrielle worked with her staff. She was surprised by her friends talent, and even more startled by her attraction for the young bard. Stealing away before she was noticed, Xena returned to their camp.

After clearing the camp they headed to Antropilus, a small border town. "There's a decent inn here." Xena said. "I thought it would be nice to take it easy for a few days, maybe enjoy the local color." She smiled to Gabrielle. "It would be great to have a warm bed and a bath." Gabrielle admitted. "Not that sleeping under the stars, and cold ponds don't have their advantages." She added quickly. Xena smirked, boarding Argo they headed for the inn.

"They had a few rooms left." Gabrielle said as she joined her friend at a table. "I took the two next to each other." Xena nodded, and handed Gabrielle an ale. "There's a festival starting tomorrow," She said happily. "With music and dancing. I thought it would be fun to go." Xena shook her head with amusement. "If that's what you want." Gabrielle glanced up at Xena's tone and looked into her blue eyes, and for a second she thought she saw....."Naahhh couldn't be." She reasoned.

Xena stared down at the table top, dark hair shielding her eyes. "Damn." she cursed silently to herself. "Xena I......" Gabrielle started. "Look, I'm dirty and tired." Xena interrupted standing. "Which way to the baths?" She asked. Gabrielle pointed to a curtained archway. " And the rooms?" "Upstairs, last two at the end of the hall." She spoke softly. "I'll take the first." Xena brushed her fingers lightly across Gabrielle's cheek. "Goodnight." The young bard was left staring after her friend, a very confused expression on her face.

Xena arrived at the baths to find them empty. Breathing a sigh of relief she shed her weapons and clothing. Lowering herself into the pool, she dipped her hands into the heated water and began to stroke her upper body and face.

Feeling days of grime and road dust fall away she relaxed against the smooth side of the bath. Running her strong hands along her throat and breasts she allowed her fingers to linger, and then caress her hardening nipples. Keeping her eyes closed, she pinched them, drawing a soft gasp from her parted mouth.

"It's been so long....." She whispered. Lowering her right hand to her

stomach, she let her fingers play across sensitive flesh, striving to give her the release she so desperately craved. Hearing a soft noise her eyes flew open, at the same time her hands guiltily stole away from her straining body. Eyes searched the early evening gloom, before assured again that she was alone. Several minutes passed before she allowed her hands to return to their previous indulgence. Unbidden an image of Gabrielle flashed into her mind, by the creek her staff flowing rhythmically around her taut body, exertion coloring her pale skin.

Her right hand parted moist lips, and her fingers played upon her swelling flesh. Her breath turned quickly to panting as she applied more pressure on her throbbing bud. She spread her legs wider, letting the warm water lap against her fevered flesh. She began to buck, the friction of the water, and her own stroking, nearly sending her over the edge. She forced herself to slow down, letting the fire build again, until her release was a heartbeat away, and only then did she slip her fingers deep inside herself. She whimpered and began to shudder against her hand. Bath water washed over the side of the tub, a small tempest to her own passions. Finally she collapsed. Her left hand trailing lazy circles around still rigid nipples. She did not know Gabrielle had followed her to the baths, and had watched her from the shadows.

Gabrielle was breathless as she watched Xena climax. Never had she imagined love that way. She was confused, frightened, and excited. Xena reclined against the bath, eyes closed; a small smile playing across her lovely lips. Gabrielle's body burned for release, her soul aflame. She almost cried out in frustration. Having no experience in physical pleasuring, she was lost and bereft. As quietly as possible she fled the baths for the sanctuary of her room.

Intent on reaching her room, she didn't notice the three men blocking her path, until one grabbed her arm. "Let's buy you a drink." His eyes raked up and down her body. "No thank you." She said struggling in his tight grasp. Pulling her arm harder he said. "Don't be rude girl, we're just trying to be friendly." Gabrielle's eyes searched for help. "Maybe tomorrow." She said hopefully. "I'm a very tired." He leered, "You look awake to me, and more than *a little willing*!" She flushed as she remembered watching Xena.

"Don't you think she's a little on the *small size*?" Gabrielle turned her head. There stood Xena wrapped only in a towel. Her hair slicked back from her bath, she looked beautiful and formidable. To the three would be rapists, she was death incarnate. "After all," She continued. "Big, strong men like yourselves would want a woman, not a girl." The small fabric barely contained her breasts, as she walked towards the small group. "You want to replace her then?" The taller of the men sneered, eyes fixed on her chest. Grabbing his chin she forced his face to hers. Xena's smile was icy hard. Her eyes flashed blue fire. The man suddenly felt as if his testicles were being ground in cut glass. "I could never *replace* her." She reached for Gabrielle and pulled her close.

Placing herself between Gabrielle and the men she said. "So boys, what is it you want?" Her voice was soft, seductive. Embolden by the woman's suggestive tone the tall one came to within a breath of Xena's body. "You would be a start....." He smiled, showing broken and rotted teeth. "And maybe your little friend for dessert." He turned and winked to his companions. Xena's face was impassive. To Gabrielle she said. "Get my things from the baths." Gabrielle fled the tavern fearful, not for herself, but for the men Xena was about to destroy.

Opening her arms, she smiled. "Shall we get started?" The man closest grabbed for Xena's towel. Faster than he could blink, she seized his head and slammed it hard onto her upraised knee. Dropping him to the ground, blood pooled quickly around his head. Flicking a loose strand of hair from her face, she turned to his compatriots. "Next?" She watched as fear battled ego. Fear eventually won out as the other two men fled leaving their friend behind.

Gabrielle returned to the tavern her arms filled with Xena's weapons and armor. Xena was kneeling on the ground next to a fallen man. At first she thought that she was taking care of his injury. It wasn't until she drew closer that she realized Xena was talking to him. Her hands tight around the collar of his bloody shirt. "If you EVER lay a hand on her again, I will kill you." Her voice turned intimate. "You can try to hide, you may even think you found peace," She smiled that cold, cold smile that always made Gabrielle afraid. "But know this, I will find you, and make you wish I had killed you this day." Rising she glanced down at the whimpering figure. "Don't forget to tell your friends."

Ignoring the people around them. Xena took Gabrielle's hand and led her to their rooms. "Xena..." Gabrielle started. Xena silenced her with a look. "We're sharing a room. I don't trust those men." Opening the door she pushed Gabrielle into the small area. "Only one bed...." Xena sighed. "Where have I seen this before?" Oblivious to Gabrielle, Xena dropped the towel and reached for the water pitcher to wash the blood off her hands, and body. Gabrielle tried not to stare as she watched Xena bend over, cleaning her long legs. Flushing again she struggled for something to say. "So....Xena...." Xena turned towards her. "Yes...?" Gabrielle seeing the warrior nude in front of her, struggled even harder. "Hmm...well, that is to say..." Sensing Gabrielle's embarrassment Xena reached for her chemise and pulled it over her head.

Smiling kindly, she said. "Is that better?" Gabrielle blushed deeply. "I'm sorry about those men." Gabrielle murmured. Xena dried her hands, "It's not your fault." She looked at her friend. "I'm was just surprised to see you caught off guard like that." Gabrielle's stared at the floor. "I was distracted...." She faltered. Xena checked the door lock. "Oh distracted." Gabrielle was relieved when Xena didn't press the subject. Sorting through their bags, Xena fished out the blankets. "I'll sleep on the floor," She shook them out and lay down. Getting comfortable she continued. "That way if we have uninvited guests, they have to get past me first."

Gabrielle said nothing and undressed for bed. Pulling the rough blankets tight around her, she lay quietly, praying to the Gods for sleep. She listened to Xena's breathing, steady and sure. Minutes flowed into hours, her body ached in ways she had never imagined. Convincing herself that all she needed was to look at her, she worked herself to the edge of the bed. Xena lay on her side facing the door. Her hands lightly clasped as if holding onto something, or someone. Gabrielle watched for a long time. "I just need to touch her." She argued. Reaching down with a trembling hand she stroked Xena's shoulder. Revealing in the warmth of the skin beneath her hand she allowed it to linger.

Gabrielle couldn't stop, sliding from the bed she lay in front of Xena. All she needed was this heat, she swore. The feel of her body against Xena's. Shuddering she pressed close, her thoughts becoming fragmented diamonds of emotion. Engrossed with her own desires, she didn't immediately feel the strong arms around her. Xena's eyes opened, drinking in the craving on Gabrielle's face. Without hesitation she pulled the bard to rest on her strong frame. No words were exchanged, no endearments, no long concealed declarations of love. Passion was the only thing they knew, or wanted. Not pausing Xena lifted her head and buried her face deep between Gabrielle's soft breasts. Gabrielle groaned thrusting forward as Xena took more of her soft flesh in her mouth. "Yes..." She sighed. Xena bit hard, and then harder. Gabrielle cried out, Xena then kissed and soothed where she had bit down.

Gabrielle pushed her own tongue deep into Xena's mouth. Tasting what, until now she had only imagined. Xena pulled her chemise off. Her nipples were hard, she took Gabrielle's hand and ran them over her breasts. "Do you trust me?" Xena whispered into Gabrielle's ear. Wet tongue tracing it's sensitive outline. "Yes.." She breathed. Xena smiled. Standing, she pulled Gabrielle to her feet, leading her to the bed she lay down on her back. Legs bent at the knee. Reaching for her, Xena settled her on her chest. Confused Gabrielle shifted leaving a wet trail across Xena's nipples. Xena kissed her just above her hairline. Using strong arms she lifted Gabrielle up over her shoulders until she knelt above her face. Xena pressed her mouth to Gabrielle's wet entrance. Grasping Xena's shoulders with her hands, Gabrielle felt a bolt of desire so fierce it left her gasping. Xena's tongue played across heated flesh, lingering on her swollen pearl. Gabrielle ground herself against Xena's face, her hands tangled in her long dark hair. Her breathing was labored. Xena pushed harder with her tongue flicking it across Gabrielle's opening. Feeling her release begin, Xena curled her tongue and slipped it deep into Gabrielle, her thumb massaging her clitoris as she exploded.

Gabrielle collapsed on Xena. Her thoughts incoherent. Sweat mingled with other moisture as she struggled for breath. Xena rolled Gabrielle over trapping the young bard beneath her body. She looked down on her friend, now lover, and kissed her lips, gentle hands caressing. Gabrielle sighed lost in the feel of Xena's hands tracing her body. "I want...." Xena nodded. "I know," She kissed her forehead. They lay silent, arms and legs entangled. The sun rose revealing crystal blue skies. "Gabrielle?" Xena murmured. "Hmmm...." I think its going to be too wet for the festival today." Gabrielle struggled to open her eyes. "Is it raining?" Xena smiled warmly. "I wasn't talking about the weather."

The End?


Xena: "I'll keep this for now." Hiding the breast dagger in her armor. Gabrielle: "As if your breasts aren't dangerous enough."

Xena's hands played across Gabrielle's velvety skin, fingers skimmed across fiery flesh. Gabrielle arched her back, longing for a firmer touch. Xena smiled softly, and lowered lush lips to Gabrielle's waiting mouth. Her hands stroked Gabrielle's breasts. She breathed deeply, and the scent of flowers almost overwhelmed her.

She awoke with a start, heart beating a discordant rhythm. The fragrance of flowers following her from her sleep. Opening her eyes, she paused, confused between reality and dream. All around her were flowers. On the bed and pillows, laying upon the floor, spread over everything near her. Flowers and blooms of every description and color.

Xena leaned over the bard and gently kissed her cheek. "Good afternoon sleepy head." Gabrielle smiled. "Xena, these are beautiful," she picked up a flower and traced Xena's throat with the smooth petals. "When did you get them?" Xena sat on the bed and pulled the young woman into a tight embrace. "Letsjust say, with proper motivation, you can be a very heavy sleeper." Gabrielle blushed at the memory of the previous night.

They shared a companionable silence, Gabrielle secure in Xena's strong arms. "So," Xena said breaking the quiet. "There's still plenty of time to look around the festival." Xena looked slyly at Gabrielle. "Unless you have other ideas?" Gabrielle slapped playfully at Xena's arm. "Festival I think." She didn't miss the fleeting look of disappointment in her eyes. She reached up and drew the warriors lips to hers and kissed her passionately. Tongue pressed deep into Xena's warm mouth. They pulled apart, dazed and breathless. "I was wrong," Xena panted. "Talking is what you do second best." Gabrielle chuckled, and with murmured promises of the evening to come, got dressed.

They made their way out into the crowded streets. Gabrielle was quickly swept away in the excitement of the festival. Street vendors abounded, selling everything from exotic perfumes, to expensive silks. Xena ignored their entreaties, and focused on Gabrielle. She stopped to look at every stand, talked animatedly with the vendors, and fingered the wares. "Xena look at this," She held up a gorgeous braided necklace. It was inlaid with small gems and sparkled in the sunlight. "Isn't it lovely." She took Gabrielle's hand and said "Yes, very lovely." She wasn't looking at the necklace. Gabrielle flushed at the heat from Xena's gaze. Replacing the necklace they continued on through the throng until the reached the townsquare. A large area had been

cleared for dancing and a group of musicians had begun to set up instruments in preparation for the evenings festivities.

They found an empty table near the dance floor, and Xena left to get them something to drink. Gabrielle's eyes followed her progress. It was if she were seeing her for the first time. She watched the appreciative glances cast Xena's way from the men, and even some from the women. The warrior walked with an easy grace, her long muscular legs flexed with every step. Gabrielle was consumed with desire for this woman, this warrior.

She felt moist wetness begin to seep from the joining of her legs and quickly pressed them together causing a shudder to course through her small frame. Blushing brightly she stared at the tabletop embarrassed beyond measure. Xena returned carrying a bottle and two glasses. She placed them on the table and noticed the heightened color on Gabrielle's soft cheeks. "Are you all right?" She asked worriedly. Not trusting her own voice she simply nodded. Xena wasn't entirely satisfied but decided to let the bard tell her in her own time.

She poured the wine into the glasses, and handed Gabrielle hers allowing her fingertips to graze across the younger woman's hand. Lifting her own glass she leaned back and relaxed against the chair back. Her left hand slipped under the table and trailed a path of fire on Gabrielle's bare leg. Gabrielle started at the touch, and closed her eyes as the warrior moved up her leg past the hem of her skirt. Her breathing became shallow as Xena's strong hand massaged her upper thigh feeling the wetness that had already soaked through her underclothes. Xena quietly sipped her drink, her eyes roamed the surrounding crowd. She never looked at Gabrielle, her only response to the woman's growing agitation an uplifted eyebrow.

Xena's hand easily slid past the rest of Gabrielle's clothes. Fingers finally reaching bare moist flesh. Gabrielle parted her legs allowing Xena to explore more fully. "More wine Gabrielle?" Xena asked conversationally. "Hmmmmm...no, no I'm fine." Gabrielle turned to Xena and caught her breath. The warrior's veyes glowed in the encroaching darkness, lust and passion raged in the bright blue embers. "I think I will." Xena teasingly began to pull her hand away from Gabrielle's body. Gabrielle closed her thighs, trapping Xena's hand between them. She smiled sweetly at Xena's surprised expression. "If youleave me like this," She whispered fiercely. "I will never kiss you again!" Xena grinned at the threat and leaned closer to the bard, she worked her hand more firmly against heated skin. Gabrielle's breath turned ragged, her eyes closed. Xena moved so that her body blocked Gabrielle from the view of most of the people. Gabrielle writhed against Xena's hand, she started to quiver, tight muscles convulsing around Xena's insistent fingers. She bit her lip as her release flowed through her, finally she rested her damp forehead on Xena's strong shoulder.

Xena placed a soft kiss on the bards cheek. She waited until her breath evened out before readjusting her chair to face the dancing area. She lifted her fingers to her mouth, and licked the moisture off them, all the while staring deep into Gabrielle's eyes. "Better than the wine." She sighed. Gabrielle felt another tremor sweep through her body at the sight. "You are so unfair," She muttered. "I'll get even you know." Xena smiled to her lover. "I'm looking forward to it." She snickered.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't Xena,Warrior Princess." A new voice called out. Gabrielle felt Xena tense next to her. Her body alert and aware. A tall woman, almost as tall as Xena, walked towards their table. Gabrielle watched as recognition clouded her lovers face. "Daria." She said. "Don't be so glad to see me Xena," Daria grinned as she sat down uninvited. "After all its only been years since we saw each other last."

Reaching for Xena's goblet she took a large swallow. "When was it....." She pondered. "Oh yes, you must remember Xena. My village was having its summer harvest celebration." Tossing her long red hair she continued. "You, me, a hot sultry night. It was bliss. You were my first, did you know that?" She gazed into Xena's blue eyes. "No, I didn't." Daria turned to Gabrielle as if seeing her for the first time. "You have a little companion, how sweet." She turned her full attention to the bard. "And you are....?" She purred, hungry eyes traced every curve of the young woman's body. "Taken." Gabrielle stated, and moved her chair closer to Xena.

Daria chuckled softly at the scene. "So Xena, tied down are we?" She rubbed her fingers across Xena's hand. Xena pulled away from her, ignoring her question. "What brings you here Daria?" She questioned. "A wagon." Her laugh boomed across the square, causing several heads to turn in their direction. "Seriously I'm with the dance company." Her eyes glittered. "You always said I had a certain flair with my body." Xena grimaced at her intimate tone. "Daria, don't." Daria's hands flew up as if wounded. "Don't what?" She continued. "Reminisce with an old friend about a shared experience? Xena you surprise me. You used to love to talk about what you were going to do to me, and what we did together. Have you become so reticent in your post-warrior days?" Xena stood and grabbed Gabrielle's hand in her own. "Daria we have nothing further to talk about. It was nice seeing you again." Her expression revealed it was anything but. "As you wish Xena, but I'll be here for two days." She dismissed Gabrielle with a glance. "That is if you still need me." Daria whispered. Xena's eyes were glacial, she released Gabrielle's hand and leaned on the table, her face inches from Daria's. "I never," She said, her voice passionless. "Needed you." Daria flinched away as if slapped. Xena took Gabrielle's hand again and left, never stopping to look back.

"Xena...." Gabrielle pulled at Xena's grip "Xena....stop!" Xena halted her face contorted with loathing. "What, Gabrielle?" The bard ignored her expression. "Who was that woman, why is she so....." Words for the first time failed her. "You know her name, and that is all you need to know." Gabrielle was shocked at Xena's tone. Xena made a conscience effort to calm herself. "She's a woman from the past Gabrielle, a past I'm not too proud of." She sighed and continued. "Let's go to our room, I'll try to answer your questions." Without another word they returned to the inn.

Xena shrugged out of her armor, rejecting Gabrielle's attempts to help. Stripped down to her underdress she sat in the rooms one chair. Gabrielle settled on the bed. She took a long drink from the bottle of wine she purchased from the bar. She waved in Gabrielle's direction to begin her query's. "Who is she?" Xena ran her hand through her dark hair. "Her name, as you know, is Daria. I saw her for the first time when my army was riding towards Matour." Xena's eyes had a faraway look. "She was beautiful. Her village, as she said, was celebrating its summer harvest. My army camped a few hours away. I rode into the village alone, and there she was." She stopped lost in the memory. Gabrielle spoke again "What happened between you two?"

Xena took another long swallow of wine. "I had decided to let the village survive, and had only gone in to scout for any other dangers. There she stoodalone by the well. She must have recognized me by my armor." She turned to Gabrielle. "That's the problem Gabrielle she knew who and what I was, but she wasn't afraid." She leaned forward and placed her elbows on her knees. "That's the thing I can't get over." Gabrielle was confused. "What Xena, what can't you get over?" Xena shrugged helplessly. "Xena did you......" Xena stood. "No, I never forced myself on her or anyone!" Guilt washed over Gabrielle like a bitter wave. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean..." Xena reached for Gabrielle's hand. "It's all right Gabrielle, I've been accused of much worse." Her eyes betrayed her pain.

Xena sat back down. She took a deep calming breath. "Gabrielle, she wanted to betray her own village." Gabrielle stifled a gasp. "As I said she knew who I was, she approached me and bargained her own people to ride by my side." Xena finished the bottle of wine and tossed it aside. "So I did what any warlord would do," Her eyes narrowed. "I took her."

End Part 2

"Took her?" Gabrielle asked, eyes wide. Xena grimaced at the memory. "Took her." She affirmed. They sat in silence. "Gabrielle, I have no excuses, she was beautiful, willing, and capable of renouncing her entire village to a warlord." Her soft lips twisted into a disgusted sneer. "At the time she was a perfect companion. Don't be shocked, I relished every moment of it." She wished for another bottle of wine, instead she leaned back into the chair. "It was a short alliance. Four days at most. She was shrewd, and conniving. It wasn't long before I realized it wasn't me she wanted, but power." Xena laughed without any trace of humor. "I found her one morning in the tent of my second in command." She shrugged. "With my third not far behind."

Xena's eyes turned somber. "After killing both men, I threw her out of the camp. She had turned on her people, so I made certain she could never return home." Xena's eyes reflected cold fire. "I sent a messenger to the village, detailing Daria's betrayal. I left nothing out, and I warned that if anyone of them took her in, I would wipe them all from the face of the earth." Xena looked at the floor. "As far as I know she never went home again." She stood again. "That's all Gabrielle, there is nothing more to tell." Her eyes searched her lovers face. She asked softly. "Do you want me to leave?" Gabrielle shook her head.

She rose from her place on the bed, and began to undress. Not as before, for the end of a day. She undressed for a lover, her lover. She wanted to offer her the forgiveness she needed and the passion she desired. She removed her snug blouse and revealed her firm breasts. Gabrielle's fingers traced circles around her own nipples until they hardened. All the while watching Xena's face. Wetting her fingertips Gabrielle to them. She knew she was driving Xena mad with desire. She pulled the rest of her clothes off, and tossed them in Xena's direction. The warrior grabbed them from the air and pressed the scented clothes to her nose and mouth. Passion blazed in her blue eyes.

"Don't tease." Xena groaned. Gabrielle laid down on the bed, her hands continuing to excite her body. Xena watched with hunger in her eyes, mouth parted as if gasping for breath. Gabrielle finally opened her arms to her lover, and that was all Xena needed. Shedding her own clothing, she slid on top of Gabrielle. Her lips scorched a path on the young woman's neck. Xena's tongue licked her ear. The bard strained against her lover. Instinctively Xena pressed harder into her body, even as she struggled to reign in her surging passions. "Gently, gently," Gabrielle whispered. "I'm not going anywhere." Xena willed herself to slow down. She kissed Gabrielle delicately, then with deeper thrusts. She felt as if she were burning.

Xena reared back, and pulled Gabrielle upright. They sat across from each

other, knees touching. Their hands continued to fondle supple flesh. The scent of their growing excitement was pungent in the air. "Tell me..." Gabrielle murmured. Xena leaned forward, and flicked her tongue across Gabrielle's moist lips. "Anything." Gabrielle moved away.

She looked intently into Xena's eyes. "Tell me what you did together." She moved to rest against the farthest wall, as her hands continued to stroke her taut body. She slid her fingers into her mouth and left a wet path down her chin to the valley of her breasts. Xena was aflame. "Tell me everything." Xena had never seen this wantonness in the bard before. It thrilled her as nothing had before. No battle, or conquest was as sweet as this. Mimicking Gabrielle's posture, she leaned away, strong fingers caressed warm skin. Her voice was heated as she began her tale. "She came to me the same evening I took her from her home....."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Xena's tent was austere compared to others. Her focus on victory not finery. That kind of determination made her a great leader, and a deadly opponent. She was there studying her maps when Daria entered. Xena looked up at the intrusion, her eyes narrowed. "Did I send for you?" She asked. "No, my princess." Daria responded head cast down. Xena stood from the table. "So this confuses me," She approached the other woman, her voice deceptively calm. "I did not send for you, and yet here you are." Xena reached her side. "Can you explain this to me?" Daria shuddered at the nearness of the warrior. "I thought..." Her voice failed her. "You thought...?" Xena prompted. "I thought," She said gaining courage. "You may have need of me."

Xena grinned at the woman's sheer audacity. "Need of you?" She chuckled, as she walked around the woman. Her blue eyes undressed her in a glance. "What would I need from you?" Daria smiled. "Perhaps this my princess." She slowly removed the cloak from her shoulders exposing creamy white flesh. She turned towards the warrior, the long fabric gathered around her waist. "Is this pleasing?" Xena stepped forward, fingers touched her collarbone. "So far." She agreed, her voice uneven. Daria continued to undress, dropping the cloak in a puddle at her feet. "And this?" Daria stood naked before her, a self satisfied smile played upon her lips.

Xena grabbed Daria, and roughly pulled the woman against her. "Remember

little one it is I who controls you." Her voice was harsh, as she shoved the woman away. Daria stumbled and sprawled at Xena's feet. Xena stood over her, eyes full of contempt. After several minutes she knelt next to her, her callused hands ran through Daria's long red hair. "Now that you understand the rules," She purred. "We can play the game." She rose, strode to her bed and sat at its edge. "Come here." She commanded. Daria complied quickly, and stood next to the warrior. Xena smiled. "Very good. You may work out yet. Tell me," She asked crossing her leather booted legs. "Are you.....experienced?" Daria kept eyes down and lied. "Yes, my princess."

"Perfect." She smiled tightly. "So little one, care to help me with my boots?" Her voice held a warning tone. "Of course princess." She dropped to her knees and began unlacing the long boots. Her fingers worked feverishly until the last tie was undone. Standing she turned around, her naked back to the warrior. She grasped her boot in two hands and gave a hard pull freeing Xena's calf and foot. She repeated the process with her other leg. She tossed the boots to the floor, and silently awaited the next command.

Xena was delighted. "Remove my armor." She instructed. Daria's hands shook as she struggled with the unfamiliar fastenings. She unhooked the heavy breastplate. Unaccustomed to the weight and it fell heavily into Xena's lap. The warrior did not move. Daria reached down, fingers fumbled over muscular thighs as she struggled to lift the bronze covering. "Enough!" Xena said. She lifted the breastplate as if a feather, and hung it by her bed. Sword and leather dress quickly followed. She took Daria's hand. "There are many things you have yet to learn if you wish to ride with me." She said and tossed the woman to the bed. "Disrobing me properly will be second. Pleasing me is first."

Xena lowered herself on the bed. She lay on her back, hands high above her head. "Do you think you can do that?" She asked eyebrow raised. Daria shivered as if cold, this is what she wanted, to be this close to power. Hunger overrode inexperience as she began to touch Xena's body. She relied solely on the pleasure she had given herself. Her fingers trailed across the warrior's breasts, forcing nipples to tighten. Xena sighed and stretched her neck exposing more flesh. "Go on....." She muttered. Daria moved more confidently now, her mouth teasing firm flesh. Tongue swirled around the tips of her breasts. Xena groaned enjoying the attentions she was receiving. Daria moved her tongue lower, eventually parting Xena's moist lips. Her breath caught as she inhaled her musky fragrance. Spreading her thighs further apart she slid her tongue deep into the warrior's crevice. Xena shuddered against the invasion, and pushed harder onto to Daria's face. Daria was overwhelmed, she felt the woman bucking and straining against her. She had mastery over the warrior, she had everything.

Suddenly Xena rolled over forcing Daria on her back. "You forget who the conqueror is little one." Xena straddled the woman beneath her. "It's time you learn." She bent her head and kissed a path of fire on Daria's face and neck. Her teeth bit deeply into Daria's shoulders her breasts ravaged by strong hands. Daria longed to scream. Xena smiled against her trembling flesh. Scarcely pausing she drove her fingers deep into her, thumb pressed against her enlarged clit. "I control, I conquer," She uttered with every firm stroke. "I command, I rule," Her breath was as ragged as Daria's. "And I own you." With those last words she pushed hard, feeling the convulsions of Daria's hot flesh. "Remember well little one," She whispered fiercely as Daria shuddered. "This lesson will never be repeated." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xena gazed at Gabrielle, her voice husky from the telling. "Is that what you wanted?" She questioned, fingers stilled against her legs. Gabrielle said nothing, her face averted. After a long pause Xena feared she had said to much, given too much of her past away. She began to rise from the bed, when she knocked down by the weight of her lover. Caught in mid motion Xena grabbed the bard and rolled to the floor. Gabrielle sat on top of her. Eyes burned with fire. Xena was stunned, her earlier almost playful wantonness, was replaced by an unimaginable craving.

For a heartbeat neither moved, and then in a flurry of hands and lips, Gabrielle descended on the warrior. Her surprisingly strong hands held Xena's arms above her head, her mouth hot on Xena's neck. "Who conquers now my princess?" Gabrielle murmured. Tongue hard against her throat. She moved lower teeth biting against Xena's breasts. "Who rules?" Gabrielle moved ever lower, tongue and teeth alternating together to drive Xena beyond mere passion. The words so long ago uttered, served to send her even higher. "Who commands Xena?" Her voice was harsh in her desire. She drove her tongue and fingers deep into her lovers body. Xena rose high off the bed as if electrified. Gabrielle followed her movements smoothly her mouth never leaving Xena's moist nest.

Xena was out of control, the deep feelings the bard unleashed, long held in check. Her hands gripped Gabrielle's head in a bruising hold. Her hips ground hard against Gabrielle's tongue. Her breath short and labored, she climbed an imaginary staircase, every wave of passion, every caress of tongue, every stroke of fingers pushed her a step higher, until gasping for breath she reached the precipice. Her body stilled as a storm gathered in her soul. With one final caress, Gabrielle pushed her over. The warrior cried out, strength draining from her body at the same time her heart took flight.

Gabrielle lifted her face from Xena's body, she crawled up to her side and held her lover close. She kissed her parted mouth, her tongue soft she traced the lips. Xena lay senseless eyes closed. Gabrielle smiled wickedly. "Who owns you Xena?"

"Thin fire runs through my veins..... I am paler than grass." Sappho

Gabrielle spoke again. "Who owns you?" Never had Xena acquiesced, never had she succumbed to the domination of another. She struggled within, to give the bard what she wanted, or lose her soul, her strength, her self. And then, as if it had never been, the fear and anguish were gone. She rolled over, the younger woman now beneath her. Her hands stroked Gabrielle's hair, her eyes soft, and she spoke the words she had always felt, but was dread to say. "You own me Gabrielle, you own my heart and soul. You are everything to me, my entire world, and I would fight the Gods above and below to keep you by my side," Xena kissed her, lips gentle. "And when my life is over, the greatest gift I could ever have would be to die in your arms, gentled by your hands, and gazing on your beautiful face."

For one of the few times in her life Gabrielle was speechless. Tears welled in her eyes. She brushed a loose strand of hair from Xena's face, and tucked it behind her ear. Xena kissed her lover, her friend. Her tongue parted Gabrielle's lips and entered her warm mouth. There is a time, a space, where feelings and emotions rise above the ordinary. Where everything becomes clear, the future, and the past. Where silent promises are made, and like hearts beat as one. This was their time. There was no fear, the future set, and the past cast aside. Love was all that had meaning.

Tentatively Xena began to make love to the bard. Hands once sure, stuttered. Her mouth always passionate struggled to kiss and stroke. Gabrielle seemed to understand the warrior's hesitancy, and took Xena's hands in her own. She kissed each palm and laid her hands on her shoulders. "You own me too Xena," She breathed. "From the day I saw you, you owned me." She ran her hands up her powerful arms relishing the strength in them. "I had to follow you, be with you. It was something I had never felt before. Everything I knew before was pale in comparison, and everything I am now I owe to you."

Whatever doubts Xena experienced fled with those soft words. Her hands confident, as they slid easily on the bards shoulders and down her side. Her lips lowered to Gabrielle's as her tongue dipped and swirled in her heated mouth. Xena poured all her love into the kiss, all that she had dreamt, imagined, and yearned for was there. They broke apart Gabrielle shaken by its intensity. "I was wrong," She murmured. "Fighting is what you do second best." Xena smiled at the remembered phrase. "Well, we all have things we're good at." Gabrielle's eyes were heavy lidded. "Do it again."

Xena lips again reclaimed the bards, as her hands roamed over the rest of her young lovers body. A small caress at her hip, a longer on her breasts served to excite her further. She dipped her mouth to Gabrielle's nipples, and gently took one in her mouth. She bit lightly with her teeth causing her lover to groan, as her tongue flicked hard against its tip.

Gabrielle's hands clenched hard on Xena's arms, gripping and releasing spasmodically, neither sustaining the grip or surviving the release. Xena moved downward her mouth trailing a line of moisture from her lovers breasts to her thighs. With a soft touch Xena spread Gabrielle's legs, and nestled between them, moist heat rising from the woman's center. She kissed her mound tenderly, and then with more fervor. Grasping the bard's legs she pushed them up and over her shoulders until Gabrielle was lifted partially off the bed. "This is new." Gabrielle panted. Xena's reply was muffled. She moved her strong hands to Gabrielle's calves and pushed higher until the bard's legs were above Xena's head, and her sex opened for Xena's pleasure.

Xena leaned forward her tongue pressed deeply on Gabrielle's exposed bud. Gabrielle groaned her body thrusting hard. Xena's arms wrapped around her lovers legs, and forced her closer to her relentless mouth. Gabrielle savored the liquid feel of Xena's mouth on her, but she wanted more, much more. "Xena.." She breathed. There was no response save for more fervent stroking. "Xena..." She voiced louder. There was a pause of sensation "I want to taste you too." Xena's body shivered. "Are you sure?" She looked into Gabrielle's eyes. "It can be.....difficult."

"I want it." She said huskily. Xena released her legs, lifted her up and laid her body against hers. She kissed the younger woman's lips tantalizing her with her own scent. "Turn around." Xena's own voice was roughened with passion. Gabrielle obeyed and adjusted her body until her head lay between Xena's legs. The warrior also adjusted for her lovers smaller frame, she braced her feet and knees and returned her head to Gabrielle's moist cleft. Her tongue danced across her flesh, as Gabrielle parted her own thighs and pressed her mouth there.

Their rhythm soon became synchronized, when one would begin to surrender to pleasure, the other would slow, so that neither would climax first. Xena's hands stroked Gabrielle's hips and thighs, running her fingers lightly over muscled flesh. Gabrielle struggled to contain her growing hunger, but ultimately her body betrayed her. Her hips writhed against Xena, prompting a hard groan from her lover. Xena thrust her hips up pushing firmly on Gabrielle's tongue. Gabrielle slipped over first, Xena right behind. For several minutes the only sound was that of labored breathing. Gabrielle was the first to stir, and climbed her way up Xena's body to rest on her shoulder. "I love you Xena." She whispered, and kissed her gently on the cheek. Xena's arms wrapped around her lover. "I love you Gabrielle." She held tight, as the bard slipped into sleep, and as before Xena followed right behind.

The morning sun streamed through the window, casting light and shadow across Xena's sleeping face. Gabrielle watched the changing reflections that played there. "She is so beautiful," She thought to herself. "If only she could see herself as I see her." She brushed the long dark hair from her lovers forehead, fingers lingered on her cheek and jaw. Gabrielle stretched, her body languid. "Sated." She smiled to herself. She never had understood the word until now.

She rose from the bed, careful not to waken Xena. Sifting through the clothes strewn on the floor she found her top and skirt, slipping them on she left the room, her thoughts on a few things she needed to buy. When she arrived at the festival her eyes began to search for what she wanted. She found an exquisite royal blue dress, cut low in the front, embroidered with a faint silver cording on the sleeves and bodice. "Perfect for Xena." She smiled. She then found a emerald green gown that would bring out her eyes and figure. Tight around the waist enhancing her hips and breasts. Her smiled broadened as she imagined Xena's expression. Her final purchase was soft and delicate, both matching, but one fair the other dark. Satisfied she went back to their room.

Xena was awake still lying on the bed a bare leg exposed. "You know," Gabrielle said as she entered the room arms brimming with packages. "If I were a brigand I would have you now." Xena rose up easily on her elbows, the blanket shifted to reveal her breasts. "If you were a brigand," She smirked. "You would be dead now." Gabrielle caught herself staring at Xena. "Uhmmm, good point." Xena sat up further, the blanket falling to her waist. Eyes glittered with amusement. "Gabrielle, is something about my......attire bothering you?" Gabrielle returned the smile. "Lack of attire would be more correct." Xena fell back down and pulled the rough blanket modestly to her shoulders. "So," She waved her hand in the direction of packages. "What did you get?"

Gabrielle dropped the things in the bed. Excitedly she pulled out the blue dress. "This is for you." She tossed the gown to Xena who caught it effortlessly. Holding against her chest she eyed Gabrielle. "And why would I need this?" She asked. Gabrielle ignored her question and removed the green dress. "This is for me." She too held it against her body only tighter, conforming the silky fabric to her petite frame. Xena's eyes widened in appreciation. "Very nice," A slow sexy smile played across her features. "But again, why do I, rather we, need these?" Gabrielle jumped on the bed her eyes sparkled. "We need these because your taking me dancing." A hearty laugh bursting out at the expression on her loves face.

"Dancing?" Xena said incredulously. "Dancing." Gabrielle confirmed. Xena placed her hand on Gabrielle's arm." Do you realize what your saying?" Gabrielle nodded. "Of course I am asking the woman I love to take me dancing." Xena shook her head. "Gabrielle there are people.." She paused. "Some people feel differently about......" Xena hesitated again. "Xena, I'm not a child, I know what people think." She moved closer, her hands grasping the warrior's "I don't care, I love you and I want nothing more than to dance in your arms." Her smile was beguiling. Xena pulled the bard into the shelter of her arms. "All right, all right. Dancing it is."

By early evening they were ready, Xena resplendent in her blue gown, dark

hair brushed back from her face. The color accented her eyes, adding a deeper hue to their already sapphire brilliance . Where Xena was regal, Gabrielle was breathtaking. Xena was sure her heart stopped when she saw the bard. The green dress was snug around her waist, soft hips emphasized, her shoulders bared. Her blonde hair hung in curls, the soft strands caressing her throat.

Xena took a deep breath. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather stay here?" She questioned, her eyes roamed the bards sleek body. Gabrielle pressed against Xena. She trailed a finger across her lovers lips. "Time enough for that later." She teased. She linked her arm with Xena's, and gazed lovingly into her blue eyes. "Shall we?" She asked. Xena clasped her hand and with no armor,nor weapons, save Gabrielle's love, the bard and the warrior went to a dance.

End Part 4

"To the question your eyes seem to send, Am I your passion?, Your promise?, Your end? I say I am." Melissa Etheridge "Yes I Am."

As they walked the short distance to the dancing area, Xena began to grow apprehensive, it was much more crowded than the day before. Without thinking her hand tightened on Gabrielle's, the young bard turned with a concerned look to Xena. "Are you all right with this?" Gabrielle asked gently. Xena forced a small smile. "Oh yeah, fine." Gabrielle pulled her into a small alcove. She tilted her head up and gazed into the bluest eyes she had ever seen. "Xena, I love you. If you don't want to do this, just say so." Xena breathed deeply. "I already told you I would fight the God's for you," Her lips twitched as she continued. "I imagine dancing with you will much more enjoyable." She grasped Gabrielle's hand firmly in her own and continued to the townsquare.

This time the square overflowed with people. The tables almost all taken, but Xena glimpsed an empty one further from the dance area. She tugged Gabrielle behind her as she made her way through the mob. "Sit here." She said and pulled out a chair. Gabrielle smoothed her long skirts around her as she did. Xena remained standing, she looked down at Gabrielle a sardonic smile on her lips. "Well since this is our first date, I would be remiss if I didn't at least offer to get you something to drink." Gabrielle nodded her acceptance. "A wine I think." Xena muttered softly under her breath as she made her way to the open tavern.

Gabrielle's eyes traveled over the people milling around the tables and dance area, her mind elsewhere. Images of the last days replayed in her thoughts and a grin lit up her face. Drawing the attention of handsome young man. "You look like your enjoying yourself," He said and leaned down giving her his best smile. "Are you alone?" Before Gabrielle could speak a deep voice answered for her. "She's with me." The man's head spun at the sound, and saw a tall woman standing there, the cutting edge in her eyes was enough for him to search anew for his evenings pleasures. Daria quickly seated herself. "Surprised?" She asked. Gabrielle shook her head. "Annoyed is more like it."

Daria shrugged, "Surprised, annoyed, it's all emotion is it not." She rested her head on her hand. "So you travel with Xena now," She smiled suggestively. "Have you.... been with her yet?" Gabrielle's mouth opened to answer, when a warm hand came down on her bare shoulder. "You don't need to say anything Gabrielle." Xena placed two goblets on the table and sat down. "Daria, how unpleasant to see you again." She said flatly. "Ah, Xena always the ready wit," She took in the blue gown. "Dressed up too? You never dressed up for me, in fact as I recall you barely dressed at all." Her smile never touched her eyes. "You want to know what the difference between us is Daria?" Xena leaned forward on her elbow. Daria mocked the gesture, until they were only inches apart. "What would that be my princess?" Xena disregarded the gibe. "You are a lost woman who will betray everything for what little power you think you desire." Her voice was cold. "Happiness is something you will never know until you realize that."

She paused to sip her wine. "I was lost too, and I sacrificed everything to my rage, my family, my friends, my home. Now power, power I had in abundance." Her eyes glimmered. "But never joy nor peace." She gazed at her lover. "Until now, I have that and much more." Daria's mouth twisted into a sneer. "How sweet." Xena ignored her, and turned to Gabrielle. "I thought we came to dance?" Standing she gently pulled her to her feet. The bard looked with infinite sadness Daria. "I feel sorry for you." Daria snorted. "Sorry for me? You should worry for yourself. She will use you and leave you. She will take your heart and burn it while you watch." Gabrielle shook her head as they walked away. They did not see the look of hatred on Daria's face.

Xena placed her hand on Gabrielle's arm to stop her. "I need you to know something," Her eyes pained. "I would never hurt you," She continued her voice fragile. "I will never leave you." Gabrielle smiled reassuringly. "I know that, whatever you were with her is in the past." She leaned closer, her voice intimate. "Besides, I own you remember?" She watched as the raw words flowed through her lover. Heedless of the people around them, Gabrielle pulled Xena's face to her own and kissed her with promises of passion so intense it left them breathless. "Now lets dance."

The area was lit with torches, causing shadows to dance and weave. The music was soft and melodious. Xena opened her arms to her young lover and Gabrielle slipped into them eagerly. She slid her hands up to encircle Xena's neck, as the warrior placed her own on Gabrielle's hips. Self conscience, her gaze constantly swept the surrounding crowd. The bard noticed Xena's distraction, and tenderly took her face in her hands "Nobody is looking at us." She said. Xena sighed, her hands absently running along her lovers back. "Just dance with me." Gabrielle whispered, drawing Xena's body tighter to hers.

Xena slowly began to surrender to beat of the music, forgetting all but Gabrielle. She held her lover closely her hands soft on her hips. Gabrielle smiled feeling her lovers body undulate against her. The music picked up tempo. Xena's body, always powerful, moved in a sensuous rhythm, her long legs bent slightly bringing her hips close to the bards. Her hands and arms caressed firm hips and back. She bent her head, hair falling forward to brush against Gabrielle's cheek. "I love to watch you, when you move, when you sleep," She whispered. "I watched you by the pond working with your staff when you thought you were alone." Gabrielle was lost in her lovers words and movements. The warm voice caused ripples of emotion, the movements, desire. She shivered and pressed even closer to the tall warrior.

The tempo changed again, now slower, and more languid. Xena brushed her hands along Gabrielle's bared shoulders, her fingertips grazed soft skin. She leaned into the young woman, feeling a familiar heat building. "There are other types of dancing Gabrielle." She murmured. Gabrielle shuddered. "I watched you," She said suddenly, her eyes bored into the warriors. "In the baths." Xena's skin flushed, the heat suddenly turned to flame. It was Gabrielle's turn to excite with words and movement. "I followed you, I saw you touch yourself." Her voice caught as Xena's hold tightened on her hips. Her eyes never left Xena's, and watched as the color changed from pale blue to a passionate azure. "I have never done that. Touched myself like that."

Xena's breath became labored, all around them people danced. The only music the lovers heard was the beating of their hearts. Their bodies followed only what was dictated my their needs and growing hunger. Gabrielle pushed her thigh between Xena's legs, her hands moved down along muscular arms, to grip her hands. She pressed the warriors hands against her exposed shoulders, and placed her own on Xena's hips. "Why do you always get to lead?" Xena struggled for a breath, a thought. "I'm taller?" She asked. Gabrielle chuckled softly. "Where was I?" She looked innocently into Xena's eyes. "Hmmm, baths I think." Xena gasped as Gabrielle moved her hands lower and massaged the firm flesh she found there. "Ahhh yes the baths....you were stunning, so out of control. I wanted to touch you in ways that I had not even dared to imagine," She lowered her mouth to Xena's unveiled chest, and placed light kisses across her collarbone.

Xena was awash in sensation so great, nothing else mattered. This small woman, a peasant girl who dreamt of greater things for her life, who followed her against her warnings, her will, who longed for adventure and excitement, had wormed her way into her heart and once safely ensconced there began to break down walls of pain and anguish that the warrior had forgotten she had built. "Gabrielle..." She breathed. Gabrielle looked up and at once was lost in the sea of emotions that played in her lovers eyes. "I think I have had enough dancing for one night." Gabrielle only managed a small nod before Xena led her away from the dancing, from the people.

She took them not to their room as Gabrielle expected, but to the meadow that they passed when they came into village. Xena was quite, her hand warm in Gabrielle's, as she led her further into the meadow. The moon had fully risen, its faint glow casting meager light for their path. They finally reached a garden. Xena stopped and turned to the bard. "This is where I got your flowers." She took both of Gabrielle's hands in hers, her eyes burned with desire. "I want you now, like this, in the open air." She lowered her mouth to the bards, her tongue running across soft lips. Gabrielle responded with a fierce hunger, her mouth opened beneath the warriors. Xena fingers captured the fabric of Gabrielle's gown, she smoothed the cloth between her fingers, as she pressed harder into her lovers mouth.

Gabrielle moaned around the fevered kiss. "Yes..." That single word was the world now, all that mattered. Gently Xena lowered Gabrielle to the ground. She lay beside her, fingers impatient in their need. She stroked her forehead, nose, lips, and chin. She cupped Gabrielle's face in her hands. Her tongue touched now what her fingers had a moment ago. Passion flared in the bard, the heat of Xena's breath, the touch of her hands and tongue sending her yearning higher. Gabrielle tried to roll over, to lay atop the warrior but strong hands held her fast. "You know your ruining these dresses." She muttered. "Only one way to solve that." Xena said. Standing up she deftly removed her gown. Revealing smooth bare skin. "I'm waiting." She tapped at her hip with her hand. Gabrielle lurched to her feet, and pulled her own dress off. Xena's smile was impassioned. "Better, much better." They stood bathed in soft glow of moonlight as each trembled with their own desires. Xena, the warrior who had conquered so many, who had swept through villages and towns alike with reckless abandon, knelt first, her arms wrapped around Gabrielle's thighs her face buried in the warm juncture of her legs. Gabrielle gazed down at the dark head nestled securely against her pale skin. She gently touched Xena's hair, and then she too knelt until they faced each other.

Her hands traced across Xena's features, her strong cheeks, her jaw, she ran her thumb across ripe lips. Without thought she pressed her mouth to Xena's throat tasting the strong pulse that beat there. She pushed the warrior down onto the dew dampened grass. Her mouth and tongue continued to nuzzle her lovers skin. Gabrielle straddled Xena, her knees braced against her hips. Xena could feel her wetness, damp and sweet against her belly. Fighting every urge in her body, she remained still. Gabrielle lowered her fingers to herself, easily parting her moist lips. Fingers pursued a tantalizing trail of seduction on her own body. "Is this what you did?" Her voice heated. She reached deeper as her fingers stroked harder. Her hips rose off of Xena's body. "Too good......." Xena was entranced, the flame that began at the dance had turned to an inferno.

She seized Gabrielle's hand, and slowly drew the wet fingers into her mouth. The mere taste of Gabrielle on her tongue made Xena hungry for more. "Not as good as this......." She wrapped powerful arms around the bard, and with little effort rolled the young woman beneath her. Xena rose above her, her eyes glowed with an ethereal radiance. "Nothing is as good as this." She carefully lowered her body to rest upon Gabrielle's. Breast upon breast, liquid heat, they flowed against each other. Xena groaned as Gabrielle slid her hand between the tight fissure of her thighs. She pushed her legs apart, as her hand dipped and swirled in the heated depths of the woman she loved. Xena rose up, her weight balanced on her hands as she spread her thighs further apart for her lover. The bard pushed deep into her moist folds fingers curling into a small fist.

Xena flung her head back, dark hair cascaded around her shoulders like a wave. Her hips thrust hard against the intrusive fingers, and her knees dropped to the ground. Each plunge sent her higher, Gabrielle never paused, nor wavered, her fist deep in the warrior. "Am I hurting you?" She gasped. "Harder." Xena urged. And then...and then...a sharp intake of breath, a ripple of muscle, a moment of time, and Xena's white teeth bit solidly into her lip as she came, tight muscles convulsing around Gabrielle's hand.

A drop of blood glistened on Xena's lip, Gabrielle wiped it away with her thumb. Xena lowered herself onto the bard. "Now for you" She whispered ardently. She pressed her leg between the bards thighs, and was rewarded with a deep groan. Her fingers played across tightened nipples. Gabrielle was already past waiting, the feel of Xena's thigh pressed hard on her sex was enough to send her over, she arched her back thrusting spasmodically against Xena's muscular leg. Her fingernails scratched small furrows into the warriors shoulders as she felt her release flood through her. "Nice..." She muttered. They lay quietly together, the dew cooling their heated skins. Gabrielle curled into Xena's embrace, the damp grass forgotten. Xena wrapped her arms around her lover, and kissed the top of her head. They slipped into sleep with out warning.

Shortly before dawn, Xena awoke. Her eyes quickly searched the meadow, before she moved to wake Gabrielle. The bard lay much as she did the night before, curled against Xena's side. With soft fingers Xena traced the outline of her lovers face, "Gabrielle.." She whispered. Gabrielle stirred, her eyes widened as they took in her surroundings. "Uh, oh." Xena stood shaking her long sable hair from her face. She reached down to pull Gabrielle to her feet. "Couldn't have said it better myself." They dressed swiftly and made their way back to the inn.

Gabrielle packed their bag, as Xena dressed back into her leather, and armor. "You know," She sighed. "I may never look at a meadow the same way again." Xena smiled warmly. "I have to agree." Returning the smile, she went back to packing. Her hands smoothed the fabric of Xena's gown before folding it neatly away, the green dress snugly placed on top. She reached for the last of their things, and found the last small package she had bought the day before. She tucked into her bodice, hoping Xena hadn't seen. "All done." She said turning to her companion. Xena was right behind her, Gabrielle jumped in surprise. "I wish you wouldn't do that." Xena just grinned. With a last lingering kiss they left the room.

They retrieved Argo from the stables, and followed the wagons of the peddlers out of the village. "Maybe we can come back here sometime?" Gabrielle said and laced her fingers with Xena's. "Perhaps." Xena's grip tightened around the smaller woman's hand. Gabrielle glanced back at the receding meadow. "I don't know how we are going to manage the riding part now though." Xena cast her a questioning look. "The riding part, how can we hold hands if you always ride?" Xena smirked, and swept the little bard into her arms and up on the saddle. She mounted quickly behind her, and wrapped a strong arm around Gabrielle's slim waist. She linked their fingers together, and took the reigns with her free hand. "I would say this works." She murmured into her lovers ear. Gabrielle sighed and leaned back against Xena. "Yeah, this works." She said agreeably.

End Part 5

They rode for hours, Argo easily caring their combined weight. It was near nightfall when a noise alerted Xena's senses, she slowed the horse to a halt. "What's wrong Xena?" Gabrielle turned in the saddle to glance at her lover. She said nothing and swung down from Argo's back. Drawing her sword from its sheath, she motioned for Gabrielle to stay on the horse. She moved silently through the brush until she reached an open glade. She knelt down quickly, eyes immediately fixed on the skirmish in front of her. "Daria." She muttered.

Daria struggled with two men as they attempted to pull her down, yanking hard at her arms. Xena narrowed her eyes as she recognized the taller man, the same man who had accosted Gabrielle. With quiet steps she crept closer. She kept her sword down, low against her leg, as she entered the glade. She was silent as death, her fingers tight on the hilt of her sword. The man ripped at Daria's blouse. Xena was close enough to smell the sweat from his stained clothes. She reached around his shoulders and gripped his chin in her hand, she turned his head so that his ear pressed against her mouth. "Remember me?" With no other warning she slammed the end of her weapon hard against the man's head. He sank to the ground. The other attacker eyed her, and fled into the surrounding woods.

Xena straightened, her sword still clasped in her hand. "What are you doing here?" She spat out angrily. Daria pulled the ripped remains of her blouse together. "Oh, let me think Xena, I was walking along hoping that I would be attacked and you would come rescue me." Her voice dripped with sarcasm. "Fine." Xena said, she sheathed her sword, and stalked away. Daria panicked. "Xena.......Xena, wait." The warrior stopped, and spun on her heel. Crossing hers arms on her chest, she waited for the woman to arrive. Daria stopped a few feet in front of the warrior. Her voice was afraid, "What about me?"

Xena's eyebrow arched, "What about you?" Daria stepped closer. "You can't just leave me here. What happens when he wakes up? Or if the other man comes back?" Xena shook her head in amazement, and was about to respond when Gabrielle's voice interrupted her. "Xena...." She turned towards the sound. "Over here." Xena called out. "Is everything all right?" Gabrielle asked, as she entered the glade. "Just swell." Xena said as she grabbed hold of Argo's reigns. Gabrielle's eyes widened when she saw Daria standing there, her blouse ripped. "Ah, Xena what is she doing here?" Xena kept her back to both women. "She was being attacked by two men." Gabrielle turned compassionate eyes to Daria.

"Are you all right?" She asked gently. Daria gathered the ragged fabric closer together. "I'm fine." She answered curtly. Xena led Argo back to the road. "You don't look fine. Come on you can camp with us tonight." She took her arm and followed Xena. Gabrielle pulled her along as they made their way to the road. Xena waited for them, Argo's reigns tight in her hands. "Well?" She questioned. "Daria is going to stay with us tonight." Gabrielle said firmly, "We can't just leave her alone." Xena's expression was unreadable. "If that's what you want." She murmured faintly.

She led them further down the road, until they reached a clearing. "We'll camp here." Xena said abruptly. She unsaddled Argo, and busied herself with the job of feeding her. Gabrielle silently took their things, and prepared camp. Neither spoke to the other, this was not missed by Daria, who's eyes narrowed in anticipation of an interesting evening.

Xena finished with Argo, glanced at Gabrielle. "I'll get us something to eat." Without another word she headed off into the growing darkness. Gabrielle sighed, and turned her attention back the work at hand. She was so lost in her own thoughts, she had forgotten that Daria was even there until she spoke. "I'm sorry if my being here is causing problems." She murmured. Gabrielle started slightly at the sound and was surprised to find Daria so close. She made no effort to keep the torn edges of her blouse together, and the rising moon cast silver highlights across firm breasts. Gabrielle caught herself staring and blushed deeply.

Xena was not pleased. This was not how she intended to spend their evening. The burning hunger that had built inside during the ride was extinguished by the thought of baby-sitting a spoiled, selfish woman. A woman she had been intimate with in the past, she reminded herself. She silently cursed the Gods for the events that created this situation. She caught two rabbits with little effort, and headed back to their camp. She crossed from the wooded area into the clearing and stopped dead in her tracks. There stood Daria, her blouse open with Gabrielle's eyes fixed on her revealed chest. A rage flamed through her like nothing she had ever felt before.

Gabrielle looked up to see Xena's face, it was if made of stone, the only movement a slight rising of her left eyebrow. Her eyes told a different story, hurt, pain, and fury mixed as one. "I hope I'm not interrupting." She said dryly. Her calm voice at odds with her seething emotions. She walked to the small fire, dropped the rabbits and reached for her saddlebag withdrawing a small box. Xena approached the two women, and casually stepped between Gabrielle and Daria. "There's a needle and string in here," Her voice was low and cold. "Use it." Without another word she pulled Gabrielle after her and towards the woods.

No words were spoken as the warrior dragged Gabrielle after her. Several minutes passed as they made their way through the woods. Xena finally stopped and slumped to sit on a log, her face buried in her hands. Gabrielle stood over her, and for the first time in her life with Xena, she was afraid for herself. She had seen that fury in her eyes before, but always directed at others, never at her. "Xena...its not what...I mean there was...it's just..." The bard struggled for words. Xena halted her explanation with a gentle touch of her hand. "It wasn't your fault," She didn't look up. "I know Daria, I know what she is capable of. We should have left her in the woods." She finished bitterly.

"Xena we couldn't leave her alone like that." She sat down next to her lover and stroked her back. "I understand that Gabrielle," She finally raised her head and her lips twitched. "But a girl can dream can't she?" Gabrielle was relived to see a return of some good humor. She moved a little closer and nudged Xena's hip with her own. "This wasn't exactly what I was looking forward to tonight." She smiled as she looked into Xena's face. Xena leaned forward and kissed Gabrielle softly, her tongue parted moist lips. She ran her hand over the bard's soft cheek, and deepened the kiss. After several moments they broke apart. A shuddering sigh escaped Gabrielle's mouth. "We had better get back," Xena said, and pulled Gabrielle to her feet. "Daria may be seducing Argo next." She added with a small smile.

By the time they returned to camp Daria had already skinned and set the meat to cook, and was busy sewing her blouse, a blanket draped around her shoulders. Xena stopped Gabrielle with a touch of her hand, she strode to Daria and knelt next to her. Xena's words were soft and quite, Gabrielle could only tell their content by the changing colors on the woman's face. They went from a deep blush, to pale, to a stark white. After several moments Xena stood her hand on Daria's arm. "I hope we have an understanding." She asked smoothly. Daria barely managed a nod, her eyes wide. "Good." Xena said satisfied.

Xena motioned to Gabrielle, and she joined the two women by the fire. An uneasy silence had settled on the their small camp. Gabrielle pulled the cooked meat from the fire and offered it to Xena and Daria. "Legs, breasts...anyone..." Her voice faltered as her face flamed in embarrassment. Xena and Daria shared a startled glance before erupting in laughter. Xena pulled Gabrielle tight in her arms, and kissed her forehead. "Don't ever change," She grinned, brushing soft strands of hair from her face. "I love you the way just the way you are." Gabrielle sighed, and leaned against Xena's strong body. Daria looked away from the lovers, the pain in her heart almost to much to bear.

Supper was completed and cleared away. Xena stood and stretched, her muscular arms high above her head, the movement tightened her leathers against her body. Gabrielle bit her lip as she gazed at the perfect form of her lover. A flame burst into life deep in her belly, and she shuddered against the heat. "I'm going to get more wood," She looking meaningfully at Gabrielle. "I could use some help." The bard shot to her feet. "Daria you've had a trying day, stay here and relax. We'll be right back." Daria shrugged wordlessly and bent into the heat of the fire.

Xena led Gabrielle deeper into the woods, her steps swift and sure. They arrived at the trunk of a huge tree, the bark cracked at the base creating a large opening. Xena drew Gabrielle close, her fingers tangled in her long strawberry blonde hair, she slowly pulled the bards head back revealing more enticing flesh. Her lips stole across Gabrielle's neck and collarbone, her mouth urgent in her need. Her tongue moved lower licking the top of her exposed chest. Gabrielle gasped lifting her breasts higher. "Not alot of time." Xena whispered. With two strong hands she pulled Gabrielle's blouse off, the bards nipples hardened against the cool air. Xena flicked her tongue across, and around them tasting, teasing. Her warm mouth settled on one breast, her entire focus there. Her hands were still on Gabrielle's ribs. Gabrielle almost came with the gentle thrusting of Xena's tongue on her breast, and then harder, indenting the tender nipple. Xena continued pushing, her tongue and teeth lashing against sensitive flesh.

It was a struggle to remain upright, Xena battled her own desire, wanting nothing more than to dive into the moist wetness of her lover. "No time." She thought. She glanced around and moved Gabrielle to a low grouping of rocks. Xena placed Gabrielle between her spread legs and pulled her back tight against them. She leaned forward her leathers brushing roughly against the bards bare soft skin. Her hands skimmed around her breasts her fingers searched lower until they reached the hem of Gabrielle's short skirt. "Spread your legs for me." Her mouth pressed tight to her ear. Gabrielle legs opened wide. Xena slid her fingers deep into the welcoming wetness. Gabrielle thrust her hips erratically the haste of the moment causing her to writhe in excitement. Xena plunged her fingers..once ..twice...her thumb gently massaged the bards swollen clit....three times, Xena's hips bucked in rhythm with her lover, as her mouth laved Gabrielle's neck and shoulders...four...five, with a mighty thrust Gabrielle came, Xena's hips rose with hers. "Yes..." The warrior cried.

Gabrielle lay back into her lovers embrace, Xena nuzzled her neck. "Remind me to come fetch wood with you more often." She chuckled warmly. Gabrielle snuggled closer, sleep almost capturing her. "We have to go back." Xena breathed. "I know." Gabrielle sighed and got to her feet. Xena rose with not effort, all muscular grace. Gabrielle started back to their camp when a hand stopped her. "As appealing as I find you," She smiled, gesturing to the bard. "I think you should at least put this on." Xena bent and retrieved the younger woman's blouse and tossed it to Gabrielle, causing a small packet to dislodge. Xena caught it in the air. Grasping it tightly in her hand she looked at Gabrielle. "What is this?"

End Part 6

And on summer nights, after the young stones are asleep, the elders turn to a serious and frightening subject--the moon, which is always spoken of in whispers. "See how it glows and whips across the sky, always changing its shape," one says. And another says, "Feel how it pulls at us"......And a third whispers, "It is a stone gone mad." Richard Shelton.

"What is this?" Xena repeated, holding the small package. Gabrielle struggled for an explanation. "A gift" She said finally and lunged for the package.

Xena lifted it higher, out of Gabrielle's reach. "A gift?" Xena questioned, her eyes glittered with amusement. Gabrielle refused to play this game, with an exasperated sigh, she sat down and pulled her blouse over her head. "Yes a gift." Gabrielle tugged her blouse down around her ribs. With a dismissive glance at Xena she headed back to their camp.

Xena paused, her expression a mixture of puzzlement and astonishment. Gabrielle had never given her a *gift* before. She held the small package with more reverence now, her heart delighted in the gesture, her soul rejoiced in the thought. Xena moved to follow her lover back to their camp. She was slightly behind her, a smile played on her lips as she watched Gabrielle bend to pick up pieces of wood for the fire. The attack, when it came, was totally unexpected.

Gabrielle was grabbed roughly from behind, a dirty hand pressed tight against her breast. Xena stopped, knowing she had not been noticed and melted into the shadows. The man who had accosted her at the inn, and had attempted to rape Daria, placed his other arm around her soft throat. Gabrielle did not bother to struggle, letting her body go limp, forcing him to half carry, half drag her. Xena eyes flashed in the darkness, she watched with growing fury the manhandling Gabrielle experienced. She circled the two waiting for an opening, any opening. And then in a flicker of an eye it happened.

The attacker, comfortable in his conquest, dropped his guard. He turned the bard to face him, his tongue swiping across his lips. "I'll have some of you now." His voice was harsh. He bent his mouth to the young woman's breast, when a pain so intense it caused him to crumple to his knees, struck him. Xena squatted next to him, her fingers hard against his throat. "I think you may remember me." She whispered into his ear. He struggled in her grip. "Yes," She purred. "Fight me, give me another reason to kill you." He stopped moving, his eyes fearful. "Now, I know I have given you more warnings than I have allowed anyone." Xena leaned closer, her strong fingers digging deeper into his flesh. "And I know for certain that I told you that if you touched her again I would make you wish I had killed you, but I'm no murderer," She struggled for control. "Not anymore. Get out of my sight."

Xena released her hold, she stood tall and imposing, her eyes narrowed in disgust at the man huddled at her feet. "You have five seconds." Her voice was as glacial as Gabrielle had ever heard it. The man remained cowering. Xena bent slightly and lifted him by his shirt front with no effort. "You have four." She murmured, and pushed him far away from her. He stumbled and regained his balance. "Who are you?" He asked. Xena covered the distance

between them in two long strides. "You have three." She growled low in her throat. In Xena's eyes the man finally knew what death looked like. It was hard and cold, and cloaked in the guise of a beautiful woman. He asked again, if only to know this harbinger of death. "Who are you?"

Xena's hands reached out grasping the man around his collar. "I....am..." With every word her grip tightened. "....... Xena." The man's eyes flew open at the name of the great warrior princess. She wanted to choke the very life out of the man, to make him suffer, bleed, die, her fury unleashed in a great wave. All her iron control shattered, her vision blurred, images of Gabrielle, being pawed by this....this...creature, only served to send her anger higher. In abstract she felt her fingers flex against his throat, the muscles tightening, memories from the past rushed through her, crowding her thoughts. The victories, conquests, the absolute freedom of it all, choked her. The passion rose up as if it had always been. Xena lifted him high off the ground his toes scrapping the dirt. "I have destroyed kingdoms, little man......you....are.... nothing." Xena's wrath was at its height, her eyes radiated a dark hunger for the kill.

And then, a soft voice called to her from the shadows, a voice cool and gentle like a mountain stream, came to her ears. "Xena....I love you," The voice was calm, in direct contrast to her anger, "I'm all right." The voice continued its litany, tranquil. "Let him go." Xena's grasp loosened. "I'm right here." Xena shook her head, attempting to silence the raging madness. "I'm right here Xena, come to me here." The warrior's eyes cleared, and she let go of the man. She stared at her hands as if they belonged to someone else. "Oh Gods," She uttered and dropped to her knees. He scrambled to his feet, and fled into the woods. Xena wrapped her arms around herself, a keening wail emitting from her lips.

Gabrielle gathered Xena into her arms, soothing her, her voice quiet. "Shush now, it's all right, everything's all right." Gabrielle held her lover tight, fighting the fear that threatened to sweep through her. Xena trembled against the bard, like a leaf in a strong wind. Gabrielle smoothed her hand over Xena's brow, wiping away the sheen of sweat there. She continued to whisper to Xena, soft meaningless words, important only because they calmed the warrior. Eventually Xena's breathing slowed, and her trembling eased.

"I'm sorry, so sorry," Xena muttered, her anger seemingly exhausting her. Gabrielle held her tight. She gently ran her fingers through Xena's hair. The warrior's anguish seemed so great the bard did the only thing she could think to do, she told her a story. She brushed loose strands of hair from her face, and settled Xena into her lap. Xena curled up against her, her head resting on Gabrielle's thigh. "Have I ever told you about the moment I knew I fell in love with you?" Xena shrugged. Gabrielle laughed. "I'll take that as a no." Gabrielle relaxed, the storyteller coming forth. "I think it was the first time I ever saw you." Her eyes glowed at the memory.

"You were incredible, powerful, strong, and compassionate. I watched you fight those raiders when they tried to take us. You battled without armor, or weapons. The only thing I truly remember is wanting to stay with you. Follow you, be with you. I didn't even know what the feelings meant, I just knew that I would be lost if I did not stay by your side." She nuzzled closer, breathing in the familiar scent of her lover, the leather, the musk. "When I looked into your eyes for the first time I felt as if I had climbed the tallest mountain and discovered all the hidden treasures of the Gods." Xena sighed and wriggled closer to the bard.

Gabrielle continued to talk to Xena, her voice even and gentle. Xena, exhausted fell asleep, her hand opening to reveal the small package that Gabrielle had purchased from the festival. Gabrielle carefully pulled the packet from her lovers grasp, and returned it to the snug place by her heart. She shifted to get more comfortable and before she knew, sleep too, had snatched her away.

Xena awoke, and remained still, positioning herself and her surroundings. Her head was pillowed against something soft. Gabrielle. She listened to the woods. Silence. After a pause she rose up, she glanced in both directions, all was still. Early dawn mist enveloped the woods. Xena knelt next to the bard. "Gabrielle," She nudged her softly. "Wake up." Gabrielle's eyes opened, blinking against the encroaching light. "Okay, I'm up." She stretched. Xena didn't wait for Gabrielle to fully awaken. "We have to go." She grabbed her lover by the arm, and pulled her toward their camp.

Gabrielle allowed herself to be led away, she thought ruefully, so much for the *fragile* warrior. They returned to the small camp. All seemed the same, Argo peacefully dozed, their blankets still circled the now spent fire, saddlebags and equipment still rested where they were left. All was the same, except Daria, who was now missing. Xena cursed fluently, she quickly broke camp, sorting and packing at a speed that Gabrielle had never seen. "Gabrielle get on the horse." She ordered. Gabrielle acceded and mounted Argo with no complaint. Xena secured the last of their gear on Argo's saddle. She pulled Gabrielle close "Now listen to me," She started. "This is very important. Ride back to Antropilus. I want you to stay there, and wait for me." Xena rested her fingers against Gabrielle's mouth. "Do it for me." She pleaded. All Gabrielle could do was nod, and with a swift slap from Xena, Argo burst into a run toward the small town they had left only the day before.

Xena watched as Gabrielle and Argo faded into the mist. Her eyes continued to look for their shadows for long minutes. Straightening to her full height she began her search, not only for Daria, but for another piece of her soul. There were few tracks around the fire hers, Daria's and Gabrielle's, but closer to the woods she found three sets of prints, larger than any they would have left. Following them closer she finally found what she was looking for. Two more sets of tracks and a trail, like something had been dragged. "Amateurs." She muttered contemptuously. She burst into a quick run her, eyes following the trail, her long gait eating the distance between her, and her new enemies.

Argo's pace never seemed to slow. Gabrielle realized with a grimace, that she would much prefer the ride with Xena holding her tight, than be jostled on the whim of some animal. The horse and rider arrived at Antropilus by dark. The inn was virtually empty after the festival, and Gabrielle had her choice of rooms. With no thought she took the same room she and Xena had shared. She entered the room and closing her eyes she could almost feel Xena's presence. She inhaled deeply, secretly hoping to capture the last essence of her lover in the room, she was still, and then, like a soft breeze on a summer day, Xena's smell came to her. The rich scent of leather permeated the room, followed by musk and Xena's own fragrance. Her mouth opened, gasping at the raw sensations the smells created in her.

She shrugged out of her clothes, and lay full length on the bed. With frantic fingers she pressed the pillows to her nose. There, there was her lovers scent. She buried her face into the fabric. She pulled the blankets up around her bare shoulders, blankets that Xena and she had shared just the day before, it was there too, mixed with the smell of their lovemaking. Her heart hammered in her chest. She curled into a ball, pillows and blankets wrapped around her, a protective cocoon. She lay for hours, before finally drifting to sleep.

Xena followed the trail without pause. Her muscular legs not tiring, her senses still sharp. She did not think about the previous night, where her past rushed into the present. She would worry about that later. A sound stopped her, talking, she smiled coldly, she found them. She carefully moved through the underbrush until she could make out their voices. "She's a looker." One said. "Yeah, can't wait for my turn." Another snickered. Xena clenched her fists at the crude comments. She continued forward, her nose wrinkled at the smell that emanated from their filthy clothes and unwashed bodies.

She was behind the two now, she didn't see the other three, but she could hear them. She pulled her sword, and tapped the closest one on the shoulder. He turned, eyes opened wide at this tall woman, dressed in leather, with a mighty sword gripped in her right hand. He struggled to his feet, and kicked the man next to him. The other man stood quickly. "Where is she?" The men glanced at her, then each other. "Don't even think about it." To make her point perfectly clear, she backhanded them both, hard across the face.

"I'm not going to ask again," She pushed the tip of her sword under the first man's chin. "Where is she?" The man nodded his head toward a path. "Very good." She rewarded them with a smile. She started for the path, and stopped. Xena turned back to the two men. "Can't have you following me though." With a powerful blow she slammed their heads together, they fell silent to the ground. She continued on the path.

Xena reached her destination with no other hindrances. Three men gathered around Daria, her arms tied above her head. By the bruises and cuts on the men's faces, Daria had got in quite a few blows before being bound. Daria had not yet been raped, her eyes still held a look of arrogance at the men holding her. Xena found herself grinning at the woman's strength and courage. She noiselessly pressed closer until she was near enough to touch the men. "Hello boys." Xena twisted in front of the them, sword in hand. The leader, a surprisingly handsome man stepped forward. "You are.....?" Xena chuckled. "No one you want mad at you."

He bowed his head slightly, "Inflated ego?" Xena's head dipped in return. "Absolute fact." Her sword never wavered. "Well then I suppose we should surrender." His tone was mocking. Xena stepped back keeping the three men well in sight. "Surrender?" She laughed. "Why not fight to the death?" The fever that had coursed through her veins the night before was there again. The fury and passion, the sheer pleasure of the battle surged through her. "Let's get to it then." The leader drew his sword. "Before I kill you I think you should, at least, know my name," He bent low, sword lifted away from the warrior. "I am Aesir." Xena shrugged. "The name means nothing to you?" He questioned.

"Just another wasted death." She replied. Aesir moved forward, his sword at the ready. His first volley was a test, she knew. The sword thrusts and feints skilled, but not deadly. She deflected them easily. He pulled back eyeing her with more caution. "I must know who you are." He said. Xena grinned. "Get used to disappointment." With quick movements he drove her back, his sword flashed and danced. He was good, she was better. After several moments, she turned him back. Stroke for stroke she met his defense, the fury sang through her blood. Aesir staggered under Xena's onslaught, her sword a blur of motion. He was losing, and losing badly.

Xena was in her glory now. With every blow she grew stronger, with every sting of cold metal she became more and more relentless. Until Aesir lay at her feet. She couldn't remember disarming him, beating him. Her shoulders trembled with the fury. "Deep breaths, deep breaths." She repeated the words over and over, a calming mantra to her subsiding anger. Aesir was on his knees. ".....mercy, warrior I ask for mercy." Xena realized her sword was cutting into Aesir's throat, a thin trickle of blood staining his shirt. She lowered her weapon. "Release her," Xena's voice was harsh. "Release her and go."

Aesir motioned to his men, they untied Daria quickly, and grabbing what little they had, left. Aesir paused at the break in the woods. He actually smiled to the warrior. "Well fought," He bowed his head. "I look forward to our next meeting." Xena sheathed her sword, and helped Daria to her feet. "You took me once, and saved me twice." She brushed herself off. "I would almost think your trying to make amends." Xena glared at her. "Don't think, just move."

Gabrielle rolled over, her hands reached for her lover, only to find empty blankets and discarded pillows. She lay on her back, as sigh on her lips. Dawn broke through the single window. She wondered where Xena was, what she was doing, and with whom. A flare of jealousy swept through her. Gabrielle sat up, the breeze chilling her bare skin. She grabbed her clothes from the floor, and withdrew the small package from her blouse.

Gabrielle opened the bag and shook out its contents. One fair, the other dark. She fingered her gift for Xena. Gently she traced the silver carvings with her hands. It was intricate, like her lover, she thought. Her own was ebony, black as night, like Xena's past. She gathered them tight in her grasp, and couldn't help but wonder if she would have the chance to give Xena her gift, her heart.

End Part 7

The sun burned hot and it was still early morning. Xena continued their hard pace, never pausing, save to check her bearings. Daria struggled to keep up, her long skirts tangled and dirty around her feet. "Can't we stop yet?" Daria muttered. The warrior barely slowed. "No." Daria bit her lip against a harsh retort, and pushed after Xena. The warrior was ceaseless, it was only after Daria stumbled and fell to the ground that Xena stopped. She crouched next to the fallen woman. "I could leave you here." Daria's eyes flashed with anger. "I think you would." Xena grasped Daria's hands and helped to her feet. She smiled. "Know I would." And the long, hot march continued.

Gabrielle dressed, and went in search of something to eat. The inn had a small kitchen area in the back and she could smell food cooking. She entered the room expecting a cook, or serving girl, but found the room empty. Gabrielle helped herself to some warm bread, and fruit. She ate quickly and stepped out in the bright sunshine. The village seemed smaller without the bustle of the festival, and without much to do but wait, the day ahead seemingly stretched forever.

The argument had gone on for several minutes now. "Get up!" Xena commanded. Daria shook her head. "No," Just a vehemently. "I'm tired, hot, and thirsty. I'm dirty in places I have never been dirty in before. I want to rest." Xena pursed her lips in frustration. All she wanted was to get back to Antropilus, get Gabrielle, and get rid of this wretched woman. "Look we can rest for five minutes," She bargained. "And then we go. Agreed?" Daria glared at the warrior. Xena rolled her eyes. "All right ten minutes and I find you some something to drink." Daria nodded. "Deal." Xena stood, with quick strides she disappeared, only to return moments later with several roots.

Xena crossed her legs and lowered herself to the ground. Daria eyed the roots with disgust. "What are those?" Xena grinned. "Water." Xena pulled out a small knife, and with swift economical movements, skinned the roots to their fibrous core. "Now watch," She intoned mock serious. "And learn the way of the warrior." She raised the pulpy flesh to her lips and squeezed, small drops of moisture dampened her lips, her tongue flickered out to lick up the wetness. She opened her mouth and gently sucked at the pulp, the muscles in her throat working to swallow the lukewarm fluid that flowed from the root. Daria was rapt, not in the instruction, but by the teacher.

Xena tossed the dry root away. "Now you try." Daria's hand shook as she reached for a root. She desperately tried to calm herself, as she mimicked the warrior's lesson. After several attempts, she was able to slack her thirst. Hunger, now hunger was a new problem, and food would not come close to satisfying it. Xena bent her head back, eyes closed against the sun. "Do you love her?" Daria questioned, half afraid of the answer. Xena remained still. "Very much." She finally responded. Daria sighed. "I thought so, I could tell."

Xena opened her eyes. "How?" Daria shrugged. "Little things, the way your eyes follow her. How you search her out no matter how many people are around. Your small smiles when you watch her." Daria shrugged again. "Little things." Xena was quiet, and the silence stretched to an uncomfortable length. "How long have you been lovers?" Xena puzzled over the question. It seemed as if they had done an erotic dance since the day they met. Veiled glances, lingering touches, intimate comments, all had served to deepen an already immediate attraction. "Not long." Daria nodded. "I don't suppose your the unfaithful type?" Xena was startled, Daria stopped her before she could answer. "I thought not," Rising she reached for Xena's arm. "Well let's get going, your beautiful lady is waiting."

Gabrielle paused at the entrance to the tavern. The crowd was smaller than the other night, just a few men burying their problems in port. She inched forward Argo's saddlebag tight in her grasp. When a man stepped in front of her. She looked up, "Of course," She thought to herself. "him." "So where's your friend?" He sneered. Gabrielle stepped back. "You know, you are very persistent." He grabbed for her. "Watch who you insult girl." Gabrielle skipped away from his reach. "I really don't want to have to hurt you." She said pleasantly. "Hurt me?" He laughed, a sound not unlike broken glass. "Look this is your final warning." She stood up to her full height, and attempted her best Xena glare. The man laughed harder.

"All right that's it." Gabrielle opened the saddlebag, and quickly assembled her fighting staff. "Ha," She yelled. The man moved closer. "Ha?" Gabrielle paused, with a fast move he reached for her again. She swung her staff, and connected solidly with his stomach. He staggered, gasping for breath. "I have had..." She flipped the staff, and drove it hard into his manhood. "....all I am going.." She changed the staffs direction a final time, and slammed it against his bent neck. "...to take from you." He dropped to the ground. Gabrielle poked at him with her boot, he didn't move. "Now let that be a lesson to you." She firmly. A cheer erupted around the tavern, before she knew it a tankard was placed in her hand, and she was surrounded by new admirers.

The sun had set two hours before, and even Xena had grown tired from the march. Daria was beyond exhausted, her entire concentration on placing one foot after the other. "We're close now." Xena said peering at the stars. Daria was to weary to answer. Xena glanced back, and felt a pang of compassion for the woman. She was no warrior, in fact she was no bard. "Another half hour or so, and you can have a warm bath, a cold drink, and something to eat." Daria didn't waste any energy on a response. Xena's attention turned back to the road, her sharp eyes picking out dips and rocks in their path.

They climbed the last rise, and Antropilus lay before them. Xena who had been to great cities, Corinth, Athens, Troy, did not think she had ever seen anything to equal this small village. "We're here." She said, a large smile on her face. All the exhaustion from the walk dropped away, and she broke into a slow trot towards the inn. Daria staggered behind, to weak to do much else. Xena threw open the doors, and for the second time in so many days stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Gabrielle.

"Drinking songs." Xena was amazed. "She singing drinking songs." She did not realize she had spoken out loud. Gabrielle sat on a table several drunken men around her, and waved her tankard above her head. The men sang the verses while Gabrielle filled in the chorus, "The women in Corinth are hardy, always ready to....." She faltered, when she saw Xena. She staggered towards her lover. "Xena." She slurred. Xena grabbed her arms to keep the bard from falling. "Gabrielle, I don't think I want to know what's going on." Gabrielle breathed into her face. Xena turned her head away. "Forget it, I know I don't want to know."

She led Gabrielle from the tavern, stopping only to inform the innkeeper of Daria's arrival. "Where is our room?" Gabrielle tried to shake the cobwebs from her thoughts. "Gabrielle, our room, where is it?" The bard smiled. "Our room, is our room." She answered, pleased with herself. Xena pulled Gabrielle after her, after many false starts, they arrived at the same room they had shared two nights before. "Figures." She muttered. Xena gently maneuvered her lover to the bed. "Stay here. I'll be right back." Gabrielle smiled happily and collapsed against the pillows.

Xena returned to the tavern. She gave a few terse instructions to the innkeeper who nodded and had already motioned to a servant, when she strode away. Xena reentered their room. Gabrielle was flat on her back, her faint snoring the only sound. She shook her head, biting back laughter. She sat next to Gabrielle and began to undress her. The bard was not the least bit helpful, and after a long struggle Gabrielle lay nude on the bed, her breathing deepened to slumber. The warrior gazed at her lovers body, the moonlight casting shadows on the rises and hollows of her form. A knock at the door roused her from her thoughts. She pulled the sheet over Gabrielle and opened the door.

A servant girl entered carrying a heavy tray laden with port, bread and cheese. She sat the tray on the small table, "Your warm water will be here momentarily." With a quick curtsey she fled the room. Xena returned to her lover's side. She sifted her fingers through Gabrielle's hair, enjoying the soft texture in her hands. "I traveled through the entire day without stopping. The sun beating down, no water, no food," She whispered. "So I could be with you." She kissed Gabrielle's cheek. "Only to find you half drunk, singing bawdy songs with malcontents," Her lips moved lower brushing across her lover's collarbone. "And I would do it again," She lowered the sheet until the tops of Gabrielle's breasts were revealed. Her mouth followed the sheet. "I would do anything for you." Her words were spoken into the bards warm flesh. Rising she left the sheet were it was, and ate her meal.

Xena leaned back against the chair, sipping another glass of port. She was relaxed, and comfortable. More importantly she was with the love of her life, and away from Daria. A knock at the door signaled the arrival of her water. Xena stripped out of her leathers, and began to wash the days grime from her body. She ran the heated towel up her arms to her shoulders, she rinsed the cloth and stroked it across her firm breasts and bent to wash her legs and calves. Almost done, she dropped the cloth into the basin, and dipped her hands in the water bathing her face, her hair. Feeling even better, she reached for her chemise.

"Pity to cover something so breathtaking." Xena slowly turned to face Gabrielle. "I thought you were passed out." Xena said smiling. "It takes more than a little port to make me pass out." Gabrielle sat up the sheet falling to her waist. "Really." Xena's eyebrow arched slightly. "Want to share some details?" Gabrielle smirked. "Well I used to be quite the....." She paused. Xena's eyes narrowed "Quite the what?" Gabrielle tossed the remaining covering to the foot of the bed and laid back against the pillows. She put her hands high above her head. "Come find out, my warrior, my princess, my love..." Her voice was hot, their separation seemed like months instead of a


The warrior trembled at the rough tones, Gabrielle's hands gripped against the headboard outlining every curve of her body, every ripple of muscle, every smooth line skin. Xena was beside the bed before she knew she had moved. "You are absolutely wanton." She murmured. "Yeah you could say I'm wantin," Gabrielle shifted her hips suggestively. "Let's just say watching you is inspirational." Xena grinned, and lowered her body on the bard's, she adjusted so that their nipples nestled together. Xena bent her head, her teeth biting against Gabrielle's throat. "You were saying?" Gabrielle groaned, and arched her neck. Xena nibbled lower her teeth leaving red marks along pale skin. "Saying?" She reminded the bard.

Gabrielle gasped as Xena's mouth found her nipple. "Saying...what was I saying...." Xena smiled against her lover's skin, and rubbed her open palm across the bard's other breast. Squeezing gently, she tightened her lips around Gabrielle's nipple. "Yes....." Gabrielle whispered. Xena moved lower her fingers and mouth sent tremors wherever they touched, the bard whimpered as Xena trailed her tongue across her stomach to her navel. Gabrielle shuddered and pushed the warrior's head down further until fine hair tickled Xena's nose. Xena moved to lay between Gabrielle's smooth legs, and nuzzled the soft down she found there.

Gabrielle spread her legs, urging Xena to take her. Xena had other ideas, with the lightest on strokes she parted Gabrielle's moist lips. Her fingertips grazed across the bard's already swollen flesh, once, twice. Gabrielle bucked hard against her hand. "Please.." She begged. Xena pressed her tongue against Gabrielle's tender bud, steady, allowing the younger woman to move her hips in response to her own building desires. Xena gripped Gabrielle's thighs, spreading her legs further apart. "Is this what you want?" She whispered. Kneading her inner thighs. "Is it?" She kissed and bit around fevered skin. "Yes...oh...yes.." Gabrielle almost cried in her need.

"Oh Gods!" She moaned as Xena dove her warm tongue into even hotter flesh. Her fingers deftly slipped into the bards tight opening. Gabrielle's hips rose from the bed, Xena's fingers slid even deeper into wetness, she drew Gabrielle's clit into her mouth, lips sucking hard on the small knot of muscle. Gabrielle's hips became frantic, bucking furiously, Xena rode her passion with more fervent strokes, and then she knew, she felt it in her soul before she felt it with her fingers Gabrielle had begun to shuddered, her climax close. Gabrielle stifled a scream when Xena removed her mouth, her fingers. "Not yet, not quite yet." Xena kissed and tongued her way back to her lovers mouth.

Gabrielle whimpered when Xena lowered her mouth to hers. The scent and taste of herself on her lovers lip sending waves of desire through her body. Her hips undulated against Xena's spread legs, desperately searching for release. Xena ran her hands up to the bard's shoulder and arms, finally entwining their fingers together. She pushed her thigh between Gabrielle's, the younger woman instantly wrapped her legs around the smoothly muscled limb. Xena kissed her deeply her tongue flickering around lips and teeth.

Xena gasped when Gabrielle lightly bit her tongue and began to suck on it, needles of sensation fluttered between her legs. She lowered their joined hands, brushing the back of Gabrielle's hand on her nipples. Xena freed Gabrielle's hands, and placed her own firmly of the bard's hips. "Now...." She growled low in her throat. Gabrielle swallowed hard at the raw look of passion on Xena's face. Xena lifted the bards hips, until the pressed into hers. Gabrielle shut her eyes against the growing waves of passion. "No," Xena said harshly. "Keep them open I want to see you." Xena ground her hips between Gabrielle's open legs.

Gabrielle surrendered to absolute sensation. Thrumming filled her whole body, ever nerve alive. Xena gazed deeply into her lovers eyes, drops of perspiration falling from her face. Her fingers slipped from their place at her hip and slid into Gabrielle. She arched her back against Xena hand. She thrust her hips rapidly, her inner muscles tightening, and than finally convulsing around Xena's strong fingers. She felt as if she were floating, Xena's voice coming from a long way off. "I love you." Xena gasped at her lovers release, she kept her fingers inside the younger woman, and shifted slightly placing Gabrielle's thigh between her legs. Tight on her center. She stroked her lover, as she began to move her hips in swift rhythm.

Gabrielle felt it building again, the hunger, the need. Xena's fingers picked up pace, matching her own movements. Xena trembled with exertion, and then she came with a strength that surprised her. Her hips continued their jerky motions for several moments sustaining the torrent she felt. Gabrielle shuddered at the same time pressing her legs tight together as the vibrations pounding through her. Xena lay down on Gabrielle her face buried in her hair, breath labored. Gabrielle gently stroked her back and reached for the sheet and dried the sweat she found there. "Will it always be like this?" Gabrielle asked. Xena lifted her head and kissed her lips, she brushed the soft hair from the bards face. "Always." She whispered. Gabrielle sighed and pulled Xena's head back to her shoulder. "I thought so, I love you." Xena pressed her lips to her shoulder. "And I love you."

By mid morning they had left the room. Xena saw Daria sitting at an empty table. "Gabrielle go get Argo. I'll meet you outside in a few minutes." Gabrielle nodded and kissed her quickly on the cheek. "Daria." She said as she sat down. Daria looked up, and Xena was surprised to see tears in her eyes. "So Xena out of my life again?" Xena shrugged. "I'm sorry I ever hurt you." She said. Daria let out a sad laugh. "Daria why not go home?" She asked gently. "Home?" She laughed again. "I don't have any home." Xena rose from the table. "I didn't think I did either, but it wouldn't hurt to try. People change," She smiled. "Everyone changes."

She left the inn Gabrielle stood patiently holding Argo's reigns. "I want to stop at the meadow on our way out." Xena took her bards hand. "Anything you want." Xena tied Argo to a tree, and the two lovers made their way into the meadow. Gabrielle turned to Xena and wrapped her arms around the warrior's waist. "Kneel down," Xena arched an eyebrow. "Please." Xena knelt in the cool grass, Gabrielle followed suit. She reached into her blouse, and pulled out the small packet. Xena smiled. "My gift?" Gabrielle returned the soft smile. "Your gift."

Gabrielle opened the packet and shook out the two chains. She separated them and took the fair one. "I love you my princess, I have loved you from the day we met, though I didn't know what it meant. I love your strength, your honor, your courage. I love the way you look at me, and make me feel. I want to commit myself to you." She attached the small chain around her lovers left wrist. "This my wedding bracelet for you. I vow to stay by your side for as long as we have on this earth, and when we move on to the otherside I will search you out, and there shall I remain." Xena's eyes glittered with tears. She pulled the bard close to her and held her tightly. Gabrielle moved back a tremulous smile on her lips.

She reached for the ebony chain. "This is for me. The chains link us now, both the same, but different. Fair and dark." Her hands shook as she tried to latched the small bracelet. Xena steadied her hands. "I love you my bard, my life, my soul. You wouldn't leave even when I tried to send you back. Before I knew you were everything. And the times you left me a pain greater than anything I have felt pierced my heart." She attached the fragile chain to Gabrielle's wrist. "I am sworn to you now and forever, and will do everything in my power to protect you, and keep you safe. When our journey in this world is over our souls will seek each other and join again as they have now." Xena bent her head and kissed her lover, her best friend, and every time, she swore, will be like the first time.

The End

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