~If At First You Don't Succeed...~

by Lawlsfan

Disclaimers

Alternative Sexual Content: Well this is my first attempt at writing a truly sexy lil love story. Nothing too graphic but it could be considered explicit enough to set some folk’s toes to curling. And of course it is between two adult and ve-e-e-ry consenting women. So if you are not at least 18 years of age or this type of material offends you then perhaps you should read something a bit tamer. There are plenty of great classic general X:WP stories out there.

Spoilers: None. This is my story, my timeline, my creation. However, several well-known and beloved Amazonian figures have been resurrected for this tale, but they certainly don't spoil it. ;-)

Xena:Warrior Princess, its characters, and all related materials are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures 1995-1999. The story idea for "If at First you Don’t Succeed…" is the property of the author (me). This story may not be copied and/or reproduced in any form without express written consent from the author. "If at First you Don’t Succeed…" was completed and published to this site on 12/23/99.

Feedback is always welcome at: lawlsfan@aschweb.com. Don’t be shy, tell me how you feel.<g> Now on to the story....

The clearing was subtly bathed in morning sunlight, the light casting an iridescent glow as it caught and danced within the mist sent up from the waterfall that crested above and cascaded down to a deep pool below the rock ledge on which they stood. There was a chill in the air, and every breath they took escaped them again as a misty illumination. All was silent except for the sound of rushing water, and the occasional fluttering of wings or scurrying woodland creature nearby. Oh, and of course the sound of two hearts beating in delicate syncopation to love’s sweet song. It was an incredibly picturesque scene, quite serene and comforting. The bard sighed deeply.

"Xena?"

"Hmm?"

"How long before we have to leave here? It’s so lovely."

The raven-haired warrior gazed down at the woman leaning back against her, comfortably enveloped in her arms. She smiled. Today, as every other day since they’d realized they were in love, she had eyes only for her young companion. She studied the delicate curve of the bard’s nose and saw a faint freckle near the tip she hadn’t noticed before. She reached up to touch it tenderly with her fingertip; her smile broadened.

"Hmm…very lovely."

"Just look at how the morning light captures everything and brings out its exquisite beauty," the bard continued softly, while she unconsciously reached up to gently grasp the warrior’s fingers in her own and drew the strong hand back down to rest at her waist. "Gods…look at how it dances on the water down there. It’s gorgeous."

"Yea, I’ve noticed."

The warrior continued to study the soft lines of the bard’s face, the way the light brought out the golden highlights in her hair, the way it danced in her soft green eyes, the way it enhanced the curve of her….

"Xena, you just don’t see it do you?" Gabrielle said quietly, turning her eyes upward to meet the warrior’s studying gaze. "And you haven’t really heard a word I’ve said have you?"

Xena grasped the bard’s shoulders and slowly spun her around to face her. She allowed her arms to rest lightly around the smaller woman’s waist while she grinned devilishly.

"Nope. Your light is just too dazzling and distracting for me to see anything else but you."

The bard returned the grin, her nose crinkling slightly. But it quickly faded into a seductive smile as she lost herself in the azure blueness of the warrior’s eyes. "Gods, now that is gorgeous."

"Oh what am I going to do with you warrior princess?" the bard inquired softly as she reached up and draped her arms lightly around the warrior’s neck. She batted her eyelashes demurely.

"Hmm, I’m sure you’ll think of something," Xena whispered as she leaned down and enveloped the bard’s lips with her own in a warm and passionate kiss.

Gabrielle immediately felt her knees turning to mush beneath her and a telltale fluttering in her gut, which was rapidly building into a fire down below as the warrior started nibbling on her chin.

"When did you say we’d meet Ephiny and the others back at the village?" the bard inquired breathlessly as she felt Xena’s hands roaming slowly down along the curve of her back and then coming to rest, gently massaging her buttocks. She tossed her head back and moaned softly. The fire was growing.

"Mmm, for once they’ll wait," Xena mumbled as she lowered her head and starting tasting her way along the silky flesh of the bard’s neck.

The warmth of the warrior’s breath against her skin nearly sent Gabrielle quivering over the edge into ecstasy on the spot.

"Gods…" she sighed deeply.

It had been a while since they’d had a chance to be alone and close like this. "Too, too long," Gabrielle mused as she felt her desire rising. Being queen of the Amazons certainly had its percs but it also had some serious drawbacks. Her duties sometimes seemed endless and often took her to late into the night. Many were the times she’d found her way into the warrior’s arms after such a long day and being totally exhausted fell immediately to sleep. Then to top it off, Xena had been away for days on a hunting trip with Eponin and Solari leaving the bard yearning for her warrior throughout their separation. The hunters had returned about two marks before sunrise this morning but Xena had chosen not to awaken the queen. Oh, so many ceremonies to perform, so many meetings to be conducted, so much to learn, and so many young Amazons to teach, in so little time it always seemed to the young Amazon queen.

 

"And far too little warrior princess," the bard thought as she felt Xena’s lips and tongue lingering in the indentation at the base of her throat. She groaned as the warrior’s right hand make its way from her backside, upward along the quivering flesh of her abdomen, and coming to rest over her breast, kneading it gently. Suddenly all of her senses were drowning in a flood of erotic need; she couldn’t hear, see, or feel anything but her warrior’s touch and she hungered and thirsted for more.

"Yea, they’ll wait…" the bard growled in an ardent voice as she reached up and quickly undid the laces securing the front of her top and in a flash slid it over her head and tossed it aside.

Neither woman noticed the article of clothing come to rest in a precarious location, dangling from a nearby tree limb - - out of reach and about fifteen feet above the water below. In surrendering to their passions they had totally forgotten they weren’t surrounded by solid ground.

Gabrielle leaned backward, thrusting her breasts upward and inviting the warrior to nibble lower. Xena was happy to oblige and hungrily sought out the soft sensitive flesh that beckoned to her, flesh aroused by both the chill air and her touch. Gabrielle shuddered as her need suddenly rose to a feverish level. It had been far too long…the fire was now an inferno, raging out of her control.

"By the gods enough foreplay! I need you now!" the bard abruptly exclaimed and threw her arms around Xena’s neck, her legs flying upward and clamping tightly around the startled warrior’s hips.

Xena’s eyes opened as big as saucers at having been thrown off balance by Gabrielle’s sudden and unexpectedly lustful lunge. Not only that, but she had also suddenly remembered that they had been playing with fire while perched on a rock ledge over a very chilly pool of water. She hurriedly reached behind her for a handhold but came up empty. All she could do now was cast the bard a sheepish grin as her usually keen sense of equilibrium betrayed her and she fell forward, the Amazon queen wrapped tightly around her.

The splendid silence and serenity of the picturesque scene was abruptly drowned out by a loud splash followed by much cursing and shrieking.

*****

Ephiny was studying the scroll intently trying to make some sense of it. The document contained the revised peace agreement between the Amazons and the neighboring Centaurs and she wasn’t quite clear on the land boundaries that had been laid out in writing. When the queen returned she would discuss with her a need to do a walk around of the borders to get a better feel for what had been outlined on parchment.

The blonde regent was abruptly roused from her thoughts and raised her head in agitation at the sound of hushed whispering and restrained chuckling that suddenly arose from the group of young Amazons surrounding her.

"Alright. What’s going…?"

The words had barely escaped her lips when Ephiny noticed what the buzz was about. She had to fight to maintain her own composure as a tall, dark, and very wet warrior slowly approached. Funny, she hadn’t remembered Xena having four arms and four legs when she left the village that morning.

Xena stopped in front of the group and sneered viciously at the Amazons surrounding the queen’s regent. They looked at the tall, dark, and deadly one facetiously for a moment and then rapidly scattered to various locations around the village. Satisfied to have easily dispersed the snickering hordes with a single menacing look, the warrior then cast her piercing gaze upon the regent who was still desperately trying to remain straight-faced.

On the air, Ephiny was sure she caught the faint sound of…teeth chattering.

"Regent, the queen would like to postpone the meeting to discuss the agreement until after she’s had a hot bath and some dry clothes." Xena said stoically. "Now, if you’ll excuse us."

Ephiny nodded her head in concurrence and the warrior turned and started waddling away. It was then that the regent saw a semi-nude and quite frazzled Amazon queen plastered against the warrior’s backside, her arms wrapped tightly around Xena’s waist, and valiantly trying to cling to her own modesty. The corners of the regent’s mouth started to turn upwards as she noted they both were leaving a trail of water in their wake as they headed as rapidly as they could for the sanctuary of the queen’s hut.

As the queen and her ‘bodyguard’ finally disappeared into their abode, Ephiny’s face finally cracked into a broad smile. "Wonder what that was all about," she mused as she beckoned to Solari and several of the young Amazon warriors to get the buckets and start heating some water.

*****

"Xe-e-e-n-n-a…I c-c-can’t b-b-believe you left us f-f-fall into that p-p-pond," the bard declared through chattering teeth as she miserably searched around the hut for a towel or blanket to dry and warm herself. "G-g-gods this is so embarrassing!"

The warrior grinned and quickly picked up a blanket from off a chair near the fire. Wrapping the bard in it she led her to the chair and gently pushed her down into it. Then she knelt in front of her and began rubbing her thighs and calves to get some warmth back into them. Within moments the bard’s chattering and shivering were beginning to subside.

"Getting warmer?" Xena asked softly as she gently parted the bard’s thighs and starting kissing her way up along the inside of the left one, seeming content to pick up where they’d left off before they’d taken their plunge earlier.

The bard sniffed, rubbed her nose with the back of her hand, and pulled the blanket tighter around her bare upper body.

"Mmm, warmer…yes th-thank you." Then quite without warning she clamped her legs together nearly capturing the warrior’s head between them. "But your gonna have to work harder than that to make up for putting us in the drink," she said with an impish grin.

Xena returned the grin with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. Then just as she opened her mouth to respond, there was a knock on the door.

"Yes, who is it?" the bard shouted with a hint of agitation.

"My queen, it’s Deineris. We’ve got your bath water."

Xena stood and opened the door and jumped back quickly out of the way as a troop of Amazons brushed by her with large buckets of hot water. Hurriedly they dumped the steaming liquid into the large wooden tub, which had been placed near the fire, then rapidly departed. None of them either would, or could, look the warrior in the eye on their way out. Xena smirked at Gabrielle as she swung the door closed behind them.

Without warning the bard suddenly adopted an oddly accusatory expression on her face - - the warrior cringed and wondered what she’d done to deserve this look. She held her breath. Her smirk faded into a sheepish grin. She waited.

 

"Xena, what color are Deineris’ eyes?"

The sheepish grin turned into a befuddled gaze.

"Gabrielle, what does…?"

"Uh-uh warrior princess. What color are Deineris’ eyes?"

"I don’t know," Xena declared with exasperation.

"Just as I thought. I don’t think you could tell me what color the eyes are of most of the woman in this village."

While the warrior scowled at her in confused silence, the bard stood up and casually let the blanket slip off her shoulders and fall onto the chair behind her. Then she turned toward the tub and began removing her skirt. She glanced demurely over her shoulder while she spoke.

"Warrior Princess, you need to stop intimidating all my Amazons with your way of the sneer."

Xena’s scowl slowly disintegrated into a lascivious grin and arched eyebrow as she watched the bard’s skirt fall to the floor exposing the silky white skin beneath. "Anything you say Gabrielle, just let me at…."

"Promise me you’ll reserve your sneers for warlords and villains from here on out," the bard said as she slowly lowered herself into the warmth of the water. She settled in against the back of the tub, resting her arms along the sides and causing her breasts to rise tantalizingly just above the water line. Gazing seductively at the warrior across the room and knowing full well the power of her wiles, she casually continued. "Promise me?"

The bard batted her eyelashes coyly and Xena felt her breath catch in her throat. She had just opened her mouth to respond when there came a loud bang against the side of the hut.

"What in Tartarus..?" Gabrielle shouted and quickly crossed her arms over her chest as she stared bewildered at the wall.

Just then it occurred to the warrior princess that she had forgotten to tell the queen of the maintenance she had requested be done to the roof of their hut today.

"Damn thing leaks like a sieve."

"Ah Gabrielle, I guess I forgot to tell you that we’re having our roof fixed." She grinned sheepishly. "Sorry."

"Oh great," the bard said as she looked around her trying to locate her bar of lavender scented soap. "Here I am, wet in more ways than one, and we’ve got people climbing around on our roof. How romantic Xena. You know you need to work on your timing."

Xena watched as the bard found the soap and began lathering herself, her hands slowly and sensuously leaving a foamy trail down across her neck, shoulders, and finally lingering at her breasts. The warrior bit her lip.

"Hey! Aren’t you going to get out of those wet leathers?"

Xena was snapped out of her bard-lathering hypnosis when she was suddenly struck in the face by a flying sponge. She grinned and immediately pulled off her gauntlets, greaves, and boots.

"Wash your back if you wash mine," she said mischievously as she removed her armor and leathers in record time and tossed them next to the fire to dry. Then stopping her momentum only long enough to reach down and retrieve the sponge, she lithely glided toward the tub with a wicked twinkle in her eyes.

The bard’s eyes began to glaze with desire as she watched the lean, muscular, body of her champion sliding across the room toward her. She barely noticed the thumping sound radiating from the roof directly above them.

"Oh yea. Sounds like a good plan warrior."

Xena slid into the tub beside the bard and quickly gathered her up in her arms, drawing the little one onto her lap. "Now where were we…?" She leaned in and gently drew Gabrielle’s earlobe into her mouth then released it and whispered into her ear, "Oh yea, where do I start to make up for earlier?"

The warrior leisurely suckling her way down along her jugular elicited a soft moan from the bard.

"Uh-huh…that’s a good place to start."

The thumping above continued.

Xena could hear nothing but the pounding of her own heart.

"Xena?"

"Hmm?"

The warrior’s hand began to travel slowly along the bard’s calf while her lips teased the sensitive flesh of her lover’s breast.

"Ah-h, oh gods…Xena do you think…?"

The thumping grew louder.

The warrior’s hand slid along the inside of the bard’s thigh, lingering and stroking gently, teasingly.

"Mmm gods, yes that feels so good. But…."

A scurrying sound and another loud bang radiated down from above.

Xena’s hand finally found its mark and the bard groaned deeply, her head lolling backward.

Oh yea…Xena, ah yes…gods, I hope…"

Above them there was an instant of silence, followed by a muffled ‘oh no’, which in turn was followed by a loud cracking as the roof caved in and a flailing Amazon hit the floor beside the tub with a resounding thud.

"…the roof holds out," the bard said quietly as a cloud of dust and debris rained down and settled around them.

Xena and Gabrielle stared at each other in wide-eyed wonder for a moment before they simultaneously leaned out over the side of the tub and found themselves gazing into the face of a quite startled and dazed Deineris. The young Amazon blinked up at them, shook the dusty residue from her head, then smiled sheepishly.

"Brown!" Xena declared, abruptly shattering the silence that now hung in the air around them.

The bard glanced at her smirking partner inquiringly.

Xena’s smirk grew into a smug grin as she nodded toward Deineris.

"Her eyes…they’re brown."

Gabrielle shook her head in disbelief and reached for a towel.

"Deineris are you alright? Are you hurt?" the bard inquired as she quickly wrapped the towel around herself and exited the tub. She knelt down and started to check the young Amazon for injuries.

"My queen. I’m fine," Deineris said quietly as she struggled to her feet with the assistance of her queen. "But your roof…."

They all gazed upward at the gaping hole in the thatching above.

"How long will it take to fix that?" the bard asked.

"Well by the looks of it we’ll have to tear out the rest of that entire section. And then we’ll have to get the materials." Deineris hesitated, calculating. "I’d say we could have it done by tomorrow night."

"Can we stay here tonight?"

"Oh I wouldn’t recommend that my queen. That roof is obviously not very sturdy at present," the young Amazon said as she absently brushed a bit of crushed thatching from her shoulder.

"Hmm, obviously," Gabrielle mused aloud.

"I’d sure feel better if you stayed elsewhere this eve," Deineris continued.

"Well Gabrielle. It looks like we’ll be spending the night under the stars huh?" Xena quickly interjected while casting a smile and a wink to the bard. "Haven’t done that for a while, could be fun."

"Oh no! I’m sure there is another hut you two can…" Deineris exclaimed excitedly.

"That’s Ok Deineris, " Gabrielle interrupted as she gazed at Xena with a raised eyebrow and a knowing grin. "Xena and I will be fine out under the stars."

"Well alright. Is there anything I can do for you my queen?" Deineris quickly averted her eyes downward. "To make up for interrupting…ah, I mean for breaking your roof."

The bard and the warrior looked at each other momentarily in amused silence while the young Amazon fidgeted uncomfortably between them waiting for a response. It was Xena’s turn to raise an eyebrow. The silent communication was not lost on the bard. She smiled, grabbed a towel and tossed it at her. Xena proceeded to wrap herself in it and step out of the tub while the bard lay her hand upon Deineris’ shoulder and steered her toward the door.

"Actually, there is something you can do. You can tell the cook that we would like a picnic lunch and a wineskin readied." The bard hesitated and glanced back toward the warrior princess just as she was dropping her towel and reaching for a dry shift. The queen’s stomach fluttered at the sight. She quickly opened the door and gently pushed the young Amazon through it. "Oh, and please send word to Ephiny that we will be postponing the meeting until after the evening meal. Xena and I have some… rather urgent unfinished business to attend to."

*****

 

Gabrielle walked rapidly toward the communal kitchen, keeping her eyes to the ground and trying hard to avoid the faces of the grinning Amazons she passed along the way. Then she heard a snicker and stopped dead in her tracks.

"Alright, that’s it!" the queen shouted as she spun around to face the offending parties. "Xena and I had an accident, we fell in, we got wet, I lost my shirt, doesn’t matter in what order that all happened, end of story. Now don’t you all have something to do?!" She crossed her arms and stood glaring and stamping her toe on the ground to emphasize her impatience.

In the blink of an eye ten young Amazon warriors scattered leaving a startled and somewhat bemused Amazon queen in their wake. A smirk spread slowly across her face.

"Hmm didn't mean to scare them that bad. Hey, I’m liking this queen stuff more and more every da…." Turning around abruptly she ran face first into an armor breastplate.

"Ouch!" the bard exclaimed loudly, grabbing her nose and falling backward a step. She glared up at the warrior in startled disbelief.

"Xena, how long were you…? Oh never mind, come on." Grabbing the grinning warrior’s hand and nearly pulling her off her feet, they headed for the kitchen.

Entering the kitchen the bard glanced around and quickly located the picnic basket that had been prepared at her request. Xena grabbed the basket while Gabrielle picked up the wineskin and slung it over her shoulder. Then they slipped out the door and strolled leisurely into the woods arm in arm.

*****

Both the sun and the temperature were on the rise as Xena unfolded a blanket and lay it out on the grass beneath a sprawling oak tree in a flowery clearing near a stream. The bard reached up above her head to hang the wineskin from a low overhanging branch so it would be out of the way while they unpacked the basket. As the warrior bent over to smooth out the blanket she couldn’t help but stare spellbound at the elegantly tapered waistline and firmly muscled abdomen that stretched in front of her. Suddenly overcome with a need to touch this masterpiece of humanity she fell to her knees and pulled the bard to her, burying her face into the smaller woman’s taut midsection, and kissing her way across it from side to side.

Gabrielle sighed and reached down to run her fingers through the warrior's hair tenderly. Once again she was tingling from head to toe and felt a familiar sensation growing in the pit of her loins. "Sweet mother of Zeus, if I don’t get some relief soon I’m going to spontaneously combust."

"By the gods Xena, I need…" the bard hesitated, briefly interrupted by a telltale rumble erupting from her gut. "…food."

Xena pulled back and gazed up at the bard lovingly.

"Insatiable hunger; just one of the many, many things I love about you Gabrielle."

The bard grinned broadly. "Good thing you’re non-fattening Xena," she said as she sat down on the blanket and reached around the warrior to get the picnic basket. "Now let’s see what we have here."

The top of the basket was quickly tossed aside and Gabrielle studied the contents while the warrior studied her, memorizing and re-memorizing every delicate line and curve of her face and her….

"Oh I don’t believe it!"

Gabrielle’s agitated voice snapped the warrior immediately out of her reverie. She watched amusedly as the bard reached into the basket and pulled out a towel and then another, and then proceeded to wave them in her face.

"Son of a Bacchae Xena, does everyone in the village know?"

Xena grinned sheepishly. "It would seem so."

"Well I hope they soon get over it before I die from embarrassment," the bard said in exasperation as she tossed the towels aside and then dove back into the basket.

"Gabrielle, maybe we should thank our thoughtful cook for including those. I mean, we do have a tendency to get wet on occasion."

The bard stopped rummaging long enough to lean over and place a lingering kiss on the warrior’s lips.

"Hmmmm, can’t argue with that. Now let’s eat!"

Gabrielle made short work of unloading the remaining items from the basket. There was a small pot of elk stew, a loaf of bread, some cheese, a bit of nutbread, and several pieces of fruit. She grabbed a spoon and two bowls and quickly ladled a serving of the stew into each. Meanwhile Xena stood up to retrieve the wineskin and by the time she sat back down Gabrielle’s bowl was nearly empty. The warrior set the skin aside and picked up her own bowl, eating leisurely while she watched the bard consume a second bowl of stew, a piece of bread, a slice of cheese, a large piece of nutbread, and an apple. Xena shook her head in bemused silence. "How does she do that?"

Her stomach finally satiated the bard lay back onto the blanket and watched the warrior munching on an apple. A smile crept slowly across her face as she noted the way Xena licked her lips after every bite, seeming to savor the sweetness of the juicy remnants that lingered around her mouth. The bard’s heart skipped a beat. "She does that same thing when she…." She shivered with a sudden surge of desire. "Zeus! Here I go up in a cloud of smoke - - poof."

"Xena?"

"Hmmm?"

The warrior bit off the last of the fruit and tossed the core into the woods across the stream. Almost immediately an elk appeared and began nibbling at the remains.

"What’s for dessert?"

Xena detected the unmistakably lustful tone of the bard’s voice. She gazed thoughtfully at the elk for a moment then turned to meet her partner’s sultry gaze all the while considering her options. "Hmm, I’m thinking sweet…yea, very sweet," she mused as she leaned toward the bard, their lips drawing closer and closer, the air around them sizzling with sensual excitement. At the last moment the warrior’s eyebrow shot up and she leaned back. Picking up the wineskin, she grinned playfully at the bard.

"Wine my queen?"

Gabrielle’s expression was of disappointment and disbelief as she gazed at the warrior holding the wineskin in her hand. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Was Xena really missing the point here? "Ok, maybe I need a more direct approach," she pondered as she raised up on one elbow and rested her head in her hand, gazing longingly into Xena’s eyes and casting the warrior her best ‘come hither’ look.

"No thank you Xena. I was thinking of something more, ah…non-fattening." Upon uttering the word ‘non-fattening’ her voice lowered to a seductive lilt and she licked her lips seductively.

 

"Take that warrior princess," Gabrielle mused as she watched a flush crawl slowly up the warrior’s neck.

Xena flashed the bard a spellbinding smile as she suddenly stood, and without saying a word slowly and deliberately stripped away her armor, leathers, and underlying shift.

When the warrior was finally standing before her in nothing but a grin, Gabrielle held her breath and watched in awestruck wonder as Xena grabbed the wineskin again, raised it over her own chest, and poured a small stream of the sticky sweet liquid into her cleavage.

"Oops! Clumsy me," Xena said coyly. She shivered slightly as the cool liquid flowed down her frontal plane.

Gabrielle’s eyes followed the wine as it rolled tantalizingly down across the warrior’s stomach. Down, down it meandered, like a tiny red stream heading to an ocean of bliss, holding the bard in a hypnotic trance. Only when her head started to spin did she suddenly realize she had stopped breathing. Gasping loudly she sucked a large dose of life giving air back into her lungs and nearly averted a faint.

"Praise Dionysus!" Gabrielle exclaimed as she snapped out of her hypnosis, pulled the warrior down beside her, and immediately began lapping up the spilled nectar -- slowly following the trail down the warrior’s lean muscled body.

Xena moaned deeply as the bard’s tongue circled her naval. After a few moments she gently pulled the bard up from her eager wanderings and while holding the little one spellbound in her passionate gaze, deftly eased the bard’s top up over her head and without a thought tossed it back over her shoulder. It landed amidst a thick patch of thorny brambles.

Suddenly the bard found herself on her back with the warrior astride her, the wineskin poised in her hand and an impish gleam in her eye. Gabrielle sensed that a very pleasant sort of trouble was about to befall her.

"Hey now," she glared up at her attacker in mock defiance. "Just what are you planning to do with…oh dear gods!"

The wine rained down upon her; the bard felt its sticky wetness splaying across her chest and rolling down the sides of her neck and her stomach. She watched in erotically charged fascination as the warrior leaned down and began licking and sucking the liquid from her body. Slowly at first, then with ever-increasing intensity Xena worked to capture every drop, her tongue and lips flicking and devouring, leaving the bard’s flesh tingling and every inch of her body aching with desire.

Gabrielle threw her head back onto the blanket and closed her eyes. She was drowning in the raw sensuality of the moment and she didn’t care if she ever resurfaced. She knew she was going to go under for the last time a very, very satiated woman.

"Oh Xena, I never realized that wine could be so-o-o-o…intoxicating."

"Mmmm, I could drink of your sweetness all day," the warrior moaned as she leisurely kissed and suckled her way from one of the bard’s breast, through the valley between to the other and then lingered there, tasting and teasing.

"Ah-h-h, oh my…Xena?"

"Hmmm?"

"I think you missed a spot."

"Mmmm…."

"Uh-huh…a little more to the left." The bard reached up and clasped her fingers around the warrior’s head, guiding and urging her to continue. "Oh yea…yea, that’s it. Gods, that’s definitely it…."

Just then Gabrielle heard a twig snap to her left and opened her left eye a crack to see a small and quite curious elk gazing at them through the underbrush.

"Xena?"

"Hmm?" The warrior unfalteringly continued her erotic wanderings along the bard’s shoulder and up the side of her neck.

"We’ve got company," Gabrielle declared breathlessly and then closed her eye again and groaned deeply when Xena took her earlobe between her lips and lightly manipulated it with her tongue.

"Uh-huh, he’s probably attracted by the smell of the apples," Xena said as she released the bard’s lobe and began kissing and tasting her way along her chin and then down the opposite side of her neck. "If it makes you uncomfortable to have an audience…I could stop."

"NO!"

Gabrielle quickly threw her arms around the warrior’s shoulders, digging her nails in and holding her lover close - - captive to her rapidly intensifying need.

"Uh-uh…oh no. Don’t you dare stop warrior," she insisted through rasping and rapid breaths. Xena pulled back and they gazed into one another eyes for a moment before their mouths hungrily sought out a sultry connection.

As they devoured each other’s lips, passionately probing and maneuvering with their tongues, Xena’s hand snaked slowly down along Gabrielle’s side and began releasing the belt holding the bard’s skirt in place. She quickly undid the restricting article, deftly removed it from her lover’s hips, and casually flung it into the air to her right. The bard’s undergarment was simply torn away and discarded as a tattered rag. Then the warrior’s hand returned and started a slow, meandering ascent up the inside of the bard’s thigh.

Throughout this rapturous moment, neither woman noticed the flailing of the startled young elk as it thrashed about in the underbrush, having suddenly found itself blinded by the piece of cloth that had caught in its antlers and fluttered down over its eyes. After much tossing and twisting of its head, the animal finally stumbled off into the thicket never to be seen again, the piece of cloth dangling from its left antler and fluttering wildly in the breeze.

"Mmmmm…Xena? "

 

"Yes my love?"

"Did you hear something?"

"Only the beating of my heart Gabrielle."

The warrior’s hand slid higher and higher while her lips once again sought out the soft and fully aroused flesh of the bard’s breasts.

Gabrielle reached out with her hand and grasped the blanket beneath her, gripping it between her fingers as though holding on to it would keep her from falling into the precipice she suddenly found herself teetering on. She didn’t want to fall so soon; no she wanted it to last, she wanted to savor it. But it had been so long with too much pent-up need. Her grip was slipping.

"Gods…Xena I’m so clo…"

The warrior’s hand slid home and Gabrielle arched her back into it. Her mind was saying hold on but her body had other plans, and as hard as she tried to stave it off, as much as she wanted to savor the moment, she was about to tumble into a much-needed release. "Oh Hades, just go with it Gabrielle."

"Yes…oh yes…oh gods Xena, yes…"

Just as the bard was about to let go and start her free fall into the sea of sexual bliss the warrior suddenly raised her head and became still as stone, her ear cocked to the slight breeze that whirled about them, listening. Not a muscle twitched in her entire body.

Gabrielle’s eyes flew open and she stared in disbelief as her own body literally quivered at the edge.

"Zeus warrior! What are you doing?" she exclaimed in frustration and tried to draw the warrior’s lips back to her flesh.

"S-h-h Gabrielle. What’s that?" Xena continued to listen intently to the air around them. There it was again -- a very faint, barely audible humming. "Do you hear that?"

The bard listened for a moment and heard nothing. The aching in her loins easily overrode her reason and convinced her that the warrior had simply heard another passing woodland creature that’s all. "Hear this warrior, I’m going to self-destruct here if I don’t get some relief." She began to slowly move her hips, undulating and pleasuring herself against the warrior’s hand, which remained suspended between her legs. Almost instantly she found herself teetering at the precipice once again while Xena remained transfixed elsewhere.

"Mmmm…Xena…it’d be nice if…ah gods…you’d be present…when I…when I co…"

The warrior abruptly removed her hand from between Gabrielle’s legs and slapped it over the bard’s mouth. Her eyes were intently scanning the tree above them.

"S-h-h-h!"

Out of sheer frustration Gabrielle promptly bit her finger forcing Xena to quickly remove the offending appendage from her mouth. The warrior shook her hand in pain but never took her eyes off a spot somewhere high above their heads.

"Xena! What in tartarus…?

Just then the bard heard it to - - a faint humming that was getting louder with each passing moment. Only it wasn’t quite a hum it was starting to sound more like….

"Buzzing? Hey, what’s that buzzing? Xena?"

The bard watched the warrior’s eyes suddenly become the size of centaur dung as she stared up into the tree. Gabrielle followed her gaze until it came to rest on a large round gray colored mass. The mass, which surely should have been inanimate, seemed to be alive with movement.

"Gabrielle. Stay calm and don’t move." The warrior’s voice was barely a whisper. "Do bees like wine?"

Gabrielle continued to study the mass intently.

"I think they’re attracted to most anything sweet," she replied softly, then shivered slightly when she realized she was covered in a veritable bee smorgasbord. "My gods, I’m bee bait." Xena’s next words did nothing to allay her rising fear of being eaten alive.

"Well my sweetness, I think we’ve got double trouble then," the warrior whispered as she slowly maneuvered herself off of the bard and readied herself for a mad dash to - - where? Where does one dash to in the event of being surrounded by hungry bees? This was one enemy the warrior princess wasn’t absolutely sure how to deal with. She glanced around her and spied the stream. Just maybe if they could make it to the water….

Suddenly, as though someone had flipped a lever releasing them from the starting gate, a cloud of venomous winged insects dove out of the hive and quickly enveloped the hapless warrior and her equally ill-fated bard. The two women sprang to their feet swinging and swatting violently.

"Ack! Ow! Xena?!"

"Gabrielle run!"

"Ouch! Damn it!"

"Run woman!!!"

The bard was dancing and flailing about wildly and barely noticed when her hand connected with a loud smack against the side of Xena’s face. Unfazed, the warrior leapt into action. In one smooth motion she lifted the bard, deftly flung her over her shoulder, and sprinted toward the stream. The next thing Gabrielle knew she was flying through the air and for the second time this day, found herself hovering briefly in time over a rather chilly looking body of water. She casually swatted a bee from her arm and managed to draw a deep breath before the water enveloped her with its frosty arms.

*****

Ephiny was just returning to the village from the sparring practice fields. When the queen postponed their earlier meeting the regent had suddenly found herself with more free time then she had expected. So to pass the candle marks until the evening meal she had decided to show some of the younger warriors a few of her patented defensive tactics for using the staff as a weapon.

As she stepped back out of the armory having returned her staff, the regent halted in her tracks upon seeing almost the entirety of the village gawking at her; or rather she suddenly realized, something behind her. They were all attempting to hide their growing smiles but failing miserably. Without even turning around she sensed that her queen had returned. And when the snickering masses quickly departed and disappeared as if into thin air leaving her standing quite alone in the middle of the courtyard, she knew the queen’s champion had also returned.

 

"Oh no, not again."

The regent closed her eyes and sighed deeply, gathering her composure before she turned around.

There they were, two wretched-looking huddled masses beneath a single blanket. The queen was clothed in a small white towel that barely concealed all of her physical assets. Both were dripping wet except Xena’s leathers seemed dry. And the warrior had the beginnings of an ugly looking purplish colored bruise on her cheek. Ephiny’s eyebrow arched in wonder at the mystery of it all.

The regent quickly averted her eyes from the warrior’s icy blue gaze to the shredded piece of cloth the queen held in her hands. It appeared to be the top Gabrielle had been wearing when Ephiny had last spied the couple slipping into the woods earlier. The article looked as though the claws of some griffin-like beast had raked it repeatedly. Then she noticed a single large thorn protruding from the cloth and several light scratches along the queen’s forearms. The corners of the regent’s lips quivered as she fought back the smile that once again threatened to betray her.

"Ephiny?"

The regent was stirred from her musings and finally allowed her eyes to meet those of her queen. It was then that she noticed several tiny welts on Gabrielle’s forehead and neck. She studied them carefully. "Bees??"

"Yes my queen?" the regent responded as stoically as possible.

"Would you mind if Xena and I were to borrow your hut for about an hour to take a bath and…"

"Please, take as long as you need," Ephiny quickly interjected. "I’ll have some water brought round."

"Thank you," the bard said softly, her voice quaking slightly as she reached out and gently touched the regent’s arm. "Eph, you are a good friend."

The poor girl looked as though she had been through Tartarus and back and Ephiny couldn’t help but wonder what happenstance had brought her queen before her soaked, shivering, and disheveled for the second time today. She watched in wonder as Gabrielle and the warrior sullenly turned and started toward her hut.

Suddenly the queen stopped and turned back while Xena kept moving away.

"Ephiny you’re not having your roof fixed today are you?" Gabrielle said, the corners of her mouth turning upward ever so slightly.

The regent relaxed enough to return a grin but kept an eye on the retreating warrior just in case she turned back suddenly.

"No, I don’t think you’ll be interrupted again," she replied with a wink.

Gabrielle smiled broadly and trotted off after the warrior, swatting the tall one on the butt as she sped by her and quickly disappeared into the regent’s hut.

Ephiny’s grin broadened into a smile. She called for Eponin who had been hiding behind a nearby hut, peaking out every once in a while to see if the warrior princess had departed the scene. Upon hearing the regent’s call she immediately rushed to her friend’s side.

"Yea Ephiny, what can I do?"

"Ep, Queen Gabrielle will be using my hut for a candle mark or so. It is absolutely imperative that she and her champion are not disturbed during their stay."

Eponin grinned and nodded her head affirmatively.

"Of course, I’ll see to it."

The regent continued quietly. "And if you see Solari lurking around here somewhere would you tell her the bear is in the cave so it’s safe to come out now, and the queen needs some water heated for a bath."

Eponin cast the regent a wry grin.

"Certainly. Bear, cave, water…got it."

Eponin trotted off toward the last know location of Solari and the regent headed toward the communal kitchen. She intended to instruct the cook to make some more nutbread, the queen’s favorite, as well as some of those odd pastries with the red stuff inside that the warrior seemed to like so much. Anything to appease that one so she’d finally stop with ‘the look’; it was making everyone, including the regent herself, a bit nervous. As she neared the kitchen door another thought suddenly occurred to her and she stopped. She turned and called out after the retreating Eponin.

"Hey Ep?"

Eponin came to a halt mid-stride and midway across the courtyard.

"Yea Eph?"

"Would you also see to it that some candles are sent over to my hut as soon as possible?"

Eponin grinned and cast the regent a knowing wink as she trotted off to find Solari, gather some recruits to carry water, and fetch some candles for her queen. This was turning out to be a very interesting day in this normally humdrum village, quite interesting indeed. Her grin exploded into a soft chuckle.

Gabrielle lay calmly beside the fire in the regent’s hut and watched the warrior pacing back and forth. She was beginning to fear Xena would soon wear a rut in the wooden floor.

"Xena, please try to relax."

The warrior stopped and glanced at the bard for a moment then shook her head and continued pacing, her agitation seeming to grow with every long stride.

"I’m telling you Gabrielle, there’s something going on here."

"Xena, there’s nothing going on, no conspiracy. We’re just experiencing a string of bad luck."

"Ah no, uh-uh. This has got nothing to do with luck Gabrielle." Xena shook her head in disbelief. "It’s got to be the work of some…some…some god. Oh no, everything happens for a reason, either we make it happen or the gods make it happen. And I know I had no desires to go for a cold dip twice in one day, get attacked by tiny winged demons, or have an Amazon fall through the roof nearly landing on my head. All I desired was…." She paused momentarily to glance at the bard again, her gaze travelling slowly and wantonly from Gabrielle’s feet up to her head. She sighed and began pacing again as she continued. "So that leaves either a god or you, and I don’t think…."

Gabrielle raised up onto her elbow and rested her head in her hand as she listened to the normally stoic warrior princess rant on. A smile slowly crept across her face as she realized that the warrior was just as frustrated as she was. They both needed the same thing and she could feel in her heart, not to mention her loins, that no god or amount of bad luck was going to keep them from that for long. "If at first you don’t succeed…" she mused. But in the meantime she had a very on-edge warrior princess to deal with. She quickly interjected.

"Ok warrior, and what god would do this? What’s the motivation? What’s the reason?"

Xena stopped pacing and appeared deeply thoughtful for a moment. Gabrielle sighed.

"I haven’t figured that out yet, but when I do I’ll…."

The warrior’s thought was abruptly interrupted by a knock at the door.

Gabrielle sat up and snugged the towel tighter around her body.

"Yes?"

"My queen, it’s Solari. We’ve got your water."

The bard stood up and crossed the room to allow the Amazons entrance. Xena went back to pacing.

"Warrior, would you ple-e-ase relax," Gabrielle pleaded softly as she opened the door.

This time it was the bard who jumped back out of the way as a team of Amazon warriors flew into the room with buckets of steaming water in hand. This being the second time they’d been called upon to do this today they were well rehearsed in the act. Get in, get out, avoid the warrior, and stay alive. Bringing up the rear was Solari, the team leader, who as she entered quickly glanced over her shoulder and smiled politely at the queen. Unfortunately she chose a most inopportune time to do so because as she turned back around she ran directly into a pacing warrior princess and the bucket of water in her hand spilled down the front of Xena’s legs, soaking into her boots.

The room immediately went silent, no one moved, no one dared. Solari closed her eyes and cast a silent prayer to the Goddess Artemis. Xena stared down at her boots in disbelief. Gabrielle stared at Xena in quiet discomfort. The Amazons all held their breath, waiting.

After a few moments of thick tension that could have easily been sliced with a knife the bard finally decided to break the silence.

"Xena, please stay calm and don’t…."

The warrior threw her hand up gesticulating for the bard to stop speaking. Her eyes never left her sopping boots. A hush once again fell over the room.

"Solari…" Xena said quietly, her voice low and menacing.

Solari cringed, slowly opened her eyes, and was immediately captured by the warrior’s penetrating gaze. Survival options began running through the Amazon’s brain in a dizzying whirl: apologize, run, stay quiet, faint and play dead, or die. When she got to the last she shuddered and quickly opted for the first. After all, a condemned was always granted some last words, it was the Amazon way. And although Xena wasn’t a true Amazon she would abide by their laws. Oh, and maybe if she chose her words carefully she could talk the warrior out of….

Xena suddenly raised her hand to rest it on Solari’s shoulder and the Amazon warrior fainted outright, falling with a thud into the puddle of water at Xena’s feet. Throughout the entire time Solari had been weighing her survival options she’d forgotten the most important - - breathing. Upon hitting the floor her lungs quickly expanded filling with air and a loud unconscious gasp escaped her.

Gabrielle rushed to the fallen Amazon’s side, quickly gauged her condition to be non-life threatening, then glared up at Xena.

"Xena, you promised to stop sneering my Amazon’s into submission. Now look, you nearly scared her to death."

"Wait a minute Gabrielle, I never…I didn’t…I was going to…oh never mind." The warrior walked over and slumped into a chair by the fire, crossing her arms in an exasperated huff.

Gabrielle beckoned toward several of the cowering young Amazons and they scurried over to where their team leader was just starting to stir and regain consciousness. They carefully picked her up and quickly whisked her toward the door just as Eponin arrived on the scene with a handful of candles.

A bewildered expression captured the newest arrival’s face immediately upon seeing her fallen comrade. Eponin glanced inquiringly, first at the queen who seemed to have a rather bemused expression, and then at the warrior who was starting to unlace her boots. She could not fight a smile as she watched Xena lift one of her boots off her foot and dump a small stream of water out onto the floor in front of her. "Yep, so much for humdrum," Eponin mused. Then suddenly the warrior’s piercing blue eyes met hers and her smile faded into a pure expression of dread.

"What!?" Xena shouted and tossed her boot onto the hearth as she glared at the Amazon.

"C-c-candles for the queen."

Eponin stuttered and held the candles up in front of her face to block out and release herself from the view of those penetrating blue orbs.

Gabrielle quickly stepped between them and grabbed the candles from Eponin’s trembling hands. The queen’s soft voice was reassuring in its tone as she set the candles on the table next to her and gently steered the startled Amazon toward the door.

"Thank you Ep. You’ve been such a big help today. Xena and I will not be needing anything else right now. See you at dinner?"

Eponin shook her head affirmatively and then hesitated just outside the doorway. She glanced back over her shoulder at the warrior who was still scowling and busily shaking water out of her second boot.

"Queen Gabrielle, if I may?" Eponin inquired in a hushed voice.

"Yea Ep?"

"I detect a bit of frustration and agitation in your warrior?"

"Uh-hum could be." The queen smiled and blushed slightly.

Eponin returned the smile and winked.

"Then my queen, you will be needing a guard posted at this door to ensure that you are not disturbed the rest of the afternoon. I’ll see to it."

Gabrielle patted the Amazon on the shoulder and closed the door. When she turned around Xena was nowhere to be seen.

"Xena?"

There was no answer. She glanced around the room again and suddenly her eyes fell upon the warrior’s armor and leathers lying in a heap on the floor next to the hearth.

"Wait a minute. Where would she go without…?"

Suddenly she detected a movement in the area of the regent’s large wooden bathing tub. She approached it slowly.

"Xena?"

Still no answer but her ears did detect the faintest sound of bubbles rising to and breaking on the surface of the water. She warily leaned over the side and gazed into the tub.

Without warning the warrior rose up out of the water and grabbed the bard behind the neck nearly pulling her in headfirst. Their lips met in an instantly inflamed and passionate kiss that lasted for several moments until Xena broke away abruptly but kept the bard captured in her fiery gaze.

"Alright Gabrielle," she declared breathlessly. "No more bad luck, no more Amazons, no more winged invaders, no more godly interference…let’s do it! Right now, right here! Before I kill someone. Gods I need you!"

Gabrielle felt a fiery flush crawl slowly upward from her toes to her head upon hearing the warrior’s impassioned plea. Her heart fluttered, her stomach lurched, her breathing was inspired to the point of hyperventilation, and she was instantly insane with desire.

"Yes!" she shouted and ripped the towel from around her body, tossing it wantonly aside as she literally dove into the tub to join her warrior. She resurfaced from under the water and immediately her hands were darting everywhere along the length of Xena’s body, kneading here and teasing there. Their lips found each other again.

Xena pulled the bard into her so that the little one was straddling her hips. Her hands rested on the sides of Gabrielle’s hips pulling her as close as she could, wanting and needing to meld into her as though they were one. She moaned deeply when she felt the bard begin to move against her in a rhythmically slow and sensual undulation. She lifted her hand and dropped it down between them, running it slowly down along the bard’s abdomen. When it reached the apex between her thighs she shuddered with ecstasy at finding the bard so…ready.

Gabrielle tossed her head back and shouted to the ceiling, "Gods yes, do it Xena!"

Standing a few feet away from the regent’s hut Eponin was at first startled to hear the loud splashing and shouting that was radiating from within. But when the realization of what it meant finally struck her she smiled. "Hmm, maybe we’ll have a peaceful evening meal after all." Just then she caught site of Ephiny walking across the courtyard and flashed her a thumbs-up sign. Ephiny returned the gesture with a broad and knowing grin.

Xena’s fingers found their way home and suddenly the room erupted into a din of splashing water, rocking and creaking wood, feral groaning, and crackling flames.

"Oh…my…gods!"

"Mmmm Gabrielle, you’re so-o-o hot!"

The splashing and creaking and crackling grew more intense.

Outside the hut Eponin blushed at the sounds her ears were picking up.

"Xena, I’m so...I’m so…I’m on…fire!"

Suddenly the bard jumped up and scrambled out of the tub splashing water in the warrior’s face and leaving her hanging mid-thrust and in a confused daze.

"Pffft." The warrior sputtered. "Gabrielle, what…??"

"FIRE!!! Xena the hut is on fire!"

At the sound of her partner’s frantic voice the warrior sprang to her feet and spun around just in time to see the bard pulling her leathers and boots out of the rising inferno near the hearth. The hearth itself was almost totally engulfed in flame. She looked around frantically, searching for some means to douse the fire when Eponin came crashing through the door.

"Hey, I smelled smoke. What’s going…?" Frantically Eponin ran back to the door and shouted out. "FIRE!!"

Within moments the entirety of the village was either inside or just outside the tiny hut swatting and stamping at the flames but to no avail, the flames kept building.

Xena shouted as loud as she could over the din, "Water! We need water!"

Suddenly all eyes were trained on the naked warrior princess standing in the middle of a large tub of just the thing they needed to conquer this beast. Xena glanced down at the tub, looked back up at the rapidly approaching mob, shrugged, and grinned sheepishly. Without a word they deftly pulled the tub out from under her and she landed as a flailing mass in the middle of the floor on her bum.

The fire was quickly doused with the water from the tub and the resulting steam filled the hut. Gabrielle ran to the fallen warrior grabbing a blanket off of the bed as she flew by it. She knelt down and quickly wrapped the blanket around them both. They sat quietly watching, Xena absently rubbing her butt, as barely visible forms moved in and out of the mist near the badly scorched hearth and surrounding wall. Suddenly from out of the fog a recognizable figure appeared carrying the charred remains of a towel.

"Gabrielle. Xena. You all right?" the regent stared down at the warrior and the bard in shock and disbelief.

"Yea Ephiny. I’m so sorry," Gabrielle said softly, quickly lowering her eyes to the floor.

Xena seemed to be staring with unseeing eyes right through the regent toward the smoldering remains of the hearth.

The regent brought her hand up to cover her mouth. Despite the fact that her hut was nearly burned to the ground, once she knew her friends were all right, she couldn’t stop the laughter that was bubbling up inside her at the sight of these two ill-fated lovers huddled once again under a blanket.

At the sound of the regent’s gentle chortling the bard glanced up at her. She noted the remains of the towel in the regent’s hand, the smoldering hearth, then looked over at Xena who was still absently rubbing her rear end. Suddenly she couldn’t hold back either and broke into hearty laughter. Xena stared at them both blankly for a moment then her face suddenly contorted into a grimace.

Seeing the look of pain on the warrior’s face immediately startled the bard out of her laughing fit. She grabbed Xena’s face in her hands and gazed worriedly into her eyes.

"Xena? What’s wrong?"

The warrior gazed at her vacantly then muttered under her breath, "I’ve got a splinter in my ass."

The sound of raucous laughter emanating from the regent’s still smoldering hut could be heard throughout the village. Things were starting to calm down and preparations for the evening meal had begun. Everyone was hoping this lightheartedness was a good sign that things would finally be getting back to normal. Eponin in particular was suddenly wishing for a return of the humdrum.

*****

Eponin and Solari were seated next to one another at the table with Ephiny seated across from them. They were all involved in a lively chat when the door to the dining area opened and a long shadow was cast over the table in front of them. Without looking up they new who it was.

Solari gasped. Eponin leaned over toward her and whispered softly, "Just remember to breathe this time."

Solari cast her friend a sideways sneer.

Ephiny turned toward the doorway and smiled.

"Xena. Please sit down."

The warrior’s piercing eyes met Solari’s as she carefully eased herself down into the chair next to the regent.

Eponin reached over and poked Solari squarely in the ribs eliciting a startled inhalation of air.

"Just checking," Eponin said with a playful grin then turned her attention to the warrior princess. She supposed from the sounds she’d heard radiating from the regent’s hut earlier that it may be alright to take a poke in that direction as well. The warrior was after all, usually rather fun loving when she wasn’t so…frustrated.

"So Xena? Did you get that splinter out of your ass?" she inquired with a wry smile.

Before anyone could blink Xena was leaning over the table and had her hands wrapped around Eponin’s throat. Ephiny jumped up, threw her arms around the warrior’s waist and desperately tried to pull her away while Solari tried to pry her hands from her startled friend’s windpipe.

"Ack…ack…Xe…na…ack, I can’t…ack…breathe…" Eponin wrestled with the warrior’s arms trying to fend her off. The three woman were making little headway when the door floor open behind them.

"XENA!"

Gabrielle lunged for the warrior and ducked under one of her outstretched arms to take up a position in between her and the table. She grasped Xena’s face in her hands and drew her eyes down toward her. The bard shivered upon seeing the fire that resided there.

"Xena! Let her go."

The warrior looked at the bard but didn’t seem to be seeing her. Gabrielle wrapped her hands around Xena’s head and pulled her down to her. She began placing light kisses along the line of the warrior’s jaw and almost immediately felt her begin to relax.

"Xena, please let her go," she murmered softly into the warrior’s ear as her lips tenderly grazed her neck.

Xena’s hands suddenly dropped from around Eponin’s throat and came to rest around the bard’s waist drawing her close. Their lips met in an impassioned kiss.

Eponin quickly drew a deep breath and then stumbled backward into Solari’s arms. Solari lead her friend back to her chair, allowed her to settle into it, and then promptly reached down and poked her in the ribs. Eponin jumped and looked at her inquiringly.

"Just reminding you to breathe," Solari said with a gleam in her eye.

Ephiny stood with her arms crossed watching Eponin and Solari in amused silence then turned her attention back toward the warrior and the bard who were still engaged in a sultry kiss.

"Ahem." The regent cleared her throat loudly.

Gabrielle broke away and swooned slightly before turning her attention toward Ephiny.

"Queen Gabrielle, may I have a word?"

The bard glanced at Xena who seemed to be calmly glaring at the two Amazon’s across the table from her. But even thought there was a glare the fire seemed to have died down. Maybe it was safe.

"Xena?"

"Hmm?" the warrior responded without taking her eyes off of Solari and Eponin.

"Will you be Ok?"

"Yea, I’m fine," Xena replied in a surprisingly light tone.

The bard reached up and placed a lingering kiss on the warrior’s cheek.

"Please don’t kill anyone while I’m gone," she said softly and then turned her attention toward Eponin and Solari. "You two just don’t move, and don’t speak. Ok?"

The Amazons shook their heads in concurrence without taking their eyes off the glaring menace across from them.

Ephiny placed her arm over the bard’s shoulder and led her toward the corner of the room.

"Gabrielle, um…I take it that you two haven’t been able to…."

"Yes, I mean no…I mean…well, yes and no." The bard blushed slightly. "Not to fruition."

"Ah huh, I see." Ephiny began rubbing her chin thoughtfully. "And this is enough to set Xena off like that?"

Gabrielle glanced over at the warrior who was now sitting down but still glaring at Solari and Eponin. They looked like they hadn’t moved a muscle, quite resembling statues.

"Ephiny, you’ve known Xena and I a long time right?" Gabrielle said as she shook her head and turned back toward the regent.

"Yes Gabrielle, I have."

"And you knew how tortured we both were before we finally came to our senses and admitted how we truly felt for one another. Right?"

"Yes, for years you wanted each other desperately but wouldn’t admit it. But what…?"

"Eph, take all those years of torture and compact them into a span of a few candle marks. It’s like if you take a…a pig’s bladder and fill it with air. If you pinch the openings shut and squeeze it hard enough what happens?"

"It pops?"

"Ok maybe not the greatest of analogies. I was thinking more along the lines of something bigger like…it explodes. You know, from the pressure building up inside due to the outside pressure being too strong. And the more air you put inside, the less pressure it takes from outside and the louder the…pop."

"Ah, I see. So when you two came back soaking wet this morning…?

"Yea, wetter than wet but not totally satia…ah, saturated."

"And later with the towel and the tattered remnants and the welts…?"

"Wine, wet, sweet, bees, wet, thorns…nope."

"And the fire in my hut?"

"Hot, hot, hot. Never did put it out."

"Gabrielle."

"Yea Eph?"

"We need to pop this bladder before it really explodes."

They both looked over toward the table just as Xena calmly reached across for a pastry and Solari and Eponin scrambled and fell backward out of their chairs with a loud thud. Xena grinned with pleasure and popped the pastry into her mouth.

Ephiny grabbed Gabrielle’s arm and started toward the back door.

"Gabrielle, let’s go for a walk around. I wanted to check the borders and I’ve got an idea."

The bard turned around and shouted across the dining area.

"Xena, I’ll be back…be good."

The warrior smiled and waved her hand then abruptly reached across the table for another pastry just as Solari and Eponin were picking themselves up off the floor. They both hit the door running and never slowed down until they had reached the other side of the village. Xena leaned back into her chair and smirked contentedly.

*****

Gabrielle returned about a candlemark later to find Xena in the stable brushing Argo. She entered quietly, stealthily came up behind her, and quickly wrapped her arms around the warrior’s waist.

"Mmmm Xena, I’ve missed you."

"I’ve missed you to Gabrielle."

Xena continued to run the brush along the mare’s back in long strokes.

"Kill anyone while I was gone?" the bard inquired playfully.

"Nope, just roughed em up a little."

"Uh-huh."

Gabrielle released her hold around Xena’s waist and walked up to rub her hand over Argo’s velvety soft muzzle. She watched the warrior’s hand slide over the mare’s coat feeling for any roughness that would need to be brushed out. Suddenly she longed to feel that hand upon her own body, needed to feel it, ached to feel it….

"Mmm, smoothing out my rough spots," she said softly not even realizing she was speaking out loud.

"Love to," Xena said quietly with a wry grin.

"What?"

"Love you."

"Love you to Xena. Want to go for a ride?"

"Thought you’d never ask," Xena said as she leaned over and lightly kissed the bard’s forehead.

The warrior tossed the brush aside, grabbed the saddle, and placed it on Argo’s back. When the saddle was cinched in place Gabrielle picked up the bridle and handed it to Xena, carefully untangling the reins as she did so.

With Argo quickly saddled they headed outside and nearly ran over Eponin on her way in to the stable to feed the horses. The Amazon jumped backward out of the way and stared at the warrior with extreme trepidation the story in her eyes.

Xena smiled at her broadly.

"Eponin."

"Xena." The Amazon responded dryly, trying to keep her voice steady.

"Beautiful evening isn’t it?"

Eponin’s expression started to relax from trepidation into bewilderment.

"Y-yes. It is."

Xena looked down at the bard and grinned broadly.

"Beautiful woman isn’t she?"

Eponin finally relaxed enough to allow a tentative smile to capture her lips.

"Yes Xena. Yes she is."

The warrior quickly mounted Argo and pulled the bard up behind her into the saddle. As she spurred the mare into a canter she called out over her shoulder.

"Hey Ep."

"Yea."

"Don’t wait up."

Eponin watched the pair ride off into the rapidly approaching night, her smile broadening with every stride of the mighty golden-colored horse. "Welcome back humdrum," she said quietly, sighed deeply, and then walked into the stable.

*****

They rode in silence for nearly a half candlemark. The night sky was rapidly filling with stars and the moon had risen into a bright full ball illuminating everything around them in a silvery glow. The air was beginning to chill and the bard had her arms wrapped tightly around the warrior’s waist with her face burrowed into the softness of her dark mane. She was enjoying their simple closeness. For now it was all she needed. For now….

"Xena, let’s check out the border near the big rock."

"The rock that looks like a giant turtle?"

"Yea."

"Why?"

"I told Ephiny I would check it out then compare it to what is laid out in the new agreement. We want to be sure before we seal it tomorrow." She paused and cleared her throat. "You know, we want to have all the rough parts smoothed out so we can see it to absolute fruition."

The warrior pondered the bard’s words and the way her voice dropped to a husky almost lustful drawl when she talked about smoothing out the rough spots. The words and the tone sounded very familiar.

"Alright Gabrielle."

Xena grinned as she urged the mare once again into a smooth canter. She definitely had a sense that there was more to this border story than the bard was revealing. It aroused her curiosity, not to mention other parts of her as well, and she figured she’d play along to see where this would take them.

After riding for about another quarter of a mark, the warrior slowed Argo to a walk and they entered the thick woods near the border. Suddenly, a flickering light could be seen radiating from somewhere near the big rock and Xena brought Argo to an abrupt halt.

"Xena, why are we stopping?"

"Light up ahead."

"Yea, shouldn’t we check it out."

"Could be trouble," the warrior replied as she slid quietly down off Argo’s back.

"But Xena I don’t think it’s…."

"S-h-h Gabrielle, you stay here."

Xena drew her sword and started toward the light.

The bard quickly scrambled down to the ground and grabbed the warrior’s arm stopping her mid-stride.

"No Xena, we need to go together," she pleaded softly.

The warrior hesitated, then turned around and flashed the bard a seductive smile as she sheathed her sword and wrapped her arms around her waist pulling her close.

"No Gabrielle, don’t you mean you want to come with me?"

The bard’s mouth fell open in disbelief.

"How did you know?"

"How did I know you want to come with me?"

"No how’d you know about the camp that Eph set up?"

"Wasn’t sure until now…a camp huh?"

"Oh Xena!"

"Sorry, had to be sure there really wasn’t trouble up ahead."

Gabrielle grabbed Xena’s face in her hands and drew her down toward her. Her lips gently grazed the warrior’s chin and lingered on her neck before she pulled away and gazed longingly into the warrior’s sparkling blue eyes.

"Oh but there is trouble up ahead," she whispered ardently. "You ready for it warrior princess?"

"Gabrielle, you know trouble gets my juices flowing."

"Counting on it," the bard said as she grabbed the warrior’s hand and urged her toward the light ahead.

They entered the camp slowly, both of them marveling at what the regent had thrown together for them in such a short span of time. In the middle of the large clearing a tent had been set up and candle flames could be seen flickering within it. There was also a fire burning outside and in the light they could make out a garland of spring flowers draped over the entrance to the tent. The aromatic scent of the flowers was thick in the air around them. As they drew closer two Amazon sentries quickly leapt to their feet from a seated position beside the fire and took their posts at either side of the entrance. Xena immediately recognized one of them as Solari. She approached the Amazon immediately. Gabrielle stood back and watched their interaction with quiet concern, placing a hand soothingly on Xena’s arm.

"Solari."

"Xena." The Amazon studied the trunk of a tree in front of her. She could not bring herself to meet the warrior’s gaze.

"Here for the duration?" Xena inquired stoically.

"Yes, regent’s orders. For the greater Amazon good, absolutely no disturbances should befall the queen and her champion tonight."

Xena smirked and studied Solari’s face intently for a moment. Her eyebrow suddenly shot up.

"You volunteer?"

"Yes."

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. Then Xena placed her hand on the Amazon’s shoulder; her voice had a much lighter lilt when she spoke.

"Thank you. Wouldn’t want it any other way."

Solari finally allowed her eyes to fall on the warrior’s grinning face. She smiled broadly.

Xena reached over to grasp the bard’s hand. As they started toward the entrance to the tent she hesitated and turned back.

"Oh Solari."

"Yea."

"Don’t forget to breathe."

"No problem.…" The Amazon glanced at her queen who was looking absolutely radiant and alluring as she gazed longingly up at her champion. Solari grinned at Xena and quickly added, "…same to you warrior."

Xena winked and turned back toward the bard. As the two entered the tent arm in arm Solari was sure she heard the warrior say "brown". In puzzled silence the Amazon warrior and her companion wandered toward the fire, sat down, and settled in for a long night.

*****

Gabrielle glanced around the interior of the tent, momentarily admired the candles and the way they highlighted the warrior’s baby blues, then began quickly disrobing. Before Xena could blink the bard had her boots off and was starting on the rest of her attire. To the warrior she seemed a bit too much in a hurry and slightly agitated.

"Gabrielle?"

The bard continued her frenzied disrobing, her eyes occasionally darting suspiciously around the tent. She pulled her top over her head and tossed it aside, being careful not to let it land anywhere near a candle flame.

Xena abruptly reached over and pulled the bard into her arms, holding her close.

"Gabrielle, slow down will you. We’ve got all night."

Gabrielle slowly relaxed into the warrior’s arms, sighing deeply and snuggling her face into Xena’s neck.

"I…I guess I’m just worried. With everything we’ve been through today…." she said quietly.

Xena kissed the top of the bard’s head and then gently pushed her out to arm length while gazing deeply into her eyes.

"We’ve got a roof and walls, we’ve got two of your finest Amazons right outside, solid ground under our feet, and bees don’t come out after dark." She smiled reassuringly. "Gabrielle, we’ve got all night."

The bard returned the smile and then wrapped her arms lovingly around Xena’s neck. She moaned deeply as she felt the warrior’s hands trail slowly downward along her body and then deftly remove her skirt. Her own hands slid down along Xena’s shoulders and then around her sides to release the warrior’s armor breastplate. Their eyes were locked in a fervent stare, holding each other captive and captivated until the final article of clothing had been discarded. Only then did they release each other and begin to ardently survey each other’s bodies in the warm candlelit glow. They stayed that way for a long while, caressing each other tenderly and appreciatively without moving a muscle.

*****

Outside the tent the two Amazons were busy making tea and trying hard not to stare at the scene unfolding before them in silhouette through the thin skinned sides of the tent.

*****

Gabrielle reached out to bridged the gap between herself and the warrior. Slowly, with the tips of her fingers barely grazing the skin, she slid her hand downward starting at Xena’s chin and tracing a sensuous line to just below the warrior’s naval. Her fingers lingered there, leisurely moving in a circular motion, barely touching…teasing. She watched as the skin across which her fingers had just traversed began to flush.

Xena closed her eyes and moaned softly.

*****

Solari’s hand began to shake as she brought her cup of tea toward her mouth. She brought her other hand up to steady the first and glanced over at her companion who was staring spellbound at the tent, her mouth hanging open.

"Hey, you’re gonna catch something in that," Solari said quietly, startling the younger Amazon from her reverie. They smiled at each other and then both hurriedly cast their gaze into the fire, sipping quietly at their tea, and trying hard to ignore the lusty sounds radiating from within the shelter next to them.

*****

Suddenly the warrior’s eyes flew open and she reached down and grasped the bard’s fingers in her hand. Gabrielle’s breathing took on a rapid and erratic pace as she watched Xena bring her hand up to her lips. One-by-one the warrior slowly and seductively kissed the tip of each finger and then drew it into her mouth. The bard’s entire being trembled as she felt the warrior’s lips and tongue encircle and then release each of her digits. She closed her eyes and swooned deeply.

Xena released the bard’s hand and reached over to draw her toward her. Their arms encircled one another and their lips sought out and immediately found each other in a searing kiss. They moaned their pleasure softly into each other’s mouths.

*****

 

Solari was just pouring a little more hot water into her cup when she glanced over at the tent and saw the silhouette of her queen sliding down the front of the warrior and seeming to pause occasionally to savor certain areas with her lips and tongue. The Amazon nearly dropped the pot into the fire when she saw the smaller silhouette finally drop to its knees and nestle its face into the juncture of the larger silhouette’s long legs. A stinging pain in her left hand brought Solari abruptly back to awareness and she realized she was still pouring hot water but missing her cup by a wide margin.

"Ouch! Son of a Bacchae!" she exclaimed loudly as she dropped the cup into the fire and quickly set the pot aside. She grabbed a water skin lying nearby and immediately started running cool water over her left hand. As she did she looked up and saw her companion calmly smirking at her. She cast her a playful sneer before standing up and heading for the woods, shaking her hand as she walked away.

"I’m going to see to the warrior’s horse. Why don’t you do a perimeter check Satiris," Solari said over her shoulder.

The young Amazon nodded in concurrence, then hesitated for a moment and glanced over at the tent. She watched in spellbound fascination as the tall silhouette suddenly grasped the smaller silhouette’s head in her hands then threw her head back and projected a long, low, almost animalistic growl that resonated off the trees surrounding the campsite. Unconsciously dropping her cup into the fire Satiris blushed, shuddered, and then quickly scurried into the woods to begin a thorough and extremely time consuming check of the perimeter.

 

*****

Xena slumped down onto the furs beside the bard and quickly scooped the smaller woman up into her arms. While trying to catch her breath she lay back onto the bedding, drawing the bard along to lie on top of her body. They rested that way for a few moments, simply enjoying the quiet closeness and the afterglow as their bodies fought to return to stasis.

"Mmmmm Xena," the bard sighed into the warrior’s neck. "If at first you don’t succeed…."

"Just keep trying," the warrior whispered breathlessly.

Gabrielle sighed again and then lifted her head. Resting her chin on her hands, she gazed lovingly up at the warrior. She smiled, then tenderly reached up and began circling Xena’s lips with her fingertip.

"How about…try and try again?"

Xena softly bit down on the bard’s fingertip eliciting a playful yelp.

"Uh-huh, I like the sound of that bard," the warrior said with a crooked grin.

"Hmm, has a ring doesn’t it?"

A peaceful silence enveloped them once more.

Suddenly, Gabrielle raised herself up onto her arms and slid her body up along the warrior beneath her until their faces were directly in line. She grinned down at Xena lasciviously.

"So warrior, were we successful?"

Xena’s eyebrow arched and her lips curled seductively into a half smile.

"Half," she whispered as she ducked her head and began to nibble on the bard’s neck. "Mmmmm, try again?"

The bard’s eyes closed and she moaned deeply as she felt herself being lifted up and sliding down to straddle the warrior’s hips.

"Yes…please. Again…"

Her breath caught in her throat as she felt the warrior’s long leg encircling the outside of her thigh, effectively scissoring her leg. She shifted slightly and then lowered herself down and melted into the woman beneath her; fire against fire they began to move together.

"…and again."

Xena’s hands came up to rest lightly over the bard’s breasts, gently teasing and kneading.

"mmmm…and again," the bard moaned as they fell into an erotic rhythm together.

*****

Solari patted Argo on the rump and tossed the mare an extra bit of hay as she turned and headed back toward the campsite. Argo snorted appreciatively. As she neared the circle of light ahead Solari bumped into Satiris just completing her perimeter check. Solari was just about to speak when a loud shout suddenly erupted from the area of the queen’s campsite and the two Amazons took off toward it at a full sprint.

They broke out of the woods with Solari in the lead and the young Amazon following closely on her heals. Almost immediately upon the tent coming into her view, Solari came to an abrupt halt and sent her companion flying over her back to land with a loud thud on the ground at her feet. She quickly brought her finger up to her lips and pointed toward the tent. Satiris scrambled to her feet and they both stared in amazed silence at the small silhouette seated astride the large silhouette with her head thrown back and her mouth agape. Suddenly the queen’s voice once again erupted in a string of loud passionate utterances causing the two voyeurs to glance at one another as they suddenly realized their mistake. They turned back just as with one final thrust of the warrior’s hips beneath her, the queen released the most feral moan either Amazon had ever heard escape a human being and collapsed into a heap.

Solari was still staring spellbound and blushing when Satiris reached over and poked her in the ribs eliciting a soft gasp.

"You breathing?"

Solari grinned and playfully tousled the younger woman’s hair as they turned and returned to their seats beside the fire. They had just settled down and were attempting to retrieve their cups from the flames when they heard the queen’s voice above the crackling of the burning wood.

"Mmmmm, again…."

The two sentries grinned at one another and shook their heads. It was going to be a long night.

*****

Ephiny was just heading for the dining area for breakfast when she caught sight of Xena and Gabrielle heading toward her arm in arm and grinning from ear to ear. And right behind them appeared Solaris and Satiris. All four could be heard chatting amiably amongst themselves. The regent stopped and waited for them to catch up to her.

"Well, good morning," Ephiny said cheerily.

"Morning Eph," the group responded in unison.

The regent glanced from the smirking warrior to her utterly glowing queen. "Mission accomplished," she mused.

Just then Eponin trotted up to the group. She looked inquiringly at the regent who simply shook her head affirmatively. Eponin grinned and approached Gabrielle and offered the Amazon salute. Then glancing sideways at the warrior princess she whimsically exclaimed, "My queen, thank you for saving the Amazon nation from certain disaster." She leaned in closer and whispered, "Nothing more disastrous than a horny…."

She never saw it coming. The warrior’s hand snaked out and had her by the scruff of her neck before she could blink. Eponin winced as the hand tightened threateningly.

"Ack… Xena! Just kidding, not another word." The hand relaxed slightly. "My honor as a warrior, not another word."

Eponin straightened back up as the hand released her completely. She glanced at the warrior princess and then the queen and grinned sheepishly.

"Hmm, shall we eat?" Ephiny said with an arched eyebrow. She smiled and turned toward the dining hall.

Eponin and Solari quickly fell in behind their regent. Suddenly they felt someone slip in between them and throw an arm over each of their shoulder’s. They couldn’t help but cringe slightly.

"So Ep…Solari," Xena said playfully. "Should we plan another hunting trip…say tomorrow? Whatya say, huh?"

"NO!" came the resounding response from four Amazons and one slightly amused Amazon queen.

The warrior princess feigned a pout as she turned around, grabbed the bard’s hand and trotted into the dining hall. Eponin, Solari, Satiris, and the regent all stared at each other in bemused silence for a moment. Then they turned and headed in to breakfast, Eponin grinning broadly; humdrum would be the word for the day. Thank the goddess.


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