By Jenbob
Copyright © 1997 Apr (Revised 1997 Fall)
All rights reserved


Gabrielle was lying on her bed with her back to the door when she heard Xena enter the hut and settle down near the entrance. She waited for a few seconds before rolling over onto her side and propping herself up on her elbow to look at Xena. "Hi," she said quietly.

"Thought you'd be asleep by now," Xena said tonelessly.

"I know you did...Otherwise, you wouldn't have come back yet."

Xena didn't bother to deny what they both knew to be the truth. "Gabrielle...please can't you let this go?" she finally asked helplessly.

"No...I can't," the bard replied.

Xena nearly growled with frustration. She was in a lose-lose situation. If she didn't tell Gabrielle the truth, this whole damn thing was going to fester and grow until it finally became a wedge between them. And if she did tell Gabrielle the truth, then Gabrielle would definitely hate her. No longer caring, just wanting the whole thing over and done with, Xena finally looked at her friend, a defeated expression on her face. "What do you want to know?"

Gabrielle released the breath she hadn't even realized she'd been holding. "How did you meet Kaylana?" she asked, trying to start with the simplest question she could think of.

Xena paused for several seconds as she thought back to the events that seemed like they had occurred a lifetime ago. "I met her near Amazon territory while I was hunting one day. I'd been more or less looking for Amazons anyway...I thought it would be a good idea to learn from them and about them. I knew the Amazon symbol of peace so I was able to get close enough to her and her hunting party to talk. After we'd talked for awhile, they invited me back to their village and I went."

"What about your army?"

"I didn't have an army at that time." Seeing the expression on Gabrielle's face, Xena shook her head ruefully. "No Gabrielle, I wasn't having a change of heart about my life...I guess I was just bored again with all the fighting and conquest. Living with the Amazons just seemed like a good idea at the time. It's hard to find better teachers. After all, not only could they provide me with plenty of trainers for weapons skills, they could also teach me tactics and strategy...especially tactics and strategy for dealing with centaurs."

"And Kaylana?"

"We became lovers fairly quickly. I lived with her and she taught me most of the Amazon rituals and customs that I know," Xena admitted.

Gabrielle was silent for several seconds, digesting what Xena had told her. "So what happened?" she finally asked.

Xena swallowed several times before speaking, her voice strained. "Kaylana wanted to have a commitment ceremony. She said she loved me and she wanted to make our relationship official, but I balked. I told her we didn't need any stupid ceremonies to tell us how we felt about one another...but that wasn't the real reason I refused. I refused because, even though I knew she was in love with me, I never truly loved her. Cared for her, yes, but it was never love. We ended up having a huge fight about it and I stormed off and left the village."

Xena closed her eyes, as she tried to control the surge of emotions that was threatening to overwhelm her. Finally she got herself reined back in enough to continue. "Eventually Kaylana came looking for me. There was a town not far from the Amazon border that was relatively friendly to the Amazons, so I guess she figured I'd gone there. But...while she was on her way there she ran into an army led by a warlord named Ramsircs."

Xena stopped speaking again as her voice began to tremble and her breathing grew uneven. Clenching her fists, she struggled to regain her focus, knowing she had to get through this ordeal soon or she would never make it through at all. When she was able to speak again, her voice was raw with emotion. "They captured her and, after beating and raping her, they left her to die. I was headed back to the village to warn them about Ramsircs when I found her; she was barely alive. I tried to help her but it was too late." Xena took a deep breath before continuing. "She wanted to die on Amazon land, so I got her on my horse and managed to get her that far. Scouts found us before she died; they heard her pass on her right of caste to me, so no one ever doubted my 'claim'. It was known in that tribe that I was an 'Amazon', even though it was never widely known amongst any of the other tribes. I suspect Velasca must have spent time with that particular tribe if she knew the truth."

Xena bowed her head as she finished speaking, feeling emotionally drained and utterly exhausted. She heard Gabrielle rise from her bed and approach to sit in front of her, but she couldn't force herself to raise her head to meet the bard's eyes.

"I'm sorry," Gabrielle finally whispered, her heart aching at the pain she had heard in Xena's voice. Xena simply nodded, her emotions too out of control to do anything else.

Gabrielle studied Xena intently for several long moments. The story Xena had told her was obviously extremely painful for the warrior, but something here didn't make sense. Xena had been adamant about not telling her this story; in fact she'd been downright afraid. Gabrielle knew that Xena was worried that something about this incident would change the way she felt about her. After hearing the story, Gabrielle couldn't believe that Xena honestly thought that learning about a former lover would make her so jealous that she would stop loving the Warrior Princess. It didn't matter to her that Xena hadn't been able to return Kaylana's feelings, and the bard was confused by the depth of Xena's fear. Looking at her lover more closely, Gabrielle knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the warrior was still not telling her everything and that it was the rest of the story that was causing Xena's terror.

"What else?" Gabrielle asked softly.


Gabrielle sighed. "Xena...I know there's something else...something you're afraid to tell me because you think that it will change the way I feel about you." Taking a deep breath she watched the warrior carefully. "You told me before that you trusted me. I'm asking you to trust me now...to tell me what's wrong."

Xena remained silent for several long moments, and Gabrielle began to think that she wasn't going to answer. Finally, Xena looked up at Gabrielle. She made eye contact with the bard and held it for several seconds, before asking, "Why did you almost kill Phantes?"

Gabrielle was completely thrown by Xena's question. It was the last thing in the world she had expected the warrior to say. "What?" she finally managed to ask.

"Why did you almost kill Phantes?...You don't kill...and he'd never done anything to you...So why did you almost kill him?"

Gabrielle struggled with her confusion, not comprehending Xena's thoughts at all. "I...Queen Melosa told me that it was my duty...That when Terreis gave me her right of caste she made me her avenger...We thought Phantes was the one who'd killed Terreis, so I was honor bound to kill him."

Xena nodded her head at Gabrielle's response, but otherwise remained silent.

Understanding began to light the corners of Gabrielle's mind. "Is that what this is all about? That you had to kill Kaylana's murderer?"

Xena's eyes were cold and lifeless, her voice devoid of emotion, as she answered Gabrielle's question. "I didn't know who her murderer was...."

"Oh," Gabrielle said in a puzzled voice.

"....I only knew he was someone in Ramsircs' army...."

Gabrielle's expression reflected first confusion, then understanding, then astonishment, as she realized what Xena was saying.

"And I was honor bound to avenge Kaylana's death...so I did."

"You mean....?"

"I mean I killed every man in Ramsircs' army with Kaylana's sword. Singly, pairs, small groups...I cut their throats while they were sleeping. I buried her sword in their hearts while they were on their knees in front of me, begging for mercy. I stabbed them in their backs while they were running away from me. I did anything and everything I had to do to get close to them and, eventually, every one of them fell to her sword."

"How many of them were there?" Gabrielle whispered.


"Ninety-three?" Gabrielle gasped, her mind reeling in shock.

"And now I assume you understand why I never told you about this, and why I don't exactly parade my Amazon status around for others to see," Xena said harshly, as her voice finally began to betray the pain and anger she was feeling.

Gabrielle looked at Xena silently, her heart going out to her, knowing how painful this was for Xena to admit. Unfortunately, it fit the pattern she knew of the Warrior Princess almost perfectly...lose someone she cared about and then go to extremes in her grief...Lyceus...M'Lila...her "father"...It was probably even worse in this case, since she could see that Xena felt guilty about Kaylana's death.

"Her death wasn't your fault Xena," she said gently.

"Yes it was. If she hadn't been coming after me she would never have run into Ramsircs' army." Xena took in a shuddering breath before continuing. "She loved me and I gave her nothing in return for that gift except a painful death."

"You can't make yourself love someone just because they want you to. You're talking to an expert on this remember?" Gabrielle said with a small smile. "And none of this makes any difference in the way I feel about you."

"No difference?" Xena asked in disbelief. "How can it not make a difference? How can you possibly forgive me for this? Gabrielle, we're not talking about a warlord that was trying to achieve some military goal. There was nothing in my heart but hatred and bloodlust. I stalked those men like some kind of crazed animal. I made certain that as many of them as possible suffered slow, torturous deaths. I was nothing more than a murderer, a cold-blooded assassin," she spat out. Xena held her hands out in front of her and looked down on them in disgust. "These hands murdered over 90 men, simply because they might have been the one who killed Kaylana," she ground out, her voice filled with self-loathing.

Gabrielle reached out and grabbed Xena's hands. Turning them over, she pressed soft kisses into the palms, before holding them tightly between her own hands and looking directly into Xena's eyes. "Xena, I've told you before...Your past means nothing to me. It's what you do now that matters. I love the person you are today and, as for forgiveness, it's not me that needs to forgive you, it's you."

Xena couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Damnit Gabrielle! You aren't listening to me," Xena swore in frustration, as she started to pull away from the young woman sitting in front of her.

"And you're not listening to me," Gabrielle said quietly, as she tightened her grip on Xena's hands. Taking a deep breath, she paused while she tried to find the words to explain. "Xena, I'm not the wide-eyed, hero-worshipping kid that followed you from Poteidaia any more. I'm the woman who loves you. I'm fully aware that there are things about your past that would shock me, horrify me, and frighten me if I knew about them. But there is absolutely nothing about your past that will ever change the way I feel about the person you are today. I love you. It's as simple as that."

Xena stared at Gabrielle, wanting desperately to believe what she was hearing, but her mind kept telling her that it was impossible. As she looked into her friend's eyes, however, she slowly began to allow herself to hope that it could be true. It didn't make any sense, but there was no disgust, no hatred, no disappointment in Gabrielle's eyes. There was only love, pure, unconditional love. "Gabrielle...."

"Shhh," Gabrielle whispered as she stood up, pulling Xena up with her. "Come on. Let's get you to bed. You're exhausted, and I've missed holding you," she said, as she pulled Xena along behind her. Reaching the bed, she laid down on it before pulling Xena down next to her and wrapping her arms tightly around her. Gabrielle could feel the tension in her lover's body as she pulled Xena's head to rest on her shoulder. She slowly stroked the warrior's back, while she murmured soft words of comfort and love to her, urging her to let go of her fears. After several minutes, her efforts were finally rewarded and she felt Xena begin to sob quietly against her shoulder, as she tightened her hold on the young bard. Gabrielle held her lover tightly, until she felt Xena's tears slacken as the warrior finally allowed sleep to claim her. Gabrielle shifted slightly to get more comfortable, but maintained her hold on Xena, enjoying the chance to be the strong one in their relationship for a change. She brushed a kiss across Xena's forehead before pulling her lover close to her once more, content to drift off to sleep in Xena's embrace.

Early the next morning, the sound of someone knocking on the door and calling her name, roused Gabrielle from her sleep. Looking down, she saw that Xena was still sleeping in her embrace, head resting on Gabrielle's chest. She hesitated for a second, before smiling slightly to herself. "Come in," she called softly.

The door opened and an Amazon, who she had met the day before entered the hut and bowed slightly. The tall woman started to speak but stopped abruptly when Gabrielle placed a finger against her lips, indicating the need for quiet. "My Queen, last night you asked for someone to come get you so that you could have breakfast with Ephiny," the Amazon said softly, a hint of a question in her voice as well.

Gabrielle closed her eyes and nodded when she remembered that she was supposed to be eating with Ephiny and a few others that morning. "Thank you. Give me a few moments and I'll be ready to go," she replied softly.

The woman nodded briefly. "I'll wait for you outside," she said and then turned and left.

"Breakfast?" Gabrielle heard Xena ask sleepily.

Gabrielle looked down to see that Xena had yet to move from her comfortable position, but was now regarding her with a curious expression. "Sorry about that," she said, as she reached down to lightly stroke Xena's hair. "Yeah, I'm supposed to be having breakfast with Ephiny and a few others this morning...Do you want to join us?"

"Breakfast at Ephiny's...No...I'm not quite up to that at the moment. Go on without me," Xena said self-consciously, as she started to pull away from Gabrielle. She felt embarrassed by the events of the night before and more than a little worried that, after more reflection, Gabrielle would have changed her mind about the way she felt.

Knowing what Xena was thinking, Gabrielle quickly reached out to stop her and then held the warrior until Xena finally looked at her. Shaking her head at the pain in her friend's eyes, Gabrielle reached down and caught Xena's face in her hands. Pulling the warrior up to her, she covered her lips and kissed her thoroughly. Breaking the kiss, she rubbed her thumbs across Xena's cheeks, while she gazed into her eyes. "I love you," she said quietly.

Xena stared into Gabrielle's eyes, seeing the love in them and knowing that Gabrielle was telling her the truth. "Why?" she finally whispered brokenly, a note of wonder in her voice. "Why would someone like you ever love someone like me?"

Gabrielle smiled and Xena felt her breathing grow more difficult as she gazed on her lover's beautiful face. "Because someone like me can see the real someone like you," Gabrielle replied. "And because someone like me has no choice. You hold my heart," she said huskily.

Xena looked down for several moments while she struggled to find the courage to speak. Finally she looked up again and moved closer to her lover. "And you hold my soul," she said as she kissed Gabrielle.

Gabrielle moaned softly and parted her lips under the pressure from Xena's mouth. They continued to kiss as Gabrielle began sucking softly on the warrior's tongue, loving the low groan of pleasure that came from Xena's throat when she did so. She began pressing against the warrior while her hands roamed over her lover's body, sighing in frustration when Xena reluctantly pulled away from her. "You're supposed to be meeting with Ephiny," Xena reminded her tightly, as she desperately tried to control her rising passion.

Gabrielle looked at the warrior for several long moments, seeing the need she felt in her own body reflected on Xena's face. She swallowed several times and cleared her throat, as she tried to regain the ability to speak normally. "Tyressa?" she called out, having finally remembered the name of the Amazon who was waiting for her.

"Yes my Queen?" she heard the warrior respond.

"Would you tell Ephiny that I won't be joining her for breakfast?...I have some things I need to discuss with Xena. Tell Ephiny I'll catch up with her later," Gabrielle said, as she smiled at her lover.

"Of course. Anything else?"

"No that will be all," Gabrielle replied and then reached for Xena to pull her close.

"So my Queen, you're just gonna blow them off?" Xena asked with a grin, as she gently caressed one of Gabrielle's breasts through the fabric of her shift and began trailing kisses down the bard's throat

"It's my prerogative," Gabrielle said, burying her fingers in Xena's thick hair, encouraging the warrior's progress downward while Xena began untying the laces of her top. "I told you," she said thickly, gasping when Xena's lips moved to her breast. "It's good to be the Queen."


The next week and a half was absolute paradise for the young Amazon Queen and her Warrior Princess lover. Although Gabrielle still had responsibilities and obligations, the intensity of her lessons had eased considerably. She only needed to spend a couple of hours each day in training and carrying out the duties that accompanied her role as Queen. It was time well spent, which neither she nor Xena resented. As Gabrielle learned more of the Amazon ways, she became more comfortable and confident in her role, and Xena relished seeing this side of the bard. The remaining hours of the day were Gabrielle's own, to do with as she chose. She chose to spend them with Xena. The two women filled their days with talking, touching, and love making, and spent their nights in each other's arms. As each day passed, the true depths of their feelings for one another became apparent, and both women found they were happier than they had ever dreamed possible.

Eventually though, they both agreed that it was time for them to be moving on and Gabrielle went to find Ephiny to tell her of their decision. It was an emotional moment for both women; Gabrielle would miss the Amazons as much as she would be missed by them, and Ephiny was naturally worried about an abrupt change in rulers. Her fears were allayed by Gabrielle's assurance that she and Xena would stay for another couple of days, which would give the Amazons time to prepare for the change in Queens. As they continued to discuss various Amazon matters, the two women began walking, so that they could spend time together without being disturbed. After an hour of wandering, they came back again to the topic of Gabrielle's departure, and Ephiny promised the young woman that they would give her a farewell party that she would never forget.

"That's really not necessary Ephiny," Gabrielle protested.

"Of course it is. You're our Queen. It's important that we honor you properly," Ephiny said.

Gabrielle chuckled as she raised her hands in surrender. "All right. I'm not going to argue about a party," she said with a smile. "But you're not making it any easier for me to leave when you do things like this."

"Good," Ephiny said, without a hint of remorse. "Because it's not going to be easy to let you go. We'll miss you, Gabrielle," Ephiny said sincerely. "But I guess we should just be glad you were able to stay as long as you did. I never thought you'd stay any longer than a week."

Gabrielle smiled. "I'm going to miss you too. But it's time for us to be going. Xena needs to get moving again. Frankly, I'm just as surprised as you are that she was willing to stay here for so long."

"Do you think Xena will ever be able to stop traveling?" Ephiny asked quietly.

"I think someday she will. For her sake, I hope so anyway. But it won't be anytime soon," Gabrielle replied.

"Well, if that day ever does come, you're both welcome here."

"Thanks Ephiny. That means a lot to me."

"I mean it Gabrielle," Ephiny said, as she reached out to place a friendly hand on the young woman's shoulder. "We both know I wasn't happy when Terreis gave you her right of caste. I gave you a pretty hard time at first, but eventually I figured out what Terreis saw right away. You are a true Amazon, even if you weren't born one, and there isn't a woman in this village that doesn't believe that with all her heart. We're fortunate to have you as our Queen."

"Ephiny...I....," Gabrielle stammered, for once at a loss for words.

Ephiny smiled as she saw how deeply her words had touched the bard. "It's okay Gabrielle. I know. Just remember what I said. We'll be here for you whenever you need us. But for now," she said with a grin, "We should be getting back. If we're gone much longer, Xena's going to have my head for keeping you away for so long. And having to fight the Queen's Champion is not my idea of a healthy activity."

Gabrielle smiled as she tightened the laces of her boots. Ephiny had promised that the party that night would be unforgettable, and Gabrielle didn't mind admitting she was looking forward to it. It might be the last chance that she and Xena would have to simply relax and enjoy themselves for quite awhile and Gabrielle intended to make the most of the opportunity. She had nearly finished dressing when she heard Xena enter from the other room. "Good you're ready. Could you help me with this necklace? I can't get it fastened." She smiled as she heard Xena walk up behind her and take the necklace from her fingers. Holding her hair up, she waited quietly while Xena fastened the necklace and then adjusted the straps to the shoulder guard she was wearing, before resting her hands on the bard's shoulders. "One thing is certain. I'm beginning to really look forward to the simplicity of wearing my normal clothes again," she said with a grin, before pausing. Something about the feel of Xena's hands on her shoulders was wrong.

Turning around to see what it was that had felt so strange, Gabrielle's breath caught in her throat at the sight of her friend. Xena had changed out of her normal dark brown leathers and was now dressed in full Amazonian garb. She was wearing a low-cut, reddish-brown top that just barely covered her breasts and left her midriff completely bare. The right side of the shirt was decorated with concentric circles of silver that drew Gabrielle's eyes in and she had to force them away to look at the rest of the vision that had appeared before her. A reddish-brown skirt, cut high on both sides to reveal the entire length of Xena's thighs, hung low on the warrior's hips. Golden armbands circled her upper arms, and she was wearing a necklace made of interlocking gold and silver rings. Feathered guards covered both of her shoulders and an ornate headband trimmed with feathers and precious stones held her hair in place. Looking at Xena's arms, Gabrielle saw that she had traded her usual vambraces for a pair of dark brown bracers. The one for her right arm extended over her hand to cover her thumb and middle finger, partially covering the palm with leather. "Well," Xena said softly, after several seconds had passed. "You did want to see what I'd look like dressed in Amazon clothing...Does it meet with your approval?"

"By the Gods Xena," Gabrielle finally managed, her voice thick with passion. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?"

Xena smiled and stepped forward to take Gabrielle into her arms. "Does that mean you approve then?"

"Gods yes," Gabrielle said fervently. "The only problem I see here, is that I don't know how I'm going to be able to concentrate on anything tonight, except you."

"The perils of being Queen your highness. Fortunately, all I have to concentrate on tonight is you," Xena said, as she leaned down to kiss her lover, before stepping back again. "I could use your help, though," she said, while handing a small silver chain to Gabrielle. "It's been a long time since I've worn an earring. Can you put this on for me?" she asked, as she pulled her hair back out of the way.

Gabrielle examined the earring for a few seconds before reaching towards Xena to place it on her ear, trying not to notice the delicate line of Xena's neck just inches from her trembling fingers. After a few moments, she finally managed to set the earring into place and leaned back with a shaky sigh. "Well, let's go get this over with. I have a feeling this is going to be a long night," she said, as she moved away from Xena and began walking out the door.

"Oh, I can assure you it will be," Xena said softly. "A very long night indeed."

"A toast to our Queen! May her travels be safe and may she come back to us again soon!" Solari called out, as everyone raised their glass and took a long drink.

Gabrielle smiled happily as she drank the sweet Amazon wine. It was a little stronger than the stuff she was used to, but it was still mild enough that she didn't have to worry about it going to her head. That was fortunate, because sitting next to Xena was intoxicating enough and she wasn't certain how much longer she was going to last.

Xena had been slowly torturing the bard all night long. Rather than asking for things to be passed to her, she was constantly leaning over Gabrielle to get them for herself. Each time she did, she exposed ample cleavage to the young woman's hungry gaze and usually managing to press up against her lover as well. Several times she had moved in close to ask Gabrielle a question, and her warm breath against the bard's skin sent waves of heat coursing through Gabrielle's body. And each and every time that Xena had passed something to the young woman, she had managed to brush her fingers up against her lover's, all the while staring intently into Gabrielle's eyes.

"Have you tried this yet?" she heard Xena ask in a low, silky smooth voice. "It's delicious."

Gabrielle forcefully ordered herself to take a deep breath and relax, as she turned to look at the item Xena was holding. She recognized it as a dessert of some sort, but she hadn't yet tried it. "No," she said, concentrating to keep her voice steady. "What does it taste like?"

"Hmmm...it's pretty hard to describe," Xena said, before slowly placing it in her mouth. Pretending not to notice the way that Gabrielle was staring at her lips, Xena appeared to give the matter more thought while she ate the delicacy. Swallowing, she turned to Gabrielle and smiled. "I guess you'll just have to see for yourself," she said, as she pulled her lover towards her, kissing her soundly as she parted her lips to slip her tongue into the young woman's mouth.

Gabrielle's world started spinning when she felt Xena's lips moving against hers. The taste of the dessert combined with the taste of her lover and Gabrielle moaned softly in protest when she felt Xena break the kiss and move away. Taking several deep breaths, she managed to get herself back under control. "You're right, it's delicious," she finally said huskily.

Xena nodded nonchalantly. "I told you. Here, have one for yourself," she said, as she picked up another and held it in front of Gabrielle's lips.

Gabrielle stared at Xena for a few moments and then opened her mouth to accept the morsel of food that the warrior was offering to her. As the dessert was placed on her tongue, Gabrielle sucked on Xena's fingers and a wave of desire coursed through both their bodies. The sensation was heightened by the fact that, throughout the entire exchange, each woman kept her gaze locked firmly on the other. As Xena slowly removed her fingers from Gabrielle's mouth, she lightly traced the outline of the bard's lips, before letting her hand drop away from Gabrielle's face. Feeling the electricity that was passing between them, Gabrielle had to fight the urge to leap up and drag Xena back to their hut.

The spell was broken as the music began, and several of the women around them got up to dance. 'It's just as well,' Gabrielle acknowledged to herself ruefully. After all, she was the Queen and she didn't have the option of skipping out on the party quite this early, especially when it was being thrown in her honor.

She glanced back at Xena and saw that the warrior was now watching the dancers, so Gabrielle turned to watch as well. They appeared to be enjoying themselves thoroughly and Gabrielle wished, for the thousandth time, that she had the skill necessary to dance well or, at least, to not embarrass herself when she tried. Looking around at the other women, she saw that quite a few of them were casting glances in Xena's direction. Gabrielle couldn't really blame them since, she too, was having a pretty hard time keeping her eyes off the woman sitting beside her. However, when one of the women began walking towards them, with the obvious intention of asking Xena to dance, Gabrielle took immediate action. Placing a possessive hand on Xena's thigh, she moved slightly closer to the warrior and sent the approaching Amazon a harsh look, clearly warning the woman to back off.

Xena smiled when she felt Gabrielle's hand on her thigh, having seen the reason for her lover's sudden move. "You know," she said softly, leaning in close to speak directly into Gabrielle's ear, "We're really going to have to do something about this jealous streak of yours."

Gabrielle blushed deeply. "I know, I know. But how do you expect me to feel? Every woman here wants you."

"Doesn't matter," Xena replied with a shrug, "Because you are the only woman here that I want. I would have thought that was obvious by now. If not, I guess I'll just have to try harder," she finished with a wicked grin.

"Gods forbid," Gabrielle said with a smile. "I don't think I could stand it if you tried much harder than you already have tonight."

"Then relax. I love you...or had you forgotten that little fact?" Xena smiled, as she reached down to capture Gabrielle's hand to bring it to her lips.

"No," Gabrielle replied softly. "I hadn't forgotten."

"Good, now let's dance," Xena said as she rose, pulling Gabrielle up beside her.

"Xena, I can't dance, you know that," Gabrielle protested, astonished by her friend's sudden move.

Xena shook her head. "No, I don't know that at all. I think someone told you you can't dance and now you believe it. You just need to learn the steps and I can teach you those. Come on. You've pretty effectively scared all my other potential dance partners away. You're the only one I have left," she said, as she grinned and tried to lead Gabrielle towards the others.

Gabrielle hung back, resisting Xena's logic. "Xena...you've seen me yourself. I learned that other dance because it was so simple, but even that took forever. I'm hopeless. All my dance partners have tried to show me how to move and they all agree; I just don't move well, I'm too clumsy," she said.

Xena shook her head again. "I dunno. Seems to me you just haven't had the right partner. From what I've seen, with the right partner you move very, very well," she said in a low voice, as her finger traced a line down Gabrielle's cheek to her throat. "Trust me, follow my lead, and you'll do fine," she said, as she finally managed to lead Gabrielle to the other dancers.

With a sigh of resignation, Gabrielle allowed Xena to try to teach her the steps, but after a minute or so had passed and she had made several awkward attempts to imitate Xena's movements, she threw her hands up in despair. "I can't do this Xena," she said dejectedly. "I'm just embarrassing myself out here," she finished, as she turned to leave.

Xena's arm snaked out to grab her lover and pull her back. "No you're not, and if you'd relax long enough to give yourself a chance, you'd see that for yourself. Now ease up, and don't try so hard. This is supposed to be fun," she said with a grin. "You're making it into work." Xena pulled Gabrielle in close and wrapped her arms around her. Moving in time to the music, she smiled when she felt Gabrielle move with her, the young woman's movements suddenly graceful and fluid. "How can you possibly think you're clumsy?" Xena murmured into her ear. "Think about how you handle yourself with your staff...pure poetry."

"That's different," Gabrielle protested softly.

"How?" Xena asked while they continued to dance. Now that her attention was focused on Xena and she was no longer overanalyzing her movements, Gabrlelle easliy followed her lover's lead.

"I don't know. I don't have to think about that. It just comes naturally."

"Uh huh. Kinda like what you're doing now?" Xena asked, grinning when she saw the look in Gabrielle's eyes.

"Yeah, kinda like what I'm doing now," Gabrielle replied with a smile, as she realized she was actually dancing, and dancing well for that matter. Gaining confidence when she realized the steps were easier than she thought, she grew more daring and even embellished on them. Seeing the look of approval on Xena's face, she felt her heart pound furiously and, when the music ended, she launched herself into her lover's arms. "Thank you," she whispered emotionally before kissing Xena passionately.

"If I'd known I'd get that kind of response, I would have forced you to dance sooner," Xena said with a grin.

"Well, if I had realized what a great excuse it was to get your arms around me, you wouldn't have had to force me," Gabrielle replied.

"I'll keep that in mind for future reference. But for now, how 'bout we go for a walk?" Xena asked, holding out her hand. "It's getting a bit crowded around here."

Nodding, Gabrielle took her lover's hand and allowed herself to be led away. They wandered through the crowd, until they reached the very edge of the light from the bonfire and the torches that had been set up. As Xena continued to walk into the darkness, Gabrielle stopped her. "Xena, I can't leave yet," she said regretfully.

Xena chuckled softly. "I know Gabrielle. Don't worry, I just wanted to get away from everyone for a few minutes," she said, before leading Gabrielle to a large rock that was several yards away from the edge of the light. Sitting down, she pulled Gabrielle back against her, wrapping her arms around the young woman and resting her chin on the top of Gabrielle's head. "Just let me hold you for a few minutes, okay?" she asked softly.

Gabrielle sighed happily, unable to deny Xena something she wanted so badly herself. Stroking Xena's forearms, Gabrielle leaned back against the warrior, loving the feel of Xena's arms around her. They sat in silence for several minutes before Gabrielle finally spoke. "So, are we headed anywhere in particular tomorrow?" she asked quietly.

"No," Xena replied, just as quietly. "Just need to get moving again."

"I'm going to miss everyone here. They're like family...no...they are family," Gabrielle corrected herself. "And they care about you too Xena," she told the warrior softly. "Ephiny told me that if you ever wanted to settle down, you'd be welcome to live here with them."


Gabrielle quickly turned to face her friend. "No, Xena, don't even say it. I know why you have to leave and, as much as I like being here with the Amazons, I'd much rather be with you." Gabrielle paused, wanting to make certain Xena was listening to her. "When I thought I'd lost you, I was willing to stay here and I could have been happy. But I would never have been as happy as I am with you. The Amazons are most definitely a distant second to you," she said with a smile.

"Gabrielle, are you absolutely certain about that?" Xena asked, old fears coming to the surface.

"Xena, I love you. Wherever you are is where I want to be. If someday you're ready to give up traveling, then we can consider coming back here to live with the Amazons. But until that time, I'm more than happy to be the wandering bard who travels with Xena, the Warrior Princess," she said with a wide grin. "So tomorrow we'll have breakfast at Ephiny's and then we'll leave; two drifters, off to see the world."

"There's a lot of world to see, Gabrielle," Xena warned with a smile. "It's going to take us a long time to get to it all."

"That's all right. We're young...or at least, one of us is," Gabrielle replied cheekily.

Xena's eyes narrowed. "That remark is going to cost you."

"Oh? How so?"

"Oh no. You'll have to wait to see how I exact my revenge," Xena said with a toothy grin.

Gabrielle looked at her warily. "Okay, but for now, I think we should be getting back."

"Naw, we're fine here. We may not actually be at the center of attention out here, but we're still close enough to count. Besides, there are quite a few women sitting around the perimeter too," she said, nodding towards a couple sitting just at the edge of the light. "Sit here with me for awhile longer," she coaxed as she slid to the ground, leaning back against the rock.

Gabrielle stared at her suspiciously for a few seconds before complying. Sitting between Xena's legs, she leaned back against the warrior's chest. "I guess you're right," she agreed. "I can still see everything from here."

"Uh huh," Xena said, as she reached around Gabrielle to pull her tightly against her. "And do you know the best part?" she asked quietly, as her hand began tracing intricate patterns across her lover's bare stomach.

"No, what?" Gabrielle asked, then gasped when she felt Xena's warm breath against her ear.

"We can see them, but they can't see us. We're surrounded by darkness," she replied, as her other hand began running up and down Gabrielle's thigh.

"Xena, what are you doing?" Gabrielle whispered softly.

"It's not obvious? I must not be doing it right then," Xena murmured into her ear, just before biting down softly on the lobe.

Gabrielle choked back a low moan. "Xena, please....," she said, then stopped as the warrior's hand moved from her stomach to cup her breast. Struggling to concentrate, she again tried to speak. "Xena...you don't really intend to...."

"Take you right here?" Xena asked throatily, before moving to nibble on Gabrielle's neck. "Yup. That's exactly what I intend to do. Why? Is that a problem for you?"

"We can't do this here Xena," Gabrielle said frantically, her resolve rapidly draining away as Xena's hand began caressing her breast.

Xena slipped her hand under Gabrielle's shirt, smiling when she heard Gabrielle's sharp intake of breath. "Why not? I thought you were young. Don't young people like to be reckless and daring?" she teased, before leaning down to trail her tongue along the line of Gabrielle's shoulder.

Gabrielle groaned softly when she felt Xena's hand slip underneath her skirt, caressing her thigh as it slowly migrated upwards. "Xena we can't. What are we supposed to say if someone finds us?" she asked, pleading with the warrior to be reasonable.

Xena shrugged. "You're the bard. I'll let you figure out what to say," she said, as her fingers moved up to dance through the soft curly hairs covering Gabrielle's heated mound.

Gabrielle whimpered when she felt Xena pressing up harder behind her, the feel of Xena's breasts and bare stomach driving her wild with desire. She shuddered when she felt the warrior's lips moving across her shoulder to her neck and then up to her ear. As Xena's fingers moved over her nipple, she pressed herself into the warrior's touch, wanting, needing more.

Xena smiled when she realized that Gabrielle's resistance was all but gone. Sliding her fingers into the bard's warm, wet folds, she began to stroke her lightly. "Tell me you want me to stop Gabrielle and I will. Tell me you don't want this. Tell me you don't need this. Tell me you're not lovin' every moment of this. Tell me and I'll stop," Xena said huskily, just before sliding two fingers into her lover and biting her neck gently.

"Gods, Xena," Gabrielle moaned quietly, as she felt Xena's fingers moving against her. Unable to help herself, she arched back against her lover as a spear of heat shot through her. Her breathing became ragged while her eyes glazed over with passion. Xena had been teasing her all night long and Gabrielle's body had been pushed to the limit. She couldn't possibly tell Xena to stop now.

Xena began stroking the young woman's breast more firmly, rolling the nipple between her fingers, as her lips moved to brush across the young woman's neck. She slowly moved her fingers in and out of the bard, wanting to prolong the torture for as long as possible but knowing full well that Gabrielle wasn't going to last long. She dropped her hand and used it to nudge the young woman's legs further apart, before moving it back up to stroke her other breast, determined that neither one should suffer from a lack of attention.

Gabrielle reached up to cover Xena's hand, encouraging her to squeeze harder, as her other hand grabbed the warrior's thigh. "Please Xena," she begged hoarsely, needing the release that she'd been building towards all evening.

"Please what?" Xena asked softly, as she withdrew her fingers completely from the bard. "Did you want me to stop?"

"Gods no," Gabrielle sobbed hoarsely. "Don't stop. Please don't stop. I need you so much," she begged desperately.

Xena grinned and slid her fingers back into her lover, groaning softly when she felt the velvety softness that surrounded them. Moving her thumb up to cover Gabrielle's clitoris, she pressed firmly against it, rubbing in circles as she continued to thrust her fingers deeper and deeper into her lover. Slowly she began rocking against the bard from behind, keeping time with the movement of her hand, as she leaned forward to nibble and lick at the column of Gabrielle's neck.

Gabrielle pressed down against Xena's hand as waves of ecstasy began flowing through her. Her breath was coming in pants and her body was trembling. Small, incoherent sounds were coming from her throat, as she spiraled higher and higher, unable to do anything but give in to the feelings that were flowing through her body. As she finally reached the pinnacle, she arched back against Xena one last time, softly moaning the warrior's name, spasms of pleasure wracking her body.

Xena covered Gabrielle's mouth with her own as she felt the young woman's release flow through her, loving the feel of Gabrielle's body trembling in her arms. She held the young woman for several minutes, until Gabrielle's body finally began to relax, and then slowly removed her fingers, smiling when she felt Gabrielle's body tremble once more. Bringing her fingers to her lips, she carefully placed them in her mouth, closing her eyes as she savored her lover's taste. "Sweet...so sweet," she murmured softly, before opening her eyes to gaze at the bard. "Revenge is so sweet," she said with a smile and then leaned in to kiss Gabrielle once more.

Gabrielle gave Xena a shaky smile, before moving further into her embrace. "Well, I can honestly say that wasn't the reaction I was expecting when I made that crack about your age. I guess I'll have to watch what I say more carefully."

Xena chuckled softly. "So no more remarks about my age?"

Gabrielle looked up at her and grinned. "Not exactly. I was actually thinking that I'll start making them on a regular basis."

Xena smiled and pulled the young woman to her tightly. "Well, I wouldn't make any more for at least a little while. We still have to get through the rest of this party you know."

"I know," Gabrielle said with a sigh. "Give me a few more minutes though. At the moment, I don't think I could move even if I wanted to."

"Don't worry," Xena said softly. "I'm in no hurry to go anywhere."

Gabrielle and Xena managed to get back to the party before too much more time had passed and, to Gabrielle's vast relief, no one appeared to have missed them while they'd been gone. They spent the next couple of hours dancing and talking, drinking and eating, and casting longing glances at each other that promised that the night was far from over. The fire that had burned between them all evening had merely been fanned by their earlier encounter and they both knew that the best was yet to come.

Eventually, Gabrielle decided that she had put in enough time at the party and, despite entreaties to stay a little longer, announced she was retiring for the night. Xena left her alone to say her good-byes, telling Gabrielle she would meet her back at their hut. She paused a moment before leaving the party to watch the young Queen bid farewell to the Amazons, smiling when she saw Gabrielle being deluged with wishes for a safe journey and speedy return.

After what seemed like an eternity, Gabrielle finally made it back to the hut. Stepping inside, she looked around for Xena, calling her name softly. The answer came from the other room, and Gabrielle began walking in that direction, pausing when she noticed the warrior's Amazon clothing piled neatly on the table. Hearing movement from the other room, she looked up to see Xena's nude form standing in the doorway.

As Gabrielle watched, Xena slowly approached, moving to stand slightly behind her. Placing her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders, Xena leaned in close to speak directly into her ear. "I think you're a bit overdressed for the occasion," she whispered, her lips brushing up against the bard's skin. Holding Gabrielle's hair out of her way, Xena ran her tongue down her lover's throat and across the back of her neck, before moving back up to the other ear. "Maybe I should help you with that," she said softly.

In answer to Xena's question, all Gabrielle could do was nod. Her throat had become too dry to allow her to speak. A sensual smiled played across Xena's face, as she pushed Gabrielle backward so that she was sitting on the edge of the table. Kneeling in front of her young lover, Xena reached down and began unlacing Gabrielle's boots, locking eyes with the bard as she did so. Laces undone, she pulled off one boot, before slowly massaging Gabrielle's foot and ankle, all the while maintaining their eye contact. Her hands began moving up Gabrielle's calf, stroking and caressing the soft skin. Sliding her hands higher, she slipped them underneath Gabrielle's skirt and smiled when she felt the young woman trembling beneath her touch. Moving her hand back down, she began to repeat the procedure, as she removed Gabrielle's other boot.

The intensity of the warrior's gaze was enough to cause the Amazon Queen's temperature to rise and her heart to race. She was finding it increasingly difficult to breathe, as she felt Xena's fingers dancing across her skin. Finally, Xena broke their eye contact and let her gaze travel down the length of Gabrielle's body. She bent her head and pressed soft lips against Gabrielle's ankle, before trailing her tongue up the bard's calf to reach a spot behind her knee. As she felt Xena sucking softly on the tender flesh, before nibbling her way up her thigh, Gabrielle gasped and moved forward slightly, parting her legs to give Xena greater access.

Xena continued her tender caresses for several minutes before finally rising to stand before her lover, pulling her into her arms to hold her tightly. Reaching up, she framed Gabrielle's face with her hands, before tilting her head back to give her a long, lingering kiss. Breaking away, Xena smiled when she saw the raw passion and desire in her lover's eyes.

Xena slowly stroked a thumb across Gabrielle's lips, before dropping her hands from the bard's face and moving to remove the armor from her arms and shoulder. Tossing everything to the side, she lowered her head to lick and nibble Gabrielle's body, as her hands moved lightly over the bard's sensitive skin. Slowly, torturously, Xena explored her lover, intent on relearning every square inch of her body. She smiled when she heard Gabrielle's ragged breathing and felt her struggling to endure the sweet torture that Xena was inflicting on them both.

Moving her fingers to Gabrielle's waist, Xena loosened her belt and then slowly slid the young woman's skirt down over her hips. Dropping to her knees once again, she leaned forward to place her face near Gabrielle's center. Inhaling deeply, she filled her lungs with her lover's musky scent, before reaching around to cup the young woman's buttocks to pull her closer.

Gabrielle moaned deep in her throat, when she felt Xena's tongue lightly touch her and she eagerly thrust her hips forward, desperate to feel Xena's tongue more firmly against her. Reaching down, she buried her fingers in the warrior's thick hair, as she held her in place, shifting positions to move her legs further apart. She shivered when Xena plunged her tongue deeper between her folds, as she eagerly licked and sucked Gabrielle's wetness. A strangled sob was wrung from her throat when she felt Xena's tongue moving across her heated flesh.

Gabrielle groaned in protest when she felt Xena remove her mouth and rise to stand in front of her again. Dropping her hands to Gabrielle's bare midriff, Xena began trailing her fingers across hard abs, smiling as Gabrielle's muscles twitched convulsively beneath her touch. Dragging her nails across the bard's body, she moved her hands upwards to grasp the edges of her lover's shirt, before slowly pulling it up over Gabrielle's head and dropping it to the floor. "So beautiful," Xena said softly, as she gazed on Gabrielle's naked form, speaking for the first time since they had begun. "You are so incredibly beautiful," she said again, before moving to cup Gabrielle's breasts in her hands.

Gabrielle moaned loudly when she felt Xena's hands on her, her eyes drifting shut when the warrior's thumbs began moving over her nipples. Placing her hands on top of Xena's, she arched into her lover's touch, desperately needing more. She whimpered softly when she felt Xena's hands leave her, then sighed when she felt the warrior's arms wrap around her, as she pulled the bard to her and leaned down to trace the outline of Gabrielle's nipple with her tongue. She felt Xena nudging her legs, and she willingly moved them apart, whimpering when she felt her lover's thigh move between her own to rub hard against her sex. She pressed tightly against the warrior and reached up to hold Xena's head close to her chest. Her actions were rewarded when Xena moved to take as much of her soft breast into her mouth as she was able, sucking fiercely on the tender flesh before moving to the other to give it the same treatment, and drawing hoarse, shuddering cries from Gabrielle's throat.

After several minutes, Xena leaned back and looked down on the flushed face of her lover, before turning Gabrielle around so that her back was to her. Lifting up Gabrielle's strawberry blonde hair, Xena reached down to take off the necklace and earring she was wearing and then carefully set both of them on the table. She placed her hands on the young woman's shoulders and started slowly massaging them, before leaning down to press soft kisses across Gabrielle's shoulders. Licking and nipping her way back and forth, she smiled when she felt Gabrielle reacting to her touch. She slowly trailed her tongue down her lover's spine and back up again, before moving to nibble on Gabrielle's ear. Pressing up against Gabrielle's back, she leisurely rubbed her breasts against the young bard, before reaching around to cup Gabrielle's breasts.

Gabrielle's breath was coming in short pants, as Xena stoked a fire within her that was starting to rage out of control. She felt the warrior's callused palms caressing her sensitive breasts and moaned low in her throat, struggling to maintain her balance on legs that were becoming extremely shaky. She arched back against her lover, as Xena's hands began stroking her breasts more firmly. Tilting her head to the side, to allow Xena access to her neck, she sighed with pleasure when she felt the warrior's lips against her throat.

Xena dropped one hand down to press against Gabrielle's center, causing the bard to thrust her hips forward helplessly, as she felt the contact she so desperately craved. Xena slid her hand through Gabrielle's warm, wet softness, while she pressed her own hips against her lover. Gabrielle groaned loudly, as she moved her legs further apart and placed one hand on the table to help support herself. She pressed harder against Xena's hand, as the warrior began stroking her firmly, shuddering when she felt Xena's own wetness pressed against her hips.

Gabrielle choked back a sob as she began to shake. "Please Xena," she begged frantically, "I need to feel you inside me," she continued, her voice a tortured groan.

Needing no further encouragement, Xena slid her fingers inside her lover, wrapping her other arm tighter around Gabrielle when she felt the young woman's knees give way. With a hoarse cry, Gabrielle began thrusting against Xena's fingers, leaning forward to place her other hand against the table to support herself. Her heart pounding, her body shaking, Gabrielle bucked her hips as Xena drove her fingers deeper within the bard and continued to rub her own hips against her young lover.

Gabrielle's body began trembling against the warrior as she drew closer and closer to the edge. Finally she groaned and shuddered, as her release smashed through her, shattering her like fine crystal and leaving her completely unable to support herself. She felt Xena tighten her grip around her waist, as she began to fall to the floor and collapsed gratefully against her. As her breathing began to slowly return to normal, she felt Xena remove her fingers and begin to raise them to her lips. Gabrielle quickly reached out to catch Xena's hand. Closing her lips around Xena's fingers, she carefully sucked them clean, savoring the taste of herself on her lover, before leaning up to kiss the warrior softly.

Xena smiled down at the bard and then, without a word, swept Gabrielle up into her arms and carried her to their bed. Gently placing her on the mattress, she stretched out beside her, Xena looked down at the young woman in her arms, wishing she had the words to tell Gabrielle how much she meant to her. Placing her palm to Gabrielle's cheek, Xena sighed. "I love you so much," she said softly. "So very much," she whispered, as she caressed Gabrielle's cheek.

"I know," Gabrielle said with a smile. Her voice was filled with emotion as she saw the love in Xena's eyes. "It's one of the things about you that I like," she continued, before pulling Xena down to kiss her. Pushing her tongue past Xena's lips to taste and probe, she sighed when she heard Xena's low moan. Pressing her advantage, Gabrielle rolled Xena over onto her back and straddled the warrior, pressing her hips against Xena's while she sat above her. Looking down at the woman she loved, Gabrielle's hungry gaze moved over the planes of Xena's face and then down to her throat, breasts, and stomach, brushing over Xena like a physical caress.

Placing her hands on either side of her lover to support her weight, Gabrielle gradually leaned down until her nipples were just touching Xena's. Moving carefully, she slowly rubbed against the warrior, keeping contact to a bare minimum, while she kept her gaze locked with Xena's. After several timeless moments, Xena's eyes grew heavy lidded with desire and she groaned as she arched against the bard. Smiling, Gabrielle lowered her weight to rest on her lover, moaning softly when she felt Xena's sweat covered body sliding against hers. Her hands moved rapidly over the warrior, stroking, teasing, and caressing, as her teeth nipped lightly at the skin of Xena's throat, shoulders and breasts.

Xena groaned loudly when she felt Gabrielle's wet, hot mouth close firmly over her nipple and she moved her hand behind the bard's head to hold her close. Gabrielle suckled lovingly before biting down gently, sending a jolt of pure pleasure racing through the warrior's body and leaving her whimpering softly. As Gabrielle continued to lavish hot, burning kisses on Xena's breasts, striving to bring her to a fever pitch, Xena began to writhe beneath her lover, small cries of need coming from her throat. Moving her hand down the warrior's body, Gabrielle gently parted her lover's thighs and then began lightly rubbing her palm against Xena's center.

Xena bucked her hips forward when she felt Gabrielle's touch graze across her, unable to control her body as mindless need consumed her. Flames raced through her in a searing wave and she gasped for air as she tried to fill lungs that suddenly seemed unable to function properly. "Please Gabrielle," she begged desperately, her voice a husky moan. "I need more...I need you. Touch me," she pleaded, as her hand reached down to cover the bard's, pressing it harder against her sex.

Gabrielle moved her fingers into Xena's hot cleft, groaning when she felt Xena's moist flesh against her hand. "Gods Xena," she moaned, as she began stroking her lover firmly. "You feel so good," she said, before leaning up to cover Xena's mouth with her own, as she pressed her breasts against her lover's.

Gabrielle continued to move her hand against Xena for several minutes, slowing whenever she felt the warrior reaching her limits, before moving Xena's legs further apart and sliding down to rest between. Immediately she parted Xena's folds and plunged her tongue deeply into her lover, savoring the taste and smells of the woman she loved.

Xena gave a sobbing gasp as she felt Gabrielle's tongue touch her and she arched involuntarily into the bard as her hands reached down to grab the young woman's head. "Yessss," she groaned loudly. "Just like that Gabrielle," she panted, as she held the young woman to her, her fingers tangled in Gabrielle's long hair. She felt Gabrielle's lips move to wrap around her swollen clitoris and she cried out softly, waves of pleasure wracking her body. When she felt Gabrielle's teeth rasp across the hard bundle of nerves, she again arched frantically into the young woman, whimpering loudly as she began to lose her ability to do anything more than react to her lover's touch.

"Gabrielle...can you....," she choked out as she struggled to speak.

Knowing what her lover was asking, Gabrielle quickly moved upwards to capture Xena's nipple between her teeth as she drove her fingers into the warrior. When she felt Gabrielle's fingers enter her, a sound of ecstasy was torn from deep within Xena's throat. She strained helplessly against her lover's hand, as she began thrusting her hips wildly.

Gabrielle moved her hand harder and faster, as she responded to Xena's frenzied pleas, watching Xena closely while she continued to ravish the warrior's breasts. Slowly, the fire that had been building within Xena all evening began burning out of control, blazing into a fiery inferno. Suddenly, with a burst of heat, it exploded outwards from her core, consuming her completely and leaving her convulsing and trembling in Gabrielle's arms.

Gabrielle held Xena tightly, as she watched the chain of emotions flash across the warrior's face. As Xena's breathing slowed to normal, she looked up at Gabrielle, a small smile crossing her lips, as she pulled the bard down to her and then rolled her over, pinning her lover beneath her. Leaning down, she kissed Gabrielle, softly at first, but quickly with increasing passion as her hands began moving over the bard's body. Her hips started slowly rocking against the young woman's in a steady, driving rhythm.

Gabrielle moaned, as she felt Xena's lips traveling across her skin, licking, sucking, and biting. The warrior reached down to grab Gabrielle's hips and, pulling her more tightly to her, increased the pressure as the lovers slowly rotated their hips against one another. Gabrielle could feel her desire beginning to build within her once again and her own hands and lips began moving over her lover's skin as well, stirring up the fire within Xena that had yet to die down completely.

As she felt Gabrielle's mouth and hands on her skin, Xena felt herself rapidly approaching the edge. She quickly parted the young woman's thighs and moved down between them. Pausing only long enough to look up at Gabrielle's passion-flushed face, Xena buried her own face in the bard's soaking wet curls. Moving her tongue through her lover's sweet folds, Xena reached up to grab Gabrielle's hips, holding her lover firmly against her as she slid her tongue into Gabrielle's opening.

Gabrielle moaned when she felt Xena's tongue enter her and she arched against the warrior, shaking with the force of her desire. Her fingers curled into the bedcovers, as she fought to hang on, not yet ready to give in to the feelings washing over her body. Her head thrashed from side to side, as a slow ache began to build within her, demanding release. She felt the warrior's mouth move up to capture her clitoris and gasped softly. When she felt Xena's fingers enter her, she groaned loudly, her hips thrusting upwards, no longer under her control.

Xena focused her attention on the woman writhing and twisting beneath her, as she struggled to bring Gabrielle to her climax before she lost complete control and fell over the edge herself. She plunged her fingers into Gabrielle's moist depths, moaning when she felt soft, velvet contractions surrounding her fingers. Desperately she strove to give Gabrielle everything she needed, everything she wanted, knowing that this was the ultimate pleasure for herself.

"Yes Xena...Gods yes...More. I just...need...one...more....," Gabrielle panted, as she moved against her lover. "Oh Gods Xenaaaa," Gabrielle finally screamed loudly, not caring if the entire village heard her. She shuddered, as spasms of release rocked through her body, creating waves of pleasure so intense she could see colors swirling behind her eyelids. With a low cry, Xena allowed herself to fall as well, drawn along by the intensity of her lover's climax, groaning as the fire within her consumed her once more.

As Xena gradually came back to reality, she slowly crawled up to collapse next to her lover, too exhausted to do anything else. The two women laid together for several long minutes, before Xena finally found the strength to move again. Carefully pulling Gabrielle into her arms, Xena brushed a kiss across her lover's forehead and then hugged her tightly.

"I love you," Gabrielle said softly.

"I know," Xena replied with a smile.

Gabrielle lifted her head to look at the warrior. "Do you?" she asked quietly, but with a fierce intensity. "Do you really?"

Xena reached down to rub her knuckles lightly against the bard's cheek. "Yes, I do," she said. "I don't always know why, but I know that you do."

"Good," Gabrielle said, as she laid her head against Xena's chest, smiling when she felt Xena's heart beating beneath her, "Because, at the moment, I'm too tired to try to convince you."

Xena chuckled. "That's all right. At the moment I think any 'convincing' you tried to do would probably kill me," she said, while her fingers absently moved across Gabrielle's shoulder. "Maybe some other time," she said sleepily.

"Looking forward to it," Gabrielle replied, as she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Part 4

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