DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Argo, etc. all belong to MCA/Universal. I've borrowed them for this story, no copyright infringement was intended. The story is mine, copyrighted to me on 5/20/99. The character of the Amazon named Eileen was borrowed, with permission, from the story Kidnapped, by Xenaslaves.

WARNING: This story contains the following elements: Two women in love, explicit lesbian sex, rape, and other things like that. I think I added some naughty words as well. If you are uncomfortable with any of these things then I would rather that you didn't read this story. I will not take any responsibility for anyone who disregards this warning. So, please be aware of the things I've listed before you continue to read.

SPOILERS: Well, I've chosen to use some things from the 4th season of XWP, but some other things I ignored. Basically, there are references to what was in the India arch, and some other episodes like "Fins, Femmes, and Gems" and stuff like that. I don't give away any plots or anything, I've just borrowed little things from those episodes to use in my stories. Basically, I've created my own interpretation of Xena and Gabrielle in this story, which may or may not fit in with how you see them.

FEEDBACK: I would love to hear what you thought of this story, so long as it's not in the form of mean e-mails telling me I'm going to hell. Those who live in glass houses…anyway, if you have something nice to say or some constructive criticism, please e-mail me at GabTBard@aol.com . If you've got something mean to say, or some bone to pick, you can send your e-mail to GoToHell@aol.com


Power of Two

By GabTBard

Copyright 5/20/99

Dusk settled over the land, darkening the sky as the sun and moon changed places. Leaving a glowing reddish path, the sun seemed reluctant to leave. Here and there a handful of stars could be seen in the sky, the rest waiting for the sun to finally leave before they came out to play.

"Xena?" Gabrielle asked after a huge yawn that made her eyes water. Her best friend was sitting on a log, her nimble fingers manipulating a needle through her tough leathers.

"Hmmm?" Her focus never wavered from her work. Gabrielle knew, however, that she was listening.

"Does the sky look different to you now? I mean, since we got back from India?" Looking into the subject of her query, she was in awe of the colors painted across the sky.

Glancing up from her work, Xena considered the question as she herself looked into the sky. "Different how?" She wasn't sure how to respond. She almost laughed at her own question. India had changed them both so much. In a way, she hoped it wasn't too much.

"Well, it seems…I don't know….brighter? More colorful? Bigger?" The bard made a wide arcing gesture with her arms toward the wide expanse.

They both stared in a hypnotic state at the quickly darkening sky. Noises could be heard around them, the noises naturally found in nature. Nocturnal animals prepared for their journeys into the night; their movements could be detected in the rustling around the two women's camp site.

So in tune with the noises around them, Xena's ears heard the subtle sounds which indicated something not normally found in nature was approaching. Slowly, she lowered her head from its sky gazing position.

"I don't know, I…" Feeling a familiar hand grip her arm, Gabrielle didn't finish. Looking at the warrior, she caught the gesture of a finger over Xena's lips, and took it for what it was. Keeping her mouth closed she carefully watched Xena's face. The warrior's features hardened as she concentrated on her senses.

Without warning, Xena rose to her feet even as she drew her sword. A swiftness born of instinct, not learning, took Xena to Gabrielle's right, closer to the edge of the clearing.

Times like this, Gabrielle yearned for her staff. The security the piece of wood brought was going to be missed. Even as she prepared herself, Gabrielle took the chance to admire Xena's physique. Strong, muscled shoulders which flowed into a sculptured back and then tapered into a slender waist. From there….No Gabrielle, this isn't the time to be thinking like that! Come on now, get yourself together! She had to remind herself that she couldn't afford to lose herself like that right now. That would have to be saved for dreams to come.

Focusing her mind, Xena reacted instantaneously when the figure came out of the forest. Her sword to the intruder's throat, she waited till she was sure the situation was in her hands before she looked to see who it was that had come from the woods. The person's back was to Xena. She held one arm around his neck, holding him in a tight grip, her other arm holding the sword to his throat. The shape of the person's body was familiar. Turning the prowler around slowly, she lowered her sword when she recognized the face in front of her.

"Joxer, when will you learn?" Re-sheathing her sword, Xena shook her head in disgust and walked back towards Gabrielle.

Following her, he gazed at her back with something like worshiping eyes. He did so admire Xena and her warrior instincts. He wanted to be like her in every way. Maybe then Gabrielle would fall for him. Stopping, Joxer allowed his mind to wander. He could see himself and Gabrielle together, once he learned to be just like Xena. It was a wonderful thought….

"Joxer?" Snapping out of his daydream, he saw Xena looking at him, her eyebrow raised. "Did you need something specific?" Deep breaths Xena, deep breaths. He had such a way of getting on her last nerve. Like the way he was looking at her right now. His eyes shined and if he'd been a dog, his tongue would have been hanging out. It was almost as bad as when he looked at Gabrielle. The look would turn from admiration to something akin to longing.

"Huh?" Then he remembered that he was the one who just came into THEIR camp. "Oh yeah! I, ah, wanted to thank you Xena."

"For what?" she said warily.

"Helping Meg," he explained as his eyes finally moved from the form of Xena to the one that held his heart. Gabrielle….

"How'd Xena help Meg?" Gabrielle asked. "I mean, other than making sure that she wasn't punished for stealing the Key to the Kingdom." She almost laughed. The key had been a baby who was really the former king. It was a great story! One she'd write as soon as she had the time. Which would probably be awhile. She still had some of the lessons from India to write down.

"You know, telling her about not worrying about having a baby and that she'd be a great mother and all that junk," Joxer's focus was now solely on Gabrielle as he off handedly answered her question.

"Meg wanted to have a baby?" Gabrielle looked to Xena, the question obviously on her face.

Feeling a little bit embarrassed, Xena realized that she hadn't told the bard the entire story. Meg's plight had left her somewhat off kilter. She'd recently lost her own son, and Gabrielle had given birth to a demon. Talking about kids and pregnancy wasn't something that she wanted to approach, even with her best friend.


"Huh?" He once again looked at Xena, only to find her eyes an icy blue. He wasn't a complete idiot; he knew what that meant. "Yeah, Xena?"

"I'm sending you on a mission. You need to go find Argo."

"But, she hates me!" Whining, Joxer really didn't want to leave.

Reaching into a saddlebag placed on the ground, Xena held up a ragged cloth. "That's why you take her this. She'll know what it is and she'll know that I sent you. I don't trust anyone else to do this." The look on her face instilled courage in the young man.

"Okay, I'll meet up with you later then." He turned to go, but then turned back around with one more question. "Do you have any idea where she might be?"

Xena shrugged. "Somewhere in Greece would be my bet."


Having forgotten about the appearance of Joxer, it wasn't until the next day that Gabrielle was reminded of Meg. They were travelling; the pack horse they'd bartered for was carrying their belongings, but wasn't strong enough to carry them as well. Gabrielle couldn't wait to have the ornery war horse back. At least that way they could both ride off to safety. Or into the sunset, or…or… Gabrielle, get a grip. Xena wouldn't be riding off into the sunset with her anytime soon. And really, she was fine with that. She'd recognized a long time ago that she was in love with the former warrior princess. Since they'd found out in India that they were indeed soulmates, Gabrielle had felt their connection deepen. It left her wanting something that she knew she'd never have. It took all her power to turn her thoughts away from Xena's touch, or the smoldering looks she could give, or her firm body.

"Xena, you want to tell me now about Meg wanting to have a baby?" She spoke into the stillness of the afternoon. Strangely enough, they traveled in silence more often these days. Maybe it was a sign that Gabrielle was growing up. She no long had to fill voids with her own voice. Instead, she enjoyed the silence, and the time to be with Xena.

Xena's face softened as she recognized the reproachful tone in Gabrielle's voice. "I'm sorry, I didn't tell you earlier, it just seemed like the wrong time." As a matter of fact, one of the reasons Xena had agreed to go to India was to maybe get Gabrielle out of the funk she'd been in for so long. For awhile, Xena wondered if that was how it was always going to be, never the right time to talk with the bard about anything.

Nodding in understanding, the bard waited for Xena to continue.

"The reason Meg wanted the Key to the Kingdom was because she wanted the baby. She felt that maybe her life would fill out if she could have a child in her life. But, she'd found out a long time before that she couldn't have children. So, she stole the baby, which happened to be the king, so that she could raise it." Xena thought for a moment. "It was hard on her when he turned out to be a grown man."

"That would be quiet a shock. Poor Meg." Gabrielle was truly saddened. While Meg had quite a few flaws, she was likable. Maybe it had to do with the fact that she looked like the woman Gabrielle loved. But no, wait a minute -- that hadn't made her like the Hestian Virgin. Anyway, Gabrielle liked Meg. Having lost her only child, Gabrielle understood the maternal instinct and need. There were many times she still felt it, when she longed for a child of her own.

Xena's face took on a far away look. "Yeah. I had no idea how much Meg wanted a life like the rest of us. Normalcy isn't as overrated as we think." Just look at us, she thought. Their life was far from normal. Travelling all the time, never settling anywhere, not even for their children.

"Hey," Gabrielle reached out and put her hand on Xena's forearm. "What's wrong?"

What was wrong? The warrior asked herself. Since their pilgrimage to India, Xena felt like the carefully constructed walls around her heart, her soul, were crumbling. She didn't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing. Krishna had basically told her that she was on the path she was supposed to be on. But, anymore she felt like anything that came up offered her two choices, only one of which was the one she should choose. What if she chose the wrong path? Could she mess up not only her soul's future, but Gabrielle's as well?

She looked at the woman walking beside her. The hair cut was growing on Xena and she was beginning to like it. It was softer looking now, and had been trimmed, losing that shaggy look. The familiar face was still there, but the hair cut made it look strange, more mature. A sudden feeling of warmth sparked in her chest, spreading through her upper body. That feeling had happened a lot on the last few moons. Like her soul was greeting Gabrielle's, recognizing it. It felt…good.

A silly smile had formed on Xena's face as she looked at Gabrielle. Neither woman had noticed that they'd stopped walking.

"Xena?" Gabrielle spoke softly, her voice husky with emotion. Without thinking she leaned in closer to the taller woman, tilting her head up, softly pressing her lips against Xena's.

More in shock than uncertainty, Xena froze. The soft lips against hers sent slivers of electricity through her. The only movement she made was to close her eyes. Just as her body adjusted and her mind told her to respond, the warmth was gone, leaving her lips wet and naked to a cold breeze which was shocking to her system after the heat she'd just felt.

Uh oh, Gabrielle's mind whispered. What had she just done? "Xena, I'm…I’m sorry, I thought…" You thought what? She reprimanded herself. What had she been thinking? That Xena had WANTED Gabrielle to kiss her?

Still standing with her eyes closed, Xena felt an urge to tell Gabrielle not to be sorry, that she enjoyed it and wanted to try it again. But, she wouldn't let herself say those things. Slowly opening her eyes, she carefully put on a neutral expression, not wanting to reveal her confusion. "It's okay."

Angry with herself, Gabrielle turned away from Xena's controlled appearance. "No, it's not." Looking around her, she realized that something else was wrong. "Where's the horse?

Now that was something Xena could let herself think about. "Hades, let's go look."


"This is all my fault." Sitting with her head in her hands, Gabrielle's tone was full of self pity.

"No, it's…" Xena tried to make her feel better, but Gabrielle would have none of it.

"It IS my fault! If I hadn't asked so many questions, if I'd just paid attention to where we were going, or not going," she sighed, "and other things, then the horse wouldn't have wandered off."

Looking at the grazing animal in question, Xena tried not to smile. "I think if you asked him, he'd tell you that WE wandered off, not him." This earned her a glare from the bard.

They'd found the small pack horse further down the path. While they'd stopped walking, it appeared that the horse hadn't, until someone saw fit to relieve him of the burden he carried on his back. In other words, their belongings.

Luckily, they didn't own much of value. Gabrielle's scrolls had been dumped on the ground, a few of them escaping the bag that held them. Xena's weapons were mostly on her body. A few knives, most of which were just extras she'd picked off of various bad guys they'd crossed, had been taken. All of their food supplies, including Lila's secret blend of spices, had been snatched as well. Gabrielle's new frying pan was still in tact, hanging from the makeshift saddle they'd made for the beast. Dinars were kept on their bodies, because they knew most people they met on the road had no scruples.

So, that left them with one concern -- food. Which Xena didn't think was such a bad thing considering her famous hunting skills. But Gabrielle was acting like it was the end of everything. I wonder what she's REALLY reacting to? Xena thought she could guess, but truthfully, she didn't want to think about that now. Maybe if she didn't think about it she wouldn't have to face her own feelings. It was as though lately her awareness of her emotions had been nagging her a lot more lately, driving her to tell Gabrielle what she was feeling. The one time she had come close was when Aphrodite had cursed the bard with amplified vanity. But before she could say anything, Gabrielle's self admiration interrupted. While she tried to blame the curse Aphrodite had placed on her, Xena knew that the curse had nothing to do with her almost telling Gabrielle her heart.

"I'm sorry," it came out as a whimper from Gabrielle's mouth. And she was sorry. Sorry that she'd done what she had. Now, any thoughts, any hopes that Xena could feel the same way were gone. It was like years spent dreaming and imagining were gone in one whirlwind of a moment.

Xena was instantly at Gabrielle's side. She placed her hand on Gabrielle's arm, settling for that touch rather than gathering the smaller woman in her arms as her heart told her to. "Hey, don't be upset. Everything's okay. You didn't do anything wrong." She reached to stroke the woman's hair and then remembered that the long tresses were gone. She was going to miss that, running her hands through the silken hair. Instead of following through to Gabrielle's hair, she settled for stroking the woman's soft cheek.

Still not very happy with her own actions, Gabrielle hesitantly laid her head on Xena's shoulder. Finding no resistance, she put an arm lightly around Xena's waist. Maybe it would be okay. Maybe she could be content just having the warrior in her life. After all, they were still soulmates. Gabrielle thought of all of this while she was resting against Xena's firm body. Maybe…she began to drift to sleep in that comfortable position.

Xena's own thoughts were of a slightly different vein. She was the type of warrior who acted on instinct always, emotion never. Despite that, within the last three years she'd had to face more emotion than she really cared for. Yet, each time it happened, Gabrielle was there to help her through it. That was when the nightmares had started. As Xena began to feel again, her past demons began to haunt her night wanderings. More than a few times Xena had woken up in Gabrielle's arms, the younger woman's soft voice soothing her, frightening away the demons for the time being.

There was no question that she owed Gabrielle a lot. Still Xena felt that she needed to give Gabrielle something more than her companionship on the road. Nevertheless, she couldn't figure out what that something was. It nagged at her though with her soul and heart crying out to her, her mind telling her to run away. It was so conflicting that Xena often times had to tune all of these things out, concentrating on her instinct alone. But, when her guard was down, the thoughts came to her, the emotions welled up inside of her, and her heart burned with a special fire for the younger woman.

A few months before, while they'd been in India, Xena had had a very strange dream. She and Gabrielle were involved in erotic foreplay. When she'd awakened, she found herself deeply aroused, the faint image of the younger woman naked still in her mind.

She wasn't new to the idea of loving another woman, but this was Gabrielle. She couldn't even imagine…well, clearly she COULD imagine, her dream was evidence of that. But her mind didn't like it one bit. She was an old warrior who didn't have anything to offer the younger woman. Plus, they both knew, one better than the other, Xena's track record with relationships. She'd never stayed faithful to anyone she was with and never let the relationships progress very far, never letting any of her lovers, male or female, get past the strong barriers she'd constructed around her heart and soul.

A soft snore brought Xena out of her thoughts. She looked at the woman, adjusting Gabrielle's body so that the smaller woman was completely resting her in lap. The soft features visible in sleep caused Xena to smile. She did love this woman more than anyone she could ever remember. This woman meant more to her than her own life. Maybe Gabrielle could break her past record. Maybe she would be the one to make a difference.


The soft blanket of sleep slowly dissipated. Gabrielle's consciousness sluggishly left the dreamscape it had been in, becoming aware of her surroundings. She felt pleasantly warm, resting on something neither hard nor soft. The perfect combination of both. Her nose caught a scent in the air, something familiar. She opened her eyes to make sure her senses hadn't lied to her.

"Xena?" She croaked out, her throat dry from sleep. Her eyes shot open as she saw exactly where she was. Xena was holding her in her arms, cradling her against her leather covered chest.

Soft eyes, the color of sapphires met her own, a tremendous warmth evident in that look. A smile that matched the warmth in her eyes lit Xena's face as she saw that the bard was awake. "Hey."

"What….what am I doing here?" She couldn't imagine why she was being held so lovingly in the warrior's arms.

"You fell asleep." Xena gave a one shoulder shrug. "You looked uncomfortable, so I pulled you into my lap. It was easier than laying you down somewhere."

Oh yeah, Gabrielle remembered. The bedrolls had been stolen and Xena knew how much she hated lying on the bare ground. "Thanks," she gave Xena a shy smile. This was too surreal for her mind to handle.

Several replies occurred to the warrior, but she went with the honest one. "I didn't mind. Really."

This was different. Just earlier Gabrielle had kissed Xena without response. Now the warrior seemed to be enjoying the physical closeness. It was like two different Xena's! "Did something…happen while I was asleep?"

"Like what?" Xena raised an eyebrow.

"I dunno…maybe a god popped out of the word work and…did something."

"Ah, I see." The eyebrow arched higher. "So, because I actually stayed here, I'm not me? Is that it?"

The gently teasing words made Gabrielle feel foolish. "I guess that is pretty far fetched, huh?"

"Uh huh," Xena smiled at her. "Something DID happen…"

"I KNEW it!" Gabrielle tried to sit up, but the arms around her only tightened to keep her where she was.

"Not what you think."

"Then what?"

"I did some…thinking." Xena was being purposefully vague, teasing the bard as much as she could.

"About what?" Gabrielle's patience was wearing thin.

"About earlier. When you did this," Xena leaned down and placed her lips gently on Gabrielle's.

For a moment, the world disappeared. Gabrielle only felt those soft lips moving against hers. A melting heat soared through the two women, quaking them to their very soul. Eyes closed, Xena swear she saw stars behind her eyelids. Slowly opening her mouth, she invited the bard to deepen the kiss, which she did without hesitation. Her tongue slipped between Xena's lips, intent on exploring everything that she could.

Gabrielle's head swam as she realized what was happening. She was kissing the woman she loved and Xena had initiated it! She almost got so caught up in the thought that she almost stopped responding to Xena's persistent mouth and tongue.

They'd come so close to this so many times that Xena didn't think there would be much to an actually kiss with Gabrielle. It would be like any other kiss, neither passionate nor igniting. How could she have been so wrong? This was more than a simple kiss between friends; this was the kiss between soulmates, a powerful and exhilarating feeling. Gabrielle's mouth tasted so good and was so hot, Xena realized that she was feeling things she'd never gotten from just a kiss before. Kissing had never aroused the warrior like it did at that moment.

Not wanting to push the other woman, Gabrielle was the one who slowed the kiss and finally broke it off, leaving them both panting.

"I…I…" Xena didn't know what to say. Her carefully planned words wouldn't come. She couldn't think of anything that could cover the expanse of emotions that she was feeling.

"That was wonderful," the bard supplied with a sensual smile. "I'd like to do that again sometime. The near future would be good with me."

For a brief moment, Gabrielle saw the panic in Xena's normally guarded eyes. It was like a trapped animal. "But, we don't have to…" she was disappointed, but she didn't want to push the warrior. She obviously wasn't completely comfortable with the idea yet.

"Thank you," Xena said quietly as she closed her eyes.

"Anything you need." Said simply, it conveyed many things to both women.

Xena smiled gently at Gabrielle. She wasn't used to being the hesitant one in their relationship. Maybe she should have seen this turn in their friendship long ago. Shaking her head, Xena realized that she had seen it, but she hadn't wanted to recognize it for what it was.

"You know what I'd like tonight?" She couldn't believe it; she was almost shy in asking this.

"What?" The bard asked her eyes wary.

"I'd like to hold you while we fall asleep." Both women paused to imagine this. Xena keenly felt the need to have the younger woman in her arms, holding her tightly against her own body. Where the need came from she wasn't ready to ask. Gabrielle almost sighed when she imagined the warrior's strong arms around her as they were now. The feeling of safety was incredible.

"I think I can handle that," the bard gave her friend a grin that said just how right Xena had been in asking that question. Then the thought occurred to her. "Xena, where are we going to sleep tonight?"

Looking around Xena remember their situation. "I don't suppose you want to sleep on the ground?" For that she received a glare and a wrinkled nose. "No, I didn't think so."

Standing with the bard still in her arms, Xena gently released her hold on Gabrielle, letting the smaller woman's feet finally touch the ground. Instantly Gabrielle's body missed feeling the warrior against her.

Still looking around the, Xena didn't see the small frown that formed on the bard's face when she stepped away. "I think we're close to Amazon territory, if you want to try to make it there before nightfall."

"Hmm…let's see…friends, a bed, food…sounds good to me!" And it did sound good to her. Xena holding her while they slept in a real bed was a dream come true.


There were times when Gabrielle thought her passion for Xena would burst from her, like her skin could no longer contain the emotion she felt. For so long she'd kept it all inside never letting Xena know how deeply her love ran. Truthfully, she had come to the conclusion that Xena would never return her feelings. While Xena had an undeniable sexual charm, she never did more than casually flirt along the edges with Gabrielle.

Headed now as they were to the Amazon village, Gabrielle was reminded of the time she'd misplaced the desire she felt for the warrior. Carina was tall and muscular with long dark hair, and blue eyes that Gabrielle could pretend were as brilliant as Xena's. The Amazon had shown the bard all the attentiveness and desire that she wanted from Xena. Although Carina was a passionate and talented lover, when her hands were on Gabrielle all the bard could think about was Xena's hands and mouth being what was bringing her so much pleasure.

It was when Gabrielle had woken up in strong arms, the scent of arousal still in the air, and had formed Xena's name on her lips that she realized what she had been doing. For as much as she wanted to pretend, Carina was not Xena. The love of a woman was something that Gabrielle had always understood, but there was now only one woman Gabrielle wanted -- the one woman she couldn't have.

Seeing her mistake, Gabrielle ended things with the Amazon warrior quickly. For while Carina was beautiful, smart, tender, and talented, she wasn't Xena. It wasn't fair for Gabrielle to use her as a substitute for what she really wanted. It saddened Gabrielle that the only way she was able to figure that out was by hurting Carina.

Carina had already fallen completely in love with her Amazon Queen. Gabrielle's passion, compassion, and quiet strength constantly amazed her. But from the moment they had first made love, she had realized that the younger woman would never be hers. For that reason she wasn't surprised when Gabrielle abruptly ended their short relationship. Some part of her had always held on to the hope that maybe Gabrielle would return her feelings. Carina knew that the famed warrior princess couldn't see just how lucky she was to have the bard's love. It was a love she dreamed of having every night, yet every morning Carina woke up alone, longing for what she briefly had and what she wanted back.


"Do you think they'll be surprised to see us?" The familiar throaty voice that haunted Gabrielle's dreams brought her out of her memories.

"Huh?" Looking into sparkling blue eyes, Gabrielle felt herself melt into them, almost missing the warrior repeating the question.

Giving the bard a worried look, Xena repeated herself. "Do you think they'll be surprised to see us?" Gabrielle had been too quiet since they had started toward Amazon territory. Worried that the younger woman was beating herself up over what had happened earlier, Xena tried to interest the woman in conversation. "It's been awhile since we've seen them."

Since I broke it off with Carina, Gabrielle thought to herself. "I don't know," she said to answer Xena's query. In an attempt to draw her mind away from depressing thoughts, she continued. "It seems like every time we visit they act like they'd been expecting us for days."

It was true. The Amazons all treated the two travelers as though one day they'd come back for good. Like one day they'd realize where they belonged. And each time Xena and Gabrielle visited, the Amazons would react in surprise when the two women would announce that they were leaving to return to their life on the road.

"It'll be nice to see them again," Xena said sincerely. She missed being able to relax and pal around with the Amazon warriors. She never had to pretend to be anything she wasn't, and she didn't have to fight with them to prove herself. All the Amazons had seen Xena at work and they all respected her strength and ability. Of course, that didn't keep the occasional warrior from challenging the warrior princess, but the challenges weren't taken too seriously. The Amazon warriors loved to show off scars that they'd received from Xena like a trophy that they'd tried to best her.

"Yeah," Gabrielle echoed absentmindedly. I wonder if Carina has taken another lover? The thought popped into her head unexpectedly. While Gabrielle had no right to Carina and her loyalty, a part of her didn't think she could handle seeing the woman with someone else. It was selfish, she could admit, but that didn't keep her from feeling it.


She had first met Carina almost a year before. She and Xena had been visiting when Xena got word that her mother was ill. Wanting to make good speed, Xena left Gabrielle with the Amazons, which was something Gabrielle didn't mind. She loved her sisters and enjoyed the time she could spend with them.

One day when coming out of the food hut, a tall, beautiful woman had approached Gabrielle. The Amazon asked her for staff lessons, saying that she had mastered every other weapon, but no one would teacher her the finer points of wielding the staff.

"They told me to wait till the Queen came back and ask her." Carina had given Gabrielle a brilliant smile, which the bard returned.

"Eponin should have taught you rather than making you wait!" Gabrielle's voice was reproachful, aimed at Eponin who was getting ready to get her own dinner.

Shrugging, Eponin gave Gabrielle a serious look. "You've surpassed me in skill. Carina wanted the best and I was only telling her who that was."

"Umph," was Gabrielle's reply as she turned back to Carina. "Training ground, tomorrow morning?"

"I'll be there," Carina acknowledged with a smile. "Thank you my Queen."

The next morning Carina was waiting for Gabrielle when she reached the training ground. They spent the entire morning practicing, Gabrielle talking Carina through the different moves. The Amazon was good company, asking smart questions about the maneuvers and answering questions with a good-willed nature.

That night they ate dinner together, telling each other funny stories which had the entire food tent laughing with them. The next morning was a repeat of the day before, starting with training and ending with dinner.

After a week of this, Carina asked Gabrielle to take a walk with her after dinner. It was a beautiful, clear night, the stars and the moon shone with what seemed to be an extra lustrous glow. Gabrielle readily agreed, not really wanting to lose the companionship yet.

"Gabrielle," Carina said after they'd been walking for a little while. "Can I ask you something personal?"

Not thinking that she had anything to hide, Gabrielle consented.

"Do you have a bond mate?"

"You mean like a lover?" The bard shook her head. "No, I was married, but my…husband was killed the day after our wedding."

Turning to the smaller woman, Carina reached for her hand, holding it gently in her own. "I'm so sorry."

As Gabrielle looked into the Amazon's eyes, tears were reflected by the moonlight. Looking down for an instant, Gabrielle's gaze found its way back to the woman's eyes. "It's okay. I loved him very much, but I've come to terms with his death and realize that it wasn't my fault."

"Do you…do you love anyone now?" Carina didn't want to push the sensitive bard, but she felt a fire burning in her soul that pushed her to ask.

It was the first time Gabrielle had to think about that. She did love someone else, but she wasn't sure what the extent of that love was. She DID love Xena. Just stopping to think about her caused a pain to form in her chest, spreading to other parts of her body. They'd been separated this long before, but each time she ached for the warrior's return as she did now. As soon as Xena was back at her side, the aching stopped.

"Yes, I do love someone." Her reply was quiet, but the reaction from Gabrielle's heart was anything but. It was like she had been hiding her true heart in a box and now the box was open, releasing the love she felt. Never having admitted her feelings for Xena out loud, the release of admitting just how much the warrior meant to her was exhilarating.

Carina looked at the smaller woman, her hands aching to glide through her honey colored hair. Instead, she brought one hand up and used it to lift Gabrielle's chin up. Looking into the woman's eyes, Carina had only one thing to say. "I am disappointed, but I just hope that she realizes what she has. If you ever…" she paused, wanting to offer her heart, her soul, but not knowing how. "…are free, I will be here for you, if you ever need me." She lowered her head and grazed a pair of moist lips with her own. Carina had meant for the kiss to be just a brief taste, but her Queen instantly deepened it, turning simplistic into complicated.

It was without thought. Gabrielle felt Carina's lips on hers and knew that it was something she had wanted for a long time. She leaned into the taller woman, putting one arm around the woman's neck, letting her hand caress the back of her head. The other went around Carina's waist, pulling her in closer, meshing their clothed bodies together with a crushing need.

Neither woman could remember how they'd gotten back to Carina's hut, one moment kissing in the moonlight, the next kissing in Carina's sparse hut. Gabrielle remembered them taking their boots off outside of the hut and then walking through the door way. They fell to her sleeping mat and instantly were on one another. Rolling the two of them so that she was on top, Carina broke the kiss and looked at the woman laying beneath her. They were both breathing heavily, but Carina knew she'd never forgive herself if she didn't ask. "Are you sure?" She looked into the green eyes which has grown to the color of emeralds as Gabrielle's passion rose.

A myriad of emotions fluttered over Gabrielle's face as she registered what she was being asked. Was she sure that she wanted Carina? That she wanted to be made love to by this woman? "Yes, I'm sure." Her voice husky, it still had the quality of honey being poured.

Having new found sureness, Carina brought her hand up and caressed the soft skin of Gabrielle's face. She let her finger tips trace across first her cheekbones and then her nose, followed by a light swipe on the bard's lips. Replacing her fingers with her mouth, Carina couldn't believe how sweet it was to be kissing this woman. It was like a gift she didn't think she deserved, but she wasn't going to let it get away with out taking full advantage of it. As their lips met yet again, Carina allowed her hand to trail down the slender neck and came to rest them on the swell of Gabrielle's breast.

"Please?" It was a question, but Gabrielle used her own hand to move Carina's to the middle of her breast, forcing her hand to brush over a nipple that was straining against the rough fabric of her green top.

Following Gabrielle's lead, Carina traced the nipple through the cloth causing the nub to grow harder. Once again reaching for the lips which pressed so nicely into hers, Carina's head swarmed with thoughts as she tried to slow her racing blood. She was about to make love to the woman whom had caught her attention so long ago. Carina had dreamt about this moment and now that it was there in front of her, she couldn't believe it.

Somewhere inside of Gabrielle there was a voice screaming at her, telling that she needed to think about this before she did it. But, Gabrielle's body argued back that she was always thinking before doing and look where it had gotten her? Finally, she was getting the attention she wanted, what her body ached for on so many occasions. That quickly droned out the screaming voice, her mind filled with the sound of the blood rushing fervently through her body.

Lifting her body up slightly, Gabrielle used her hands to quickly unlace her top, all of a sudden hating the feeling of cloth on her skin. The heat it created was too much, she needed to be free of it.

Breaking off from the kiss she was sharing with Gabrielle, Carina's attention was now on the newly revealed breasts. "So beautiful," she murmured, lowering her head to nuzzle the soft skin she found there.

The warm breath against her skin sent waves of desire through Gabrielle. She needed Carina to do something and to do it fast. "Carina…your mouth," she had to pant the words out, unable to catch her breath, whether from exertion or anticipation, she couldn't tell.

Knowing she'd follow Gabrielle anywhere she led, Carina looked into Gabrielle's eyes as she gently kissed first one nipple, than the other before taking one into her mouth, gently suckling it. Moaning at the sweet contact, Gabrielle brought one hand up and held the back of Carina's neck. Carina's soft suckling became something harder, more persistent. Gabrielle arched her back when teeth softly bit down, gasping at the contact that sent lightning bolts directly between her legs.

Bringing up a hand, Carina began to knead the pliant breast that was being neglected. Pinching a nipple between her fingers she alternated the pressure she applied while her mouth continued its torture of the other one.

Her mind was almost blank as she suckled Gabrielle's breast. It was such an elemental function to Carina to make love to a woman. Mostly, she did what she wanted. She wanted to feel Gabrielle's nipple between her lips, she wanted to cup the firm breast, and there was something else she wanted, and she wanted it now.

Regrettably releasing the nipple from her mouth, Carina smiled up at Gabrielle as she kissed the swollen nub in promises of later. Moving so that she was at Gabrielle's side rather than on top of her, Carina visibly slowed her explorations. With one hand propping her head up, she used the other one to glide across Gabrielle's tight stomach, carefully tracing the muscles she found there.

Gabrielle felt as though her skin were electric. Each time Carina's fingers touched her, she felt as though she'd been shocked, the epicenter of the shock lying between her legs. Finally Carina reached the waist band of Gabrielle's skirt. They both trembled with the knowledge of what would happen next. Carina finally lifted her hand from the bard's skin, only to move it to her thigh. Repeating the motions she'd played out on the other woman's stomach, the Amazon paid homage to the years of walking that showed in Gabrielle's muscular thighs.

Moving underneath the bard's skirt, Carina smiled at the warmth she felt being produced. Fingering the crotch of Gabrielle's breeches, the moisture there seeped out only to be caught by her wandering fingers. Bringing her hand out, she brought the two fingers up to her lips, smiling as the bard watched her fingers enter her mouth. Sucking on them gently, she salivated with the sweetness of the taste that was Gabrielle.

"Would you like me to help you with your skirt, Gabrielle?" Carina's voice was soft and husky, leaving Gabrielle with no doubt that she needed whatever the Amazon was going to do to her.

"Please," she answered, even lifting her hips to help the Amazon.

Without a pause she unwrapped the skirt from the bard's hips, revealing her breeches, which were easily dealt with. Clearing them off the mat, Carina waited till she was sure Gabrielle was comfortable before taking in the sight of the woman completely naked.

Starting with the halo of golden hair, and the face that was as sweet as it was strong, she followed the slender neck to the strong shoulders and magnificent full breasts. Tight abdominal muscles were followed by flat hips and finally…Carina felt her blood race as she saw the soft thatch of blonde hair resting between Gabrielle's firm thighs.

Using both her hands and her mouth to bring the bard pleasure, Carina proved herself to be a tender lover, always holding Gabrielle as she crashed back down to the earth. When Gabrielle tried to return the tenderness, Carina only said, "Tonight's your night little one." Gabrielle accepted without feeling guilty when Carina brought her pleasure over and over again that night.

What the Amazon didn't say and what Gabrielle hadn't guessed was that Carina was afraid to let the bard make love to her. She knew that first time touching Gabrielle that the woman wasn't hers and would never be hers. She didn't think that she could accept the pleasure when she knew there would be nothing behind it but the affection of a friend. She already loved the strong woman that was sharing her bed that night. If Gabrielle were to make love to her, it would plunge her deeper into the hopeless chasm of feelings and emotions that she already was in because of her unrequited love. Carina touched Gabrielle and brought her pleasure knowing that while the Amazon loved the smaller woman with her entire being, it could never be given back to her.

It was the following morning when Gabrielle woke up that she realized she'd made a mistake. She didn't regret what had taken place, but she had used Carina and it wasn't right. Most people would have shrugged off that complication using the idea that the world wasn't always a fair place. Gabrielle didn't work that way. She knew life wasn't always fair to everyone, but she wasn't about to contribute to it by using people. For Gabrielle to ignore that she did anything wrong would have been going against what she believed in. Grabbing her clothes, she quietly dressed, not wanting to disturb the sleeping Amazon, and left, telling herself that she needed to think before talking with Carina.

Some part of Carina was aware of the soft warm body leaving her side, but her mind thought that maybe if she ignored it, than Gabrielle would still be there when she woke up. Of course, she knew she was fooling herself.

No one had seen the Queen, yet, when Carina went to breakfast, but it was a well known fact that Gabrielle preferred to sleep late. It wasn't till early afternoon, while Carina was on the training ground that she saw the familiar form coming in her direction.

As the other woman approached Carina felt the familiar tugging in her stomach, the beginnings of the flip-flop effect the bard had on her. Studying Gabrielle's face she saw the nervousness the young woman was feeling.

"Hi," Gabrielle stopped a few feet away from the Amazon, unsure about how welcome she'd be.

Smiling to reassure the other woman as much as herself, Carina softly greeted her. "Hi."

Looking at her feet as though they would will her courage, Gabrielle took a deep breath before she looked up again. "Do…can we go somewhere and talk?"

Slowly, Carina nodded, "I know somewhere we can go." She began leading Gabrielle away from the training ground, toward a wooded area. The bard waited until they decided to sit by a small pond before she started talking.

She had replayed what she wanted to say to Carina all day. It was too late to think about not hurting the Amazon. "I…I…" she stumbled over the words, having difficulty putting thoughts into actual spoken words.

Taking the flustered woman's hand in her own and squeezing it softly, Carina put a finger over her lips to quiet her attempts. "Gabrielle, let me say something." She waited until Gabrielle nodded before she continued. "I know that last night was a one time thing. You didn't use me any more than I used you. You wanted a woman's touch and I," she gave a self-depreciating little laugh. Then she looked into soft eyes and resumed. "I wanted you."

Tears filled Gabrielle's eyes as she heard the honesty in Carina's words. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.

"Shh…don't apologize. I know you love someone else, I know you can't promise me anything." She thought carefully before continuing. "But, if you ever find yourself with no one to love, I would hope you'd come to me."

A sudden wave of anger hit Gabrielle. She wished she could just ignore her heart, because her mind was screaming at her to fall in love with this woman. It should be so easy for her to do; just give up on what she had ached for and accept the love this woman had for her. She was a fool to give up what Carina could give her. And while she knew she was deeply in love with Xena, she could not see herself happy with anyone else.

"Does Xena know?" As though reading Gabrielle's thoughts, Carina brought up a subject that was difficult for her to acknowledge. But she had a drive to find out that the bard would be happy, even if she were not the one to do it.

The tears had fallen from Gabrielle's eyes, creating a moist path from her eyes, down her cheek. "No she doesn't know," hanging her head dejectedly, she felt that she must look like an idiot. Here she was turning down the love of one woman for another woman who did not even show any interest.

Watching the woman's face, Carina could almost read word for word Gabrielle's thoughts. "Could she make you happy?" That was where her true intentions were. She'd fight with everything she had in this world and the next for Gabrielle if her answer was no.

Thinking about the question, Gabrielle summoned an image of the warrior in her mind. The shapely legs that were solid muscle, the trim hips that curved upward to a flat stomach. The gentle sloping of breasts that she could imagine were firm, but soft to the touch. Wide muscular shoulders and arms. Then she imagined her face. Features that seemed to be sculpted by the gods, high cheek bones and curvaceous lips, framed by ebony hair which she knew was soft and fragrant. Finally she allowed herself to look into eyes that ranged from the color of sapphires to a steely blue, depending on the warrior's mood. In her mind, Gabrielle saw those eyes look at her, growing warm as they always did when looking at the bard and it as than that she had an answer for Carina.

"She makes me happy every day." A warmth spread through her, the product of unaccountable happiness that surfaced as she thought of Xena.


It was twilight when Xena and Gabrielle finally reached Amazon territory. Xena grew increasingly worried about the silent bard. She seemed to be deep in thought, but Xena didn't get the feeling that her thoughts were happy ones. All of her attempts at engaging Gabrielle in conversation failed when the bard's attention drifted off.

They were greeted soon after passing the border. The sentries instantly recognized the two travelers. The Amazons were always happy to see them, mostly because of the great parties that were thrown when the Queen returned.

Once they reached the village, familiar faces greeted Xena and Gabrielle. At the same time news of the night's celebration was passed on. It didn't take long for it to reach the training ground where Carina was teaching a few younger Amazons hand-to-hand combat techniques.

"Gabrielle and Xena are back! Party tonight!" Someone shouted loud enough to be heard over the din of the training ground.

While she had known that Gabrielle would return to the village, Carina hadn't had a clue of how it would make her feel. She thought that she would get over the loss, move on and be a good friend to Gabrielle. But, as she heard the news of her return a feeling of nervousness, fear, and uncertainty washed through her, leaving her with a numbness.

"You're going to be at the celebration, right Carina?" One of her students asked, oblivious to the ashen color that was now tinting the woman's normally tan skin.

Looking into the girl's face, she noticed the air of excitement that had come over everyone. "Uh…no, I don't think…"

"Carina! You have to go! It'll be soooooo much fun!" The girl was smiling brightly, visions of dancing, eating, music, and stories running through her mind.

But the older Amazon didn't answer as she walked away, leaving the training ground, and heading toward her hut.


"How long are we staying?" Gabrielle looked at Xena who was sitting in a chair in their hut, removing her boots.

"I dunno," Xena didn't look up as she unlaced each boot before pulling her feet out. She knew there'd be dancing tonight and she wanted to rest her feet for a bit. "I hadn't really thought about it."

Unexplainable anger rose in Gabrielle at Xena's vague answer. "Well, should I bother to unpack or what?"

The sharp edge to the bard's voice didn't escape Xena's attention. She looked at Gabrielle, her eyebrows coming together as she gave her a quizzical look. "Are you okay?"

"Of course I'm okay. I just want to know if I should unpack! Why wouldn't I be okay?" Gabrielle stormed to the window, her back turned to the warrior.

Uncertain what to do or say, Xena rose from the chair. Taking a deep breath, she approached the bard. Instinct made her want to touch her. Tentatively, she put a hand on Gabrielle's shoulder. When the woman didn’t shrug it off or move out of reach, she moved in closer.

Unconsciously, Gabrielle leaned into Xena's touch, a soft sigh escaping her lips. Hearing the heartfelt noise, Xena reacted without thinking. She put both arms around Gabrielle's waist and gently pulled the smaller woman to her, holding her tightly. It felt so right to hold Gabrielle, to feel the smaller woman's body against her. The feeling of warmth growing inside of Xena unnerved her. Could it be that she was beginning to fall in love with Gabrielle? The idea fluttered past Xena's mind, disrupting her thoughts.

It wasn't the first time the thought had crossed Xena's mind, but before she'd always brushed it away. But now, as the thought surfaced again and she felt the bard in her arms, Xena didn't want to pull away. She wanted to smother the woman with tenderness, never letting her go.

Dropping her head, she began to nuzzle Gabrielle's soft hair, closing her eyes as the sensations she was feeling left her dizzy and breathless.

Turning in Xena's embrace, Gabrielle lifted her head, her lips searching for Xena's. This time when Gabrielle initiated the intimate contact, Xena responded with a heated passion. This woman in her arms, the one that had been with her through the worst of her redemption and the best, was the person that Xena loved with all her heart and soul. Why had it taken her so long to understand that, accept that? And how did it change so quickly from denial to acceptance? Xena's mind worked as her lips and tongue demonstrated what she was thinking. She found an answer without having to look too very hard. India…

As for Gabrielle, she didn't necessarily understand the difference in Xena's attitude toward her but she felt it. It was like the warrior was no longer holding back, she was being completely honest with her feelings. Gabrielle wanted to sing and shout and tell the whole world that her dream had finally been realized.

Moments slipped by as the two women explored each other's mouths. Hands moved tentatively over leather and cloth covered skin, igniting a fire that if allowed to smolder would be impossible to be put out.

Finally, when the sounds of laughter and the beginnings of the Amazon music wafted through the air, penetrating through the love and desire filled haze, the two women broke off the kiss and just held each other.

"I…I…I love you, Gabrielle." Whispering, Xena was afraid to announce what her heart was telling her, afraid of the rejection she knew she wouldn't find, afraid of being weak in front of the woman she wanted to desperately to be strong for.

Looking into magnificent blue eyes that had darkened in passion, Gabrielle gave a small smile, her heart fluttering too much for her to do more. "I love you too Xena. You have my heart." If felt so good to finally say that out loud to the warrior. She'd been keeping it inside of her for so long now.

Pulling the smaller woman tightly against her, Xena squeezed her as hard as she could without hurting the woman. "I'm sorry it took me so long," she whispered into Gabrielle's silken hair. At least when the bard cut it, it hadn't lost any of its silky quality.

Finally, letting go of her hold, but still keeping her arms around the other woman, Xena looked at the face she adored so much and smiled. "I guess we have a party to go to," she said, her words laced with regret. There were so many ways she wanted to explore her love with Gabrielle that she didn't want to be bothered by a party.

"We could stay here," Gabrielle said hopefully, but they both knew it would be impossible. The one thing about having inherited Terreis' hut was that it was near the center of the village where the parties were thrown. If they two travelers were to not show up, someone was bound to come looking for them. And both women knew that what they really wanted to spend the night doing would be best not interrupted.

So they resigned to getting ready. Gabrielle went behind the wall that separated the changing area from the rest of the room. She changed from her sari into the soft brown leathers that she had worn as the Amazon's Queen. The outfit had been made for her, each curve of the leather emphasized the bard's own curves, revealing her muscular arms and legs. As she put it on she gave a wicked smile, hoping that she'd get to torment Xena a little now that the warrior was looking at her with hungry eyes.

Xena put her boots back on and stretched her limbs. "I think they've started. You ready?" She looked up as Gabrielle came out from behind the changing partition, appreciating the way the brown leather looked against the bard's tanned skin. Again the hair cut caught Xena's attention, and she marveled at how regal the other woman looked. Moving closer to her, she held out a hand which Gabrielle willingly slipped her own hand into. "You look beautiful tonight, Gabrielle." Her words were soft, but the sincerity was easy to pick up.

A soft smile lit up Gabrielle's face. "Thank you."

They left hand in hand, ready for whatever the night would bring.


It was late into the night and the party was still going strong. Gabrielle had a group of Amazon's surrounding her as she told about what she'd learned in India. The effect of the strong ale made the bard's words even more enchanting to the enamoured Amazons.

"So, you can't fight at all?" One Amazon asked her breath strong with the stench of ale.

"I CAN fight, I just choose not to." Gabrielle grabbed the cup from the woman's hand and took a large swallow before handing it back. She glimpsed to where she'd last seen Xena, and caught the warrior's eye. A smile found its way to her face when she saw Xena surrounded by a crowd of young Amazons who were in warrior training. While training, the novices had to wear a dark blue arm band which caused them to stick out in any group of Amazons. Xena gave a small wave at Gabrielle as one of the young Amazons got up onto tip toes to whisper something into the warrior's ear. Gabrielle swore that she saw the warrior princess blush.

"Excuse me, I need to go rescue my warrior," Gabrielle told those around her, getting a chuckle from the relaxed Amazons.

Starting to move toward Xena, Gabrielle heard a new song start. Its beat was sensuous and moved with a slow, pounding rhythm. As she approached the crowd of younger Amazons who had formed a large circle around the famed warrior princess, she felt someone starring at her from nearby. Turning, she saw Carina standing on the outskirts of the group of Amazons. I can't just ignore her, Gabrielle told herself. She didn't want to dismiss what had happened between them like it didn't mean anything to her, because it did.

She then saw three of the young Amazons lead Xena to the dancing area, all of them dancing to the rhythm together. A wave of jealousy passed through Gabrielle before she could stop it. It was silly, but she wanted to be the one to be dancing so closely with Xena. In a way she had hoped that maybe if she and Xena became lovers than she wouldn't have to share the warrior so much. But that didn't look likely.

Oh well, Gabrielle thought and slowly headed toward Carina.

Carina had been watching Gabrielle the entire night. She couldn't help herself. While she could see the magnificent smile that would appear on Gabrielle's face every time she looked at Xena, Carina still felt the pull of longing. She didn't begrudge either woman for the love that they'd obviously found in each other, she just wished that she could trade places with the warrior and that Gabrielle would love HER with all her heart the way she did Xena.

As Gabrielle approached her, she found herself trying to harden her heart so that she couldn't feel the effect that the bard had on her. But, it was impossible. I love her… Her heart whispered over and over again. Straightening up, she realized that she hadn't had enough ale to be drunk, but her head was nevertheless light from alcohol's effect.

"Hi Carina," Gabrielle said shyly. She didn't know what to say, but she wanted to acknowledge the woman.

"Hi Gabrielle, how are you tonight?

"Having a good time. Yourself?"

Having a great time now, she thought to herself sarcastically. Why couldn't she have just stayed home like she wanted to? "Pretty good."

Neither knowing what to say they just stood there for a moment. Both of them found their attention turned to where the Amazons were dancing. Gabrielle's focus was on the tall dark haired woman who was between two of the younger Amazons, who were a little too close for the bard's comfort. Good thing I know Xena well enough, Gabrielle told herself.

Carina, noticing where the woman's attention was, saw the sight for herself. Some of her students had had a little too much to drink and were definitely trying to show the warrior princess a good time. Xena looked cool despite the attention, like she were doing any other daily activity rather than having two beautiful, young Amazons rub their bodies against hers.

"Do you…want to dance?" Gabrielle looked at Carina as she asked. She could tell she'd caught the Amazon by surprise.

Shrugging, Carina replied with "Sure."

As they moved to the dance area, Gabrielle kept her eyes on Xena. As they started to dance, she was more than a little surprised when Carina pulled her closer than necessary. She looked into the Amazon's eyes, seeing something strange, nothing that she could name. Then Carina began to move her body provocatively against Gabrielle's. Feeling uncomfortable, especially knowing Xena might be watching her, she wasn't sure if she should do anything or just wait until the song was over.

Carina's hips seemed to move on their own, making slight grinding motions against the bard's luscious body. Gabrielle stopped dancing, but couldn't back away because of Carina's hand on her waist.

Suddenly another hand was on the lower part of Gabrielle's back. "May I cut in?" A familiar voice broke through the music. Xena's eyes, a steely blue, appraised Carina with a cool gaze. Gabrielle, although sure she could have handled the situation, was relieved that she didn't have to make a scene.

Carina seemed to come out of a daze, her eyes finally focusing on the menacing warrior standing behind Gabrielle. She gave the woman a small smile, meaning to show she didn't intend any harm. "Ah, sure, be my guest." Backing away, Carina felt her face grow warm in a blush as she realized quiet a few of the other Amazons were watching the three of them in the dance area. Ashamed of her behavior, she made her way to her hut.

Xena, satisfied with the Amazon's departure, wrapped both arms around Gabrielle's waist as they gently swayed to the music. "Everything okay?" She carefully asked the bard, who seemed flustered.

"Ah, yeah. It's okay." Gabrielle's reply held a soft note of hesitancy.

Deciding to leave it alone for the moment, Xena focused on the feeling of having Gabrielle in her arms and the array of emotions that provoked.


Something that had surprised Gabrielle when she first saw Terreis' hut was the luxurious bed that took up most of the hut's bedroom. Apparently the Amazon princess had really liked comfort while she slept and it was said she prized that bed over all of her earthy possessions.

Xena and Gabrielle had shared the soft bed many times, always remarking on how nice it felt after sleeping on the road night after night. This night was different, the words and passions they'd shared making it that way.

Having finished washing up and getting ready for bed, Xena was laying in the bed, wearing her shift and waiting for Gabrielle to join her. Uncertainty wasn't something Xena experienced in her life for any significant length of time. Usually she made up her mind and stuck with that, trusting her instinct to help her make the right decision. But tonight she found herself uncertain. She wasn't sure what she wanted, her emotions so jumbled, so new.

Gabrielle came into the bedroom wearing a white shift that fell just over top of her muscular thighs. The bard didn't know what to expect but she wasn't going to push anything. Lifting the light coverings on the bed, she slid underneath, moving closer to where Xena was laying.

"Come here," Xena held out the arm closest to the bard, offering a place for Gabrielle to lay. Moving closer, the bard turned onto her side and put her head on the other woman's strong shoulder, curling her body against the warrior's side. Wrapping an arm around her, Xena squeezed her tightly for a moment before loosening her hold slightly. Gabrielle put a hand on Xena's firm stomach, lightly playing with the fabric of the woman's shift.

"I could definitely get used to this," Gabrielle said and then followed it up with a blissful sigh. Curled up against the woman she loved, protected by her love's embrace, she felt completely warm and safe.

"Can I ask you something, Brie?" Xena had something she was curious about, but didn't want to push the bard if she didn't want to talk about it.

"Uh huh," Gabrielle consented without lifting her head from its comfortable resting place. Xena, Warrior Pillow! Gabrielle thought, holding back a giggle.

"Did you know that Amazon you were dancing with, or did you meet her tonight?" There was no accusation in her voice just curiosity.

Gabrielle didn't need to ask which Amazon. "I…uh…already knew her."

It was the bard's slightly guarded tone which prompted Xena to tentatively ask another question. "Do you know her well?" She couldn't place the woman, but Gabrielle knew more of the Amazons than she did.

"You could say that," Gabrielle looked into Xena's face and caught the eyebrow that arched at her words. Something in the bard told her to just tell Xena everything, not hide anything from her. Laying her head back down, she sighed.

"You…don't have to tell me if you don't want to," Xena spoke softly, the sincerity evident in her voice. She really wasn't sure what was going on, or why it was such a big deal. But that evening when she had seen that Amazon dancing so closely with HER Gabrielle, she found jealousy rising quickly. My Gabrielle? She smiled at the endearment, liking the way it sounded in her mind. There was just something in Xena that told her that something more than what she saw had been going on. Bringing an arm up, she ran her hand through the woman's short, golden locks.

"No, you should know." Taking a deep breath she continued. "Her name is Carina, and she and I…were lovers, I guess you'd call it."

That hadn't been what Xena had been expecting. Lovers? "I didn't know I was that…oblivious," she spoke out loud, her tone light, but internally she was beating herself up. Why hadn't she seen that? Why hadn't she known? That should have been something she should have sensed, but she hadn't.

Gabrielle gave a little smile. "Well you were gone when it happened." And that was probably why it happened, she realized. It would never have happened if Xena had been there. She'd been searching, unknowingly, for someone to give her the companionship she missed while Xena was gone. Carina had offered it, but unlike the warrior, she saw Gabrielle's desire to take the step past friendship's bounds.

"Huh?" Xena's eyebrows came together. "When wasn't I here?" Then she remembered her mother's illness. "You mean last time we were here?"

"Yup. It was started and ended in the time you were gone."

A strong sense of jealousy rose in Xena. She knew it was selfish of her, considering she was just now getting around to examining and admitting her own feelings, but the thought of Gabrielle…HER Gabrielle with anyone else…The anger of the idea rose in her. Calm Xena, it's your own damn fault! She breathed deeply before speaking again. "Why…why did it end?" She hoped she knew the answer.

Lifting her head, Gabrielle looked into stormy blue eyes. She raised her hand and ran it along Xena's strong jaw. "Because she wasn't you."

The deep sincerity, love, pain, desire, and need in Gabrielle's voice shook Xena to her core. She needed this woman with every element in her. Heart, mind, soul, body -- she needed it all from Gabrielle as much as she needed to give it to her.

It was that need which sparked the desire in Xena to lift the bard so that the smaller woman was on top of her. She then placed her hand behind the golden head and pulled it to her, kissing the woman's lips with her own.

What would normally have been a simple thing turned into something so much more complex. Hands traveled over muscular bodies, through thin shifts, until Xena thought she'd lose her mind if she couldn't touch Gabrielle's skin. They quickly shed the barriers between them, relishing the skin on skin contact they could now have.

Days could have passed while the two women explored each other, neither would have noticed. At one point Gabrielle sat up, stretching her naked body in front of the warrior pleased at the animalistic way Xena's eyes devoured the sight of her body. They teased each other, testing limits that no one had ever found before, until finally Xena could stand no more.

"Gabrielle," her breath was coming in quick spurts mirroring her heart beat. "Please…I need to feel you."

The bard understood exactly what the warrior needed and she moved so that her body was completely accessible to Xena. They both moaned when Xena finally was able to slide a hand through the soft hair between Gabrielle's legs.

Finally after both women had thought they'd waited a lifetime, Xena slipped two fingers inside of Gabrielle.

The electric power of two soulmates bringing each other such perfect pleasure was undeniably potent. That night, rather than two people pleasing each other, they were two bodies, one person, one spirit, finding true gratification in making the other happy. Joined finally in a way that no one could ever take from them, Xena and Gabrielle thought that the world had gone away, leaving only the two lovers and their desire for each other. Neither had ever experienced anything so powerful, so amazing.

When they finally lay still in each other's arms, Gabrielle lifted a sleepy head and murmured into the chest of the woman that held her tightly. "Thank you for bringing me the stars, Xena."

Kissing the head nestled into the crook of her arm, Xena closed her eyes and had dreams about dancing with Gabrielle through a field of stars.


Dawn seemed to respect the Amazons that day, waiting until later to appear and wake the sleeping village up. Many women woke up in unfamiliar huts and found that the ale the night before had been stronger than usual. As tousled haired women intermittently snuck back to their own huts before being caught in the rumor mill, the heavy mist that had settled on the ground began to lift.

Breakfast was late, as was usual after a party. The cooks themselves had raging headaches and needed the extra sleep before getting up and preparing food.

A single sunbeam decided to wake up a certain bard from her comfortable resting place. Shining in on the woman's face, highlighting blonde hair and the beautiful contours of her face, the sunbeam seemed to wink at the woman as she finally opened her eyes.

Gabrielle found herself completely covered by a very familiar body. During the night she'd some how ended up on the bottom with Xena sprawled half on top of her, half on the bed. Looking at the warrior's face, which was laying very closer to her own, she smiled. I forgive you sunbeam, she thought silently as she studied Xena's tanned face. She seemed so innocent and so young while she slept. Her face smooth and flawless except for a couple of scars here and there that weren't noticeable to most. But when you spent as much time gazing at the face as Gabrielle did you pick up on these things.

Wanting to touch the woman's face, wanting to feel the soft skin, Gabrielle tried to bring her arm up, only to realize that both of her arms were pinned by the warrior princess' body. Great, now I'm Gabrielle, Amazon Pillow! She'd been comfortable despite Xena's bigger body covering her until she realized that she couldn’t move. At that point it seemed almost suffocating to be trapped. Calm Gabrielle, you don't want to wake her up…

She tried carefully to unpin her arms, wiggling them slowly to get them out. She'd finally managed to get one out when she heard a voice.

"Why don't you just ask me to move," Xena murmured.

"I didn't realize you were awake. The whole point was to extract myself without you waking up. Appears that it didn't work," Gabrielle stopped her movement and relaxed into the mattress beneath her.

"No, it wasn't your fault. That damned sunbeam woke me up too." Xena glared out the window.

"Well, then, since you're up, would you be so kind as to allow me to have my limbs back?"

"Thought you'd never ask." Xena, in one swift move, rolled over and pulled the bard with her so that Gabrielle was now on top. "Much better," she said as she closed her eyes again.

Yawning, Gabrielle laid her head down on the warrior's chest. "I love you," she said simply to convey what that little gesture had meant to her.

Long arms made it possible to rub Gabrielle's strong back as they laid there. Soon Xena heard little snores coming from the bard. She smiled at the adorable sound and decided that they could take it easy today, seeing how most of the Amazons would be hung over anyway. "I love you too," she mumbled as she fell back to sleep.


It was much later when the two women woke up for the second time that day. Gabrielle thought she'd faint if she didn't get food in her stomach. The grumbling of said stomach woke Xena up smiling. "That's my girl all right," she said to the bard.

Despite her desperate hunger, Gabrielle smiled at the remark. "Your girl, huh? What makes you think that?"

"I dunno…maybe the fact that you're lying on top of me after a night of passionate lovemaking." She grinned. "Or maybe cause you scream out my name so nicely when you're coming." Laughing out loud when the bard swatted at her, she added one more thing. Growing serious she gave the real reason. "Or maybe because I want so much for you to be mine."

Sitting up slightly, Gabrielle kissed Xena's sternum before replying. "You've always had me. I'm just glad you want me."

Wrapping her arms around the other woman, Xena squeezed her tightly in a bear hug. "I don't think I could live without you, my bard." She was about to say more when Gabrielle's stomach gave a particularly loud grumble in protest of the delay in feeding it. "How about if I go get some food and bring it back?"

Her eyes crinkling as she smiled at the warrior, Gabrielle made one request. "So long as you promise to put something on before you go."

"You mean like my boots?" Xena asked with false innocence.

Gabrielle thought of what Xena would look like completely naked with only her boots on and felt a rush of blood in her head. Then she imagined that same thing, but she saw Xena walking through the Amazon village. "Oh no, you know very well what I mean! The sight of you naked would be enough to have at least half the village following you around forever!" Feeling the dramatic passion rise in her, Gabrielle continued. "I can see it now! Amazons disbanded because they couldn't let the warrior princess out of their sight! They all leave the village and there's no one left here to protect the land which gets taken over by evil warlords who imprison those Amazons who stayed." She took a deep breath before focusing her eyes on the warrior. "Do you really want to be responsible for that?"

Laughing at the woman's imagination, Xena admitted that she didn't want the fall of the Amazons on her head and agreed to wear clothing to get the food.


Maybe it was because they had finally gotten past their fear of admitting their love. Maybe it was because the gods already had the next phase of their life planned for them. Whatever the reason, Gabrielle and Xena decided to stay in the village for a while.

They quickly fell into a daily routine. Keeping their hands off each other was difficult. In the morning they both slept in. This was unusual for Xena, who liked to be up early, but she found it difficult to leave the soft warmth of Gabrielle. After the first morning when she woke up and felt the bard's body snuggled into hers, she became addicted to the mornings that she could lay there and just enjoy the closeness and peace. She'd watch the sunlight filter in as the day began, illuminating Gabrielle's face which was soft with sleep. It was something she instinctively knew she'd never get tired of.

Gabrielle would wake up just in time to get dressed and get to the dinning tent for the last breakfast call. After eating together, they'd go their separate ways. Xena headed to the training grounds to practice with the Amazon warriors. Using the time to focus, Gabrielle would go to the woods to find a quiet place to mediate. But before long she'd find it difficult to think of anything but Xena and would head off to find her.

Approaching the training ground without notice, she'd sit on the edge and spend the rest of the morning watching the warrior as she went through intricate routine, her concentration completely focused on her moves, muscles rippling beneath tanned skin. It left Gabrielle breathless.

After the first few mornings, she noticed that she wasn't the only observer. A group of Amazons started to gather every morning to watch the famed woman in complete admiration.

At first, Gabrielle felt a wave of jealousy. She didn't want to share Xena with all these other women. She knew the kind of things going through their minds, all of them thinking about seducing the warrior. Green haze clouded Gabrielle's thoughts.

About a week after they'd arrive, the jealousy had gotten worse. Xena was looking more radiant from the extra sleep and food and her moves had taken on a more fluid grace.

"You shouldn't be jealous," a familiar voice came from behind Gabrielle.

Pretending nonchalance, Gabrielle didn't look up. "What makes you think I'm jealous?"

Ephiny dropped to the ground next to the bard and watched Xena for a moment. "I dunno. It could be the green cloud around you. Or it could be the daggers your eyes seem to throw when you look at the others." She turned to look at the other woman whom she considered a good friend. "Or maybe it's just because I know you so very well."

Gabrielle dropped her gaze, rubbing at her forehead with one of her hands. "Sorry. I know it's not rational, but I can't seem to help it."

"Do you doubt that she loves you?"

"No! Not at all!" Gabrielle replied vehemently.

"Then why worry about these other women?" The Regent gestured to the spectators around them. "If you're secure in the love you share, then don't let them bother you."

"I guess," was the dejected reply.

"Do me a favor?" Asking gently, Ephiny hadn't meant to upset the other woman so much.


"When Xena's done, watch her carefully, watch what she does, watch her actions and especially, watch her face."

Shrugging, Gabrielle agreed.

"Do you mind if I stay for a while?" She didn't want those daggers shot her way.

Smiling at the Amazon, Gabrielle patted her leg. "I would like it if you did."

Ephiny pretended to watch the warriors on the training field, but her eyes were actually on the smaller woman sitting next to her. Gabrielle's change through the years they'd known each other wasn't unexpected considering what she lived through on a daily basis. It was her relationship with Xena that remained the biggest surprise to not only Ephiny but to the rest of the Amazons as well. They had been there when Xena had been determined to capture and kill Gabrielle after the death of Xena's son. But even before that, Ephiny had felt the tension between the two women. Yet Xena and Gabrielle were still together. When she had run into them at the party, she had felt a calmness over both of them, and she had seen the way they would look at each other when they thought not one was paying attention. It was confusing to most of the Amazons. This strange relationship they had, the strange hold over each other, which no one could really understand. Despite what she'd seen Xena do to her friend, Ephiny respected both of them and firmly believed that they loved each other. Maybe they'll both figure it out and then we can all breathe, she thought to herself.

The acting Queen knew about Gabrielle's short relationship with Carina. Well, she didn't know all the details, but she had been made aware of the fact that Gabrielle was spending a lot of her time with the Amazon warrior, and it wasn't hard for Ephiny to understand what had transpired between the two of them. She'd done all she could to quench any rumors she heard. In truth, she was a bit hurt. She'd always hoped that one day Gabrielle might turn to her, rather than to one of the other Amazons. Oh well, probably better for Carina to face Xena's wrath than me, she told herself, smiling a little.

Gabrielle and Ephiny sat in silence watching Xena for another candlemark. Finally Xena slowed down, ending her routine with a series of long stretches. Getting up from her last stretch on the ground, her eyes zeroed in on the form of Gabrielle immediately. She realized that Gabrielle probably didn't know that she knew when the bard arrived each morning. She felt the woman's presence deep inside of her. When Gabrielle arrived, Xena's movements grew even more graceful, smoother. She liked having the woman she loved watching her. It made her feel good and worthy when Gabrielle's admiring eyes were on her.

Each morning when she finished, Xena would find Gabrielle and head directly for her, never letting her gaze wander from the glorious sight of her love. She knew that she couldn't control the smile on her face as she headed over to the bard. It was a strange warmth that filled her completely when she was able to rest her eyes on Gabrielle and let the knowledge that this woman was her lover wash over her.

Today the Amazon Regent and acting Queen was sitting with Gabrielle, but Xena barely noticed. She only had eyes for one person.

"Hi," she said sitting down next to Gabrielle, on the opposite side of Ephiny.

Gabrielle had watched Xena as she'd finished and was astounded by what she saw. Xena didn't even see the other women watching her. All her attention had been on Gabrielle. It touched the bard deeply, infusing her with confidence.

Rather than replying to Xena's greeting, Gabrielle leaned over and gave her a long, sweet, tender kiss.

Surprised, Xena couldn't hide the large smile on her face when the bard pulled away. There was no need for words between them. Reaching over, she laced her fingers with Gabrielle's.

"Let me be the first to say, way to go!" Ephiny said warily. About damn time! She said to herself only. That would explain why the air around them seemed different these days, why they both seemed so relaxed and at peace.

Blushing, Gabrielle ducked her head. "Thanks. It's that obvious, huh?"

Ephiny put a friendly arm around the bard's shoulders. "Only because I've been looking for it for a long time."

The three women all laughed.

"Well, you three look chummy!" Eponin strode over to the group, a stern look on her face. Sitting herself down on the other side of Ephiny, she didn't even pretend to be happy.

"Any luck?" Ephiny asked with hope evident in her voice.

Shaking her head, Eponin frowned. "No, not even a clue."

Gabrielle looked from one woman to the other, a confused look on her face. "What's going on?"

Sighing, Ephiny shook her head. "This morning one of our Amazon sentries was reported missing."

"Missing? Missing how?" Speaking up, Xena's tone was carefully controlled, but Gabrielle felt the small squeeze applied to her hand by the warrior, and understood that she was concerned.

"She was on perimeter guard last night, under Schlappa's command. She didn't check in afterward and Schlappa sent troops out looking for her with no luck. All the others who were on guard last night were questioned, but no one saw or heard anything." Eponin gave a frustrated sigh. "We've checked her hut. No sign of her anywhere."

"Which sentry?" Gabrielle questioned quietly.

"Eileen," the acting queen answered.

"About my height, blonde hair, light green eyes?" Gabrielle was almost jealous as she listened to Xena accurately describe the missing Amazon. The surge went through her quickly and she almost laughed out loud. Isn't her fault she has a sexy voice!

"That's her. One of our best warriors." Eponin once again shook her head, as though she couldn't quiet reconcile what she was saying to what she thought. "I hope she's okay," she finished quietly.

Ever the warrior, Xena began to question the two women. "Any problems lately? Enemies making themselves known?"

"No, it's been fairly peaceful. The usual border treaties are all in good standing. We've had the occasional band of rogues trying to prove their manhood by crossing into Amazon territory. Nothing we can't handle, and nothing really out of the ordinary." Eponin gave a soft chuckle. "I'm sure some of our warriors wish for a little more action, but I've enjoyed the peace."

"You know warriors," Gabrielle whispered conspiratorially to Ephiny. "Always looking for a fight." The bard squawked when a gentle but firmly placed elbow caught her in the ribs. "Hey, blame the messenger!" She glared at Xena in mock anger, her body responding to the close proximity to the warrior's own body. Such a nice body…

In return, Xena was giving Gabrielle a feral smile. It took all her power to keep her from pouncing on her lover right then and there. She was so cute, sitting there glaring, her cheeks flushed, her eyes sparkling. Now, however, was NOT the time to be acting on those desires. There'd be plenty of time for that later.

"How concerned should we be about Eileen?" Gabrielle returned to the serious topic at hand, dropping her glare, a concerned look taking its place. The idea of one of her Amazon sisters disappearing off the land was rather frightening. Everyone knew that Amazons fetched high prices on the slave market. Shivering slightly, she leaned into the warm, firm body of Xena, feeling the warrior snake an arm around her waist, drawing her even closer.

Not oblivious to the contact between the two women, Ephiny raised an eyebrow at Eponin as she answered. "I'm not sure," was her frank reply. "We've had Amazons just leave before, wanting to see the world, gain experience. Most of the time they return to their sisters before too long, even more determined to keep the Amazon life sacred." She thought for a moment about the sweet natured sentry. "Eileen didn't seem to be the type for that. True, she's fairly young, but she loved being an Amazon, and truly carried out her duties with honor."

"I think we should double the perimeter guard and use the buddy system so that no one's ever alone on guard." Eponin volunteered.

"Good idea," Xena murmured, deep in thought. She absently mindedly rubbed her thumb over Gabrielle's forearm. "I think you should warn the others not to stray too far from the village alone. At least not for awhile. Tell them that if they need to go somewhere away from the village that they make sure to go in groups of two or more."

They all sat in silence for a few moments. Gabrielle was worried about Eileen. She many not be acting Queen, but she still considered the Amazons to be her people and her responsibility. Seeing any harm come to any of them tore at her heart.

Finally, Ephiny stood up absently brushing at her clothing to detach any dirt or grass that may have found refuge there. "Come on Eponin, let's start passing the word around."

"Keep us updated, okay?" The concern in Gabrielle's voice was evident to all of them.

Nodding, Ephiny replied with "Of course," before walking of with Eponin.

Picking at a bit of grass, her gaze found focus on the activity as her mind whirled through all kinds of possible fates for Eileen. She hated having to worry about so many people, but she couldn't help it. She took it personally when her Amazons were involved.

Studying her friend, Xena smiled gently. The last few moons had added new lines to Gabrielle's face. Combined with the shorter hair, the bard hardly looked like the young girl Xena had allowed to tag along with her.

With gentle pushes, Gabrielle had shown Xena new possibilities, new ways of thinking and living. A kind soul with a barely concealed fierce determination, Gabrielle had forever altered Xena with her presence alone. Something about the smaller woman made Xena want to be a better person, if only in Gabrielle's eyes. When exactly the bard had found her way into the flinty warrior's heart, Xena couldn't say. It was a delicate balance the two women provided for each other. Their roles had changed over the years and since India it had metamorphosed into something closer to perfection. One of them was the physical protector, the fighter. The other the spiritual protector, the peace maker.

The need to protect Gabrielle from anything and everything surged in Xena now as she saw the younger woman struggling to stay positive. She didn't know what to say, what to do, feeling helpless. So, she said the only thing she could think of. "Hey," she waited till green eyes were focused on her. "I love you." And instinctively she knew it was the right thing to say because of the sudden infusion of warm vibes she got from the other woman. Not to mention the suddenly shy smile she got in return and the two arms that wrapped around her waist in a much needed embrace.


Days passed with no sign of Eileen. It didn't take long for Ephiny and Eponin to spread the word around the village. The Amazons all participated in both searching the Amazon territory and in the extra precautions. Schlappa, feeling guilty because it happened on her watch, took her group out everyday to further search. They'd found a set of horse tracks on the very southwest edge of the territory, but there was nothing extraordinary about the tracks. It was impossible to say whether or not they had anything to do with Eileen.

After a week had gone by, everyone became more lax as no new developments were made. The perimeter guard stayed doubled, but other than that the precautions were dropped. Eponin finally decided to get some use of the restless warriors, proposing a hunting party to gather more food for the tribe. She invited Xena with a challenge that she would find a deer before the warrior princess could. Xena accept the challenge on the spot and immediately regretted her agreeing before thinking.

She found Gabrielle in the hut they shared, working on a scroll. Ink had found its way to the bard's forehead, which looked adorable as she sat there scowling at the scroll in her hands.

"Hey," the warrior said softly as she went in. She wasn't sure whether or not Gabrielle would be upset that she didn't check with her before agreeing to the hunt.

Smiling up at the beautiful woman, Gabrielle felt her frustration fade away when she looked into the other woman's blue eyes. Without thought, she gestured for Xena to sit next to her on the bed.

Careful of the scrolls in progress, Xena sat down. She'd not been wearing her armor lately, figuring that they were pretty safe and it was also easier to get out of clothes when she didn't have to mess with the metal breast plates. And they'd been getting in and out of clothes on a frequent basis. She grinned wickedly to herself. Yes, she definitely was enjoying this new facet to their relationship. A small tremor went through her as she thought about the bard's naked body on top of hers. Or the sounds that Gabrielle made when she climaxed. Those particular sounds echoed through Xena's head at the strangest times, causing her to need to find Gabrielle as soon as possible so that she could make those sounds happen again.

"What are you smiling at?" Gabrielle narrowed her eyes suspiciously.

"Hmmm…just thinking about you…naked…coming…" Her mouth formed a feral grin, transforming her lips with a curling feature that Gabrielle found both adorable and frightening at the same time. She wasn't scared of Xena, not at all. But she'd seen that lip curled at their enemies while Xena fought them. It was the same animalistic enjoyment.

"Oh yeah?" Getting up, Gabrielle moved until she was standing between the warrior's legs, gently spreading her thighs with her knees. "Hmmm…well, you know, I could make it so that tomorrow…"

Xena interrupted Gabrielle in mid sentence with an exclamation. "Oh Hades," she growled under her breath.

Gabrielle didn't mind being interrupted. What she was saying wasn't nearly as important as what she was doing with her hips against Xena's center. "What's wrong?" She asked absently, her hand moving to lightly caress the inside of Xena's upper thigh.

What was wrong? She was suddenly having a lot of difficulty concentrating. She tried to reply what she had been meaning to stay, but Gabrielle's fingers had moved so that her hand was firmly placed over her center, rubbing through the thin material of her breeches over a particularly sensitive spot. "I….uh…" She just couldn't remember.

Gabrielle slid down to her knees, placing her head between Xena's legs, her mouth hovering over Xena's wet breeches. "I'm listening…" She breathed heavier against the material, causing a warm jolt to pass through Xena's body, her hips responding involuntarily.

It was too much. Xena pulled the bard up and threw her gently onto the bed. Stripping quickly, she pounced on Gabrielle, who was giggling uncontrollably. Nibbling on a sensitive ear lobe, the warrior growled into the ear. "Aren't you going to finish what you started?"

With a quick nod, Gabrielle forced Xena to turn over onto her back so that she could climb on top of the warrior and continue her quest to make Xena scream her name. Licking, biting, thrusting, moaning all coalesced until Xena finally reached her climax in a sudden blinding rush of release. And as she came, she screamed the bard's name. The yell was heard through out the Amazon village, earning the warrior definite teasing later on.

Afterward, it wasn't until Xena was starting to drift off that she remembered what she had to tell Gabrielle. The bard, who was resting comfortably, half on top of Xena, half on the bed, her head on Xena's shoulder, raised one green eye when she felt her lover's body tense suddenly.

"Hey, you okay?" Sleep had almost come and Gabrielle's voice reflected her relaxed nature.

Xena gave the woman in her arms a sheepish look. "I remembered what I forgot to tell you."

Raising an eyebrow, Gabrielle replied with "Uh huh?"

"Ah, Eponin is forming a hunting party. She asked me to go with her."

"When is the party leaving?"

"Tomorrow morning at sunrise?" Xena felt suddenly silly for making such a big deal of it. She'd left Gabrielle before, this was no different. And, like always, she would return to the bard.

"Hmmm…" Gabrielle laid her head back down on Xena's shoulder. She would miss this while the warrior was gone, but she understood that Xena would enjoy the hunting and the other warrior's. "How long will you be gone?"

"Two days at the most. You want to come?" While she knew the answer before she asked, there was still a small part of her that hoped that Gabrielle would want to go.

"Nah, that's okay, really."

"I could bring you back a rabbit." Xena said playfully, tickling Gabrielle's ribs.

Unconsciously fingering her neck, Gabrielle felt a shudder travel through her body. Rabbits had lost their appeal with her completely, and Xena knew it, although she still didn't believe the attacking rabbit story. "Try to come back without any injuries this time?"

"Huh? This time?" She wasn't sure what Gabrielle was referring to.

"Don't you remember your first hunting party with the Amazons? The one where you fell out of the tree?" The warrior had come back with a badly sprained ankle and several bruises along her body.

"I didn't fall out of the tree," Xena argued stubbornly. "I was pushed! Solari was angry cause I spotted the deer first, so she pushed me out of the tree."

"Whatever," Gabrielle brushed it off. "Just promise that you be more careful this time? Don't antagonize either Solari or Eponin, okay?"

"What if they antagonize me first?" Xena said, sounding a bit like a stubborn little kid.

"Then you wait till you get back and you tell your lover about it, and SHE'LL beat them up, okay?"

Unable to stop the grin that formed on her face at the image of Gabrielle beating up the Amazons for her, she turned and kissed the woman soundly on the lips. "I didn't think you liked fighting anymore?"

"I don't like fighting with the intent to kill. My intention wouldn't be to kill them, just to show them whose woman you are and that they're not to mess with you, otherwise fear the wrath of me!" Gabrielle stuck her chin out as though defying anyone to challenge her.

"You can defend me anytime, bard." Xena kissed her gently on the top of her golden head. Holding the woman close to her, she could feel her heart beat as they fell asleep.


Xena was exhausted. Maybe I'm getting old she thought. Then again, after being Gabrielle's lover for two weeks, it was no wonder she was already tired! The bard had an endless energy in life and in bed. Not that Xena had any complaints. In fact, she was enjoying herself immensely. But, that, combined with the hunt, during which she found it safer not to sleep when Eponin had that glint in her eye, her body was weary. The first night she'd tried to fall asleep after they'd left the village, she caught Eponin trying to take her weapons during the night. It was all in fun, but after that, Xena didn't dare fall asleep, gods knowing what would happen. After two nights without sleep Xena was ready to drop into bed. Maybe if she were luck she could convince a certain little bard to join her.

All the Amazons around her seemed just as tired. Luckily all their horses knew the path home well and were able to lead the tired women. Xena was absently patting her horse's neck, thinking about the cuddling she wanted to get done that night, when she noticed a horse racing toward them from the direction of the village.

Has to be trouble. "Whoaaaa!' She spoke to the large stead while gently pulling back on the reigns at the same time. The other Amazons began to understand what was going on and stopped their horses as well to wait for the flying figure coming toward them.

The rider flew by the group and then wheeled the horse back around to them, stopping in front of Xena.

"Schlappa? What's wrong?" Xena looked at the woman. The dark woman's eyes were wide and her breath was short from the hard ride.

"I….I…was…sent…" she gasped, taking the offered waterskin Eponin handed to her. Taking a deep gulp of the water, her breathing became steadier. "I was sent…to find you, Xena."

"What happened?" Her voice grew lower and her eyes took on a glint that looked like the steel of her sword. She tried to be calm, but truthfully she was worried.

"Gabrielle's gone." Schlappa knew that Xena wouldn't react well to the news, but she asked to be sent anyway.

"Ye-ah!" She pushed her body forward as her horse took off in the direction of the village. The horse and rider's eyes were both wide with fear despite the air hitting their face which made them want to close their eyes.

She pushed the horse hard, not giving up once she reached the village, only slowing down when she found Ephiny. "What in Hades' name is going on, Ephiny?" The growl from the warrior was not unfamiliar to the acting Amazon queen. She'd heard the tone used anytime Xena's anger found purchase.

Leaping from the large horse, Xena's eyes had a wild look that Ephiny had only seen once, in the temple in Thessaly when Gabrielle died. It was a look like someone just barely being held together, capable of losing control at any moment. Now those eyes were aimed at her and she felt the fear rise in her throat.

"She went to the woods this morning to meditate. She hasn't been seen since." Ephiny said quietly, looking the warrior in the eyes, not backing down. Understanding the woman's anger, she wasn't going to let her take out that anger out on her. "We've had parties out since lunch looking for her. I got nervous when she was late to lunch, missing the window for the meal completely." It was now nightfall. That meant that Gabrielle had been gone at least half the day.

"Why didn't you come to get me sooner?" Pushing Ephiny against the wall of her hut, Xena snarled, her teeth bared.

"Xena! I want her back just as much as you do! Let me go!" Ephiny didn't struggle. She waited for Xena to see her mistake and let her go on her own.

Which she did. Her eyes never left Ephiny's as she backed of a bit. A flash of fear went through Xena's eyes, making her seem vulnerable. The one chink in her armor Ephiny thought. "She is not on Amazon territory, that much I'm sure of. I don’t know where she usually goes to mediate, so I had the warriors spread out all over. They've searched every inch of the territory without so much as a clue." She felt frustrated at their lack of results. Knowing that when Xena found out she was going to be livid didn't help Ephiny's frustration any. Putting all that aside, she was worried for her friend.

"I'll find her. You continue your search." Xena turned to go when a person emerged from the shadows, grabbing Xena's arm.

Xena's body tensed. Looking first at the hand on her arm and she slowly moved her gaze up to the hand's owner, her eyes cold with anger.

Carina started when she saw the fierceness in Xena's blue eyes. But she wasn't frightened by what she saw. She knew where the anger was coming from, and though she didn't think she had any right to feel it, she felt it too.

"I want to come with you." Carina said forcefully, but with a quietly controlled voice.

"No!" Xena barked, jerking her arm free and starting back out the door.

"Listen Xena. You may have her love but that doesn't mean that I don't have feelings for her. I want to help." Her voice was clear as she shouted after the storming warrior.

Xena stopped and closed her eyes. Oh Gabrielle, where are you? Don't be scared my love, I’m coming. Without turning around she shouted back. "I'm leaving right now." And with that, she jumped back on her tired horse and started off in a full gallop toward where she knew Gabrielle would have gone. I'm coming Brie, I’m coming she repeated as a mantra, keeping her mind calmed, knowing it was her job to keep her love safe in this life.


Continued - Part 2 (Conclusion)